Actual Play – Put him in chains (7/13/2012)

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

A nice long Friday night session. We lost Noam again, which was a major disappointment, and we missed about three weeks of game, but we still managed to rock this one pretty hard.

Abdicate the Caliphate

In the Medieval Studies 20A, the first paper I had to write for my professor Kevin Roddy was a position paper as Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib abdicating the caliphate. He had to speak to a divided group of Sunni and Shia and step down gracefully without two of them going to war with each other over his proclamation. I remember using a lot of quotes from the Qur’an and trying to make Ali sound like he was following Muhammad teachings, when in fact the entire thing was a political clusterfuck.

Baldric started the game, more or less in the same situation. Moya rode up with her people, old dudes who served with her back in the Usurper’s war, and gave Baldric the look. The “stand down before I make you stand down” look. And that was cool, I never intended for Baldric to go back on his word. He got drunk, his time was up.

The hitch of course, was that the troops by and large fear Moya. They haven’t seen her as a commander, and even though it was her spell that one the battle, it was Baldric leading them, and probably more importantly, it was Baldric who was the duke’s son. It didn’t help that Baldric doesn’t have oratory trained. Yay, beginner’s luck.
Baldric failed to capture their hearts and minds. Rolf, a captain, stepped forward to challenge the change of station, claiming it for himself. Baldric and Rolf ended up in a fist fight, while Moya tried to cow, if not calm, the masses. She told everyone this was a temporary change of guard until Duke Roderick appointed someone else in charge.

A Conspiracy

After the ruckus, Baldric sought out Afon to make a request of him. It was pretty much the same old saw “My brother is missing and I have to find him.” Afon surprised the knight however, by agreeing. He was sure Aeric was a traitor, giving secrets to Kentigern and his ilk. They argued for a bit, Baldric convinced Afon’s cynical mind saw only evil in people, Afon believing Baldric was blinded by his love for his brother. Both probably right, but Balrdic won the argument, for now at leaest…

Afon agreed to sneak off with him in the night, specifically in defiance of Moya’s wishes, knowing she would have to chase after them and abandon the meeting arranged with the king.

A perfect plan, nothing could go wrong… because everything about it was ALREADY wrong!

Put him in chains

We made some contrivances for Baldric to find out about Andon and Moya having sex (see below). Baldric flew into a rage and killed the man. Baldric is pretty darn hard to stop when he wants to kill someone. A few guards tried to slow him down. Moya , who had just arrived, cast choking grasp to choke him out, but neither were quite fast enough to stop him from burying his sword in Andon.

Then the screaming began. “How could you! In the same night that you laid with me? How could you do this to me.” Then the menacing advancing began… and this triggered several things. Moya was surprised (she didn’t expect Baldric to come after her), so she cast the fear. Baldric was terrified by her magic, but the terror drive him to fight rather than flight (thanks Gloryhound trait) and he charged into her and tackled her (wearing plate armor) into the mud!

It was Moya’s turn to do some screaming “I didn’t want you. You took advantage of me while I was drunk!” She didn’t quite say Baldric raped her, but the implication was there. I didn’t even ask for a roll. She didn’t need to test persuasion or ugly truth. Hearing that just crushed him. The guards ripped him off her and he put up no resistance as the clasped him in chains.

Who is in command?

Before all the drama between Baldric and Moya, there was a dinner thing they were all supposed to be at. All the commanders had gathered in the mayor’s house for a final dinner before breaking camp in the morning. Baldric had excused himself to question the guards and later Andon. Moya followed after, noticing that Baldric wasn’t present. Afon stayed behind and watched a military coup unfold.

Rolf, with all the other lieutenants present, pointed out that Moya’s intent (which stemmed from Baldric’s original goal) to march into the King’s court and meet with him was lunacy. Instead he intended to take the men south, group up with additional troops and make a show of force advancing on Kentigern’s western border.  Possibly unwisely he sent Afon out to relay the message to the sergeants.  So what does he do?

