Actual Play – The Sword (9/1/2012 10AM)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner and three peeps leaning the wheel.
System: Burning Wheel

Shaun and I were running demos of Burning Wheel HQ in the Games on Demand room for the Burning Wheel booth. The hope was to do a variety of game, but we had some misfires and only ended up running three games (Shaun 2, me 1).

Shaun ran the first game, which started with only two players. I hopped in bumping it to three. Later we had a 4th add to complete the roster.

The sword is a fun scenario, it’s a single scene where each character is presented with conflicting beliefs. They each want the sword for themselves but none of them want to fight for it. The Elf and the Dwarf because of personal moral codes, The Roden because he still hasn’t been paid, and the Human because he sucks in a fight.

What I love about the game is that it forces players to make a decision about which belief to adhere to. The one demanding they take the sword, or the one honoring (or fearing) the other PCs.

Who gets the sword?

I played Brechtanz, which probably wasn’t a good pick. As an experienced burner and player who is comfortable getting aggressive at the table Brechtanz was a bit too easy. I should have gone for Robard (the human) or Ssisz (the Roden). End result, I ended up with the sword, despite refusing to take it until others accepted my claim to it.

We also had one hiccup on the game, which was Robard convincing all of us that the sword was a fake. I didn’t really know where to go with that. We planned to explore the ruins more, looking for the real one, but none of us were about to leave the sword behind. Even as a “fake” it looks amazing. Shaun was gracious and gave me a Steel test (for Greed) when the blade was finally drawn from the scabbard, failing that I claimed the “It must be mine result” and sought it anyway. That sort of worked, but it didn’t honor the Let it Ride rules in spirit. I had effectively negated the lie by saying “well, this might not be the sword of my ancestors, but it’s a beautiful blade and I’m not giving it up anyway!” So, not great on my part.

Teaching the System

One thing I really enjoyed about playing in Shaun’s game (and later having him playing in mine) was that we work together pretty well to teach the rules. Thought we didn’t hit a Fight! we did have a Duel of Wits (over the Roden getting paid) and it was fun to see new players interact with the DoW mechanics. I thought they got a hold of it just fine and were really good at acting out the moves without letting the mechanics eclipse role-playing. Anecdotal evidence shows that if people don’t think Burning Wheel is “too hard” or that they should “fix it”, it plays out just fine.

Thoughts on the game

The woman playing the dancing, prancing elf was a stereotype but very fun. She abhorred the idea of conflict of violence but was positively delightful with her singing. Oh, and she revealed her grubby, greedy ways when it came time to barter with Ssisz. It was great!

Games on Demand had a lot of misfires. People who were told to come back in two hours when GMs were just minutes away. Or players that said they would come back, but never did, or came back after a game was full. Coordination could use a two things to help this.

  1. A white board to record GMs names, games they would offer, time slots coming up and players who want to play in those games.
  2. Central communication via text, tweet or email. Some way for the organizers a) know the GMs they had on staff and b) let them know when them when players arrived.