I don't understand why the first trait has to be bought.

Some of these mandatory traits confuse me. A city guard absolutely must be a drunk? It’s an unavoidable consequence of the profession…? Really?

Some of them make sense, like the thieves’ guild bits. But some of them really, really don’t. For my character that I’m working on, for instance, she’s educated, so the student thing makes sense. But “rabble rouser” is so completely not her thing. She’s pretty much antisocial. Are all city students in the entire world social activists, good at rousing crowds? I mean, am I reading these rules right?

Thanks for the help. I think, regardless, we’re going to have to switch out some of these traits that are simply failures to match, but I’d rather know what experienced players do.

You don’t need to roleplay the traits.

From page 57 “Either he’s going to play those traits to the hilt… or he’s saying that his character is starting with these traits, but he’s about to change.”

You can play actively against them. Don’t like Drunk? Say that she used to drink, but is determined to clean herselfup. When offered alcohol in play, have your character refuse, maybe make a remark to the effect that she doesn’t touch the stuff anymore.

If you play her consistently, the trait gets voted off eventually during the Voting session…

oh, and Rabble Rouser is the stereotypical student protester thing… Again, no need to take that route if you don’t feel like it. It just adds some color.

Character traits are flavor more than anything else. Maybe everyone expects the guards to be drunks; sober competence is surprising and against type. Students are expected to be rabble rousers, and there’s a lot of elbow-nudging and winking whenever your student says anything, no matter how scholarly and dry, that could remotely be construed as agitating against anything.

And part of BW is accepting the traits you don’t want and learning to work with them. You can’t picture a character in your head and get exactly that. You can try, but you’ll have to compromise to get there and the final result may surprise you. It makes recreating characters from other games hard, though.

I’ve got to say… while that may be a part of the established universe, I can’t, personally, accept that. The entire reason I’m researching the move from Pathfinder (in which we have a very loose, but intense RP foisted onto a combat-focused framework) to Burning Wheel is because I’m all about RP. It grates at me to think of having “drunk” on a character who’s never tasted alcohol in her life, maybe because her parents were alcoholics, but because she became a guard, I must write that down. Do I write it and subsequently ignore it? That makes even less sense!

I’m thinking the only thing that makes sense is that the forced trait purchase is the “game recommendation,” and by the group’s approval (namely the GM, I suppose), it can be swapped for something else, or perhaps simply forfeiting the trait entirely.

It will make playing with other BW players in the future more problematic, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m making a character in a freeform sort of way, I don’t mind following where the book leads. But if I’m wanting to make a specific character, then the ruleset isn’t going to get in my way.

Historically, the relationship between cities and the universities hosted by them was a fraught one that often led to violence, even bloody, days-long battles. Students and faculty were subject to canon law, not municipal law, meaning they could and did break secular laws regularly. Students partook in all manner of criminal vices, up to and including rape and murder, and were immune to sanction by civil authorities.


That is very interesting. I suppose if I were playing in the universe that the Burning Wheel book presupposes, then those traits would make more sense to be default - even if it does make me cringe a little at the use of absolutes (absolutely ALL city students are rabble rousers? ALL guards are drunks? At least all thieves being stealthy makes sense to be universal…). That said, in alternate settings, those default traits don’t necessarily make much (if any) sense, in certain cases.

So it makes more sense, then, to alter the default traits according to setting. Not necessarily as a GM going through the whole lot, but different settings automatically justify different default traits and leads. And really, in the very first words of the “hub” part of the book, it explicitly says “there is no set world in which you play.” By that sentence alone (let alone the rest of the paragraphs around it highlighting and emphasising the point), it seems quite clear that you shouldn’t feel bound to the world as presented in the post-74 pages sections of the book.

I’m confident now in the change. nods Thanks everyone!

Welcome to Burning Wheel :wink:

Remember what I said about mechanics limiting player choices and putting pressure on the Character and sending them in unexpected directions? Yeah, it starts in character creation. I think it’s a nice litmus test to see how well a player will take to the entire system.

Some of them make sense, like the thieves’ guild bits. But some of them really, really don’t. For my character that I’m working on, for instance, she’s educated, so the student thing makes sense. But “rabble rouser” is so completely not her thing.

So, maybe she didn’t get her education through University. There are other ways to pick up those reading and writing skills.

Are all city students in the entire world social activists, good at rousing crowds? I mean, am I reading these rules right?

You’re reading the rules right, but it doesn’t mean all students in the entire world are rabble rousers. Just PCs who take that Life Path.

Thanks for the help. I think, regardless, we’re going to have to switch out some of these traits that are simply failures to match, but I’d rather know what experienced players do.

Well, for my part, I play it strictly by the book unless we’re emulating another setting (Dark Sun, Tribe 8, etc.). Then, we change the LPs, as little as possible, to fit that setting and play it strictly by that book.

The game does have a strong implied setting in the lifepaths. European medieval, for humans, although easily transposed to later eras. You can play a nice 17th century Musketeer or Capitan Alatriste type of game, and Pirates of the Caribbean is certainly doable, savvy? The implied setting also contains a lot of ‘grit’, for lack of a better term.

