Oiled wheel

This is a set of house rules, specifications an interpretations for Burning wheel. Lots of inspiration from Ron Edward’s Sorcerer.

  1. Characters have to start in motion; an untenable position or strong goals. This is primary up to the players, though the game master can offer ideas, of course.
  2. Beliefs are more general: a principle or a long-term goal is sufficient. None of the ”next I will” stuff there. They might or might not be renamed in some way; belief might no longer be appropriate. But that is not the focus now. The beliefs should tie into the situation (defined by point 1 above) or the setting in general (take something horse-related in a mongol game, for instance).
  3. Artha for reaching goals is given for goals, as usual (they need not be encoded as beliefs), but also by checking each belief and seeing if there has been measurable progress or improvement related to it.
  4. The GM figures out any NPC that are relationships or implied by beliefs, as well as any others the situation demands, and maybe some representatives of affiliations. This need not be a full burn, but a basic idea of history and current motivations.
  5. The GM prepares a backstory after hearing who the player characters are and what they are about, or maybe ahead of time. This need not be elaborate or detailed, but it has to explain and give context for the motivations of the non-player characters.
  6. In task rolls, ”stakes” have the generic theory meaning, not the BW meaning: What is at stake is the intent of the task, and on failure it is not achieved, but the failure is not declared before rolling, at least in a systematic way. The game master does always choose the most obvious and non-surprising failures that follow from the situation and backstory preparation.
  7. When a player narrates what their character is doing, they get the forks that were quite clear in the narration, and no arguing for more. In particular, in a fast situation, you rarely get more than a single fork.


The situation plus the issues of the characters would be enough to drive play until resolved (in which case: stop or create new ones). The sufficiently defined NPCs, backstory and motivations should be enough to make task failures quite obvious.

In my game mastering experience beliefs sometimes left to the wayside as play goes where it wills; these changes open up the game for that to happen.

Burning wheel is very slow in play due to discussing failure consequences ahead of time and gathering forks etc. Sometimes this is appropriate, sometimes not; these changes would speed up this part of play. Note that failure consequences can still be stated by the game master, and maybe should to heighten drama or to verify that the players are on the same page, but it is not obligatory for every roll of the dice.

Oiled wheel

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