two players + GM?


I have learned about Burning Empires sometime ago, mainly from podcasts. I love the idea of this game, yet I have never played Indy games. My experience is mainly with more classical games - such as “Savage Worlds” or recently “Trail of Cthulhu”. I would like to run this game very much but I need your opinion - I play with my friends over Skype. We are doing it pretty regularly - with about 3h sessions once per week. We play with two players and a GM. Do you think that the BE will work in such a setup? Do you have any advice on how to run it? Thanks in advance and congratulations on making such a great games.


I game mastered a great Burning Empires campaign with two players.

However, I would not recommend this game as your introduction to our games when playing over skype.

Maybe play Mouse Guard. If your players balk at playing mice, call it “Death Guard” or something instead and just recolor everything.


Are there any specific issues with Skype gaming in BE? We play this way quite a lot and we consider ourselves as rather experienced roleplayers. On the other hand, we did not play any Indie games.
I am in love with the setting and I do not care to much about fantasy, so I would rather GM Burning Empires than BW or Mouse Guard. I have heard that Firefights are crunchy - is that the issue? Anyway I love the book so I will buy it anyway and see how the game works with “Fire over Omac”. However, if you could point me to any potential issues with Skype - I would be thankful.


No specific issues, but BE is really the deep end of the pool. It’s a very formidable game. Very rewarding, but a lot of groups stall out on it. There are some skills you need to successfully play BW or Mouse Guard, like writing good beliefs and embracing failure for instance, and then there are even more skills you need for BE, like scene framing and pacing your maneuvers. Trying to learn it all at once is a steep climb, and Skype makes it just a bit steeper.

Actually, I think skype is the main problem. BE encourages you to really hurt other players. Skype puts a barrier between you and a lot of subtle cues that help smooth over the wrinkles of interpersonal interactions when trying to mind-rape one another.

Death Guard! Totally metal mice. Rodents of Rage.

Mind rape!? Good grief! I certainly would not like to do that. I hope that this reluctance does not disqualifies me as a Burning Empires GM. I play with my friends for something like ten years and we were never unjustly nasty toward characters. I think they will be ok with little bit of mishandling providing that the GM does not cheat.
On the other hand, I am quite intimidated by the idea that one can run a game using only a brief description of the game world and beliefs, relationships and what-not. Normally I am used to fairly detailed scenarios so the way BE game presents itself is both intimidating and fascinating.

Worms and Psychologists. The invasive powers of the later basically are that, very mind-controlish (( EDIT: and generally a Psychologist forcing their will on someone is viewed within Iron Empire society as similarly very taboo )). The former even more obviously so. These can very easily press emotional hot buttons of players (including the GM). Be ready for that. If you can’t bring yourself to push to attempt to hull a PC, starting in the first scene of the first session? Then BE probably isn’t for you.

I don’t think it’s just about the Worms and the Psychologists. After playing through Burning Empires I realized that BE is very much a game about taking away each others toys and breaking them.


You say that like it’s a bad thing…


Just a thing that is. :slight_smile:

P.S. The term “mind-rape” didn’t really strike me as talking about taking other people’s toys and breaking them. In my mind that’s more like Tuesday. But I suppose for some people it could feel that harsh. Maybe Luke was thinking of that, too.

BE is a brutal game. Trying to play it without being unjustly nasty (unless you consider “I want a thing you have” or “I want to win” to be just causes for nastiness) will be like trying to have a satisfying rugby match against your local kindergarten class.

Much like rugby, you know that the other team does not hate you or wish to offer violence to your family, but you expect them to rough you up there on the field.

How does that sound to you, Yarrio? From what you’ve said, it sounds like a stretch, but you know your group.

Well, to tell you the truth the more I hear from you about the game the more discouraged I am. The things that make me to play the game:

  1. The idea of cooperative world and scene building. We never played it and I thing it is very tempting.
  2. High level of power - I love the idea of political intrigues and powerplay.
  3. The setting - I love SF and this one seems like a dream setting to me.
    What I am hesitating about:
  4. zabieru said:

Trying to play it without being unjustly nasty (unless you consider “I want a thing you have” or “I want to win” to be just causes for nastiness) will be like trying to have a satisfying rugby match against your local kindergarten class.
It makes me to think twice. We play in such a way as to make sure that things are fair. GM does not try to destroy the players. We want interesting and challenging story. I see that using Beliefs and other tricks makes for a better story but I do not want to abuse my position nor create a bad feeling between me and my players. So no, I would not try to “hull” players in the first scene. If they are maimed or die it has to have a meaning and serve the story. I am too old to feel sense of achievement after causing a TPK.

  1. Wrapping my mind around drastically different paradigm of play - as I said is tempting but I do not know if we can pull it off after many years of a traditional RPG.
  2. Level of crunchiness - there is a lot to learn. I hope that it is worth it.

Anyway I consider BE as an important game. Even if I won’t be able to play it I certainly learn a lot of interesting stuff while reading the rules and this forum.

The BE rules are there to handle the ‘fair’. Play it like it was a wargame or a boardgame. You players are all gentlemen. Gentlemen that are bent on bringing about the defeat of your opponents player and destroy his imaginary stuff, but at the end of the day still gentlemen and friends. There is still joy and acheivement to be found in defeat.

If you as the GM managed a “TPK” that would be a hellva achievement. Because killing a PC/GMPC is hard. And yet even if you did, assuming the players burned 2nd in command characters, you can still lose the phase.

Imo there is some unnecessary chest thumping in this thread in how BE is characterized.

The rules support a level playing field and the spirit of competition but it’s more like sports than boardgame: good sportsmanship is vital. If you go into BE with a “push the rules to their limit and win at any cost” mindset it won’t be any fun. It is still an rpg.

We fight tooth and nail when we play but it is always between gentlemen.

I think a umpireless league softball game is a great analogy. You can be serious and competetive. But don’t be that guy that argues plays needlessly and embarasses his own teammates. However that is how I, and the people I play with approach boardgames, too. shrug Because boardgame rules often have some ambiguity in them, too.


You need to keep in mind that a BE GM is not “God” and does not have the same powers over the world that the GM of, say, D&D does. The GM’s powers are explicitly outlined in the book, as are the player’s powers. As the GM, you’re given certain powers & privileges, and told to hit the players where it hurts (if you can!). Same thing with the players. Like Dwight said, the rules are there to make sure it’s fair. You can’t handwave them or house-rule them. The game breaks down if you do.

I played a fairly long BE game with another player and a GM.

We were stepping in to play each other’s 2nd in commands, helping the GM flesh out NPCs.

The other player was largely operating in parallel to mine so we didn’t really go head to head. Our personal agendas made it hard for us to defeat the Vaylen.

Towards the end I did make a deal with a Vaylen to get my hands on the other player’s 2nd as part of my plan to create a master race of psychics (after failing to become a Galactic Buddha).

We had to work hard to keep the thing going but it was fun. It was like being a member of a flashy power trio: we didn’t have a lot of instruments so everybody had to be throwing in all the time to keep things interesting and two had to step up when one had to lay back a bit. It was like being in Rush. (I would have said The Police but there was none of that backstage fisticuffs).