A couple of my players have the book, and asked if they really needed to read all 650 pages before the first session. I told them no (I haven’t even read the whole thing yet - I’m almost finished, though - just finished Firefights last night!) and I tried to put together a list of “suggested reading.” If you experienced players wouldn’t mind, take a look and tell me if I’ve left out anything too important.
Keep in mind that the idea here is just the essentials that will introduce a player to the setting, give them an idea of how the rules work, and prepare them for the burning session.
Here’s the list I sent to my players:
Start off by reading the introduction - pages 5-22. This describes
everything in a broad overview.
Then learn about the setting. Read pages 24-31, 177-178, 202, and
216. Then read The Coroner’s Story on pages 130-131, and The
Physician’s Story on pages 175-176.
I don’t know if it’s better to learn about the rules first, or learn
about the scene structure first. The trouble is that they’re both so
dependent on the other. But I’ll talk about rules first, then the
The first few pages of the World Burner - pages 24-31. This is
important to read so that you have some idea of what’s going on before
we actually sit down to make up the world.
Read pp 65-70 and learn about Figures of Note and the description of
the Infection. Your characters will all be Figures of Note, so it’s
important to know what they are, and how they fit into the world.
Then you can start looking over character creation on pages 88-123.
You could read that entire section if you want to. But you don’t
really need to. I would definitely like it if you read the following
Basics - 88-90
Beliefs - 94-99
Circles and Instincts - 114-120
Then read 324-332 to learn how these really work.
The reason to read about Beliefs especially is that they’ll be what I
use to motivate your characters, and how you’ll know what to do in the
first session of play. I think they’ll work better if you take some
time to think about them before you write them down. Making a good
Belief is going to be tough and take a lot of thought.
The rules - 287-316. Okay, so this is a big chunk. This pretty much
describes how everything works together once you’ve created your
character and are playing the game. You’ll read about the basics of
scenes and what you’ll be doing in the game, then read about how to
make ability and skill checks (beyond the simple dice mechanic).
You’ll learn about ways to help each other and how to use one skill to
help another skill (it’s called a Fork). But in 30 pages you’ll get
pretty much all the rules. The big exception to this is the Conflict
component - there are two whole rules systems for dealing with
Conflict Scenes, which are long and drawn out. Those are Firefights
and Duels of Wits. Don’t read about them yet, but realize that
they’re important later.
After all that, you can read about the metagame. Why play in scenes?
What is a maneuver? How do you win a phase? How will we decide if
you save the world or not?
The Infection. This describes the metagame. There’s a metagame so
that the story has a built-in timer, as well as three acts. This is a
really neat section and honestly the hardest thing to wrap your head
around. Pages 400-415 - especially the example on pages 411-413 -
it’s in italics. Descriptions of individual maneuvers follow page
Scenes in Play - 428-440
Playing the Game - 610-625
And then you’re done!