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MAJOR SPOILERS – DM’s only!
Burn Bryte is an entirely new RPG system designed by, and exclusively for, Roll20. It’s a rules-lite, dice-based sci-fi RPG with some very cool ideas, some major annoyances, and a short introductory adventure.
The following content is included in the Burn Bryte Starter Bundle ($49.99):
- Burn Bryte Core Rulebook (available separately $29.99)
- Ship Component Pack 1 – modular art tiles for upgrading your ship
- Burn Bryte Compendium Addon – three 5-ft grid spaceship maps
- Safety Cards macro deck
- Burning Daylight starter adventure (available separately $9.99)
- 3 5-ft battle maps with dynamic lighting (Roll20 sub required)
- 1 unscaled map of Olaxis
- 5 pre-generated characters with token art
- 1 pre-generated spaceship
- Quickstart Rules
- Token Marker Pack (available separately $7.99)
- Map Tile Pack: Alien Jungle – 88 modular map tiles
- Map Tile Pack: Laboratory – 44 modular map tiles
- Map Tile Pack: Mining Rig – 45 modular map tiles
- Map Tile Pack: Metropolis – 43 modular map tiles
- Character Art Pack – 30+ NPC tokens and handouts
Burn Bryte is entirely skill-based. Every task you want to perform, whether it’s firing a gun or hacking into a computer or lying to a mob boss, revolves rolling dice for one of the 18 skills.
Every skill uses a d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12. The better you are at a skill, the higher the die. But when you’re checking for success, you don’t care about the total, only doubles. If you rolled any matching numbers, you failed the roll.
Whenever you make a skill roll, the GM determines the complexity. A complexity of 2 (easy) means you have to roll two dice, while a hard task is four dice. You can see where rolling multiple d4s can very easily result in repeat numbers, which mean a failed skill check.
Even so, the probability of success are pretty high. This is a heroic game where the players generally succeed at most of their tasks, which should fall between a 2-4 in complexity.
Players are given complete freedom over which skills to use in any particular task, which I find overwhelming daunting. To cross a chasm a player could use Athletics to make the jump, Engineering to determine the proper vaulting position, or Perception to notice a beam to walk across. But players shouldn’t be able to use any charisma skills to convince the chasm to let them cross.
Coming from D&D, this freedom of skills is both intriguing and utterly terrifying. I appreciate allowing each character to tell their own little stories in every situation, but it would also slow the game down, and some characters will always try and abuse the system (power gamers in general will probably not like Burn Bryte).
To help prevent abusing the same good skills over and over again (I’m looking at you Rogue who tries to roll Acrobatics for everything), the PCs earn Nova points every time they use each of their skill die at least once. Nova points power their best special abilities, encouraging players to use a variety of skills that they’re best, worst, and mediocre at.
The other interesting major feature are Story Paths. Story Paths define a player character’s reason for adventuring, as well as how they advance. Characters don’t gain experience or level up. Instead they progress down one of 40 different Story Paths, such as Rivalry, Temptation, Love, Rebellion, Negotiation, Mystery, and Discovery. Each Path has progressive events that players can complete in order to unlock new abilities and increase the dice size of their skills.
Story Paths are a fascinating system but once again it’s all left up to the GM and players to craft them. They marry leveling up with storytelling in an interesting way, but require the players to be storytellers, ad-libbers, and role-players as much as the GM. The right group will do great things here, but I predict the hack and slash crowd would be very dissatisfied, or simply try to run through advancement as quickly as possible. And what’s to stop them? Once completed a player simply chooses another Story Path to work on, and continue advancing.
Combat features an interesting push-your-luck mechanic. Players can act as many times as they want until they fail a roll, with every additional action increasing the check’s complexity. Players can attack enemies, defend against incoming attacks (enemies declare attacks first), or generate advantage that anyone can use to re-roll matching dice.
Once again I find it a bit too open and free-form, however. There’s no initiative between players; they simply choose the order every round, and every successful hit does 1 damage, whether you’re firing a laser or mocking them with a charisma check.
Burn Bryte‘s rules are easy to teach and highly accessible, with the caveat that the GM has to constantly keep up with individual Story Event beats and skill failure consequences, while players are juggling justifications for performing various skills.
The included adventure, “Burning Daylight,” is mostly disappointing. I was hoping for something with similar content and production value as Lost Mine of Phandelver, but instead we get the equivalent of a level 1 introductory adventure, such as those found in Eberron: Rising from the Last War or Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
There are only a handful of scenes, and one dungeon map. The map and token art are all very nice, but it’s still shockingly low on content for an adventure produced for a virtual tabletop.
On the other hand, the map tile packs feature dozens of modular tiles to create your own maps in multiple tile sets, such as urban, underground, and laboratory. The map tiles alone help justify the price of the Starter Bundle, as they’re easily equivalent to many of the best map packs found in the Roll20 marketplace.
After years of playing in the high fantasy world of D&D 5e, I’ve been yearning for an excellent sci-fi RPG. Burn Bryte offers some really interesting systems, and represents a major culture shock coming from the predominately combat-based world of D&D. Ultimately it’s a bit too rules-lite and open-ended for my tastes, but the right group could have a lot of fun telling their stories amidst this collapsing universe.
- Story Paths are a unique, player-drive system of leveling.
- Nova points encourage players to occasionally use bad skills.
- Five pre-generated characters ready to begin the adventure right away.
- Burning Daylight includes suggest Story Path Events for advancement.
- Dozens of modular map tiles to create your own maps.
- Quickstart Rules to quickly learn the basics.
- Elegant character creation and advancement with the Charactermancer.
- Must manually upload and install the token marker pack.
- Confusion regarding NPC character sheets and attack rolls.
- “Burning Daylight” is extremely short (equivalent to a level 1 introductory adventure).
- Skills rolls and failure consequences are left entirely up to the GM.
The Verdict: While the included introductory adventure is short and mostly forgettable, Burn Bryte is a rules-lite RPG with interesting systems focusing on player freedom and storytelling.
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