Burning Wheel uses a simple D6 die pool system at its core. Grab a handful of dice equal to your skill or stat. Roll the dice. Any 4s, 5s or 6s that result are considered successes. You need a certain number of successes to pass tests. The system builds on that simple core to create deep, dynamic results.
During play, the GM challenges a player's Beliefs. The player overcomes these challenges and drives the story by testing his character’s abilities. A test can be resolved in a single roll or decided in an extended conflict, social or martial. The GM doles out the consequences for failure based on what the player was trying to accomplish. You want to find a woodsman to guide you through the forest -- make a Circles test. If you fail he's suspicious of thieves so he's shooting first and asking questions later. You want to get some gear -- make a Resources test. If you fail you can't afford it but your rival comes forward with the offer of a loan and a suppressed smirk. You want to convince your enemy to let your friends go -- engage him in a Duel of Wits. Structure your argument well, because if you fail, he might just convince you to take the place of your friends in exchange for their freedom. You want that bastard dead? Draw your sword and take him out in a blow-by-blow melee -- Fight! Don’t fail this time, though, because it might be your last. You the player decide how far to take it. You reap the rewards and weather the consequences.
In this game, the consequences for failure lead to the next conflict. There are no dead-ends in Burning Wheel, unless it's a dead-end alley with your enemies lying in wait. The story told is about the path that gets you to your goals. Whether the game is political, military, or a classic sword and sorcery adventure, you decide. You write your own Beliefs about what you want and Instincts that describe how you react. You advance your skills to help you get there and you earn traits that describe how you come out on the other side. One way or another, when you play Burning Wheel, you’re playing with fire.
This PDF contains the basic rules of the game, four characters and a starter scenario so you can try the game for yourself.
The Burning Wheel system is used in the Burning Empires and Mouse Guard RPGs, which are available now in PDF format.