He hears the commotion and comes skipping along, happy as a maladjusted school boy picking wings of a fly, with a note in hand.  Moya had just put Baldric in with the prisoners when Afon presented her with information (note: God, why does anyone every trust Afon?) that showed her orders were being countermanded by Rolf. She stormed back with her contingent of soldiers to settle this business.

A Choice

Afon lingered behind. Baldric in chains seemed like the perfect way for them to start their journey. He was still ready to make off in the night and go hunting for Aeric.

This was a big turning point for Baldric. His first reaction was to break out, screw the army and go chasing after Aeric. His love for Moya, or more likely his shame, won out though. “Forget about leaving. Go catch up with Moya. She’s walking into a fight, see that she is protected.”

Yeah, it amounted to no more than a linked test for Moya, but for Baldric, it was a sacrosanct decision, to give up on his brother to support Moya. Beliefs about protecting Aeric are no more!

Darth Moya

Moya burst in as the commanders were ready to adjourn. “This is in defiance of my direct order Rolf! This is mutiny!” Pleasantries were pretty much over. Rolf advanced on the witch, but just then Afon showed up, got in his face long enough for Moya to cast choking hand and get all sith lord on his ass.  She choked him for a bit and ask if anyone else had a problem. Putting on the hurt!

Control of the camp was secured in the final scene were we see Rolf throwing into the prison wagon with Baldric.

Thoughts on the game

I enjoy it when characters are put in situations they don’t want to be in, but feel they have to be in. Like Baldric in prison, and Moya commanding the troops.

I really like how Shaun handled the bloody versus of Baldric trying to tackle Moya, because it re-emphasized the fact that injuring people is often the incidental effect in the game.  Baldric didn’t mean to injure Moya, but he did anyway.  I’d like to think of other BV scenarios where the goal really has nothing to do with injury, but knowing that blows will be landed along the way.

The fact that we have several times made contrivances in the game for Baldric to know what Moya is doing so that he can get upset about it has always felt a little weak sauce for me. I mean, no doubt we get an emotional pay off from the confrontation, but it does seem a little fake and rushed. So, here’s two things I think we can do to improve that:

  • Shaun’s suggestion: Test wises to know this stuff. Make a “hiding something-wise” or a “who slept with who-wise” roll to see if Baldric can figure it out. Sure, they will all be beginners luck tests, but that means that we can set awesome failure stakes, like Moya must be sleeping with the whole army! Or Moya was ensorcelled by Father Menden to bed Andon” or maybe “Balric’s unwanted affections drove her into his arms.” You know, good stuff that could mess things up pretty hard core.
  • Waiting on the beliefs: Part of the problem is that we’re always writing such aggressive “jump right on the problem” beliefs. I’ve been blamed by Lenny of trying to always have 10,000 kinds of awesome in every scene, and he has suggested trying to just savor one awesome before moving onto the next. So, perhaps the big payoffs would come if I let things stew a while longer. I mean, it was bad that I killed Andon… but how much worse would it have been if I killed him after he had taken us to King Kentigern and we were in the king’s castle making diplomatic negotiations!

Belief for next game: I can’t allow my dishonor to soil Moya’s good name. Only a few guards were present for my indiscretion. I’ll silence them before rumors can spread.

I’m ready to look at Baldric through cross-hairs. He might be destined a dungeon, or possibly a beheading (one could easily consider killing Andon, when he had the possibility of getting us close to Kentigern, treason). I don’t feel like he has to go, exactly, I just think if the character’s story ended her (or ended soon) I’d be satisfied with him. He’s changed incredibly, and the final act of surrendering command to Moya (after they finally had sex the session before),  giving up on his brother, and accepting incarceration means there is almost nothing about the original character that hasn’t changed, which is a good judge for me of when a character has been thoroughly played. He could still change again in other, cool ways, or perhaps he could enter an iconic state, where instead of changing, he changes the world around him. Those would be cool, but seeing him go out with either a bang or a whimper, could also be very cool. My only reservation here is that the campaign is probably close to ending, so bringing in a new character now might upset the natural rhythm of the game.

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