New Burning Wheel GM Questions

Hello! I’ve been roped into Game Mastering for a small group of my friends, and decided to introduce them to my favorite game system Burning Wheel in exchange. However, I’ve since learned about Burning Wheel Gold’s existence and ordered a copy of both it and the Codex (I’ve owned all the books for Revised for years now, including Core and Character-, Monster-, Magic- and Adventure-Burners) so I can show them the most up to date version.

I’m not very experienced at GMing in any game system, and have played precious few BW games directly. And several of my friends are new to the hobby entirely, while others are fellow veterans of games like D&D and Pathfinder. Obviously, I’ll be going through the forums for answers, too, but I’ve got a few I’d like to try to get answers to immediately if I can:

  1. I’ve already had them burn up characters before as a sort of gauge on how interested/willing they are to play (did it before I knew Gold existed). My plan right now is to:
    A) give them a general description of the game system’s Hub and Spokes
    B) Run them through The Sword to get them familiar with those and key aspects of the Rim
    C) Start working on Setting/World ideas together
    D) Help them burn up characters specific to the setting.
    Does that sound good, or do you guys have a recommendations for better ways to introduce people to the game?

  2. Based on the above plan, are there any concepts you feel I should focus on in my explanations that players would find valuable that The Sword won’t cover (FoRKs, for example)?

  3. I’ve coded up an excel spreadsheet that automatically tracks how many Routine, Difficult and Challenging tests left to advance for skills and stats, but it’s based on Revised’s formulas. I’ve looked over the formulas in Gold and they look the same; can someone confirm that for me or, if not, what’s changed?

  4. I want to use Gold’s rules for the main game, but am not sure there will be enough time for me to properly read through the Rim section before I run my players through The Sword (yes, I could delay, but everyone’s EXCITED, you know?) Are there any major differences in the main Rim portions (BoW, Fight!, etc) that The Sword covers that I should know of beforehand so I don’t teach them outdated info?

Any help on the above is much appreciated, thank you!

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Honestly, My number one thing would be not to run the sword. I feel like it requires much more buy in from players than something like trouble in hochen, where you only really need the core rules, and none of the rim. Fight! is the most intimidating part of BW other than the skill list (which they will also need a lot of help with), so I’d recommend waiting on using it. Once they understand help, FoRKs, and test types, the first very mechanical thing I would introduce is Duel of Wits. Hope this helps!

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Thank you, Helstad!

I’ve not been able to find anything online about Gold’s version of Trouble of Hochen, though I do have the outline from Revised’s Adventure Burner. Is the new version described in the Gold Codex?

And are the characters from Twilight of the Dutchy the same for purposes of just printing them out? I had to transcribe all the characters by hand for Revised’s The Sword and I don’t want to have to do that again if I can help it…:sweat_smile:

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I’m with Helstadt, that you really don’t need to be working with the Rim for a good amount of time when introducing new players. I’m five sessions into a campaign with relative newbies, and we’ve had incredibly exciting, dynamic play with no Rim except for Circles (which I adore, and is simple enough to introduce).

As far as setting up the first session after Hochen or the Sword, here’s some advice I wish I’d been told early on in my GMing: first, think of the situation like a pitch for a movie, rather than a “setting”. The most important thing is for all the player characters to feel relevant to one another and to the action. I struggled for a long time with desperately trying to bind together PCs who individually had “cool characters”, but were only incidentally tied to the situation, and required a lot of shoehorning to keep them from drifting apart. My favorite strategy is to pitch a situation (“competing spies in a neutral city”, “criminal family feud in Venice”, “converting of the barbarian tribes”, etc.), then spitball ten to twenty characters that would fit well in a movie or book of that situation, cliche or not. Then the players pick from this list, and the rest are potential NPCs in your bank. Working to characters from situation makes understanding the characters’ relationships to one another soooo much easier, and GMing them much more natural.

Second, think of the PC-GM relationship like this: when the players’ rolls succeed, they’re in charge; when their rolls fail, you’re in charge. Take your time when considering what the consequences for failure are (and be sure to announce them ahead of the roll). Failure consequences are the principle means I use to mess with characters via their beliefs, and I’ll sometimes pause for a minute or two before a roll to make sure I have something juicy.

Third, humiliation is one of the most underrated motivators in RPGs. The threat of being publically embarrassed is surprisingly effective in making players sweat before they roll (if you’re stuck for beliefs or instincts when burning up characters, ask which NPC they couldn’t stand to be humiliated in front of).

I know the above is a but beyond the purview of your questions, but I think about how to communicate GMing this game all the time haha. To your specific questions:

  1. FoRKs are huge, as is help. I think circles is both cool and intuitive, and would consider it.
  2. I’m pretty sure the calcs are the same, and it’s an easy fix if their slightly different—just run with it.
  3. Fight! is substantially different, but I wouldn’t introduce it for a while anyway. If the stakes are right, you can get a lot done with simple versus tests. DoW is mostly the same, I believe, maybe some changes to individual actions, but the core is the same.

Good luck out there!

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So, a few things:

  1. Your schedule idea is great! I also recomend Trouble in Hotchen (which you can find here actualized for the Gold edition, and with a lot of continuation scenarios!). You want to read the Hub & Spokes to refresh them a little (you can read Revised, it’s almost unchanged; the main thing is that “Open Tests” are now called “Graduated Tests” to differentiate them from “Open-ended Tests”, if I remember correctly).

  2. The scenario opens with a schedule very similar to the one you proposed: present them with the situation, then the characters, and have them fill in some Beliefs and Instincts to customize their characters a little bit. Then:

  • Explain how to perform Tests, how to spend Artha, and how BITs are the criteria for Testing and for earning Artha at the end of the session. That should get you covered.
  • Don’t explain the help rules, logging of tests by difficulty or FoRKs until someone makes a proper Test. Introduce those rules as you need them. Is a player Testing his B4 Skill against Ob2? Don’t intruoduce nothing. Afther the roll, tell them how logging works. Is a player Testing his B3 Skill against Ob 4? Tell them they will learn even if they fail. Tell them they may declare to do it Carefully for +1D, with a time-cost even if they succeed. Tell them about FoRKs if they want extra dice. Tell them about Help they want more dice and someone can give them. Tell them helping others advances your Skills too! All as they need, not a minute earlier.
  • Don’t engage in anything in the Rim until they have a solid grasp on how to perform a Test.
  • You should be fairly covered by the Hub & Spokes, but it should be helpfull to check the Duel of Wits and the Bloody Versus Tests (in the Fight! chapter) rules. They have changed somewhat.

If your players are eager, you may want to revisit:

  • Steel (for when they find the demon-bear)
  • Circles (if they want to circle up some cultist as a contact)
  • Weapons (Weapon Speed is modified)
  • Armor & Shields if someone chose the knight
  • Injury & Recovery
  • Sorcery (BIG changes: you don’t roll Will + Sorcery, you just roll Sorcery; also, FoRKs are now allowed in Sorcery) if someone chose the sorceress.
  • You may want to do a brief overview of Movement and Pursuit (chases may happen in the scenario).
  • DON’T use Riding and Mounted Combat yet; just have the Knight have +1D or so as Advantage if applicable.
  1. I cannot confirm they are the same, but I think they are.

  2. Gold changed mainly Sorcery (forks allowed, but you don’t add Will anymore), Range & Cover (maneuvers are better organized and explained) and Fight! (movement and positioning are simplified a lot, and maneuvers are better organized and explained).

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Thank you for your help so far, everyone!

So far, it sounds like it’d be better for me to run Trouble in Hotchen rather then The Sword (thank you so much for the link, @Leo_Aryanteva!), which makes sense to me since it’ll also allow my veterans to get a feel for how BW is different from D&D. Also, for players, FoRKs and Help would probably be useful to introduce, as would Circles, and probably DoW because I absolutely adore the idea of “social combat”. That sounds like it’ll fill out an “Introductory” game nicely.

Honestly, I’m personally enamored with most of the rules in the Rim - the only one I’m not much a fan of being Emotional Magic (Faith, etc) simply because it puts a potential timer on characters whether they want it or not, and even then, I still wouldn’t poo-poo it because I get the narrative potential and understand the tradeoff of having such powerful abilities in the game.

