Map-and-key RPGing contrasted with alternatives

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
If Burning Wheel is too...much...wouldn't Torchbearer (or even Mouseguard) be a more accessible option?

I would also suggest The One Ring. It's more in the D&D branch of the RPG family tree in terms of resolution, but with significant differences, and also it's just a great read.

log in or register to remove this ad

Old Fezziwig

What this book presupposes is -- maybe he didn't?
@Citizen Mane One thing we disagree on is BW (maybe depending on edition?) I never read the original version, but Revised always seemed clear to me, and had a big impact on how I approached 4e D&D.
I missed the original version, too. But I really had to read the forums to grok how he was intending beliefs and instincts to work and feed into play. In some ways, it seemed like he slightly understates how important they are in Revised. It may have been a function of how I came to the game — a friend recommended it to me, and I hadn't read anything else like it and hadn't spent any time on The Forge, so had little to no context for it.
This 10 year old thread is not the first time I drew the connection, but just having a quick look over it now it has some interesting posts: Is the Burning Wheel "how to play" advice useful for D&D?
Oh, nice, I'll have to check that out.


učim hrvatski
I mentioned four out-of-the-usual games in the thread on caring for/about your character. Conveniently enough—or perhaps not!—they are distinct from those @Citizen Mane and @pemerton recommend. It depends on which of your horizons you want to expand.

I'll quote it here so you don't have to go chasing the link to see it.

One particular point of tensions between drama & aesthetics versus gaming is that the gaming side of things is very often approached from the competitive angle, or more broadly some kind of success/failure perspective, often (though by no means exclusively) with regard to particular tasks. Even RPGs that work with confict resolution are often treated this way, to the point of using "success/fail" terminology. In good drama, the protagonist typically doesn't get what they want right away, on several timescales, but this isn't necessarily presented as failure—that depends on the themes & ideas the author is going for, of course. There's a trick to authoring good fiction that keeps such things interesting rather than discouraging, which is easier for a reader who can assume the story is going somewhere, due to artistic conventions. To put that into any kind of system for generating story is possible and has been done, but it very much outside the norms of early RPGs that arose primarily from how to handle combat and control single characters rather than navigate situations.

You might want to explore games like Primetime Adventures and Universalis. Those are very broad in scope. For a much more focused example, look at Fiasco or Durance. I once played a Durance game where we rolled up some pivotal turning point, in which the power dynamic had to suffer a violent disruption, and we had to map that into the characters & fiction we had going. Everybody was kinda stumped, until I said that my character (the warden), who was present on the scene, had to die right in that moment, sparking a riot, and everybody's eyes widened as they realized that was exactly the proper thing to happen for drama's sake—even though I was losing my character! But in fiction, people die, even the ones the author dearly loves. The warden had had a bunch of cool stuff happen up to then, but in the total picture of things, her death was the pivot point for the entire session and playing that out was immensely satisfying, for me and the rest of the table.

I switched to playing a prisoner pretty much at the bottom of the bottom in that very stratified social hierarchy and turned out a compelling story for him, too.

I've had less opportunity than I'd like to explore more recent games, but I bet some folks could chime in on developments since then.

With regard to the topic's focus on computer/video games, that would be much more difficult, for reasons already cited earlier in this thread.
As for the games mentioned, Apocalypse World and Blades in the Dark have been pretty seminal games, spawning many a variant and inspiring quite a few games that aren't direct descendants. Well worth reading them, and whatever their authors (D. Vincent Baker and John Harper) have to say about gaming and game design (at a variety of locations on the web). Thumbs up to Dogs in the Vineyard too; I've read it, really wanted to play it, but haven't yet found a group to do so (ditto for Over the Edge). The other games, I'm not so familiar with.
Last edited:



As you know I'm a big Torchbearer fan. But I think if @Baron Opal II is really looking to expand horizons, Burning Wheel is the real deal!

But Baron Opal II, I can't recall if you've visited my Torchbearer actual plays but here's a link to some of them: Torchbearer 2e - actual play of this AWESOME system! (+)
Mouseguard is not a bad game. It focuses some of the BW mechanics a bit more on specific things, but most of it is just "BW in a specific genre" so I think it is basically 6 of one or half-a-dozen of the other. Mouseguard was an early, maybe the first, of the sort of of hearthstone games, you can almost see Stonetop as a fusion of Mouseguard and Dungeon World for example, with the seasons and the focus on serving the community, etc. Obviously they are mechanically a bit different!

Dogs in the Vineyard - Looked for it back in the day, but only available on the second hand market at unreasonable prices.
HeroQuest - Have it, and had the good fortune to have Robin show me the game. I appreciate that they considered the Argrath/Harrek dichotomy when making it.
Blades in the Dark - My son has that, I'll look through his copy.

Looks like I'll pick up Apocalypse World and Burning Wheel and read through those in my copious free time. But, after I finish the Three Body Problem.

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Not really. Torchbearer is no lighter than Burning Wheel and puts fairly relentless pressure on players. It's not an easy game.

I only meant "lighter" in the sense of fewer and more streamlined rules, but with the same core design.

But that's only the impression I had; I own neither (only Mouseguard).

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases