I started GMing Chaldea in 1982 as an AD&D campaign. I GM’ed Chaldea avidly for many years until Wizards of the Coast took over my life in the early 90’s. During this decade we played exhaustively with many campaigns, many players, and for a number of players, many characters. The core, recurring player characters advanced to divine status as we played through nearly 150 years of campaign time.
By the time work forced me to abandon Chaldea for awhile the campaign, frankly, had become unmanageable. Too many years of power escalation had stretched the system way beyond the breaking point, and I had so many factions, PCs, and NPCs running around that I couldn’t keep things straight.
In 1997 we (at WotC) started designing and playtesting 3rd Edition D&D. This rekindled my desire to GM Chaldea but the campaign was too overwhelming 5 years previous when it was all in my head. Going back to Chaldea as it was then just wasn’t realistic. Also, I wanted to seriously playtest 3E and play straight off the rules, not the inflated power gaming with volumes of house rules like before. So I started GM’ing Ilboria, still in Chaldea, but a separate prime material plane than Chaldea Proper. I ran this campaign until around 2001.
When I stopped GM’ing Chaldea in 2001 I’d essentially burned out on D&D. Jonathan Tweet introduced me to Sorcerer and this game opened my eyes to the indie RPG movement. I became obsessed with playing various indie RPGs and over the following ten years I probably purchased about a hundred of them and, amazingly, played a ton of them. In addition to Sorcerer I fell in love with Inspectres, My Life with Master, Grey Ranks, Universalis, Prime Time Adventures, and Dogs in the Vineyard, among others. I tried a Burning Wheel demo once with Luke at Gen Con but the demo focused on combat scripting which is precisely the part of Burning Wheel I like least. I got a copy of the books however and was intrigued with the lifepath rules but didn’t do much more with it at the time.
Eventually the desire to GM Chaldea started to burn once again in my soul. But having no desire to return to D&D I started thinking about running Chaldea using a more modern system where players are rewarded for roleplaying instead of killing monsters and have narrative input. But none of the indie RPG’s I’d seen seemed to hold up to deep, long term campaign style gaming. I started to look deeper with this as the goal but nothing out there seemed to fit the bill.
I’d always had this nagging suspicion that perhaps there was more to Burning Wheel than met the eye. I concluded I needed to give it an honest try. But it’s not a system I felt I could learn to run from the books. I had trouble running an easy system like Grey Ranks or Dogs in the Vineyard from the books, BW would be impossible. So I emailed the designer, Luke Crane, and asked him if he knew a BW fan in Seattle who might be willing to run a game for me and my friends. He did, and introduced me to Clint “Ogre” Whiteside. Ogre came over and ran Burning Deadwood for us and I became immediately hooked.
When the Burning Deadwood campaign wrapped up after about eight sessions I decided to dive in and start running Chaldea using the BW system. To preserve my sanity, I decided to run a prequel campaign set 5,000 years in the past, during the time of Emperor Kordaava.