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Author Topic: Character Attrition  (Read 3690 times)
Don D.

Posts: 29

« on: August 14, 2004, 08:42:27 AM »

With the combat system so deadly in the Burning Wheel, are players libel to lose their characters frequently?  Do adventures tend to be light on combat scenes because of this?  How are long, story-arc driven campaigns possible in Burning Wheel if attrition is so high?  Is it hard to get the Lord of the Rings feel with 'great and powerful' characters like Aragorn who can hold several orcs at bay or who can stand his ground with Ringwraiths?  I love the idea of realism in a game but how practical is it when you have a grand campaign planned and attrition is so high?  How do you Burning Wheel game masters do this?  I'm looking forward to playing (so these questions are not finding fault) but am wondering how this will all work out practically.

Don D.
Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest

« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2004, 10:40:11 AM »

Personally, I never have trouble with character death in BW. But then again, I know what to expect.

Some random thoughts:

Characters die every so often, but there is not this perceived meat grinder effect.

BW is very customizable, and it is up to the GM to set the danger level at one appropriate to the game.

For example, not every opponent has the killer instinct and does aggressive head shot after aggressive head shot. Some fight more conservatively, some aren't interested in kill as much as survival.

Also, BW conflict is very personal and ugly. Old D&D GMs tend to, by default, hurl hordes of baddies at their players -- just to give 'em a challenge. Well, that's not necessary in BW. For an epic struggle, 2 on 1 odds are usually too much! By changing our expectations, the game becomes more enjoyable.

If players don't want their characters to die, don't snipe them with bow shots. That's the surest and easiest way to kill just about anything in BW -- shoot it dead. I guess what I am really saying, is if you're worrying about PC death, don't play as a cutthroat GM.

Let players make a 10 or 12 lifepath dwarf, elf or orc. As a GM, you'd be hard pressed to bring that monstrosity down. Not impossible, but damn hard -- especially from a bunch of punk Uruk Hai.

Aragorn and company are not 5 LP characters. They are 10 + LPers. I don't recommend starting a BW game there, but if that's what you want to play, go for it.

Lastly, just because a sword thrust can kill a character doesn't mean it happens that often. More frequently, a character is wounded badly and forced out of the fight. They're hurt and they live to fight another day. It's great!

Recovery from wounds is the norm, not the exception.



Posts: 120

« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2004, 10:26:44 AM »

Just some quick experiences relating to your questions:

1) In my longer running campaign, there has been one death and that was from a failed Tax test on a spell, believe it or not! There's been lots of wounding, but nothing that the PCs haven't recovered from in good time.

2) Every combat I run is fairly serious, except for the occasional bare-fisted brawls where the highest wound will be a B6 or so. I keep the odds of the important confrontations to no more than 2:1. There might be more going on around the party, but they are only a small part of it.

3) A little advice for BW combat and new GMs is to start small. At first, let the party outnumber the opponent - maybe 3-5:1. Then slowly add in more and more combatants. This'll give the players the confidence and experience necessary to really kick ass like Aragorn in the years to some.

Abzu yelled at me and called my old sig "silly."
Don D.

Posts: 29

« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2004, 07:24:52 PM »

Thanks guys, That alleviates many of my reservations about BW.  Sounds like a really cool game. Luke, see you at Gencon INDY, and looking forward to a demo!

Don D.
Kaare Berg

Posts: 158

« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2004, 06:24:06 AM »

Hi all,

Promised my self I wouldn't do this but . . .

Don, you have nothing to worry about. I've run about ten sessions with plenty of heavy combat. There has been only one new character, and that to replace a character who left the party (player stayed but retired character).

So the lethality of the BW combat system is an illusion, but like all illusions it dosen't take much to dispel it.

You'll often have playeres badly wounded, hurt and drooling but rarely dead. The times I have killed a PC which has happened once or twice, they have always had artha (karma points) to spare and used it to buy their way out of the situation.

I've had Aragonesque scenes with one charcter holding plenty of grey trolls (cowardly uruk-hais) at bay, and scenes where the party has been overrun by simple wood trolls (fanatical goblins).

You will find that BW supports both styles of play and that it really just comes down to how nasty you as the GM want to be.



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