How portable are systems in BE to BW?

I have the two core BW books and I don’t have BE. I’m planning on running a fantasy game, so I haven’t really been paying attention to BE yet. Then I listened to the first part of “Have Games, Will Travel” podcast episode 109 about Burning Empires and I’m really interested in the macro-level Infection rules. In particular, I’d really like to be able to run a campaign with a big war going on but where there’s a system-driven way of determining who wins the war.

So my question is, can the Infection rules be adapted to a fantasy campaign of BW? And if so, how hard is it? Plug-an-play? Moderate tweaking? Practically designing a new game inspired by BW and BE?

And while I’m asking, I like the concept of World Burning (particularly setting the LPs and tech available, the factions, etc.) and I’ve heard that Tech Burning could be a good model for “Enchantment”…

Also, I tried searching for posts on this subject already and found a couple. However, none seemed to answer directly (probably weak search-fu on my part). I did see reference to Burning Kingdoms, which looks cool, but I want to keep a GM and have the players be generally on the same side rather than directly competing against each other.

Let me say exactly what I’m looking for more specifically–maybe the BE systems aren’t what I want anyway and the question becomes moot.

I recently read the Black Company books by Glen Cook for the first time and am interested in playing that kind of game. I want the players to make characters who are interesting and competent members of a smallish military company (not necessarily the leaders, though commander-type characters are certainly playable). Then I want their company to be a significant part of a larger conflict, but they aren’t the big movers-and-shakers of the war. They are doing missions, scenes and conflicts on a smaller, more personal level. They don’t win a giant war, they take control (or fight to keep control) of a city. Or they do an assassination mission. Or they try to sniff out and deal with rebels entrenched in a village. If they are in a big war, they’re just covering one flank and there are many more soldiers on both sides.

Also, I’m playing with the idea that they’re mercenaries, so each campaign is a conflict or series of tightly related conflicts–whether continent spanning wars or small skirmishes between feuding great houses in a city. So there’s variable scales of meta-conflict.

So specifically, some of the things I want…
[li] Fundamentally the campaign should be about the PC Beliefs not the war (though every soldier had better have at least one Belief tied to the war) – winning or losing could lead to satisfying stories
[/li][li] I want the macro level to inspire and lead to the PC level and then back and forth–they’re separate but thematically affect each other.
[/li][li] Winning or losing that specific scene is not the same as who is winning the larger war (the players could be winning every battle and skirmish they’re in, but their side is losing the war)
[/li][li] I want a pseudo-random way of determining how the war is going
[/li][li] I also want a “countdown” mechanism so there’s a the sense that the war is rushing towards an end.

So my two basic questions are: a) Would Infection (or Infection-inspired) rules work for the above? and b) If so, how hard would it be to convert to BW?

-John B.

Paging the Deliverator…

There’s a Burning Kingdoms mod for BW that adds a macro mechanic. However, it’s much easier to take BE as a whole and change the names of the skills to fantasy names than it is to upgrade BW to BE’s mechanics. BE is a very tightly knit game. Everything is tied together.

the sense I get from the Burning Kingdoms playtest is that BE Infection Mechanics and char skills and lifepaths were designed from the ground up for BE…I think I remember one of the players saying something like “the skills and their associated lifepaths” didn’t tie into the end of turn Infection rolls the way the wanted them…I think they kinda realized they’d have to rewrite a lot of BW lifepaths…

also, check out Paul’s off the rez. thread about his current Reign game.

EDIT: after reading your 2nd post, might I suggest just about any strategic wargame for the big “meta” campaign? You mention a countdown. Countdown to victory or defeat? Or both?

Thanks Luke and Z-Dog. That does answer my question. I’m planning on running several regular BW games as written first–but I was wondering if buying BE later would be a good idea for running a Black Company-style game like I described above.

I’m sure I’ll buy BE anyway, but it was largely a question of timing. In particular, whether I should buy Monster Burner or Burning Empires first, since I want them both. I think I’ll buy MoBu first, since it will enhance BW, while BE would be a separate game for a different kind of campaign. Both interest me, but I think I’ll run classic fantasy and BW for awhile before I introduce another system (BE).

(I’d also really like to run BE as written–but my group is very divided on the topic of sci-fi games… :frowning: )


MoBu’s great. Sounds like you’re trying to figure out ways to eventually mod your game and MoBu’s like the keys to the kingdom.

Infection-inspired mechanics could probably work to track progress of a war or military campaign. To do it, you would need to incorporate two other elements of BE. First, figure out a means of determining each side’s disposition at the start of the war. In BE, disposition is determined during World Burning. Second, figure out how frequently to make maneuver rolls. In BE, the scene economy (whereby the GM and the players each get a certain number and type of scenes) determines when to make the maneuver rolls.

In fact, you could probably track the progress of a war using mechanics very similar to a Duel of Wits. Step One: determine disposition; Step two: each side chooses an action or actions; Step three: cross-reference each side’s action to determine any advantage/disadvantage; Step four: roll dice; Step 5: apply any disposition damage. Repeat until one side is defeated.

The difficulty with both options would be determining which skills relate to which actions…in BE, the skills are directly linked and differ from phase to phase. In a DoW derived battle mechanic, you’d want to create maneuvers that use something other than Tactics or Strategy…

Finally, if the PCs are not the actual commanders of their army, then it might not be very rewarding for the players to see the process carried out–especially if the PCs’ actions in the game seem to have no impact on the war itself.

All in all, I’d like to try something like this myself but it’s easier said than done because everything ties together in BE…I don’t trust myself to think of the second and third order effects of porting something over.


Countdown to the end of the war–so both. Generally it will be a climactic end battle, but that’s not a requirement.

And when you say “any strategic wargame for the big “meta” campaign”, are you suggesting running two games (like one system for the players involvement and then switching to a strategic wargame for the big battles)–sort of like using Battletech for battles and the Mechwarrior RPG for what your mech pilots are doing between battles to get into more battles? Or am I totally misunderstanding that?


These passages, and most especially the ones I put in bold, make me think that running any old strategic wargame could serve your goals.

I guess how you run it depends on your goals!

You could play a solo wargame against yourself and use the results for the backdrop of the story.

You could play one turn of the wargame at the end of each session of play, to determine what happens next (and maybe what the char do influences it a little bit? I don’t know)

Or…I just got a wicked thought: You could have your players play the wargame with you…one turn at a time during the play session and: get this, this is the key: when they play the wargame, they are NOT playing their characters…they are playing the generals of the war.

Part of me wonders if this would be a lot more fun, like, “OK, we really need to hold that one castle, but only as long as we can distract the enemy of our true plan. Hmm…what about we send a small suicide squad up there to hold it at all costs? Tell 'em the fate of the war depends on it, etc. etc.? (Big laugh)…OK, OK…wipes tears…got anybody in mind?”

Hmm… you know, I may just do something like that. For the Black Comapny-esque idea specifically, it would be pretty simple.

There would be three “levels”:

[li]The war as a whole
[/li][li]Specific battles
[/li][li]The characters actions (whether standard scenes or in the middle of a battle)

It would cascade from personal up to the larger war. Characters would be in scenes, whether stand-alone mission (like the PCs scouting in the forest and being ambushed, or going on a 4-person assassination mission) or regular scenes (like hanging out in camp and getting in a conflict with another soldier who’s a jerk or arguing with the captain over who should get what share of the booty or going into a town and buying supplies or arguing whether the PCs are going to go along with evil or stupid orders or not) or else playing a part on the battle field while the larger battle rages around them (whether soldiers in the field or commanders giving orders through couriers or a physician tending the wounded, etc.).

Regular scenes would be just that and would work like normal. When the player’s were in a larger battle, I would do some variation of DoW like suggested, with the individual player’s actions being like “linked tests” that either hinder or help the battle roll between armies. The types of actions armies could take could be based on the Fight! rules from Burning Kingdoms.

So for example, the PCs’ company decides to advance on an enemy fortification. If the PCs are together in one group, then regular rules could be used (standard tests, bloody tests, R&C, Fight! or even DoW as appropriate) to work out a complete conflict that is part of the larger battle. If the players are separate, that fine, but I would lmost certainly do simple tests and bloody tests, instead of Fight!, DoW or R&C because of time. Afterwards, each PC affects the larger battle like a linked test (either helping or hindering the army roll).

Then the armies each roll once against each other (taking into account the modifiers from the PC “linked tests” and any other modifiers) and the losing side loses Disposition until one side is defeated.

(There could even be a variation of “concessions” to determine how thoroughly each side is hurt relative to the other if desired).

Finally, that affects the flow of the larger battle, which is a simple opposed roll against a larger-scale Disposition (without strategies or action types because it’s completely out of the player’s hands and so extra detail is basically the GM playing against him or herself). Note that both battles that the PCs are involved in and smaller, personal missions they engaged in that directly tie into the war all count as linked tests for boosting (or hurting) the war roll. However, the pPCs arguing about who gets what booty doesn’t (though it’s still fun and ties into advancement, artha, etc. as normal).

To rephrase the above on a higher level:

[li]The players act out regular scenes based on BIT like normal in BW
[/li][li]Some, but not all scenes are either Missions or part of larger Battles
[/li][li]Missions act as linked tests to help the next War! roll
[/li][li]Inside of a battle, each player (or the players as a group) play out specific scenes–probably similar to R&C positioning, but other possibilities exist–and it acts as a linked test for the Battle! roll
[/li][li]Battle! rolls work similar to DoW, with each side taking a strategic action and the winner taking away some of the loser’s Disposition (I’ll probably use the battle! rules from Burning Kingdoms, but may simplify it substantially, since the player focus is on the spotlight scenes they’re in, not the commander-eye view of the battle)
[/li][li]Missions and Battles act as linked tests for the War! rolls
[/li][li]War! is simply a periodic roll of one side of the war’s Strength vs. the other side’s to lower their overall Disposition (I’ll probably use the Burning Kingdom rules for creating the sides, but may simplify or skip that part)

Basically, the players will act out scenes using the regular BW rules that are about their characters and their BIT, but that influence the larger conflicts using a version of the linked tests rules. And the meta-conflicts (whether the whole war or a specific battle) will be resolved with a hadnful of opposed rolls simialr to a DoW against the opponent’s Disposition which are rolled between the PC’s scenes.

(It’s simpler in my head than it sounds when I try to explain it…:slight_smile: )


Haha… you know, I really like that. It would be pretty different than what I was thinking, but it could work really well. Hmm…

You know, it depends on the group, but I could see myself playing that big game, getting really excited about winning it, and demanding that my char show up for key battles…or just battles that looked really cool. You know, “Hell, we’ve done this 'hold the fort thing, what, like three times? It’s getting old. Oh, look here, looks like a big land battle is brewing…I wanna do a big old calvary charge! Break out the horses!”

Or I could see pushing for suicidal missions just 'cause it would seem to advice the strat dimension.

There’s some old boardgames I have that had great rules for special forces units…Gulf Strike and something about the Aegean Sea…I’d totally dust those off and look at the multipliers and such to get a feel for how much and impact those small forces could have on the big picture.