Actual Play – HERE BE DRAGONS (10/13/2012)

BY THE THREE GODS! SERIOUSLY. This one goes to 11. And with that….

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Kristin Hayworth, Justin Dhiel, Andrew Eckhart
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

This game had so much going on. And the real AMAZEBALLS part of it is that much of what happened was while half of the characters had severe (and later due to a failed surgery roll, traumatic) wounds.  Gods damn!

To see the live recording of this game, go to: (uhh, skip the first two minutes, they are terrible)

Setting the stage

Last time Baldric and Moya had both been shot with crossbows (taking severe wounds) and were captured by Lord Brandstrat.

Afon, Michael and Rowan (Baldric’s squire) fled using the fire Afon started as a distraction.  Rowan had the crown, and things were looking grim. Here are some of the beliefs that spawned form this:

Baldric (belief): If Moya does not make it through the night, neither will her doctor! I’ll make sure he gives her the best care possible.

Baldric (instinct): Always keep my sword by my side.

Moya (belief): From the attitude about the “Red Butcher” I’d assume the king and his court have a terrible fate in store for me. Instead, I will kill the king the first chance I get, even if it kills me as well.

Moya (instinct): Never deny my magic

Afon (belief): I will gain my power. I will find Kellis and I will force him to give me the tools I need no matter what throat I have to slit.

Mikhael (belief): This is the time. Though Baldric has been taken captive and injured, I must move forward with my plan. I will mobilize the priests and together we will affect a miracle to prove to the city – and the country – that the old faith is the only true faith.

Mikhael (instinct): Never lie.

Some of those beliefs/instincts, and a few other things we knew about our characters drove the story. HARD.

I need a doctor

We started off making some surgery rolls. Moya was unconscious but Baldric was still standing (okay, staggering) with his severe wound. Before they dragged him away to a cell, he promised the doctor that if Moya didn’t make it through the night, neither would he! Yay for helping with intimidation. The doc worked carefully, which was an interesting choice, because the additional time complication if he had failed was that Baldric’s wound escalated from severe to traumatic.  Luckily with some good FoRKs, help from Baldric and the extra die from working carefully, he closed the wound in Moya’s stomach, and stopped the bleeding.  Woot.

Baldric was not so lucky. To get the bolt out of his shoulder the doc had to do some cutting. He failed his first surgery roll, the wound elevated to traumatic. Shaun described the back of his head getting wet, as the surgeon cut an artery and the blood went out the exit wound in the back and began pooling on the table. That’s the point where Baldric lost consciousness.  Then the dice did something pretty fucking miraculous. The doctor succeed in his roll to stop the bleeding, then succeeded in his roll to treat the wound, and (spending a bucket of persona) Baldric succeeded in his health roll. Fuckered up, but alive!


The people were gathering for the queens funeral. Pallbearers marched the funeral pyre around the city and would eventually arrive in the city center, where the funeral would commence.

Afon had sent Rowan north to look for the fleet. The squire would be in danger in the city and Roderick’s forces much know what happened to Baldric and Moya.  He held the Iron Crown though, convincing Rowan it would be safer with him.  Heh, heh, heh. As the funeral began Afon made his way through the crowd, pushing toward the front, to where Kellis would be. As he saw the procession approach, with Aeric by the kings side, he tried to call out to him, but Aeric could not leave the parade or be informed of what had happened.

Mikael meanwhile was leading his priests into the crowd… like a boss. While most of them had leaper’s robes on to cover their scarification, he proudly displayed his faith in the three gods. To his advantage the guards were over busy watching out for actual trouble makers than heretic priests, and just didn’t have time to worry about him.

Inside the Dungeon

Baldric heard the scraping sounds of boots on stone outside and door was flung open. Two jailors rushed in and grabbed him (as though he was going to fight back) and slammed him down on a stool.  After he was secured, one gave the all clear signal and then two royal guards, followed by King Kentigern himself stepped into the cell.

“It didn’t have to be like this. I didn’t wish for any harm to come to you.” Kind words. Easy for someone holding all the cards, with nothing to lose to say.

