The Hub

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Well, it has been a while since I last did one of these, so what the hell. This is a game I'm a little surprised hasn't shown up here yet, and I'm not entirely sure I'm the right person to do this justice, but what the hell. This is Burning Wheel Gold - an RPG by Luke Crane, the system behind Mouse Guard and Torchbearers, and possibly the most confusing RPG rulebook I have ever read (but only in one part, which we'll take a while to get to). Who knows, maybe trying to explain this game to others might help me to understand the bits I have trouble with myself.

Burning Wheel Part 1: The Hub

From the outset, it is fairly clear that this book was not intended for first time role players, though there is a little bit of text after a little while that talks about the stuff newbies need to know. It makes mention from the start that, unlike many fantasy RPGs, this game does not have an assumed setting, although the rules are inspired by the works of J.R.R Tolkein and Ursula Le Guin. The game has basic and advanced rules, and the book suggests that players new to the system should familiarise themselves with the basic rules (about 75 pages) and begin play just using that. It seems like a pretty good idea given the complexity of some of the more advanced stuff, but having never played this game, I don't know for certain how good that advice truly is.

Within the book, there are four "voices", as Luke refers to them. It might be best to let them introduce themselves, as they'll likely be cropping up from time to time, and I'll be quoting them directly. Oh, and there is no (legally available) pdf version of this game, so this is going to be typed out. You're welcome. First, we have the "rules" voice, which is the majority of the text.

Rules Voice posted:

Basic rules text is not preceded by any of the Imps. This "rules voice" is used to convey most of the information in the game. The Imps offer commentary on the game.

Next, we have the Instructor,

Instructor posted:

This character indicates that I am asking the reader to take note. The text following him is written in my voice, rather than the rules voice. I call this guy the Instructor. You can call him Luke. For example, "Thanks, Luke, that was very helpful".

the Ranter,

Ranter posted:

This is the Ranter. He rears his ugly head whenever I am yelling about something. This usually comes in the form of harsh advice or warnings regarding the limits of Burning Wheel. Take what he says with a pinch of salt. For example, "I wish Luke would shut up."

and the Weeper.

Weeper posted:

The Weeper is a strange one, prone to outbursts of tears at the oddest times; sometimes tears of sadness, sometimes fear and sometimes joy. He frequently squirts when death or something scary is nearby. "What's he carrying on about now?"

After the voices are introduced, the book moves on to describe the flow of play. This is where it mentions the basics like sitting around a table and talking shit, what a GM is and who does what. It's about two paragraphs long before we get the Instructor rearing his ugly mug again on the subject of the various bits of paper:

Instructor posted:

Each player is required to keep a written record of his character. Character sheets are provided on our website at for just this purpose. Characters in Burning Wheel evolve and grow as play progresses, so I recommend using a pencil to mark the sheet. There are a few other sheets used in play to track moment to moment stuff, but they'll be discussed later down the line.

The GM has the responsibility to keep notes on the characters and monsters that he uses. These don't need to be fully fleshed out - a few numbers usually suffice. But there are certain characters that will need to be described fully in order to give them their due in play.

Next up, we have dice. In this game, we have a die pool of d6s, wherein generally a 4-6 is a success (or "Yes"), while a 1-3 is a failure (or "No"). You roll a number equal to the stat or skill you're rolling, and the difficulty of a roll is the number of successes you must achieve. The only difference in die target number comes from "shades" of dice - Black is the default, in which a 4+ is a success. Grey is slightly better, with 3+ as a success (generally denotes heroic abilities), while White is considerably better, with a 2+ as a success (generally denotes supernaturally high ability).

We can't have rules on how to roll without some idea of when to roll, so the book moves straight on to this: you should roll during dramatic moments when the outcome is uncertain. In other words, if your character has the carpentry skill, he should be able to build a serviceable table and chairs without a random chance of fucking it up and building a wardrobe instead, but if he were trying to use that skill to barricade a door as enemies try to break it down, that would require a die roll.

Finally, some rolls are open ended - essentially, the dice explode. This typically applies to Faith, Steel (essentially one's courage) and magical abilities, though some other rolls might also count.

The next chapter is about characters - not building them, as that's an entirely separate part of the book which I will likely do out of order, but what the stats mean. To begin with, we have Stats, Attributes and Skills, which can each have a Shade (Black, Grey or White) and an Exponent (fancy way of saying how high it is - doesn't go up exponentially). Stats are exactly what they sound like; what D&D calls abilities and what most systems would just call attributes or, well, stats. There are six of them:

Will : This is your strength of mind, your social intelligence and your empathy. Most social skills are based on this.

Perception : This is your mental acuity and awareness. Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin with the traditional "intelligence" stuff mixed in.

Agility : This is your hand eye coordination, and is the basis of pretty much all of the combat skills in the game.