While it’s tempting to use all the rules, I know how bad of an idea it would be to overwhelm a character. And so, yeah, my usual method is “Bare Minimum Knowledge Plus” where I introduce them to the bare minimum needed to play, plus a few extra things to highlight the game’s unique flavor. Anything else would be introduced when/if it actually comes up, and even then, I’d be asking the players if they want to try it or if they’d rather stick with the basic rules to cover stuff.

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@Caput

Blockquote The most important thing is for all the player characters to feel relevant to one another and to the action. I struggled for a long time with desperately trying to bind together PCs who individually had “cool characters”, but were only incidentally tied to the situation, and required a lot of shoehorning to keep them from drifting apart.

Yeah, I can see that happening. Even in other games, though, I insist on getting 1-2 sentences from them in their backstory explaining “Why are you even here?”, to avoid exactly that kind of thing. Forcing everyone to take a Belief (character-specific, of course) that ties them to the setting just makes the process more formal and rewarding, imo.

Blockquote My favorite strategy is to pitch a situation (“competing spies in a neutral city”, “criminal family feud in Venice”, “converting of the barbarian tribes”, etc.), then spitball ten to twenty characters that would fit well in a movie or book of that situation, cliche or not. Then the players pick from this list, and the rest are potential NPCs in your bank. Working to characters from situation makes understanding the characters’ relationships to one another soooo much easier, and GMing them much more natural.

I kind of prefer the players being able to come up with their own characters for the setting we agree on, personally - gives them more creative liberty and more opportunities for weird and fun situations I wouldn’t have thought of.

But everything else sounds great. Spitballing the setting concepts I’ve got was already what I was gonna do, with them hopefully helping me brainstorm more after that to get them more invested in what we play in.

Blockquote Second, think of the PC-GM relationship like this: when the players’ rolls succeed, they’re in charge; when their rolls fail, you’re in charge. Take your time when considering what the consequences for failure are (and be sure to announce them ahead of the roll). Failure consequences are the principle means I use to mess with characters via their beliefs, and I’ll sometimes pause for a minute or two before a roll to make sure I have something juicy.

Totally agree. That’s one of the things I like about BW, too: players are almost treated as Assistant GMs more then as just standard Players from other games. Since we’re all friends, I like the elevated collaboration the game provides, while also delighting in its ability to act as a “devilish chaos generator” all the time with the back-and-forth of Personal Artha vs Story Progression. :smiling_imp:

Blockquote Third, humiliation is one of the most underrated motivators in RPGs. The threat of being publically embarrassed is surprisingly effective in making players sweat before they roll (if you’re stuck for beliefs or instincts when burning up characters, ask which NPC they couldn’t stand to be humiliated in front of).

Ooooh, nice! I’ll be writing that one down, thanks!

Blockquote I know the above is a but beyond the purview of your questions…

And?! My point with this thread is to ask for wisdom from my betters; I only came up with the initial questions I did because it’s what I thought was important, but I can’t think up everything, so anything additional is more then welcome!

@Leo_Aryanteva

Blockquote If your players are eager, you may want to revisit: * Sorcery (BIG changes: you don’t roll Will + Sorcery, you just roll Sorcery; also, FoRKs are now allowed in Sorcery) if someone chose the sorceress.

Heh. One of my new players came up with a Sorcerer all on her own and likes the concept, so I suspect I’ll be using the new Sorcery rules in whatever setting we end up playing regardless.

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You can (and it usually proves rather productive) strongly suggest every character has a belief relating to another character in some way as well; that way, the players want to find ways that their individually cool character remains with the group rather than frequently splintering into unconnected approaches to bits of the bigger plot.

The most fun is when the Beliefs partially conflict: in our current game, we have one player with a Belief to lead the ratcreatures beneath the city to a better path and another with a belief to show him they are beyond saving, so they have a strong motivation to keep working together on understanding ratculture but each act as challenge for the other’s Belief when it comes to using what we uncover.

