Thinking about starting a Burning Wheel Campaign, question about Campaign Longevity


I have purchased several editions of the game, and have enjoyed reading the books, but have yet to find the time to run a game as of yet. Most of my campaigns are very long term, although we tend to rest a campaign for a while before going back to it. I am curious as to how well Burning Wheel holds up in the 100+ session multi-year in terms of character progression and advancement? Has anyone run or played in a long term campaign, are there any issues I might expect to have?


We’ve got a number of 10+ year campaigns under our belts. We’re currently playing in a campaign that has been running for 6 or 7 years that involves the lieutenants and students of characters from a previous campaign.

In one campaign, all of the characters have managed at least three epiphanies. Things start getting a little crazy when characters are throwing around W9 Faith or G10 Sorcery + G8 Will, but it takes a long time to get to that point (these characters started with 3 LPs).

Burning Wheel was designed for this sort of long-term play. We did make some changes in the original Adventure Burner and Burning Wheel Gold based on our experiences. The game has been stress-tested for that sort of play.

I’m in those 10+ year games with Thor, as well. BW had long-term campaigns at its core since its inception. It’s where the Advancement/BITS/Artha system really, really come into their full glory.

Short campaigns of 6-10 sessions are fun but they barely scratch at that baked-in evolution system. Epiphanies require many, many sessions and thus become so gratifying when they happen.

And as Thor mentioned, once characters are into the Greys and even Whites, it becomes very difficult to challenge them unless they are faced with equal antagonists. For instance, one characters stats are so high that he can learn most skills with only a single Beginner’s Luck test. He’s like frikkin’ Neo in the Matrix.

This is good to hear, as most games generally tend to break at longer campaign use. I have purchased both Gold and the Codex, and are absorbing them now. I also have all of the revised supplements. Any other tips I should watch for or consider when using Burning Wheel in a Long Term Campaign?

Before I get into tips for BW, may I ask what broke your prior campaigns?

Nothing per say broke, our previous games reached natural conclusions over years of play. I was making an observation on many games don’t typically support long term play based upon the advancement systems provided. I.e. if players advance at the rate suggested in the rules they will max out their focused abilities and attributes in 30 or fewer sessions. A good example of this would be Green Ronin’s Game of Thrones RPG. Using the advancement system provided you will be better than the core characters in about 12 sessions, and reach your highest levels of ability in about 25.

For the most part our long term campaigns used percentile systems, which are more granular, and a through use mechanic, although substantially different than Burning Wheel (succeed a test to get a check and fail the skill test during the advancement check). We have had very long campaigns with Harnmaster, and BRP. I was curious as BW uses dice pools on a 1-10 scale.

To be honest I have always felt Burning Wheel was kind of like a TV Show in that there are seasons of Play. I.e you have one storyline that will last about 8-12 sessions, you go through a trait vote and maybe get a deeds point because the big thing has been dealt with, and then as players you decide what you want to do next. Do you want to continue characters, do you want to do a “The Wire” and see a different side of things or do you want to make brand new characters.

One thing that dramatically reduces the chances of hitting any kind of cap on abilities is how difficult advancement becomes as you get good at things. To advance from B2 to B3 is not hard. To advance from B6 to B7 requires a lot of tests, and a lot of them are going to have to be much harder than most tests you routinely encounter. That means either seeking out that kind of difficulty or finding ways to handicap yourself (being injured can help you improve!)

But also, since you can’t spend experience points on min-maxing a character, you’re going to have characters advance steadily and organically at whatever they’re doing at the time. People pick up surprising broad and shallow skill sets as well as expertise in a few specialties.

Shifting the tone of the setting helps to keep campaigns humming far beyond most expectations. For example, we start out with 3LP characters focused on clearing small dungeons and, for the most part, fighting through conflicts. All the PCs have these martial skills and physical stats that advance pretty high until, finally, they’ve cleared the land of enemies and are hailed as heroes. As a reward from the King, they are granted titles and land.

Now those highly-skilled warriors now need to start at the beginning again with skills like Estate Management, Accounting, Rule of Law, and a host of Social skills they never really learned or advanced. Instead of fighting orcs, they now have to argue with their peasants.

The campaign’s tone changes from physical conflicts to social ones. And it will take many, many sessions to rise up to the top again and become as politically mighty as they were martially.

Thanks for the advice Kublai. As an FYI, my players bought out your supply of BWG at the Compleat Strategist. Do you know when they will be getting the Codex in stock? One of my friends missed out on the kickstarted, and ttys to support brick and mortar stores.