Actual Play – A Day at the Plaza (5/22/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Chrissy, Travis, Fattig, Shaun, and The Russian
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

Here’s how I started the game. An email to the players.

Prince Kiel, an alien figure with luminous pale skin, garbed in foreign iron raiment, whose ethereal voice captivated thousands of your people, was just killed by a peasant. His delicate majesty broken, smeared with his own pale blood.

Where are you right now? His personal honor guard, four impossibly tall figures with brown plated armor and helmets depicting their eight eyed god, long halberds in hand stand beside him, as does the peasant woman, terrified that she, of the many that tried, actually broke through the guard’s line and killed the prince. A huge assembly of people (who will be defined by things such as parade-wise) surround this momentous occurrence. Where are you?

What is your belief regarding the prince’s death? Here’s mine (based on some things we had discussed beforehand):
Sipho (commander of the prince’s guard): “One of the unclean has touched the prince; Eight of their heads will be mounted at every crossroad in the city!”
Riska (the peasant woman): “Blood of the ancestors, I just killed a god! I will flee lest I die”

The beliefs came rolling in:

Atreus the Jackal, Ex-Gladiator
The prince’s death, though untimely, provides me a long sought opportunity. In the chaos, I will test myself in combat against an ironbound.
After so long in the gladiator pits, I am free at last. I will sleep on silk sheets.
My half brother’s betrayal will not go unpunished. I will find the estate where I was born.

Never cover my scars.
Always go for the face.

Onuris, Hedge Wizard
“The Spirits are being forgotten in this world; I will make people remember their power. I will call to the Spirits to raise up the lost city of Ankhenoptera, once I’ve found it.”
“The Ironbound interlopers are a threat to the natural order; I will see their works swallowed by the desert sands. First, I must get the Ironbound Prince’s assassin to safety.”
I MUST KNOW the secret of the Ironbound’s magics!

When idle, draw Circles in the sand.
Never answer questions directly.
Never summon a Spirit to kill.

Rashidi, Master of the dead.
I will desecrate the princes’ body.
The Book of the Everliving, protected by the high priest, is missing. I will ask my brother about it.
I will protect Sarai during the riots.
Faith belief: Because of the corruption of my brother, the high priest, Osiris demands that I cleanse the temple.

I will never refuse a request from Jafar.
When at a loss for words I quote obscure history.
When faced with a dead body I will perform the last rites.

Hassad Sakawi, Captain of the Guard
I will save my daughter from the Arachnos
I will convince the gladiator to drink with me
I will recover the prince’s body.

Always plan a good parade route when entering a city.
Check the draw on my weapons every hour.
When in danger, intimidate.

Siti, Assassin
The assassins sent me to kill the prince, and I’ll redeem myself by finding who incited the riots.
I will collect payment never delivered from the Bastucks here on the isle and pass it off to another assassin.
I will find my parents and make them pay for sending me to this life.

Avoid fair fights whenever possible
Always have a way to escape
Never leave a witness alive.

How it went down.

Blood was spilled and a crowd of a hundred thousand were suddenly silenced in shock. I told each of the PCs that they had just a moment, a sliver in time to act, before chaos erupted. Well chaos erupted anyway, but much awesome happened in the midst of it.

Atreus pushed his way through the crowds to find the princes brother (an ironbound with the belief about making the gladiators succumb to his will) and swords clashed. The conflict was awesome. The gladiator wanted to scar the ironbound, leave him with a wicked gash across the face, while the noble with his attachment of guards wanted to make the gladiator his servant. We had this crazy roll (which involved fate on both sides and frickin deed on my end). All of which resulted in a tie… end result. The Ironbound now has a wicked scar (+1 OB on all social rolls with other Ironbound) and the Gladiator is one again a slave. He was ripped of his clothes, spun into silk which cleansed him and then “reborn” as one of the Ironbound… with manacles fused around his wrists (Any Ironbound has +2D when giving him orders)

Onuris pushed through the crowd to save the peasant woman who killed the prince. He succeeded in saving her but was immediately faced with the question of who she really was. She lied to him about working for the same patron, clearly had knowledge of spirits and sorcery, demanded that he remember her name (Riska) and had the most hauntingly beautiful blue eyes. He met up with Siti, who had interest in the woman as well, escaped from the riot, but was ambushed in the alley by one of the Arachnos guards (not very happy with this move, see below).

