Actual Play – The Gift (2/12/2011)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Mia, Eric Z, Fattig, Mary, Shaun Sub One, Karen, Matthew and Luke
System: Burning Wheel

Yay, The Gift! I love running this game, and this time it was a birthday present, so it was even extra “gifty”

Here’s some pics of the game:

Props

I did a few new things with props this time (every time I run it, the game get a little heavier on the props). This time I added a crown (visible on Matt’s head in the picture above). Gold, red, gem encrusted and really gaudy. Perfect for the Dwarves I thought.

Also, I made some nice folders for the character sheets (red for the dwarves and blue for the elves), which had the character sheet plus the trait/skill reference sheets (who knows what “Song of the Ages” is anyway?). I tailored the Fight! sheets to put a box just around the Fight moves so it was easier to ignore all the positioning, stance and other options. This was done as per Luke’s suggestion to ignore stance and positioning in a intro game.

I had a bit of fun with the cups too. The Dwarves got root bear (dwarven nog) to drink out of their bottles. The elves however had sparkling water (elven mirror wine) but didn’t bring glasses, instead the relied on the dwarves hospitality to provide them. So I gave Uncle Oxen for plastic red cups (frat boy style) to give them as “goblets”. Yeah, that went well. *evil grin*

The payers themselves were quite prop-ful in their costumes. I believe all of the players came dressed in their appropriate colors, or were later garbed in them thanks to Mary bringing and extra coat.

Enter the Dwarven Halls 

I’ve realized in this game, all I need to do is start the fire under everyone’s ass and they will take it from there. Here are the three ways I mess with them, they work every time. First, I make huge showing of the gifts that clan Narn (some unimportant NPC dwarves) give to Prince Vost. Man do they just shower him with riches. This means the Dwarves are always alert to the fact that the Elves didn’t bring crap. Next, and this one is usually done by the PCs but I still stir the pot. The elves always think about singing a song, which inevitably ensorcelles the dwarves in wonderment and someone always loses it over that! Lastly, if the every seem to be getting along, forgetting about their age old grudges and generally seeing eye to eye (or eye to chest as the case may be), I dump the mithril armor on them like an atom bomb. That always makes the game go boom… and it did!

What rocked

We have some new players of all ranges. Several had never played burning wheel, one had only played a handful of RPGs (and certainly nothing as crunchy as BW) before and finally we had one completely new gamer in the mix. On the other end of the Spectrum we had Shaun and Eric F who have all played in campaign length games. That said the game ran smoothly throughout. I’ve finally accumulated enough system knowledge (with a bit of help from Shaun) to run the game without referencing the books. Also because so much of the game isn’t directed by me, I had time to stand over people’s shoulders and help them figure out dice pool, determine if they should spend Artha, etc. Overall, it was great to see new players in the game.

The “dwarven goblets” were great. Definitely adding that prop in again next time. Same with the crown.

Matthew played this “Yosemite Sam” version of Prince Vost. A strong “Wut’s ‘dis here?” kind of voice. Add that to opening up his nog with his eye socket, then slamming it on the table (spilling it everywhere) and tossing his cheese rind on the table (all actually done by the player) and he was this crazy over the top boisterous prince. My only concern was that he was having so much fun it would be infectious, but instead it did exactly what I hoped for, made all the other three dwarves feel like they needed to “instruct” him the whole time. It was perfect.

Karen loves the low status, subject to panic attack character and she found it in seneschal Kol. Not only was he trying (unsuccessfully) to moderate the prince, but he also lost his marbles with the mithril appeared. Upon seeing the mithril, her first reaction was perfect: “We accept your gift!” Watching her trying to hide that greed and keep it under wraps, while nearly melting under the pressure of NEEDING THE MITHRIL was great.

Shaun rightly pointed out that playing Uncle Oxen is tough. He really is in the difficult position of trying to pry his favorite cousin free from the grips of the seneschal and the warden, while still maintaining honor amongst his people. To that end, he did some great things, one on which was making the most sumptuous meal imaginable (apparently made from doves and mermaid flanks) to keep the peace (which really nearly worked if I wasn’t such an instigating bastard). He also saved the princes life when his arm got chopped off by the captain, which was FANTASTIC.

