Intrigue in TB?

A couple times now people have mentioned that if you want intrigue and more involved town adventure, use burning wheel. TB has added stuff to make adventuring more intensive, but that doesn’t seem to exclude intrigue. As a philosophical question (I don’t have immediate plans for town intrigue in my campaign) what does BW have that TB doesn’t that specifically supports town intrigue better or what does TB have the specifically interferes with intrigue? As a follow up question, if you were role playing a game of TB and it felt natural, could you crack open some relevant chapters of BW and supplement your TB game, or are there things fundamentally lacking in TB when it comes to intrigue?

Things I can think of:
-Burning Wheel has more in depth character creation, and deep characters make for deep intrigue.
-Lifestyle in TB punishes spending too much time in town.
-Circles in BW seems to be more complex and varied in use. Not to mention Affiliations and Reputations that are mostly lacking from TB. (Seems like a good candidate for pulling out the BW book to supplement TB)
-The grind doesn’t mesh well with intrigue, but then you don’t use the grind while handling business in town, which is what intrigue would essentially be.
-BW has a greater variety of skills which can add a lot more flavor to intrigue play. Then again, couldn’t the same thing be said for weapon skills, and TB does fine without all of those.

Is it mainly an optimization and fine tuning issue? I might not be sophisticated enough in my understanding of BW, but is there anything obvious I’ve missed?

What does Torchbearer have that interferes with intrigue? Well, to do intrigue, looks to me like you’d have to ignore the Grind and counting things in turns, the Lifestyle rules, Camp phase, therefore earning checks would be pointless, therefore traits would be less significant, you wouldn’t really be finding loot so the whole resources aspect of the game would probably at least start to fray at the edges, the limits on your inventory would be sort of irrelevant… at that point, you’re not really playing Torchbearer anymore.

Having said that, I haven’t played it yet, so what do I know? But that’s how it looks to me based on reading the rules.

Nah, you just need to do more “describe to live” and “good ideas”.

Yeah, a lot of stuff would become irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean it’s getting in the way. But yeah, you’re probably right, some of the mechanics optimized for dungeon delving might not work as well as the corresponding mechanics in BW. I think you’re right, Resources would probably be one of those things. Still, i’m not sure Torchbearer is lacking anything, it’s just been optimized for adventuring and that might make it less fulfilling for intrigue. I guess that’s a good enough answer. You could do it, here and there, but if it’s the focus of the campaign then BW would probably be a better choice than TB. Now could you port characters from TB to BW and back if you felt like it? :slight_smile:

Sorry if I ramble - kind of thinking on the fly without direct experience of play.

It depends on what you mean by intrigue (some examples would be good - lets see if we can extrapolate some ideas within the rules as written).

Possibly you could use recurring town NPCs. Relationships, would be good for this - use friends, mentors allies and enemies to point PCs at the problem. Twists from failed rolls would also be good.

One thing that could be hacked is alignment - some D20 variants use alignment to represent organisational ties rather than an order/chaos split. Or perhaps allow organisations (and not just individuals to be effectively treated as allies in game terms.)

Lifestyle costs would probably limit activities a great deal, but could probably be worked around to an extent - a character with family and friends in town has some advantages which can explicitly be tweaked by the GM.

Ultimately, town based intrigue would probably have to be given in measured doses, limited by PC resources and time. Twists from town based encounters could rollover into adventures in interesting ways or lead to new adventures (especially if running with the idea that anything can be a dungeon)

However, this does assume that intrigue would be a component of the game, with the main game play still being encounters and the grind. For pure intrigue based play, Burning Wheel would probably be more suitable.

I’ve spent some time thinking about this, and seeing if I thought it could work. There is a lot of feeling on these boards to the tune of, “Why are you trying to put your peanut butter in my chocolate? Go eat a peanut butter sandwich.” when it comes to talking about intrigue in Torchbearer. Let me talk a little about why I think it can be good, and why I’m doing it.

I am very much of the opinion that the original D&D was fairly rules light (compared to later D&D) because it was the intention that the DM would come up with solutions on the fly to situations that the rules did not cover. An OD&D character had nothing on his sheet to cover courtly intrigue, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It just means they made it up while they went along.

Compared to OD&D, Torchbearer is packed full of tools to help with scaling the social interaction levels. I will concede, if you are looking to run an exclusively intrigue game, burning wheel is a better system. Just like, if you want to run a game that resembles TV dramas, Cortex+ is a better system.

I’m running Torchbearer, with elements of intrigue (and wuixa, and epic world saving plots, as well as down-and-dirty-better-have-a-torch-or-you’re-going-to-die) because my players (coming from a heavy 3.5 bias) have responded far better to these rules than those of Burning Wheel or Labyrinth Lord. The grind makes sense to them, and the idea that social RPG rules are deeper than what they are used to is just fine.

I often maintain that pick the rules to match the feel of the game you want. Lets see how this goes for me.

If my players wanted to engage in a lot of intrigue in Torchbearer, and, like, directly intrigue, little of it would be in town. Adventure phases would be spent going from rich bastard’s villa to peasant out in the farms, out and about, all of which triggers the grind perfectly well. Oh sure, sometimes they’d end up in town, doing their intrigue, but that’s all personal business with lifestyle attached, and my players know what happens when lifestyle outstrips their ability to pay. Even if they get out unscathed, that town might as well be scratched off their list of places to be.

Edit: That still leaves out inventory. Kind of. Torches are still necessary for night travel, when needed, and candles for castles and villas and palaces (see why here), as well as carting around letters of introduction, gifts, obligations, probably still weapons and armour, but likely the armour tucked away if you can get away with it. Anyway, I think there’s a lot of room for intrigue in TB, you just need to push it out of Town proper. Still, I think you’d do better with BW, but there’s a whole concept that I’m now going to run with in my home game.

Interesting video Tilde_See, I’ve watched several of his videos now.

I get the sense that the primary thing BW does to support intrigue is philosophical. So for me, if you’ve played BW and have the BW books, you could probably do intrigue in TB by just playing it like BW for a while. Yeah, you’d be ignoring the grind and inventory to some extent, and the mechanics are optimized for a different style of play, but it doesn’t seem unworkable. Of course, if you’re sitting down specifically for a game of intrigue, BW is better, but TB does seem to have most of the tools you need: goals, beliefs, resources, circles, artha, etc. The mechanics of those tools just drive you toward getting back out there into the wilds, which is a good thing if the intrigue is an interlude or just a step along a long road of adventure.

Burning Wheel does intrigue because it allows for play at cross-purposes and even internal conflict in a character. Torchbearer and Mouse Guard promote team work over and above any other type of play, and the characters are too simple to make intrigue very interesting with only one Belief and one Goal.

Okay, I think I get the idea now. It’s mostly about character depth and the fact that conflict and tension always takes up turns, checks, or lifestyle so if you’re going to get into some stuff you best be getting paid well for it. Whereas the BW resource cycle is much more relaxed, allowing the focus to be on your beliefs instead of on your bottom line (and top line, why does the bottom line always get all the attention?).