Speed : This is your movement speed and bodily coordination. It is typically used for running away or dodging blows, but is also the basis of most movement skills.

Power : This is your physical strength, and is largely used for damage in melee combat or for any situation where brute force is an option.

Forte : Pronounced "fort", like the portion of a sword blade close to the hilt, this represents your durability and toughness. It is rarely rolled, and is primarily used to determine your health pool.

Next, we have Attributes. These are derived from the Stats, and while a couple are rolled, not all of them are.

Health : This is based on Will and Forte, and is used to recover from injury and to resist pain and fatigue.

Reflexes : This is based on Perception, Agility and Speed, and determines how often you get to act during a combat round. It doesn't get rolled.

Steel : Is not described fully here, other than to say what I said above - it is used to determine how steady a character's nerves are and is largely affected by a character's background.

Emotional Attributes : Are not described fully here, other than to say that they represent various emotions and that not all characters have them.

Mortal Wound : This is based on Power and Forte, and determines how much damage you can take before you die.

Skills are discussed elsewhere, and work pretty much exactly as you'd imagine. A character also has Beliefs, Instincts and Traits. Beliefs are a core mechanic of the game which have their own chapter; here it is simply stated that they are a combination between an outlook on life and a goal. Instincts are things your character does without thinking. You make these up for yourself. If your instinct is "draw my weapon at the first sign of trouble", then as soon as combat starts, your character has a weapon drawn. They also have their own section in the book. Traits are quirks and odd abilities gained during life, and are (naturally) described in their own part of the book.

Resources and Circles come next; Resources is essentially a skill that you roll in order to be able to afford things, rather than keeping track of actual money, while Circles is a skill you roll in order to see if you can get someone you know to help you. In the latter case, typically if you roll Circles to see if you know a guy; a success means you do and they'll help you, while a failure means you do, but you pissed them off somehow and they still remember...

Finally, we have gear and magic. Gear essentially either improves a stat (such as swords improving Power for the purposes of dealing damage) or modifies penalties (such as clothing reducing the difficulty of many social checks). Magic, meanwhile, is just that. Powerful, inexplicable and, if you don't understand it, fucking scary.

And this is where The Hub ends. Next come The Spokes; the basic mechanics of the game.

The Spokes

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

That would explain it. I'm not sure how sensible a decision it was (my guess would be "not very"), but it's his decision to make. To be honest, I prefer physical copies to electronic copies of books, but sometimes you don't have access to all of your physical books. That said, you only really need one copy of the book per table - the basic rules (that is, the bit I'm currently covering) are available as a pdf, and while the more advanced rules take up more space in the book, they're honestly probably easier to explain in play than to have people read. And on that note:

Burning Wheel Part 2: The Spokes

Tests are, simply put, die rolls. It begins with a statement of Intent (for example, "I want to kill the dude."), combined with a task (let's say, "I want to stab the dude in the face."). Then, the GM determines an Obstacle (difficulty) for the test, which the player rolls against. This takes about a page and a half to explain in the book (I'm starting to second guess my original assumption about the book not being aimed at complete beginners to role playing), with a little bit of input from the Instructor:

The Instructor posted:

If it is ever unclear what to roll, the GM should question the player. Get him to describe his action in detail, until what needs to happen is clear to both parties. Once the Ability to be tested is established, then the dice are rolled.

The book then moves onto the various kinds of tests. We have Standard Tests, which are a single die roll which either succeeds or fails, Versus Tests, which are just opposed die rolls with a different name (defender wins on ties - in the stealth example given, if someone is sneaking around, the person looking out for them is the defender; if someone is actively searching for a hidden person, the person doing the hiding is the defender), Graduated Tests, which aren't so much pass/fail as how well you did (gathering information would be one of these, with more information given with each success) and Linked Tests, which are basically D&D Fourth Edition's Skill Challenges done right.

A Linked Test is what is used when a test takes up multiple actions, which each use different skills. The skills are rolled in the order they're performed, with a good success (that is, rolling more successes than were required) on a previous roll adding a die to the next roll, and a failure on a previous roll increasing the Obstacle by 1. The example given here is navigating a boat through dangerous waters without being seen. To quote said example:

The Rules posted:

In the example above, the GM determines that this intent is going to require three tests: the Orc Pirate must pass his Piloting test, the Priest Navigator must then pass a Navigation test and the Temple Guardian must pass an Observation test as he watches the pirates. In this case, the Orc player barely meets his Obstacle. This doesn't affect the Navigator, who fails anyway. Luckily, the Temple Guardian passes his test, in spite of the increased Obstacle.

The final result is that the ship finds its way to the island (Piloting success) but approaches from the wrong angle (Navigation failure) - she's spotted by pirate at the same time as she spots them (Observation success). The chase is on!

Linked tests may be used for tasks with just about any time frame, from infiltrating a building to making one's way from city to city without running into bandits or running out of food.

