Actual Play – Burning Warcraft (10/25/2008)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis and Omar
System: Burning Wheel

Travis and Omar were over, we played some board games (Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Bonanza and Amun Re) and then decided to burn up some characters for Burning Wheel.

I admitted that I wasn’t nearly familiar enough with the system to answer every question but we’d just look things up as we went along.
I prefaced that Burning Wheel has no specific setting and that we needed to pick one. I gave the example of Middle Earth, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, and Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser. Now that I think of it I probably should have thrown out Michael Moorcock as well. But it really didn’t matter, as I was throwing these ideas out there, Travis thought of one to trump them all: Warcraft.
Boom! We’ve got humans at war with orks, we’ve got dwarves as potential allies, and mysterious elves who just want to be left alone. We opted for a timeline around Warcraft 2 or just after (between 2 and 3). A lot of ideas sprung up:

  • Humans have arrived on the Easter Kingdoms Manifest Destiny mentality. The Light lead them there, so that must be where they belong.
  • There are various cults (most of them started by Kel’thezad) that are trying to corrupt the light and turn humans to follow the dark path. The characters could be investigators routing these out, or they could be cultists trying to spread their word.
  • Ambassadors to he Dwarves and Elves are needed, the characters could do this (thoughts of “The Gift” went tumbling through my head).
  • Thrall was one ork who threw of his demonic influence and now seeks to free his race from demonic control. The Alliance as a whole believes all orks are still abominations that must be destroyed, but a few sympathize with Thrall and want to help in the hopes of coming to peace, the characters could be these sympathizers.
  • The characters could be soldiers, ether new recruits getting ready to go to the front line, or veterans who have come back, weary of war.
  • The veterans, if chosen could be hunting down the Frostwolf Clan in Alterac Valley. A clan of orks that still have a toe hold in the Eastern Kingdoms.

At this point I asked the question, where do you want to be geographically, Kalimdor or Azeroth. We thought a little about what Kalimdor looked like at this time in the game, pretty sparce, where as Azeroth is densely populated. The players opted the east and Then Travis had the idea we were sold on:

Soldiers in Arthas’s army, who have to watch him become a monster in order to do good. I gave them choices of four ranks.

  • Grunt soldiers – 4 life path characters on the front line.
  • Commanders – 5 or 6 life path characters who command troupes and would receive orders from Arthas or his generals.
  • Generals – 7 life path characters who are at Arthas’ right hand. Very powerful individuals who have to see first hand how mad Arhtas becomes in his quest to follow the Light.
  • Arthas and Uther – 9 life path gods among men, the characters of which the game was written about.

The last option opened their eyes up pretty wide. I think there was a collective “Can we do that?” However, as Arthas has already had his story told, the players wanted non-canon characters so they wouldn’t feel limited by the existing storyline. They chose to be powerful commander (6 life paths).

Travis: Served in the Navy before joining the Army: Village Born (Village), Boy (Sea), Sailor (Sea), First Mate (Sea), Ship Captain (Sea), Quartermaster (Soldier). I think perhaps this was more the “pirate” path, but we couldn’t find the “privateer” path that kept being mentioned.

Omar
: Wanted a War Wizard so he hopped around a lot: City Born (City), Arcane Devotee (Court), City Guard (City), Captain of the Guard (City), War Wizard (Soldier), Captain (Soldier). It was somewhat awkward to get him there as we didn’t know which paths to take in order to make it to Captain.

That was as far as we got, but we’ll pick it up and complete the characters later.

What I liked:

The life path process is awesome, we get to really see where the characters have been and when the choices made seem quirky, it makes us start thinking about how the characters got from one setting to another.
The traits were great. I loved traits like the captain of the guard: “exasperated” or the Boy’s “veneer of obedience”.
The setting we picked is rich with conflict and amazing stories. What would you do if the whole village of Stratholme had been poisoned and would turn into the undead into their sleep? Would you wait till they became monsters to slay them? How many of your own men would fall doing that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to kill them all in their sleep? Awesome.

What could have been improved:

I really wish I was more familiar with the life paths so I could have helped the guys getting where they wanted. Travis was definitely going with the idea of Ship Captain to Army Captain, but it didn’t work. I think because the “Sea” setting is one for private ships and not Navy vessels. I’m going to look into this more.

Omar had some confusion, there was something of a disconnect between wanting to be a wizard and a solider. It ended up working but didn’t feel like a natural path (basically, why in the world did a wizard who wants to be in the army go become a city guard?). Again, I think this could have been improved if I was more familiar with the Life Paths.