Sign up ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

As part of an ongoing "Uncampaign" (organized group play of many different systems, to get a feel for new and current trends), I'll be running a Burning Wheel game this weekend.

Having only run mouseguard in the past, this question is soliciting tips for running burning wheel in general and running mysteries in burning wheel specifically. The Genre is set in something like the "Powers" universe, where the PCs will be mundane cops investigating crimes by supers.

What tips should I keep in mind when running Burning Wheel for the first time?

share|improve this question
To be quite frank, running Burning Wheel as a) a one-shot, b) a modern game, c) mystery-centric, d) plot-centric will probably be an epic disaster. Its strengths are a) very, very long-term play, b) gritty fantasy, c) drama, d) character/player-driven unfolding story. If you want to try BW as a one-shot, my suggestion is to run one of the existing demos, which have all been playtested into the ground over several years and come with quality advice for highlighting the system. The Sword is a good default choice. –  SevenSidedDie Jan 6 '11 at 0:15
Hrmm, this is a good comment, make it an answer, please :) –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 6 '11 at 0:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My advice would be to do exactly the opposite of everything you intend to do. You are really bending Burning Wheel past the point of structural failure.

It is optimized for long-term play and, beyond bloody versus tests, is pretty complex

The existing lifepaths are the game's setting; making your own set is nontrivial

"Mysteries" aren't what it is about, BITs are

I'd suggest Mouse Guard would be a better fit for a one-shot, and it pretty effortlessly handles mysteries too. Or, if it must be Burning Wheel, run the demo The Sword, which is awesome.

share|improve this answer

Burning Wheel is more character-driven then story-driven, so I'm not sure I would use it for a mystery game. But if you're using this game as a tour of Burning Wheel, here are the systems I would introduce:

  • Obviously all/most of the characters should have a Belief about solving crimes and/or the current crime in particular. Most games don't have Instincts, so you should provide useful examples for the characters.

  • Wises are knowledge-based skills that can be used to solicit information from the GM or, more awesomely, define facts. Try to give each player a useful wise. Crime-wise, blood splatter-wise, supers-wise, ...

  • If there's any level of horror or tension or surprise, you should use Steel. Watch your hardened veteran shrug off a gruesome crime scene, while your rookie detective loses his lunch or runs screaming.

  • Circles will be fun. "I want to find a guy on the street that saw something." "I want to find the guy who owns this gun." "I want to find an expert that knows about (super power)." The PCs are going to need a solid score for this, or a bunch of reputations and affiliations to give them more dice. Perhaps make one PC "the guy who knows everyone".

  • Duel of Wits for having important arguments. Depending on how much of a procedural you want this to be, you could require DoW for getting a search warrant from a judge, or convincing your supervisor to let you use important police resources. Of course you'll want it for questioning suspects, and the underlying compromises that result can be quite interesting. "I'll tell you what you want to know, but you have to let me go."

share|improve this answer
You can start with a mystery in BW but when the players have the answer the adventure isn't over, it has just begun. They have to have information at that point that will inspire their characters to action. I would likely even have them re-write their beliefs at that point. –  Judd Jan 6 '11 at 5:46

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.