Old Gamer - New to BW

So I’m reading the first editions which I have had several years and dusted them off the shelves. I’m to about page 80 in the core rules where it suggests you start in on the character burner. So I’m going to start on that. I’ve watched some youtube reviews and a 2011 Gen Con demo by Luke? So I’m on the fence somewhat as to whether BW would be a good fit for my next campaign.

My game group wants to return to Middle Earth and we are exploring systems. I’ve played Rolemaster for years and years (decades) and house ruled it to death. It worked but I need a break and a new system. I dusted off the BW books I had and have interest. I try to emphasize roleplaying and a deep and wide backgrounds for my players. I put a ton of GM time into my campaigns and my initial gut instinct is that BW could be the answer but for those of you who know the system well, could it be adapted well in a Middle Earth setting?

Any suggestions would be helpful. I’d also love to play so I can learn the system before I run it. Reading is one thing but playing really helps solidify an understanding of the rules.

Thanks in advance,


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I’ve been playing RM2 since around 1986 or so. I have a steady group that I play RM2 with but I am also playing BW with another group and just starting my first BW campaign as the GM. I love it. My players wont switch so I found some new ones on a different day.
The one key takeaway is that a BW game is nothing like a RM2 game. RM2 is all about tac/sim, and BW is diametrically opposed to that. With that being said, its an amazing system and becoming my favorite RPG. I think BW would be awesome to use in a ME campaign.

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Welcome, John! Thanks for stopping in!

I don’t know anything about Rolemaster. I know a bit about Middle Earth and a good bit about Burning Wheel.

Tolkien was a big inspiration for Burning Wheel. The text is pretty open about it, and Tolkien’s influences can be felt throughout in a sincere and loving way. I think Burning Wheel would be great for a Middle Earth game.

Do you have any thoughts for the premise of your next game? I’m interested to hear them.


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Thanks Peter, I appreciate your input. I have been running a heavy modified RM, where I do combat by time expended for actions and have nearly castrated the magic system in order to fit into my Middle Earth campaign, as well as another I ran in a home brew world I created.

I will keep reading BW and hopefully it will all start to click. It’s hard to walk away from what is very familiar and easy to GM to start over again with a new system.


Hi Gnosego,

Thanks for your reply. My old campaign I ran from 2006-08 took place in the 20th century of the Third Age. It was centered along the Anduin vales in the space between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. I had characters from all over the place and I spend a great deal of time running solo-campaigns of say 4-6 sessions to get each players character into position to meet and tie in with the rest of the players. All the heavy lifting GM wise was done during this time and after I had detailed tapestry of ground work, backgrounds and storied developed for every player, weaving them together into a campaign fabric was rather easy and the nearly 3 year campaign ran itself.

It ended in 1974 in the TA, in Arnor where the players were swept up in the war against Angmar that brought down the north kingdom of Arnor that year. In RM terms the PC’s started at level 1, and most were between level 10 and 12. In the end the story unfolds as the histories tell, Arnor was destroyed and the heirlooms of the north kingdom lost along with their king. The players were part of that end, in that the king escaped the siege of Fornost and fled north-west in an attempt to reach safety. He was betrayed by a player who had succumbed to a lessor ring of power he had acquired over a year prior while in Maethelburg east of the Misty Mountains. This led the Witch King and his companion hosts into the valley where the kings entourage and escorts were camped. One PC died, two escaped and the traitor with the lessor ring, was taken in as a apprentice/slave of the Witch King and his character became evil.

I stopped running the game after the two survivors made it to one of the royal Dunedain family fortresses south west of Annuminas, an area that had not seen the ravages of the Witch Kings army. That was the last session and it’s been 12 years now.

After running in my home world the last three years they all want to return to Middle Earth. I’m torn as to when/where a new campaign will take place. I had some intuitions on going back to the mid second age, when the war of the elves and Sauron was raging and the first rings of power were starting to get handed out to kings of men. Numenor had colonies and establishments all along the coast line and it was my thought that the players would be operating out of a Numenorian settlement/principality, perhaps even under the jurisdiction of one of the great Black Numenorian lords, one who would be offered a ring of power at some point, but who was still an ambitious man seeking power. I’m a bit afraid of delving back deeper into Middle Earth because the power curve is crazy high and there is also much much more wilderness, but the potential is grand.

The second option was to gen up new characters and put them in a destroyed Arnor or close by and have them play through the events that end up with the Witch King being driven from the north the following year by a combined host of elves and Gondor that sail into the Grey Havens.

The third option… I’m not sure but I’m looking at everything area wise and time wise to fit players in where there is a lot of evil to deal with.


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That sounds like a blast!

Do your players have any preference regarding those ideas?


We do THE EXACT SAME THING with our initiative in RM2. We have no rounds (except to track bleeds/spells/stun/etc.), you just expend initiative points to perform actions. So funny!


We met via discord yesterday to discuss and after they had voted 3/3 to be back in Middle Earth I tossed the ideas around about 2nd age and a pickup of the 3rd age. I run ME really well and they really don’t care when or where, they just want to play in it. :slight_smile:

Groovy! The second option sounds like the most interesting option to me–lots of different factions and perspectives involved and “grounded” power level. I also expect it would be the better option for Burning Wheel for those reasons. And it involves fallout! Burning Wheel loves fallout!

Let me know if there’re any questions you have or anything you want a take on.


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