Is burning wheel the right system for this campain?

I had a hard time deciding which subforum to put this in so if I choose wrong could an admin move it?

So long story short, I have a campain idea I’m going to run, described below, and leaning towards using burning wheel to do so. Any reason this is a bad campain to use burning wheel and anything I should think about.
The basic premisis is that due to real world planing constraints among my players I’m going to run a large group, about a dozen players, whith only 4-5 showing up every session. The idea is that I (or some player) will anounce a “misson” and a real world date to play it and the other players each can decide if it is something their charachter would be involved in. In case of to many interested some will be selected and the others will not have gotten the word in time or some other in game explanation.

My setting is earth around 650 AD somewhere on the eastern parts of the cristian world on the silk road. To the west is the city of constantinopel as a becon of civilisation while the north over the montains is ruled by barbarian nomads and to the east, south east and south the Oriental people from china, persia and the quickly expanding arabs respectivly rules. All of these are far away places that do not have any imidiate impact on this small corner of the world. The place where the action takes place is the kingdom of XXX (will be named along with the players when creating the first batch of charachters) where king Marcos rules since a decade or 2. Think king robert in game of thrones.

The players are playing people in some way present in king Marcos court and are people whom he could ask to lookinto/solve things for him. That is his henchmen and allies. (Note that the king is a weak king as the feudal system distributes most power locally)[/i]

So enough of background, what should I think about when runing a campain like that, and is ther any reson NOT to use burning wheel?

Gratefull for any help.

Oh, I should add, I have run one campain before using burning wheel (moderatly sucessfully) and also run the sword succesfully for a group. Few of the players have played burning wheel before.

Yup. BW material all right.

Care to motivate/elaborate? I’m mostly interesed in potential problems and such. So what are the strenghts and weaknessess of this idea and how it interacts with the BW system, what should I watch out for, especially considering that I’m rathrer new to BW.

Looks like the west marches style game play. Should be fine as long as you can keep up with the workload. When they go out on quests whatever danger they discover make sure it connects with their beliefs well. BW is a intricate game, so its going to probably take a while to get everyone up to speed, especially if some people don’t attend sessions as much. Also make it clear that whatever character they roll up they have to be strongly committed to the king. If the focus is on missions make the beliefs about missions. You don’t want people waffling over whether or not they are loyal to the king. Not if that character isn’t going to be there week to week to follow through.

Another game you could look at as well is Circle of Hands. It does something very similar to this.

Burning Wheel depends very heavily on player buy-in. If, as you claim in the OP, less than half of the players can be expected to be involved in any given session, then you might run into problems with keeping the players invested in the campaign. But you know your players better thank do.

There really is nothing wrong with the campaign concept. But BW character progression relies on connected plots that are powered by beliefs. Here’s what I’m worried about.

So the mission creation might look like this;

  1. You make a mission.

  2. You inform players about the mission.

  3. BW basically requires artha, and to get it, you need some BITs.

  4. Players look at the session, and decide whether or not it applies to their BITs.

  5. Some players think it does, others don’t, ideally. However, what if nobody (or not enough people) think it is applicable to their characters? You might find yourself playing tons of sessions to try to give everyone some play time between schedule overlaps and juggling BITs.

So you start designing missions designed around character beliefs to ensure that sessions work. Then, you are basically making a session for each half of the group.

But not everyone can make it for can make every session. So you have to make it for everyone so that everyone gets a shot at fulfilling beliefs. Then it might become a 12 player war-zone of slow gameplay and sitting around while the other 11 people work through their belief fulfillment (which isn’t bad, but gets kind of annoying after a few hours.)

So, you might as well run 2 completely different sessions so that its both targeted to player beliefs and small enough to function. But still, not everyone may be able to make it.

So as you can see (or maybe not) it gets very complicated trying to balance an already complex schedule with the BITs of characters and session design.

What I would recommend is trying to play with a couple loosely predetermined groups of people who can ALWAYS make a certain day and construct missions for each of these groups.

Personally, I think it wasn’t a very good choice for the players that can’t make more than half the sessions to sign on in the first place. RPGs are a time commitment. However, I also don’t know anywhere near as much about the groups situation as you do, so what I say matters little.

Will you be keeping a game timeline for this?
I haven’t needed to use one for BWG yet as our games have been mostly short runs and one offs. But in longer campaigns with larger groups, they can help keep the momentum going from sub group to sub group (not to mention handling down time). They’re also a great way to keep the antagonists on target, checking their speed tests and relevant skills to track their schedules and agendas on it helps to keep everything straight.

The west marches looks very close to what I have in mind, assuming it is this you are reffering to. Tanks for providing me with a name for that concept.

Good point about the belives, I will have to watch carefully so that the belives work within the framework of the campain.

