Actual Play – Changes (6/6/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

This session of Burning Theorsa can be viewed online here:…

This session was definitely one of characters changing. Shaun had some specific prompts for us, things to set our characters off, but also their dynamics changed with each other. A lot of that, of course had to do with beliefs:

The visitors will be leaving Redvale soon; I will pledge my enduring fealty to the Duke so that I might have an opportunity beyond this village. – Ayernand
Baldric’s praise is mocking and self-serving. I will make sure all men understand the true meaning of war by telling them of my sacrifice. – Ayernand

Ayernand is a symbol, but to be loved by the people he must embrace it. I’ll convince him to speak at the feast, to embolden the troops as he accepts the mantle “Troll Slayer.” – Baldric
Afon speaks incessantly of his prowess at killing nobility. Since we cannot get to the king through Andon, perhaps Afon can do it. I’ll convince him to infiltrate the kings men and deliver our message to him. – Baldric

Baldric clearly thinks very little of my magic, and believes me to be an immoral monster. I don’t need family who feels that way about me, I will convince Aziz to let me head his personal guard. I will begin by sending him a letter by raven. – Moya

Ayernand – Baldric. Noam is just setting himself up for mold breaker. He wants to swear fealty to Roderick, he wants to put Baldric in his place. Will he have to choose between those two?

Baldric – Ayernand: Baldric can be remarkably callous with regard to how people feel about things. He’s seen men dying from being burned to death, he’s committed horrible atrocities. After that, hurting someone’s feelings just doesn’t register with him.  He was determined that Ayernand would accept the mantle of Troll Slayer, regardless of whether or not he believed in it.

Baldric – Afon: By the gods, what have I done? Sent Afon off to kill the king!

Moya – Baldric: We made sure Baldric saw the letter. Fires burn hot between these two.

Opening scenes

We opened the game after a few days passed (Moya needed the rest). We did some quick montages.

  • Moya slept for 30 hours. OUT!
  • Leon, the newly appointed quartermaster,  returned with provisions and a feast is being prepared. Baldric supervises.
  • Andon is held in comfort but under guard.
  • Ayernand rounded up some of the fleeing prisoners from the woods, as he said he would.


I opened with Baldric pulling Ayernand from his soldering duties (rebuilding some of the burnt buildings) to talk to him about the feast. The talk went a little like this. “You’re a hero of the people. You need to stand tall and inspire them.” “You’re just trying to use me!” “Yup, do it anyway!” It was actually a duel of wits, but it went quickly. The interesting compromise, which I loved, was that Baldric would recognize who Ayernand is. The soldier he trained beside, and the soldier that fought in the Usurper War years ago when Baldric was sheltered by his father. Can’t wait for that to play out at the feast.

Meanwhile, Afon found Moya in the mayor’s house and, in typical Afron bluntness said “can I read your spellbook?” Moya explained that much like you don’t ask a woman who much she weighs, you don’t ask a wizard to read their spellbook. “But you did that awesome thing where you rained fire from the sky? I want to know more about that.” It was so awesome to see how gleefully excited Afon was by Moya’s destructive power, especially given the discussions of how monstrous it was last session, and Moya’s new believe (see above).

Moya had been, before Afon entered, writing a letter to Owain, saying that she wished to no longer serve the Auleys and asked to swear fealty to him directly. The importance of that letter was that Baldric saw it, so we, cutely I might say, arranged to have Baldric rush into the tent looking for the military roster (to learn more of Ayernand) and inadvertently read the letter. His attention draw to how Moya had incorrectly addressed the king as “My Lord Aziz” as opposed you “Your Grace King Owain”. He began reading the letter to help her correct it, and then seeing the content flew into a rage.

“You can’t do this! You’ve sworn fealty to my father!” “I serve the king!” There was more arguing back and forth. Baldric tried to snatch the letter out of her hand but failed and she told him she could write any letter to anyone she wanted. Things got very tense and very begrudgingly they moved on… to Moya writing a letter to the King, asking for a ransom for Andon, Baldric full well knowing he wouldn’t pay it, and wonder out loud what he should do with the knight.

This eventually lead to the conversation of “well, if Andon can’t get us audience with the King, Ayernand, you’ve killed nobles before, can you kill the king?” It really wasn’t meant to be as cavalier as that. I mean, Baldric did ask him to capture the king, so that he could be tried, but when told that capturing was too hard, but assassination was possible, he accepted easily enough, and to his surprise Afon accepted the task with aplomb.  Hmm, not exactly what I expected as a player. More on that below.


At this point, Shaun started presenting a few bangs for our characters. Somethings to shake us up and challenge our beliefs.

Belief: Moya is tempering with the vilest of the magics! Our agreement cannot stand. I will confront her the first time we are alone. – Ayernand

When Ayernand walked through the camp, some young soldiers greeted him. Tomas, Gareth the axe grinder, and a few others who didn’t have names. First they approached him as hero worshipers, offering him accolades and what paltry spirits they could muster.  This of course made him uncomfortable, but he accepted their moonshine and gave them an audience to speak their minds.

And there mind was this. That witch is a danger. She’s out of control You, who have suffered the fires, know best of all that she needs to be controlled. You must do something about it, if not we will!

And Ayernands mind was to silence and dissuade them, or as Kristin captured via Twitter:

One brawling roll later and the rabble calmed down, going quietly back to their homes.

Oh Aeric…

This wasn’t a response to a belief Baldric had, but a request I had as a player.

*Request/Hope:* I liked that Moya took Baldric’s behest to not use Rain of Fire as calling her a monster, because that’s what he thinks they are all becoming. He had a steel resolve when his actions were to free his brother, but now that Aeric is safe, he just doesn’t have the will to commit atrocities in the name of a boy-king who doesn’t even want the throne. I would REALY, REALLY love it if someone (read: Moya or Afon) decided that Baldric needs to be motivated and did something horrible like kidnap Aeirc and gave him back to Kentigern.

When Moya sent off her letters by raven (one to the true king, and one to the false), she also received a letter for Baldric from the raven master. She brought it to him and he read it. The contents informing him that Aeric had had run away! Baldric crossed the world over and killed hundreds of men to save him… and he runs away. He should have been mad, but he could only think of saving him.  After a moment of consideration, he charged off shouting “Afon, Afon, I need you! Afon!” (Afon literally has a trait called Man Hunter, I wanted to see it come into play).

Afon vs. a Dragon


One of the prisoners, a gnarled old man that would be hard to imagine serving in any army called Afon’s name as he walked by the cells. The man looked at him with stunning intensity through golden eyes. “You have something that belongs to me. I’ll trade you for it. A name for a name”.  Afon, realizing this was actually Seleth, the dragon, and knowing that he had Moya’s name, some how, at first claimed the moral high ground “that name means more to me than anything” but eventually began negotiations with the dragon. “Fine. I can negotiate”

Moya showed up at this time and before Afon could say anything or reveal that it was Seleth she dragged him off “Baldric wants you. Let’s go!”

More to do!

We ended with so much more to do. A feast. A speech. A seduction! Can’t wait till next game.

Thoughts on this game

Ethics of a Duel of Wits you know you’ll win? I wanted Baldric and Ayernand to go head to head on this, but I felt bad as a player knowing that Afon outmatched Ayernand and that he probably couldn’t win. As it turned out Ayernand did pretty well (got a solid compromise), but it did seems a little bit like Sean wants Noam’s character to do something -> Sean sets up a narrative to justify it (commanding officer giving an order) -> Sean pushes for a mechanical resolution (Duel of Wits) -> Noam’s character is forced to comply.  I ended it with a Dismiss specifically because I wanted the give the character a solid ground for doing it begrudingly. Baldric in the end didn’t convince him it was the right thing to do (via Point with Persuasion) he ordered him to do it (via Dismiss with Command)

Streaming online as a distraction. I’m pretty meh about us streaming online. I guess I could just ignore it, but I’m curious about the comments. Most of them (by far) are left by us responding to people, so it does seem a little self congratulatory. I mean, nobody that doesn’t want to has to watch, but still, since it’s there I want to see what people think, and then I’m spending more time not playing the game  (more than we already do with chatting about dragon porn, or Nap Time, or the dogs, or the kids, or the fact that Hangouts drops us, or that Hangouts won’t let one of us modify the Google Doc, or the 80 gillion other distractions we already have)

Short games – no sexy time. Kristin really wanted Moya to try and seduce the knight Andon. I wanted to see her try as well. We even have the perfect timing for this. During the feast where everyone is eating and drinking (except the prisoners of course) and Moya can slip off.  Anyway, we just didn’t have enough time in the game to get to that scene, and we were all sad for it.

Play before Play – Intentional failures. So Moya had this belief about wanting to leave the service of the Auley family because of the way Baldric treats her. And to make this belief have some traction in the story, someone present needed to oppose her on this, but the only one to do so was Baldric. So we planned this scene where she fails to finish writing it (failing a write roll, which she succeeded in failing at… er, too many negatives there) so that Baldric could arrive in time to see it before it was sent. This seems a little to contrived for me. We should be playing so that our agenda is to win. Failure stakes should be awesome and desirable as well (from the perspective of great story) but we we set the stakes so that what we want is to fail, we’re kind of betraying the game’s intent. Should anyone actually get this far in reading this post and have ideas for how to set this up, I’d love to hear them.

Splitting the party. I’m kind of concerned that we’re heading to a big party split. Afon goes off to kill Kentigern. Baldric goes to find his Brother. Ayernand goes to serve Duke Roderick, Moya goes to serve the true king. Gah! I mean, realistically those won’t all happen, but even if one of them happens, it could change the game a lot. I’m sure we can work out out, but we might also want to have a “post-battle downtime” where we can do some things off screen and then come back together with some fresh beliefs.

Katie’s seal of approval. Kristin’s sister showed up for a few moments before the game went live and said hi to everyone. She then gave us the Katie seal of approval. I was very liberal in my  interpretation of this and decided to add it to everyone’s beliefs/insticts in our shared google doc. So you got:

Instinct: Protect My Family With Steel and my katie seal of approval. – Afon

Belief: Moya is tempering with the vilest of the magics! Our agreement cannot stand. I will confront her the first time we are alone with katie’s seal of approval. – Ayernand

Baldric, has a katie seal of approval!

Belief: Baldric feels that Andon is the key to the king, Now is the time to move. I will seduce him in his weakened state and get Baldric his audience with Kentigern and katie’s seal of approval. – Moya

Sometimes it’s fun to just fuck around with google docs.

One thought on “Actual Play – Changes (6/6/2012)”

  1. I’m disappointed to read that you’re not too keen on streaming your games. I’m really enjoying watcing you play, especially now I’ve found your write-ups.

    I agree about playing to fail. What was the Intent? You said it yourself; “Intentional failure”. To write a letter, and for Baldric to find out about it. Is there an interesting way to not succeed at this? If not, just say yes, and move on.
    Would it be interesting if Moya got the letter off and the first Baldric hears about it is when he receives orders releasing her from service? Then roll, perhaps at a fairly large obstacle, to represent how unlikely being interrupted would be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *