Actual Play – Take the Power Back (10/19/2013)

burning empiresGM: Jonathan White
Players: Sean Nittner, Bret Gillian, Dwight Frohaug, and Colin Booth.
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Gundalas Vert

Game Description

The worm owns the planet, and a last vestige of freedom fighters posing as Vaylen have a plan to take it back—or destroy it trying. The roles are switched in this endgame conflict. Gundalas Vert is a garden planet controlled by the Vaylen and their hold is strong. You thought you’d found the weakness in their defenses but new intelligence has revealed they’ve been on to you this whole time, playing with you as a child would a toy. Can you find the strength inside yourself to pull off the plan despite the odds or will you flee the planet to save your own ass? Maybe you’ll end up just another victim of the worm, strapped down to an operating table, waiting to be hulled. May Ahmilak guide you to your destiny.

Answer to most of these questions was:


Before the game

On the subway into Burning Con John Stavropoulos, Kristin Firth, Rachel Walton, Jeremiah Frye, and I all talked about our proposed gaming schedule for the day. It doesn’t make much sense to plan too far ahead for burning con since priority and butt-in-seats determines who gets in what. Also, it was nice to riff off my fellow con-goers and hear their thoughts on the offerings.  After some discussion it was clear, hands down the game to play was Jonathan White’s Burning Empires game.

Character Creation/Completion

The dudes and I sat down, Jonathan read the scenario introduction to catch us up to speed and then we picked characters and finished them off.  Xavon, our noble leader. Willem, his loyal cousin. Vynss, a noble who had fallen into crime, and Ro, the infiltrator.  I dig characters with messed up lives, so I nabbed Vynss Undrago (Born to rule -> Hostage -> Criminal).

Beliefs. Jonathan had our first belief written, our 2nd had two choices, and our 3rd was up to us to fill in with some guidance. Vynss looked like this:

  • Xavon is leading us to our deaths; I will wrest leadership from him to see us survive this debacle.
  • That worm Villiback took my family; I will find them in his house and bring them home with us for treatment.
  • We’ve been discovered. I’ll find out who knows our identity and silence them.
  • I will never hurt my family. (The Family trait belief)

As per the discussion over on G+, I think these beliefs (and those of the others of course) created a compelling drama between our characters, but ultimately led to our downfall. We should have been trusting each other instead of in-fighting. That division is what gave the Vaylen what they needed to destroy us.

Highlights of Maneuver One

After ascertaining that Vaylen couldn’t help but gloat about toying with humans (thank you Alien Cultures-wise) Ro, Willem, and Vynss broke into a secure garden estate to ease drop on two of the Vaylen FoNs… and failed the final infiltration roll. Result: They knew we were watching, played dumb, and fed us a story full of lies to trap us further.

Ro, trying to discover some lost high index terraforming technology failed a circles roll, and was asked to come to an unknown island on the planet for security clearance.

Trapped alone by his “friend” Coshi, Vynss was offered to swap bodies and to have one of coshi’s children. When he refused, Coshi persisted, and an epic duel of wits began. Coshi sought to reveal Vynss (even though the character didn’t actually know he was human) and Vynss tried to convince him to share the ceremony in private, aboard their hammer (where he would corner him and stab him in the face). I was outmatched for sure, but the dice were generally going in my favor until one fateful turn. Point (Vynss) vs. Obfuscate (Coshi). I had six success. Jonathan rolled four with one six. He spent fate to open it up and got THREE MORE. I had two sixes, opened them up and got nothing. If I had won the DoW would have been over and I’d have Coshi on the ship. Instead… I lost horrible and escalated to violence!

Xavon, seeing his command disintegrate before him, took his Hammer into orbit, abandoning his brothers in arms, who, in his mind, had already abandoned him!

Willem was trapped in a room with Villeback, who planned to corner him and stab him in the face.

Ro was trapped in a room to await some unknown horror.

Highlights of Maneuver Two

First off the awesome thing was that we burned through our scenes, rewarded Artha and even had a maneuver two!

In a short but brutal fight Willem put a few blasts from his jack laser rifle into Villebacks shell. Moments later we saw Villeback pulled from his human body

Vynss captured Coshi and dragged him onto his Grav-Sled, with the intent of using him as a hostage, but Villeback had taken Vynss’s family hostage displayed on every view screen on the planet, a ruse of their upcoming execution. Vynss fell right for the trap and pushed it full throttle to his family (or where he thought they were).

