Burning Wheel is the kind of system that people hear a lot about but might feel intimidated to run. While there are a number of great actual plays the one that seems closest to my own experience with the system is the continuing drama of the Sunday Skypers Burning Beards actual play. Adroitly GM’ed by Wilhelm Norsten, this is an actual play that rarely sits more than a few days unplayed in my podcast app. With 50 episodes (and still going), it starts at character creation and then shows the kind of deep character development that the Burning Wheel system is really designed for.
The series started with an affable and accessible setting and character creation session. Character creation is supremely important in Burning Wheel. The character stocks (Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs in the basic Burning Wheel Gold) are quite distinct, and the Sunday Skypers chose Dwarves. This decision turns out to be genius as it results in the creation of characters informed by tropes about dwarves, but free from too much baggage brought in from other systems. It also means that character creation is as much about the system itself as the player’s particular desires for some kind of outcome from the system. Dwarven Greed and the implications that come from that help drive both the creation of the characters, and their eventual drama later on.
At 50 episodes, the characters have journeyed deep into the lost dwarven stronghold of Scoria Deep and had success and disaster come their way. Ghosts, Dragons, family history, and much great beer (every party should have a brewer) keep the listener engaged. Returning plot elements show that both the players and the GM aren’t just trudging back into this setting one more time for each recording, but truly seem to enjoy it. The plot is expansive enough to allow for guest players to join in, but not too broad that you feel like they are telling another story. There is one unfolding story, a heroic journey to recover family wealth and territory, but because it is Burning Wheel this unfolds rooted at the level of individual character’s beliefs, instincts and traits (BITs).
In Burning Wheel every session has to end with awarding various points to players for their fulfillment of BITs, internal conflict, goals, and roles. If you are ever wondering how to do this, and that is likely every new GM and Player of Burning Wheel, please listen to the end of the episodes. It might seem like the time to stop as the narrative has stopped, but theses ending minutes are really valuable to understand what is going on inside the characters and not just their actions. The players and GM will discus the BITs, but also offer feedback and critique on them. Sometimes a belief is simply unusable in game play and needs to be changed! This makes a good podcast like Sunday Skypers extremely useful. The system and the story are equally discussed, and their self-criticism is honest and leads to a better narrative and role play experience in the end.
So, if you are looking for a high-quality podcast covering Burning Wheel or would simply like a well-GM’ed adventure story, take the time to check out The Sunday Skypers Burning Beards.
Irregular, but still active.
1-2 hour recording length.
Explicit tag in iTunes, occasional overtalk.
Photo from the podcast feed for Sunday Skypers and all rights reside with the original creator.