(Mortal) Wounds and Party Cohesion

I just read Si Juk’s adventures, and wow. Just wow. I think I learned more about coming up with complications from failures doing that than I did in two years of running a campaign.

However, right at the beginning, Luke mentions that Si Juk took a mortal wound and was out of action. My question is, what do you do when you’re not playing a one-on-one game and that happens? Everyone can practice, sure, get jobs to add cash to their Resources. But that all implies a lack of time pressure. What do you do when there simply is no time to spare, yet a character is nearly a goner? His compatriots didn’t wait, clearly, and in the fiction they probably couldn’t afford to do so.

So did Rich create a new character or play a closely-related NPC that he had known for a long time? Did he simply sit things out?

I ask because my gaming group wouldn’t be okay with someone being unable to play for an extended period [edited: because of a game mechanic]. I personally would not be okay with it. There has to be a solution, like the two I just mentioned, but they’re rather unsatisfying. I feel, in a way, that Burning Wheel shines even more in a one-on-one game because it’s geared towards individuals, not a group. Six months’ practice is five minutes of talking and taking notes when it’s just one guy, but what about everyone else who has six months to kill?

My players are accustomed to regaining hit points every encounter in a game where injury causes no penalties. Eventually one of my them will be seriously wounded, and I want to be ready with the solution.

And as reading Si Juk’s amazing adventure showed me, there is so much more in Burning Wheel than I yet comprehend. Someone else might have a ready answer; I’d love to hear it.

(This post is the proud product of Insomnia. Attribute any errors to this demon who visits me nightly.)

I can’t speak for Luke or Rich, but I’ve had my characters take Mortal wounds twice. The first time I played my character’s apprentice, an NPC Relationship; there was eventually an overland trip that allowed me to recover. The second time there was again a journey, which “fast-forwarded” the game–my character had been abducted and taken across the sea. By the time they’d found me, rescued me, and taken me back, enough time had passed that I had recovered consciousness, at least. And it took about five minutes in-game. The circumstances won’t always support that, of course.

One of the nice things about the wound system in BW is that, unless you’re wounded to the point that one of your stats drops to zero (which a Mortal will probably do, granted), you’re still conscious and capable of doing things. Even with a Mortal, during most of the recovery time you will probably be conscious. That’s a great opportunity to get Difficult and Challenging tests, since you’ve got a hefty penalty. It’s also a good time to try Beginner’s Luck–if you’re going to fail anyway, you should at least work on opening a skill!

Can’t say anything as to the right or best way, I think that will be up to the group, but I can offer another anecdote.

But in the last BW campaign I was in, my dwarf took a MW from a crossbow bolt. We ended the session with me (I spent the Persona for Will to Live) and the other PC being captured. Before the next session we decided whether we wanted to fast forward a bit until my character got onto my feet or play NPCs. We went the second route. I played the brother of my dwarf, rival relationship and the other PC played the love interest NPC of his character. Playing that brother turned out to be one of the most fun characters ever. We eventually got our hands on a magical artifact that caused my character to open corruption at B0. After that I managed to raise it 1 ever session for 7 sessions, which was the final one. I also ended up killing my brother (the original PC) later in the game. It was awesome!

That is the positive spin on mortal wounds, I guess. All the challenging checks you could ask for, because everything is impossible!

I’m glad your NPC play experience turned out so well, Jeremiah. I just have a hard time seeing my players being blasé about long-term incapacitation, especially given the skill learning and epiphany investments you make in Burning Wheel.

Any other approaches or variations on the two already given? We’ve got fast-forwarding and NPC replacement. The second is probably best when dealing with time constraints, but it’s not perfect.

Well there is the option allowing you to spend a persona point to turn a mortal wound into a complication but that only helps if you have a persona point handy.

Accepting the noble or pointless death of the character and burning another PC, perhaps with motives tied to the fallen is an option. I’ve seen that in some games.

If your world or cosmology allows for it, a circles test for “someone that can get the PC moving again” could lead to all sorts of interesting little side quests with pious clerics, shady alchemists, budding necromancers or the like. Offer them the hard bargain of off setting some of the wound penalties for a price. Preferably a price that trips beliefs and instincts.

Help the GM play the bad guys.
Battle the enemies on a spiritual plane while in a coma.
Die and find somebody to bring you back to life as an undead abomination. (become a lich or ghost or zombie or vampire)
Pray for a major miracle to be temporarily able again.
Summon a deity and bargain for them to heal you.
Spend the artha necessary to ignore wound penalties for one climactic scene.

