Relationship Votes

Hey all,

In longer-running games, how do you handle Relationships gained or lost by regular, non-dramatic moments?

I’m well aware of the optional rule where you Circle a person often enough to gain a Relationship. And I’ve seen successful DoW stakes that have included the gain or loss of a Relationship. But it seems to me with longer games, there’s a tendency for the Relationships section on the character sheet to become a bit crusted over and ignored despite an increasingly vibrant web of connections. But keeping all parts of a character sheet active seems better. And sometimes…Relationships just seem to happen or disappear over time through play without there ever being a defining moment (let’s assume there is already plenty of drama, so pushing for drama in finding these characters via Circles may not be the sweet spot of the story right now).

In a past Campaign I ran, the logical thing to me seemed to be assessing Relationships around Trait vote time and granting one or more based on how play had been going, and possibly removing one or more that no longer made sense.

I’m thinking about this now, because my Swordlord frequently interacts positively and closely with a couple of NPCs (a squire, and a fiance), and has been for months of game time, but they aren’t capital-R Relationships, whereas she still has a Relationship with a Rival who’s been back-burnered for sometime just because she started with it on her sheet during character burning. The Rival has come back into play at the edges, but it no longer seems appropriate to be able to summon him back into a scene - my Swordlord has no idea what he’s been up to, what his plans are, or where he lives. Wouldn’t a Relationship vote make sense here?

How do you handle it? There isn’t much in the book about them after Burning, but Relationships are mechanically powerful, so it makes sense to pay them some mind.

We do reputation votes, but not votes for relationships. Though the GM can award a character as a relationship. We generally accrete relationships by circling them enough times.

I’ve straight up awarded relationships with NPCs to players, because playing that NPC was so much fun, and I wanted to keep them in the game. (I only do this if the player is also demonstrably having fun interacting with the NPC). I generally do this around trait vote time.

It’s been a while since this happened, but I remember having relationship status with a character bestowed as part of the outcome of a Duel of Wits, which isn’t always ultimately a benefit for the player.

It’s an interesting gray area. I like the idea of a Relationship vote, similar to a Trait vote, to take care of significant but less directly sought relations, but I could see problems with that too, because it would be allowing players to make a statement about NPCs that make not actually be true. The GM might be working on something below the surface that hasn’t arisen yet, and a vote could step on that a bit. But going back to Circling multiple times doesn’t make sense for every case. The GM could certainly award a Relationship outright, but there’s also an interesting precedent with Steel tests where (p.364) “GMs can award tests for advancement based on conditions that arose in play…No rolls are made in this case.” So that might be another way to handle it.

(I’m not significantly worried about this, btw, but it’s interesting to think through!)

In any game (not just Burning Wheel) I have always attempted to play out npc’s as true to character as possible. The decisions they make and actions they take must make sense to (for) them.
In Burning Wheel any relationship that has been purchased in burning remains in play, even if they haven’t made an appearance lately, they’ve been working on their own goals, unhindered by the player characters annoying presence or interference.
Circles give us a great way to bring new characters to the story, but they still must be subjected to the effects of role-playing.
To that end, if the npc has become an intrical part of the story, they could be voted on or awarded as a named contact, or even as a relationship in extreme cases.