Slightly schizophrenic

I’ve been wondering about this since I started reading the forums.

Does anyone else see the contradiction in saying, practically in the same breath, that new players should only play with the hub and spokes until it’s mostly mastered, but that they should also run The Sword first?


¿And were is the “slightly schizophrenic” thing?

It can be run with just BV and simple rolls. I’ve seen several people say to run the scenario multiple times so folks really get the gist of things. I imagine they are adding the complex systems on subsequent sessions.

Ah. Okay.

I always understood The Sword to be a scenario that shows off the DoW and Fight rules (along with plenty of Vs tests). I’ve never really thought about running it with just Vs tests.

Well, I imagine he’s referring to the combat subsystem, which is in the Rim. It’s true that to even deal damage, you need to have read the Weapon (and perhaps Armor) chapter, and to know what a wound does, you need to have read the Injury chapter. So even if you were to just use Bloody Versus, you still need to have a bit of the Rim under your belt.

Of course, you could run the Sword with no combat at all, or just improvise some quick rules for handling fights, if you want.

Just use regular versus tests.

"Whenever there is a contest between two characters, make a versus test.
This is the method of solving disputes in Burning Wheel: We roll for it.
Two players want their characters to grab something? We roll to see
who gets it. One player wants his character to hurt another? We make a
versus test—attack vs defense. Attacker gets more successes, he injures
his target. Defender gets more successes, and he protects himself. Now
what’s he going to do? Want to remain hidden in a crowd? Roll. I’m
going to roll to spot you. Want to win an argument? We roll after we’ve
each stated our case." - BWG p. 73

That’s true, but if you aren’t familiar with the system, you wouldn’t know how big an injury you should apply - not to mention what an injury did in the first place. Once you know how injuries work in BW, I do agree that it’s quite simple to make a versus test to resolve combat.

This thread now reminds me of the Judge Dread card game rules, where the quickstart rules refer to the full rules to explain some things, and the full rules refer you to the quickstart ones to explain it. After a few months we gave up trying to learn that.

BW is easier. It’s a bit like playing the orignial Conspiracy X rules, you start playing and then after a little while you fully grok stuff.

The basics of injury are on the character sheets. It’s also its own chapter that you can reference as needed. In the context of The Sword, it’s not that important. Especially as a vs. test will probably have an intent of “I take the sword away from Robard by force” or similar. The injury would only come up if it was part of the intent.

Here’s the quicksheet I print out to introduce new people to Burning Wheel:

It’s an easy front-and-back thing that I can run through, explain the rules, and leave it in front of people to reference.

Of course, last weekend I managed to run Burning Wheel even more sparsely in an hour:

The nice thing about the Sword is that it allows things to scale up or down “the crunch ladder” as you need. As a con demo, it works well because most gamers want to see a taste of the full system, and doing 1 DoW and 1 Fight! usually highlights a good chunk.

That said, it’s not necessarily the same thing as learning the full system, which, I think works best in stages.

What most people need to learn, in order, is:

  1. This game is about chasing or breaking your Beliefs.
  2. Declare Intent, & Roll the Dice. Rolling Dice makes a binding result.
  3. Don’t gamble big if you’re not willing to lose big. If you can’t afford to lose? Be creative, stack the odds in your favor, FORK skills, call in help, make Linked Tests, etc.

You can find a lot of threads on, for example, where people miss these things, and either go, “I don’t see what makes this game different than any other game” or “I can’t get enough dice! Everything is too hard!” because they were busy drooling over the crunch of Fight! and missed the core ideas.


No fundamental contradiction. The sword is a great scenario for practicing DoW and Fight because you’re free to make lousy scripts for your disposable characters and learn from their embarrassing failures. Playing with just the hub and spokes in your game with characters you care about also makes sense.

Well…you don’t even need to know the basics of Injury rules if you’re using vs tests to resolve combat. The point of a combat vs test is almost certainly not going to be “inflict X wound”. And you should probably use a bloody versus test in any case, if wounding is gonna be part of the outcome.

Combat = damaging each other is not a good use of the BW engine.

Not only is running a hub-only game adequate for The Sword, it’s IMO adequate to run a whole campaign. I personally prefer the mixed outcome of a scripted conflict for big-deal clashes, but really like 99% of my actual at-the-table time is hub.


Thanks everyone for thoughts and advice.

I’d just always been thinking of The Sword as a way to show off (or explain) Fight and Duel of Wits. That appears to be a flawed assumption, so my initial confusion is invalid at this point.

Thanks for the help.

This, with emphasis. The Sword is a great introduction to Burning Wheel as a system. What it runs on, the basics, and yes, those cool spokes.

Once your group is sold, they grasp the basic mechanics and how characters work, and you’re ready to start playing, take those spokes back out for a while until everyone’s really solid on the hub. It’s great to know that BW does a masterful job of making both a sword fight on a rooftop and a shouting match over a dead body equally exciting, but you also don’t want to drop that on players when it matters until they’re ready.