Baldric was finally honest with him. “It was wise of you to put us here. I came here to declare war on you, but stayed my tongue only for your late wife. The moment  her pyre was set a blaze I was going to announce myself.”

The king walked out. It turned out we didn’t have much to say. Through the bars Baldric yelled. “I have the Crown! I have the Crown Kentigern, and you’re never going to get it. That throne isn’t yours, it never will be.”

He was taken aback but seemed nonplussed “Impudent child, I don’t need that trinket. I am already the king.”

He walked down the hall into Moya’s cell. Moya had been working away at freeing her hands from the bonds so she could pull out her gag, but only got her hands loose moments before he arrived. Not in time to case Rain of Fire just then!

First he teased her.  He feigned consulting with her on her method of execution.  But after a time he stopped gloating and got serious. “I shouldn’t joke when I’m going to deliver a death sentence.” Something in the way Shaun (as the GM) said that convinced me that he meant the execution was going to be right now. Ans when he clarified that it wasn’t going to be I didn’t care, I put that little thought in Baldric’s head as well and had him start to shout down the halls (he was able to overheard the king).

Baldric shouted out a desperate plea to the king, but with his wounds, it came out as a horse whisper. “I’ll give it to you. I’ll give you the crown. I’ll call you King Kentigern, protector of the realm. I’ll give it to you if you don’t kill her.” How fucking fickle my characters are. I failed the conspicuous roll though to interrupt him, so he just started talking louder. Fucker.

The Funeral

The king left Baldric and Moya in their cells to rot.

Outside he joined the procession beside Lizelle, Aeric, and the prophet Kellis. Kellis looked like a man who never saw the light of day. His skin was pasty white and his eyes squinted in even moderate sunlight. Those eyes bulged and dashed back and forth, belying his insanity.  He wore cardinal robes that hung loosely on his frail body.

Michael had pushed closed to the front and got his priests to spread out through the crowd so their voice would be heard from all quarters. After the pomp, the king announced that though this was a day of sorrow, it was also a day to look to the future. When this torch dropped it signified not only the passing of the queen but the birth of a new religion in Theorsa. The sole worship of the Lady of Silver: Argent.

In his best Lana Kane, Michael bellowed over the crowd to interrupt “Nooooooooooope!” (well, something more priestly that that). The torch dropped, the pyre ignited and Michael started praying to ALL THREE GODS. And when he prayed, so did his priests, and soon after so did the people.  He called out that the prophet was a heretic and his false religion would not stand.  Priests were chanting. People were starting to surge against the wall of guards, and Michael strode forward to confront the false prophet… and then fire rained from the sky!


Meanwhile Moya and Baldric were still up in the tower. Baldric shouting his love for Moya thinking that she was still gagged and couldn’t respond.  Meanwhile Moya was taking a stone to scratch symbols into the rock walls of the jail, preparing to cast Rain of Fire. When she was finally ready to do it, she called down the hall to Baldric.  “Baldric, I can see the king out there… I can take him out… But Aeric is right there with him. He’ll get caught in the fire too….” After a pregnant pauses “You’re asking for permission?” “Umm, well not reall-” “You’re asking for permission not of your king. You’re asking for permission from me because if you cast the spell it might kill my brother and you know how much he means to me.” Another pause “Do it!” “Baldric. I love you.”

And in that moment we set down a path that can’t ever be changed. Baldric gave the order and Moya fired the gun. She cast her spell, wounded as shy might be she summoned every reserve (using a deeds) to bring fire and death down upon the king… and everyone in the city center. The sky turned black, the air roiled. And from the clouds came meteors of fiery death. The very first one flew straight at the king and a molten rock sunk into his chest killing in with a single stroke. The sky continued to rain down everywhere in the court.

Michael, in the center of it all prayed to the three gods. He prayed or a divine intervention to protect the people from this fire from above. And, as they were already chanting, the crowd joined in with him, praying for their own lives (and in some cases their souls).

Okay, so this is a major deal. It’s an Obstacle 8 prayer for an intercession. And it’s also one of the more overt prayers you can make. But he had help (lots of people praying) and got very, very lucky.

