To stand on the edge of the abyss again

Hello! I had noticed that we haven’t had a 'Welcome back!" post for Burning Empires yet.

Is anyone still playing? I have recently burned up a new world after a long break. I found myself playing a BW game where I wanted the scene economy and the phase structure to focus attention on what was effectively a blown-out Factions-control game.

Has anyone else been thinking about or playing with the Wheel and the Worm?


I’m definitely interested in digging into Burning Empires at some point. I’ve got a copy but haven’t done anything beyond reading through they player facing material. Not sure if I’ll like the GM-facing stuff. I tend to rebel against highly structured phases and such for GM side. I get why it is there for this game, though. I might be more interested in using the player facing stuff with the Burning Wheel GM side for general imperial sci-fi, but I haven’t checked how feasible that is.

I’ve been wanting to play a new Burning Empires campaign for awhile now. I’m hopeful I can talk my friends into but not sure. I usually GM so it’s the closest I get to playing but more than that, I just love the system. It’s the only system where every night I leave the table saying, “wow, that was amazing and I did not expect it to go that way.” And again, that’s me saying that as the GM. :thinking:


BE is such a specific game with specific structure and it needs a lot of buy-in from the players. I haven’t played BE since the playtest, just because I can’t get a group together willing to put in the time and effort.

BE is always the game we’re just on the verge of playing when we decide to play Torchbearer instead. One day!

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I’m also on the “would love to play but never do” train. The scene economy and Infection mechanics are really compelling, but I haven’t had a chance to get past World Burning and into the actual game.

We wrapped up a year ago but some friends and I did a full three phase infection over the course of twenty sessions and almost exactly a year.

Some brief commentary after spending a year running BE: the game is brutal to run. While the scene economy helps deal with some of the cognitive load, managing three fully fleshed out characters in addition to the normal duties of a GM sis exhausting. The between session time mostly involved thinking about the game in the shower, but at the table or definitely helped that I had: two hard copies of the rules, a pdf copy on my laptop to search, my laptop to take notes, and all my players had their own copy of the rules (as well as one of them bought a laptop for their own note taking purposes).

The scene economy and infection maneuvers wors and keeps the game on track. I’ve had friends look at the book, say how it looks awesome, but say that they’d want to play it more like a normal game. Before I spent a year running it I’d tell people that it probably wouldn’t work. After spending a year really fitting to know it I tell people that the game absolutely needs the scene economy to work. The game is designed to be a pressure cooker and the limited scenes and the disposition-fueled match towards doom are what make that work. Plus, there’s a lot of stuff that works when going at breakneck pace but would start to fall over without that pressure.

Some details and stuff. We ended with a savages beatdown by the Vaylen (I think I nailed them while only giving up a minor compromise). The game was exactly one calendar year of mostly biweekly play. We tried a few times to have two-maneuver sessions but couldn’t make it work - it was easier for us to have somewhat shorter sessions (three-ish hours of actual play) than going for two maneuvers in the day and having it turn into a deathmarch.

If you have any questions I’d be more than happy to answer them, either here or in the sub-forum. I love BE, it was the first game I ever enjoyed running (not this last go-around but a thing almost a decade ago that didn’t complete), and it was the game that showed me that you can make a better game by purpose-building it to do one specific thing.


Thanks Colin! Your insight is very much appreciated in terms of the investment required to run BE, which is something I’ve been considering for a while now.

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I second this, I think part of the reason it has taken me so long to get back to it is the ruin of 1-3 session attempts that lie between now and the last good long game of BE we had here.

EDIT: and we realised something recently - we should not feel ashamed for the difficulty we had in getting to two Man per session, because we didn’t play 5+ hour sessions! Some of the pressure is off now at least!

Totally. Our plan from session one was to do single-maneuver sessions until we were all comfortable with the game, and then to kick into two-maneuver sessions. And after a couple of exhausting three hour single maneuver sessions (plus an hour on the front for yammering and half an hour on the back for general bookkeeping) where we sort-of-kinda-maybe could have packed in another maneuver, we decided that short maneuver days were fine, long maneuver days were fine, but that we should stick to only trying to do one maneuver and to not feel bad about it.

Trithemius, one thing that I found was super key to making sure the game worked well was to set expectations up front. My three players were both long-time friends and the remains of a reasonably well-arced Apocalypse World game (which ended both fictionally and because one of the players was moving out of state) and I’d pitched BE to them as requiring probably one full year of bi-weekly sessions, that it was going to be a lot of ornery rules that I was going to be really obnoxious about making sure they were followed, and that win or lose we were in it to create a great story about the fall or salvation of our planet.


Friend of mine is trying to get a short game started up so he can get a feel for the systems again, and I’m curious to check it out!

Nice, do it. I suggest you do a full world burn anyway, and then do three or four maneuvers starting at the top of the Usurpation complete with secretly picked actions on each side.


Hi guys, I plan to start a BE story thus summer. I only have two players, which I trust about the complexity of ruleset.

Do you deem it feasible, two players and GM?
Or would you strongly advise to look for a third player?

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I think it is easiest to try for three, since there are no issues with number of helpers then (and it maximises potential converts… :))

However, if you plan to start at Usurpation you could have two FoNs on both sides and see how that works? Maybe this represents a particularly rough and bloody Infilitration?

@Trithemius, thank you for your advices, I didn’t think about the chance of starting at Usurpation!
If I don’t find a third player (but I hope I will), I’ll set up a shorter campaign as you suggested.

Starting artha for GM depend on how many lifepaths are chosen all together by players. How could I tweak that part?

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I don’t know if it needs changing, but you could reduce the values in the table by 33% if you thought it very important to do so? GM FoNs have a lot of advantages already.

(Honestly, I world probably adjust the table but I get a bit “precise” at times. Definitely give it a sniff test to make sure you are not overcorrecting though!)

I wouldn’t bother adjusting the artha amounts. The GM will start with an advantage but it will pretty rapidly sort itself out as everyone spends and earns artha.

I’ve been toying with doing a Phase Sprint as an Extra Life fundraiser, but even I recognize that as being a slightly mad idea. There’s been a lot of talk with some of my friends about doing a BE game, but schedules need to align properly for it to happen. Still, BE is kinda my gaming white-whale. I’ve started a few BE campaigns, but they always keep petering out, mostly because some of the players never grasped the need for focused scenes, and it just dragged play to a grinding halt. It’s still one of my favorites, though, because when people were on top of things, BE just sang.

I would absolutely love to play this. It looks exceptional. Granted, I have never played Wheel, so my mechanics would be weak, but it’s at the point where I would either play or GM.

Are there any internet games of it?

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Not that I know of.

If you haven’t run or played any BWHQ game you’ll be in for a rough ride. My suggestion is to have a few copies of the book (when I ran it we had two copies for myself plus one copy per player), take a lot of notes while you play, and not try to do two maneuvers a session. Also remember that while the rules are nominally complete and you shouldn’t hack the game that there is some degree of required rules interpretation since some stuff could be clearer. That said, it’s hard, exhausting, but very rewarding.

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