Actual Play – Burning Taramai, part 1 (7/2/2012)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Taramai

We’ve been itching for this game for a while. Here is the plan. I’m running a short miniseries where we will answer the question of how does Taramai fall to the Vaylen. It’s a bit like playing Roanoke, we all know it will end in blood and tears, but the question of personal redemption, revenge, and, at it’s core the bonds of family are still left to be answered. The setup is here: Taramai Falls.

I burned up the world, the characters and started the disposition at 18 (Vaylen) vs. 5 (Human). My hope is to play a few maneuvers where we push to a violent and bloody end and then start all over on a new planet, created by the group at large. There are several reasons for this. 1) I want to get the “Kill the fucking worms!” urge out of people’s system. When we start infiltration the game is going to be all about personal conflicts, a world with problems, and Vaylen exacerbating those problems to get a toe-hold on the world. But the problems will be the focus, not the worms. 2) I wanted to jump right into playing so we got some “instant” satisfaction. 3) I want a sandbox to fuck up in. I know I’ll get things wrong (and I did) and I’d rather that not deleteriously effect our campaign. This way, mistakes made can be learned from but put behind us when we start over on a new planet.

The intro to the world is in the link above, so I’m going to jump right into what we did.


I knew the Vaylen were trying to rid Taramai of the last humans on the planet, but the dry surface of the “shell” is inhospitable to the Vaylen themselves. So their Figure of Note, Dermot Routhy, a previous minter, is using his understanding of the planet’s tectonic activity, plus his newly acquired access to Low Index technology to create a TID (tectonic interference device). Read: An earthquake maker.  The way to to use it to destroy the human camps on the surface. To do so though they needed to scout out the camps as well as test out the device.  I scripted Assess for the Vaylen.

The human camp has been making raids on the Vaylen. They are looking for supplies and food, but now, with Routhy (Donald Routhy, Dermot’s father) determined to save his family, and Grace wanting to kill the Vaylen, they have become more aggressive. They don’t just want to hit the camp for supplies, they want to find out their defenses, free the slaves, and otherwise put the hurting on the Vaylen. To do that they need intel, which means some dangerous reconnaissance. Humans also scripted Assess.

The Play is the Thing

I feel sort of obliged to write a description of all the scenes, but I always find that painful. Not because they weren’t good scenes, but it means I’m writing a novel each post. What I want to do is point out the highlights and the turning points in the game. So, I’m going to try and do both. First, a very brief recap of the scenes, followed by where I think the action was:

VaylenDermotColorSetting up the Tectonic Interference Device (TID) in one of the mines.
VaylenPhilippeInterstitialWith Marcus. Giving him an offer of freedom if he convinces the Humans to take a ship offered by the Vaylen and leave the planet.
HumanMarcusColorChecking the "peace offering" to make sure the rations were not tampered with.
HumanRouthyInterstitialWith Grace. Trying to get her to scout the concentration camp his sons are in for "intel". She agrees but only if he becomes the leader of the camp. "We will go tonight."
HumanGraceInterstitialWith Kessling. A bit of roughing up and accusation followed by demands to "scout the camp." Kessling concedes but Graces owes him a favor.
VaylenDermotInterstitialBetween Junior (representing Dermot's interests) and Kessling. "Kessling, this is suicide. He protests but Kessling assures him this is good move.
HumanGraceColorFinds Marcus driving up in a van. Pulls him out of the van outside camp and disarms him, takes him to her "leader" (Marcus expects Kessling, but she's going to Routhy).
HumanMarcusConflictMarcus tries to win Grace over, convince her he's not a turncoat, just doing what he can with what he's got. Grace wants him to use his intel to help raid the camp. Grace wins with a compromise. He'll lead the raid but she has to protect him.
HumanKesslingBuildingGoes to get a gun, has to track it down first to Reno, then to Smiley. Pays him and promises Smiley revenge for his girl dying.
VaylenPhilippeBuildingA hidden camera from under under the Van's bumper emerges to survey the camp. Grace notices something though, and rushes Marcus into a tent. Phillipe underestimates the strength of the camp.
HumanRouthyColorLooking at schematics for building a drilling rig to tap into the planets resources.
HumanMarcusInterstitialWith Routhy. Makes Philippe's offer. Routhy tells him to fuck himself. Marcus tells him Dermot has been hulled. Routhy goes apeshit and says we need to go. NOW.
VaylenPhilippeColorSpying on the camp, getting the wrong informatin. Showing people packing up for the raid and assuming it is their full force.
HumanGraceBuildingInfiltrating the concentration camp (despite heavy security) and getting recon data.
HumanRouthyBuildingBreaking off from the group to look for his sons. Getting caught and presented to Dermot, now hulled.
VaylenDermotBuildingCapturing Routhy and a gunfight ensuing. Marcus shows his bravery. Kessling and his men get caught. Grace and Marcus escape with injuries.
HuamnKesslingInterstitialSpeaking with Philippe, finding out about the offer Marcus never made to him. Begging for it again.


Not surprisingly the building and conflict scenes were where the real excitement was.

I loved seeing Marcus try to win over Grace. We were all sure he’d do it, but I don’t think I quite equipped him to own in DoW like I thought I did. In the end he lost, but with a good compromise. The interesting thing to me was how he played it. Marcus, a fop, was trying to win the support of a hardened soldier. He played the pity card. “Look, I’m soft, there is nothing else I could do.”  It didn’t work, but I thought it was a good approach.  Even though I’m rooting for Marcus to eventually win favor, I was kind of glad he didn’t do it early on. We gotta watch him squirm for a bit.

It was really funny watching Kessling track down a gun. I didn’t think he’d have much of a chance getting something Low Index. He had some tough rolls (Circles Ob 4, Resources Ob 5 (brought down by his bargaining), but he got it. CEBW acquired!

The scene that just broke my heart though was when Routhy broke away from the group to find his sons. And found them he did. Aw, I was so hoping he’d make it out. Tie breakers are a bitch!

Thoughts on the game

Oh, the many ways I fucked this up. Shall I count them

  1. Integrity. At one point Kristin was like “I want to go rescue the sons” and I said “no way, that’s a full maneuver, or a conflict at least.” Then later, when Routhy went to look for them, I let Dermot capture him in a building scene. Partially that is because it was really late and I was tired, but also because Routhy had failed his roll (got detected) and I still had a scene to use for Dermot.  But that wasn’t really fair of me.
  2. Not burning the NPCs. I had to prep the world and the PCs before the game, which was a crap ton of work, so I skimped on burning the NPCs. That was fine when the PCs were banging on each other, but once they hit my dudes I had to make shit up on the fly. I knew they were technically superior, so I gave them really high signals, sensors and security, but otherwise I tried to keep their base exponents around 3 or 4.  I didn’t like it though, both sides gotta play by the rules.
  3. I didn’t like the haughty interstitial scene between Philippe and Kessling. Yeah, he had him captured, but I think he should have done more than just gloat. I just wasn’t sure what to do with it.
  4. Similarly, I didn’t like how I handled Dermot meeting Routhy. He was basically like “one of us, one of us” when I wanted him to still be a bit more “human”.  I have some ideas for this though.
  5. I sucked at announcing failure consequences before the rolls. A few times the were failed and I was like “fuck, I was supposed to set these stakes in advance.”
  6. I really wasn’t sure how to handle failed rolls in linked tests. Because if someone failed the building rolls, I didn’t want to halt the attempt at the final roll, just make it more difficult. So, Philippe, for instance missed his inconspicuous roll (vs. Grace’s observation) so I just narrated that she noticed something and got Marcus out of site, but you know, why wouldn’t she have gone over to inspect it, or destroy the monitoring device?
  7. Rules mastery. whats the resources ob for weapons out of the book? I should freaking know this. How does bargaining work? C’mon, on your toes Nittner.

For all that. We had fun. And some fucking awesome things happened. I’m really looking forward to next session when Dermot starts using his TID blindly (failed Assess maneuver) and Philippe tightens defenses by hulling slaves. Projecting much?

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