My First Character: Burning a Mage-Knight

Hello all,

First post on the forums here, and going to be playing my first ever Burning Wheel game early next year (though I’ve played Mouseguard on one or two occasions).

I’m looking forward to it, but unsure on the best way to create a character to match my concept- A magic-using knight, focused on enhancing himself and those around him to make them braver/stronger/faster, ideally whilst being able to mix things up and fight competently in melee himself.

I don’t want to use blasting things with magic for my main attack method, as someone else in the group I’ll be joining is already very good at that.

I have been given quite a few life-paths to play with - 6 - so I hope it will be possible to cover both magic and combat skills reasonably competently.

Any advice on the most effective paths to build this kind of character with? I don’t strictly speaking need the ‘Knight’ career, but I would like that kind of theme to the character’s non-magical abilities. If I have enough resources, I’d like to buy him a Knightly Order affiliation/crew to belong to, but that may be too expensive as the resource cost of having both weapons and armor and a few spells is going to be very high.

I’m still focusing in on the best beliefs for him, but they are likely to be focused around protecting people in general (with a special focus on the fellow PCs), loyalty to the princess who arranged his appointment to knighthood and proving that his merging his martial and magic abilities can be as effective as a ‘traditional’ knight (by showing off in front of the other knights in the group, ideally).

I think currently the best I have for this is Noble Born > Arcane Devotee> Lord > Lead to Soldier > Captain > lead to Outcast> Rogue Wizard > lead to Religious > Knight of a Military Order, which seems to get to roughly the right theme in the end. Perhaps Sorcerer or Wizard of War instead of Rogue Wizard would make more sense, but wouldn’t have that lead to Religious at the end.

I wasn’t sure if this should be here or in the Crucible, so if I have placed it in the wrong forum, I apologize and could someone move it for me?

I recommend you don’t use 6-7 LPs for this character. He will be extremely powerful and maybe even boring as advancement will not come swiftly at all. Your character will be static, for the most part. This character is towards the end of his journey, not at the beginning.

Being new, you ought to first experience the thrill of seeing your exponents and skills raise during play. To see your n00b become competent then finally badass is a very fine reward. This is also the best way to learn the rules!

So I whole heartedly recommend you begin with 3 LPs. How about Born Noble, Squire, Arcane Devotee? It’s still your concept, but with amazing potential.

I agree there is a lot of fun in watching a character grow over time. In this particular instance, though the number of life-paths were set by the GM.
I’m joining an existing game. The group is already made up of 6 LP characters (who already have an adventure or two under their belt already).

I am not quite sure how big a deal each Life-path or how character growth works in Burning Wheel, but being 3 LP + Misc advancement behind the rest of the group sounds like it might struggle to be a protector and instead need protecting?

I’ll take your idea and twist it around a bit though- I was already thinking of him having an ex-criminal ‘squire-apprentice’ as a Follower, so if he ends up being too powerful or frustrating to advance I will ask if he can retire home to his keep and send her out on his behalf.

I’d rather try at six life paths and equal to the others and have a back-up plan to fall back if that’s more fun than start behind and be a liability to the group until I start to catch up.

Alternatively, maybe focus on being a just a knight/lord from my life-paths and have very limited magic abilities which could then be developed in play, or spread some points out into Estate Management and Command/Strategy skills so my skills are broad and low enough to be built up over time.

Should I take it from your previous post that the original path I outlined would be reasonably effective and that I haven’t accidentally created a critically flawed sequence of lifepaths/character?

I don’t recommend going religious. The Holy Order is synonymous with Paladins. You’ve basically created a noble, sorcerous, holy, captain of an army. A little ambitious, no?

Also, why Rogue Wizard as opposed to Court Sorcerer? You should probably stay focused and travel between the Noble and Noble Court settings. That way you have at least somewhere to go with your character.

Yes, I can see why that seems ambitious! There are reasons for each choice, of course, but I’m open to other ways of creating the general concept if you have better suggestions?
My basic concept is “a noble warrior with buffing spells, armour and melee combat”. The quick description of the setting is ‘Game of Thrones meets Final Fantasy’ with members of several rival noble houses (& other influential figures) ‘working together’ to defeat a supernatural threat to them all.
Leadership abilities a bonus, as are lots of RP as I want to take armour, a horse, a couple of spells and as it could end up being quite a political game one or two affiliations or reputations.

Why Rogue Wizard? I went for Rogue Wizard as it was the only way I could see to get between Captain and Knight (of Holy Order) whilst picking up the Sorcery skill. Also, Aura of Fear looked fun, even if it can be replicated by a spell easily enough.
I looked very closely at Court Sorcerer (I really wanted to take Second Sight) but I couldn’t see how to tie it in with armour training and general knightly skills.

Why a Knight of a Holy Military Order rather than a normal Knight? A Order Knight seemed a more comfortable fit for a magic user, given Holy Orders and Sorcerers both seem more detached from the everyday power-struggles and more spiritual/mystical than an ordinary Knight would be.
Plus I’m fitting into an existing group which already has a Page-Squire-Knight–Lord-Baron and a Page-Young Lady-Squire-Knight-Smuggler.
Being a different kind of knight with different values to the other two seemed like a good source of RP material. Also, Arcane Devote > Page > Squire > Knight > Court Sorcerer seemed somewhat unimaginative.

I’ve been given a fairly free hand to create the Military Order’s philosophy and beliefs. The concept I have so far is that they are those who have sworn an oath to protect the various kingdoms from spiritual and supernatural threats and the ‘holy’ part is as much philosophical than religious.
Instead of worship of a specific God it would be more a warrior-monk philosophy with the harmony of body and soul (soul including magic) to reach spiritual purity and in so doing, gain the power needed to honour their oaths of service.
The ideas are still under development, as you can probably tell it’s a different interpretation to the standard one but I think it still fits under the same general heading.

I disagree with Kublai at least a little bit. It’s true, you won’t advance skills you’re good at if you start very good at skills, and that happens more with many lifepaths. But that’s no tragedy; you grow in unexpected directions and pick up unexpected skills. And, honestly, you’ve got such a wide-ranging character that you’ll easily have tons of skills at low levels to keep cranking up. I’m not worried. Military Order is fine. It’s not paladin in the D&D or French sense; it’s the military arm of the church, Knight Templar at best.

Your choice of LPs seems fine, but that’s an odd story. Arcane devotee who instead took a lordship, joined the army, went rogue and magical, then took vows as a knight? That’s quite a life already!

You have a lot of skills on your list, and they’re very varied. That’s great! I recommend opening most of them, even the ones that seem like you’ll never use them. Falconry? Sing? Dance? Go for it! Yes, you’ll be bad at a lot of them, but they’re all good for FoRKs and help, and you’ll improve what you need.

Despite that list you’re short on social skills for Duel of Wits and general getting along. Persuasion and Falsehood are big ones. Etiquette, too, at least in my opinion; you can DoW with it, but you can keep your elbows off the table.

You have tons of trait points, too. And the fun of importance and Your Lordship with Base Humility!

Your fear of being short on resources? I’m less concerned. You’ve got boatloads of RPs to spend.

My off the cuff list of spells to look at: Turn Aside the Blade, Eldritch Shield, Strength of the Ox, Dexterity of the Cat, Magesense, Valor, Courage, Horse’s Stride, Mend. In roughly that order. You’ll have to be picky, even with your vast wealth. Also keep in mind that fighting while sustaining spells can mean trouble. Combat means risking injuries and Steel tests that can make you drop sustained spells. You’ll be well armored and may have Turn Aside the Blade as well, but still, it’s a risk.

I would suggest Born Noble, Page, Squire, Arcane Devotee, Religious Acolyte, (leads to Religious) Military Order. (35 yrs, 11 mental, 17 physical, 57 Res, 9 traits, 5 general, 33 skill points).
From what you’ve described it doesn’t seem as if you need much more in the line of magical skills than sorcery (which you can buy with general points) and even though the faithful die trait is on this list it isn’t required (Tonsured is).
On the surface this gives you a disciplined, tonsured, humble, noble knight of the order. His optional traits of gifted, and faithful I suggest one or the other (not that they can’t compliment each other, but it can be a bit much). Sworn to the Order should be a must for what you have suggested.

I was definitely going to open up the hunting/falconry side of things. Everyone needs a hobby, after all. Although I’m not so sure of singing.
As you highlighted, Wayfarer, the life-path creation system does create stories of it’s own and this one has kind of grown very naturally for me.

