Help me describe BW to my Pathfinder RPG Group

Apparently, yes.

…I was always pronouncing it “arth-ah”

I’m still pronouncing it “arth-ah,” because screw you, I’m American and I’ll butcher whatever pronunciation I want.

Haha! I may do the same to avoid seeming pretentious among my group members.

…and of course, in London, we pronounce it “Arfah”. :wink:

My brother said he wanted to play a character called Artha. With a relationship with Persona the Princess. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon just trying to work BW specific terminology into a character. We couldn’t.

That’s one of the things I hold back on with established groups used to DM-heavy games. Some players love taking control, and that’s fine. Some don’t, and BW also does that very well. You can use BITs to create the story, but it really works fine if you use BITs to signal what parts of the GM’s story you want to focus on. It starts off a little slower and with some fast Belief shuffling, but it works out great.

You know that standard GM thing where you ask your players what they’re enjoying? BW just formalizes that and lets them tell you before you ask.


The player-introduced fiction is a huge variation from Pathfinder, methinks. Being able to conjure game-changing NPCs with a roll of dice ala a Circles test? It’s amazing. And as mentioned before - Wises. Sweet, wonderful wises that - like Circles - can be your best friend or worst enemy.

I’ve become something of an evangelist for Burning Wheel in my area: I’ve given away a couple copies of Gold, bought three for myself, sold half a dozen copies in the store, and am currently running a semi-weekly campaign Monday nights at the store.

Here is how I differentiate Burning Wheel from most other common RPG’s.

  1. There are two books that have profoundly changed the way I and my friends role-play: Spirit of the Century and Burning Wheel. They’ve taught me things about role-playing that I have applied to all my other RPG’s, regardless.

  2. You’ve heard the old chestnut, “You can’t have rules for role-playing?” Well Burning Wheel proves that wrong. Character is at the center of Burning Wheel: you can’t even be a “Combat Munchkin” without roleplaying. When I read Burning Wheel, I realized that you don’t even have characters in games like D&D, you have avatars or meat-puppets that do whatever the player wants, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

  3. Burning Wheel is the exact opposite of a Pathfinder Adventure Path. In an Adventure Path, the plot is pre-written, and the players essentially throw characters at the module, hoping that they have made relevant build choices for their characters, and often ignoring or warping their motivations to fit the adventure better.

In contrast, in Burning Wheel, characters and their motivations are at the center of the game. A Burning Wheel character sheet is a set of instructions to the referee as to what the player wants to happen in the game. The “strength” of a character build matters much less in Burning Wheel, because, by definition, whatever skills and traits you have chosen will be relevant to the game. Characters definitions include “Kick Me” signs that tell the referee exactly where to hurt them. You character will never be irrellevant to the plot: you characters drives the plot.

  1. If Dungeons and Dragons, Feng Shui, FATE and so on give the flavor of cinema, e.g., television and movies, Burning Wheel acts more like literature. Characters clash, and develop over the course of the campaign, and their internal life matters.

  2. $25 for a 600 page hard back book, and no endless supplements.

Right now, my “Orcs” campaign is marching towards “Doomsday” (the only holiday Orcs celebrate), and I will soon be starting a “Dwarves” campaign in parallel to it. I also am planting the seeds for an Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, using the rules as printed.

Personally, I am surprised that Burning Wheel Gold is still in stock at the distributors. Every time I sell a copy in the store, I am afraid it will be the last.

“What if Bilbo had kept the Ring?”

  1. Characters in BW are still meat-puppets. There’s just incentive to puppet them in tune with their motivations. In what sense does BW ever force action on a character beyond some fringe cases (failing a Steel test or a DoW)? How are they more meaningful than fringe cases in D&D (failing a save vs. fear or charm)?

  2. This is a big selling point.

  3. Huh? BW does great cinematic stories. And cinematic doesn’t mean non-literary. I think the distinction you’re looking for is that BW emphasizes drama and most traditional games emphasize action. (Action in a genre sense, not action in a do-something sense, of course!)

  4. Hey there are BW supplements! Good ones! Just not so many of them. But yeah, $25 is hard to beat.