I’ve been reading a little bit about Burning Wheel, but really know nothing about the system.

I’ve been reading a little bit about Burning Wheel, but really know nothing about the system.

I’ve been reading a little bit about Burning Wheel, but really know nothing about the system.  I have been able to determine that it is rather crunchy, rules-wise, and that players either love it or hate it.  Does anyone have any experience with it and can compare/contrast it with Dungeon World?  Thanks.

25 thoughts on “I’ve been reading a little bit about Burning Wheel, but really know nothing about the system.”

  1. I know it’s spelled differently. But more than that, I cannot say. On starts with a B….I think. I don’t know, I pulled a long shift and can’t really much think of things do what.

  2. David Benson  Mouseguard and Torchbearer are both sort of “Burning Wheel Light” (not exactly, but close enough) — and although Torchbearer is probably grimmer than most DW games, and is more concerned about the fiddly little bits, Dungeon World and Torchbearer are sort of “Brothers of different mothers” — both games, as written, of dungeon exploration with adventuring parties based on the grand old game but using new rules and methods.

    Torchbearer uses a number of resolution tricks (“twists”) that can certainly be cribbed by anyone who is running DW.

    For instance: A DW Wizard roll a 6- on a fire spell?

    The room fills with foul smelling smoke is a twist that might make a pretty useful soft move.

    There are no rules connected to the twists, much like in DW, so there’s no need to make mechanical alterations or conversions for the twists.

  3. I’ll confess I haven’t yet played either system (DW vs BW) but I own both sourcebooks and have read cover to cover.  Here are my impressions:

    Burning Wheel is somewhat like D&D but with a few quirks:

    There are only a few races (Dwarf, Elf, Orc, Human), and each one has some deep seated stereotypes you’re expected to roleplay (greed, grief, hatred, faith respectively), so in my mind that constrains it some but perhaps makes it easier for a new roleplayer.

    They also have “artha” which is an interesting way of rewarding roleplaying toward goals and beliefs. A little like Bonds in DW, but broader.

    I like the dice pool mechanic, but it can add to the complexity, especially when you have others helping, whereas DW has a dead-simple 2d6 throughout that is almost instant to resolve with its 6-/7-9/10+ structure.

    DW is the most freeform RPG I’ve found yet, inviting storytelling over crunchy charts, and BW encourages it more than say D&D (esp recent editions thereof), but still not to the “create as you go” level of DW.

    I’d still like to play BW sometime but I’ve already decided that when I do, I will likely want to tweak some of the rules to include things I like better from other systems.

  4. I own and want to play Torchbearer, but I’ve played in and am running a DW game… …so I suppose that DW gets the top slot.

    That being said, I have enjoyed games of Mouseguard and BW in the past, and really am itching to take Torchbearer for a spin — only so much time available these days.

  5. i’ve played both. Justin Smith above talked about the differences; i’m going to discuss some similarities.

    both allow the players to run the show. both burning wheel and many World games require a reactive style of GM’ing, where you, as MC/GM, can’t really plan events, per se, in advance.

    both really sing when every roll is directly narratively justified, and every choice has direct, real, narrative effect. that is, no rolling just because it seems like the player should make a roll, and every roll has consequences.

    similarly, they both work well when each piece of gear is taken seriously. if your character needs rope, getting rope or doing without can be an excellent story in each game.

    a big difference: burning wheel is much meaner to the PC’s. like, bad things can happen in *world games, but a PC is never going to wind up laid up for months from a single axe blow. recovery from injuries is a big deal.

    they provide different experiences: burning wheel works for shorter campaigns, but really only starts to hum after a dozen or so–and can keep going indefinitely, while dungeon world, in my experience, has a natural shelf life of 18 sessions or so.

    characters gain new powers almost every session in dungeon world, whereas in burning wheel it’s a big achievement to improve in a skill, much less open a new one or shade shift a stat.

  6. Wow, just looking at the character sheets is intimidating.  This game looks very complex.  How does it play?  Easy to pick up or is it a struggle to remember rules and concepts?  

  7. I played some Mousegaurd. I hated the system with a passion and had no passion to speak of for the world. Tried torchbearer next and found it to be worse, it was so simple where I wanted complexity and complex on what I considered insignificant. The thought of trying burning wheel now makes me feel ill

  8. David Benson , it is pretty complex, there’s no way around that. my first time running it, it was for three players. i had played in 2 convention one-shots and one other player had played in a single convention on-shot. the other two were completely new to the system.

    we started with the hub (the first 70 pages of the book), and just ran that for a couple sessions before adding in Duel of Wits (WHICH IS AMAZING) and Sorcery.

    that all worked pretty well.

    in my second, ongoing, game, we tried out the Fight! mechanics for the first time, and didn’t have a great time with them; so we’re going to hold back on those for awhile.

    but the game is nice and modular; the real complexity is in the “rim of the wheel” as it were, and those bits can be used or ignored as appopriate.

  9. Burning Wheel has one of my favorite character generation systems in that it produces a character with a lot of life breathed in. But, I have to concur, BW has a few issues with complexity that my adult players just don’t enjoy. It breaks down that I love Burning Wheel but my players not so much.

  10. Okay, i am amazed now one mentioned this yet: 


    In Burning Wheel you set your own goals for your character and you have to follow them. You have to fight hard and risk a lot to archive them. 

    If you are not doing this you don’t get Artha and in general you get less spotlight. 

    As a GM it is your job to push against the players beliefs. Make it hard for them to get what they want. Or simply give it to them and show them that what they wanted now totally sucks. Make them betray all they stand for to get to their goals and see if that is worth it to them. 

