Actual Play – Death on a White Horse (9/7/2012)

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

Arriving in Rathmore we discovered the queen had just died. But that was last session. This session, we jumped into Rathmore with both feet. Check out these beliefs

Baldric: The queen has died. I will pay my respects by offering a white steed to the king.

Moya: Baldric’s been sober but he’s still ruled more by his emotions than his head and now is not a good time to tip our hat. I will accompany him everywhere and contain him, by force if necessary.

Afon: Aeric is a traitor and I respect that, but I need to take him out before he moves against us. I’ll move him into a position that will make it easier for me or Baldric to kill him.

Mikhael: The True faith must rise once again, I will organize a movement to reassert the dominance of the true faith.

Yeah, we knew were going to get in trouble, starting with my first “Noble-wise” roll to declare that when a royal woman had died, her widower is traditionally gifted a white steed. What a terrible idea for someone with B1 resources.

Here’s some of the remarkable things that happened

Afon was suddenly in his element. He first found an old safe house for us to whole up in, then caught up with an old smuggler who agreed to sneak us out of Rathmore if things went badly.

Baldric tried to buy a white horse but we have no damn money (and thanks to a Linked test failing, they were even more expensive than normal because they are so rare). So, Moya stole it.  But didn’t just steal it, she tried to seduce the horse trader, that failed and he started getting handsy. We weren’t sure how far he was going to go, but alone, in the dudes shop, after hours, who knows. She cast shards on him and shit was on! To get out and not make it obvious that she had taken just that one horse, she set the stables on fire, freed all the horses and rode off on the one we need. This kind of extreme, almost out out of nowhere violence, got me thinking about the tools we have to respond to failure consequences with (see below).

Baldric found a sympathetic noble to give them lodging. Or so he thought, a failed circles roll meant he had machinations to do us in and server our heads to the king.

Mikhael found that followers of the old ways (following the three gods instead of just Argent) disguised themselves as lepers, and hid from the guards and clergy. In a rousing speech (which damn, really was rousing), he united them to turn against the false prophet when he called for them.

Thoughts on this game

B0 resources is rough. That’s what Moya and Baldric were reduced to after the failed roll. It’s also a bit too abstract for me to wrap my head around.  We explained the failed roll as being too far away from my lands to offer the horse seller enough for the horse. But since the roll failed and the sale didn’t go through, I’m not sure how my resources were actually diminished, except perhaps to realize that they really weren’t there in the first place. “Oh, what do you know, now that I look at my ledgers, I’m broke. Huh.”

Murder Hobo-ing. It’s not something we frequently do in Burning Wheel. But here’s my long thoughts into why it actually made sense in this case:

Murder in the name of… nothing.

Something happened in our last Burning Wheel game and I think it illustrates why so many player characters commit actions we find reprehensible.

So, we wanted something , in this case a horse. We really needed this horse, or at least my character said we did. We tried paying for it, but didn’t have the requisite resources to make that happen, so we left empty handed.

One of the other characters went back that night to get that horse one way or another. First, she tried to seduce the horse-seller. When that failed and and he tried to take advantage of her, she tried to intimidate him. When that failed she set his stable on fire, released all the horses and rode off on the one we wanted. Somewhere in the middle of that she also attacked him with magic, giving him some superficial wounds.

Assault, arson, and grand theft. Those were just the crimes by today’s standards. But add to that the things which a person wouldn’t feel proud of: seduction, intimidation, manipulation, lying, etc.

And it’s not like any of those are out of place in Burning Wheel, not per se. I mean we’ve done worse for sure (mass murder comes to mind) and I felt very justified in it. But this to me seemed excessive. So I was thinking on it so more and it came to me that Moya (the character) performed these actions because she wanted a thing (the horse) and didn’t have any other idea how to get it.

And that is what interests me. How reliant PCs become on base, violent solutions to problems reflect directly on what options they have available to them. If there had been a rich uncle to borrow from, or a legal claim to make over the horse, or a way to gather up the money, or a way to find out what else could be traded for the horse, I think the characters would have pursued any number of those before resorting to stealing the horse and causing collateral damage in the process.

The issue, as I see it, was one of familiarity. Our characters were in a new place with no connections. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t know what resources or options were at our discretion. In some ways, I guess that reflects well on our situation. In a new place, out of our element, resorting to criminal activity reveals just how desperate and alone we were.