Monday, July 30, 2012

5 Common Sense Things Burning Wheel Taught Me

I just finished my first campaign of Burning Wheel yesterday, and I'm more than impressed with the game, because it is EXACTLY what I hoped it would be. This is a brilliant game, the best that I've played so far, and I've learned much from it about gaming in general. But the best five things I've learned are the following:

5. Accept a Game for What It Is
There just isn't any other way to state it: experiencing one game does not mean you've experienced them all, and the experiences you've had might not transfer over. This is pretty difficult to accept in our RPG culture because of the prevalence of Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and World of Darkness. Once you get outside of the mainstream games, however, the play experience becomes wildly different.  I don't know how often I've had to take basic assumptions about GM'ing and throw it right out the window so that way I could run this game properly. Seriously, secretiveness was the hardest thing for me to change in my GM'ing style for this game, but I'll get better at it...

4. Collaboration is Key
Oof, this one's not too easy either, especially with our biggest RPGs putting all the world-building and story duties on the DM. I've found that having everyone else help make the world makes it so much easier on me that I think I'll just make it mandatory from now on in whatever game I'm running. Collaboration in everything makes GM'ing more pleasurable and easier, and really makes the playing as cooperative as I've always wanted.

3. Everyone Needs to Read the Damn Rules
This is so basic I wonder why people don't just do this as a courtesy, but most of the people I've met who play D&D never really bother to learn the rules, because the DM does everything already, so why not leave everything to him? Not quite in Burning Wheel. Players are expected to know the rules, and the reasons for that start to get painfully obvious once you realize that you have to stop the game and read the rules out loud for the third time because no one else bothered to look the up...

2. Gamers Play What They're Rewarded For
A simple act of human nature: people are more likely to do actions they're rewarded for. That's why you get psychopaths who believe that humans aren't intrinsically good, because we reward good behavior (If we aren't good intrinsically why do we reward good behavior?). This carries into all our interactions, games especially. It's also something that's very frustrating to not understand (particularly when you try to get a real story going and your players just wanna kill the monsters and take their treasure) and to try to counter. Don't counter that instinct, run with it!

1. One Size Does Not Fit All
By the time the campaign finished, it became obvious which out of the seven people actually liked Burning Wheel for what it was and wished to play the game itself. I'll give you a quick hint, it's less than half, and that's OK. Different games scratch different itches, and that may be the most important thing to walk away from. A game cannot be everything for everyone, because it'll wind up being a crappy game for no one.