Ah Burning Wheel – Part 3 – Advancement

Welcome back!  Since last week, I have finished the spokes section of the BWG rule book.  I had forgotten the grain but not the feel of this game.  I can’t help but get excited about running this game when I read this book.  BWHQ does a great job of imparting implied setting without forcing you into a specific world.  Anyway.

Today’s blog post is on advancement.  When I ran my last BW game, we had two GM’s and two parties that both met on the same night (it was a large group & game).  It quickly became clear that that the otherr group was not advancing as much as my group was, and after the first joint session we found out why.  The other group did not know how!  They horded their artha (more on that tomorrow) and they were not keeping track of their tests. 

BW is not like other RPGs where the GM awards you experience points and after a set amount of time you level up.  In BW you advance through testing your abilities.   The more you use an ability the better you become with it.  It is simple, but does require some extra bookkeeping.

As a GM you need to be aware of the Ob’s you are setting, as in most cases, succeed or fail your players generate tests.  You need to remind players to remember to log their tests after a roll.  And you need to factor in all the other mechanical processes that revolve around the tests. It can be a lot to manage in the heat of the moment, when the dice are flying.  The writers recommend building in a five minute recap at the end of the session for logging test.  I don’t remember if we did this during the last game but I am going to put into practice for the Outlands.

The other thing I am going to do is educate my players on the advancement system.  Part of their handout will have the advancement tables reprinted for them.  I want them to have this knowledge in front of them, as a reminder of how the system works.  Tests have different degrees of difficulty based of the number of dice you roll, and your skills need a tests of a number of different difficulties to advance. With those numbers in front of them, they can better manipulate the system.  Taking helping dice from players, advantages, and other skills makes tests easier but can downshift the difficulty from one category to another.  I want the players to see that and weigh each extra die they generate.

BWG seems like a system you can get good at.  Not in a Hero System “I can Min/Max the crap out of it” sort of way, but in an “I can make the system purr” sort of way.  My goal is to provide the tools so that my players not only enjoy BWG but can excel at it.  It is a beautiful system whose return on investment is very high and is designed to shine in a long term game like this one.  With a little bit of effort, I think that players will come to love this type of experience system.


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