On Burning Empires' Complexity

My friend Jye composed this virtuoso post on RPG.net:

Holy. Wow.

Very cool! It’s so frustrating to see posts that complain about the complexity of BW. Especially considering how mnay player memorize stuff like individual monster stat blocks and spells. ::rolls eyes::

I love the wow example. Although I would say comparing BE to other uber-complicated game is like saying a Caddy is a small car compared to Escalades when a Toyota owner says it’s too big, no?

Great post. Thanks for pointing it out.

I’m sure the barrier to entry topic has been raised before that thread, and I think Jye’s point about the rules text is valid. Maybe I’m just a moron, but I’d like to see a more accessible version of the burning games.


check out Paul B. no advancement thread

madviolinist SoTC style

and one of the best I’ve seen so far (totally can’t find the post): I call it BW lite: do BITs, roll 4d6 for tests, skill outside lifepaths +1ob, keep obs at 1 to 5. Introduce complexity later (sorry, I didn’t cite my notes!!)

also: use just the hub of the wheel

all these are good ways to ease a group into BW play

That is pretty cool.

That sounds just what I need to ease me and my players in to a Burning habit :slight_smile:

Time to try some creative searching.

  • Neil.

So what Kasuni is trying to say is that

WoW is like Crack (easy to get your first dose, but your life will be gone in no time and things get gvery complicated down the way.

BE is like college (you do allot of work to get in, but then you don’t need to do anything once your there)

I am not clever enough to think of what D&D3.5 is like.

With all due respect, you’d probably have had an easier time with half as many players (or even a third) that you do now. :smiley: I think that would be true for any new system, really.

I agree on ALL accounts. It’s harder to have really intense games with a lot of players. On the other hand I ran a BW post-apacalyptic game inspired by Equilibrium using this sort of these BW lite rules. It rocked! I also ran an early BW lite sci-fi game :slight_smile: It wasn’t half as cool as my all time favorite RPG - BE.

Equilibrium is an awesome movie. Ever since I saw it, I’ve harbored a man-crush for Christian Bale.

Back on topic, it always mystifies me to see the “OMG! BE IS SOOO HARD!!~!~!~” posts – especially when one knows that these complaints are coming from folks who (like me) have, at one point or another, practically memorized the DMG.

Last week, I ran (3.5) D&D for the first time and I was amazed by the amount of minutia the game expects one to handle. As someone who likes playing games as written, it was pretty daunting trying to assemble an adventure for one of my gaming groups.

I think Kasumi’s post is right on (and it makes sense why Exalted has never stuck with me–D&D had over a decade head start entrenching itself in that part of my brain). The irony is that something like the unique scene economy of Burning Empires actually makes the game easier to play, not more complicated. The action stays focused on what’s important to the story; there’s no reason to paint all that unnecessary color on everything. At the same time, the GM can’t cheat the players out of the important stuff–that’s when the dice come out.

While they frequently require more commitment at the table from the players involved, the RPGs I’ve played in the past couple years (Burning Wheel/Empires, The Shadow of Yesterday, Dogs in the vineyard) deliver a such a satisfying play experience, with a lot less work required outside of the game session and less frustrations at the table. It makes going back to other games difficult.

D&D is like Starbucks. Everyone uses it, there are a zillion possible choices but most everyone settles on a favorite version and sticks to that. And you get more or less the same version of your favorite drink no matter which Starbucks you go to.


Word, Paul. Word. Awesome analogy. (Paul B: Winner of the Indie Games Analogy of the Year Award.)

While we’re on the topic of D&D… someone on the RPG.net thread wrote that:

>>The end effect of that is that D&D is a game where people intensely interested in the system and casual gamers can play together, so long as they don’t get too annoyed with one another personally. <<

I’ve actually found this not to be the case at all! Maybe I’m the bad common denominator here, but I’ve always found that different levels of investment in the mechanical aspects of a game to be problematic at best—and utterly fucking disastrous (UFD) at worst; at least as problematic/UFD as different levels of investment in the story. All my good D&D experiences, in particular, have been in situations where everyone at the table has at least a solid understanding of the system overall, and a really good grasp of their class-specific mechanics, be it flanking or spellcasting.


It’s probably no surprise that I can only tolerate espresso I make myself, and am looking into home-roasting my beans. Starbucks makes me physically ill to drink anymore. (But I can still throw d8s and calculate THAC0 on the fly.)