For games of Burning Wheel, what do you consider to make a good roleplayer, as a GM? What are some things to avoid? Socially, what type of player makes it enjoyable to GM a game?

I'm mostly focused on Burning Wheel, but general advice is great too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question is way too vague and needs to be substantially refined to stay open. I suggest you pick an aspect of "good player" as that means 1000 different things to different people and say what you want. Better tactically? A better roleplayer? A better human being? (That's what aramis' response tends to address.) What? Also, this varies a lot by kind of game; if you mean "D&D" say "D&D." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 20, 2010 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: I updated my question. Is that a little better? \$\endgroup\$
    – Daenyth
    Sep 20, 2010 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, I don't think limiting this question to a specific game improved it, quite the contrary. It was more interesting the way it was before. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 21, 2010 at 11:26

6 Answers 6


Many of the following are about stuff around the game; very little is actually "in the game" stuff.

  1. Not closed Minded - this is the big don't...
    • Don't dis something until you've given it a good shot
    • Don't play the same thing every time
    • Don't jump to conclusions without evidence.
    • Don't get upset because Joe's being stupid... it may be he's playing Int 1, or some other reason, or Joe might be stupid, or might just be having a bad day...
    • Don't presume just because things are going against your character that the session's gonna suck... it may be a setup for a big hook, and sometimes, the worst sessions for the character are memorable bits of character growth.
  2. Timeliness - be on time, neither too early nor late. Find out what is too early for your GM.
  3. Cleanliness - neither the host nor the GM should need to pick up after you at end of session. And no one should smell you from more than half-arm's length (no matter if it's good smell or bad smell...)
  4. Focus - be there to game. No yammering with the SO on the phone, no playing your gameboy during game, no reading the host's books during game.
  5. Descriptiveness - put some color into action descriptions of your character's actions.
  6. conciseness - Don't speak a paragraph when a sentence will do to colorfully describe the action.
  7. Take turns - don't hog the spotlight.
    • If snacks are communal, take a turn there, too
    • outside of combat, don't take two actions in a row without a giving others a chance
  8. Cooperative - remember, RPG's are a collaborative effort, even (neé, especially) when done PVP mode.
    • don't perseverate on rules... make your point, let the other party make theirs, then let the group or GM decide.
    • coordinate character generation with other players when practical. See to it the bases are covered.
    • At clean up time, do at least your share.
    • Don't use other's stuff without permission, but also don't be the guy who never lets someone borrow a pencil
    • Be willing to discuss problems with the game, including Joe's lack of personal hygeine, or Fred's not enjoying the seafaring portion of the story because he's written up a spelunker...
  9. Learn the core mechanic - most games have a core mechanic or two. learn them, and so when it's time to do something, you only ask "what am I rolling on?" rather than "How many dice does that get me?"
    • Don't take it to rules lawyering, tho'.
    • Rules discussions should be short in session, but can be longer before or after. Save rules issues for start or end of session.
    • If the GM makes a mistake in rules, ask. If they decide to continue with the wrong way, accept it, at least for the rest of session. Don't waste time arguing it during session.
    • If the GM wants you to know more than the core mechanic, or to volunteer rules citations, don't hesitate to do so.
  10. Be respectful. Most of the above are specific cases of this...
  11. Have fun - if not having fun, you're either playing the wrong game, or in the wrong group, or something is wrong in the current dynamic.
    • If you're not enjoying the game, it shows. Don't play just because it makes Soo happy with you...
    • if you aren't having fun, either discuss it with the group, or leave the group in a polite way, asking the GM to write your character out. And when you leave, leave the GM a copy of the relevant character sheet.

Edit due to reduction of question:
For Burning Wheel in specific...

  1. Learn to write good beliefs.
  2. don't get silly with FoRKs, and don't go fishing for FoRKs.
  3. don't be afraid of rules-driven PVP situations; if you have a character-based conflict, resolve it within the DoW or Fight! structures, or a versus...
  4. be responsible for use of your own call-on and die-traits, don't rely upon the GM to remember them.
    • provide the GM with a short form of your traits and copy of your beliefs.
    • Beliefs on a 3x5 card, and traits on a separate card. (Why? because beliefs can change every session, or even during session; traits change only rarely.)
    • don't hesitate to trigger other's traits.
  5. remember: character sheets of PC's are NOT private information... unless the GM says so... it's fair to push other's traits and beliefs, even when not the GM, provided you don't disrupt the game with it.
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the sheer length of this list :) but also because it contains a lot of truth. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2010 at 9:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ We found it useful for each player read aloud their beliefs, instincts, and traits before the start of each session, both to remind us what's going on and so that we know what the other players are pushing for. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Sep 23, 2010 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe: I've also seen during session wrapup that it works well to tell the GM what your character wants to focus on next session \$\endgroup\$
    – Daenyth
    Sep 24, 2010 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, because this can apply to a lot of RPGs, not just Burning Wheel. \$\endgroup\$
    – Discord
    Jun 26, 2013 at 13:36

Aramis' list is nice, but one thing that often sets a player apart for me, is having a purpose for their character.

Nothing makes a character realistic, like having goals and desires that they will actively work towards throughout the game. Usually "I like money, I do job for money" isn't all that wonderful, but a character with real direction can truly inspire me as a GM and can created a lot of wonderful situations for all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ why -1? Do you disagree that a character with purpose is a positive step a player can make?! \$\endgroup\$
    – BBischof
    Sep 20, 2010 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't an answer. Its a clarification on the anwer you referenced. It belongs as a comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon186
    Sep 20, 2010 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeremiah, I respectfully disagree. I don't see how this is part of the above answer. I could have added this to the list, but the general practice for CW questions on SO sites is to not do this, but instead add a separate answer. I am not saying that aramis above doesn't agree with my answer or know this themself, just that aramis did not mention it. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you though, sometimes I have difficulty understanding what people mean on these sites. :/ \$\endgroup\$
    – BBischof
    Sep 20, 2010 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ An answer should stand on it's own; this "answer" isn't an answer, but a comment about my answer being supposedly inadequate. Hence, it belongs as a comment on mine, not as a standalone. (Note, while I understand the rules on that, I'm not picky about it. I really don't care, myself, but that's why people would -1 it for "not an answer") \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Aug 5, 2011 at 6:29

General RPG questions seem to be covered, so I thought I'd drop some BW specific advice.

The player has three responsibilities:

1) Write beliefs that tie into the campaign's situation and aggressively seek out situations that address those beliefs. Also, when those beliefs are resolved, re-write their beliefs that are in line with the changing focus of the campaign.

2) Master the game a little bit at a time. Don't try to learn every bit of BW at once but if you see a Range and Cover coming up in the next game, or a big Resources roll that you want to make, re-read that section.

3) Keep track of artha earned and skills tested.


No-one has mentioned the Adventure Burner yet. While The Burning Wheel is the rules themselves and Monster Burner is about how the system works under the hood, the Adventure Burner is about how to most effective run and play the system. Just as Monster Burner is more than just monsters, Adventure Burner is much more than building adventures:

In addition, this volume provides extensive insight into the Burning Wheel system. 150 pages of commentary guide the reader through the game and its application in play. A handful of new and clarified rules complete the book.

These assets make the Adventure Burner an invaluable resource for neophytes and haggard veterans alike.

I just finished reading it, and I learned a lot of use for both players and GMs. It's full of focused advice on every aspect of the system, how they relate, and practical how-to instructions for making the system fire on all cylinders.