The young lord started to be trained as a Sorcerer, getting as far as being an Arcane Devotee, but then was forced to grow up quickly and take over his father’s duties as Lord of their estate. Perhaps his father was called off to war- with the son raising troops of his own and following once he turned 21 (thereby becoming a Captain).

I still find Rogue Wizard a slight bit of a stretch, but it’s not unreasonably for a dabbling magic user, far from home in the desperate circumstances of war to become what was effectively a Rogue Wizard as he found magical lore in ancient ruins whilst on an expedition or stole forbidden magical techniques from his enemies.

After such a war was over, it’s not unreasonable to think someone who had led such an active and militant life would struggle to return to his original studies when the realm returned to peace. Joining a monster-hunting Military Order at that point would be his way of continuing to use his military skills for the good of the Kingdom and avoiding returning to a more mundane and peaceful life.

Larkin- I would really struggle to work out how to spend my resource points as the life-paths you have suggested. 57 seems like a lot, but once you get warhorse, arms, armor and the bare minimum of property to justify his income and noble status you are basically out of RP to spend on spells. No room for reputation or affiliation or relationships (such as a squire!). Plus spending most of my General Points on sorcery cuts down on the ability to fill in missing skills and the more personalized options that that freedom could give.
Having mounted combat would have been good though, and shield training too. I was tempted to go Captain > Man at Arms > Court Sorcerer instead of Captain > Rogue Wizard > Knight of the Temple, but I eventually decided a Man at Arms, despite most of the skills overlapping with a knight, was not quite the same thing as having an actual knight life-path.

I haven’t really crunched the numbers on what the path I selected gives though, I will do so and post it.
EDIT: Age 39, Res 141, Mental 13, Physical 16, skills 8 general, 34 lifepath, 11pts of traits of which 5 must be spent on Lifepath choices and 2 on Gifted + Lordship.

I haven’t looked into Duels of Wits, but it sounds like an area it might be appropriate to be a little weak in, especially being lacking in Falsehood seems like it could be appropriate for an honourable Knight.
I definitely intend to spend General Skill points on etiquette though. I’ll need to work out how duel of wits works and make sure I have enough basic skills to cover the actions in it. Thanks for the tips on that, are there any other skills or mechanics that need to be kept in mind?
I’ve already noticed that it’s important to have a skill you can roll to maintain your resources- little things like that escape me on the first pass sometimes.

You can roll just about anything for Resources. Some skills are primarily for that, but a knight on the tourney circuit might roll Lance, or what have you. Estate Management is perfect for it.

Duel of Wits has a number of skills that work well. Oratory is actually very good if you’re willing to make a speech and you get that from captain. Persuasion is another major one; I’m very prone to getting it with general points if I’m not sure what else to get.

Mounted Combat Training is a fine use of 2 general points.

I’m crunching out differently. 14 physical, 10 mental, 2 either/or points. 6 general skills and 34 lifepath. I agree on traits and resources. Slightly less to work with. You’re probably going to have a lot of 4’s in physical stats—respectable but not impressive, but with a sharp mind. General points are always tight, but you have such a wide-ranging life that you’ve got a huge supply of cool stuff already. You can grab Mounted Combat, Etiquette, and still have wiggle room. Don’t be afraid to open skills and leave them at B2. They’ll advance fast, and if you really need success you can work patiently, ask for help, and most of all use your giant skill pile as FoRKs.

I agree, this is an expensive guy. You need all those RPs from Lord and Captain.

You are correct regarding the general skill points.My maths is terrible. No idea where I got that extra 2 pts or 13 mental from.
And I was wrong about the stats too.
Base stats for a 39 year old are 13 physical, 7 mental. Arcane Devotee and Lord are both +2 mental, then Captain, Rogue Wizard and Knight of a Holy Order are plus +1 M, P. I think that means +1 to both?
So that would be +3P/+5M for a total of 16 physical and 12 mental. Unless I’ve missed something (which is very possible).
Very intelligent but physically about average. Seems like I’ll need those physical enhancement spells.

Careful there. +1M/P is not the same as +1M, +1P. The latter, given by Rogue Wizard, is +1 to each. The former, from Captain and Military Order, gives you either +1M or +1P, not both. You have 14 physical, 10 mental, and 2 points to assign as you see fit.

