30 Days of The Burning Wheel: and so it begins…

Yep, I’m at it again. I’m starting another “n Days of…” roleplaying game project. This time it’s The Burning Wheel, Luke Crane’s blazing masterpiece of an RPG. I’ve been playing BW for over a year. I started with the first edition, then transitioned to BW Revised when it came out in May 2005.

I’m sure you have a few questions.

Q. Why only 30 days? A. Did you see the results of the “101 Days of D&D” thing? Yeah. That made it 43 days. I’m being more honest with myself with this one.

Q. Why Burning Wheel? Don’t you already know how to play it? A. Yeah, I know, more or less. “Less” tends to dominate that, though. Sure, I’ve played quite a bit of it, but I still don’t have it at the muscle-memory stage where I really think it’ll start to blaze. [Yes, there will be LOTS of fire jokes and references in this series. Deal.] Also, I really like BW. I love it, in fact. BW Revised is just full of awesome roleplaying advice and rules for really getting the most out of your game.

Q. Do you have a plan? A. Um, yeah. Sortof. I plan to talk about some mechanical things as I work through them, starting with the hub (the core mechanics and character burning) and the spokes (more core mechanics and the reward system), then move on to some of the rim (Fight!, Duel of Wits, Circles, etc.). I also plan to go through the Monster Burner’s stuff, too, as what I’ve read of it has some very interesting things that really explain how BW works “under the hood.” I may even get to some of the stuff in Jihad: Burning Sands (guns, spaceships, propaganda, ancestry, etc.) if I have time or decide to extend it. We’ll see.

I’m sure I’ll have some more generic RPG things to talk about, too. The upcoming game will be my first attempt at GMing Burning Wheel, so I’m sure I’ll have some things to say about that aspect of the game.

In the meantime, I’m going to start at the beginning and re-read The Burning Wheel tonight. Wish me luck!

101 Days of D&D: a slight return

Okay, I thought I was through with the D&D stuff, but I found my list of notes for posts I wanted to write (but didn’t get around to writing), and there are a couple of little things I wanted to mention.

It’s interesting to look at the various rpg communities online. I’ve observed some tendencies in those consituencies. RPGnet has a LOT of D&D coverage (including its share of d20 haterz), ENworld is practically ALL d20 all the time, the Forge is focused on indie games, etc. Amongst the people who profess to play a lot of indie games, they’ve played a LOT of games in general and nearly all of them (especially the older guys who started playing in the 70s or 80s) started with D&D.

D&D is often referenced — not always kindly — by players discussion other rpgs, be they indie or the other popular “mainstream” rpgs (World of Darkness, Exalted, Shadowrun, Savage Worlds, etc.). Among the D&D-only crowds, though, there is rarely — if ever — any mention of other rpgs. And that is a phenomenon I find very interesting. For a lot of D&D players, D&D is the ONLY RPG IN EXISTENCE. And those players have a huge world that caters just to them: Dragon and Dungeon magazines, the whole of the Wizards.com website (with their extensive forums and resources), 3rd-party supplements and accessories, etc. It’s one of the things that was very attractive to me about D&D (in addition to the not-to-be-discounted nostalgia factor).

Of course, there are great communities built up around other games, too, but almost none have the “industry” behind them like D&D, but that CAN be a good thing at times. For example, The Burning Wheel is one of my favorite of the “indie” rpgs. In fact, it’ll probably be what I run next. Burning Wheel has a GREAT community in the forums at The Forge and at burningwheel.org (and it’s getting more popular at RPGnet, too), but the game itself consists of two smallish (by RPG standards) and one bigger books plus some PDF supplements (and some very short-run print supplements). Luke even says in the BW book that there’s no supplied setting in BW because he couldn’t come up with anything as cool as your group can. Of course, BW has a pretty powerful implied setting embodied by the rules, but there’s not literally thousands upon thousands of pages of supplements of varying quality out there like there is for D&D. Luke doesn’t have to depend on selling BW supplements to support himself, much less a legion of employees and facilities like WOTC. NOT having an industry “supporting” a game can be good for a game, and I think BW is an excellent example of that.

It sounds like I’m bagging on the D&D market, and that’s only partially true. There are a lot of excellent WOTC-produced supplements (Eberron, for example), and there are good 3rd-party products, too (like Monte Cook’s stuff). And Dungeon is the best it’s EVER been these days, thanks to the steady hand ands sharp eye of editor Erik Mona and his crew.

So, was there a point to all this? Not really, which is why I never got around to writing this post during the actual 101 Days of D&D. Still, I wanted to make the observation(s).

101 Days of D&D: okay, would you believe 43 Days of D&D?

This thread at the Forge has really gotten me thinking about the future of my D&D campaign and this 101 Days of D&D project.

First, read the thread. If you’re at all interested in role playing games, it’s worth reading through the thread. If you’re interested in narrativist role playing (and I mean that in the least confrontational way possible), it’s just about essential.

I’ve already covered some of this in previous posts, but it bears repeating, I think. When I re-started my interest in RPGs about 15 months ago, I had never heard of The Forge or the GNS model (or any role playing “theories” at all) or any sort of indie RPGs. I completely missed the start of all that when I was away from roleplaying. So, when I got back into roleplaying last year, I started exploring those sorts of games just to check that stuff out. [There was also a local guy (hey Roy! Miss you!) who was really into those games that helped me a lot. He moved away last year and our local gaming community is worse off for it. But, back to me.] I ended up loving several of those games (esp. Burning Wheel) and sorta snubbed D&D/d20/etc. for a while. I have a tendency towards snobbery sometimes. Those of you who know me in real life will have a chuckle at that. The rest of you will just have to trust me.

I didn’t get to play as many of the indie games as I bought and read, but I really enjoyed that style of play. Then our group sorta fell apart over this past summer, and I wanted a palate cleanser of sorts to clear the bad taste of the final few sessions. So, being in a nostalgic sort of mood, I turned to D&D, the current edition, though, not the stuff I played “back in the day.” I figured I’d give it a shot, especially since I was very interested in the Eberron campaign setting.

I started this blog series with the idea that it would make me work on my D&D game more often and would motivate me to learn the rules better and spend more time thinking D&D. What I’ve spent a lot of time doing is trying to figure out how to turn D&D into something else. It’s been really interesting, but has shown me that it’s not easy and and — more importantly — not worth it. D&D should be D&D and _____ should be _____. There are already systems out there that do what I want out of RPGs (more or less). There’s no point in trying to make D&D do that.

So, fast forward a half-dozen sessions of D&D 3.5 and 42 days worth of this 101 Days of D&D project to right now. I’ve covered a number of topics in this series that have helped me work through some issues I’ve been having with my roleplaying. Heck, just reading through the posts again, it’s so obvious that, despite my constant wish to “let D&D be D&D” I’m just not that into the D&D style of play. One of the players in my group (the one who’s been drifting D&D toward something else with me) recently said the reason I started up the D&D thing was because of nostalgia, and I think he’s right. But, it’s been really useful besides that. It’s shown me what I really want from my roleplaying, and, unfortunately — in some respects — that’s not the sort of play that D&D provides.

First, let me say that D&D 3.5 is REALLY good at what it does. There are a lot of reasons it’s as successful as it is. It’s the best at being D&D that D&D has ever been.

Second, the group I’ve been playing with has been really great. Except for Tim. He’s the one who’s been encouraging me to drift D&D towards something more narrativist and causing me all this RPG angst. :) But the group’s been great, and I hope to continue gaming with them in some form or another for a good long while.

Third, as if it weren’t completely obvious by now, I’m going to end the 101 Days of D&D project at 43 days. I don’t foresee a breakthrough of any sort that would “turn me around” and I’d like to explore some other rpg approaches now instead of in a couple of months. More on this below…

Fourth, I’m NOT sure about what to do about my Eberron D&D game. It’s been going in fits and spurts (some great sessions some “meh” sessions) for the last few months (it predates this project by a bit), and I’d like to bring it to some sort of conclusion instead of just ending it abruptly. I plan to talk to my players about it before tomorrow’s session. I don’t want to spend the next several months of sessions running D&D and not enjoying it just for the sake of the campaign, but I would like to get some resolution for as many of the characters — and players! — as I can. I guess I’ll have a follow-up post this weekend about that.

Lastly (for now), I’m not going to stop blogging about role playing. Heck, doing this project in public on the blog has gotten my interest in blogging back some. I hope to post more here about what I’m doing as far as roleplaying is concerned, and I’m also going to be blogging more in general, I hope. I also hope to get engaged in some of the great roleplaying discussions going on right now. The Forge thread cited at the very beginning of this post is a great example (though I think that one’s about played out). So, I’m not leaving, even though I am ending this project early.

See you around the internets!

101 Days of D&D: burnout hiatus

I’ve gotten a big burned out on roleplaying in general the last week or so, so I’m taking a short hiatus. I should have something new written by the weekend.

UPDATE 2005.12.20: okay, so the weekend has come and gone and no post. I’m still suffering from a touch of burnout but also from last-minute Christmas prep and a LOT of work at, you know, work (that thing we do between RPG sessions). I hope to be back with something before Christmas, but it may be a bit longer.

101 Days of D&D: regarding D&D's magic system

There’s an interesting thread on RPG.net right now about D&D’s magic system. I go back and forth, loving and hating D&D’s magic system, personally. We’ve toyed with the idea of spell points (a la Unearthed Arcana) and other alternative magic systems, but for now are sticking with the core system. The thread covers a lot of the pros and cons of the D&D system. Definitely worth checking out.