Don’t moan and cry about it - stop and think about it! Look at your beliefs, consider the situation at hand and work as a group to come up with something cool and awesome without just negating the wound. “Okay, you summon God, and, uh, I guess he heals you because he hates the bad guys too” is super-lame. Trying to summon God, failing and summoning a greater demon who is willing to heal you for the price of your soul (or somebody else’s soul) is cool.

Keep in mind that the alternative to long-term incapacitation is death.

I’ve always seen Will to Live as a consolation to a player who’s favorite PC just died, not a way to actually keep that guy in play. The character sustained a fatal wound, but if you pay a Persona you can say “He’s not DEAD, he’s just out of play…”
Sure it sucks, but it’s a MORTAL WOUND, they’re not supposed to be convenient. If you want your character to remain in play, don’t get them killed.

Rich sat out for multiple sessions, btw.

Anyway, I would stop worrying about “my players.” Play the game. The right solution will come naturally when you need it.

Good point. If you’re really concerned about the length of incapacitation due to a Mortal Wound, you can simply not play with the rule to pay a Persona to survive the Mortal. One of the big differences between BW and D&D is that combat in BW isn’t a slow whittling down of resources; death and incapacitation can happen suddenly, even to a skilled and experienced warrior. If you want to play a combat-heavy campaign, death may very well occur. I’d make sure the players understand that and are ok with character death.


I just reread the Artha chapter and was reminded of the Persona point complication rule you brought up. Never thought about it affecting Mortal Wounds, though it is really the most obvious situation to use it.


All of those sound like good options to me. Especially the demon one at the end. Not all appropriate to my setting, but you’ve definitely given me options.


Yes, Mortal Wounds are not meant to be in any way convenient. My concern is that a player will get so pissed about a Mortal Wound he’ll be soured on the whole system. So that’s why…


… I’m trying to “build a toolbox” of possibilities to use or present when a character gets a Mortal Wound that won’t necessarily derail all the players’ designs. Not so they win, but so a Mortal Wound doesn’t seem to herald the end of a campaign.

Sitting out multiple sessions to avoid out of character knowledge is … extreme. Hardcore, even.

Very Zen. I agree that in the moment I’ll have to wing it. I just want to give thought to it beforehand. “Forewarned is forearmed,” “be prepared,” and all that other nonsense.


Hm, yeah. I don’t really want to adjust Burning Wheel - I like how I perceive it to work. I just want to be prepared with options when there’s culture shock. Like from getting one-shotted with a crossbow, for instance. :wink:

Thanks for the suggestions.

Also, depending on the nature of Faith and the power level of your game, it’s certainly within reason for a Major Miracle to close that wound and bring your friend back into the fray. Don’t fail that roll, though :wink:

We’ve had a few Mortal Wounds in our recent game. One resulted in the player’s character being in a coma for the foreseeable future (year and change), but it also came at a time when we were changing setting venues, so the player burned up a new character as contact in the next town over where things were moving. It worked quite well. The campaign for now is ended (unnatural conclusion that was the result of three of the players being bored of their characters), and depending on how far ahead we jump when we pick things back up, the original character or the second character may be available for a return appearance.

Yeah, I don’t want to sound like I’m crapping on your thread here. Getting some ideas for how to handle a mortal wound if/when it comes up is a good idea.

I guess I was trying to say that you handle Mortal Wounds a lot like you’d handle character death (or at least I do) only you have MORE options available, since it’s possible for that character to come back eventually.

The real problem, like you said, is that a player may have their plans suddenly and shockingly derailed by death or serious injury. The most important step to prepare for the possibility that a character can be suddenly taken out of action would be to talk to your players about it before you play. If they know the risks going into a fight, they’re less likely to be upset by the consequences.

And, with luck, they may be less willing to jump into fights if it’s not damned important.

Yeah, the bottom line is that Burning Wheel is grittier combat than they’re used to. I didn’t include that in my long list of “things you will notice are not at all like D&D” that I presented when we first started. I should.

It really is a big change. A skilled combatant will often make it through a combat with a less-skilled combatant without a scratch–but the possibility exists that a lucky strike will lay him low. Even if one blow doesn’t kill him, wound penalties can snowball very quickly.