Burning Empires is Incoherent

That’s Big-I, Forge Incoherency there for you:

Incoherence: Play which includes incompatible combinations of Creative Agendas among participants. Incoherent play is considered to contribute to Dysfunctional play, but does not define it. Incoherence may be applied indirectly to game rules. Abashedness represents a minor, correctable form of Incoherence.

Burning Empires has multiple Creative Agenda built right into the game.

I was listening to Clyde Roher’s excellent podcast Theory From the Closet today, particularly his interview with Luke Crane.  In this, Luke seems to have a very gamist slant towards Burning Empires play- the point is to win, and do your all to get there- to Step On Up- and have a really awesome conflict.  This is a great goal, one that I share with a passion- a burning passion, if you will.  But it gets even too gamey for my tastes- the scene economy is particularly stifling, cramming the storylines in a way that not everyone at the table may be comfortable with.  (And as an aside, some of the tactical suggestions I’ve read on the Burning Wheel forums seem antithetical to assumptions I’ve gleaned from the text.)

Anyway, we’ve got a highly gameable, arguably too-gameable game.  Nothing wrong with that.  But let’s look at the (misplaced) Narrativist bits.  How does Burning Empires reward behavior?  Why, with Artha.  How do you get Artha?  For doing story stuff.  For good roleplaying (that’s a Simulationism reward there.)  Especially for pushing your Beliefs.

Beliefs are great, great, story hooks.  They yell out to everyone, ‘this is what I’m about.’  Beliefs are a wonderful tool for driving the story, and getting people involved.  However, they are a hindrance in the tight, brutal, fight-game that is Burning Empires.

What makes for meaty, delicious play?  Player character motives that are similiarly aligned, but not quite, so there’s a little bit of strife in the party.  (A fun one-shot I had involved whether or not we wanted to blow up the prison facility that was about to be infested with Vaylen, or try the harder thing and free the Kerrn in it.  Everyone had a blast with this.)  Luke Crane seems to agree in his writing.

Now!  Here’s the catch.  I have some goals- the Gamist goal to ‘win,’ beat the GM, and blow down the meta score, and the personal (Narrativist) goal to achieve a Belief!  When my Beliefs come into contact with those of another player’s, what do I do?  If I choose to go after the enemy, putting my Beliefs into the background, I’m sacrificing the purity of my character and the story, but if I pursue the importance of my Beliefs, I’m Stepping On Down.

There’s the conundrum.

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5 thoughts on “Burning Empires is Incoherent

  1. Ranx says:

    Interesting. Have you considered that pursuing your beliefs generates Artha, which helps you win the all-important Infection rolls?

  2. Willow says:

    Hey Ranx, that’s a good point, but it loses track of the larger picture. There can be a situation where a certain action can fulfill both agendas, but there are situations where a given choice can only fulfill one or the other.

    Check it out: Thor fires back, and I jump into the fray:
    http://burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?t=4641

  3. doodmangu says:

    Hi, as you may already found I’m newbie here.
    I will be happy to get any help at the start.
    Thanks and good luck everyone! 😉

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