The Burning Wheel is a fantasy role-playing game independently written and published by Luke Crane. The game uses a dice pool mechanic (using only standard six-sided dice) for resolution, and a system of prior-experience for character generation which tracks the development of the new character from birth up to the point they begin adventuring.
Unlike many other RPGs — but explicitly like earlier games — the Burning Wheel does not include a dedicated setting, beyond the setting implied by the rules and mechanics and the life-paths used in character generation, which implies a fantasy world by default, though it can be easily modified for other settings.
If you're going to get into Burning Wheel for the first time, it's recommended to play Mouse Guard first because the rules are a sub-set of the huge honkin' Burning Wheel set. Chargen can take an hour or more with Burning Wheel -- 20 minutes with Mouse Guard but, well, you're mice knights.
Character creation is MUCH faster if you use one of the online "character burner" tools. They're free to use, but all three I checked ask for stuff from the books to make sure you bought them first, like the copy-protection from '80s vidya gaems.
Reviews from GeekDoEdit
Here are the pros:
- Belief-driven play: GMs have easy tools to build adventures that mean something to the players, just follow and push on the PC's stated Beliefs
- Duel of Wits is a fantastic social conflict mechanic that brings about unexpected results and the negotiation and partial wins really push players to think about what they'll put at stake in a conflict
- Circles is an intriguing way to handle players making up NPCs on the fly
- Resources is an elegant simplification of handling money flow for a group of characters
- Trait Votes are an interesting way for players to give feedback to each other
- Let It Ride - the rule to break bad GM habits on calling for rolls over and over until you fail - yay!
Here are my cons:
- The use-based advancement means you have to keep meticulous counts of when you used skills and what the difficulty was. It took me six months before I raised a trait with this method because I kept forgetting to track this.
- The game is dense, it takes some play to get used to it, like riding a big harley for the first time
Basics of Burning Wheel... a warning
- 200+ discrete skills; many overlap slightly
- 100+ discrete traits; many overlaps
- 100+ lifepaths
- 4 player races in core: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Orc
- 4 player races in Monster Burner: Troll, Giant Spiders (Ala the Hobbit), "great wolf" (Warg), Roden (Rat-men)
3 discrete magic systems. 6+ more in Magic Burner.
one simple dice mechanic: (skill)d6 for TN+ per die, count successes. And lots of convolutions to it: Related knowledge (synergistic skills) add 0-2 dice, by level of the related knowledge. Called a FoRK. Help from others adds 0-2 dice, by their skill. Superior tools, advantages, traits, and prep can provide extra dice. Sometimes, dice open end on 6's, allowing more dice to be rolled and counted for successes.
Difficulty is in number of successes. Anything that would make the task harder increases required successes; you never reduce number of dice. A very few things reduce difficulties instead of adding dice, and this is always intrinsic to the task.
Fate: makes dice open end - easy to get, spent often Persona: grants bonus dice - harder to get, spent on key rolls - max +3d ; When a mortal wound taken, spend a persona or die. Deeds: doubles dice pool - bloody rare, hard to get.