I would go with Kublai’s advice. Starting players should start with 4 life-paths. 3 or 5 is do-able. But in my experience, 3 gives players a feeling of being cheated by the system by having incompetent characters. 5 is too tempting for them to make save secure, possible boring characters that look good on paper ( with grey skills, too much 5+ skills with die-pools of 10-12 dice for an ob 3 situations, too much rp, etc.), but are utter rubbish in play and usually don’t live up to what is expected of them.
Your player group should first learn the basics of the game: how Bit’s form your story and that complications and failing is fun.
The only reason I can think of for having a 6 lifepath character is to have an accomplished character that can deal with anything a game master can throw at them.
that is not burning wheel. That is that is think in storyteller driven game styles and you are better of playing D&D.
In burning wheel you want characters that get into trouble. You want your player and character to struggle, despair and fail repeatedly.
To make it worse: You, the player, is responsible to create those problems. It is the player that is proactive, the storyteller is usually reactive to the player’s drive.
Where better than to start to create problems than with character. Start with fewer life paths and make hard choices for your character. Be aware of his problem and weaknesses so you can use them against himself.
I can make a paladin/sorcerer kind of character in 4 lifepaths with ease. yes he is going to fail a lot, possible blow up the town and accidently kill or alienate all of his relationships by the end of session 5.

Captain and Military Order give +1M, +1P, just like Rogue Wizard. I’m guessing you are checking these on Charred, which incorrectly lists them as +1M/P. Unless there is some errata to my physical copy of BWG which I don’t know about.

My rule book (Burning Wheel Gold, Second Printing with Corrections) agrees with Ctrail, with Captain, Military Order and Rogue Wizard all identical in terms of stats (although there are other life paths that do give +1 P/M, such as Baron, Weather Witch and Chaplain). I think that I read that Charred uses the Life-paths from Revised Edition, so I expect it was changed since then.

Aedhwish, do not underestimate my ability to cause problems and create failure! But thank you, I’ve considered Kublai’s advice and got myself an apprentice to play as if my primary character is too powerful/successful/boring. The six-life-path start was not my decision, I’m joining an existing group in an existing game, and that’s the level that will fit in with the other characters.
I’ve had experiences in other games being a character who is ‘lower level’ than the rest of the group and whilst I doubt Burning Wheel will have as stark a contrast as a level 1 D&D character grouped with much higher level characters, I’d still like to try being their equal first.
I would be very interested in the life-paths you would use to get to be a mage-knight in four life-paths though,as co-incidentally the apprentice will have four life-paths.

Burning Wheel seems to be the kind of game where a lot of the ‘difficulty’ is self-imposed- just how far do you want to stretch those odds? Is your character too proud to accept those help dice? Can you justify him FoRKing that extra skill in there, knowing that if he doesn’t it’s a difficult test and thus moves him towards advancement?

As an aside, although I am not sure about Burning Wheel in particular, in most of the games I’ve played in generally higher power characters generally have more ways to complicate their lives, rather than less :slight_smile:

I am indeed checking Charred from the road. Mea culpa. Charred was made for Gold, but it’s got a few bugs and errors left to iron out.

Aedhwish, I still disagree. BW is about fighting for what you believe in. It’s about making hard choices and throwing everything you have behind them. It’s not actually about failing. You probably will fail, but it’s not really about that. And failing forward is a nice system, but it’s not unique to or the heart of BW. BW is no fun if failing is always miserable or a roadblock, but making fun and interesting failures isn’t enough to make BW sing. A six LP character will still have choices to make. So will an 11 LP character. (Yes, I’m currently running a game with one, and she’s awesome… and failing a fair amount of the time.) Nothing about the number of LPs makes good or bad Beliefs or stories. And some stories really do work better with a larger pool of LPs and older (and hopefully wiser) characters.

For a four LP magic knight I’d probably look to something like Born, Page, Arcane Devotee, Squire. Respectably martial and at least with the rudiments of magic. You’ll have a hard time getting any LP with Sorcery (without spending General points) and a military-type LP without going through some weird paths that probably don’t reasonably fit the concept.

Since he’s joining an existing campaign where there are already 6 LP characters, it would actually be a mistake not to be as powerful. We tried that and it’s often a poor experience. The characters are at different points in their careers and that makes it a bit unfun. Where one if just coming into his stride, the other is well-established and a power player in the setting.