Actual Play – Burning Wheel (12/10/2008)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Burning Warcraft last night was a lot of fun. We did spend a lot of the time talking about rules and beliefs however, so game play was somewhat reduced.

What rocked:

We had some killer consequences to actions. As a result of three failed tests, Arthas knows Luke is hiding something from him, knows that Jordan is sleeping with Jaina, has confided as much to Genn, who then used it to blackmail him. Further Uther thinks that Jordan is the least temperate Paladin that has ever served him. He knows that Jordan comes from a bad past so is trying to be lenient, but Jordan is fast on the path to being denounced from the Silver Hand, which would be an interesting foreshadowing of the Arthas story.

In general, players were fairly aggressive about pursing their beliefs and instincts. I put each of them in situations (see next entry) and they acted in ways they (for the most part) stuck to their guns, which in general earned them Artha but weakened some alliances. This was cool, but I don’t want to give the impressions that BITs (beliefs, instincts, and traits) are just ways for me to weaken the characters. Challenge, yes. Take away options, no. This needs to be worked on.

Connections to the storyline. I’ve been creeping in elements from the canon storyline, specifically the Black Dragon Searinox, and the Dwarven Dragon Hunters that seek to slay him. It definitely exited the players when they realized I was including that bit.

The meeting of the minds. It took a little work, perhaps too much work, but I was able to stage a confrontation between a wounded ork of the Burning Legion and Jordan. Jordan got his chance to question the orc, but this warrior had little to offer him other than his desire to blot out the light that filled Azeroth. I realize in retrospect the orc should have qualified himself as a just a warrior and not a warlock or priest, thus unknowledgeable in the specifics of their religious beliefs. I’ll need to bring that back up later, perhaps when Jordan encounter another orc face to face.

Bloody Verses. I introduced this fight mechanic for the battle between Jordan and the orc. They tied, so it was hard to see if the mechanic actually worked or not, but I think it has promise for quick battles.
Brutality of War. Twenty mounted knights, paladins of the light, charge at a well fortified orc encampment. What happens? 6 of them make it out alive, retreating into the woods. Fuck yeah!

Bangs. I had three bangs for each player but only two of them came out. Crap I threw at them to test their beliefs or instincts. Here they are, clumped by character:

Luke:

Belief: Right is might and I will show them I am right
Bang: A detachment of orcs is detected by the rear guard. If the army stops now to engage them it will slow their progress significantly. Gain glory at the price of personal risk and breaking up the already diminished detachment?
Reaction: Yeah, Luke used his sway with Arthas to command his troops to break off from the caravan, hunt down the orks and slay them.

Instinct: Never share my true thoughts.
Bang: Arthas rides up beside his good friend Luke and tells him of his concerns for the men and for Lorderon. He wonders why Luke pushed so hard for the troops to restock but in the end ceded to Jordan. “Tell me your mind Luke.”
Reaction: Luke held his tongue and lied to Arthas. He failed his falsehood roll and was left with a sharp reprimand from Arthas “Captain, if we do not act as one, we do not deserve the protection the Light offers us. Divided we WILL be destroyed.”

Genn Blackstone:

Belief: Nothing is wrong unless you get caught. I will blackmail anyone anytime I can get away with it.
Bang: One of Perenolde’s men (a one eyed veteran of the Second War) approched Genn. He is only a meager Sergeant (due to his injury) but he once fought along the armies in Durotar and doesn’t remember seeing Genn there. The veteran tried to blackmail Genn to stay quiet.
Reaction: Genn countered by threatening how someone could get hurt spreading such rumors. Their verses test was tied so neither of them have achieved what they want.

Instinct: Always keep a set of clean clothes.
Bang: As they are departing the quartermaster reprimands lord Genn for his lavishness and begs him not to slow the troops down by making the men move his personal effects.
Reaction: Genn overrules the Quartermaster, insisting that his finery is required for the trip and will be vital to the success of the mission.

Jordan:

Belief: All people should follow the light. I will find out why the orcs do not.
Bang: When catching up with the troops Jordan found a wounded orc left to die on the battlefield, cursing the name of Captain Luke. This is a demonic orc consumed by hatred.
Reaction: See above. Jordan tried to discover the truth about the orcs but learned only that they worship a demon.

Instinct: I always flirt with women with blue eyes.
Bang: Jaina showed up during the beating to stave the violence AND (more importantly) to warn Arthas of a new threat.
Reaction: Jordan couldn’t resist seducing her once again. He angered Uther with is intemperate behavior and later caused a divide between him and Arthas once the young prince witnessed them in the act of love.

What could have been improved:

While I think the bangs were cool, they ate up too much of the game time. I noticed that the players hardly had any time to do the things they wanted to instigate. I think I need to not be afraid of dead air, be willing to sit around and see what the players do. Once the players were given free reign they pulled off some miraculous stuff (sending out scouts to find dragon caves, leading a charge of the Silver Hand, offering to be the emissary to the orcs, etc.) I need to have more faith that my players will dive into interesting conflicts all on there own.

Beliefs, as discussed before, need to be looked at and honed. We’re working on this now.

There was a little confusing at the end (at least for me) about what was going on. I got that weird vertigo feeling of knowing that actions were happing but not really knowing the sequence they were happening in or how they affected each other. It was getting late at the end and I tried to cram to much stuff in. I need to cut things off sooner.

Bringing the pain. I don’t want to punish the players by any means but I feel that I’ve been a bit light on the characters, specifically Jordan. He’s defied Uther with his intemperance, the soldiers with his violence against them, Arthas by sleeping with Jaina and leading members of the silver hand to their death against overwhelming odds. So far the only people he hasn’t pissed off are Jaina and the peasants. I feel some crushing blow needs to land that will change Jordan or change the people around him. Maybe if Jordan is successful he convinces Arthas that only blind faith and courage will prevail and that he should no longer listen to the strategy of his captains. This will progress Arhtas down the path of insanity a little faster. Or possibly Uther will kick him out of the Silver Hand? I’m not sure. The point is that characters change, and I think Jordan needs some serious external forces changing around him, not to mention internal strife.

Looking forward to next week. I’m going to set the scene and then shut the hell up and see how it goes.