Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 4 (1/28/2013)

burning empiresGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Carom

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 23
Ending Disposition: 22

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 31
Ending Disposition: 31

During the downtime

  • Vaylen: A depiction of brother fighting brother.
  • Artemus – Dealing with the fallout of poor cyreans getting fucked.
  • Heiser – Working on the EVA-7
  • Draven – Working on war efforts.
  • Kristoff – Priory of the Purging Flame (preparing for divination)

Maneuver Objective

The humans wanted to learn about the Cyrean’s and find he reason for their violent schism (Access). The Vaylen were posturing, starting a lot of false rumors about “the worm” making people paranoid and distrusting (Flak).

Maneuver – Flak (Vaylen) vs. Access (Humans) – Result  Humans Dispo -1, No assess.


Artemus (Building) – Artemus has Rostov in custody and begins his interrogation. Once Rostov learns what is at stake he succumbs to the interrogation and tells Artemus that it was the Archcotare’s access codes that were used to self-destruct the EVA-6.

Brenden (Interstitial) – Cason and Draven talking. Cason is sheepish at dinner but finally asks his father if he things Grandpa (Brenden) has the worm. He’s nervous because Grandpa doesn’t want to fight any more. Which means he must have gotten the worm. Draven agrees to look down grampa’s throat next time he sees him to make sure he hasn’t gotten the worm.

Draven (Interstitial) – Draven meets with his father in law to humor his son and look down the duke’s throat and, more importantly, to gain permission to investigate the spending of the Dregutai. Brendan happily consents to his grandson’s young and foolish curiosity, but he forbids Draven from counting the sins of his fellow Mundus Humanitus until he has tended to his own soul and sought divination for his own sins. Draven consents to see Khristoff just as soon as possible.

Heiser (Building) – Heiser arranges for a visit with Freida (in custody) and thwarts the security so that even though is visit is logged, their conversation is not recorded. Once he finally convinced Freida of who he is, and that he came back to help the commune, she was all in. He passed her a hard light transmitter through the protective plexi-fiber barrier between them. He wasn’t sure how yet, but he was going to free her.

Kristoff (Building) – Draven met Khristoff at his temple, to perform divination. Draven had arrived with with a case of cold beers. Khristoff was lighting the ceremonial incense. The two were clearly not of the same mind. The scene went from jovial to very dark as Khristoff used his psychology to drum up Draven’s nightmares and in doing so saw what he believed was the Vaylen inside.

This scene represented a major game changer for me. I had one human FoN believing another one was a Vaylen. I’m really excited about where this will leave.

Roman (Interstitial) – Roman Tucker, spacer who previously worked with Heiser, landed on the planet, commissioned by the Merchant Guild to aid with the EVA-7. On the transport with him was Imperial diplomat Gwen Al-Ghazali, who was landing to take over public relations with the Mundus Humanitus. As she was picked up by Artemus at the space dock, Roman interrupted to introduce himself.

Draven (color) – Somewhat shaken up by his divination session with Kristoff, we see Draven at a temple trying to meditate. After a few minutes, he shrugs and cracks open a cold one.

Roman (Building) – Roman is having beers with Heiser, who has invited Artemus along. They would have gotten along fabulously, if not for Roman’s openly anti-prophet stance. Instead of making fast friends, he creates several awkward moments. Still, he sows the seeds of getting more respect for the Merchant Guild and Imperial forces.

Artemus (color) – Sends a card with an officer to a sermon. Slips the card to a dregutai. Message reads “I know the Cotar Fomas is looking into your accounts. Perhaps an exchange of information could be beneficial to both of us.”

Khristoff (interstitial). Kristoff reports his finding to the Archcotare, telling him his son-in-law, and father to his grandson, has the worm. The Archcotare is NOT pleased.

Thoughts on the game

We’re getting some good stuff out of Burning Empires, but I still think I’m doing it wrong, or maybe that the game clashes with my style. Here’s the specifics.

1. We play for 3-4 hours but I still don’t feel like we get enough done. Scene drag out sometimes because of lack of direction or pacing, other times because of mechanics.

2. I have thrown so many challenges at the players, looking for some to stick. This has created a messy world with a lot of loose ends instead of hard choices. Examples: Darius stopping funding to the Sodalis. A war going on between the MH and the Cyreans, a war currently without a leader. A growing distrust of psychologists. Hysterical fear of “The Worm”.

2a. Corollary to that, the problem that I think has the most teeth, was from the next session (I’m writing this AP late) where Brenden tries to take custody of his grandson Cason to protect him from the worm. That conflict had heart because there was a human interest in it. And people CARED about that conflict.

3. I have a hard time balancing being a fan of the characters, and the directive to win a in a scene/maneuver/phase/campaign.

4. My favorite kinds of conflict scenes are one where I start by dropping a problem the players can’t ignore in their lap and seeing what they do with it. I’m not sure how to do that in Burning Empires, as my scenes are about what my FoNs are doing, and their scenes are about what they are doing. Who’s scene is it if I start it off and say “Hey, the EVA-7 has tipped off it’s gravitational axis and is getting close to the planet. The thrusters have gone offline and it’s starting to overheat. Given it’s current trajectory, it’s going to crash into the planet in 30 minutes, what do you do?”

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 4 (1/28/2013)”

  1. I wonder if what you’re grinding against might be the idea of scenes as being spendable resources for creating and solving problems?

    BE is really a game about people, right? So it’s set up in such a way that most of the conflicts need to come from people doing things. If Darias wants to cut the funding of the Sodalis, then he needs to do it in a Building scene, and thus give mechanical weight to the fictional effect. That ought to make the Cotar Fomas use his scene to deal with the problem you’ve just set up, yeah?

    I think the one exception is the Color scene. As a GM, that’s your resource for establishing things like your crashing EVA example.

    The game does give you the directive to play hard as the GM, but I believe the intent is for your NPCs to be the vehicles that carry Belief-challenging adversity to the players, rather than being independent agents like the PCs are. NPCs don’t have free-will, they exist only to fuck us over 🙂

  2. I think that might be it. Maybe my scene ends when I tell you the EVA is colliding with the Carom, and your scene starts when you decide to do something about it…or not.

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