Initiating Conflicts

I have a question. Page 430 says:

If your side chooses a Flak, Gambit, Inundate or Take Action maneuver, you must initiate a conflict during the course of play.

Last game, the players did an Assess and I did a Gambit. The players initiated a conflict scene, one that we both wanted to see, but this meant that we needed to have another conflict in the maneuver. One initiated by me.

I think our play suffered a little from this - I think it would have popped a little better if we had ended the maneuver after the first conflict, then focused on the next conflict in the next maneuver.

Would it be a decent house rule to say that both sides initiated this conflict, thus satisfying the above rule?

(The conflict would count against both side’s total number of scenes as well. So no free builders or anything.)

This may be a result of only having 3 people playing at the table (2 players 1 GM). Just thought of that.

The system is in place specifically for these hindrances. It’s designed to push you, as a player, to think harder, push harder and take risks.

I find that as a GM, I’m often “holding back” some conflict I want to do “later.” You know, when it’s appropriate. This is a bad habit. I have to consistently push myself to let go and do it now.

The scene framing rules are meant to aid that push.

I gotcha.

I just have to make sure that the conflict I’m pushing towards is interesting to the players.

Of course, but those freebie conflicts can also be used to surprise them with something new. Consider them an opportunity to throw curve balls and push the game in a new direction.


Not really, the conflict that they are pushing towards is one that is interesting to them, the conflict you are pushing for should be the one interesting to you. Check out this topic for a really good description of what you as the GM should be doing. Granted it is re: BW and not BE, but at its core BE is Burning Wheel with a scifi setting and some macro-scale interactions (not a knock on Burning Empires at all, it is far and away one of my favorite RPGs, partially because of the macro-scale stuff) so it follows that the goals being pushed by the GM will be for the enjoyment of the GM, not the players. This is mostly because if you do what you like and if they do what they like, the resultant story will be a lot more interesting than if one group ends up pandering to the wants of the other (be it players there to be in the GMs story or the GM there to be the players dancing monkey). The GM is opposition yes, but that opposition is trying to succeed instead of purely being a wall for the players to push against.

As for using flak, gambit, inundate, or take action maneuvers and the requirement for an initiated conflict, since you most likely have an idea for what outcome you want from the maneuver (and a way to describe that maneuver as it happens) you can always fall back on having the micro-scale conflict be a portion of the macro-scale maneuver. For instance, your gambit might involve taking vital defensive troops in an attempt to destroy the food processing station supplying the human resistance. A good way of bringing this down to the micro-scale would be to have one of the GM FON’s leading an assault party against the PCs in order to give an opening for your troops to slip past the defenders and destroy the station. If you lose the firefight but still win the gambit, just narrate how your forces managed to tie up the defenders long enough before getting overwhelmed.

In short, let the infection maneuver give drive and meaning to the micro game, and let the micro game push the characters into the bigger picture. Even in a street-level Burning Empires game this approach can help, if you’ve seen it think of “The Warriors” with the PC’s playing the gang leaders of the warriors and the GM FONs being Masai, Luther, and the Radio DJ and have the conflict that the gang is going through be symbolic of the human/vaylin war that is raging across their planet but that the players have no direct interaction with.

Or you can do what Luke said and hit them with something out of left field. One or the other!

From my own experience, and just to start some discussion:

The stuff that interests the BE GM ought to be, by default, stuff that contradicts the players. If you have interesting stuff and they have interesting stuff, but all those interests don’t intersect, you may not have much interaction. I made this mistake in my first BE go-through and it broke the game.

My answer: The players do not give a shit about the hopes and dreams of the GMFONs. The GMFONs and their Beliefs are there explicitly to interfere with the PCFONs. That’s it, full stop. In this, BE is IMO a very different game than BW.

If the BE GM has his GMFONs start up “conflicts” without any conflict, that’s a narrative dead-end. The stuff they want must, by default, be stuff the PCFONs do not want them to have, and vice versa! Otherwise everyone justs says yes and moves on, right?


Well said Paul. Your issues with your first campaign ended up providing the rest of us with a lot of good advice!!

Specifically the bit about GMFONs must interfere with PCs, reminded me of this passage (at the end of World Burner under Situation)…

I guess Luke knew what he was talking about! :slight_smile:

EDIT: I know from talking to Dave that he gets all this … When he said " I just have to make sure that the conflict I’m pushing towards is interesting to the players", he probably meant that if he’s inventing a conflict on the fly, he has to make sure it targets the PCs beliefs/relationships/etc in some way.

The GM is opposition yes, but that opposition is trying to succeed instead of purely being a wall for the players to push against.

This is a really good way of putting the difference between Burning games and “traditional” rpg’ing. I take Paul’s point about succeeding meaning “getting into the players’ business”, rather than some independent idea of what success means. I’m plotting against my players for tomorrow night, and it’s a good reminder to look at what they want to do, and to go after that.


Yeah! In a perfect BE game, “What the GMFON wants to pursue” = direct opposition to what the PCFONs want to pursue. They can’t just want to stop the PCFON; the GMFON’s desires should be mutually incompatible with the PCFONs’.

And to contradict myself: That’s only true most of the time. To mix things up and really fuck with your players, every once in a while you need to bring your GMFONs’ desires in alignment with the PCFONs’ plans. If you make them a monstrous pain in the neck all the time, the GMFON will probably just end up dead. Losing a GMFON is practically a death-blow to the bad guys! But if you make them useful and valuable, then the players are faced with deciding whether the GMFON is worth more to them dead than alive. I did this a bit in my last game, and it kept my GMFONs alive way longer than if they were strictly opposition.


Paul is a font of wisdom.

For the game we are doing we put in one npc that my character (and me) would really like. The thing is, he is FoN for the opposition. He’s trying to change society in a good way, and that’s going to open up the world for the worms.

Have you guys had any experiences with those sort of FoNs or relationships? I think that’s what the “FoN on the other side” rule is supposed to create, among other things, but that’s my take on it.

[EDIT]And… I apologize for the necromancy, just noticed the date on the last replies to this thread. I’ll see if I can start a new thread up :stuck_out_tongue: