Burning sandbox

1 October, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling) (, , , )

This is a game I want to run some day. Maybe next Saturday, but probably later.


There is a bunch of kingdoms, fighting as they ever do, but also occasionally financing explorers to distant lands. There is a great waste west of the known kingdoms; there are few barbarians, some stunted people, a number of ancient ruins and scores of monsters there (or say the rumours). Some explorers discovered ways through the waste: An oasis here, a deserted town with a well there, easy passage through rocky wasteland somewhere else.

The remarkable things is what was found on the other side: There’s more waste, of course, but there is also a great sea, rolling hills and steppes, a range of mountains that separates the waste from the great forest further to west. Further, a walled city of no small proportions was found, deserted and with no sign of where the original residents are.

Rumours of the discovered new land quickly spread and across the waste many traveled. Now the once-dead city has plenty of life and the surrounding wilderness is slowly tamed. Yet there are tales of monsters, of ancient tombs and caverns, of unexplained vanishings of children in the streets and of strange foreign cults to vile gods. Many claim to have witnessed some or much of these mysteries. Furthermore, there are visitors from the sea: people of foreign appearance and language who trade in goods and slaves, sometimes even settling in the city born anew. They bring rumours of the past: A curse and deadly diseases.

Enter player characters. For whatever reason, they are in the city born anew. They are desperate for money, noble and idealistic, seeking power, or simply curious. They will brave the dangers that threaten the city from without and within. Maybe they will live to list their deeds and boast.


System of choice for this game is Burning Wheel, as the quick-witted and cultured among my readers might have already guessed. No experience with the rules is necessary; there will even be pre-generated characters. If you are not familiar with the rules, you may wish to skip to the game-wise section.

Three lifepath characters, exponent cap of 5 (four for sorcery, faith, etc.). Should stat or attribute exceed this, -5 and make it grey (in particular, faith B4 or G1; I heartily recommend B4). Available lifepaths are those in the red book, waste wanderers from the wiki and LPs in Magic Burner when and only when the book is brought to the game; I don’t own it, at least yet. Human characters only (for now; other stocks may be encountered by adventuring and be made available as PC races thereby). Gifted separately for different schools of magic (alchemy included in any) and separate magical skill for art magic, practical magic and standard sorcery with abstractions. Death art is a skill. The faithful should have some idiom and some deity corresponding to it; player’s responsibility, though I keep veto power in case of inappropriateness.

For beliefs, I recommend having one that motivates general adventuring; earning lots of money, arcane power, ancient secrets, or maybe glory and fame. One should be about specific monster, NPC, item or adventuring location; feel free to name the monster, NPC, item or adventuring location; I will cope. The third one can be about whatever; do keep in mind that the cast of player characters will not be static.

The rules for finding the path are in use; basically, locations are handled as relationships and finding them is similar to rolling circles.


This won’t be standard Burning Wheel. West Marches of Ben Robbins are an inspiration, as is Burning Thac0 and various old school luminaries around the Network. So, in no particular order:

This game does not require a stationary set of players or characters. Participate when you feel like it. I am willing to run the game whenever I have some time and some players (one or more); I may initiate a game as may any players; simply tell me the time and what you intend to do, so that I can prepare the location, if necessary, or create/convert monsters or NPCs.

I will have pre-generated characters that are somewhat capable of adventuring, if not outright optimised, but you are encouraged to bring a pre-burned character if you have the books. You can, the entire group willing, focus on adventuring outside, within, or below the city, or even in the nearby islands; Duels of Wits (social resolution system of BW) about adventuring locations are a fine means of solving the issue, but do inform me ahead of time where you intend to go. Getting to adventure locations is nontrivial; orienteering, sailing/navigation, or streetwise are useful skills. Moving in a party is recommended, but not a required.

I will prepare the adventuring locations to some detail; likely as not, this means using stuff found on the ‘net interpreted through BW lens. If I am not given suitable information on the plans of the party, then I will not prepare and the quality of the game is likely to decrease, as sandbox play requires some preparation to feel authentic and rooted. Note that players may use wises, circles and other relevant mechanics as normal: If I have decided why an NPC died and you want to roll murder-wise to know that it was the butler but it was not, then I will let you know that I have decided who the killer is and you may roll the wise to find out.

Players are encouraged to draw maps, write game reports, and generally communicate with each other. You can keep your characters or I can keep them; if me, than I will try to transfer into electronic format, probably on the BW wiki.

Burning Wheel is not a simple game and is very character-focused, so this is very much an experiment, but one that I am eager to try.


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