Hello all! I’ve been playing Burning Wheel haltingly for about a year and a half now, and I’ve slowly built up issues that my players have with the system. It’s a very short list (overall, we’re in love with the mechanics), but I’d like some advice on how to deal with one particular problem: circles.
As a GM (I’ve yet to be a player for more than one or two sessions), I love the idea of circles. I like that it gives PCs the option to create NPCs of their choosing, essentially giving them more control over where they get their information/resources/manpower/etc and it empowers them to affect the larger world. My players don’t see it the same way, though.
The prevailing notion for them seems to be that circles is not only a waste of time, but a dangerous waste of time. They are far more comfortable either a) trying to solve problems on their own without any help; or b) waiting for me to introduce NPCs rather than creating their own. In addition, they hate the fact that trying to find a little bit of help from an NPC could result in creating an enemy (due to the enmity clause) that they just would rather not have.
I admit that part of this is my fault: the first time anyone rolled circles was back when I consider myself to have been an inexperienced GM, and I in essence forced a character to roll a circles he didn’t need to, which he promptly failed and received a nice little wound for his trouble. Terrible, TERRIBLE GMing. This happened months ago, but I think it has had a profoundly scarring effect on the players themselves.
It really comes down to expected gains vs. potential losses. The PCs can either try it themselves, or try to get some help. If they try themselves, they either fail or succeed, and if they fail the story still goes somewhere fun. If they try to get help, they have a slightly higher chance of success, but if they roll poorly on circles then they’ve landed a new enemy, or at least have new problems that have to be overcome before they can get back to the “good stuff”. They don’t see this as a profitable enterprise.
I think a lot of it can be traced to the Obs that circles tends to have. The characters start out with low circles. In order to get even remotely helpful NPCs, they face high obstacles, where low obstacles land only mediocre NPCs. Meanwhile, they see spending artha on circles as spending money on the middleman – why don’t they just save it for the difficult test they’re trying to overcome?
That was a long message (sorry!). The real question is: how can I get my players more invested in circles? Just telling them to use it more isn’t going to work, for the above-stated reasons. Is there a way I can encourage circles-use through play? Is there a way to make it more rewarding, at least for newer characters?
Thanks in advance!