From out of the skies, breaking through the fiery rain, came the answer to his prayers. Two dragons, locked in combat with each other. As the dragons fought, their powerful wings and massive bodies broke up the clouds of fire, batted away the molten rocks and protected the people below from the rest of the powerful spell.

Panic Below

As the dragons appeared any last semblance of a cohesive crowd broke and people began to run in panic. The king was dead. Kellis was carried off by guards. Michael, however, instead of running from the destruction walked into the center of it. He walked up to the dais where the king stood and took the Iron Sword from his side. The hilt looked not like a hilt fashioned by man, but a lump of dense black stone, formed by dragon fire. The blade, when he drew it, was silvered, and unbelievably shark. Gingerly he drew just the faintest portion of the blade across him and it bit deep, leaving another scar in dedication to his gods.

Afon, found the guards that were carrying Kellis and attacked. In the confusion they heeded his threats without much resistance. He kidnapped the prophet and made for his smuggler friend on the shore.

Destruction above

As the dragons came soaring through the air they crashed into the castle itself. One swipe of an armored tail crashed into the tower that held Baldric and Moya, and it began listing over. The door to Baldric’s cell was splintered by the shifting of it’s frame and Baldric was free. He ran down the halls but found Moya was not so lucky. There was a way out for her, but only through a whole torn in the wall of her cell by the Dragon’s, which loomed over a three story drop on the cobblestone streets below.

Baldric wrestled a sword from a guard and used it to batter open the door to Moya’s cell. The were together again, bleeding horribly from savage wounds, and in a tower that was about to collapse with dragons outside fighting over the city, but they were together, and Baldric smiled. “Do you trust me?” He asked in a horse whisper, and then grabbed her and jumped out the window, sword in hand, landed on a dragon and rode it down to the ground where they tumbled off and away to safety.

Wait, they did what?

If you’re like me and you’re reading this AP post, something in your brain just broke. Baldric, with a traumatic would no less, leapt out of a building with Moya in one arm and a sword in another, landed on a dragon and – MIND BLOWN. How is this possible? What game are you playing.

Well, I kind of felt the same way. All along our characters have been very mortal. Yes, they fought a dragon, but there was three of then in good health, and it was a baby dragon. And they didn’t even really kill it, A bigger dragon did.  So, in what crazy world should they be leaping on dragons?

For me this was a matter of accepting that, at this point, we had turned it up to 11. We were setting stakes on spells like “killing the king” and praying for divine intervention. Even though this was incredible heroics, there are the kinds of incredible heroic’s Baldric can do. In fact I started the thing saying “I want a bloody versus against the dragon, my stakes are that I ride it down to the ground safely, er safely-ish.”  Shaun noted that it didn’t really have an intent, as it didn’t know I existed and my sword couldn’t really harm it, but allowed me to roll sword just the same to use my blade to find purchase in it’s scales and hold on until it was safe to drop down from it. Sometimes Shaun is a nice GM.

Taking then throne

After that, Michael, Baldric and Moya regrouped in front of the keep and badgered the captain of the guard until he let us into the throne room. “Fine, you want to play king? Go ahead. I’ve got a city to protect!”

As the entered the throne room, the saw it there, the giant dragon skull throne, and it it sat an old man. “I was wondering when you were going to get here…”

Thoughts on this game

As befitting the campaign ending, we saw our characters do amazing things. We killed a king, we summoned dragons (sort of), and we escaped a collapsing tower despite nearly mortal wounds. I like the way the game is ending, and I love that we’re pulling all the stops (read spending deeds and persona like candy) to see it happen.

Shaun has been waiting to drop the dragon bomb on us forever. He was giddy as a school boy when he got to use the intercession to do it. Fuckin dragons!

On that note Shaun has talked about a second Theorsa campaign, set in post-dragon apocalypse Theorsa. Every time we mentioned two dragons outside he said “well, two so far…”

Damn, wounds are awesome ways to get challenging tests!

Damn, wounds make all my wises go away. Hate being stabbed in the noble-wise!

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