Help with creating a campaign as a first time GM

Hello everyone,

I am working on my very first campaign and I have my plot for chapter one down. For context, my main plot line is the church has found a prophecy that states the devil is trying to escape and is intent on destroying everything, in order to stop him 4 artifacts must be found and destroyed by magic (or possibly something else, I’m not sure yet). I know I want each artifact to be in a different place and each with its own protector. I feel like I can come up with the puzzles but I have no idea what to give them to do (other than random combat encounters) during the time that they are traveling to the dungeons.

I know it probably sounds like I should just try and run my campaign in a different system but Burning Wheel is the only system that allows my big bad to be who I want her to be. So any advice would be appreciated. If you need to know more information just let me know.

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Who are the players’ characters?
What are their lifepaths?
What are their beliefs?


Welcome to the forums!

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So, I assume the PCs will be on the side of stopping the big evil. I which case:

Which of the people the PCs most care about has a solid rational argument why the big evil shouldn’t be stopped?

How will recovering one of the artefacts cause disaster to someone/somewhere a PC cares about?

What personally meaningful NPCs need help somewhere that isn’t on the quest to stop the big evil?

One thing BW does really well that many systems don’t is capture the fact that people have friends, old rivals who they don’t actually hate, familiies, and all the other things that aren’t skill with the blade and a desire for loot. So, use those connections to make players choose.

Does all have to be tied to the big bad: smaller conflicts between acquaintance and stranger work too; but people in the real world will push past their limits or compromise their strongest morals for someone they love so look at ways of making some of their relationships a reason to do something different.

And if they still succeed, it will make the victory sweeter becuase they have people to celebrate with


I haven’t had session 0 yet so I don’t know what my PCs will be like. I do know my players though and they will most likely create characters that want to stop the big bad.

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Ah, great. First rule for BW game masters: Don’t over plan.
Dave asks some great questions.

I’ll add:
Tell us about the world itself.
Tell us more about The Big Bad.


Ok I will have to respond to Dave and will answer all their questions when I am at a computer later today.

As for describing my world and big bad, I should be able to do that on my phone.

My world is as follows:
“A peaceful kingdom of nobility and peasantry wherein magic is used but it’s dangerous and generally feared” there are dwarves, orcs, elves, dark elves, and even wizards (using only standard life paths no college of magic or death cult. Though I may remove wizards entirely). The primary religion is based off of Christianity in that there is one God everyone should worship (named Tytoe). It is believed that Tytoe created everything but he really only created the humans and angels, other Gods created everything else (other Gods will primarily come into play if I have a PC who is an apostate; however there is a good chance that the idea of other Gods will be revealed very late game regardless of PCs). There are also demons that were created by Tytoe and the big bad (before she even became bad). Tytoe created the very first elves (the ones with the Aman trait). Is there anything else that needs to be known about my world?

My big bad is at follows:
Her name is Kira. She was one of the first born elves who got to know Tytoe personally. She has a brother named Dean and when they were young they were inseparable they both became protectors (soothers to be specific). However, Kira couldn’t handle the grief the way Dean could and after spending some time protecting and living amongst humans her grief turned to spite she became a griever and later a murderer. Whereas Dean continued on the protector path and tried to reason with Kira but the more he tried to reason with her the more spiteful she became. Eventually, they severed all ties with each other after a somewhat violent fight that ended with them having a hateful relationship. Soon after this seemingly permanent separation, Tytoe had enough of Kira’s violence and locked her away in a magical tomb. Tytoe did his best to ensure that the only way to escape from that magically prison was to obtain 4 artifacts that were hidden across the kingdoms. At the start of the campaign Kira has been imprisoned for millennia and is desperate to escape to get revenge; however, she also longing to reunite with her brother Dean (even though she doesn’t fully know that in the beginning). I’d also like for Kira to have a son named Crowley who is loyal to her and does anything she asks of him including plotting her long awaited escape. (If Crowley is included he will be a gifted child and likely take wizard life paths). Any other information on the big bad that would be helpful?


That’s great.
What’s the region of the world like that you’re starting in? What’s the big city like? Who are the rulers? Who are the opposition? Who are the regular people and what do they make?


I cannot fully answer many of these questions as session 0 hasn’t happened yet so I don’t know what my PCs’ relationships will look like. However, I can come up with a couple of reasons why their relationships wouldn’t want them to stop the big bad; maybe they are afraid of Tytoe (the God that imprisoned the big bad in the first place), or maybe they are afraid of what will happen to the world once the artifacts are destroyed.

Recovering the artifacts will cause chaos. I’m not completely sure how that chaos will look yet but I know that each artifact will cause something different to happen to NPCs and the world around them. For example one of the artifacts is likely going to be known as war and when the PCs come out with the recovered artifact some of the humans may start acting like orcs for a scene. I do not want to be a ruthless GM so I will not kill off any relationships are the PCs have but if it is in the name of good chaos I may cause those relationships to have minor injuries.

As for personally meaningful NPCs that need help elsewhere I can definitely improvise something as that could create some good conflict but I would need session 0 first as I don’t know what kind of conflict to create right now.

No, not everything has to be tied to the big bad, I do like the idea of them helping others along the way or maybe even finding ways to cause chaos on their own that isn’t related to the big bad.

I am struggling to answer these questions as I hadn’t thought about it until now and I feel that I am not good at coming up with those things but I will do my best to answer each question.

Region that we’re starting in: the large city that the king resides in.

the big city: Here is an area I really struggle because when I think of big cities I think of New York where there a skyscrapers everywhere and millions of people live there. However, I know that Burning Wheel is more medieval based (and I want to keep my campaign as close to the medieval setting as possible) where there aren’t skyscrapers and millions of people living in that one city. But if I had to say something about what the big city is like right now I’d say it’s got a large castle where the king lives and several large buildings such as a blacksmith, apothecary, and really any other shop you can think of. It is also a port city in that it has 2 ports to trade goods across the ocean.

The rulers: The simplest answer is the king. The specifics are where I feel I struggle but I will try my best. The king rules over the entirety of the human kingdom, in each large city there is a baron that rules over the city, in each town there is a mayor who rules that town. The neighboring kingdoms would be the kingdoms of the dwarves, and elves both of whom have their own kings to rule. I do know I want most human NPCs to be scared of dwarves, and elves; however, I want some humans to accept them as they are and not be afraid.

The opposition: I hadn’t thought about this one at all (but off the top of my head) there is a rival kingdom that believes Kira is the one true God and was wrongfully imprisoned.

Who the regular people are and what they do: I think the regular people are the blacksmiths, apothecaries, doctors, and makers. They are all trying to survive each day.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t fully answer your questions as I said I struggle with this kind of stuff and haven’t thought about any of it until now. If I need to expand further I will but it will take me much more time as I will have to spend a lot of time thinking about it and working it all out in my head.

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I think you’re off to a good start. Recall my top-level advice: you don’t want to overplan. You need to leave room for player input.


My bad: I meant the questions as things to ask once you have the characters.

So much this. There are things that you need to define to make the plot work, but for everything else let the players suggest what seems cool, then fall back on a wise/circles/&c. if you don’t just want to say yes.

And lean into player vs character knowledge division to get more details if your table are comfortable with it: some of the best scenes I’ve been part of have come because the players knew the full situation but the characters didn’t. As players tend to know their character best, using them to get ideas for what will challenge the character can save one a lot of work.

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