Groups with multiple stocks

I’m about to start GMing my first BW campaign, and I’m super stoked.

Some people in my group want to play humans, others want to play dwarves, and one wants to play an elf. I know there are differences in “potency” among the different stocks, in terms of lifepaths (e.g., a four lifepath human is in some way “less potent” than a four lifepath elf because of Grief and open-ended skill songs and such). I want to satisfy my group’s creativity without one or two characters being way more potent than the others.

What have folk found is a good balance of number of lifepaths in groups with multiple stocks? I recall that there is advice on this topic somewhere in one of the books (I can’t find it, so if someone has a reference, I’d be grateful), but in addition to that, what has worked at people’s tables and what hasn’t?

My opinion on lifepath counts for a mixed group:

-1 LP Dwarf/Orc
-2 LP Elf

Not sure about Great Wolf/Troll/Spider/etc.

(But also, it really depends on what you are trying to do with your group. A split group like this is tough. And you might just be fine with some of the characters being more “powerful” than others, too. Apply pressure to the Traits, Emotional Attributes, and Beliefs as needed.)

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Do you all know what the Situation is?

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Thanks for the advice!

Yep, we’re all on board for the situation, and the situation doesn’t require all players to be of the same stock.

This is kind of a spicy take, but I would actually recommend against having Elves in your first game. Dwarves and Orcs still add a lot of complexity with their specific mechanics, but elves are a certified headache. They have 50 (FIFTY) skills that are just human skills with different names and open dice. They’re also, as was noted, ridiculously potent. Do away with the idea that giving elves less lifepaths will flatten things out, that’s just not how they work in the context of actual play, because they can at times be better with their non open skills than humans with the same skills open (high base stats and open ended dice will do that).

Another thing to consider in a mixed stock game is the added legwork for the GM of burning NPCs. Burning NPCs quickly is a skill that takes time to develop, and it will take longer to learn if you’re learning multiple sets of lifepaths

However, if you’re okay with adding all the elf skills to the already tricky process of getting the skill list down, and you accept that conventional ideas of “balance” won’t work out, it can be a lot of fun. Definitely make sure your human characters have things that make them stand out mechanically (faith, sorcery, fey blood, magic traits) so they don’t feel like they’re missing out by not having a really fun emotional attribute


I agree with @helstadt that hobbling Elves in CharGen won’t make them numerically balanced. However, my approach would be to embrace them not being mechanically balanced by making the challenge about things that aren’t pure numbers.

At it’s core, BW is about the players defining what their characters desperately want and the GM challenging that; so instead of the classic D&D approach of “this adventure is for 3-4 Level 1-3 characters”, try “this session hammers character X’s second belief, player Y’s first belief, and requires player Z to risk taxing their Resources heavily if player X succeeds at their third belief.”

As an example of how little numbers can matter, in the Burning WFRP game @Mark_Watson is running for me and several others, we all started with a forbidden romantic relationship. Mine rarely comes up because my beliefs don’t touch it, whereas one of the major arcs of the campaign is another character’s romance because that’s where they’ve focused. That’s been complicated by his love being the daughter of another character’s mortal enemy.

So, you want to make an charcter’s life harder, give them choices between things they want where it has to be at the cost of something else. The Elf is probably open-ending their roll, so will succeed more often than a human, but if the choice is between saving their love and racing to warn a town of attack, then getting triple Ob on finding the bandits who have kidnapped her and convincing them to release her still means the town burns.


Great. Thanks to all for the sage wisdom!

You all said this much more eloquently than I did. :slight_smile: Great advice here.

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