Burning Wheel; what type of settings or stories is it good for?

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Hi!

I recently purchased Burning Wheel because I've been hearing so much about it. I'm about 2/3rd through my first reading. So far I'm loving it, it's very different to many games coming out lately and it's from a tabletop style of play that I'm not too familiar with. It's obvious that it is a game that enjoys a good story and is very character-driven. The book also is explicit about offering no setting and being somewhat medieval-fantastic.

At the point I'm at, I've got ideas popping up in my head. But I keep wondering if they're suited for Burning Wheel; and then I realized I don't know what settings or stories the game is good for! Dungeons & Dragons suggests in many ways what it's focused on, you want these high-fantasy settings with magic items, dungeons to explore, etc (even though it can do other things). Many other TTRPGs that I own come with setting or with a very specific experience in mind (Forbidden Lands, Symbaroum, Zweihander, etc).

I checked the bestiary but it's very short and only offers some classical fantasy foes: wizards, elves, orcs, wolves, bugbears. I don't feel the game is as combat focused as other games. I also get the feeling it might lend itself pretty well to games that are heavier on the social and political side?
 

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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
BW plays very well if you want that social-birinkmanship feel. For me, the biggest payoff was that BW made playing different fantasy races different mechanically: orcs are rewarded differently from humans and dwarves, and so a multiracial party has drives that pull them in interestingly different directions.

As I remember it, we used Universalis to create the world from scratch (everyone then had buy-in to the fantasy world, and we had also signalled to the ref what we were interested in having our characters do); we then made characters for that world (we chose our starting point, and built from there. That kept us going at a weekly game for maybe 8 months , IIRC.

The game requires a lot of patience to start -- the system is crunchy, and takes some getting used to. At the same time, it really rewards characters when the players take risks, and lean into the things that have said are true about the characters they play.

Characters develop therough trying things they can't do, rather than leaning into established skills. That will frustrate some players, but creates a completely different feel at the table. There's a lot to like, and once it gets going it is a lot of fun. If you are running it, my advice would be to let players adjust their beliefs etc. on the fly -- sometimes players choose things and realize that doesn't work so well; being liberal, certainly in the first few sessions, can reallyhelp payers drill down on what they want their characters to do.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
social-birinkmanship feel
Can you expand a bit on that?

Universalis
What is Universalis?

The game requires a lot of patience to start -- the system is crunchy, and takes some getting used to. At the same time, it really rewards characters when the players take risks, and lean into the things that have said are true about the characters they play.
It's been a joy to read through so far. You're right that I'm both a bit intimidated by the crunchiness, but more so because it's a different crunchiness than most TTRPGs; and excited because there's plenty of great ideas here. Most importantly, it feels different.

my advice would be to let players adjust their beliefs etc. on the fly -- sometimes players choose things and realize that doesn't work so well; being liberal, certainly in the first few sessions, can reallyhelp payers drill down on what they want their characters to do.
Thank you for the advice, I will definitely do that.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Can you expand a bit on that?
Sure -- our game I think we played as Ambassadors (or a team escorting an ambssador), and so it involved real politicking between nation states, at which we were thoroughly outclassed. It was not a combar-heavby game, but combat was always a possibility, but we came from a small country and needed to build relationships.

The drives for the individual characters threw that off completely (the dwarf looking for immediate material benefit, not so much as a RP choice but because it mechanically rewarded the player); etc.


What is Universalis?
Another world-building RPG. Here's a review.

It's been a joy to read through so far. You're right that I'm both a bit intimidated by the crunchiness, but more so because it's a different crunchiness than most TTRPGs; and excited because there's plenty of great ideas here. Most importantly, it feels different.

As I recall, there's a higher-crunch and a lower-crunch combat option. I think we went with the lower-crunch every time. But it could be adjusted on the fly.

I hope it works out!
 

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