Mary’s line pretty well encapsulated the entire game, infact, the entire scenario for that matter. “TIME FOR DIPLOMACY IS OVER!” She was so quick to take that bow, I loved it. And kept reminding me of her instinct to always have an arrow knocked. It was Mary, as the ranger, who pointed out how the Dwarven prince “assaulted” her prince (when he grabbed his mithril clad arm in awe) prompting the captain to chop off his arm. Then later, she realized what a sneaky bastard her character was and rigged the final trial… nearly giving her prince the win.

Fattig, like Karen played the pained advisor. Unlike other Loremasters however, I finally saw one taking his proper authority and putting the price in his place. They were in jail (for the aforementioned arm removal) and the he told the prince flat out “peace with the dwarves is worth more than your mithril armor. Give it up boy!” Then, he took the consequence that he would accept responsibility for botching the whole mission (by forgetting the gift) once the prince took the throne (potentially a long time to wait for sentencing).

Eric, as the prince blew me away. Like a lot of the well meaning princes, he endured a lot of the dwarven crudeness (like the hall of death and butchery, aka the hunting lodge they were given as quarters) but when the final trial was announced, and single combat would ensue, he took up the sword in the place of his captain to save him from the grief. The tragedy there, of course was that when he died, the captain was wracked with grief just the same, and wasted away in the west. His dying action was to sing a dirge, blaming the loremaster for this mistake. It was beautiful.

Mia was adorable as the captain, playing off the dichotomy of one seeking peace but always turning to violence, and losing herself (well himself, but as the dwarves pointed out it’s hard for the other races to really tell) in the process. In a drunken moment (Dwarven Nog is nasty powerful to elves) she chopped off Prince Vost’s arm, for his assault on her prince. THAT was the move that set the wheel on fire.

You might have noticed that I went around the table starting with Matthew, the dwarven prince and getting to the dwarven warden last. There is a reason for that. Because this was perhaps the most memorable moment of the game. Luke announces that when Warden Ferun sees the mithril (after failing his steel test and standing and drooling) he stands up, in order to hide his erection under the table. It was brilliant. He also happily poisoned the uncle, killed the elven prince in single battle (with an AXE HAFT no less, thanks to the ranger rigging the fight), and was generally mighty.

Some other bits:

  • The elves brought doves… which were turned into a meal
  • Seneschal Kol put poison on Ferun’s blade, which Uncle Oxen accidentally scraped himself on.
  • The same axe head was later loosed by the ranger.
  • The prince fought in the stead of his captain, so the captain would not suffer the grief of killing, but when he died, the captain was stricken with grief just the same.
  • The hunting lodge… a scene from nature. DEAD, BUTCHERED and TAXIDERMIED nature. It was so atrocious, and yet the elves endured it.
  • The prince is dragged off by the uncle to save his life and all he can say is “GET THAT MITHRIL”.

We had several Duels of Wits and a single Fight! All of which were awesome and worked really well in the fiction (despite claims that scripting three moves in advance doesn’t make sense).

Death count: 3.5 Elven prince dies in single combat, his captain wastes away in grief. Uncle Oxen is killed by the poison meant for the elven prince, and Prince Vost is now known as the “left-handed”

Though he died and lost his father’s gift for it, the elven prince DID get the peace he wanted. What a perfect elf tragedy that so much was lost to achieve it!

What could have improved

It is hard to pronounce (and remember) the evles names. I need to make character tents.

Uncle Oxen is so hard to play because Kol and Ferun get along like buddies and Vost thinks they are both great. Either Vost needs a reason to be suspicious of them, or Oxen needs a divide to place between the two of them.

For the first time I really wish I had another hour or so to finish things up. We ended with the trial (out of time) but there was definitely some unfinished matters. I would have like to see a few more scenes play out.

I announced the sentence for the dwarves at the end (as part of closing the scene). I should have given that final choice to the prince to decide what happened with the mithril chain, and the lives of the other elves, etc.