Playing Golarion/ Forgotten Realms / Dark Sun and other traditional RPG settings will certainly require some work. Most RPG settings are far removed from Medieval Europe, save for the weapons, armors, some technological achievements, and some vague nods to feudalism*.

I’ve played in some games with Lifepaths specifically altered/constructed to reflect a specific setting (most recently, in a Wheel of Time game starting up)

My humble observations/recommendations on the subject of crafting your own lifepaths is as follows:

  1. Alter existing lifepaths to taste, as you’re doing. The less changes, probably the better, until you get your feet under you with the game, so to speak. A few character trait changes here and there are surely harmless. Numerical value changes (Skill points, rp’s, time) seem to require much more careful consideration.

  2. At some point, try playing with some characters using the official pathways, just for the experience of creating and playing flawed characters. It’s not for everybody, but just try it at least once. It may prove very rewarding to role play certain character traits, that you just normally wouldn’t choose in other games. It’s certainly proven fun for me to create characters that wind up with these unexpected traits that are surprising and lead me to play in a different direction, not to mention dealing with issues that sometimes don’t come into play in other games. (e.g. alcoholism).
    Do note that some traits might be offensive and/or hurtful to you or other players, so use your best judgement and its a good idea to discuss with your group beforehand. (It certainly would make me feel extremely uncomfortable for me to play ‘drunk character trait’ with my alcoholic friend at the table, so I usually choose not to play that when I’m with him.)

  3. when you’ve had some experience with the system and feel inclined to create your own lifepaths, I understand that there are rules in the Monster Burner for doing so. Consider looking into that, but again, that’s a more advanced thing, probably best done after a certain level of comfort with the rules is achieved. (I’m not quite there myself. :smiley: )

*Just my ill-informed opinion, I could be wrong. I’m no scholar or anything. No disrespect intended. RPG settings seem like much nicer places to live and play in that what Europe must have been like. I like playing in them too.

I think of it like this: every lifepath leaves its mark on a character. It’s not hard to work your way out of those initial traits, but they give you a place to fit into. (You could also imagine some of those initial traits as “that’s what everyone expects a Student/Guard/etc. to be like, so it’s easy to fall into that”.

If you’re really bummed about getting stuck with a required lifepath trait you don’t like, you could always just take the Quiescent trait on page 342 of BWG, which allows the player to “neutralize and remove one required life path trait”. Note that you have to pay a two point premium to do this; ultimately, Burning Wheel is a game about making hard decisions and paying the price for them.

Noble students have no required traits. Noble Court students have “Dangerous” instead, which is easier to interpret as you want. And both Noble and Noble Court have the Young Lady lifepath, which are full of interesting education. Different education, to be sure, but education nonetheless.

In BW, if you don’t like a lifepath it’s usually because your character shouldn’t take that lifepath or because your character is going to be different. It’s not a game that frees you to roleplay how you want; that’s just not how it works. It empowers roleplaying, yes, but it also limits it. You cannot play an unflinchingly brave knight, for example. You’ve got Steel and Hesitation, and you’re going to flinch. You can’t combine arbitrary lifepaths. And sometimes? You’re Drunk.

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You could also play a character who everyone just expects to be a drunk or rabble rouser (guilt by association), but is actually playing against type.

Another way to look at rabble rouser is that the student has learned things that the average person has not and therefore when the student speaks, people tend to listen.
Ether way, those unwanted traits can drop off fast via trait vote and in the meanwhile earn you some points by playing up beliefs about proving that you are not a whatever.

That having been said.

If I were trying to transfer a group from one game to another, I would probably try to be as true to the characters as possible, making sure that their personalities and skIlls were properly represented In the new games framework and contInue from there. I would not worry about the lifepaths as they represent the life your character has led before the adventure begins. You are transfering characters who have already begun their adventures, basically riffing those characters into the burning wheel system of play. You can still learn a lot about this game with your imported characters, (though they will never be an exact fit) and if you follow the Expertise by Exponent chart on page 12 it isn’t even that difficult to do the import/transfer, just look at the current game skill/ability as it relates to that game system as far as competence level and grant the same level in the burning wheel and only take the skills that your characters have actually developed, nothing from just stat/level bonus, unless its in their background they don’t get to have it, no matter what the old game said.

I still recommend that you start off playing with totally new characters, or by playing “The Sword” as written BEFORE you try to play a game with your imported characters.

(1) It’s easier to learn the rules as written with characters that fall within expected parameters.

(2) Playing through the Hub and Spokes (first 74 pages) with imports defeats the purpose of learning the rules the way they are written as the imports themselves are outside of those rules.

(3) Your Group has too much time invested in your beloved characters to risk screwing them up in game by having a poor understanding of the rules.

(4) Burning up new characters together for a short run game (after you have run through the sword) can give your group a handle on how to create interactive beliefs and interesting instincts that work with the story rather than just the character

(5) Although it seems like a lot of work, it’s fun work. And the skills you learn with playing regular burning wheel will make all the preperation worthwhile when you finally are ready to resume play with your import characters.

