My BE GMing Is Clunky. Help?

So, I’ve run BE twice now and I feel a little clunky with the scene structure and such. It feels a little like I’m writing with my off-hand and, while the players are enjoying things thus far (as far as they’re letting me know), I feel less than satisfied with my work. Now, I’m not really unfamiliar with games that have a strict scene structure. I’ve played PTA, Shab-al-Hiri Roach, Polaris, etc. What I think might be causing me to stumble a little is the fact that I’ve got characters, as the GM. Not just one character, but a stable!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I dig the hell out of this. I love the fact that I can kind of GM and kind of play at the same time. That’s rockin’.

I’m just having a hard time pushing conflicts at the characters like I normally do and I’ve got a couple of questions for you more experienced Burning Empires players.

  1. When it’s time for me to initiate my conflict scene, I don’t have to initiate it with or involve one of the characters in my stables, do I? If the characters broke the law in the last maneuver, is there any reason I can’t put pressure on them with the authorities even if none of the figures of note or other characters are said authorities? I suspect the latter.

  2. Prior to a maneuver beginning, should both the GM and the players discuss openly what they’re intending on achieving during the maneuver? Or should the GM play things tight to the chest and only the players talk openly about their goals and such? I think I like the former better, but I can’t feel out a firm answer from the text.

  3. How should I handle things if my characters need opposition in their building scenes? When running through a building scene, I sort of feel like I’m playing by myself, and I can’t imaging it’s as fun for the players as it could be. I figure I could give the players NPCs to play and basically make them mini-GMs for the scene.

  4. Do all the prominent players on my side have to be figures of note or relationships of figures of note? There seems to be a definite currency on the GM’s side that comes from the Circles points he’s got available to him, but how strict is that? My gut wants to say that if they’re not relationships of, or figures of note, they’re not prominent players.

  5. This is somewhat unrelated, but the text states that GM characters MAY spend resource and circles pools instead of rolling. I assume that means I have the option to use either in the same way any PC would, correct?

I’m sure I’ve got more questions, and I expect some of them to spring up organically from any discussion in this thread, but this is a good start for now.

Thanks in advance.


Hi Daniel,

Let me give you some “first offs:”

First off, remember that the scene structure is designed to keep the pacing moving. It’s designed so you can say, “Enough! Move on!” If it’s bogging down, move on!

It is also designed to mimic the flow and pacing of the comic books. Your building, color and interstitial scenes are the pages which show what the villain is up to behind the scenes. The characters obviously don’t know what happens in those scenes, but the players do. What you describe in those scenes should make the players sweat!

And lastly-firstly, focus on the players! If the players aren’t involved or engaged or wincing, move on! Skip your scenes or cut to another character.

  1. You may use mooks, of course. But the scene is still going to count against your available total for this maneuver. So try to it in to one of the FoNs anyway (so he can roll for the maneuver!).

  2. Discuss! I don’t so much as discuss as say, “I’m going to level the ghetto, fuckwads. Ready? Huh? Ready? Picked your maneuver yet?” And the players are all like, “That’s a Flak, definitely a Flak. We should capture Teradyne. Take Action.”

  3. If you have a building scene without meaningful/relevant opposition, make it a color or interstitial. Don’t roll if there’s nothing at stake!

  4. When play begins, yes. As play progresses, you can Circle in other characters as needed. Playing the Vaylen, a common tactic is to Circle in a character and then hull him in the next scene. Fun!

  5. You may spend points or roll. You takes your risks!

Hope that helps,

Awesome, Luke. Thanks. So, to be indulgent, I’m going to lay out a couple of examples, some hypothetical and some not.

  1. The PC’s stage a drive by shooting on the street and fail. They miss their quarry and the authorities are on to them. I think it’s a great opportunity to add some future conflict and another GM character, say a ranking member of the planet’s police force. Next conflict scene could be that member and his squad trying to take down the criminal PCs. In some cases, I could tie the authorities in with one of the FoN, but should I really stretch myself to? Because I could just as easily leave them as a neutral, and therefore tractable, faction.

  2. Awesome. That’s exactly what we’ve done.

  3. It’s a building scene to generate a linked test and qualify an Assess maneuver. The PC’s criminal nemesis uses Circles to find a security expert to infiltrate one of the PC’s homes and go through their computers for information when the PC isn’t home. Maybe I could give the PCs some opposition (security, authorities, neighbors, whatever) to play if they think it’d be interesting. If not, just come up with an obstacle I think is fair?

  4. Awesome! I use Circles to find an important figure that will play heavily in the next couple of maneuvers. I hull him in the next scene. I don’t need to pay for him as a relationship, I can just burn him up and I’m good to go.

  5. Awesome! That’s what I thought.

Thanks for working me through this, Luke. I know I just need to get a few things out of the way to hit my stride.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about this game is that, like DitV, the strict structure on the GM allows me to really play HARD.


  1. What the fuck? Who are the PCs, The Little Rascals? Who are the FoNs, Boss Hog and Ennis? What’s the world, South Central?

  2. Awesome. Now you are awesome.

  3. I think the independent Ob for Security Rigging is 2. You’re talking two rolls there, right? Circles then Sec Rig and then a big ol’ description about the dirty laundry you’ve found. Of course, if you’re me, you’d fail that roll. Like I did. In that game. That I lost. Horribly.

  4. Awesome. Now you are awesome and have an awesome cheating NPC.

  5. Awesome. You are so awesome I don’t know what to do with myself. :smiley:

Note, because we sometimes forget that others don’t use our slang, ‘cheating’ at BWHQ means using the system to full advantage in such a way that you make the others curse, “you fucking cheater!” and “I will stab you in the face!*”

  • Ok, that last one might just be me.

No, not just you. :twisted:

No, not just you. :twisted:[/quote]STFU, You cheater!

In other words, being called a cheater is cause for pride. And retribution.


Alright, I’ve got some awesomely awesome food for thought. I’ll take it into my next game and see if it makes it more awesome!



Also, in the interest of actually adding something productive to this thread:

  1. Your NPCs have Beliefs. Hopefully pretty hot ones. Part of the fun of GMing Burning Empires is actually playing your characters HARD. You’re going to have to go through your Beliefs at the end of each maneuver and try to get the players to award you Artha for them, so you best drive toward them.

  2. In order for your Figures of Note to help in the Infection roll, they have to be featured in the maneuver in some way. They at least need to show up in an Interstitial or Color scene. So sure, feel free to use non-FoNs as opposition for the PCs, but try to tie it back to your FoNs in some way! You need to show the players what your FoNs are up to if you want them to to help in the Infection.

::hypno eyes::

You will post your World and FoNs on the wiki. You will describe your game here…

::hypno eyes::

I have a feeling this is the crux of my problem. It’s a switch of gears to be trying to play my characters hard when I’m used to taking this position to just play on the player’s Beliefs.

So, the players push for something Belief-driven. I throw stuff in their way and push back and make their lives hell for striving for those things.

I don’t yet have the knack of turning that around and going in the opposite direction within the maneuver, and I’m not sure how to duplicate the challenge.


Design your FoN’s beliefs to oppose the Beliefs of the players. The Planetary Web is your friend here. If you’ve crafted the Beliefs well, you should be able to provide very effective opposition to your players by really playing your beliefs.

Next game, for sure.

Besides, I didn’t think the wiki was ready for that sort of infection yet.


Makes a lot of sense. I’ll have to get stronger at using that.

As always, thanks!