Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What I'm Running

So, the Blog has lain fallow for quite some time.  As I return to it, I noticed that blogspot has now become blogger and everything is different.

Well, we'll have to just forge ahead.  It's been more than a year since my last post, and in the intervening time I've had to deal with a whole lot of life and health issues.

In the interim, I've discovered quite a few systems and games in which I'm interested.  While I still try to keep up with the RPG blogosphere, I'm also interested in the YouTube vlogosphere, so I've been watching videos by Runeslinger and Sameoldji (to name only two) on YouTube.

So, around the holiday season of 2016, I discovered a whole slew of new roleplaying games to tickle my fancy--foremost among them being Burning Wheel.  The moment the Gold Edition and the Codex went back into print, I snagged myself copies and set about devouring them.  In combing through these rules, I've been transported back to my middle-school self poring over the Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks for the first time, enrapt by all the possibilities.

Last winter, I ran a few sessions of Ron Edward's excellent narrativist game Circle of Hands.  This winter, I wanted to give Burning Wheel a shot.  So I pitched the idea to a few friends with a couple of caveats, one of them being that the game would essentially be All-for-One: Regime Diabolique but using Burning Wheel instead of the Ubiquity or Savage Worlds system.

Running Burning Wheel is challenging, especially if no one at your table (including yourself) has ever played it before.  The rules are pretty daunting.  There are a lot of helpful worksheets that can assist in comprehending and using the rules without constant flipping through the book but there are times during the game when I feel less like I'm GMing a game and more like I'm handing out an assignment to my students.  The thing is, the system is so beautifully realized that it is all worth it and once the players grasp the rules the worksheets are actually extremely handy.

At its core, Burning Wheel is a low-prep game.  I still do a bit too much prep work but a lot of that is brainstorming ways to challenge the characters' Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits (BITs for short).  The reward system is not used to make your character more powerful in the way that Experience Points do--instead Artha (the reward tokens) are earned through embodying your character's Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits via roleplay and spent on giving your character an edge in dramatic or climactic confrontations and conflicts.  So, I've spent a lot of time conjuring up NPCs, encounters, and events that I can throw at the characters to challenge their BITs, as well as giving them ample avenues and opportunities to pursue their own agendas.

It seems sandboxy but it isn't.  Not at all.  The game works alright in a sandbox, I think, but the system, by design, lends itself to pushing events forward to dramatic conflicts, climaxes, and resolutions to create stories.

So far, Burning Wheel is the game I've always wanted to play but never knew it.

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