Grading the Burning Wheel System

How do you feel about the Burning Wheel System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 18 22.2%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 12 14.8%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 6 7.4%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 11 13.6%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 3 3.7%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 29 35.8%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 2 2.5%

Celebrim

Legend
A player can buy into a premise (even a niche one) but have lots of choice that truly guides the game. Just like how Masks has a very tight focus on teen drama superheroes.

Players making decisions is pretty core to Torchbearer - whether it be how they proceed in dangerous environments, conflict planning, what supplies they bring, how you recover and coming up with clever solutions because relying just on the mechanics will probably lead to suffering like many OSR games. But I think Torchbearer still keeping BW's Belief has the player choose a bit more how the game plays out than many OSR games.

I still don't understand what you mean by that, but how I define player agency it is the capacity to shape the story towards their own vision.

Strong player agency is indicated by:
a) High likelihood of player success at any given fortune test.
b) Strong ability to set their own stakes. That is to say winning a fortune test grants them a high degree of narrative authority.
c) Low overall meta-narrative so that players can choose what the game is about in both the short and long terms. This typically means a setting where you aren't tied to a particular group or role in the setting, where you can decide at character creation what obligations you have, and where you aren't in a setting where you have to save the world.
d) High tolerance in the examples of play and character creation for the player being able to ignore the plot and set their own goals.

Mouseguard has none of those things. Losing is the expected state. The examples of play in the book are straight up intended to recreate story beats in the comics with very little in the way of handling branching paths. The GM is able to exert strong narrative force from within the game because of your required ties and obligations to the Mouseguard military and the strong assertion by the game that the game is about you participating in the Mouseguard. And there is little to no ability for the player to assert any narrative control outside that implied by normal mechanical success or the normal act of self-narration of your actions. D&D, Blades in the Dark, Dogs in the Vineyard and almost everything else I could think of have more built-in player agency. CoC has somewhat similarly limited player agency, but at least it's examples of play (adventures) typically involve highly detailed sandboxes to wander in and not A->B->C simple linear challenges.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Adding to my post just upthread:

I think sometimes that RPGers who have not had the experience of the GM presents the players with problems/situations based on player-determined priorities can underestimate how significant that is.

It means that, in every situation, something is at stake that a player has decided their PC cares about. So if the player succeeds on their test to resolve the situation, their PC gets something the wanted.

And, if the player fails their test, then something happens which relates to, or bears upon, what the player has decided their PC cares about.

One of system’s key features, besides using only d6s, is the inclusion of a character’s motivations, beliefs, goals, instinct, and other internal states as an explicit part of the resolution system. It also is designed to encourage both the GM and the players to co-create the story as it unfolds
What I've set out just above is how the first bit of the quote - Beliefs et al (ie the player-determined priorities) - produces the second bit of the quote - a story co-created as it unfolds.
 



"GM presents the players with problems/situations based on player-determined priorities."

This is a stand that you both espouse, albeit worded differently. You just do it with different systems.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I played in a 4-shot BW game - enjoyed it. Liked how the BITS tying into the advancement system drove play

Never played Mouseguard, currently my son grabbed my copy. Maybe he'll run it for me some day

Played 2 different campaigns of Torchbearer, one of which I don't think was appropriate really for the system (Ultra Violet Grasslands). The other one was a good time; but at the end of the day I don't think TB is the game for me

Someday, if I find the right group, I might run BW - that would be a challenge
 

pemerton

Legend
I played in a 4-shot BW game - enjoyed it. Liked how the BITS tying into the advancement system drove play
Cool!

Never played Mouseguard, currently my son grabbed my copy. Maybe he'll run it for me some day
I haven't either. Years ago now I came close to buying it in my local RPG shop, but couldn't justify the price for a game I'll probably never play - for me, anthropomorphic mice remind me too much of The Goodies making fun of Watership Down.

Played 2 different campaigns of Torchbearer, one of which I don't think was appropriate really for the system (Ultra Violet Grasslands). The other one was a good time; but at the end of the day I don't think TB is the game for me
I purchased TB2e via Kickstarter out of curiosity, and to support BWHQ. I was surprised how much the colour grabbed me when I read it, and for me it has been something of a revelation in play. I knot its main feature - in principle - is the Grind and the light clock. But for me, the more striking aspects have been the way events work, and the effect on play of quarantining death as a stake in adventure-oriented FRPGing.

Someday, if I find the right group, I might run BW - that would be a challenge
Don't underestimate the amount of support the system provides.

My friend I play BW with has never GMed another system, but is (arguably at least) a better BW GM than I am, because he has less hesitation in driving home ruthless consequences!
 

Have you played or run the Burning Wheel system? This includes games that use it as a base (from what I gather they often adjust things quite drastically) of Torchbearer, Mouse Guard, or Burning Empires?
No. I bought BW Gold last year, and it was an interesting read. Having a torrid affair with Traveller (and RQ) in my youth, I discovered a strong appreciation for lifepath systems. I prefer "zero to hero" framework games, but the characters having more of a past than walking off the farm last week is desirable. Also, having the players make some choices that develop their starting character gives them a minigame and think about their character's place in the campaign.

Character advancement seems unduly complicated for a game with a greater narrative focus. That was a surprise, given a greater complexity than RQ. The selection of lifepaths make for interesting worldbuilding opportunities.

I haven't played it yet. However, I hope to attend a convention soon and will look for an opportunity then.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I see no conflict between Celebrim's and pemerton's positions, regarding agency.

I believe they have the same goal, and arrive there by different paths.

That would be a first. I must have communicated my thoughts poorly.

"GM presents the players with problems/situations based on player-determined priorities."

This is a stand that you both espouse, albeit worded differently. You just do it with different systems.

Yeah, that is definitely not what I said. There is a whole raft of ideology behind that statement that I don't espouse one of which is that the PC is signaling by their character choices what they want and it's your job as GM to test and challenge that. Coached in the idea that your job is to force story arcs on the player where the player's character changes and evolved and to test that player's/player character's conventions. This frequently leads to dysfunctional "The GM is Satan" play where you feel your adversarial play is validated by the system. The problem with seeing your job as putting stumbling blocks in the way of the player's priorities or seeing the goal of play is use mechanics to force narrative change is that you are really not incentivizing what you think you are incentivizing. What you are really doing is encouraging players to alter their character in order to survive or succeed. Of course, that can happen organically but if you are really setting out to do that as the primary focus of play: "Oh so you say you love your family then, well let's kidnap them!" or "So you say you are an honorable Paladin, well how do you get out of this contrived moral dilemma?" then you're just doing adversarial DMing hidden behind a barrage of jargon.

And there are definitely prominent theorists in the RPG community that IMO are doing that; the sort of guy that admits a game is ruined for him when the players character get to the point that they succeed in the majority of their fortune tests and are thus harder to narratively bully.

But please don't draw me into an argument indirectly with Pem.
 

I was recently a player in a short Burning Wheel campaign. It was with an experienced BW gm and I pushed really hard to make this game happen because I was really curious about the system. Overall, we found it needlessly complex, even just the base system (and I think the GM greatly simplified the combat system in particular). It was also very punishing...we were almost surprised each time we actually got a success, especially if we were trying to mark an upgrade as the system seems to want you to do. Sometimes we had ideas for really interesting moments in play that were driven by character beliefs, but the system actually got in our way or at least didn't help tell those stories. I didn't like how abstracted the Duel of Wits mechanic/procedure was. I felt the game was sorely missing a partial success mechanic. The book's writing was sometimes very concrete about how a given skill works, and sometimes extremely vague (faith for example). It was also verbose and poorly organized.

I appreciate the influence the game has had on other games. For example, Blades in the Dark, which I was running concurrently (and which I love). However, it's not for me.
 

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