Actual Play – Chaos in the Streets (6/5/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis, Chrissy, Fattig, Shaun and Kristin
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

I love the images of a war torn world. People limping along with horrible injuries untreated. Buildings collapsed from the fighting. Fires burning in the street to provide warmth to the now homeless. Weary soldiers just trying to remember how to live, let along fight. A pervasive feeling of impoverishment soaking through the bones of even the wealthy.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a place I’d like to be, but there is something so chilling and human about those images that I keep coming back to them.

So sets the stage for post-riot Blessed Isle of Osiris. The Arachnos are dispensing their own brutal form of justice, posting eight heads at every crossroad, indiscriminate of who those heads belong to. The city guards are trying to keep some modicum of order, even after their authority has been nullified by the invaders. The people, motivated by fear and anger either raid each other’s homes and businesses or lock themselves up in their own, trying to isolate their small sanctum from the chaos outside.

Good times.

Beliefs / Instincts

Atreus the Jackal, Ex-Gladiator
How cruel the world is, to let me taste freedom for so brief a time! I will get the spirit-talker to break this iron manacle.
This guardsman is a mystery to me. I will test his mettle in a duel.
My half brother’s betrayal will not go unpunished. I will find the estate where I was born.

Never cover my scars.
Always go for the face.
Always start fights in aggressive

Onuris, Hedge Wizard
“The Spirits are being forgotten in this world; I will make people remember their power. I will call to the Spirits to raise up the lost city of Ankhenoptera, once I’ve found it.”
I will learn the assassin’s connected to the Ironbound. I will discover her identity, and use that to get answers
I MUST KNOW the secret of the Ironbound’s magics!

When idle, draw Circles in the sand.
Never answer questions directly.
Never summon a Spirit to kill.

Rashidi, Master of the dead.
I will desecrate my brother’s body.
The Book of the Everliving, protected by the high priest, is missing. I will start investigating at the summoning site.
I will protect Sarai during the riots.
Faith belief: Because of the corruption of my brother, the high priest, Osiris demands that I cleanse the temple. The cleansing has begun: I will remove Hashem the Royal Scribe, my brothers ally.

I will never refuse a request from Jafar.
When at a loss for words I quote obscure history.
When faced with a dead body I will perform the last rites.

Hassad Sakawi, City Guard
I will save my daughter from the rioters.
I will convince the gladiator to drink with me
I will recover the prince’s body.

Always plan a good parade route when entering a city.
Check the draw on my weapons every hour.
When in danger, intimidate.

Siti, Assassin (these are old, from last session)
The assassins sent me to kill the prince, and I’ll redeem myself by finding who incited the riots.
I will collect payment never delivered from the Bastucks here on the isle and pass it off to another assassin.
I will find my parents and make them pay for sending me to this life.

Avoid fair fights whenever possible
Always have a way to escape
Never leave a witness alive.

So, what were our heroes up to?

Siti and Oneris were offered unlikely hospitality from a merchant who hoped Siti (after she told him it was possible) could kill the Arachnos that killed his brother. The price, however, was too horrific for him to imagine. Oneris practiced his circination to aid the man in appealing to the spirit of his sanctum.

Aytreus and Hassad had this great discussion about the value of a man’s life. I think in our modern sensibilities we find the idea of a person having a price tag abhorrent but in the life of an enslaved gladiator, it’s a simple reality. 15 drachmas (I believe that’s the currency we decided on), but negotiable. Also cool when contrasted with the cost that Siti’s order charges (one of your children). The situation was a man running with a torch towards Hassad’s home, intent on burning it down to make the guard (really the governing body as a whole) pay for the crime off surrendering to the Ironbound’s rule. He managed to talk the man out of it, give him a chance to strike back at the Ironbound who killed his wife and destroyed his home. He travels with Hassad now, following him with dead eyes, sullenly accepting how little he can do.

Rishidi having escorted his sister in-law and lover back to the temple found his new found authority immediately challenged by the temple scribe who proclaimed that Rishidi was an imposter. Jafar, a friend (of sorts), told Rishidi that the ensure his name was clean, he would have to sever the ties between the temple and the Blossoming Lotus, a brothel the temple had been secretly (or maybe not so secretly) supporting. Jafar assured Rishidi that given enough time the scribe could find evidence that Rishidi himself had brokered the deals with the brothel.

Rishidi discreetly made his way to the brothel but was attacked by rioters on the way. With the aid of his men, and the fortuitous appearance of Hassad and Atreus he scared the rioters off, but not before one of them had stolen the mantle of the high priest or that Rishidi had noticed a distinctive tattoo of an orange eye with tentacle-like eyelashes on their arms.

All five or our heroes then made their way to see their patron, Haroon, who implored them to seek some peace with the Ironbound, that the Arachnos would abate their unwarranted violence.

How did it end?

Siti was captured and locked up with a dozen other peasants, one of them including Riska the woman who killed the prince.

Aytreus and Oneris traveled together to find where Riska was being held but the vengeful spirits of the street misled them and took them to the house of a wealthy noble (who stills owns his child-debt to Siki) and Bainwen, the princes brother as they dined in a palatial garden.

Hassad and Rishidi made plans to torch the Arachnos base. If I remember correctly, not knowing that Siti was captured inside.

Good times ahead.

What rocked

I felt pretty good about hitting on beliefs and instincts in this game, while still pushing the situation. In fact I think I often asked the question “You sure you don’t want to peruse your personal goals during all of this chaos?” That was fun. Also, I got a couple of the nastier instincts to come into play. “I will never refuse a request from Jafar” was just too tasty to pass up.

There were some great, if terrible scenes, discussing the value of life, which clearly isn’t an easy thing to agree on.

Sipho is horrible. His fascination has gone from studying their behavior to their tolerance for pain and their anatomy.

What could have improved

Headaches, distracting children and the heat. All of those put together put a pretty big strain on the game.

I tried to hit pit Oneris’ instinct (to never use a spirit to kill) against his belief (to find the ancient city) but the offer ended up being made to Siti (who could care less about the artifacts from the lost city), so it didn’t have the punch I wanted. Eh, I’ll have another chance.

2 thoughts on “Actual Play – Chaos in the Streets (6/5/2010)”

  1. Dude. I want to be in this game SO BAD.

    I’m working on a gritty fantasy thing (waaaaay on the back-burner) and this is, like, exactly the style of content I want the game to hit. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. John, I read this this morning on my way to work and it totally made my day. I’m stoked that this jostled the embers in the back of your noggin and lit a spark. Every game of yours that I’ve played has been excellent so I’d love to see what you do (someday… I know) with a gritty fantasy setting.

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