New GM + New Player game. Some questions.

Hello everyone, I am new to BWG, having previously played in and run games of D&D, Paranoia, Maid etc.

I’ve bought BWG after some recommendations, and like how it rewards long-term games, doesn’t require much planning, and is a shared effort.

My GF has a casual interest in RPGs, having played in a few sessions with me, but looks forward to playing this game with me. She is also new to it.

I have read the rules, and understand most. We’ll be starting on the core rules, adding the rest in later. Anyhow, some questions!:

[li]I am struggling on the balance between world building & planning, and letting her PC decide the story. I have run D&D, and have a bad habit of railroading, but I like the style of Burning Wheel. From reading on here, it seems I definitely need my own plot [the “big thing”] and I do have some villains with motives in mind. But where do I draw the line?
[/li][li]For aristeia, page 68 says “a character must spend 5 fate points, 3 persona points and 1 deed point.” You decide what reward after spending it. This implies to me you have to save it up in bulk to use it. But for Epiphany, it says the character must spend artha on the relevant tests, and then says “if a player has spent this much artha on one of his character’s abilities … takes on a new shade.” This implies you DON’T use it in bulk, but is awarded after using artha many times on that skill. So which is it? Or is one a bulk spend, and the other not? I know we’re far off this ever happening, but it’d be good to know.
[/li][li]You can learn skills by using Beginner’s Luck, and I understand that. But could you have an unlimited skills list? If a player is willing to have lots of failures, over a year or so of gaming, could they have too many skills?
[/li][li]Similarly, I remember reading before that if you don’t use a certain skill over a certain timeframe, it loses an exponent point. But I can’t find reference to it in BWG. Is it from an older version? Or have I missed it in the book?
[/li][li]Finally, I am confused about the relationship of money - resources. You can roll resources to get cash. And cash can be used to add 1d to your resources. Can’t you create a stupidly big cycle here, and end up too rich?

  1. Generally you’ll want to draw the line at where the characters beliefs are. Whatever your preplanning you do should serve to challenge characters’ beliefs, instincts, & traits.

  2. Aristeia is spent all at once, Epiphany is collected over time.

  3. Nope. Earn all the skills you want.

  4. I don’t know of any such rule, maybe there was something in the hacking sub forum?

  5. Yeah, you can generate cash, but it’s tough. I forget the difficulty breakdown, but there’s definitely some diminishing returns. And, in general, it’s not going to be worth the risk just for an extra die or two. More often you’ll get a PC trying to convince an NPC to generate some cash (a loan or fund) for them to make use of.

  1. The most basic way of putting the beliefs front and centre is to write out the opposite of what the player has written and incorporate that into the fundamental motivation of your big villain. With enough beliefs and enough NPC’s you can build a web of these that runs itself to some extent.

  2. For aristeia you spend it all at once, you have to actively do it. When you spend artha you log it and if you accumulate enough for an epiphany you get it, it’s passive but takes a long time.

  3. I think you can have as many skills as you can get long term. There’s a version of the character sheet that expands the space for them but I’ve never needed that.

  4. I think that was removed way back in 2005. I’d not ever even roleplayed anything at all back then!

  5. You don’t really just roll to get money. If you generate cash is because you need to use it for something. Check task and intent to see what the character is doing and why. Following that you Let it Ride. If you generated a cash die then you generated a cash die and that stands, you can’t roll again because you want another.

Let’s do the easy (rule-based) ones:

  1. Aristeia is an ability you spend artha on, like using Fate to make your sixes explode or Persona to add dice to a roll. Pay the artha, get an aristeia. Shade-shifting isn’t a thing you buy; it’s an extra bonus on top of all that, for spending the artha in the first place. In a long-term game, you can keep track of the Fate, Persona, and Deeds spent on each of your skills and attributes. Basically if you keep using your artha to perform heroic feats of swordfighting, eventually your Sword skill just becomes a little bit extra “heroic” all the time.

  2. There’s no limit to skills known in BWG. (Torchbearer and Mouse Guard do it differently, IIRC.)

  3. There is no rule about losing skill ranks over time. You can lose Resources through neglect (if you keep failing lifestyle maintenance rolls but never bother to restore your taxed Resources, it will end up going down). You can also vote off traits or reputations that a character has if they don’t get brought up a lot, but that’s not something enforced by the mechanics (e.g. your “daring jewel thief” rep might go away if ten years have passed and your heist is no longer the talk of the town).

  4. It’s possible, but in practice you’ll fail a lot of the tests and kinda get screwed, especially if your Resources is low. I think the main advice here is just not to roll Resources to make cash/funds unless it generates something in the fiction.

I discussed a lot of #1 with my friend (SpydersWebbing on this forum) recently, actually. Here’s my take, combined with some of his insights.

The relationships, Beliefs, and reputations of a character represent their investment in the world, which means that they’re quick and easy ways to make a game personal. They’re also good things to tie the world into the character. A character’s skills and traits explain how they interact with the setting, i.e. what parts of the setting they like to come in contact with. Use those as tools.

With a one-on-one game, you can focus that really well. Look over her sheet and adjust plans and plots accordingly.

However, Beliefs are also a response to the game that the GM sets forth. Make it clear that she should write a Goal Belief (i.e. save one of those slots) at the beginning of a session, relating to what you lay out for her. So give her a bit of knowledge about what sorts of things will be going down.

Your “big thing” should more be a “what’s happening in the world”, and an invitation for the characters to mess around with it. It should grind and envelop the character by involving relationships and Beliefs eventually. And be ready to adjust it when the players mess with it, and don’t resist.

For reference: one of my players, in a single shot, arrow-splattered an important NPC upon accusations of witchery. They’re now on the run from an entire fiefdom that’s been thrown into insecurity. I’ve never been more delighted.

Burning Wheel is a game that didn’t work for me until I figured out that your characters really need to be protagonist material, especially in one-on-one. The whole game collapses without strong motivations pushing the PCs to keep going despite the setbacks they inevitably will face.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the Beliefs sample chapter from Adventure Burner. It’s a free download on the web store.

#1 is definitely the trickiest part of learning to GM BW.

You need just the outline of a world. What you need is an immediate, gripping situation. You have to give the PCs something gripping to get them going with strong, meaty Beliefs right out of the gate, because nothing will founder a new game as quickly as aimless PCs. Whether you have a fully detailed world or just sketchy outlines is entirely a matter of taste, but you need that situation. That’s why it’s important to talk over what you’re playing before you make characters or, especially, Belief. Decide what kind of game you’re going to play and what it’s about. A game where bold heroes defeat the evil overlord is very different from a game where scrappy up-and-comers in a minor street gang rise to become kingpins of a city, and neither is the same as playing the game of thrones in court intrigue and backstabbing. Work out what you want to run and what you want to play, them build the situation and characters accordingly.

We usually take an entire session creating a world and characters as a group, and it’s my preferred way to play. For one game we started with the concept of a group of street thieves in a town run by competing gangs called guilds. In another, we were Sewerjacks patrolling under the city of Nuln. In a third, we were a group set upon dethroning a sorcerer-king in Dark Sun.

Starting from that simple concept the players could quickly, determine how their character fit into the situation, what their Beliefs, Reputations, Affiliations and Relationships were, and we could create a good handful of important NPCs for the GM to take and flesh out. It makes challenging beliefs so much easier when the characters have relationships to care about and reputations to preserve.

For me, one of the big “Aha!” moments was that I should write the protagonist into the situation and the situation into the protagonist. Like, if you’re a noble and this is the story of how you step up when your dad died, then the first session will be about your dad being dead, RIGHT NOW, and you should write beliefs about it exactly. Don’t try to “ease into” the storyline, just hit the ground running.


This “first game” thread from a little while ago might have some useful info, too.