Rishidi wanted to see to the safety of his brother’s wife. You know, the woman he’s banging three nights a week. In the crowds though, there was no telling what would happen to her. He cut one fool down in his path but the crowd pressed against them like a wave of terror. He made for the dais where his brother, the high priest, and his temple guards were trying hold off the rioting crowd… Only he didn’t make it in time. His brother had suffered a grievous wound, which perhaps could have been healed if Rishidi hadn’t plunged the dagger in deeper and declared the temple purged of its corruption and himself the high priest. All in front of his brother’s wife!

Hassad tried to do his duty and keep the peace but the crowd was quickly becoming a mob he could simply not control. His first duty was to secure the prince’s body, but the Arachos seemed to have the same idea. A bloody fight broke out between the city guard and the aracnos and the princes body was eventually taken by his brother (Bainwen) who had goals of his own. In the fight Sipho, the captain of the Arachnos sought to make an example of Hassad by binding him and hanging him in front of the crowd. Hassad’s draw was faster though. He hacked Shipho, severing him from the forearm down and both men were startled. Sipho from the pain of his limb being severed, Hassad when he saw the yellow ichors that dripped from Sipho’s severed arm.

Siti watched many of the events from afar. With eagle like eyes she made out that that the Riska was the woman who started the riots, so she watched her from a distance, saw that she was stuck in the crowds with Onuris and used her training to sneak all three of them to safety. As they left, Siti spilled her own blood for the fallen sister Latika. Blood for her blood.

What rocked

I really enjoyed clashing with some of the beliefs clash. I rigged all my major NPCs (Bainwen the prices brother, Sipho his guard and Riska the peasant killer) to have beliefs that would clash and challenge the PCs. Not everything was perfect (it never was) but it resulted in some pretty awesome conflicts.

I moved certain things along VERY fast, which I wanted in the first game. I see the first of any game like a pilot of a show. It’s gotta grab the audience fast. The Arachos have already been identified as somehow alien. The Jackal has figured out why they call everyone who isn’t ironbound “the unclean”, and Rashidi became the defacto High Priest. From these major changes I imagine massive fallout over the next few sessions.

The flavor of the game was great. Fantasy Egypt-ish is awesome. We had some things stolen right from Egyptian Mythology (like the gods Osiris and Set, etc) but we also just made up things as we needed them (such as the gods of the street, the man on the hill, etc).

What could have improved

The ambush in the alley from Sipho’s guard was one of my less inspired moves. Why? Because I was just undoing something that the players had achieved. That is lame. Onuris had a goal of rescuing her and simply because I couldn’t think of anything else for the guards to do, one of them captured her back. Pretty weak. Also, I was using Sipho’s stats for the guards, which are too high. He’s meant to be their leader. The common soldier shouldn’t be as bad-ass as he is.

Riska may have been Mary Sue. I hate NPCs that seem to hold all the cards and know what’s going on all the time while the players are in the dark. I’ve got to bring her more down to earth.

Overall my NPCs may be too powerful. I made them all as 5 LP characters (one more than the PC) with the assumption that in general the PCs would gang up on them at least two-to-one. Net result though was it felt like they were a bit too much. In some ways this is good. I want the feeling of oppression and hopelessness in the fiction, it’s appropriate to the suffering to feel pervasive. As players though, having the odds stacked against you can suck.

My constant gripe in my BW games. Too many beliefs and instincts went unmolested by the world at large. More molestation = more better.

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