Next, we have Advantage and Disadvantage. These are very simple concepts - if the circumstances give you an advantage in successfully performing a task, you gain an addition die to your roll. If the circumstances make the task harder, you add +1 to the Obstacle. You can only have one die of advantage, and when asking for it, the book specifies that you should explain why it makes sense in one sentence. No lawyering. Disadvantage can come from multiple places, and it stacks. You can have both on the same roll - in the example given, shooting someone from high ground with smoke in your eyes would have advantage for the high ground (so one extra die), but disadvantage from the smoke (so one higher Obstacle).

The harshest penalty is the Double Obstacle Penalty (most commonly seen when attempting to use a skill untrained), wherein the base Obstacle of the task is doubled before any other modifiers are added. For example, in the above situation, attempting that shot without being trained with the weapon in question would double the Obstacle for the shot, then add one to that for the smoke.

Then, we have the four main methods of carrying out a test - Normal, Carefully (takes half again as long, and in any time sensitive situation, a failure means you run out of time), Patiently (works differently with each skill, but in generall allows the addition of bonus successes) or Quickly (each additional success allows you to shave 10% off of the time). This can be mixed, meaning that if you perform a task quickly and carefully, if you succeed by five successes, you take the base amount of time. In the case of Patiently and Quickly, the additional successes need to be arranged prior to the roll (for example, saying that you'll split them fifty fifty).

After this, we have success and failure. On a success, the player performs the task exactly as they described it prior to rolling. If the task was to stab a fool in the face, that person's face has been well and truly stabbed, and that person is likely dead. Failure, meanwhile, should be interesting. The example given here involves somebody trying to pick a lock before a guard shows up, and suggests that a failed roll should not simply mean that the lock isn't picked; it should mean that the player gets to choose one of two things - either he fails to pick the lock, or he succeeds, but a guard shows up just as he's finishing off.

The most important thing to remember here is that, unless the situation changes drastically, all rolls stand. If a player is infiltrating a mansion? One stealth roll. If you're climbing a mountain? One climbing roll. It's that simple. If the player fails, the player is incapable of performing that task unless things change. If the player succeeds, the GM should not ask for additional rolls unless things change.

Next, we have the amount of time that tests generally take. There are some exceptions, but these are accurate for the most part. Failure takes just as long as success. For some tasks, if a thing doesn't have to be done all at once but it does have a long duration (research from a book, for example), the one roll covers the whole of that research, but the information might be granted in bits and pieces throughout the session as time passes and the player does other things.

A player can help another player in a given test; the player should explain what they're doing to help, after which they provide a one or two dice bonus, depending on the stat or skill they're using to help. It cannot be forced or sneaky - the player performing the task should know that they are being helped, even if the character might not.

When more than one skill could apply to what you're doing, this is where Fields of Related Knowledge (or FoRKs) are used. One example given here is when an elf is trying to look up dwarven history. The elf tests History, but because he also as an Exponent in Dwarf-Wise (that is, he knows his shit about dwarves), he gets a bonus die to his roll.

Some skills require that the player have access to the right tools - if they don't, they take a Double Obstacle Penalty. This stacks with the same penalty for attempting a skill untrained.

Finally, there's a bit about how to use written instructions on doing a thing. This can be used for practising skills, and can also be used to actually do a thing. Well, sort of; they'll help, so long as you successfully pass a research roll. If the roll fails, you're confused by the instructions and the task actually becomes more difficult.

The chapter ends here, ready to get started on learning new skills and improving the stats and skills you already have.


posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Right, now that I don't have a Pathfinder one shot to prepare on short notice, time to take another look at a good game.

Burning Wheel Part 3: Advancement

The book says rather grandly that "Advancement is the Lifeblood of Burning Wheel". Yeah, maybe a little pretentious. Unlike in many games, skills and stats in Burning Wheel improve through use. There are three difficulties of tests - routine, difficult and challenging. This is important for advancement, because in order to advance, you need a specific number of different difficulty tests. If a skill is 4 or lower, you require a number of routine tests, and a number of difficult or challenging tests. At 5 and higher, routine tests no longer count, and the tests must come from a specific number of difficult and challenging tests. For stats, only difficult and challenging tests are counted. Note that the rolls do not have to be successful - you learn as much from failure as success. Once you gain the required number of tests at each difficulty, the score immediately increases.

The Instructor posted:

Applicable Situations

Tests are only rewarded to players when their characters act in appropriate and applicable in-game situations. Everything else counts as practice.

The Ranter posted:

Test Mongering

Tests are very important to the game, but badgering the GM for them is very bad form. Can I test? Can I? Sometimes, a player will wish to have his character roll his dice for something at an inappropriate juncture in play. It is the GM's role to pace events and keep play flowing evenly. Therefore, he can have a player hold off on making a test until the appropriate time, or even stay his hand entirely.

