Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My Burning Wheel Campaign Is Fascinating

My Burning Wheel campaign is fascinating to me, and also to my players. It might be interesting to you, so I'm going to blog about it. We're eleven sessions in at the moment, so I'm not going to attempt a detailed account of everything we've done. In this post I'll write about the general setup that we developed before making characters.

Our story takes place in Foxglen, a village of about a thousand people - mostly human. There is a nearby larger city of Liguelen (pop. ~50,000) which is the seat of power for the prince.

Starting characters were only two lifepaths, and the second lifepath had to be from the Village list. I proposed this to the players, not to make it difficult, but to give us all an opportunity to shape our characters quickly in play. None of us had played a campaign of Burning Wheel and I dreaded the thought of anyone being stuck with a character they didn't like, unable to make changes to skills and traits for a long time. The shorter lifepath characters allowed us to play as newbies.

We allowed various types of magic, with a limitation. The kind of magic that a person could have depended entirely on their Born lifepath. I hope that Peter will chime in here with the full list, but we used this to make class distinctions obvious and geared along geography. I didn't think about it at the time, but that also connected it to religion.

Long time readers of this blog will have seen my posts on religion in gaming. One idea that we took from actual human history (gasp!) is the connection of geography to religion. A locale will have its own gods. One town will have a god or gods, as will another. If those towns are in conflict, the conflict will resolve in the real world only because it first resolved that way in the heavenlies. This explains why a smaller army can defeat a larger army - the god of the smaller army defeated the god of the larger army. I'll write about the religion of Foxglen and the religion of Liguelen in a later post.

We also wanted a larger stage for our story; some kind of broad conflict in which the characters were immersed. We decided that there was a threat from the south: a horde or invading army. There would be plenty of other activities going on around this, but it would also take place beyond the characters. They would be affected by it and could, if they played it in that direction, affect it in return. As it happens, we still wanted the focus to be on the characters and less on the threat of invasion. This is probably why I called the campaign Unlit Match.

Finally, let me introduce our two characters. Bram is played by David Pidgeon. He began the campaign as a failed acolyte, living in a shack in Foxglen, embittered at the temple and with organised religion. Sophie Marquand is played by Peter Blake. She began as a village wife, raised in Liguelen but married off to Darwin Marquand, a prosperous merchant in Foxglen.

There's more to write about, of course. Look out for a post on the religions in the campaign, a spotlight on Bram, a spotlight on Sophie, a broad story arc encompassing the first ten sessions, and then some other updates as they come to mind. Peter and David will make comments, I'm sure, to embellish and correct. I hope you find it as fascinating as we do.
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