Actual Play – Burning Warcraft (1/21/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Last night started off late due to me missing an email. Even after everyone arrived we had to decompress for half an hour before people were ready to game. Starting at 10 when I originally hoped to end by 10:30 meant I was fairly restrictive about the scenes, essentially ever character got one conflict.

Jordan had to win back the heart of Jaina, which after a brutal DoW he did by claiming his devotion for her and asking for her hand in marriage. What a dirty old man.

Luke got wind or rumors that the Gilnean army had deserted the alliance when they were needed the most. Through bullying his own troops and royally pissing off Uther he found the source of these rumors; a one eyed grizzled veteran who Luke will cast before the feet of Arthas for justice.

Genn swore and oath to bind the Stealtoe dwarves and man together and then set off into the cave. He nearly made his orienteering roll but failure meant he was caught by the dragon Searinox and not the other way around. Searinox was amused by the mechanical contraction he used, impressed somewhat by his boldness and mostly believed he found an agent to rid him of pester some Dwarves. An extremely one sided Duel of Wits sealed Genn as his agent.

What rocked

The Duel of Wits between Jordan and Jaina was brutal. Each of them wanted to change each other in ways that were personal. I finally felt like the stakes were something that rested on internal and emotional consequences rather than external political ones. Don’t get me wrong, both kinds of stakes are important, but I was missing the “human” element of the game and this provided it quite nicely. Jordan won but by the smallest margin of error. He won back Jaina’s heart but only by promising never to leave her side. They are now betrothed. Rock.

Luke is really starting to show his true colors. He is a bloody bastards who chews threw everyone and anyone to get what he wants. Arthas wanted the source of the rumors found and like a bloodhound on a trail Luke found them. He proves over and over what he is willing to do for status and power. I’m really warming up to this character. Next stake will be something more personal, will he give up something he actually cares about to move on?

Genn got to cheat death, claim victory over the Dragon and unite the Dwarves and Humans… pretty much all through lies and betrayal. See below, however, for why this kind of sucked too.

What could have been improved

Pacing. I didn’t intend for this first battle with the Orcs to take so long. Considering that in the scope of the campaign arc, it really is a blip on the radar I was thinking we’d be at it for only a couple of sessions. Were now getting into the “several” category and the battle is far from over. This isn’t a problem per se, in fact it really fits with the Burning Wheel system, but it feels a little less epic than the Warcraft campaign setting, where crazy shit is happening all the time.

No Macro Level mechanics. While I said last time I was going to use a linked vs. test, there is of course complications. Luke wants to bring his sorcery into play, and of course the Orcs have their own demonic magic, plus the blademaster who is essentially invulnerable and I have to figure out what to do with all of that. In the end I think I’m going to turn spells into advantage dice, with the cost that a Forte roll must be made to compensate otherwise the leader will be taxed during the time he needs to be barking orders. Still, feeling dissatisfied with this.

Hesitation = Fail. Before the DoW with Genn and the Dragon they made apposed intimidation rolls, the looser gaining hesitation by his margin of error. The Dragon’s intimidation is epic, he rolled 13 sucesses vs. Genn’s 4. Genn had to sit through nine actions of Searinox destroying him in a DoW, standing and drooling. In a lot of ways it makes sense. Dragons do have such overwhelming presences that people should be awed and broken by their will. But the problem is that is no fun. I mean why play at all if the GM is going to dictate your outcome. Yes, it was a gutsy (if stupid) move to approach the dragon alone, but I don’t think any of us wanted to see Genn so thoroughly destroyed and unable to gain even minor concession due to hesitation. This left a bad taste in my mouth, enough so that I have been thinking about how to put those two together again. Here’s my ideas and I want feedback from the players:

  1. Searinox lied. He said he would sleep for 200 years but you know what? Dwarf meat is tasty and he wants more. A message is sent to Genn that he either needs to provide some fresh dwarf meat to the dragon or Searinox is going to go out and get it himself, making everyone know Genn lied. Negotiations will have to open back up.
  2. After a fight with the Orcs both Arthas and Luke are going to realize that the Blademaster is indestructible by mortal means, including sorcery. The doesn’t mean the battle can’t be won, it just mean that the Orcs will have a brutal advantage that can’t be mitigated without the orb of fire. Between Luke, Arthas and the Dwarves putting their heads together, going back to get the Dragon’s heart will become the obvious decision, and who better to do it than Genn (well assuming he convinces everyone that he is the only one why could find the Dragon’s body)?
  3. My least favorite idea, but doable. We retcon the DoW. Instead of destroying Genn while he hesitated the dragon gloats. He’s a billion years old, he in his own domain and believes himself invulnerable. Like a cat and mouse, it is no fun if your prey can’t put up a fight, or at least give you chase. So rather than taking advantage of Genn’s hesitation, he rides it, casting insults, and generally being a self absorbed asshole until Genn recovers his wits and can properly debate the topic.