Untrained for artillery fire, Xavon took his Hammer (by himself) out of orbit and opened fired on the two cruisers that were guarding the disc above.  Destroying them both in a fiery hail of fusion cannon disruption!

In the end, our mission was doomed, may the prophet guide our souls.

BurningCon 115

Thoughts on this Game

We had a really intersting discussion about my second belief “That worm Villiback took my family; I will find them in his house and bring them home with us for treatment.” If it’s known that the Vaylen can’t be “cured” then would people still believe it’s possible? Would they still try? Would they still try? What if it was family? Would other respect them as hopeful or condemn them as naive?

Our characters were doomed to fail. There’s a good question here of should we just have abandoned our beliefs (and maybe gone for Moldbreaker) to try and win or play them through and know that our character’s personal victories (or losses in this case) would come at the expense of humanity?

I really liked that we got two maneuvers in a session. It definitely showed the progression of the game in a way that would be much less fulfilling than a single maneuver.

That point vs. obfuscate destroyed me. I yelled “Nooooooooo” like Kirk/Spock wailing “Khaaaaaaaan”. That was the moment of defeat for me. After that it was just telling my Black 2 Aftermath.

Bret put up a great discussion of the game as well on G+

Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 5 (2/11/2013)

burning empiresGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Carom

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 22
Ending Disposition: 22

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 31
Ending Disposition: 26

Maneuver Objective

Maneuver – Access (Vaylen) vs. Flak (Humans) – Result Vaylen Dispo -5, No assess.


Draven – (Interstitial) with Kristoff. Draven him to find the Cyreans, but Kristhoff resists, at least in part because he’s terrified Draven has “The Worm”. He advocates that he doesn’t want a military solution. These are not our enemies, they are “wayward children”.  Draven demands answers in a week.

Brendan (Color) – Gawain, a young servant (who is also the one that saw the psychology DoW between Brendan and Kristoff/Artemus), delivers papers to take custody of Cason. The are written in Dregutai-speak, but the results are Draven has been declared unfit to care for Cason and custody is being handed over to the next closest kin, Duke Brendan.

Draven (Color)  – Draven immediatly goes to get Cason from school and brings him back to his quarters in the Mundus Hummanitus temple.

Darius (Interstitial) with Lilah asking about Rostov. “Where has he gone?” Darius is afraid that Artemus has brutalized, or possibly killed him and hidden the evidence. (Based on the bad publicity Artemus got during the arrest).

Artemus (Interstitial) – Artemus finds Draven and Cason just before they arrive at the MH temple. They move to Draven’s quarters where Cason is left to play video games. Artemus tells Draven that the Archotare’s code was used to destroy the EVA-6 (half out-loud, half with psychology).

Brenden (Building ) – Comes to take Cason custody and fails using diplomacy, resorts to force but the Sodalis arrive in the last minute to provide cover while Draven and Cason escape to the Sodalis HQ. A few of Brenden’s men are shot and receive light wounds but there are no casualties.

Heiser (Building) with Roman – Heiser wants to move resources to the south. Resources pulled from warehouses and smuggled south where workers are gathered to harvest the incoming meteors.

Darius (Color) – Investigating Artemus files, trying to find out what happened to Rostov.

Artemus (Conflict) – Finds Darius digging through his files.  Fight over what to do with the Mundus Humantus (DoW). Agree to arrest Sodalis and then investigate Archcotare.

Kristoff (Interstitial) – waiting for Heiser when he returns to his apartment. And asks him about scanning devices. Heiser advocates for Roman to install security.

Roman (Color) – Spreading the word that Psychologists have the worm to the imperial forces.

Maneuver Results

Roman and Darius work to learn more about the factions spins wheels while the investigation into the Archcotare’s responsibility for the EVA-6 pushes ever forward.

Thoughts on this game

This was the most “human” my FoNs have ever been. Brendan just wants to keep his grandson safe, and he’s a soldier by nature (despite the psychology DoW) so he can’t win Draven over with words, he’ll turn to force, especially since he believes Draven has “The Worm.”

I like that Heiser and Roman are working together. Roman is a dirty worm of course, but the merit of Burning Anything is that if the dice say “you do X” then you do it, and it doesn’t matter if a scheming asswhipe is going to betray you later, you still did the thing. So both sides can work together on short term goals, and do so earnestly, even if long term they will be enemies.

I think Brendan has done enough dickery to Draven (calling him to stand down with the war, and trying to take Cason) that Gawain will finally have the courage to tell Draven that Brenden has “The Worm” and it was given to him by Artemus and Kristhoff… because everyone knows the worm mind controls you.

Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 4 (1/28/2013)

burning empiresGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Carom

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 23
Ending Disposition: 22

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 31
Ending Disposition: 31

During the downtime

  • Vaylen: A depiction of brother fighting brother.
  • Artemus – Dealing with the fallout of poor cyreans getting fucked.
  • Heiser – Working on the EVA-7
  • Draven – Working on war efforts.
  • Kristoff – Priory of the Purging Flame (preparing for divination)

Maneuver Objective

The humans wanted to learn about the Cyrean’s and find he reason for their violent schism (Access). The Vaylen were posturing, starting a lot of false rumors about “the worm” making people paranoid and distrusting (Flak).

Maneuver – Flak (Vaylen) vs. Access (Humans) – Result  Humans Dispo -1, No assess.


Artemus (Building) – Artemus has Rostov in custody and begins his interrogation. Once Rostov learns what is at stake he succumbs to the interrogation and tells Artemus that it was the Archcotare’s access codes that were used to self-destruct the EVA-6.

Brenden (Interstitial) – Cason and Draven talking. Cason is sheepish at dinner but finally asks his father if he things Grandpa (Brenden) has the worm. He’s nervous because Grandpa doesn’t want to fight any more. Which means he must have gotten the worm. Draven agrees to look down grampa’s throat next time he sees him to make sure he hasn’t gotten the worm.

Draven (Interstitial) – Draven meets with his father in law to humor his son and look down the duke’s throat and, more importantly, to gain permission to investigate the spending of the Dregutai. Brendan happily consents to his grandson’s young and foolish curiosity, but he forbids Draven from counting the sins of his fellow Mundus Humanitus until he has tended to his own soul and sought divination for his own sins. Draven consents to see Khristoff just as soon as possible.

Heiser (Building) – Heiser arranges for a visit with Freida (in custody) and thwarts the security so that even though is visit is logged, their conversation is not recorded. Once he finally convinced Freida of who he is, and that he came back to help the commune, she was all in. He passed her a hard light transmitter through the protective plexi-fiber barrier between them. He wasn’t sure how yet, but he was going to free her.

Kristoff (Building) – Draven met Khristoff at his temple, to perform divination. Draven had arrived with with a case of cold beers. Khristoff was lighting the ceremonial incense. The two were clearly not of the same mind. The scene went from jovial to very dark as Khristoff used his psychology to drum up Draven’s nightmares and in doing so saw what he believed was the Vaylen inside.

This scene represented a major game changer for me. I had one human FoN believing another one was a Vaylen. I’m really excited about where this will leave.

Roman (Interstitial) – Roman Tucker, spacer who previously worked with Heiser, landed on the planet, commissioned by the Merchant Guild to aid with the EVA-7. On the transport with him was Imperial diplomat Gwen Al-Ghazali, who was landing to take over public relations with the Mundus Humanitus. As she was picked up by Artemus at the space dock, Roman interrupted to introduce himself.

Draven (color) – Somewhat shaken up by his divination session with Kristoff, we see Draven at a temple trying to meditate. After a few minutes, he shrugs and cracks open a cold one.

Roman (Building) – Roman is having beers with Heiser, who has invited Artemus along. They would have gotten along fabulously, if not for Roman’s openly anti-prophet stance. Instead of making fast friends, he creates several awkward moments. Still, he sows the seeds of getting more respect for the Merchant Guild and Imperial forces.

Artemus (color) – Sends a card with an officer to a sermon. Slips the card to a dregutai. Message reads “I know the Cotar Fomas is looking into your accounts. Perhaps an exchange of information could be beneficial to both of us.”

Khristoff (interstitial). Kristoff reports his finding to the Archcotare, telling him his son-in-law, and father to his grandson, has the worm. The Archcotare is NOT pleased.

Thoughts on the game

We’re getting some good stuff out of Burning Empires, but I still think I’m doing it wrong, or maybe that the game clashes with my style. Here’s the specifics.

1. We play for 3-4 hours but I still don’t feel like we get enough done. Scene drag out sometimes because of lack of direction or pacing, other times because of mechanics.

2. I have thrown so many challenges at the players, looking for some to stick. This has created a messy world with a lot of loose ends instead of hard choices. Examples: Darius stopping funding to the Sodalis. A war going on between the MH and the Cyreans, a war currently without a leader. A growing distrust of psychologists. Hysterical fear of “The Worm”.

2a. Corollary to that, the problem that I think has the most teeth, was from the next session (I’m writing this AP late) where Brenden tries to take custody of his grandson Cason to protect him from the worm. That conflict had heart because there was a human interest in it. And people CARED about that conflict.

3. I have a hard time balancing being a fan of the characters, and the directive to win a in a scene/maneuver/phase/campaign.

4. My favorite kinds of conflict scenes are one where I start by dropping a problem the players can’t ignore in their lap and seeing what they do with it. I’m not sure how to do that in Burning Empires, as my scenes are about what my FoNs are doing, and their scenes are about what they are doing. Who’s scene is it if I start it off and say “Hey, the EVA-7 has tipped off it’s gravitational axis and is getting close to the planet. The thrusters have gone offline and it’s starting to overheat. Given it’s current trajectory, it’s going to crash into the planet in 30 minutes, what do you do?”

Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 3 (12/17/2012)

burning empiresGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, and Scott White
System: Burning Empires
Planet: Carom

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 23
Ending Disposition: 23

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 31
Ending Disposition: 31

Maneuver Objective

The humans wanted to bog down the war efforts, using the budget cuts to justify reducing the Mundus Humanitis’ military efforts (Go to Ground). The Vaylen wanted to forget connections with the Imperials (Access). Humans won 3-2.

Conflict makes the Wheel go round

This game pivoted on three scenes.

  1. Artemus snuck himself and Kristoff into the Archcotare’s divination chamber at night.
  2. The two Psychologists had a psychic duel with Brenden to make him change his violent ways. The won, but left behind a witness, Gawain (a 14 year old servant).
  3. Draven drug Korak up on to the wheel to burn him, but was stopped, or at least slowed by the Archcotare. He had been woken from his sleep, and with his new belief, wanted Draven to end the violence rather than perpetuate it.

Those were some damn hard hitting scenes. Mostly because Draven finally got on board with the “lets kill all the Cyreans” war plan and the Brenden asked to give up his wrath. Draven persisted and burned Korak on the Wheel, but agreed to see Kristhoff for divination.

There was one more that was just made of awesome, but it was more a setup for the next maneuver than it was a change for this one. Heiser got the EVA-7 functional. At least enough for shot. I can’t wait to see where he aims it. (Note: the EVA creates gravitational fields that are intended to pull mineral rich asteroids out of orbit and crash them into “safe” places on the surface where they can be mined for their valuable cores.

Thoughts on the game

Things I want to follow up on:

  • Fear of psychologists as Vaylen. Gawain saw the psychic duel and bore witness to the change it made. Give the planets hysterical fear of Vaylen I want to see this turn into fear that psychologists are Vaylen. We’ll see where I can go with this.
  • More merchant guild action. I have a new FoN spot and I’m going to fill it with someone to give Heiser Malamus some concrete opposition.
  • Where will that asteroid land. Heiser has the big gun. I want to see where he points it.

Burning Empires still evades me a little. I’m not sure how much interaction I should have in everyone’s scenes. I like to jump in and give them a life, but if the players only get three rolls, I feel wrong adding in additional complications.

The arguments have all be pretty insular amongst the FoNs so far. All of them wanting to lock up or stop the others. Next session I’ve got to break that out a little and present some problems that aren’t strictly tied to one of the FoNs, but that they will have an opinion on.

Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 2 (11/26/2012)

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

Peeps wondered why I was like “Pick a maneuver. Describe the action. Go. Go. Go!” last night. It was in part, because I knew I was going to have a Firefight (which has so far has always been a pretty long process) and because I wanted to get in bed on time.  I successfully did one of those.  Actually, I lost the Firefight. Crap.

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 25
Ending Disposition: 23

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 33
Ending Disposition: 31

Maneuver Objective

The humans wanted to end the war started by Archcotare Brendan. The Vaylen wanted interstellar attention brought to the planet while continuing the violence. Take Action vs. Flak.

Both sides reduced the other’s disposition by 2.

Personal scenes

We didn’t have many.  I pushed pretty hard to get out several scenes, and matched the players one for one. Each side got one conflict, but otherwise we had only a few interstitial and color scenes.


Darius came to Draven in his cell, hoping his containment would give them a chance to review the excesses of the military. Darius wasn’t pretty transparent that his desire, more than pinching pennies, was to de-escalate the violence. Pull soldiers off the streets and the Cyreans won’t have a target to fight. They couldn’t reach an agreement however, so Darius conceded that if Draven wouldn’t work with him willingly, Darius would cut the military budget himself. Note: still trying to figure out how to actually “do” this. See “thoughts” below.

Duke Brendan appeared soon after, using and army of Dregutai to bully his way into cell block. He promised Draven that he would get him out soon. He has a war to lead and a son to father.

Interrupting a meeting between Heiser and Artemus, some of Korak’s followers, led by Freida, stormed the Imperial Headquarters trying to get access to the communications array. Artemus and his officers with some help from Heiser and later Draven (released from his cell) managed to push back the invasion and capture the leader (Freida) but not without taking several casualties, many injuries, a ton of collateral damage, and allowing these words to be broadcast off planet “MH. Martial law. Killing our citizens.”

Three scenes, one from each Vaylen FoN and one of most types (interstitial, color, and conflict). I was pretty happy with that.


Each of the players got at least one scene as well, which seems reasonable enough on paper, but I felt bad that there was so much time where someone had to sit out, more on this below.

Artemus had a color scene of overhearing citizens speak in fear to each other about the Soldais. “I heard he Martins were raided last night”. Later, he saw the brutality for himself. Soldiers kicking in doors and breaking in without warning. We see a very angry Artemus.

Draven bullied a guard into calling Artemus on the comm. The constable visited his prisoner but was clearly distracted. The got into a heated debate about who was responsible for the Archcotare’s actions. Draven demands to be let out so he can reign in his the duke, but it falls on deaf ears. Artemus wants Korak turned over to the imperial authorities. Eventually they settle, and Artemus orders a prison transfer.

Heiser finds Artemus in his office and tells him more about information he’s found out about the EVA-6 and his suspicions about Rostov. Artemus agrees to look into it, using Psychology if necessary. The conversation is interrupted by the a firefight (see above).

After the fight Draven leads everyone right into the heart of the church to confront the Duke. The have a verbal spar, but even with the full assistance of both Psychologies, Brendan cannot be swayed from his military edict. Draven falls in line, as the leader of the war, but says he’ll only kill people if he knows they are guilty. Brenden ensures to add the clarifying point that Cyrean = guilty.

Kristoff meets with Artemus later and ask him in light of the diplomatic option failing, if he’ll aid in “Changing” the Archocatre’s mind… with Psychology.

Five scenes. Not to bad.

Maneuver roll

Flak vs. Take Action – Resulted with each side loosing two (2) disposition. Outcome:

Because the duel of wits was broadcast publicly, the people could all see that the more even tempered Draven was now in charge of the war efforts. Some of them were relieved, some of them were enraged, but they all saw that the war would be taking a very different turn.

Simultaneously two Merchant League pilots were coming out Distortion and picked up the repeating signal “MH. Martial law. Killing our citizens.” Not knowing what else to do they brodcast it out to nearby ships and created a ripple in the pond of sub-light communication. The camera cut in indeterminate distance to another ship picking up that signal, one filled with containers of Naiven <cue dramatic music>.

Thoughts on this game

Regarding Darius and Draven’s fight over spending. Mechanically still trying to figure this out. What I want is an Obstacle penalty to Draven when he tries to make Resources and/or Circles rolls to requisition troops or military hardware. I’m sure Darius should use a building scene for it, but not sure how I should handle it. Maybe his accounting or bureaucracy Ob is double the penalty he’s trying to impose?

We played for four hours. We did 8 scenes. That ratio is kind of crap. Most of the time of course was eaten up by the Firefight. Compared to the last one it went pretty quickly, and it moved around a lot. The “Human” Forces occupied first the cells (to set the prisoners free) then the Headquarters, and spent a whole lot of time in no mans land. The “Vaylen” side first occupied one building outside, then the communications array, then the other building outside, and also spent some time in no mans land.

I had some questions about what happens to a position when the temporary disposition it provides is reduced. I believe that was answered here: That said, as all the buildings were purely color (nobody paid resource/tech points for them) I’m calling the entire block trashed. They had a fuckin’ laser canon!

We had the most lopsided Duel of Wits ever. Starting disposition 16 vs. 4. We all knew the Cotar Fomas couldn’t argue the Archcotare out of going to war, but I was surprised (and impressed) at how well they did (dropping his disposition to 9 before he took them out). It feels a little unfair as the GM to smack someone down that way, which is odd because as a player, I wouldn’t have an issue with it (and I know the Archcotare is going to get spanked in a Psychic dual next session, which I’m fine with as well) but the GM has so much power over the world that then having a steep mechanical advantage on top of it it rough. Feh, I’m sure I’ll get mine.

Need a scene with Carson (Draven’s son). That is definitely happening. It’s going to be evil.


Actual Play – Carom Phase 1, Maneuver 1 (10/29/2012)

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

We finally kicked off the first maneuver of this game! Woot!

The recording of our show (if it ever stops the live feed) is here:

Phase Objective

Human: Remove Darius (Vaylen FoN) from play.
Starting Disposition: 25
Ending Disposition: 25

Vaylen: Remove the Merchant League faction from play.
Starting Disposition: 33
Ending Disposition: 33

Maneuver Objective

Each side trying to figure out what the other one was up. The Human side wanted to route out Korak (leader of the Cyrean heretics) and his support network. The Vaylen side wanted to prove that the differences between the Cyreans and the Mundus Humanitus were irreconcilable.  Assess vs. assess.

Humans won!

The play is the thing

I’m going to break from my previous pattern of tracking scenes in a giant table. It reinforces something I don’t like, which is the putting the mechanical structure at the forefront. I really want everyone to keep all actions rooting in the fiction.  So, here are the beliefs that came into play and how.

Draven Nicandro, Cotar Fomas (Invasion Human FoN):

  • Darias is trying to pinch pennies from the Sodalis budget to make the bean counters off world happy. I will elicit Kristhoff’s help in persuading him to instead increase our budget in exchange for rooting out the excesses of the Dregutai.

Draven’s interaction with Darius was pretty one sided. The bean counter confronted him as he was trying to make plans and demanded an explanation for atrocious accounting the Sodalis had been keeping. Draven blew off Darius telling him that he had more important things to do.

  • I need to find Korak before the Constable can or I’ll never be able to share true justice with him. I will visit Artemus and convince him to turn over his leads so the church can handle Korak.

This was liquid metal awesome. When Artemus refused to offer up his intelligence, Draven took matters into his own hands. He stationed his soldalis around the Imperial Embassy (where Artemus and Darius were making plans) and ordered them to prevent anyone from leaving. After pinning down the imperials he rounded up Korak and despite falling into an ambush used his brazen an bluster to cow Korak into coming with him willingly. The heretic was brought before the Archcotare on his knees.

The one thing I was really disappointed in was how I handed the “ambush” when Draven failed his circles roll. It had no teeth, and it needed them. I’m still thinking on what I should have done there.

  • The Archcotare is adamant on paying Korak back with fire. I will insist the sodalis search the safehouse before we burn it, despite what Brendan wants.

This backfired pretty badly. When the Archcotare cold see Draven didn’t have the same passion for vengeance that he did, he took matters into his own hand, led his private Anvil troops to destroy the Cyrean safehouse and then to put a cherry on it declared war (which we had all agreed before the game started was about as practical as a war on terror).

Artemus Morikean, Imperial Constable (Usurpation Human FoN)

  • Korak needs to be taken into custody before the Mundus Humanitas catches him, so that he can face due process of law.

Yes? No? Maybe? I started off with a flashback scene of Korak cornering Artemus in an ally and offering to come willingly with him into custody if he could first speak with the Imperial Steward (off planet). The constable rebuked him and told him he should just turn himself in.

Later, after the Sodalis retreated from the embassy, Artemus marched into the temple where Draven was presenting Korak to the Archcotare and demanded he be turned over to him, based on imperial law.  He got right in the Archcotare’s face and (figuratively) spit in it! There arguments were good but neither man would give any ground at all. Finally Draven stood up and agreed that he would go into custody instead. Artemus arrested him on the spot (cuffs and all!) for interfering with an imperial investigation and unlawfully detaining imperial officers. Boom!