Test mongering also involves pestering the GM for a particular test. "I need a routine. Can I make a routine test?" "Dude, it's a dragon. I don't think there are going to be any routine tests." The GM's job here is to flat out say "No." Let the difficulty of the tests arise organically, not at the player's request so his character can advance. It makes for a much more interesting game.

In a situation where a character rolls the same skill or stat multiple times in one situation (combat is a really good example of this), the entire situation only counts as one test. The highest difficulty test of the encounter is the difficulty used. However, if a player is only one test from advancing, as soon as a test of appropriate difficulty is rolled, that is the difficulty used.

Graduated tests (wherein any number of successes count as a success, but more successes give a better result) always count as a routine test, and once a skill or stat advances, all of the successes for that skill are removed. For versus tests, the difficulty is the number of successes rolled by the opposing side.

Because helping adds dice to the person rolling, this may reduce the difficulty of the test (and as a result make it harder to get the more difficult tests for advancement). The person helping, however, also gets a test, as though they had made a test against that difficulty with their own skill. FoRKs and Advantage Dice are also counted towards the dice rolled for the test, and may also reduce the difficulty for advancement. Dice gained from spending Artha, meanwhile, do not count.

Use in stressful situations is not the only way to increase skills and stats - they can also be increased through practice and instruction. Each skill and stat has a cycle period (typically months and can be as much as a year), during which time the character must spend a certain number of hours per day practicing. At the end of that period, if they have spent that many hours every day practicing, they get one test. The difficulty of the test is based off of the number of hours spent practicing each day, and the most amount of time a character can spend practicing is Will * 3, or 20; whichever is lower. An instructor can give tests in a matter of weeks rather than months based on a roll on the Instruction skill by the instructor. The Instruction takes up all of a character's free time, and no other skills may be practiced during that time.

Learning a new skill also requires tests of that skills - beginner's luck allows one to test the base stat at double the difficulty, while instruction and practice can provide tests as well. A number of tests (regardless of difficulty) equal to the character's aptitude in that skill - the aptitude being 10 - the base stat. Once the skill is learned, it starts at half the score of the base stat.

BITs, Artha and The Spokes in Play

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Burning Wheel Part 4: BITs, Artha and The Spokes in Play

Here we get to the most important part of Burning Wheel - Beliefs, Instincts and Traits. Beliefs are fairly simple - what do you believe in? These are not just any old beliefs - simple belief in god doesn't count; nor does simple patriotism. These are the beliefs that are central to your character, and they are how you tell the GM what you want the game to be about. One example given is a peasant having the belief "I am the true king of this land" - this doesn't make it true, but it tells the GM that a portion of the game should be about this peasant and his attempts claim what he sees as being rightfully his.

Instructor posted:

Beliefs are meant to be challenged, betrayed and broken. Such emotional drama makes for a good game. If your character has the belief "I guard the prince's life with my own", and the prince is slain in the climax of the scenario, that's your chance to play out a tortured and dramatic scene and really go ballistic.

Conversely, if the prince is killed right out of the gate, the character is drained of purpose. Note that the player said he wanted to defend the prince in play, not avenge him. Killing the prince in the first session sucks the life out of the character. He really has no reason to participate any longer. But if the prince dies in the grand climax, c'est la vie. The protector must roll with the punches and react to this new change. Even better, if the prince dies due to the actions or failures of his own guardian - now that's good stuff.

Another example: We once had a character with the belief "I will one day restore my wife's life". His wife had died, and he kept her body around, trying to figure out a way to bring her back. Well, midway through the game, the GM magically restored his wife to the land of the living. I've never seen a more crushed player. He didn't know what to do! He had stated that the quest and the struggle was the goal, not the end result. "One day!" he said. But the GM insisted, and the whole scenario and character were ruined for the player.

A player can change his character's beliefs whenever he wishes - characters are meant to change over time, after all, and a change in beliefs is a part of that. The GM does have veto, however - if the change seems to be the player trying to wriggle out of an awkward situation, rather than the natural growth of the character.

Instincts are fairly simple - they are a statement of what a character will automatically do in a certain situation. "Always draw my sword at the first sign of trouble," is a good one - and means that in combat, the character will usually have his sword drawn as soon as combat begins, rather than having to spend an action to do it. Another might be "When on patrol, always have bow drawn and an arrow nocked." If a thing is written as an instinct, then whether the player mentions it or not, it can be assumed to have happened. A player can choose to have his character not perform the action in an instinct (for example, he might choose not to draw his sword in spite of his instinct), but if the player follows an instinct that gets him into trouble, he receives Artha. Just like Beliefs, Instincts can be changed whenever the player wishes (usually at the end of a session).

