Suggested New Player Reading List

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
scene structure.

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!

Why not just read the basic mechanics stuff and then play Fires Over Omac? You’ll learn about how to run Firefights and Duel of Wits in play. You don’t need to pre-read World or Character Burning, so once you’re ready to start a new game, you can jump right into the first creation session.

Man, life’s too short for a whole session just to learn a game! I want to jump right in, start burning worlds, play a whole phase right off the bat! That scenario would be great if I were at a convention, but I want to play the actual game with my home group.

Life is too short to spend two sessions fumbling through a game then dropping it because no one really understands what’s going on.

I’m talking about playing the game. That way, when the time comes to make characters for the real thing, everyone knows what the numbers mean.

However, if your above statement is true – “I want jump right in” – Burning Empires might not be the game for you. It’s a vast and heavy locomotive. It takes time to get it up to speed, but when it’s running, it moves like lightning!


Patience, glasshoppah. This thing has a steep learning curve – I have yet to read about any group that’s actually achieved the mad dream of jumping in and actually playing on their first try (probably because it’s easier for us dummies who couldn’t figure it out to get online and whinge about it).


Well, I’ll let you guys know how it goes. We’re playing our first session Wednesday, and the players are excited to create the world and characters, not play an intro session. I think it’ll go fine.

Thanks for all your good answers, guys. I’m an old-time roleplayer, but this game is very different than anything I’ve played before. Heck, I think it’s really different from anything everybody’s played before! It should be a good time for all of us.

This is a quote from your message over here. As a friendly warning, you REALLY want to run Fires over Omac first. The reason is simple, this game is different from anything you’ve ever played before.

Take it from me, it’s really hard to understand how useful something like signals is until you try out a firefight, or Oratory until you try a Duel of Wits. Or how a Wise works, and why they are awesome.

Handing out a reading list to players doesn’t work. You need to mix learning styles. Visual or audio coupled with kinesthetic (learning by doing) styles are the best method for retention and understanding. I include all three styles with the computer classes I teach and get excellent results.

Consider Fires over Omac a really fun group study assignment. Everyone gets together, pools their knowledge, helps each other through their share, makes mistakes, compares notes and follows through to grok the concept behind the assignment.

This is a thousand times better to a person reading on their lonesome. You can get disconnects with interpreting the text, which leads to arguments in the game. You can have people who didn’t read all (or any) of the text, and that leading to problems. Some people read slower than others, some don’t like to read a lot of text at a time. Some just don’t have time to read, or don’t want to make time.

Again, this is just friendly advice, and you know your players better than anyone here. But trust me, run the demo. It’s all the above plus a huge pile of fun!

Or at the very least some arena-style conflicts so you can figure out the flow of Firefight and Duel of Wits. Trying out a game’s various systems before it counts is just good policy for any RPG.


We’ve played many role-playing games - MANY! I also play a ton of board games, some of them very complex. I don’t think we’ve ever sat down just to have a learning session before, in either a board game or a role playing game. We’re the kind of gamers that usually throw out the introductory scenarios and jump straight for “campaign mode,” and it’s always gone just fine.

To me, the actual SYSTEMS of the game are easy. The Duel of Wits, the Firefights, why Signals is useful as a skill, all of that is pretty simple to understand, I think. It’s the metagame structure and the uber-plot that’s really tough to figure out. I don’t know that playing an introductory scenario is really useful to learn how that stuff works.

I’ll toss the idea of an introductory session out to the players and see what they think, and let you guys know.

For the record, until Luke asked, “Why not just read the basic mechanics stuff and then play Fires Over Omac?” I had never even heard of Fires Over Omac. The instructions to download and play it first must have been missing from my copy of the rulebook. What happens to people who get the game and never visit the website?

They’re fucked!

But you did ask…

Okay, it looks like the group is in favor of doing the learning game after all. I’ll let you guys know how that goes instead. Wish me luck.

I didn’t play Fires Over Omac, nor did I know about it when I got the game. Our group is very much like yours: forget the sissy training game, let’s get into this thing!

First go-round didn’t end so well (see my first 300-plus posts). I’m not sure if playing the demo would have helped, because I’ve never even read it. What did help was watching how the various systems interlock in ways that simply are not apparent from reading. BE is the first game I’ve ever bought/played where I couldn’t eyeball how it would work just by reading it.

IMO Burning Empires may not be learnable without input from the online community. Maybe a kinder way of putting that is that you get the very most out of this game if you get input from more experienced players. I’m not sure if that’s a bug or feature in this day and age.

Good luck!


Heh, good point! :slight_smile: