Woo hoo FINALLY get to play - Critique my world building and ideas

So after years of my group knocking back the suggestion and fizzled out games on the interweb I have them locked up for a whole weekend in November.

So using Luke’s wonderful questions I came up with this and wanted a little feedback.

1. What’s the Big Picture? What’s going on in this setting that makes it ripe for adventure? What’s changing, evolving, declining?
A. Driven from their homeland by dark forces the survivors of the last free kingdoms have sailed west to a new land to settle anew in safety. The New World however is not unoccupied and a shadow of the evil that drove them from their homes has travelled with them. The players are potential/actual movers and shakers as old leaders no longer command the authority or respect they used to.

2. What’s the world’s culture? What are the cultural analogs? Analogs can be taken from historical earth, current events or fantasy works.
A. The cultures are a mish mash of pseudo-historical Celtic and Norse with some fantasy elements. A Tolkien/Celtic play on the elves and a zombie fantasy savage take on cannibal orcs (Ghosts of Mars).

3. What’s the conflict in which the characters are involved? What are the sides? What’s wrong?
A. The group are trying to set up a new home in the face of locals who range from ambivalent to downright hostile, competing tribal/clan groups and a seditious force that destroyed their homeland as well as power plays in their own community.

4. What physical place does this conflict take place in? What ecology, environment, place?
A. The ‘Western Land’ is geographically similar to and stolen from Canada/North America.

5. What’s the name of the most important place in this setting? Not the capital or any dumb shit like that, but THE PLACE where all the action goes down?
A. Settlefirst. This coastal town/fort is the hub of the colonisation effort for the player’s tribe. It’s situated at a nexus point for the various groups.

6. What’s the name of a faraway place that folks talk about, dream about or mutter under their breath about?
A. (Choose later) the homeland they have fled, the place all their ancestors are laid to rest and the home of their gods.

7. Who are the antagonists? Who is opposing the goals of the characters?
A. The sìoladair, the dark force that sent them fleeing. The hungry ones (orcs) that already inhabit the western lands. The bright ones (elves) an ancient race full of secrets, despite their decline they are mighty and view humans with distant disinterest.

8. What type of magic exists in this world?
A. Sorcery, Natural Magic, Summoning.

9. If Sorcery is used, what’s its idiom? Does it require speech? Gestures?
A. Speech and gestures. Talisman.

10. If Sorcery is used, what spells are available? Which spells are inappropriate to the game world?

11. If is Faith used, what is the Faith idiom? What are the religions? Is Faith universal or does it only affect believers?
A. No. Religions are more in line with the Scandian culture suggested in fantasy.

12. What character stocks are in play in this world? Which are restricted and why?
A. Human, Elf, Orc. Orcs are restricted as they form a violent foil for the characters. Elves may be permitted but depends on group.

13. What cultural traits apply to the characters of this game world? Pick three character traits for each culture.
A. TBC. Need to do this!

14. What’s your Resources cycle? 1 month, seasonal, 6 months, annual? What’s the game world’s currency? Who collects the taxes? What do people do for work? What’s the major economy? What’s the black market economy?
A. Seasonal. Silver is still used as a base currency although most communities prefer to trade in commodities.

15. Material world: What weapons and armor are available? Are some weapons and armor restricted to certain cultures or character stocks? What property is available? Are resources and gear otherwise restricted?
A. In line with late iron age Britain / Scandinavia

So what am I doing wrong?

I don’t see anything wrong. It sounds like a great setting that could go in several interesting directions.

Awesome. I was worried I was outlining too much, I’ve run loads of games over the years but BW is its own beast :slight_smile:

Although as I read over it I realise I’m heavily plagiarising Birthright which is all kinds of funny :grin:

No you’ve left plenty of space for the players to drop their ideas in. The tricky bit will be deciding on a situation and tone for the game. You have thrown out three potential antagonists: The orcs, the elves and the dark force from home. Presumably one of them will be the imminent threat that spurs your PCs to action and the others background players for the nonce. Just make sure your players have some beliefs about them.

When you go into world-burning, bring at least one idea for an opening situation. You want buy-in from the players so their Beliefs are all set and focused on it. This situation shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but more like a starting gun for a race met with relished anticipation.

That said, what’s the situation you’d like?

Also, what’s the adventure? What’s it’s goal? Bring ideas for this to for the players to riff on. It’s even more important than the situation!

I’m not sure about the situation yet, the lads are die hard D&D players but obviously playing like that will lead to a short game.

I was going to suggest that due to growing discontent with the existing leaders they play characters who are on the precipice of being this generation of heroes and community authority figures

Well yes, but for doing what? Based on the setting that you have described there are any number of things the group could do to become heroes and authority figures. We are suggesting that you come armed with one you would like to see the players do as a jumping off point for discussion.

The goal for this arc of the story is to drive off the Orcs from the Western Forest and found SettleSecond, the farming colony.

The goal for this arc of the story is to root out the dark cult from back home that hides among our people and sabotages our works.

The goal for this arc of the story is to complete the Trial by Contest set down by the Elves and so prove to them we can be allies.

As I said, your setting could have the story go off in many directions so come with one or a few idea to try and focus them and see where you end up.

Ah thanks that really helps, thinking too big picture.

I was thinking about something similar to your Orc idea.

Essentially sent to hunt a band of Orc raiders who are burning farmsteads. The idea would be to lay a secondary plot to springboard into investigating the maps they find on the orcs.

Or, the first situation is that the elder leaders were poisoned and someone needs to both find the responsible party and step up to become the new rulers. That would be hot. To make it hotter, have orc raids start causing panic. That will really put on the pressure to find new leaders immediately to respond to the threat before the colony collapses.

Thrusting your PCs into a leadership position they are not ready for could lead to some fantastic sessions.

I could work with that thanks :grinning:

So could I start with the situation that the elders have been poisoned and orcs are raiding and get the players to build their beliefs around that?

That’s certainly one possibility, if all the players agree. But chances are, when you bring that idea to the burning session, the other players will chime in and modify it - at least to some degree. And that’s a good thing! That’s how you make everyone a stakeholder and get them excited. Then you make characters and beliefs around that core situation/conflict/goal.

Thanks that’s some good advice, I’ll share the setting and discuss the situation with them

Actually I would suggest not going for a whole investigation situation as your first one, it will mean a lot of I will find out this information beliefs which I don’t think is a big strength of the system. Also for newer players its a bit confusing those kind of beliefs as well. I speak from experience having done this in my last game and the first few sessions were a bit all over the place and muddled I feel. I would do something simple like players are in the farmlands when orcs attacks, what are your beliefs about that. A lot more dynamic and I think newer players could make some simple but strong beliefs out of that

So you think I’d be better off starting with a straightforward conflict?

It is true that Burning Wheel shines with just giving them the answer. Oh yeah, those guys poisoned the Elders. What are you going to do about it? Just be sure to frame the Belief to include the action part. “I will find out who poisoned the Elders and drag them to the town square for punishment!” That way, the investigation can be a die roll or two and then right into the action.

I think if you’re going to have a Belief about finding some information, the Belief needs to include how you’re going to get it. Just saying what you’ll do once you know can lead to a lot of confusion at the table trying to get to the action part. So, “Paul knows who killed the elders, I will squeeze him until he talks” works, where “I will find who killed the elders, and then I’ll be able to do a thing” can be frustrating unless everyone is real clear how to get the information.

Well I’ve got to November so I have no doubt I’ll be picking everyone brains between now and then :slight_smile:

So you think I’d be better off starting with a straightforward conflict?

Yes! This is what the burning wheel people suggest in the codex. Imagine a disaster or calamity that is about to happen, ask yourself what the bad guys want and ask your players what they want.

where “I will find who killed the elders, and then I’ll be able to do a thing” can be frustrating unless everyone is real clear how to get the information.

Yep this is what happened to me and I didn’t understand why it wasn’t working but now I do. Investigations are weird in BW you have to be a bit metagamey and have the players say who they think did it or not since thats a belief you can effectively challange.

So for example

Session 1 - Orc attack on the village of somewhere. Players beliefs focused on that situation, I place some exquisitely detailed and made maps of their tribes territory as a seed.
Session 2 - The elders are poisoned and it’s an inside job, the poison coincidentally is used in the same paints / ink that maps are drawn from ergo the mapmaker is involved.

Does that work?