Traits, meanwhile, are important things about the character. Character traits, for example, mean that a character is easily distinguisable by that trait; call-on traits allow a once per session ability to either break a tie in their own favour, or to reroll failed dice as part of a test; and die traits adjust the way a skill or stat is rolled for a test. Changes to traits are voted for by the players as a group - both for adding new ones and for removing old ones that no longer make sense.

After the chapter on Beliefs, Instincts and Traits, we move on to Artha. Artha is named after the sanskrit word, which means something along the lines of a person's power and success in their community or immediate surroundings, and there are three kinds of Artha: Fate, Persona and Deeds. Fate is gained through simply walking the character's destined path (that is, playing to their beliefs and instincts - even when it would cause them trouble), and is spent on minor boosts and aids. Persona is gained through very good role playing, accomplishing personal goals and being really useful to the group, and can be spent to modify die rolls. Finally, Deeds are earned by accomplishing important tasks through hard work and sacrifice, and can be spent to greatly modify a die roll.

Fate can be spent to make 6s count as new dice to be rolled for potentially more successes, or to ignore a single superficial wound's worth of wound penalties. Persona can be spent to add additional dice to the test, to remove a single die of wound penalties, to prevent a time complication when using the working carefully rules for a test or to have a chance of surviving a mortal wound (if the persona point is not spent, the character is dead). Deeds may be spent to double the stat or skill being rolled for a test, or to reroll all the failed dice in a test. Up to one Fate, 3 Persona and 2 Deeds may be spent on a single die roll.

Alternatively, a player may spent 5 Fate, 3 Persona and 1 Deed to gain what is called an Aristeia. This grants one of two benefits: it may allow a single stat or skill to be treated as one shade higher than usual for the length of a scene, or it may allow a player to ignore all wound penalties while attempting to achieve a simple goal. Once 3 Deeds, 10 Persona and 20 Fate have been spent on a stat or a skill, the character gets an Epiphany and the ability in question immediately and permanently becomes one shade higher.

Finally, we have a small chapter on The Spokes in Play. This chapter begins with a quote from Vincent Baker in his own game, Dogs in the Vineyard, in which he says,

Vincent Baker posted:

Every moment of play, roll the dice or say yes.

If nothing is at stake, say "yes" [to the player's request], whatever they're doing. Just go along with them. If they ask for information, give it to them. If they have their characters go somewhere, they're there. If they want something, it's their's.

Sooner or later - sooner, because [your game's] pregnant with crisis - they'll have their characters do something that someone else won't like. Bang! Something's at stake. Start the conflict and roll the dice.

Roll dice or say "Yes".

Instructor posted:

Flip that around and it reveals a fundamental rule in Burning Wheel gameplay: When there is conflict, roll the dice. There is no social agreement for the resolution of conflict in this game. Roll the dice and let the obstacle system guide the outcome. Success or failure doesn't really matter. So long as the intent of the task is clearly stated, the story is going somewhere.

The book then advises that the GM setting obstacles can affect the mood of a game - such that low obstacles make the game feel heroic and pulpy, while high obstacles can make the game feel dark and oppressive.

instructor posted:

The players have some role in setting this mood, but by far it is the GM's job to sculpt, pace and nudge the atmosphere in a certain direction. And not just through beautiful descriptions, he uses the game mechanics to reinforce those descriptions.

Next, it says to always use Versus Tests for conflict between any two characters - be it social conflict, physical conflict or anything else where a mechanic exists. The main reason it gives is that this keeps things fair, and allows players to use all of the mechanics at their disposal to influence events.

instructor posted:

Why roll at all? Why not just agree on what's happening? We're all fair minded adults, right? Well, social agreement is a fantastic idea, but it is subject to bullying, blustering, intimidation, manipulation, cajoling, persuasion and lying; all things that are separate from the characters - part of a social dynamic that is apart from the game. By relying on dice, everyone is on a level playing field. Burning Wheel is a game, not an acting class. The versus tests get everyone playing the game. Besides, your characters only advance if you roll the dice!

Roll, and you'll find that dice in Burning Wheel actually support and bolster the players' actions - even if they fail! Dice help you get what you want, not frustrate your goals. There's a process to it, sure, but I'm confident that the mechanics of this game drive dramatic, intense play. Roll the dice. You'll see.

Finally, the book says to stop reading the rules, and to start creating characters and playing the game with the rules we already have - and that seems like an excellent suggestion. I open it up to the floor - what kinds of characters would you like to see me create as I look at the next portion of the book: The Character Burner? Bear in mind that this is a fantasy game, with the standard humans, elves and dwarves, but not much more.

Character Burner

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Burning Wheel Part 5: Character Burner

Well, I know it's two months late, but now that exams and assignment work and all the other bollocks that come at the end of the academic year are dealt with, it's time to go ahead and create those characters. I seem to recall someone asking for a travelling merchant (Joseph Smith, because I suck at names), and someone else asking for an elf (Elliw, because Sindarin is based on Welsh), so those are the characters I'll be using as examples. I'll be creating each one with 3 lifepaths.

