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Author Topic: Customizing Setting in BW  (Read 5076 times)
Michael S. Miller
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« on: September 14, 2004, 06:19:17 AM »

I've played in a number of Luke's melee demos over the last year and a half, but never run the game. Toying with the idea of doing so, I started looking over the Character Burner. One of the cool things about BW is that it has an implied setting. It's Tolkienesque fantasy, and the LifePaths indicate that Men live like this, Elves live like this, and so on. But there's no map, no list of names, no description of Kingdom X and their rivalries with the Dwarves of Mountain Y and the like.

So how does a setting get established in a BW game? Does the GM just plunk down a map of his old D&D game world and say "This is the world we're playing in"? Does this take place before or after character creation? The text talks about the GM having ideas of how he wants the game to develop, and gives him final approval over character creation. But how does it all come together in such a way that the GM isn't just saying "we're playing in my sandbox, so you need to learn where everything is in my sandbox so you can play properly."

Pondering this question, and with my eyes getting weary from looking over page after page of LifePaths, I had an idea. Stole it, really. Pilfered it right out of Sorcerer & Sword. Suppose you start with a blank map. Just rivers, forests, mountains, seas and some unnamed cities in obvious spots. Then the group kibbitzes about the general type of game they want to play. Is is straight-up dungeoneering, court intrigue, Orcan refugees in the wilderness, saving the world from evil with a magic ring? Then, the group makes their characters--chatting all the while--and for each LifePath, they must detail the portion of the setting where they lived out those years. Where did you farm? What kinds of taxes were there? What hardships (e.g., weather, wolves, or worse) did you overcome? I'd also have each player create one loose end per LifePath. Something that happened in those years is left unfinished--what is it? These will serve as additional setting detail as well as proto-Kickers.

What do you think? Am I missing somewhere in the BW text, or in forum threads, that these issues are addressed? Is the idea of BW to leave setting sorta foggy and just focus on situation? Would the idea above enhance gameplay?
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Judd
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2004, 07:07:02 AM »

Michael,

I have been reading and wrestling with BW over this past week but haven't come across the same issues you have.

I love your ideas for using Life Paths as proto-kickers and adventure hooks.  That is great stuff and I think the Life Path system kind of begs for that.

For me personally, setting creation is one of my favorite parts of GMing and so I delight in coming up with a three paragraph description of what the game is about, so the players know what kind of characters to make up and how they will fit together.

That said, I think the collaborative method of world creation with a discussion around thet able with the book open is also a method that BW is all set to run and the S&S techniques you mentioned rock also.

To finally answer your question:

The lack of a setting is one of my favorite parts of BW and I think in the coming year, as the Monster Burner sinks into various Burners' brains and the Revised editions hits the stands, we are going to see alot of things that people are doing with the Wheel as they really make it their own.

I'd leave a ton of white space on any map or world and flesh them out as the player's Life Paths and adventures called for.

Judd
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taepoong
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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2004, 07:58:31 AM »

At first, I created the world and put my players into it saying "You are here." I took a long time for them to find their place, though, as there was an initial disconnect.

Now, I call together the players before we start playing for a collaborative world-creation session. During this time, I begin by offering an idea that I would like to play out, such as "Let's do an all-dwarf quest for something." Then we all discuss what the goal will be, what complications they would like to see happen, and the place of their character in the story. Finally, we create the characters, which may have an effect on the original goal. It goes back and forth with everyone having input. This has been most satisfactory so far. My job as a GM is easier and the players have an intimate connection to the story.
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Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2004, 08:25:50 AM »

Hey,

My buddy who G/DMs a D20 Midnight game to switch to Burning Wheel.  Once he playtested it he saw that it captures that Tolkien feel better then the D20 make up and is switching.

I think Burning Wheel is ideal for use with traditional fantasy games because there is so little work involved in adapting the system to the setting.  The implied setting of the game pretty easily fits into the slots, so to speak.

However, that said, I think that using it to create the setting on the fly with the players during character creation might be more enjoyable and rewarding, but only if you have players that are willing to put in that kind of commitment (which my buddy does not have).

Keith
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Luke
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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2004, 09:56:13 AM »

Over at nerdnyc.com there are two great threads to follow surrounding the creation of two BW games. They illustrate two different methods of game set up:

Fool's Quest is Pete's attempt at collaborative pre-game setting gen:
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7326


and

Dockside is Rich's more traditional "I have an idea for a world/setting, what do you want to play?" type game:
http://www.nerdnyc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7327



Also, the Monster Burner gives a lot of solid mechanical advice for backing up the "all these people are the children of Dragons!" with actual game mechanics. Something to look into if you're willing to go the distance.


I run an asian crossbreed setting game and we pretty much use the Lifepaths of Man straight out of the book. Every so often we have to add a skill or a whole lifepath, but mostly we just change a name or two and go. I'm biased, but the game is very flexible as written.

Mike, I think i know your game tastes... why the hell would you want to run something as beast-like as BW?

-L
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2004, 11:23:12 AM »

Thanks for the links. I'll have to look over them when I have more time.

Quote from: abzu
Mike, I think i know your game tastes... why the hell would you want to run something as beast-like as BW?


Because, like Mount Everest, it is there!

Actually, it's been--good God!--nine years since I ran any D&D. In that time, I've run very little "just fantasy" in any system--a session of FUDGE here, a few sessions of Theatrix there. I tried Sorcerer & Sword last year and we all had trouble wrapping our heads around the demons. Half of them wanted to make demon-less characters, and Sorcerer without demons is like gravy without the lumps. It didn't fly.

It's partially nostalgia for the genre (spawned by evil Kiwi Peter Jackson, no doubt!) and partially nostalgia for ... well, system mastery, I guess. I used to know AD&D2 backwards and forwards. I kinda want to see if I can do it again, but with a game that makes sense and does what it says it's gonna do.

Nothing may come of it. As I said, I'm just toying with the idea. On the front burner now is polishing and rewriting and retooling With Great Power... and learning how to run the other 7 games of the NPA.
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2004, 02:19:23 PM »

Hi Michael,

I'm a player in a couple of Taepoong's games and we do exactly what you suggest. Taepoong comes to the table with an idea: Let's do a thieves game; or, let's do a dwarves game.

Then we all sit down and hash out exactly what that means, what sorts of things interest us about those types of characters, what elements and themes we think would be integral to such a story, and what sorts of obstacles we'd be interested in facing along the way.

We nail down a lot of elements. For the dwarves game, we decided things like the game will be set during the golden age of the dwarves, not when they are already disappearing. There once was a high king but he and his mythical hall are gone. The High King's Hall had some sort of mithril chain that held closed a door to great evil. Each of the links in the chain was forged by one of the dwarven clans. The High King disappeared when one of the clans broke its Oath to the High King and its link broke.

We decided that one of the interesting themes about dwarves for us is the dual pull of their Gold Greed (a mystical trait in BW), versus their honor. And that tension should be integral to this game.

We decided that each of us would be members of a different dwarf clan, and that each of us wanted to search out the lost High King's Hall either because of the hoard legend says lies there, or because we want to bring back the High King (greed versus honor). We decided that one of us would be from the Oath-Breaker clan (a BIG deal in BW), but none of us know which clan broke its Oath (we will know when we see the chain).

Several of the players wanted to play soldiers from the Dwarven Host, so we decided that EVIL things are escaping through the gap in the door in the High King's Hall, and the Dwarves have fought numerous wars against that evil.

We decided on obstacles. Someone said they wanted to have a riddle contest with trolls during the adventure. Others said they wanted to deal with a cave-in. Another said that the Low King of the Oath-Breaker Clan would want to stop us from discovering his clan's dastardly deed, so we will face some fellow dwarves as well.

Once that process was done, we started talking about what sort of characters we wanted to make, and how they would fit into our quest. Most importantly, we talked about how our Beliefs and Instincts would play into that.

For instance, the guy that is playing the Dwarven Prince, knowing full well that someone in the party will turn out to be from the Oath-Breaker clan, decided that one of his Beliefs is: The Oath-Breakers must be punished!

Wow! That was great. The tension when we finally see the chain will be palpable. What if the guy from the Oath-Breaker clan has proven himself a doughty companion to the prince during the course of the game? What if it's the prince himself who's from that clan?
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2004, 06:27:36 AM »

Hi, Thor.

That sounds almost exactly like the process I was envisioning (and sounds seriously cool, to boot). It enhances the buy-in of everyone at the table and makes sure that everyone is as familiar with the relevant setting material as everyone else. That's something I always like in a game.

For the Revision, Luke has promised us an "Actual Play" section. I sincerely hope he includes a process like this in it.

Quote from: Ron Edwards in Narrativism: Story Now
I think that whatever a role-player is best at is the last thing on earth that occurs to him or her to write about,

I get the impression that Luke whips up setting buy-in as easily as breathing, thus its cursory coverage in the game. I think addressing this area in the textwill enhance BW's already formidable strength as a game.
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