    There is no “be a fan of the player characters” in BW, or at most the fan is being seeing them suffer. You are a fan of the players though. Through this you are not supposed to be a dick but make the journey there enganging. 

    Most of the rules are pretty easy actually. Skill advancement requires paying attention and some bookkeeping but the rest is easy. The complex fight system is hard though, on the other hand it is really exiting for everyone at the table because everything could happen. 

    On the other hand you are not supposed to use this part of the system if the fight is not really important. 

    Burning Wheel has “say yes or roll the dice” and Dungeon World does not. Both have “Let it ride” tough (more or less). 

    LiR means, once you have rolled for something in a situation you get your full intent. No 6 sneak rolls to get into a castle. It is one roll. 

    And failure, as in DW should move the story forward. Being good at hard moves makes you better at setting failure consequences in Burning Wheel. 

    Oh yes. You inform the players beforehand how hard a task is and what the failure consequences are. 

    Burning Wheel can be used for political intrigue game wherein DW is lacking the tools to really do that (especially between party members). The Duel of Wits social conflict system is beautiful in the results it generates. 

    In a lot of ways DW is more connected to the fiction since you always go Fiction to Mechanics to Fiction while BW often leads you to twist the fiction to match the things happening in the mechanics. But not in an intrusive way. Especially the Fight mechanics are extremely descriptive. 

    In DW it doesn’t matter as much how you play your character from session to session as long as you hit your XP marker once and resolve bonds. In BW you have a lot of traits and instincts and beliefs written on your sheet that tell you how your character is. Playing these rewards you with points you can spend in the game. So you are rewarded for playing the character constantly in a way you said you would. And every few sessions there is a trait vote that upgrades traits and gives you new one, based on how you played your character.So the fiction you created is directly written on your character sheet and can be leveraged latter. 

    I like BW much more then i like Dungeon World (it is still a system i like, no worry). 

    Maybe my BW players Max Külshammer and Jan Mathias krebs  can add something here since they have played both games each. I can tell you a few stories from my game if there is interest in that. 

    (i also have actual play videos online but they are in german)

  11. I know and played Dungeon World, Torchbearer and Burning Wheel.

    I love DW for one-shots with different peoples. No long character creation, very easy rules etc. But I can not see playing a ongoing game using DW… I think the original AW is better suited for longer play.

    TB on the other side has many advantages of DW but adds more complex rules that influence each other so that playing in that system for a longer time is more satisfing for me.

    DW looks like easy mode in Dungeon Delving compared to TB – even if the GM tries to hard move it to a more gritty scenario. TB makes it so much harder the players know the system and always have meaningful choices to make. So they make and create their own hard decicions and the GM adds Twists/Conditions to hard move the story.

    BW is the greatest game system ever 😉

    (The love or hate rule for BW is true.)

    BW has another focus as TB. Its like AW and DW. BW focuses more on the character. His beliefs and goals and how these interchange with the NPCs and other PCs in the party. Like TB as a player you have to make hard choice (presented by the GM) to work for your beliefs and goals. And if you do so it is a very satisfing game. If you want to see englisch APs I recommend Shaun Hayworth’s Burning Olengrav campaign. Two veteran players show how to follow beliefs and work towards them from player side. And as another player is new to BW you get many explanations how the system works.

  12. This is a good thread, there is a lot in previous posts so I will try to be concise.

    A good Burning Wheel game is all about: conflict, slow and grueling personal improvement, hard choices everywhere, and complicated sub-systems.

    A good Dungeon world game is all about: free-wheeling adventure, collaborative world-building, hard choices half the time, and easily-applied rules.

    Problem areas for newbies:

    Players and GMs in Burning Wheel need to push toward conflict or things start to fall apart. In Dungeon world, players can coast on this and maybe they help build the world by answering the GM’s questions, but that alone doesn’t fly in Burning Wheel. Unless you are fighting for your beliefs or struggling to improve your character, you end up rolling for shit that doesn’t matter because you think you’re supposed to use the rules that are there when you are not. Dungeon World players and GMs have the opposite problem, which is bringing standard stuff from other games into Dungeon World (like perception checks).

    Overall, Burning Wheel has a higher barrier-to-entry and a steeper learning curve, which is why people tend to love it or hate it. BW is a lot harder to hack than DW as well.

  13. When you want to hack the burning wheel, roll+years spend playing it (max +3). 

    On a 10+ you can make a small hack that improves your game and is liked by the community. 

    On a 7-9 the wheel hacks back. 

    Choose 1 

    – the hack is inelegant and cumbersome to use

    – the hack is not liked by your players and the community 

    – you will need A LOT of time playtesting and refining it. 

  14. Torchbearer might be like that (and I haven’t played it or read it carefully, so Tim would know better than me) but it’s also a bit different than old-fashioned BW. I think that BW (and Burning Empires) done well feels a lot more like a tv show (Game of Thrones is a good example) and less like Apocalypse Now.

    Although I guess that means if you want your Games of Thrones with less politics and more Apocalypse Now and set underground, you should try Torchbearer first.

  15. I like a lot of the elements in Burning Wheel but overall it is too crunchy for my taste. One of the reasons I love Dungeon World is because it is so much easier to create characters, run, and just play. Too much complexity and in depth time consuming character creation is exactly what I wanted to get away from, and Burning Wheel has those elements in spades. However, beliefs and instincts are a great mechanic. Mouseguard is a much cleaner, more refined version of the BW system in my opinion. Some people love the crunch though, so you might like it.

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