How do you deal with Rocovery time in games where time is short?

In pretty much all of my games time is a precious resource for my players, I throw lots of things at them, and make them decide which paths to follow and which to let go. So how do you guys handle it when one or two players get badly wounded and need months to recover? I am in a game now and it is the GMs first time running BW, and we have come accross this problem a few times. We have been on a mission that was time sensitive, and because BW is BW a player got badly injured and needed medical attention, so we had to drop everything and go get them healed up, and then have a time skip so they could keep playing int the game.

So if only one player is hurt, but the revocery time would put them out of the action for weeks or months but the rest of the party is in a time sensitive situation, what do you guys do? I want all the players to have fun, and leaving someone behind or forcing them to make a new character both seem like they would just screw over that player and keep them from having any fun.

Why not play through it? While not as effective at tasks it usually means faster progression for Skills they still have access to and for Attributes.

Well in both cases they were so badly injured they couldnt do much of anything. I think one was -3d to everything after a health check, putting a few of their stats at one, but they still needed medical attention so we had to retreat to a city so we could find a doctor. The most recent one was a mortal wound, and we are still dealing with that, but it was the same thing, we were deep in enemy territory, and had to retreat to find a healer, effectively ending the whole scenario prematurely.

Downtime until they’re able to stand. Then play as normal. If the rest of the party is in a time sensitive situation, try to either resolve it quickly before downtime with a versus, or get it to a place where it can sit and stew. If the characters had to neglect important shit to get their friend better, then they deal with the consequences.

In one BW campaign I was in the two PCs (including my character) got pretty badly injured. What we ended up deciding to do was turn some NPC relationships into characters that we’d play while the others rested. We ended up liking the new characters so much that we didn’t go back. In fact the NPC I took over was my original character’s brother (rival relationship). Later in the game I ended up murdering my original PC as he lay in bed trying to recover.

I’ve occasionally struggled with this.

On the one hand, I think the wounded folks just need to take their lumps.

On the other hand, one might ask what led up to the wounding? How relevant was that to this time sensitive situation? Did the players have a real choice or did the GM force Fight! on them? Did all the players actually buy into the situation? I was playing in a time sensitive game situation and did something that led to a wound and recovery. Eventually I realized I had never really bought into the situation (and my PC was the “main” character…).

The recovery time should be a factor in player decisions to do things that risk much more than a light wound.


Wounds, like every failure consequence in BW, need to fit the game and the situation. If getting wounded can bring the game screeching to a halt, don’t put wounds on the table, or provide a way to get around them at cost. Maybe a wounded character can take a drug to stay up and functioning, but now they’ve got an expensive and dangerous habit. Maybe there are forbidden rituals to transfer your wounds to another person, so you have to way your ethics and find a victim. Maybe there are healers who can speed things up, for a price or for a favor later.

Come up with a solution that works well for your game. Don’t let wounds wreck it.

At the risk of seeming harsh: they’re fucked, if they need the wounded PC(s) to complete the situation in time. Them’s the breaks. Otherwise, the time-sensitivity is defanged, and so why make it time-sensitive at all?

More generally, if you make FOO cause failure, and FOO happens, then failure happens. Otherwise, forget any notion of FOO (else you’re being illusionist: bullshitting about the time-sensitivity and handwaving/hacking game systems when it becomes an issue). If this means a PLAYER has to play a “hireling” NPC to get through FOO, or that the other PCs have to Circle up some help to get through FOO, or whatever, then that’s a REAL consequence.

Your job as GM is to make failure interesting, NOT to defang it when it becomes inconvenient for one or two players.

I’m new to Burning Wheel, so take my commentary with a grain of salt, but…

It seems to me that the general attitude when roleplaying is this: “We’re going to get together and succeed at a task while pretending to be other people and rolling dice.” The implicit idea is that the fun will be had in the victory and success. Therefore people tend to want to feel the win at all times. Short term failures and setbacks are OK so long as there is soon a big win that will make up for the losses.

Now, not that that’s the only attitude that roleplayers can use, no matter the system, but one of the things that caught my attention with Burning Wheel was how there is an implicit understanding that failure is interesting. Maybe you start out with the idea in mind that you’re going to overcome your adversary in this story arc. But then something goes horribly wrong. Somebody is injured, or a Duel of Wits goes against you in a big way. Victory is simply out of reach. What is wrong with ending the story arc in failure, and picking up the next story arc in the aftermath?

The Empire Strikes Back sucked in a huge way for Luke Skywalker. The Empire ran roughshod over the rebellion at Hoth. Training went poorly. His attempted rescue of his friends ended in Han’s torture and sale to a vicious crime lord. And Luke lost his hand, and perhaps more importantly got a good hard look at his past and potential future. BUT, that set him up for a very exciting story in Return of the Jedi. He learned a thing or two about rescue missions and why they shouldn’t be solo efforts. He realized he needed a mindset change about training. And he realized that he could overcome his own inner darkness and walk the path of light. Oh, and teddy bears.

What I’m getting at is this: Why not let the failure happen? If the party’s beliefs are such that they’re going to hold off on achieving their goals to aid their fallen comrade, then they fail and have to move forward after that failure. If their beliefs are to say “sorry buster” to their fallen comrade, then they have to move forward without his/her help, and have to then live in a world where they let their friend die to achieve their ends - or, let their friend die and then failed to achieve their ends.

EDIT: Also, if the story that the others are telling is engaging enough, it may not be too big of a hardship for the injured player to sit back and observe instead of actively participate.

For the Mortal afflicted character, probably a good option to set the sidelined PC aside and the player bring in another. Note that BW is relatively forgiving of differing power levels of characters so don’t worry about the player needing to burn up a high LP PC if the other PCs have advanced a lot since they started play, it isn’t a requirement.

P.S. Luke’s even posted AP of a character who was sidelined by a Mortal and then whose story was played out later:

The way I see it, Burning Wheel is about making difficult choices, and having to live with the consequences. “Should I continue on, in persuit of [time-sensitive goal], even if it means abandoning my injured friend?” is one such difficult decision. The games tagline reads “Fight For What You Believe In”, but you get the exact same artha award for acomplishing acting against your beliefs (moldbreaker) as you do for carrying them out.