Burning D&D or how to adopt from other games

I have noticed, that where Burning Wheel and Burning Empires were unable to reach people, Mouse Guard seems to have suceeded. Mouse Guard is easier to approach than BW and BE, and thus is a bit of a gateway-game. One result of Mouse Guard’s popularity – which I do feel it deserves, as it is a fun game – is the borrowing of rules from the game and inserting them in others such as D&D. I find this interesting, as I have done exactly the same thing. I did it, when I acquired Burning Empires (I skipped Burning Wheel), which has many of the same rules. However Burning Empires is a daunting task to start playing with and though I’ve read the rules more than once, I haven’t found the time to start a campaign with it – yet. Mouse Guard were a whole lot easier, and it didn’t take me long to have a game up and running.

Mouse Guard as inspiration for your other games

Both The Chatty DM and Wrath of Zombies has thus found inspiration in Mouse Guard and applied it to D&D/Pathfinder. Go have a look, as it is quite inspirering to read:

My first adaption of the Burning games’ rules were the Beliefs and Instincts. The cool thing about these rules are, that they help you express your character and they reward you for taking a risk with your character. E.g. you that your character is always carrying a knife – this saves you time from always reminding the GM, that your character is carrying a knife – and if you’re in a dangerous situation, you can decide that your character chose to exempt this praxis and you voluntarily place your character in peril. Doing so gains you an award.

These rules works fine in D&D. You can have your thief always check for traps or your wizard always have the components for a teleport spell at hand. You still have to succeed a ‘find traps’-check or to succesful cast the teleport spell, but at least you won’t be caught off guard.

Adopting, changing, transforming

When we adopted the Beliefs and Instincts rules to my D&D campaign we also changed them, and we did so twice. At first they were tied to general actions and reflexes (e.g. Always have a Feather Fall-spell memorized), that would be practical in action scenes and combat, but since intrigues and drama are a central part of the campaign, we added another version, which dealt with personal actions and choices, for example “Always thwart my parents expectations” – as chosen by a noble teenage wizard rebelling against her parents.

We also changed the rules a bit. We called them good and bad habits, and whenever a player chose, that his character would abstain from following a habit, thus acting against his ideals and values, he was rewarded. When Nadya the Sorceress with the habit of Always ignores romantic advances chooses to notice a suitor, she is rewarded, or when Cornelis the wizard, whose habit is always acting like a true patriot, chooses to abstain from acting patriotic to covers for his best friend’s actions.

Challenges and growth

When we play I keep an eye on the habits and try to build situations, where they are challenged. For example the sorceress Aevilja, who is rebelling against her parents’ wishes, is asked to do something by her parents, that matches her own interests. Is she going to follow their wishes, because it would suit her, or will she follow her habits, her ideals, and refuse even though it might hurt her? She gets a reward, if she acts against her ideals. This places the characters in difficult situations and presents them with hard choices.

Once in a while we review the characters, adjust their habits as they grow. Some habits stay, some change and some are discarded, as the character grows past the habit. In this manner we are also able to track the growth of the characters’ personality. We have been playing this campaign for five years.

Oh, and the reward gained? Breaking with a habit earns the player a Plot Point. More about them in another post.

BTW the reason for the characters all being wizards is because we are running a campaign, where they are all teenage wizards attending The Great School of Magic.

NEXT: Adapting goals from Mouse Guard.


  1. Thanks for the pingback 🙂 Very nice article. I really love the Mouse Guard mechanics in my Pathfinder game.

    A few of my players and friends have had trouble wrapping their heads around MG (as has some of Chatty’s players) and it’s becaues it is really foreign to the standard DnD mind.. Hell it is to most RPG’s out there.

    What I really enjoy is that, really, it is a system that can be put anywhere, because there is no crunch. I will be using this in our Savage Worlds campaigns as well.

  2. You’re most welcome. I really enjoyed your posts, as it was very exciting to see others use the MG-rules for D&D/Pathfinder. I hadn’t thought of using the conditions, until you suggested it.
    I too like the generic elements of the MG-rules for instincts/beliefs etc. and their applicability to other systems. I look forward to see your experiences with them in the Savage World-system.
    I have however not had any problems introducing the rules to my players. Why I don’t exactly know, perhaps I’ve been lucky, perhaps we have a different gaming culture in Denmark?

  3. Maybe. Most of players grabbed the concept very easily. There were two or three that had no problem with all if it except for instincts and beliefs. They had the standard DnD mentality of not wanting to be pigeon-holed in to doing something.

    I had to explain, a few times with examples, that it is ok to play against your beliefs and instincts. Just as a real person can. There is no being locked into it. Once they understood that, they were all on board.

  4. Okay, I see.
    I introduce the rules as creative restraints and new opportunities to express the characters, and focus on the application of the rules as being voluntary. No penalty for not using them. This quickly brings my players on board 🙂

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