I give in I'll give it a go

After many hours of re-reading the book I am going to attempt using it over the Christmas holidays with my old gaming group back home.

Well after someone replying to my post “don’t give up on it till you try it” I thought I’d be doing this beautiful book a disservice if I at least didn’t test drive it.

That said and knowing what my group is like what happens if they decide to take the adventure off planet. Does the GM burn the new destination or do the whole group sit down and create it together? Or is the whole idea to stick to one planet.

This is something that has always confused me about the game (and confusing me is a very, very simple thing to do)


Hey Jamat,

It really is supposed to be about one planet. However, you can get space travel in as part of your maneuvers. Check out the entry Travel in the Empires starting on page 566, particularly the entries under Distortion, which starts on page 567.

You’ll see that both travel between planets in a planetary system, and travel between systems, is possible within the maneuvers of the game. However, there are restrictions. Travel between planets requires a maneuver’s worth of time.

Intersystem travel requires that you utilize a maneuver that generates Downtime, like Conserve or Go to Ground. If not, then traveling to another system is essentially giving up your world to the Vaylen. The invasion will be over before you get back.

Thanks for the heads up on that. That will make it easier for me to control my players, who have a tendancy to go off planet in two’s and three’s if they get the chance.

I suppose the skill is to create such a fantastic world to explore, and make the players really feel they are part of it, there by giving them something to fight for, that they don’t even think about going off planet because they are so involved in their surroundings.


Be sure to let us all know how it goes, Jamat. I’m struggling to assemble a group here as well.


The idea is to stick to the one planet (although I expect there’s room for hooliganism within that planet’s solar system). You’re making characters who are tied to that planet for some reason or another. Leaving isn’t an option - their families are there, they’ve built their empire up and they’re not leaving it now, they won’t let the filthy worms have their land, etc. Anybody can run - it’s the people who stay and fight that we want to hear about.

This doesn’t sound quite right, to me. BE is about a specific kind of scenario. You’re talking as if you have to cajole, constrain or seduce them into playing along with the scenario because it’ll better than the other things they might want to do.

That’s going to fail horribly. People are creative, and if they want to explore the galaxy, then it’ll be like the actors wandering off stage to go see a movie while the stage director begs them to stay.

BE is variations on an alien invasion of a planet. The players need to buy into that, and then create characters that will make that scenario work.

What Fuseboy said.

Also, our games nearly always occupy the whole system. There are asteroid belts, Oort clouds, satellites, moons, space stations and sister worlds. They all fall into the same numbers for the world burner – en toto they are “the world.”

In our current invasion game, the player’s stated goal is to get their current world set to invade their sister binary world. It’s fantastic long term goal. We talk about it all the time. It’s in all their propaganda: “Save Fomar!” But in order for them to get to that point, they’ve got to clean up their own house first.

At the end of the phase, we get to deal with that other planet’s fate. Do they head out in force as a fleet? Or do they flee there as refugees? Either one will be great.

But, as you’ve rightly noted, BE is not a “explore the galaxy game.” That style of game fiction is rooted (to my eye) in the Aubrey-Martin/Horation Hornblower/Pirates/Privateers romance fiction. Head off in your ship to explore foreign lands! A new adventure in every port! Awesome. But Burning Empires is rooted in fiction like War and Peace or Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. The local populace and geography are the stage for this drama. They can be as expansive as any pirate novel – world wide, can’t really get bigger than that! – but they take on a different context. As I said, you’ve got to clean up your own house in BE before you can head off into another.

(Of course, you could just burn your ship as your “world.” The World Burner is designed to handle such situations. You could stop at different ports of call – making Circles tests or regaining Resources – but the problem is on your ship.)


“Control my players”? I remember trying that as a GM. It’s what all the advice chapters in the back of the RPG books said, after all. But, hooo boy, did it ever not work.

And Burning Empires seems designed to make sure it really, really won’t work, more so than in most games. (Caveat: Haven’t played it yet. Just read the rules and the forum). I mean, the players can be warlords and psychic commandoes, and their Maneuver choices affect the fate of their entire planet.

Trying to go off to explore the galaxy during a Burning Empires game seems kind of like trying to go off to drink beer with the local peasantry in the middle of a D&D module:

“Okay, so I leave the dungeon/planet and go do this other thing…”

“Uh, excuse me, what game did you think we were playing?”

It’s not so much an “I am the GM, I need to restrain my players” thing so much as a “let’s focus on doing the activity we all agreed on doing” thing.

Light bulbs start exploding in my head

Wow. That’d make for some tight, intense maneuvers!

You CAN do Alien with BE.

(Aliens, too, but that’s different!)

Details, specificity and iron focus on one location, that’s all ya need.


It seems to me that after all of you (as a group) go though the trouble of making a world and setting up the various factions and bad guys. That leaving the world is like saying: “Screw you word we are out of here!” Seems like the Vaylen get to make unopposed rolls until they win. After all I would assume that the default scenario is that the world will be lost unless the players are present.

To me that seems like a compelling thing to do. I think that in the games I have played in where PCs wandered about looking into things is that there was no Crisis to keep us involved. In fact I am suppose to be going home to play in a game that is lacking crisis, it is so random since no one knows what we should do that we just wander from thing to thing (me and another player are starting to rebel.

If framed and introduced with enthusiasm I think there is so much crisis on the worlds of BE that the players can’t really get far away.

Another huge thing that helps keep players engaged, in my experience, and which is hardwired into the World Burner, is to make sure it’s not “the GM’s world” but “our world.” The more the players help create background and the current crisis of the campaign world (“setting and situation” in Forge-speak) – which means, the more the GM gives up the illusion of being in control – the less likely the players are to wander off to look for something else, because what they’ve already got is something they made themselves.