In Burning Wheel, characters start off simply as one of four races - Dwarves, Elves, Men and Orcs. Each race has one defining emotional attribute - for the Dwarves, it is greed - their greed can lead them to great deeds, but as it gets stronger it can lead them to betray and murder those they once called friends for the sake of pretty baubles. Elves are filled with grief - they live a very, very long time, because violence and wasting away from grief are the only things that can kill them, and so they see a great many tragedies. Once grief reaches 10, an elf must either pass away into the West, Tolkein style, or else they waste away from their grief. Humans, optionally, have faith, and with their faith they can work miracles. Orcs have hatred - hatred not only of their foes, but of their allies and themselves. They are all cannibals, and they are, for want of a better word, all evil. There are no tragically misunderstood good orcs; every last one of them feels a burning hatred for absolutely everything - and yes, that does include the little baby orcs. This is largely because they share the same origin as Tolkein's orcs - they were once elves, until an evil wizard experimented on them, and twisted them into something entirely different.

From there, you pick lifepaths; each one takes a number of years to complete, and when you add them all together, that's how old your character is. Each lifepath adds resource points, which are used to buy starting equipment, relationships with NPCs, affiliations with organisations and spells. Each lifepath also adds skills (you get a list, from which you must learn at least one) and attributes, and some require that you have already been through another lifepath first. In order to take a lifepath from a different setting, one of your previous lifepaths must have a Lead to it - as I'll demonstrate below.

The first lifepath you choose is the setting you were born in. For Joseph, this means that he is City Born - he was born in a city. For this, he gets 4 General Points, 10 Resources, 1 Trait Point, and is 12 years old. As for Elliw, she was born in the Wilderlands. As a Born Wilder, she starts at 20 years old, gets 4 General Points, 2 Skill Points (her skill list has Sing first, which means that she must learn it, and Elven Script), 5 Resources and one additional Trait Point on top of the Elven Common Traits.

Joseph Smith posted:

Lifepaths: City Born
Age: 12
General Points: 4
Skill Points: 0
Resources: 10
Traits: 1

Elliw posted:

Lifepaths: Born Wilder Elf
Age: 20
General Points: 4
Skill Points: 2
Resources: 5
Traits: 1
Required Traits: Elven Common Traits
Required Skills: Sing
Optional Skills: Elven Script

Elliw becomes a Rider once she is old enough - this adds another 20 years to her age, an additional physical attribute, 6 skill points (with Riding as the required skill), 1 trait (with Oikofugic as a required Trait) and 8 Resources. Last but by no means least, it has Protector as a Lead - this means that with her third and final lifepath I can move her into the Protector Setting. The reason I'm doing this is because the Protector Setting doesn't come with a Born lifepath; it must be entered into after the character already has some experience. Joseph, meanwhile, becomes a shopkeeper. This adds 6 years to his age, an additional mental attribute, 4 skill points (with Merchant-Wise as the required skill) and 16 resources. Finally, it has a lead to the Villager Setting - this is important because Village Merchants and City Merchants require different things. A City Merchant requires more lifepaths than we're using here, while a City Shopkeeper can jump straight to being a Village Merchant.

Elliw posted:

Lifepaths: Born Wilder Elf - Rider
Age: 40
General Points: 4
Physical Attributes: 1
Skill Points: 8
Resources: 13
Traits: 2
Required Traits: Elven Common Traits; Oikofugic
Required Skills: Sing; Riding
Optional Skills: Elven Script; The Gift of Speed*; Lay of the Horse*

* These are Song skills; elven magic.

Joseph Smith posted:

Lifepaths: City Born - Shopkeeper
Age: 18
General Points: 4
Mental Attributes: 1
Skill Points: 4
Resources: 26
Traits: 1
Required Skills: Merchant-Wise
Optional Skills: Haggling; Accounting; Observation

With our third lifepaths, Joseph leaves the city to become a travelling merchant (a Village Merchant can travel from village to village, surely ); sure, it's a bit of a risk, but he stands to make a lot of money if it all works out. As a Village Merchant, he receives another 6 Skill Points (Accounting is the required skill), 1 Trait (with Distracted as a required Trait), another point to add to Mental attributes and 30 more Resources. At the end of this lifepath, he is 26 years old, and a moderately wealthy young man. Elliw, meanwhile, enters into the Protector Setting to become a Spear-Bearer. Here, she learns the elven arts of spearcraft, gains 8 Skill Points, 1 Trait, a further 8 Resources, one more point to add to physical attributes, and another 20 years of life (+1 for taking a Lead), bringing her up to the respectable age of 61 years old.

