Building via the Wises of Burning Wheel

A Mechanic for Player Pushback and Involvement

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

Over the last two years, I’ve played quite a bit of Burning Wheel Gold (BWG 📖); I’ve written session reports for some of them.

Some Additional Considerations for Wises

I wrote , and since then I’ve had further thoughts.

Daydreaming about Wises

I was thinking about Daydreaming about Dragons Episode 87 Tabletop Techniques: When should the DM make stuff up. As always, every single Episode from Judd is a gaming buffet of ideas and reflections.

In that episode he talks about a table discussion concerning a piece of armor. Namely if the armor from a defeated foe would work for one of the Player Characters (PCs 📖). It sounds like Judd facilitated a great conversation, one that builds and strengthens trust and friendship over the activity of geeking out on something.

The whole time listening I’m thinking of BWG. Judd’s acknowledged in the books as, so I’m certain he’s also thinking about this conversation through the variety of lenses and rulesets he knows.

Part of the conversation was about the wear and tear on armor in a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 📖) combat. Namely, a PC was looking for new armor.

In BWG if you are using the extended rules (e.g. The Rim of the Wheel), when you are armored and take a hit, you check if the armor protects you. You also check if the armor degrades. In other words, the rules answer information about armor degradation.

If you weren’t playing with The Rim of the Wheel, you’d be left with a conversation about degradation. This could be a great opportunity for an Armor-wise test; after all based on the episode it sounds like the PC wanting the armor may have had an implicit Belief about that armor.

You could also use the Armor-wise to establish a fact about armor in the fiction; namely that it’s constructed to be easily adjusted for those of the same stock. Here a game facilitator could say, “No, it gets beatup” or they could say “You know, I don’t exactly know the low-level details I want for the world, let’s find out.”

I’m sure all of this rattled around in Judd’s Game Master (GM 📖) brain; he’s one of those gamers who’s almost certainly forgotten more thoughts about games than many folks have thought about.

Leveraging Wises to Get Things Unstuck

, one of the PCs successfully Circled up an Non-Player Character (NPC 📖) who had a problem and was looking for someone to help. Yup, in BWG if you want to get a patron that needs you to go find the McGuffin, you can Circle on up.

In that moment, the GM needed to come up with a character and what problem they might have. As they were “forming this NPC from thin air” I made a suggestion:

I would like to use Contract-wise to establish that this person has several financial contracts, and the other parties are delinquent on payment.

The GM agreed to the conditions of the test. And set an Obstacle (Ob 📖)4 difficulty for the test.

My character succeeded, and suddenly folks owed this NPC some significant money. A great consequence for failure would’ve been that my character was one of those that owed the NPC money.

That test helped moved from NPC formation, into someone now enmeshed in the fiction; one of the other NPCs is a banker and another is a trader/art thief.

The Trouble of Trouble-wise

In my Sunday game, the PCs have begun traveling with Jack of New Cyre. He’s a 17 year-old refugee seeking refuge in New Cyre.

He bore witness to the atrocity committed by the brother of one of the PCs. He’s traveling with the characters because they know he’s in danger.

Village born
Will B3
Perception B4
Power B4
Forte B4
Agility B4
Speed B4
Hostel-wise B2
Inconspicuous B3
Road-wise B2
Throwing B3
Trouble-wise B4
Bad Egg (Char)
Good for Nothing (Char)
Nimble (C-O for Throwing)
Fleet of Foot (C-O for Speed)
When I get a chance, I’ll take that Siberys shard. It’s more than enough to help my family.
This life of adventure ain’t so bad, I’ll see what I can learn from them before I ditch them and get my own crew.
Always have a few throwing rocks in my pocket.
Always prank someone who’s nagging me.

Because of a prior failed test to persuade him, Jack was going to cause trouble along the way.

As they were traveling in the foothills, I, the Game Facilitator, interjected and said:

Jack’s going to use Trouble-wise to establish that he’s going to lure them into a bit of trouble; maybe some goblins or a pesky owlbear.

The consequences of failure would be that Jack would find trouble, but he would be it’s focal point. In consultation with the group, I set the obstacle, threw some dice for Jack. And he failed!

The fiction unfolded with Jack clearly a bit distracted, looking for things on the horizon, missed a ledge and slipped over it. He clung desperately to avoid a 10 or so foot drop.

Poking at the World

In our short Campaign: Burning Warhammer campaign, my character kept using Law-wise to establish nuanced facts about the structure of the legal system. See for two such examples, as well as .

Nothing like establishing in-game jurisprudence via the game mechanics.


I keep spilling ink on BWG’s Wises because I love the agency that they provide. They always start a conversation, and if you throw the dice, they almost certainly nudge the fiction.

Furthermore, playing with them as I’ve described helps engage everyone in world-building.