Linked tests: Backstab

Hello all,

I am a long time RPG player and GM but this is the first time I am approaching The Burning Wheel rpg. I am giving it a first read. I like the mechanics to resolve the situations, declaring intentions, tasks, linked checks…so far very nice. On the other hand I am a bit overwhelmed by the submechanics like Range and Cover or Fight, but I leave this for another post :stuck_out_tongue:

I just wanted to ask a very simple think, just to see if I am grasping the philosophy of the game.

I was wondering how to resolve in TBW a typicall situation of:
PC1: “I want to kill /knock uncouncious the guard”
PC1: “For this, I will skneak behind him and once I am at range, I stab him with my dagger”.

What should I as a GM do?

  1. Determine an Ob for a single stealth test?
  2. Call this as a linked test? First a stealth test and then a skill test for the dagger?

I would say option 2, but then I am not sure how can a failed stealth check affect the situation? Shall the whole thing be aborted because the guard sees him? or just he has time to rise the alarm but gets stabbed? or any other idea?

Finally, those of you who have experience with the game. I am always the GM of a party of 8 players, is this game viable for such a party?


A linked test is a really good idea here.

failure on the Stealth test would mean, that the Guard has time to sound a warning that someone else will hear. It might not alarm the whole complex but you have to deal with the next guard that is coming.

Or it could be, that another Guard enters the scene just after you have knifed the other guy.

Just make the failure result clear before you roll and everything will be peachy.

I’d say this is basically a Stealth test and go with your no 1, but note that the Ob should probably be the result of a versus check with the guards Observation/Perception - the actual stabbing part seems subject to a “say yes”, provided you manage to get behind the guard. But it’s a judgement call, and most things will actually work.

8 players… I wouldn’t do it with Burning Wheel, but nothing is impossible.

A stealth test linked into a Knife test is a perfectly good solution and one I use frequently. You could also call for a Stealth test with a Knife FoRK. It really comes down to which you as the GM find more interesting in the moment.

Knocking someone out would be a linked Stealth to Brawling/Martial Arts test (or a Stealth test with a Brawling/Martial Arts FoRK).

As for 8 players, that’s a lot for Burning Wheel. We’ve run games with as many as 6 players, but frankly it’s a little overwhelming. I think 3 to 4 players and one GM is really the sweet spot for Burning Wheel.

thanks for the feedback.

It saddens me to know that you think 8 players is a bit too much for TBW. As I read through the rules I have the same impression though :frowning:
I just would love to run it once, it seems such a cool system…


8 people works for something like the Gift where you’re pitting two sides against each other but 8 people makes it pretty hard to get enough spotlight time to everyone so that people feel like they are making progress.

Burning Wheel requires the GM to keep player BITs in mind. With 8 players that’s a ton to balance. You can work it out, especially if you get the players to create mostly congruent beliefs, but that takes something away from the game. If they don’t you’ll have a lot of work trying to stay on top of all the characters.

It can be done, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for a new BW GM or new BW players.

For the test, I think it says a lot about how you’re viewing character expertise. If you call for a linked test, sneaking is hard and throat-cutting is hard. You’re setting the character up to have a chance at botching the kill. If you make it a Stealth test alone, you’re saying that sneaking can be hard but if the guy makes it to his target unseen he’s a murderous ninja. It creates different feels for the action. Pick based on whether you’re emphasizing gritty desperation or smooth competence.

Maybe you could split the group into two groups of four, and run two games separately but in the same setting, so the groups’ actions can impact each other?
Though if you can pull that off, I envy your free time and organizational skills both.