Actual Play – Governer Onerus (9/18/2010)

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

This game is really on wheels these days. The characters have gotten themselves in so much trouble, simply by pissing on people that I never have a shortage of confrontations to throw in their faces as they pursue their beliefs. Meaningful confrontations that stemmed from their own actions and that often affect their beliefs in the end. And this, I believe, is where games become really fun for everyone. The players know their actions are meaningful (else they wouldn’t get such strong reactions) and can work towards their goals but the GM has an arsenal of hooks, twists and bangs which are easy to imagine, fun to implement and automatically attractive to the players because they reincorporate elements the players brought into the game earlier.

So I may be gushing here a little, but think that somewhere around the 5th-6th session, Burning Wheel really starts to fly.

So, what kind of madness happened this time.


She spent almost the entire game high on opium. The Ironbound wanted to restrain her without hurting her, so he kept her perpetually doped up. There were many conversations they had that she promptly forgot, but the one that stuck was when Eonwe told her that since she had killed the ruler of Al-Habib she must find a fair leader to take his place. So, she offered up…


… Who was out in the desert looking for his old master Hemmet. Trekking through the sands of the Empire, upon a path he was sure would lead to his master’s remote abode, he, Atreus and Saleem (the merchant who Hemmet had stolen from), all stumbled upon a group of eight armed desert rats, who were looking for Siti had heard that Oneris and she entered the city together. The wanted revenge for being sent after a woman who was actually a demon. They wanted payment for the two that died fighting her. Instead Oneris offered an ultimatum “run now or face the sorcerer that bound the demon”. Sadly, cracnky as he is, this hedge wizard just isn’t that scary, especially not when you’ve got seven of your friends surrounding him with swords… To be on the safe side though, they opted just to take the merchant with them, he would have money. When he fought them off however, the decided the rings on his fingers were worth enough, chopped off his hand and were done with it.

[Here is an example of what I was saying above. The rats came as a result of Siti. Because Onerus has been taking charge of things, I constantly have people come to him when they want something fixed. I really had no idea what the Desert Rats would do with him besides demand money. I mean, dead men don’t pay the rent, so sure they were threatening but they never really intended to kill him, especially because despite a failed intimidation roll, he is a wizard, and that is scary stuff. Somehow we got to Saleem’s hand being cut off and left to bleed to death, which prompted…]

Atreus, the return to Al-Habib.

Atreus wanted to no part of it. He knew the fix for Saleem’s pain was to finish him off but Onerus insisted on carrying him back, so the merchant was flung over his shoulder and gracelessly carried him back to the city wall, were he unceremoniously dumped him at the gates and headed in for something strong to drink.

Atreus knew it was time to fix the debacle he created when he first entered the city and proclaimed the cure for a sick baby was to throw him in the desert. He found himself a place to speak outside a café and started getting himself some attention. In retrospect I probably should have made this a linked test Conspicuous –> Oratory, but hey it worked. Fattig, like the kind gent he is, agreed that the café he was speaking of was the same one they had learned from the desert rats, that Siti was staying in…. Siti who also had the health baby of the Bastucks. She offered him aid, in the form of telling him that if he called out for the baby, she would “heal” it by enchanting the parents so they believed the other child was their own. And it worked… mostly. Atreus earned the favor of the people.

Oneris, took the man to a surgeon, but found him drunk beside the corpse that was his last patient. He did everything he could to sober him up (including getting coffee from the same café and hearing the people applauding Atreus) and get him prepared for the surgery. By this time Saleem was near death however, and his prospects weren’t looking good. To complicate things further the Ironboun Eonwe finally found Atreus and asked him to come with him. There were some great insults that went back and forth, finally the captain agreed to aid in healing the man… but he died just the same. The surgeon, so frightened and determined, didn’t even realize the man’s heart had stopped breathing as he continued to suture the wound. For an Ironbound with 9 grief already, this hailed his end.


Lateef (the ex-gladiator rapist son-of-a-bitch) had gone out to find Eonwe, tell him that Atreus had hired him to kill him and see if the Ironbound would give him some reward for finking on Atreus or hire him to kill his old friend. Instead he found opium and Siti. He wasn’t really in the mood for rape though, he had business to do, so he hung out with Siti for a time in the tent, until she tried to get him inebriated as well by kicking the brazier (he had untied her) over to him. She failed an instead caught the tent on fire. This was a funny scene all around but led to Siti and Lateef having some bonding time, drinking elven spirits, in a papasan chair while they watched the tent burn down.

Atreus arrived… looking to kill Lateef… followed by Eonwe and Onerus. It was a bit of a comedy of errors, but it was also my attempt to actually get all the players together for a single scene (the first of which in maybe two sessions).

The end result was a great three way dispute. Eonwe wanted a good leader to save the unclean from their barbarous ways, he decided that leader was Onerus. Atreus was completely against this, he was the rightful heir and would take the governorship. Onerus had no desire to lead but neither he nor Eonwe though Atreus was the one to do it. And thus two awesome Duels of Wits ensued, with the results of Onerus would lead, but he would take the Ironbound’s sword. Atreus would agree to give him the post, but would be assigned as captain of the guard. Somehow the rapist Lateef, who had thrown his lot in with Oneris (despite really wishing he could get paid 15 shekels to kill him), tagged along and became a lieutenant, the one who ended up being in charge of escorting Siti to her chambers… and he still didn’t try to rape her, because by this time they had become buddies talking about wartime stories.

Eonwe left, without his sword or claim to leadership, of to the west. He imparted this one bit of information. Though Kiel had the power to bind Atreus in iron, it took a rarer Ironbound still to remove them.

Next up…

The order is tired of Siti taking so long. Al-Farqu (aka Greedo) is coming after her. The city is in shambles and Riska still seeks to undermine all the good they have accomplished under the pretense of giving them aid. Plus, Onerus has a lead to the location of his old master, and if he’s to be itinerant wizard… living in a governor’s palace isn’t going to work out so well.

What rocked

We had some awesome conflicts? Will Saleem live? Who will govern Al-Habib? Will Onerus find Hemmet? I continue to be amazed at all the trouble the players are happy to get into in the pursuit of their beliefs. We had a health mix of success, failures and something in the middle, that all spurned on more action still.

I really pull the pressure on Onerus this game, to salvage something reasonable out of all this chaos. Next character to be hit hard will probably be Siti, I guess it all just depends on what they get themselves into. An assassin is coming for sure.

What could have been improved

This is up to Babe to confirm, but I felt a little bad having Siti spend most of the session bound and drugged. I tried to make sure she still had agency in the game, and could still affect outcomes, but I was worried that Kristin would feel locked out of having fun by the whole thing.

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