Joseph Smith posted:

Lifepaths: City Born - Shopkeeper - Merchant
Age: 25
General Points: 4
Mental Attributes: 2
Skill Points: 10
Resources: 56
Traits: 2
Required Traits: Distracted
Required Skills: Merchant-Wise; Accounting
Optional Skills: Haggling; Observation; Persuasion; Falsehood; Wholesale-Wise; Landlord-Wise

Elliw posted:

Lifepaths: Born Wilder Elf - Rider - Spearbearer
Age: 61
General Points: 4
Physical Attributes: 2
Skill Points: 16
Resources: 21
Traits: 3
Required Traits: Elven Common Traits; Oikofugic
Required Skills: Sing; Riding; Spearcraft**
Optional Skills: Elven Script; The Gift of Speed*; Lay of the Horse*; Spear; Armour Training; Formation Fighting Training

* These are Spell Songs.
** These are Skill Songs.

Now that we know the characters' ages, we can work out how many attribute points to give them: at 61 years old, Elliw receives 9 Mental and 14 Physical; with the two added form lifepaths, that makes a total of 9 Mental and 16 Physical. She gains the Elven Common Traits, which are Born Under the Silver Stars (they have a silver halo if viewed with "clear eyes"), Essence of the Earth (they never fall ill, and have bonuses to save versus poison and fatigue), Fair and Statuesque (all elves are incredibly pretty), Firstborn (they are the first sentient race, born from nature, and understand all its secrets; they have a maximum perception of 9, a stride of 8, and all other attributes are capped at 8), Grief (see above) and Keen Sight (they get a bonus to vision based perception tests and have no penalties in dim light). With 9 Mental and 16 Physical Stat points to assign, I might as well make it fairly even; and place 4 points into Will and 5 into Perception, and then four each into the Physical Stats. Joseph, meanwhile, starts with 7 Mental and 15 Physical points. With the two Mental added from lifepaths, this increases to 9 and 15. Joseph will probably start with a Will of B6 and a Perception of B3. As for Physical, Speed will begin at B4, Forte at B5 and the other two at B3.

Next, we have Skills. Elliw has 16 Skill Points to split between her skills. Song skills cost two points to open, and Armour Training and Formation Fighting Training may only be opened; they may not be advanced. The first four Skill Points go into Sing, Ride and Spearcraft. As we have enough points available to open up all of the optional skills with a few remaining, that's what I'm going to do. After that, with three skill points and five general points remaining, I will raise all of the skills which can be raised to B3, and then raise Spear to B4. Joseph, meanwhile, has ten Skill Points, which will be spent on opening and advancing Merchant-Wise, Accounting, Haggling, Persuasion and Wholesale-Wise, leaving Haggling and Persuasion at B4, with the other three at B2. The Merchant-Wise and Accounting will be raised to B4 each; Joseph is only just getting into the wholesale business, so that can stay at B2.

After Skills, we have Traits. Elliw has three traits points and only one required trait (Oikofugic, which means she has the near-constant desire to travel and may be her reason for adventuring - which costs 1). She also has a keen sense of humour (1) and is still young enough to be idealistic (1). As for Joseph, Distracted takes up one of his two Traits, while the other is Educated (hence why he is successful now as a merchant).

Attributes come next; Mortal Wound, Reflexes, Health and Steel. Mortal Wound is the average of Power and Forte added to 6; in this case, B10 for both characters. Reflexes is the average of Perception, Agility and Speed, rounded down; so a B4 for Elliw and a B3 for Joseph. Health begins at the average of Will and Forte (B4 for Elliw and B5 for Joseph), and is modified by questions:

Does the character live in squalor and filth (subtract 1)? No for both.
Is the character frail or sickly (subtract 1)? No for both.
Was the character severely wounded in the past (subtract 1)? No for both.
Has the character ever been tortured or enslaved (subtract 1)? No for both.
Is the character a Dwarf, Elf or Orc (add 1)? Yes for Elliw; No for Joseph.
Is the character athletic and active (add 1)? Yes for Elliw, probably not for Joseph.
Does the character live in a really clean and happy place, like the hills in the Sound of Music (add 1)? Uh... Probably not for either of them.

For Elliw, we have a total of B6, and for Joseph, a B5. Next, we have Steel. This begins at B3 and is increased based on the answers to these questions:

Has the character taken a fighting lifepath (soldier, knight, bandit and so on) (add 1)? Yes for Elliw, No for Joseph.
Has the character ever been severely wounded (add 1 if a fighter; subtract 1 if not)? No (as answered above).
Has the character ever killed with their own hand (add 1)? Yes for Elliw (she's been in the military for 41 years; she must have killed someone by this point); no for Joseph.
Has the character ever been beaten, tortured or enslaved over a long period of time (add 1 if will is 5 or higher; subtract 1 if 3 or lower; no change if 4)? No (as above).
Has the character lived a sheltered life, free from violence and pain (subtract 1)? No for both.
Has the character been raised in a competitive but non-violent culture (add 1)? Probably not for Elliw, but yes for Joseph.
Is the character gifted or faithful (or equivalent) (add 1)? No.
If the character's Perception is 6 or higher, add 1. Nope
If the character's Will is 5 or higher, add 1; if 7 or higher add 2. No for Elliw, Yes for Joseph.
If the character's forte is 6 or higher, add 1. And no.

