Wednesday, June 08, 2011


It should come as no surprise to many of you that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of novels. I was really disappointed a few years back when Steve Jackson Games published GURPS Discworld.

But it's grown on me.  Not a lot, mind you, because I'm not a fan of GURPS.  I have a number of their sourcebooks and the (3rd Edition) core books. Since it was first released, I've been trying to find a better system for the series.

I occasionally make the mistake of mentioning this to people. They inevitably ask me, "Why don't you use Toon?" The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: Because Toon is for wacky games.  The Disc is comical, but it's not wacky.  The characters on the Disc sometimes seem to be aware of the fact that they are characters. What they're not aware of is that they are in a comedy.

I have a long commute to work. Every day, I spend more than an hour in the car on the way to work. Thankfully, Stephanie and I can carpool part of the way. It means we can switch off driving.  The rule in our car is that the driver controls the stereo. When I drive, usually listen to the satellite radio.  When Stephanie drives, we'll often listen to her audio books. And she's often listening to the Discworld books.

When Stephanie drives, I'll read books so as not to get carsick (Yes, I know. I'm wired backwards). On May 19th, she was listening to Night Watch. I was reading Burning Wheel Revised. You see, Luke Crane had just announced that BW:R had gone out of print. I was reading about Beliefs when Vimes started chewing out another character who hadn't followed the rules. It was an epiphany for me - Burning Wheel is the ideal system for Discworld.

It's really really difficult to write comedy into an RPG. The humor in most games (in my experience) comes from player interaction (and odd rolls). A few years ago, we had a D&D party that had to head through a portal to another plane. The portal guards did their best to disarm the party. We did opposed conceal vs perception checks. The Rogue didn't manage to get so much as a toothpick through due to some really poor rolls on his part. We all chuckled at this.  Then, one of the Dwarves didn't bother with conceal - he tried to Bluff.  He convinced the guard that it wasn't an axe - it was a proper Dwarven Belt Buckle. We all laughed - but we all remember it. Even had the Dwarf failed, we still would have laughed, but it wouldn't have been as memorable.

I think that because comedy is so difficult to write into a game, most comedy RPG's are doomed from the outset.  Toon is fun, but it's not a great game. Paranoia is funny, but it's hard to have long-term games with it (it's best-suited to one-shots). The Red Dwarf RPG is funny, but (again) I think it's best as a one-shot. Or short campaign.

Can Burning Wheel do funny? I think it can. And I'm apparently not the first one to think so:
In short, yes. A slightly longer answer is that Burning Wheel takes the setting completely seriously, even if the setting itself involves crooning molerats, an earring-sized battle axe known as the Wee Prick, bar brawls with gangs of nine-pin hooligans, and extra-dimensional brain-tearing missle weapons that can blow holes in buildings.

Another way to put it is that life can be really funny, but falling off your roof still hurts. Burning Wheel is kind of like that.
I intend (at some point in the not-too-distant future) to try it out. I'll let you know how it goes.

No comments:

Post a Comment