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Already got at least one player who chose self-conflicting beliefs for their practice character burn - believes and loves God, but doesn’t believe God loves him back - so I’m pretty sure that I’m going to get some fun inner conflict stuff here from at least some of my group (and it’s fine if they want to be reserved right now; it’s various flavors of “new” for everyone, after all, and we can adjust characters later once everyone knows better what they’re doing).

And, actually, I’ve realized a better idea from talking on here: instead of just deciding I’m going to run The Sword or Trouble in Hochen, I’ll put both Settings to my players in Session 0 and we decide which we want to do right then and there! A way to introduce everyone to the idea that they’re not just going to be passive recipients of my Game Mastering Will, but that we’re all active participants at the gaming table who get to decide things as a group!

Should be fairly simple to accommodate. I’d already all but memorized The Sword (Revised) before joining on here, so reading up on Gold version’s differences should be a snap. And then it’s just a matter of familiarizing myself with TiH, printing character sheets for both and then coming up with an initial pitch for both. I’m thinking:

Trouble in Hoken: “An Old School adventure scenario with a band of adventurers on a mission to a town, with a sort of grim-dark feel. Relatively familiar for those of you who’ve played D&D before, and does a great job of teaching the very basics of the game and introducing you guys to the Belief system, which is very important to Burning Wheel.”

The Sword: “A group of adventurers dealing with a scenario that’s rather unique to Burning Wheel. A one-off scenario that’s more challenging and requires more investment and patience from you guys, but it will also introduce a lot more of the game system’s unique charm and optional rules that I’m excited about in the process.”

So, I’d characterize them as “More traditional and easier to play” and “More rewarding and fuller exposure to the game”. Would you say those would be fair descriptions? After they choose which sounds better, I’ll give them the pitch and if they’re still on board, we go from there, of course.

Oh, and I already know that my 2 veteran players would outright adore The Sword’s PvP aspect since they’ve engaged in such in D&D campaigns before (much to the consternation of the other Players/DM and to my amusement at the irony that if they’d been playing BW they’d potentially get rewarded for that crap :joy:).

Self-conflict is another joyous character opportunity if embraced (and is a great way to gain those juicy Moldbreaker Persona awards)

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You know it!

Yeah, the first session is this coming Saturday. I’ll let everyone know how it goes then.

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OK, so got my books and have been reading through the various Rim rules. I believe I’ve understood most everything thus far, but I’m a little unsure on Vie for Position for Fight! on pg 436.

My interpretation so far is this: if both opponents attempt to Vie with different length weapons, each one will reference the chart separately. If A has a Knife and B has a Spear, for example, then they would both receive a +2D to their Positioning Advantage roll (A for attempting to get inside the cumbersome weapon; B for keeping A out). Whichever side loses then has to consult the table on pg 431 to determine the Ob penalty suffered for disadvantage on positioning.

Do I have that about right?

And no, I’m not crazy enough to introduce them to full Fight! mechanics in their first few sessions. Even if I was willing to use the Rim for fighting instead of simple Vs tests, I would use the quicker and simpler “Bloody Versus” version that came before to start since it’s designed for most fight encounters anyway. This is just so that I can understand the rules as written for if/when the group gets curious enough to try them.

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Not quite. When Vying for Position, the combatant that has the advantage gets the extra dice. The disadvantaged combatant gets nothing. Advantage will carry over from the initial Engagement Test if it hasn’t changed in the Exchange. So, for the Engagement Test, the spear gets +2D vs the Knife (and wins ties) while the knife gets no extra dice.

If the spear wins the Engagement Test and nothing changes the advantage, the spear gets +2D to Vying for Position while the dagger gets nothing. Let’s say the dagger wins. Now the dagger, having gotten inside the spear’s guard, gets +2D to Vie for Position as the knife-fighter sticks to the spearman like stink on shit. The spearman gets nothing.

Now let’s say that the knife-fighter wins. The Exchange plays out, and in the course of it the spearman scripted a successful Beat. Great, that means they gets the advantage: We essentially pretend that the spearman won the Vie for Position test for the rest of the Exchange – and for the next test to Vie for Position. So, in this Exchange we’ve seen: The knife-fighter had the advantage from the Engagement Test (+2D). They won, so the spearman was at disadvantage for the Exchange (+4Ob). in that exchange, the spearman played a (miraculously) successful Beat and took the advantage within the Exchange. Then the spearman has advantage to the next test to Vie for Position (+2D).

