Monday, December 15, 2014

"Fixing" Burning Wheel

From a message board conversation with my frequent game design collaborator Nathan Ellebracht, on how he'd change the Burning Wheel game to suit our particular group's style. Be warned! Highly technical content, understandable only by gamers who other gamers think are "too much."

"What I want to do is drop the lifepaths character creator, drop all their skills and all their traits. At character creation, we'll come up with character concepts, decide a bit of their backstory, and set their age. Their age sets their base stats, a character less than 30 will have 6 points to distribute between their mental stats (Will and Perception), and 14 points to distribute between their physical stats (Power, Speed, Forte and Agility). At 30, and every ten years thereafter, they'll gain a point for their mental stats, and lose 2 points from their physical stats, up to 60, where they lose a point in their mental stats and the 2 points in physical stats up to 100+. Depending on their backstory, players can lobby to have up to one additional mental point, or 2 additional physical points for every 10 years of backstory, but it has to justify the addition and I imagine that it'll be agreed to or denied by group consensus.

The derived attributes will be derived similarly to how they already are. Steel and Circles start with a base of B3, and like with stats, backstory may justify an increase up to B5. Health is still the average of Will and Forte. Mortal Wound is still the average of Forte and Power, plus 6. Superficial Wound is still half Forte rounded down plus 1. Hesitation is still 10 minus Will. I'm dropping Resources, Reflexes and Stride. I'd prefer to just use coins or other concrete currency to deal with money issues, the Speed stat will be used instead of Reflexes, and nobody uses Stride for anything anyway.

You get a number of trait points equal to 1/4 your character's age, rounded down. Make up the traits you want your character to have, funny accents, personality quirks, likes and dislikes, that sort of thing. Any trait like that, where it's just about how you'll play your character, costs 1 point. If you want a trait that can occasionally give you a mechanical advantage, like +1 dice to a roll, then that will cost up to two more points, depending on how "powerful" you want it to be. No more than two mechanically-modifying traits per character at creation. You can gain additional traits in play by roleplaying them, provided the group agrees. Additional traits are awarded at the end of the session when XP is awarded. You can also gain additional traits either temporarily or permanently as a result of disease or injury or a particularly traumatic experience. Such traits are awarded in play. Traits awarded in play usually decrease the exponent on a stat, attribute or skill.

You get a number of skill points equal to 1/2 your character's age. Skills are things your character can do that not everybody else can do. Reading might be a skill in a setting where not everybody is literate, but if the setting is such that everybody is expected to be able to read, it's just a general ability that can be handled with a Perception stat roll. Define your skills based on your character concept and the setting, and determine which stat or attribute works best as its root. If two or more stats work best as the root of the skill, use their average, rounded down. It costs 1 point to buy a skill, they open at 1/2 their root value rounded down. You can buy the first advance on a skill for 1 point, the second advance for 3 points, and the third for 6 points, but no character can advance a skill more than three times at character creation. We'll use the Beginner's Luck rules for getting new skills in play, more on that when I talk about XP and advancement.

Property, gear, relationships and starting cash are determined entirely by backstory, character concept and setting.

Mortal Wound, Superficial Wound, and Health all work differently. Your MW exponent is your max Hit Points, and the Hit Points you start with. Superficial Wound is your base soak value. When you take damage in combat, you subtract your SW from that damage, then subtract whatever's left from your Hit Points. There are penalties for being wounded, from +1ob, to -1d, up to -5d. Players can distribute those penalties anywhere within their HP range they wish, provided they are in order. Your character is incapacitated if any base stat roll would be out of dice due to penalties or when they run out of HPs, whichever comes first. A character that runs out of HPs is dead, unless a Persona Point is spent, in which case, they are incapacitated.

Recovering HPs is a matter of making a Health roll. You can make a Health roll to recover HPs once per "narrative day." The number of HPs you recover is equal to half the number of successes you roll, rounded up. The Health attribute is affected by wound penalties, but can never drop below B1. Recovery rolls can be aided by having someone else use a relevant skill; their Obstacle is equal to the number of dice the wounded character has lost, at least 1. Success means the wounded character gets an extra die with which to make their Recovery roll.

Beliefs are not determined at character concept, but are created and placed "in play" in play. Players can have one Belief "in play" at a time, and they should be addressed directly to what's at stake in the scene or scenario they are presently involved in. Beliefs can and should change as soon as the scene or scenario changes such that new things are at stake and previous issues are resolved. They are basically "This is my goal in this scene." If you can say, "I can't let X happen," or "I have to Y," you've stated your Belief. Beliefs should be specific to the scene or scenario, but not too specific. "I have to kill this sonofabitch" is a valid Belief. "I have to damage this guy with my sword" is not.

Rewards and advancement are also pretty significantly changed. You earn Fate points for playing to your traits, no more than one per trait per session. Those Fate points are awarded at the end of the session. It's basically a checklist, verified by the rest of the players; did you use your accent, did you play that limp, that sort of thing. You can also earn a Persona Point for playing traits, if you play those traits in a particularly interesting or impressive way; for example, substantially changing the story's direction or having everybody rolling on the floor laughing at it. Those Persona points are awarded when the impressive use of the trait occurs, and you can't nominate yourself for it.

You can also earn Fate points for playing your Belief, but to earn it, you have to play it in an interesting or surprising way, or in a way that the GM or other players particularly like. If you make someone say, "That's cool," or "I didn't expect that," or you play your Belief in a way that helps the GM open up new plot possibilities or create interesting future scenarios, you've earned your Fate; one per Belief, per scene or scenario. You can also earn a Persona point for playing Beliefs, but only if you succeed in your stated goal. If the stakes of the scenario (relevant to your Belief) remain unresolved, or if they're resolved in a way that's contrary to your character's stated Belief, you don't get that point. These points are awarded when these things occur.

Deeds points are plot or campaign rewards. When a major plot point is resolved, or something epic happens to substantially change the direction of the story, it will probably be worth a Deeds point. Like the other artha, it will be awarded when it happens.

Instead of tracking skills for advancement every time they're used, we'll distribute three kinds of XP at the end of the session. For convenience's sake, we'll use their names for the three kinds, Routine XP, Difficult XP and Challenging XP. The GM (probably me) will award these points based on what happened in the session. Generally, it'll be about 20 RXP, 5 DXP, and 2 CXP per session. You can distribute those points to your skills or stats how you wish. Skills, Stats and Attributes advance according to the normal advancement rules, so a B1 skill needs 1RXP and either 1 DXP or 1 CXP to advance, we'll just use their table. Figuring that up at the end of the session shouldn't be that bad.

When you want to learn a new skill, you have to open it up with a Beginner's Luck roll, and you have to use BL for those rolls until that skill is learned. To learn a skill after it's been opened, you have to spend a number of XP points on it (of any variety) equal to 10 minus the root stat(s) value of the skill. So if you want to learn Mycology or something, and it's rooted in your B3 Perception, you have to open it by rolling your Perception with a double obstacle (beginners luck), and then spend 7 XP points of any variety on it, and when you do, you no longer roll beginner's luck, and your skill is opened on your skill sheet with the same value it would have if you bought it at character creation.

I also intend to make combat a bit more traditional. We'll use Speed rolls to determine initiative and order. Damage will be just a straight number derived from your Power and the weapon's base value. Armor will add to your soak value."

Interesting food for thought. 

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