For both characters, a total of B5. Hesitation is 10 - Will, for a 6 for Elliw and a 4 for Joseph, and finally, we have Grief for Elliw. Elves begin with 0 grief, and answer the following questions to increase it:

Add 1 if the character has taken any Protector lifepath. Yep.
Add 1 if the character has ever been a Lancer, a Lieutenant or Captain; and another 1 if the character has ever been a Lord-Protector or a Soother. No and no.
Add 1 if the character was born Etharch. Nope.
Add 1 if the character has taken the Elder lifepath. Nope.
Add 1 if the character does not know any Lamentations. No Lamentations, so that's a yes.
Add 1 if character's history includes tragedy. I'm tempted to say yes here, because that would inspire a young elf to go straight into the military. Sod it; yes.
Add 1 if the character has ever lived among non-elven people. Nope.
Add 1 if the character's Perception is greater than 5. Nope.
Add 1 if the character is over 500 years old; 2 if over 750 or 3 if over a thousand. Nope.

Elliw starts with a fairly standard starting grief of B3.

Next, we have Resource points. Light mail and a run of the mill spear will cost Elliw 11 resources, leaving her with 10 remaining. An elven steed and elven clothes cost the remainder between them. Joseph, meanwhile, has 56 Resources to spend. 3 Resources will get him a small cottage, and 45 will get him a successful small business, with 8 left over. Finery, regular clothing and shoes take up 7 of these, while 1 gives him an antique grandfather clock in this hallway. We then have the Resources and Circles abilities. Resources represents your ability to buy expensive stuff or call in favours, and is your resources spent on property, affiliations and relationships. Elliw has none of these things, and so has Resources at a B0. Joseph, meanwhile, has 48 Resources spent in Property, and so begins with B3. Circles, meanwhile, is about who the character knows and starts at half of Will (or B2 for Elliw and B3 for Joseph). After that come the Physical Tolerances; this is how much damage your character can take before reaching one of the six wound thresholds. Superficial starts at half your Forte + 1, while Mortal is placed at Mortal Wound; the other four (Light, Midi, Severe and Traumatic) may be placed as you will anywhere between the other two, with a maximum gap of half your forte. Since Elliw has B4 Forte and B10 Mortal, and Joseph has a B5 Forte and B10 Mortal, that only leaves six spaces in which to place four wound thresholds, so for both characters I place a gap between superficial and light, and another gap between light and midi; the rest are all clumped together.

Finally, we have Beliefs and Instincts. You pick between one and three Beliefs and between one and three Instincts for your character. And at this point, I'm going to open the floor to the audience again - just to see how many different interpretations we get of the same stats (that and I'm a lazy bastard at heart ).

Elliw posted:

Age: 61
Stats: Will B4; Perception B5; Agility: B4; Speed: B4; Power: B4; Forte: B4
Attributes: Mortal Wound B10; Reflexes B4; Health B6; Steel B5; Hesitation 6; Grief B3
Skills: Sing B3; Riding B3; Spearcraft B3; Elven Script B3; The Gift of Speed B3; Lay of the Horse B3; Spear B4; Armour Training B2; Formation Fighting Training B2
Traits: Oikofugic; Keen Sense of Humour; Idealistic
Resources: B0
Circles: B2
Stride: 8
Physical Tolerances: Superficial B3; Light B5; Midi B7; Severe B8; Traumatic B9; Mortal B10
Gear: Run of the mill spear; light mail; elven steed; elven clothes

Joseph Smith posted:

Age: 26
Stats: Will B6; Perception B3; Agility: B3; Speed: B4; Power: B3; Forte: B5
Attributes: Mortal Wound B10; Reflexes B3; Health B5; Steel B5; Hesitation 4
Skills: Merchant-Wise B4, Accounting B4; Haggling B4; Persuasion B4; Wholesale-Wise B2
Traits: Distracted; Educated
Resources: B3
Circles: B3
Stride: 7
Physical Tolerances: Superficial B3; Light B5; Midi B7; Severe B8; Traumatic B9; Mortal B10
Gear: Clothes, Finery, Shoes, Grandfather Clock
Property: Cottage; Successful Small Business

And there, after several hours of typing, ends part 5. From now on, we'll be going to the Rim of the Wheel, to use this game's metaphor. Everything from this point on is optional, if highly recommended, and it's with a couple of the systems here that I have a little trouble working out exactly how they're supposed to work in practice. I hope you found this interesting, and I'm sorry for keeping people waiting.