Hot Circle RPG (self-contained BW hack)

Hi All! It’s so great these forums are back! I wanted to show everyone a design experiment / spark for the Burning Wheel I wrote called Hot Circle RPG:

Hot Circle is a spark (fan hack) flung from the Burning Wheel by Luke Crane. It attempts to simplify and abstract the technology that powers the Burning Wheel to a minimum derivative game.

It’s a self contained hack that replaces things that involve long lists in Burning Wheel (traits, skills, lifepaths) with freeform descriptors in the style of Over the Edge, Fate, etc.

[DriveThruRPG Free Zine Format PDF] [@hotcirclerpg]

From this base the framework is extended with compromises (replacing scripted conflicts), conditions (voluntary and as consequences), ability tests (using lifepaths to generate circles, wises, resources, and deeds aka flashbacks), and a modified artha cycle (tightly coupled to advancement and compel interactions).

In testing I’m really enjoying how compromises have worked to extend and emphasize important versus tests, and how much the shared worldbuilding increased buy-in.

I’d love to discuss the ideas in HCPRG as a design experiment, or to find potential testers for the game. It’s in a zine format and currently on version 0.2, which is in alpha playtesting stage. At this point the design will be kept stable and as much playtesting as possible will be performed.

I have playtests going on in my personal network, but I am looking to find groups with previous BW experience who would like to perform a playtest using just the 0.2 rulebook linked above. I can thank up to 5 groups that perform a playtest and provide directed feedback for a campaign of 3+ sessions with one copy of BWG, Mouseguard, or BW Codex (dependent on regional availability).


I’ve thought for a while there’s a gap in the RPG space (or more specifically, at my table) for something that plays a lot like Burning Wheel but with the accessibility of a lighter game so this is very interesting to me, I’ll be keeping an eye on your project! I’ve actually tried and failed doing something similar a few times myself and it’s really hard to keep everything that’s great about Burning Wheel while also trimming the game down so I think it’s really impressive that you’ve created a playable ‘lite’ game that still seems very BW-esque.

I like the idea of streamlining resources, wises, circles, and deeds into one system and directly rolling on life paths instead of skills. One critical feature of Burning Wheel I think I’d really miss if playing your system would be the ability to basically outgrow your starting lifepaths, which doesn’t seem like it’d be possible when they’re now the core of the character. For example I once started with a thuggish thief type character but the events of the campaign resulted in him opening and advancing lots of leadership / social skills rather than doubling down on his initial skillset. This felt like a natural result of just playing the character in the situation he was in due to the way skills and beginner’s luck works.

I realise in Hot Circle you can still acquire skills and lifepaths you didn’t start with, but it seems like much more of a conscious decision because you don’t earn-by-doing and everything ties back in to lifepaths. Perhaps it’s different when actually playing but that’s what my initial impression was. Is that sort of “sideways” character growth something you’d be interested in emulating more or do you think it’s out of the scope of the project?

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Thanks TeaL3af! Sounds like you have had a thorough read, so my sincere thanks for that.

I think the posibility of this lateral growth was a casualty of going from the 600pp of BWG to 24pp. There’s a trade-off there where we lose the bookkeeping load of tracking advancement for individual skills. And the rules text complexity of even describing that process. (personally I think description complexity is as important as complexity of use when it comes to rules).

This topic touches on my main dissatisfaction with v0.2. The progression of ability test > temporary asset > permanent asset is clunky. I can tell from trying to explain it in the text and in person. It could be down to terminology (temporary asset could be better expressed as a precedent) but I think the issue has deeper roots.

In BWG a circles subject goes to a relationship by tracking some number of circles tests on them. This nebulous stage of still-using-circles-but-its-more-likely-to-succeed-now-and-on-it’s-way-to-a-relationship works in BWG where we track all kinds of things, but in HCRPG I’m only really tracking spent fate and persona by lifepath.

I do love that there is a decoupling between the ability test and the final asset though. With Circles it’s pretty straightforward. They’re a person you know the whole way through the process and just increase in mechanical importance. But I love the fact that you can do a Deeds test to do a flashback, then the skill you used sets a precedent that becomes a permanent skill on your sheet. It couples flashbacks, metacurrency use, and specialized advancement (a lifepath advances generally by rating but also in narrower specializations through skills).

Having the lifepath as the base unit makes the kind of lateral growth you mention very hard. Do we have a placeholder future lifepath that we allocate these new skills to? Should characters ever receive new lifepaths? Right now traits and trait votes (and to a lesser extent changing instincts and belief-stances) are the only way to show this new lateral growth.

We are starting a Stars Without Number inspired Hot Circle game; I think you commented on a tweet about our faction map. Glad to provide feedback.

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Was thinking about this issue. Considering whether spending artha on using a lifepath for hindering or neutral tasks should earn checks towards opening narrow, task-based lifepath at 3d. Using farmer or armsman to haggle repeatedly could open Haggler at 3d. Or maybe deeds and traits cover this just fine. A skill and a trait take you to 3d anyway.

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A neutral lifepath (2D), a skill (1D), a wise(1D), and a trait (1D) would get you to 5D. I’ll definitely explore the idea of a placeholder ‘next’ lifepath to stand in for neutral lifepaths when working on v0.3.

We are starting a Stars Without Number inspired Hot Circle game

I saw your tweet and was so very excited to see HCRPG in use! I thought it was a SWN game that was using some of the Hot Circle campaign creation techniques, but to hear it’s really a Hot Circle game is a wonderful suprise.

I’d love to hear your feedback, especially as a ‘Master Burner’, and also any campaign details you would like to share. What was the genre and style you chose? Which lifepath-settings did you include? Which factions did you identify? (hard to read them all from your tweet.) I’d also love to hear about any characters that were created, or see any photos of character sheets.

Has the game progressed beyond session zero? What mechanics have been engaged so far? Has any artha been awarded and what for?

I think the tweet was acually Fuseboy’s (same group). Genre and style we initially were aiming at was Space Truckers, but the more we created of the sectors and factions, the more we moved towards Rebel Gunrunners. Hard boiled, harder sf Firefly.

Hehemony (failing empire with small but powerful fleet)
Influencers (interstellar instagram celebs)
Revolutionaries (post scaricty cyber communists and anarchists)
Synths (robots and heavily augmented underclass)
Traders (spacers and merchants)
Academy (iron empires psychologists)
Cultists (psychic based religion)
Makers (farmers, laborers, craftspeople, good planetbound citizens)
Mercenaries (large fleet of petty warlords and pirates
Hedonists (idle rich)

I suspect we’ll start our own thread to discuss game further.


Great! I’ll keep an eye out for it.

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