Resources in Isolation, Or: How to Buy Stuff without Owning a House

Hi there! First time poster, longtime lurker. I’m seeking advice regarding the Resource exponent and specifically, it’s calculation.

I need to describe my Situation first, as it ties directly to the advice I’m seeking. I’m a big fan of all the highly specific craft skills in Burning Wheel, and wanted to play a game where they were the focus. Things like carpentry, masonry, that sort of thing. I also love how BW allows you to hugely impact your setting and make player driven changes.

My players and I talked it over, and we settled on a concept: a group of villagers, 4-5 LP’s, are part of 115 settlers who are founding a village on the edge of a massive, unsettled continent, weeks sailing away from most civilization. As part of this, I figured a fun and interesting first couple challenges would be the actual construction of their village, and so I proposed that property, mostly housing, was unavailable to purchase (as the codex suggested).

The problem is no one has any Resources now.

I understand the reasoning behind this; there’s a base assumption within BW that some kind of commerce can happen in the game world. What I find frustrating is that this is tied to house and home. These settlers fictionally have brought equipment beyond the clothes on their backs with them (which players have represented in part with toolkits), but have no way of accessing it easily (As Resources is the primary way of obtaining gear and equipment).

The main reason I’d like to make this work somehow is the Lifestyle cycle; I think it’s an excellent way to represent the turbulence of settling a new land. A harvest might go bad, or the river might not have as much gold as you hoped. So, what do you think I should do? How might I handle this. I’ve tinkered with a few ideas (Switching Property with Gear in the Resource Exponent calculation, for example; Allowing successes on tests to contribute to Lifestyle tests independent of Resources) but it’s my hope as the campaign progresses the scale of the village’s influence does too, and that at some point the Expontent might be useful to have around.

What do you guys think?


My first thought is to consider fiction - what actually happened during the colonization/relocation process, in the background, before session 1 will happen? Assuming that people did own their former houses (or at least some possessions), they propably sold them for not just personal and travelling equipment with food supply, but also with building supplies (or at least - some animals, plenty of tools, etc.). It means, that they somehow “liquidated” all of their hypothethic former “Resources B-numberX”.

Turn it toward the game. They will build new houses sooner or later, found pastures or farms, or even estabilish something more. In my opinion it’s a perfect opportunity to consider “Title” rule (Resources chapter, p. 374 in BWG) - when they finally accomplish that, they Resources could just go up from B0 to B1 at least (or B2 in luckiest instances).

They literally rebuild their Resources’ foundations in new place!

EDIT: It doesn’t directly answer your main question, but I think it’s a hint about how “commerce” can quickly get back when settlers are settled.

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I think applying a Lifestyle cycle night be jumping the gun, a bit. I’ve always seen that as representing a working economy, but you don’t have one, yet. This is a fresh colony, a new endeavor. Make them fight for that first Resources exponent, let them determine what this new economy might look like. I’d also have no problem letting the players leverage their tool kits for an advantage die, or making them take a job to get a Cash die to use in bartering or something.

Those are my thoughts, but at the end of the day, do what’s fun.

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Do the characters have no Reputations or Affiliations with the settler group or groups back home?

If not, and these are all vagrants who don’t know each other, then having B0 Resources makes sense: they’ll have to build their property and network of debts and favours from the literal ground up. In the meantime, they’ll have to work hard to use their skills to create what they need, and Circle up others who have complementary needs they can each satisfy (Disposition). Generate goods and services with skills, represented with scant 1D cash, and make that barter.

There might be some cold winters, or eating turnips for months because the deal to buy those three goats fell through and Let it Ride.

Set the resource cycle at a year and see what happens.


Yeah, as the players build up, they should be working towards building property and resource generators like farms that could be used like Funds or grant bonuses (and lifestyle increases) like Titles. (Both on BWG/R 374, like @Mansfeld mentioned.)

Alternatively, you could look at Cash Dice (same page). If the players wanted to bring the concept of currency from wherever they came from, they can buy cash dice at burning, and use those to start off. You could also treat specific barter goods they’ve worked for as cash dice. If they need something to trade for lumber and go out making hunting tests for meat and hides, their spoils could be cash dice for that trade.


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