Starting With BW, Jumping In Headfirst Or Cautious Approach?

My intent is to run a two year campaign with BWG. Looking through these forums I see how different aspects of the system, like artha and lifepaths, can greatly affect the feel, progression, and power level of a setting. Given that I am new to the system and have little experience with other systems, would I be better off not jumping into this campaign right from the start? Should I instead take three to six months playing with the system to get a feel for how tweaking various mechanics can affect gameplay, power levels, and general progression of characters and their expanding capabilities?

I guess I fear starting with what will be a very important long term campaign and finding three to six months into it that I misjudged one or multiple aspects of the system from the start. I’d hate to have to scrap a game or impose new restrictions or rules on a player just to make up for my original lack of foresight. If you do recommend I go ahead and get properly acquainted with the system first, what is an ideal way to go about doing that? What parts of the system should I be paying special attention to? What kinds of things should I be trying to understand and learn during this time?

I’d have no problem running adventure modules or just running a generally chaotic romp through broad brush stroke story (like using just the hex descriptions from the Wilderlands of High Fantasy as the players traverse it in search of adventure). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your patience :wink:

Did you try out The Sword yet using the Hub rules?

If so, I’d just create characters, setting and situation and see how things go week to week. See what kind of beliefs the character has coming out of chargen and how grabby the situation is that you develop at the table and let that be your guide as to how long this particular story arc goes. We’ve all misjudged aspects of the system. It’s not a big deal and usually easily fixed or retconned away if everyone is liking the stuff that’s happening.

I tend to agree, run The Sword and other scenarios first just to get a basic feel for the system. Run them through twice, once, just the basic hub rules, then adding more in later iterations. I had a few false starts, but in the end, got wrapped up in amazing campaign play once we understood the game properly and settled into characters and arcs we liked.

Tweaking? Don’t. Not until you’ve played for a while. BW is mechanically complicated mostly because all the parts interlock and have emergent properties that are hard to pick up from reading. You can make the game fail to work from little, innocuous modifications. Play it straight for a dozen sessions at least before you think about altering it.

Number of starting lifepaths can affect power levels, but only at the beginning, and it’s fairly obvious. Two lifepaths gives you absolute novices, nearly incompetent at everything. If you want to play peasants thrust into a larger world, this works, but I’d still recommend at least three for new players. Three lifepaths is callow, new players. Four lifepaths is standard. Five or more and you start getting powerful (and old). Dwarves are probably slightly stronger, and Elves much stronger, than Men for a given number of lifepaths, going just by numbers. Orcs have their own limitations.

All these words are just saying that I’d recommend starting with four lifepaths for your first campaign.

Artha is not a power factor. It affects how often players can make their characters succeed, but I wouldn’t mess with it. Gritty street game or grand, sweeping epic of larger than life heroes, I’d award the same artha. The artha economy isn’t just a GM reward, it’s the lifeblood of the game. It has to be running, which means you have to avoid being too stingy (or too generous, although I think this tends to work out a bit better).

The major factor changing the power level is the GM’s two major tools: Saying Yes and declaring Obs and failure consequences. In a high-power game, killing two Orcs might be an Ob 2 Sword test, and the consequence of failure is that one gets away to do whatever it is you don’t want him to do. In a low-power, gritty game, driving off a single bravo in the alley might be Ob 3, and failure risks serious wounds and being scorned as a pushover by all and sundry. Very high power might just be Saying Yes. “Sure, you can slaughter those half dozen Orcs. No problem for a strapping barbarian like you.” Similarly, for survival, traveling across the mountains might just be something you Say Yes to in a campaign where travel’s not a big issue, or it could be a series of difficult tests to survive in the wilderness. You choose how likely your players are to succeed and how badly failing hurts.

If you can’t try running a demo like The Sword, and it’s rough with one player, maybe try a mini-campaign. Play events immediately before the campaign you have in mind, or just some one-shots to get a feel for things. Or not. I think BW is okay if you flounder a bit in the beginning. You can retool Beliefs and Instincts on the fly, advancement is hard to completely wreck, and things work out. But it’s best to work out areas you really just don’t understand in advance.