In fact, it’s worth taking inspiration from The Sword. Not only do you not need to ease in, it works very well to start in medias res at a climactic point. Again, you have to have the situation and characters well in hand at the table from discussion before you start play, but then you can open with a bang. “Things just got heavy. It’s do or die! This is the moment of crisis in which mettle will be tested! What do you do?” You can think of the arc of a story and then start right after the first major incident or episode. Instead of having to kill the duke, you’ve just killed the duke and are standing over his cooling body!

Make things tense and exciting and the game will flow.

Thanks so much for the replies! No wonder you all have plenty of rep :slight_smile: I’ll give some out when I’ve posted some more [I’d probably end up giving neutral right now] and I will most definitely post more on here.

When we first burnt her character, we decided the original plot hook was that she must retrieve the prince’s sword, which has been stolen. I have provided an NPC for roleplay / some mechanical help for now, and he is also on this mission.

I wasn’t quite sure where to start it really, but I probably will go in medias res and have the characters ambushed or stalked or something. That way we can test beliefs, dice mechanics etc.

We’ll be playing next Monday, so I have some time to read The Sword for inspiration, and I will post about it in the gameplay section on the Tuesday.

Thanks again!

That’s okay for a test run, but it needs a lot more drive to sustain a game.

On the situation side, why was the sword stolen? By whom?

On the character/Belief side, why should she care? Why is it her job to fix it? What does getting the sword back accomplish? What might convince her to give up her quest?

All fixable with the right Beliefs.

Just cos nobody else said it, note that spending Artha on Aristeia counts toward an Epiphany. So in a sense, you’re spending the Artha on both effects at once, and each Minor Epiphany is a step toward a full-fledged, proper, permanent Epiphany.

Note that the double dice from a Deeds point is really, really good. Probably more powerful than minor epiphany, barring a few specialized effects. Just sayin’.

The initial plot hook had initially been that undead were starting to walk the streets, but as we character built it just grew a different way.
His [as the character is male] lifepaths:

Born Noble > Squire > Knight > Archer. The archer being there to show specialised training. She has been handpicked by the prince to find it, alongside the NPC, Robert, who has taken a full burn and is an archaeologist / treasure hunter of sorts. So they each have their own skills for this.
One of his traits is catamite [openly homosexual, pejorative]

And his beliefs:
I will aid Robert in this quest [though we may change this as the focus kinda gets taken off the PC and onto the NPC]
I will prove myself to Randall. This is a 10rps relationship, another soldier, who looks down upon him for his homosexuality.
And a secret belief - I spent a night with the prince.

Some good opportunity here. I think perhaps Randall will also attempt to reclaim the sword, just as a dick move, or maybe for a greater reason. This can challenge two beliefs in one.
If all does go according to plan though, I can always throw in some bigger plot on the way back. I haven’t thought much about this yet tbh, but I will.

Cheers. I did wonder about that. I love how truly long-term this game is built for.

You need Page to get Squire, IIRC.

Ah yes, my mistake.
I made a copy of her BITS, but not the lifepaths, so quoted from memory and failed.
This looks more like it:
Born Noble > Page > Knight > Archer

You need Squire for Knight and you need Page for Squire. Well, there are other ways, but that’s the standard path. Four LPs to get to Knight.

The Beliefs could be workshopped a bit if you and your player are interested, but I guess at the moment play is the most helpful thing. The very basic trick is to add a clause.

I will aid Robert by doing X, where X is the first step.
I will prove myself to Randall by doing Y, where Y is some particular action that the character thinks will get him in Randall’s good graces.

Making Beliefs have a tangible, immediate action to be taken is a big help for both player and GM.

Looks like we may need to take another look at the character haha. I think we did it legally, but I can’t look just yet. I think I just remembered that you can choose any LPs from the same setting, and forgot to look out for exceptions. Well, that’s a lesson learnt.

EDIT: Talked to my gf, and she remembers exactly.
Born Noble [leads to any] > Archer [and then assuming we can go back to nobility] > Squire [requires personal soldier, met by archer] > knight [requires squire]

We will also review the beliefs. Those will certainly help :smiley: