Actual Play – The Wheel Grows (4/22/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Last night we added a forth spoke to the wheel. Colin Sparrowhawk, sergeant in command of Arathi’s Fletching’s Shadow joined the forces, eager to fight alongside the alliance and prove his mettle.

Genn returned from his quest, battered by triumphant with the orb of fire in his possession and a young thrall in his service. The Lich King’s influence is growing on Genn.

Jordan freed his sweet love Jamie and ran off into the night with Gavin at his side, to see refuge in the camp Perinolde.

What rocked

Some good introductory rolls for a new player. Started with a fixed Orienteering roll (OB4) to find the Perinolde forces before the join the main army. He learned about the basic roll lingo, FORKs, advantage dice, and good healthy dice mongering. The second roll was somewhat complex for me but simple for him. It was a Stealthy vs. Perception roll to sneak past the guards. Their ob was doubled for not having Observation trained and his OB was +1 for trying to move multiple of his men past the guard. In both cases the character succeeded but the consequences were understood up front (in the first not catching the forces until they were with the Army and in the second being captured by Perinolde Guards).

I finally got the bulk of the players in one place, Perinolde’s camp where they can lay siege to the Orcs, discover one the traitors and find out what good old Brighton is up to.

We had another “fail this roll and you get a fight” which I was pretty happy about. It resolved quickly, with the expected result of Jordan caving another soldier’s head in. I’m happy that the fight mechanics are feeling more manageable. I’ll start throwing positioning back in next time and see how that goes.

All of the characters were given some opportunity to pursue their goals. Jordan freed Jamie, Genn is getting his affairs in order, Luke impressed Uther and Colin has joined the army. I think next game session we should be able to pound a few beliefs outright.

Gavin and Jordan are deserters. The Silver Hand will identify Jordan as the one that burned down Uther’s barracks and soon, with Brighton’s influence they’ll probably all be branded traitors. I think this will be awesome!

What could have been improved

Description. I’ve been kind of slacking on depicting my NPCs. Uther is stern. Arthas is righteous, Gavin is hopeful, Jaina is worried, Jamie is alternating scared and monstrous, and Brighton is manipulative. That is how I play them, but a) it’s a stereotype and b) it’s a little flat. I need to remember to engage the five senses (as an elite Game Master should <wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean>).

My depiction of Thrall was less than captivating. I wanted to give Luke a chance to face Thrall on the battlefield and learn from him, but I didn’t make it tempting enough. I should have hinged one of Luke’s beliefs on confronting Thrall. Have to work on that.

The game session rolled a little slow with lots of down time. Colin’s introduction took a while and overall the game lacked in the oomph that it usually has. I wasn’t unhappy with the session but I think my energy level just wasn’t there and especially when bringing a new player into the system, energy is really important.

I’m really not sure if I should have forced a confrontation between Luke and Jordan. I was thinking about hammering Luke belief to set things straight in the camp and have him tell Jordan to stand down, but frankly I don’t think that would have been fun for any of the players. “I take you in to captivity” (especially when you’ve just broken out) isn’t fun. Hopefully that ends up being something Luke regrets when he sees what’s happened.

This isn’t so much a “could be improved” for last session but thinking ahead. There are several players at work here and I’m ready to reveal their plans, but not if it gives the players an easy out. Brighton has his agenda, as does Thrall, and the traitor. Not to mention a few minor characters with some tricks of their own (Jaina, Jamie, the messenger, etc). I want this conflicts to slam right into the players goals so that to achieve what they want, they’ve got to get through, over, or sacrifice something else. For instance, two of the character want to separate Arthas from Uther, I want to make that very possible, but cost dealrly. The thing I DON’T want to do is overwhelm the story with NPC plot threads. They are there to challenge and complicate the story for the PCs, not take it over. So my goal for next session is to have all my NPCs motivations mapped in clear view of how the intersect with the heroes beliefs so they will be given opportunity to peruse their own agendas while bringing the political undercurrents of the game into sharp focus. Yeah, that sounds kind of abstract, I’m working on it.

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – The Wheel Grows (4/22/2009)”

  1. As mentioned, I think a fight between Luke and I could have been anti-climactic. However, hammering the belief without ‘you have to fight’ might have worked. Luke could easily have said, ‘Good for you Jordan, you have her, now get your ass out of my camp.’ Worked out in the end, but just a thought.

    Re: the last paragraph. One thing I like, as a player and a DM, is having a glimmer of hope for the decisive win. Not that it HAS to happen, but having it there is useful. So, while I’m fine with making it cost a lot, I’d like it better if you had, in your mind, at least one way where, if everything is done JUST so, we can get what we want without losing much at all.

    Also, my energy level got nailed by how hot it was in Davis. I’ll be better once we’ve had awhile to ramp up, but the crazy heat this week just destroyed everything.

    1. Losing /cost/sacrifice are probably not the words I should have used. Mostly what I’m going for is hard choices. In the end of the day, I just want to make sure the characters grow, either internally or externally.

      I see internal growth through reflection (as we’ve seen the mind of Genn and Jordan as they’ve made difficult choices and are changed because of it).

      I see external growth as changing relationships between people. We see how Luke has made alliances with Leon and Brighton but next episode those two will be at odds and most likely Luke will have to decide which he favors more.

      So, while I don’t need the characters to be “losing” things off their character sheet, I’d like to make sure at the end of the day they’ve changed, specifically in a way the player finds interesting. To do that I want to challenge beliefs, and I’d like to use the existing backdrop of NPCs to do it.

      As for “can we win in the end”, honestly that’s almost a given. Pacing wise I’d like to make sure that defeat of the orcs happens when everyone has some belief that pertains and everyone is working their ass off to making sure they get what they want before the orcs are battered down.

      Gah, did that make things less confusing… or more?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *