Reaction Rolls and Circles

Hey, I’ve been playing Classic Traveller (it’s good) and loving how the Reaction Table builds changes and creates new situations. In CT, the reaction table is used as the social resolution to determine initial disposition of important npcs/random encounters and re-rolled when circumstances change or as a way to answer how someone responds to an order/business deal/bribe, etc.

One thing I noticed is how Circles handles that initial disposition, as well, and leaves room for the GM to interpret the results (in addition to - I know a person, checks)

I don’t believe (I could be wrong) that Burning Wheel Classic has a reaction table or rule.

What were the inspirations behind having a Circles, a combined finding a person and how they feel?

Any major in game moment where it was like “damn it, I’m tired of having to decide all this as GM” or was it just creating a procured out of an intuitied way of playing?

Was a more traditional reaction table ever considered or tested out?

It’s about 19 years ago now, so the details are a little fuzzy, but as I recall, Luke had just showed me an early version of the new Resources rules he was working on. I started thinking about buying relationships in character creation, and it occurred to me that the Resources rules were really about negotiating the introduction of things into the gamespace and that we could apply that same idea to NPCs from a character’s past.

It went something like this: You could spend Resources points during character burning to buy gear. You got exactly what you wanted (assuming you could afford the points). Once you entered play, you could test to get things, but the outcome was uncertain and subject to consequences if you failed the test. You could do the same thing with relationships: Buy them in character burning and get exactly what you were after, or test in play and subject your character to potential twists.

The idea jibed with some things Luke had been thinking about from some of his games and just kind of erupted like Athena from the forehead of Zeus.

Characters discovered through Circles are intended to be people from your character’s past, people they would have encountered as they lived their lifepaths before play began. The player gets to state their intent – what they perceive the nature of their character’s relationship with the proposed NPC – and then we roll the dice to see if there are any wrinkles to that.

i’ll leave it to Luke to say if there were any other inspirations to further developing those rules, but for me it was rooted in the implications of the Resources rules.


Here’s a bit of forum archeology on the subject:


Rad! So that’s how my most borrowed mechanic came to being. Ya, I wanted to ask because it was that long ago, and I couldn’t recall if it was talked about (it turns out it was thank you @Gnosego).

I never saw the connection between resources and circles! It didn’t click that a purpose for both was bringing forth the unstated (history, material reality) into definition. This also answers the question of why Circles has limits from Character Burning. I guess, I may have drifted it to a “Reaction Roll” - I should try not doing that and seeing what changes in play.

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