About the commitment to the king, I’m not completly sure, the main focus should be the players own agency, and what they do to fulfill their belives within the setting, the reason for the king and his court is to provide a central meeting place and to give me agency to kick things of if play slows down. As long as the players come up with their own quests/or whatever, the king can be happily feasting in his hall.

I looked briefly at circle of hands but that was not realy a good fit to what I had in mind.

Not much to do about this, I must hope that the players keep up their intererst. For several of the players the alternative would probably be to not play at all due to real life concerns such as kids and or work.

If nobody/to few players are interested I guess that that “quest” was not fullfilled, what I probably should do is mirroring the mechanics of BW tests, in that a failed/ignored “quest” have failiure consequences. Basically, if noone does this quest then the following will happend. If noone cares about that consequence then it will just happend with not much fanfare but idealy at least some carachters will be annoyed and want to fix things.

What would be the best plan here, should I announce ignored quest consequences openly in advance or should I just tell them after the fact?

Whay does designing missions around charachter belives transalates into dividing up the group into “fixed” halves? I would envission myself talking to some players and getting one or two abord and then designing a mission around their belives, announcing it and hope that one to three others jumps along.

I was not planing on letting more than about 5 players attend any given session, If to many are interested only a subset of the charachters will be notified in time (or some such in game explanation).

Wile valid comments the problem I am avoiding with this settup is that none of my players including me have any days that is always availible, also I specifically want people who can’t make that many sessions to attend, as the people I think about are very fun to play with but have work schedules etc that makes them very bussy.

But thanks for the tips, they are good pointers and makes me think about such problems, will see how I handle it if they show up.

By timeline do you meen a timeplan for what happens now and when certain things in the future will take place, such as antagonist moves? If so I have not decided yet, might be a good idea, I will probably try and if I manage to stay that organised I probably will.

Thanks everyone for all the tips, if anyone have anything more I’m all ears.

I’m not sure why you couldn’t do it; I would merely suggest that all players leave one Belief spot open, to be filled in during the first part of the session (when you receive your mission). This easily solves the “what if their BITs aren’t aligned with the task?” problem. They hear what the mission is, then they make a Belief related to that mission.

It’s similar to how in Mouse Guard your Patrol receives an assignment and then everyone writes Goals about it.

I think it could absolutely work, just make sure to wrap up plot threads at the end of a session. You don’t have to totally conclude them, but leave them open-ended to the point where you can bring them back when the relevant players come back in for a session.

At this point I think Torchbearer might be a better fit for the kind of game you want to do. Burning wheel is tightly wound around player beliefs, where you don’t break out fancy combat mechanics unless someone has a belief on the line. This means that Burning Wheel doesn’t do “trash mobs” very well. Such as a random encounter that might occur when you are traveling through an area to find a tower or some such. The Burning Wheel would probably suggest a Bloody Versus and move on. Where as this is much more par for the course in Torchbearer.

The only thing that might be a slight problem is difficulty, but that is true of either game. BWHQ games are dense and all have a some sort of learning curve; that being said, a West Marches style Torchbearer game sounds awesome!

That’s it. From your first post, I was thinking Torchbearer in the style of the West Marches would be a good fit for your campaign idea. Ad-hoc Burning Wheel will be difficult, and perhaps not give your large group of players their best experience with the game.

Not sure what you are reffering to here, there won’t always be a receive mission at the start of the session moment, in fact, i rather hope, that the players will take their own initiatives and requite each other for help with their own agendas.

I agree about plot threads, everything I leave open an be revisited but at the same time brining things to a conclusion in the same session will give the players a sense of accomplishment.

I was acctually planing on using mostly bloody versus or just a simple test for any combat, unless someone engages in a duel or something, I envission most important obstacles to be of a social type. (for example, convincing the wayvard vasall to return to the fold, or identifying who is supporting the robber-baron)

The two reasons I have for not using torchbearer is.

  • I do not own that game yet
  • I was planing to stay away from detailed combat mostly

Torchbearer resolves all conflicts with the same system, which is similar to that used in Mouse Guard, and kind of the underlying system behind Fight, RnC, and DoW. Each side readies three actions at a time. Actions are compared to determine what happens. It strikes a nice balance between the fiddly crunchiness of the BW systems and the simplicity of straight versus tests. I wouldn’t call it a detailed combat system. Nowhere near anything like Fight.

First one’s certainly understandable, however the mechanics in Torchbearer are based around the same four actions for all conflict types (e.g. chase, fight, persuade), and streamlining that might be good for an unusually large group of players with different levels of investment & involvement.

Agreed. The combat mechanics in Torchbearer are much lighter than those of BW. You’d likely be running much more detailed and complex combat in a Burning Wheel game.