I hope that was more helpful than convoluted. Heh. :sweat_smile:

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OK, so the advantage carries over to the next positioning test! Good to know, yeah, I was under the impression it would “reset”, but on reflection, that makes no sense in a fight.

Does my interpretation make sense for the initial square off, though? If so, then I believe I’ve finally grasped it.

So, you use the “engagement” chart for the initial square off, which assumes you’re starting at distance and closing, and therefore favors the loger weapon—both sides roll for positioning (longer gets a bonus), and whoever loses is at disadvantage for the exchange. When a new exchange starts, whoever had advantage at the end of the last exchange now gets a bonus to position anew (thus, either longer or shorter weapon could get the bonus, depending on who last had advantage)—you will never have a situation where both sides have bonuses to positioning. Whoever loses this positioning test is at disadvantage during the exchange, rinse and repeat.

It took me a while to grasp this system, it’s not the clearest part of the book!

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@Caput 's summary is excellent.

Looks like it’s all going in the best direction, @darkmage0707077 !

I love the Fight! system, and what it throws up.

When you get a chance to see/feel it run a few times, it’ll start to click (it did for me).

You’ll find that the Engagement and Positioning really affect what choices you make. For instance, if a brawler gets into the perfect position on me when I’m wielding a long sword, do I try to whack them with that penalty, or do I punch them instead (without the penalty).

Ah, OK, I see it now, under the Engage section. I wondered how longer initial weapons factored into the fight in this version - it’s radically different from Revised that I’m used to.

So pretty much, I see it as thus:

  1. A knife wielder (named “Knifey”) and spear wielder (named “Speary”) initially square off. For simplicity, we assume both are Human stock, and otherwise have same stats. Both vie for position.
  2. Because Speary has the longer weapon, he automatically gets the +2D to his position attempt, as it’s easier to keep Knifey out then for Knifey to move past and get inside.
  3. Speary wins the positioning test, giving Knifey a +4 Ob penalty to all non-Defense actions for the Exchange; position tests happen each Exchange, not Volley or Action (unless a particular action type says otherwise).
  4. We’ll assume they just did basic Strikes or Blocks to avoid complicating the scenario. The first Exchange ends; Knifey and Speary get to vie for position again.
  5. Speary still gets a +2D position advantage due to his having won the prior position test. However, he somehow fails the test; now Knifey is on the inside, giving Speary the +4 ob penalty to all non-Defensive rolls.
  6. In the next exchange’s vie for position, Knifey would be the one with a +2D to his position test to maintain his advantage.
  7. If Speary doesn’t like the ob penalty, he can switch to his Pommel for the exchange, which would allow him to use the ob penalties 1 length shorter then the main weapon (+3 in this case). Knifey can’t do this (nor could a mace- or sword- wielder against Speary; you can only move left if you want to shorten your weapon).

I think that should about cover it, if the above seems correct.

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You got it, @darkmage0707077 !

I like picturing it:

Speary has won positioning, so is holding Knifey at bay, menacing them with the spear point whilst making it very difficult (+4 Ob) for Knifey to successfully hit them.

When Knifey wins positioning, they knock the spear aside and rush in quickly. Knifey is now very close (a knife’s length away), and all of a sudden, Speary’s long length of wood is too awkward in this space, with their spear point way past Knifey.

Knifey is in the optimal position for their knife (no penalties), whereas it is very hard for Speary (+4 Ob) to use the spear to stab Knifey.

You got it.

Oh, yes, picturing the back and forth is rather simple and enjoyable, especially as an experienced RL swordsman. I just needed to get the actual mechanical steps down first to ensure that I understood how everything translates for tests. I enjoyed the back-and-forth of Revised, and knew they wouldn’t have gotten rid of that feel in Gold’s version - just needed to work it out properly.

Thank you, everyone, for your assistance so far! At this point, I just need to read the Codex (later) and actually introduce the basic game to the group Saturday. I’ll try to let everyone know how it went.

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