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%

aramis erak

Legend
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.
THe most common problem I've seen with new players is not understanding the value of a given skill range. First characters are often thoroughly incompetent. Second characters often are not.
This is true in BW and MG. My players for BE had played MG - and thus grasped the single most important lesson - the real play value of a given level of skill, and to use FoRKs and help. More than once, circling up willing bystanders for help...

The only BWHQ game where failure is the standard to be expected is Torchbearer. It's got harder standards, but the same range of skills...
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
My experience is one session of Mouse Guard. I felt the resolution system was ripe for metagaming, especially if you wanted "xp".
In some ways, this is actually the point, imho, of the advancement system. You purposefully drive towards your BITs (or whatever they are called in MG); and you may even explicitly state, at the player level, that you are going for that. The GM will try to craft situations where you can lean into your BITS to get that sweet sweet artha.

That style of play I think is pretty anti-thetical to a lot of folks in RPGs, which is partly why Burning Wheel remains an "indie" game
 




In some ways, this is actually the point, imho, of the advancement system. You purposefully drive towards your BITs (or whatever they are called in MG); and you may even explicitly state, at the player level, that you are going for that. The GM will try to craft situations where you can lean into your BITS to get that sweet sweet artha.

That style of play I think is pretty anti-thetical to a lot of folks in RPGs, which is partly why Burning Wheel remains an "indie" game
What gets me is none of this is really fundamentally different from BRP based games where you have baseline success rates well under 50% and you advance by using your skills and getting check marks.
 

Wolfpack48

Adventurer
Do people frequently encounter players who are more focused on advancing their character than engaging with the adventure? I've only tangentally encountered that level of metagaming. My BRP games certainly don't have a check-the-skill-box focus, but players are incidentally happy when they get the check.
 
Last edited:

Starfox

Adventurer
Do people frequently encounter players who are more focused on advancing their character than engaging with the adventure? I've only tangentally encountered that level of metagaming. My BRP games certainly don't have a check-the-skill-box focus, but players are incidentally happy when they get the check.
I personally tend to overly focus on this, and I'd say about half my local players do enjoy this aspect. Some on the other hand prefer slow advancement, because that means they can keep laying their characters longer. :)
 

Do people frequently encounter players who are more focused on advancing their character than engaging with the adventure? I've only tangentally encountered that level of metagaming. My BRP games certainly don't have a check-the-skill-box focus, but players are incidentally happy when they get the check.

My answer to this would be "these sorts of incentive structures intentionally marry walking (engaging with the adventure or whatever) and chewing bubble gum (engaging with advancement scheme particulars) at the same time." If a player is in the headspace of either/or, they need to rejigger their mental approach.

For instance, in Torchbearer, one significant aspect of play for players is managing the multivariate and integrated (i) tactical now with (ii) the layered strategic feedback loops with (iii) the thematic underpinnings and relation trappings of your character (to struggle with and fight for what you believe and who you care about) with (iv) the advancement scheme and (v) the intricate currency gain/spend economy. Each gamestate is very sensitive to adjacent and beyond gamestates in Torchbearer and you have to consistently play well and manage an intricately layered, duress-filled decision-space and maintain the bandwidth necessary to consistently do so. Not having all of the feedback loops lined up and dealing with the complexities of confounding incentives and complex risk profiles is (a) where the skillfullness of the play emerges and (b) where the joy of the play comes from (presuming you dig that sort of "locked into the moment" duress and reward landscape). But this is also the primary reason why a lot of folks wouldn't dig Torchbearer, because it is both demanding in a way they're not familiar and they just don't want that kind of duress at the center of their leisure pursuits.

An easy, unrelated to Torchbearer and TTRPGing, for instance is how someone new to the feedback loops of climbing perceive and frame both (a) their intrasession and cross-session progress and (b) the trendline when they're projecting a route or boulder problem that is at their limit. You're going to fail/fall. A lot. A lot a lot a lot. When you're new (and even when you're not), that falling or the looming prospect of it can be particularly neurologically captivating and foil all of your experience in the moment, your ability to achieve "flow state" to explore and deploy your apex capabilities, and your ability to measure and mentally catalogue your actual gains. Same goes for the human propensity to both demand overriding and immediate positive feedback and be negative and record losses/failures way more viscerally than achievements. Those things "capture" you and ultimately foil everything.

Angry He Man GIF


In climbing (kind of like Torchbearer), you have to rejigger your orientation to those things above to improve longterm, to have success when projecting "at-limit" routes/boulder problems, and to enjoy the experience of all of it.
 

Do people frequently encounter players who are more focused on advancing their character than engaging with the adventure? I've only tangentally encountered that level of metagaming. My BRP games certainly don't have a check-the-skill-box focus, but players are incidentally happy when they get the check.
In TB2 you better not lose focus on acquiring checks, fate, and persona, because you WILL need them! Checking skills and such is also fairly important. TB2 is a brutal game, lol.

To respond to @Manbearcat TB2 doesn't pit advancement AGAINST RP, they're aligned! Follow your instinct or leverage your nature and you both gain resources AND play your character well.
 
Last edited:

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top