Burning Wheel Gold - Initial Impressions

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

While at GenCon, I picked up a copy of Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel Gold 📖, an update to the Burning Wheel Revised. Mercifully, the changes do not invalidate existing material. Here’s looking at you Dungeons and Dragons.

Changes that are immediately evident upon a quick read:

  • Perception is no longer open-ended.
  • No more moving quietly within Circles.
  • Minor lifepath tweaks (i.e. Young Lady can become a Physician, Song Singer gains Vocal character trait, etc.)
  • Bleeding from wounds is now based on scene economy instead of elapsed time.
  • Mounted combat promoted from a wiki page download to core rules.
  • Armor tweaks to create a more linear progression (I believe these changes were in the Adventure Burner).
  • Resources can now be “banked”; You can make a resource test to generate a bag of gold to give you one time bonuses to resource tests. (Ob. 2 test yields +1D, Ob. 4 test yields +2D, etc.).
  • Sorcery brought inline with other skills.
  • Minor adjustments to Fight maneuvers.
  • Expanded Range and Cover to bring it inline with Fight! and Duel of Wits.
  • Reworking of the Fight! positioning mechanic.
  • Better explanation of Surprise and Ambush for Fight!
  • It is now a gorgeous hardback that still costs $25. Seriously.
  • More clarity. (i.e. Each skill has a schedule of suggested Ob. Racial resources have more description.)

I assume there may well be other tweaks, but I haven’t yet noticed them.

What has me particularly excited is the streamlined Fight! mechanic . Sidebar: For the uninitiated, Burning Wheel’s Fight mechanic requires the combat participants to secretly and simultaneously script a few actions during a combat exchange. As Luke Crane explained in his Fear the Boot interview, the purpose of this mechanic is to simulate the utter chaos of combat.

The streamlined Fight mechanic removes the scripting of position for each volley of an exchange.

Instead, before the first exchange, combatants make positioning tests. With the tests resolved, characters are either engaged with a combatant or disengaged. Disengaged combatants have the privilege of not being poked and stabbed by other combatants for the entire exchange.

Before each subsequent exchange, players vie position. This time you may either attempt to disengage from your attacker(s) or improve your position against them. Having not played this new mechanic, it would appear to solve the challenge of multiple combatants (you are either engaged with a combatant or disengaged).

I’m certain when next I run Burning Wheel Gold I’ll have questions about the Fight mechanic. However, this does not detract from the improvements that Luke Crane and Burning Wheel Headquarters (BWHQ 📖) have made.

Burning Wheel Gold’s core system is straight forward. Wrapped around that core is a masterwork of game craft.