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%


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Faith has a default list of prayers, with obstacles and effects.
yep and some are very specific

Blessing— Ob 3. The priest may grant other devotees prowess andacumen. They may bless a person, beast, device or tool (depending ontheir religious idiom) and grant +1D to a stat, skill, Health or Steel forthe duration of an intent or the end of the session.
Others not so much...
Minor Miracle— Ob 5. When it is dark, we pray for light; when sorcerers chant, we pray their spells be broken; when the blade is snapped, we pray that it be made whole; when blood ebbs from the wound, we pray that it be closed.
 

Kannik

Hero
Wait? How? You have a system that is designed such that failure is the expected outcome of every action, whose fundamental aesthetic is medieval kaiju invasion horror, and where the entire setting is built around being low ranking members of a military who are assigned deadly jobs to perform. I'm struggling to come up with a game where the players would have less player agency.
Oh wow, we have had very different experiences with the game. We didn't read nor run the game as one without chance of success. The common difficulty of a test is stated as being 2 (requiring two successes). Most mice will start the game with 2 or 3 ranks in their skills, and so on a given test it's not uncommon to have 4 dice to roll, which against Ob 2 equals about 70% chance of success, the common "sweet spot" of many RPGs. And the metacurrencies are common to accumulate, giving more chances for success. Plus, the penalty for failure is a condition that may not affect you in certain upcoming tests.

That said, the test process certainly is quite involved (hence my making the flowchart), and I'd say a candidate for some re-work. But part of that reason is due to how few tests are made in the game (typically one per scene, with the exception of a conflict), so I can also get why it seems so weirdly-at-first-glance involved.

We also didn't feel without agency in the game, or felt that we were being railroaded with the GM forced into an adversarial role, especially given the whole Player Turn concept.

The game though is most definitively both different in how it runs than pretty much every other game I had played until that point, less geared towards extemporaneous method-acting styles of roleplay (of which I also love) and with its 'backwards' resolution system (not to mention once again the whole Player Turn thing). It's also narrowly geared towards the mice performing missions and the character development that comes out of that, so if there isn't that buy in (much like if there isn't buy in for heist-style action in a BitD type game) it probably wouldn't work. Even within that restriction we did find we could create much stuff, with friendships created and romances blossoming, antagonistics converted into mentorship, enjoying festivals and facing grim realities, conspiracies discovered and loyalties tested...

But that was our experience. There are some rough areas in the rules/system, and at the same time it also served very well to guide our stories into something that felt quite right. :)
 


Starfox

Adventurer
My experience is one session of Mouse Guard. I felt the resolution system was ripe for metagaming, especially if you wanted "xp". It is more beneficial to fail a few times only to then succeed. To get a full success, the trick is to create a lull at the end of the action so you can rest and emerge with no "damage". It was all too much of a procedural game to me, too little spontaneity.

Maybe I am just too much of an optimizer at heart.

There are parts of Mouse Guard I like, such as the post-adventure session. Looking at Blades in the Dark at present (even being a bit infatuated with it) I feel BitD does these things better.
 

Oh wow, we have had very different experiences with the game. We didn't read nor run the game as one without chance of success. The common difficulty of a test is stated as being 2 (requiring two successes). Most mice will start the game with 2 or 3 ranks in their skills, and so on a given test it's not uncommon to have 4 dice to roll, which against Ob 2 equals about 70% chance of success, the common "sweet spot" of many RPGs. And the metacurrencies are common to accumulate, giving more chances for success. Plus, the penalty for failure is a condition that may not affect you in certain upcoming tests.

That said, the test process certainly is quite involved (hence my making the flowchart), and I'd say a candidate for some re-work. But part of that reason is due to how few tests are made in the game (typically one per scene, with the exception of a conflict), so I can also get why it seems so weirdly-at-first-glance involved.

We also didn't feel without agency in the game, or felt that we were being railroaded with the GM forced into an adversarial role, especially given the whole Player Turn concept.

The game though is most definitively both different in how it runs than pretty much every other game I had played until that point, less geared towards extemporaneous method-acting styles of roleplay (of which I also love) and with its 'backwards' resolution system (not to mention once again the whole Player Turn thing). It's also narrowly geared towards the mice performing missions and the character development that comes out of that, so if there isn't that buy in (much like if there isn't buy in for heist-style action in a BitD type game) it probably wouldn't work. Even within that restriction we did find we could create much stuff, with friendships created and romances blossoming, antagonistics converted into mentorship, enjoying festivals and facing grim realities, conspiracies discovered and loyalties tested...

But that was our experience. There are some rough areas in the rules/system, and at the same time it also served very well to guide our stories into something that felt quite right. :)

Excellent post and I agree with it mostly (though I don't find tests, vs, conflicts, or complex obstacles which basically entail linked tests as particularly involved). Here are some words for your thread as it pertains to Mouse Guard. I'd do the same with Torchbearer (those are the two primary games I've run in the BW family of games with TB outnumbering MG probably 10 to 1 in terms of time spent....which is a LOT of time spent running the game), but I don't have the time (nor inclination...as I've written plenty about TB elsewhere on these forums):

WHAT IS THE MOUSE GUARD GM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING AFTER MISSION 1 (most of this is in Mission 1 as well)

* Follow the evolving situation : character : setting relationships of the game (system's "say") + the Patrol Duties (system's "say") + Mission structure (system's "say") for the current session's Mission. If you're in x location and y has just happened, use the setting inputs for that location + situation context information to come up with a Duty-premised Mission or a suite of them for the players to choose from.