Remember, you bought this game looking for a better way to play your game. But to use this game to improve that one, you must learn how to play this game first. Otherwise, why buy the game?

This is because your converting an existing character to a BW one, right? Again, this is why you shouldn’t build her with the LPs, but rather do it via the Monster Burner method. That way you create your character exactly how you want her, or at least much closer than the LPs will generate.

I’ve been there.

I’ve actually done this for a character! It’s expensive, but if you want it to be so…

We’ll definitely be playtesting BW thoroughly before risking our existing game with these rules. We’ll start with the Sword, with the pregenerated characters. Then, we’ll make a little mini-campaign, with characters made through the system proper. Then, once we’ve well established our comfort with BW, we’ll move the game onto the Hub and Spokes foundation. The Rim won’t work too well, because it bears many assumptions about the game world that simply aren’t true in this campaign.

Races will be easy enough to sort out, but magic is going to be tough. We’ve got lots of very exciting ideas, the question is how to implement them… there’s also, of course, the simple fact that we need to be familiar with the system before we try to change it!

Which parts of the Rim break based on your world assumptions? Some of the problems might have solutions.

Some of them won’t. BW is flexible, but it does, as you note, make some assumptions.

Thinking more about the problem of the first required trait, I realized that it’s part of how Burning Wheel works. In many games you can justify your way into or out of anything with a cleverly constructed background. In BW you cannot; your skills are your skills and your traits are your traits. It means you can’t go into chargen with a rock-solid idea of your character because often it’s impossible to recreate what you have in mind. Instead, you go in with an outline and see what burning gets you. Maybe it’s not what you expected, but it’s best to have fun with that, not try to weasel out of it.

It makes porting characters very hard, but that’s not really something BW is designed for at all. If it works, great, but it won’t always, and that’s by design. Just like rolling in BW is full of failures that should be interesting, chargen is full of roadblocks and unexpected pitfalls that make for more interesting characters.

I split the Quiescent trait chatter to a new thread: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?14593-The-Quiescent-trait

Folks, try not to dogpile here.

Why is that, though? I understand RAW - trust me, I’ve played tons of D&D, and I understand arguments for Reading As Written. For following the rules. You say it makes characters more interesting… but how is making it mandatory for every city guard to be a drunk (or every person who’s ever been a city guard) more interesting than allowing the freedom for players to create more versatile backgrounds?

What’s wrong with houserules? What’s wrong with modifying the base system to do with as you please?

On reading the Hub and Spokes, page 74 rather clearly states to go ahead and try playing with just the system as presented, and after trying it out, then looking at the grittier details. So much of the stuff within the book, like the “fear of cheese,” look like a focused and deliberate attempt to encourage creativity in the reader. It seems to bleed from half its pores, “Here’s a suggestion, here’s a framework. You want more? Fine, here’s more. As soon as you’re ready, go out there and DO!” The introduction to the Hub specifically states that it’s not bound to any particular game world.

With all these things taken together…

What is lost, in the game, by modifying lifepaths, certain trait mechanics, and so forth, to suit the characters and the world, if that’s what the group wants? Why or how is Burning Wheel made better by declaring that it must be obeyed strictly as written?

Do we serve the game? Or does the game serve us?

I choose to be the master, and frankly, I see no reason why I should feel bound to sacrifice the game I want to play in favor of the details bound in print. I like to think I could be convinced, but I just don’t see the argument, beyond “that’s the game.” Especially since the very core of the game make such a huge point of presenting itself as a widely versatile, multiple-universe compatible foundation and framework for the imaginations of the readers - which is, frankly, what I want.

Honestly, for character traits it’s not a big deal. You could change those out for something you liked more. But part of the balance of the game is “bad stuff” that you get unwillingly.

The problem with houserules in Burning Wheel is that the emergent gameplay is dependent on a lot of moving parts with interactions that are not at all obvious. Little changes ripple out and cause big disasters. Believe me, I know; I tried running the game with little tweaks early on and it failed miserably. It takes a lot more actual play with Burning Wheel to see what can be modified, and how, than a lot of other games, I think. And I’m an inveterate game-tinkerer. Really, don’t do it with BW early or often.

The game is not set in a particular world, but it has a lot of constraints on the kind of world based on the lifepaths. That’s where the setting really is, actually. It’s a world where city guards get no respect and are drunks, or seen as such; there’s an organized church with often rather venal leadership; the list goes on. You can’t play BW in any world. It doesn’t have a setting, but it has an implied setting, and it’s not a generic system. You can change lifepaths, at least a little bit, but part of the game’s balance is in the lifepaths and the choices and sacrifices of them.

There are games where the intention is for the rules to get out of the way of the game. Burning Wheel is very emphatically not one of them. This is a game where the rules are large and in charge. They constrain what you can do in order to force you down certain paths, and yes, the intention is for those to make interesting stories and games. Maybe not the ones you want, though. Are the rules perfect for every game? No. But for those games you don’t want to play Burning Wheel. It’s a game about player choices and sacrifices for the characters and about character choices and sacrifices for beliefs. And it’s a game with deceptively complex mechanics that are rather fragile and fall apart if tweaked too hard.