Taking the first 74 pages for a spin

I don’t recall there being anything in particular about world burning in BWG. That’s a Burning Empires thing, isn’t it?

I thought this was a cornerstone of the Burning Wheel experience. That is disappointing.

I grabbed the files from the store and BW Wiki and used a file compare tool. The adventure and character sheets are identical. Does this mean the wiki has the gold compatible version or that the store is stocking the BWR version?

The only thing that changed were the characters (very slightly, for the new combat stats) and those are in the BWG sample pack.

There is no mechanical world building system for BW, but we usually call a setting brainstorming session “world burning” - the idea is to get all the players invested and get some general ideas for the setting. That is discussed in the Adventure Burner.

Most NPCs aren’t even stats. They’re Obs, because your characters want something. To sneak past them. To seduce them. To negotiate with them. To convince them. Only major NPCs really need stats.

In my current campaign there’s a corrupt guard captain who’s become a common nuisance. He shows up very frequently on failed rolls, especially Circles rolls. The players have dealt with him repeatedly. One has a relationship with him (that’s how he first showed up), another now has a Belief about him. They’ve even Circled him up on purpose once or twice; he’s a pain in the ass, but he has his uses. Here’s my secret: the guard has no stats. None. He’s entirely a narrative device. I’ve given him skills on the fly (I know he had stats for a Duel of WIts a while back, and he’s used Axe once or twice) but he is not a stat block. I’ve probably been inconsistent and it doesn’t matter. He’s there as a foil and sometimes resource for the PCs, and he works perfectly.

World burning is one of the secrets of BW. If you don’t develop a world with your players and get their buy-in and enthusiasm, and get the world tied to the characters’ Beliefs, things are going to go wrong right out of the gate. You can fix it, but it works much better if you know what the campaign is about and what the world is like (feel and flavor, not details) going in.

“We’re playing in this world, with these kingdoms,” is not helpful. Political geography says nothing. “Middle Earth” or “Midnight” is just a world, not a plot. “We’re playing a game about refugees fleeing just ahead of an Orcish horde” is much better. You can make a world, but you already are on the same page: you’re playing a game about flight and desperate survival. Now maybe a player says he’s interested in trying to seek political asylum. That’s interesting, and it’s very different from a game of trying to resettle in a frontier. You hash this out up front so you go in expecting play the same game—and so the characters are designed for the game you have in mind.

This is such an important idea that I’ve stolen it for other campaigns too. Doesn’t matter if I’m playing Shadowrun, I do the same thing. Are we playing a game about hardscrabble lowlifes trying to hold onto their corner of turf or movers and shakers toppling governments? Where, what, why? These are important to establish so everyone’s in the same game space.

[Edit: Typos!]

I forget that this is where to get the Gold version of “The Sword.” Thanks!

Use the questions found in this post. They were refined and codified in the Adventure Burner, but will server you fine as they are. I would recommend, however, that you all answer them only with a loose idea of character in mind, and burn up the character fully after using them to establish setting and situation.

Huh, nuts. The store seems to have an old version of The Sword up right now. I’ll get that fixed in a few hours.

EDIT: And fixed. Existing downloads will point to the wrong file, but it’s free so you’ll have to go through the small hassle of re-buying a free thing.

I found this especially helpful. Seeing the questions is one thing but seeing somebody’s answers really helps my understanding of how to use them.

Thank You!

The 13 Questions are so powerful, I’ve actually been in two games that changed GMs and were able to weather the transition with very little loss of continuity as a result. Not recommended practice, to be sure, but it’s just an example of how great they are for really helping the players buy in to the game’s premise.

Also, great post by Wayfarer, above. Personally I’d recommend trying to keep NPC stats consistent across encounters, but it’s definitely important to let even important ones grow organically. (The exception is Relationships, who should be full-burned.)


Most Relationships still don’t need a full burn. It all depends on the role. Some are there to be obstacles, like all those hateful and forbidden relationships. Some are there to be MacGuffins, like the endlessly kidnapped naive younger brother in my last campaign. Some are resources. Some are just color. Unless your relationship is with your traveling companion or someone else you’ll interact with extensively, constantly, and in all kinds of situations, you don’t need all those stats.

Nope. Relationships—as in, characters you buy at chargen with resource points—should all receive a full burn.


They need BITs. Or rather, they definitely need beliefs, they likely need instincts, and you should give them some traits so they’re not bland. But why the full burn? What purpose does it serve and what is the benefit for the work? I note that BWG itself says that Bodyguards, Squires, and Apprentices “must be burned up as full player characters” with the implication that others might not need to be.

If you paid RPs for them the likelihood of them getting used repeatedly is high. Fleshing them out with a full burn from the start is just taking care of the inevitable, so it does not have to happen during play.

I’ve used many characters repeatedly without stats. It certainly can’t hurt to burn them, but I don’t, and I don’t think I’ve ever been burned by that.


No need to apologize but I am genuinely confused what the issue you see with burning the NPC?

I am also confused what you mean by “characters without stats"? Those stats do get filled in over time with repeated appearances in play, right? So it is not so much characters without stats as it is characters temporarily without full stats, sometimes with exceedingly large temporal values of ’temporary’. :smiley:

P.S. I am of the mind “player wanted the character to exist, the player paid the RPs, it is the player’s responsibility to flesh out the NPC some”. That also makes filling out the character on the fly somewhat more awkward.

He explicitly said upthread that he doesn’t track NPC stats all that closely, which means that they fluctuate over time even for individual characters.

Don’t get me wrong, I obviously agree with you, Dwight, and not Wayfarer on this. But I’m explaining what I understand to be his POV.



Thanks, that does clear up a lot. I missed that post from him.

EDIT: Wayfarer: Not sure exactly how you run DoWs, since at that point the NPCs are most certainly not just Ob. Further, as those purchased Relationship NPCs represent a resource of people that can [be convinced to] do things for my PC. While exact Skill exponents may or may not be particularly key to that, having at least a list of Skills known to work from sure is helpful. I will say that I would be quite disappointed as a player at your table. I am obviously not one but maybe that is something to consider?

NPCs often have stats. If they’re NPCs that show up in a DoW or Fight they’ll have a fair number of stats. If I anticipate that they’ll be in those circumstances I’ll burn them up in advance, but most NPCs don’t ever end up involved in those conflicts, and I can usually predict which ones never will be. I’ll burn up the ones that need it and not put in the effort for those that don’t.

Those extra NPCs do end up with stats, but not firm and fixed stats. They are resources, but what they can accomplish is more often rolled into the intent of Circles or a social skill. If the intent is successful, so is the NPC. What they can do is defined by what they are, or what comes up in play and Wises. The guard captain can deal with guards and investigation, but not botany. The thief can steal and appraise and maybe has a penchant for fine wines or background as a hayseed in his youth, as is relevant, but I run by descriptors and not skills per se. They don’t have much call to go rolling. In fact, outside of conflicts I don’t roll at all as the GM. Success or failure lies in the hands of the player. I already know I’m in disagreement with just about everyone else on that point as well.

Yeah, that’s absolutely nuts. Saying Yes to your NPCs when they’re acting off camera, killing other NPCs, or whatever is fine. But PCs should be rolling against them in simple contests reasonably frequently.

This could also be related to your Fate-glut problem, incidentally.

  1. You ‘know’ incorrectly. I already said as much in my post. Although setting an Intent as gaining an attempt by an NPC rather than doing is OK, the more direct Intent of the NPC accomplishing has a lot of benefit in game experience.
  2. One thing is NOT the other. Failing to burn the NPC that was paid (EDIT:for in RPs) leads to not only a lack of context for use of the Social skills (no Circles need apply), it lacks the context for initiating and then executing the DoW itself. Or you end up doing a lot less DoW with NPCs and #1 can start creeping in.

I have to apologize!

I lied about not rolling. Or overstated my position. NPCs do roll versus tests, but only when directly opposing PCs. Stealth vs. Observation is a big one. Social tests, but only if the target is not the PC. Haggling vs. Haggling happens because the “target” is a price, really. I’ve gotten Oratory vs. Oratory for trying to make the better public speech. I had this argument in another topic a while back, and it was all about social rolls, although I admit it’s not clear from context. PCs can’t be the target of Persuade, or Ugly Truth, or any other motivator in a standard or versus test. Then I got overzealous.

But most shopkeepers have Haggling and that’s all. The duke’s guards existed solely as Observation 4 , Spear 5, and gear. I’m comfortable making up and writing down these numbers. I’m also comfortable changing them. NPCs also get better, or have advantage, or whatever. I don’t move numbers arbitrarily, but they do change.

Chalk this one up to me running my mouth before my head caught up.

I don’t understand your second point. If the NPC is in a DoW it requires a full burn or some ad hoc stats, and the former is better than the latter. I agree there. But most NPCs, even those that are relationships, rarely get into DoW with my PCs. There are some who do, and some who are repeat DoW performers. Those guys get burned. But the others don’t. Yes, it’s lazy—there’s really no other word for it. But I handle reams of character sheets poorly, so I reduce the number of burnings I have to do and keep track of, and it works out. The corrupt guard captain has appeared probably the most, and he has no character sheet. The Etharch had no character sheet until just before his death. I have two siblings, a brother with no stats and a sister who required full burning because she has been a constant opposing DoW force.

I’m not claiming my way is gospel truth, or better, or anything like that, but it seems to work just fine. If my players called for more DoW against everyone they argued with, maybe I’d need more burning, but most disputes are resolved without the granularity of DoW unless the argument itself is significant enough (or intra-party) to require it. Versus tests are great and they don’t require all that many stats.