* Follow the structure of Missions and follow the rules (for turns for factoring etc etc). Pick 2 of the themed archetypes of obstacles and keep the others "banked" for Twists should they arise. Those are you 2 x stock Obstacles for the Mission. Unless the Mission is where the players are (whether that be in a safe haven of a settlement or exactly where they are in the wild of The Territories), that will entail either a test vs an obstacle, multiple tests vs complex obstacle, or a Journey conflict. Same goes for the end of the Mission. Players will either venture to a safe haven of their choice (which will entail the prior) or will call upon a Relation in the wild for downtime (if they're nearby which is established through play) or will make camp (generating the equivalent of a safe haven or downtime in the wild) which will typically entail a complex obstacle. Afterward, we cut to Player's Turn.

* Follow the players lead and use their Relationships + Beliefs + Instincts + (session) Goal as vectors for challenge when you deploy your Obstacles, Complex Obstacles, Journey opposition, and Twists.

* Play the Seasons, the Wilderness, the Weather, the Animals, the Mice, and all the dangers of The Territories/Settlements and the needs and means of the Settlements.

WHAT ARE MOUSE GUARD PLAYERS SUPPOSED TO BE DOING

* Lay clear and potent breadcrumbs for the GM to follow with your Relationships + Beliefs + Instincts + Goals.

* Fight for and struggle with what you believe, for those under your care and for those you care about, for your duties as a member of the Patrol, for your Patrol-mates.

* Involve your fellow players and that means all of meta-interests, teamwork, sharing your earned Checks, and even PVP when it calls for it (when you guys have opposing interests/beliefs and you're at loggerheads)!

* Describe to live.

* Know the system, engage with it competently and aggressively, embrace the pressure on you by defeating the Obstacles in front of you and completing your Mission, generate and use your checks interestingly/thematically/wisely on Player's Turn.

* Deliver a compelling Prologue when its your turn to do so.

* Perform your End of Session Rewards duties and your Winter Reflection duties with attention and care.




That's it. Mouse Guard is a nifty (and easy...easy to run...easy to "win"; particularly in contrast with how much skill is required in running and "winning" in Torchbearer) little game, and, while it requires an integrated and well-understood reading of the text (and having Burning Wheel and Torchbearer understanding and experience doesn't hurt either), its not terribly complex (certainly by Burning Wheel standards!). But the worst thing you can do when reading or running this game is (a) atomizing or discretizing text (rather than integrating it), (b) smuggling in priors, and (c) substituting (a) + (b) for actual play and then drawing unsubstantiated inferences (while lacking the humility to realize that is what they are) or using (a) and (b) as a means for play and then coming to completely at-odds with the text and game ethos conclusions.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Wait? How? You have a system that is designed such that failure is the expected outcome of every action, whose fundamental aesthetic is medieval kaiju invasion horror, and where the entire setting is built around being low ranking members of a military who are assigned deadly jobs to perform. I'm struggling to come up with a game where the players would have less player agency.
You've seriously misinterpreted the rules... or ignored the pacing rules.
Most rolls are only difficulty 2 or 3 if you're actually using the guidelines.
Most rolls will be on skills that are skilled at 3-4 for starting characters, 3-6 for experienced.
If it's not everyone rolls it (and most aren't), then others helping is de rigueur. That adds a die or 2...

A given session for a 4p group should NEVER exceed more than 16 rolls in the GM phase, and thus 16 checks total in the party. SUch a session should take 45-120 minutes. With 7p, and 6 encounters instead of 4 in the GM phase, we typically hit 12-14 rolls total per logical session, ran about 90-150 minutes per logical session, then broke for dinner, and did another session.

So Ob3 vs 3 skill is 1/8... but you should be getting help, making it Ob3 vs 4 skill, 5/16. Not great. Usually, it will be two help; if it isn't, go reread Rule Zero to your players, because they're breaking it. At two help, that is 5d to hit that Ob3 - 16/32. ANd if it is important, invoke a trait to help, making it 6d... ANd that's ignofing the FoRK die - work that Lore- in 2e, that's the ONLY use for one!
Now, on an Ob 2 everyone rolls? Most will be rolling either 3-5 nature or 3-5 skill, probably with a FoRK,

Ob2 with 3d is 50%, with 4d it's 11/16 or 68¾%. With 5d it's 26/32, 81%.

Most failures are take a condition. In combat they're more serious, but not much.

3d results array: PPP=3 PPF=2 PFP=2 FPP=2 PFF=1 FPF=1 FFP=1 FFF=0
4d results array PPPP=4 PPPF=3 PPFP=3 PFPP=3 FPPP=3 PPFF=2 PFPF=2 PFFP=2 FFPP=2 FPPF=2 FPFP=2 FPFF=1 PFFF=1 FFPF=1 FFFP=1 FFFF=0
5d results array: PPPPP=5 PPPPF=4 PPPFP=4 PPFPP=4 PFPPP=4 FPPPP=4 PPPFF=3 PPFPF=3 PPFFP=3 PFPPF=3 PFPFP=3 PFFPP=3 FFPPP=3 FPPPF=3 FPPFP=3 FPFPP=3 PPFFF=2 PFPFF=2 PFFPF=2 PFFFP=2 FPPFF=2 FFFPP=2 FPFPF=2 FPFFP=2 FFPPF=2 FFPFP=2 PFFFF=1 FPFFF=1 FFPFF=1 FFFPF=1 FFFFP=1 FFFFF=0 (1×5, 5×4, 10×3, 10×2, 5×1, 1×0)

I ran a 6-7 player campaign, limited help to 3 dice, and they used FoRK's all the time. Well more than 70% of play was successful rolls. But the memorable situations are where they don't...
 

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