I think these 25 player responsibilities and 20 GM responsibilities are a pretty cool summary. Each of these points has more detail in the original article:

25 player responsibilities

  1. Lobby for your Advantage dice.
  2. Remind the GM when you’re taking double obstacle penalties.
  3. When your character acts, first state your Intent, then your Task
  4. Ask for Linked Tests.
  5. Remember to decide if you’re working carefully or not
  6. Allocate extra successes to Patiently and Quickly unprompted.
  7. Remind the other Players and the GM to Let it Ride.
  8. When Helping, Narrate and Hand Over.
  9. Roleplay and Explain your FoRKs.
  10. Roll a Die of Fate for expendable Toolkits.
  11. Track tests and their difficulty for advancement.
  12. Mark a test for advancement when Helping.
  13. Remember to test a Social Skill when you’re roleplaying.
  14. Log your practice time.
  15. Log your Beginner’s Luck tests.
  16. Track moments for Artha.
  17. Track how much Artha you’ve spent on your Stats and Skills.
  18. Be Responsible for your resources.
  19. Track only successful Perception tests for Advancement.
  20. Track only successful Faith tests for Advancement.
  21. Remember to name your Circles NPCs when you roll well enough.
  22. Track building a Circles contact into a Relationship
  23. Speak up when your Instincts come into play.
  24. Track how much Artha you spend in pursuit of your Beliefs.
  25. And last, but not least, Fight for what you Believe!

These last few are stuff I think is important, but might not be explicitly Burning Wheel Gold “rules canon.”

  1. Use Wises to contribute to the game world and the fiction
  2. Burn your character with input from the other players and the GM.
  3. Flesh out your lifepaths, but leave the real meat of them to be discovered and revealed in play.
  4. Help the GM flesh out the world.
  5. Keep notes during play.
  6. Ask for the mechanics to be used.

20 GM responsibilities

  1. Assign Consistent Obstacle Numbers.
  2. Assess and determine disadvantage
  3. Double the Base Obstacle, not the modifiers
  4. Assess and announce when a series of tests are going to be Linked.
  5. Hold a player’s Intent and Task as sacrosanct.
  6. Always inform the players of the consequences of failing a task.
  7. Present failures as complications, not as total dead ends and flat negatives.
  8. Remember that, Succeed or Fail, you have to Let it Ride.
  9. When a player undertakes a long task, break it up by asking what others are doing meanwhile
  10. Don’t frame a scene that doesn’t challenge a character’s Beliefs
  11. Track moments to nominate PCs for Artha
  12. Track moments for trait nominations.
  13. Track moments for Deeds Artha.
  14. Say Yes or Roll the Dice.
  15. Keep track of the Resources Cycle.
  16. Offer The Gift of Kindness on failed Resources
  17. Watch your Players’ Affiliations and Reputations.
  18. Invoke the Enmity Clause on failed Circles Tests
  19. Remember to note down things the players have seen as Steel tests for advancement
  20. Give life to the setting

The comprehensive list above is very good.

One of the most important things you can do as a player is to play socially- in other words- look for opportunities to make your fellow players shine. If there's a locked door and you are playing the beefy fighter.. let the thief have a chance to pick it before you break it down. If there's an encounter with demons, turn to the cleric or wizard and say "what can you tell me about these monsters? You should be an expert.."

Roleplaying happens when the players make it happen, but it doesn't have to be about all of the players interacting with the GM. Some of the interactions should be player-to-player as well.

Also, in the case of player vs player conflict- know how to simultaneously manage a conflict in character while you cooperate out of character to build an interesting scene is a key skill.

Do what you can to keep the game going- look for possibilities and follow-on action and consequences that are interesting but don't stop the action.. and don't leave it up to the GM to 'rescue' a scene by retconning anything.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why is this a seperate answer from Aramis'? Please do not make answers when comments or edit (this being a cw) can work. \$\endgroup\$
    – anon186
    Sep 20, 2010 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I very much like the emphasis on being considerate of others and their opportunities (vs hogging the spotlight). Tho Aramis includes such, this is a different focus. (@ JeremiahGenest, I think you're overreaching.) \$\endgroup\$
    – ExTSR
    Sep 20, 2010 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's separate only because I mainly wanted to emphasize the single idea of players helping other players find a spotlight. To me it's the primary point of being a great player, no matter the gaming system. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 20, 2010 at 18:11

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