Heiser Malamus, Chief Engineer (Human)

Heiser’s beliefs didn’t come into play, mostly because Scott wasn’t able to make it into game until quite late. However, we did get some great color of him observing the planet from the space station above. Also he helped out the others in their scenes investigating the EDA-6 explosion, and we got to seem some fun uneasiness between him and the religious figures.

I also had a nice time showing how the Merchant League, as a whole, really don’t like Heiser. They think he’s too big for his britches and doesn’t understand the cost of business. They don’t like his special privileges, nor do they

Kristhoff Van Der Meer, High Inquisitor ( Infiltration Human FoN)

  • Korak was a good man, on some level I suspect he still is. I will open negotiations with him.

They met in an old bar they used to visit, Ditmers. Both wondered what the hell the other one was doing. Korak thought this world was pretty damn small potatoes for a mighty “High Inquisitor”. Kirsthoff wondered how Korak had run so far astray from his old teachings. Neither could see eye to eye (in fact they hardly looked at each other).

  • The EDA 6 disaster cannot be repeated.  I will find the security flaw that allowed the saboteurs to access it.

We had a great “Roswell-esk” investigation scene where Kristoff revealed he had all the salvaged scraps of the EDA-6 in a giant hanger. The poored over the details for hours and realized it had to be an inside job (it wasn’t hit by a missile, the fusion reactor overheated). And that meant it had to the the Merchant League (only they know how to operate it). The tried to hunt down a League member on planet but when they broke into the station, it had been evacuated.  Using Heiser’s access codes Kristoff was able to pin down the list of possible subjects to one man, an engineer named Rostov, currently on the EVA-7

Duke Brendan V (Invasion Vaylen FoN)

  • If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. I’ll burn the safehouse that Kristof has found to show Korak the price of his crimes. The price his people will pay for him.

Draven was resiting a full assault. He wanted something more precise, but the Duke wanted to make a statement and a show of power. He hopes to incite Draven (see below) but when that failed took matter into his own hands. He led the troops (with Kristhoff’s intelligence) and utterly annihilated the the safe house. The turned it to rubble, killed those within, and then declared war! For me, even though this didn’t win the maneuver, it brought the fiction closer to making the divide between Cyrean and MH irreconcilable.

  • Have the fires burned out in Draven? Where is his passion. Where is the fire that burns for revenge for his wife. I’ll incite him by showing him the cost of inaction.

This came out most as color.  Brenden tried to invoke Draven’s passion, but failed. He was disappointed by his son in law

  • War. Only a war will end the heresy. Artemus served his time as a stormtrooper. I’ll find the price of his [Imperial] support.

After his Duel of Wits with Artemus, Brendan gave up on him, at least for the time being. He’s going to revisit this. And he did declare war, so he’s working his way toward this belief!

Korak (Infiltration Vaylen FoN), ex Cotar Fomas, now Cyrean Leader

  • The Mundus Humanitus is corrupt down to core. I’ll meet with the constable Artemus and convince him to give me an offworld communication with the Imperial Stewards so I can make my case to them.

They met but he didn’t get what he wanted. What did come out of it though was an connection Korak took one of his comm devices and pulled the encryption codes off it. Until the constable orders them changed, they can be in contact. This allowed Korak to show the constable what was happening when Draven arrested him.

  • Curse Brendan’s black heart. I know his plans and they are evil. There are innocent people living in those safehouses! Instead of finding helpless believers in those buildings, his Sodalis will find our fire!

This is a BAD belief. It’s between two NPC FoNs. I expected Draven to be the one leading the attack, but as that didn’t happen, I ended up playing against myself and effectively deciding (though I rolled some dice for it) that as of now the MH is winning the arms race. Bad GM.

Darias (Vaylen Usurpation FoN)

  • Draven is accountable for the MHMER (Mundus Humanitus Military Expense Report) and has year after year exceeded the budget allocated to him. I’ll make him show me where all this money is going.

I really needed to have more teeth in this. Draven just ignored Darius when he confronted him and it felt like as the highest ranking imperial on the planet, my dude was weak sauce. He backed down and took it up with the Archcotare, who I depicted as drowned in the details. I should look at how to create resource shortages and have Draven works to throttle the military that way.

  • The EDA-7 is a modern marvel and possibly the only thing that will resolve this financial nightmare. I’ll convince Heiser to give Artemus and myself a tour of great hope so my constable can take the necessary security measures to protect it.

Part of the problem with managing so many character is I get their beliefs mixed up. Darius sort of did this by getting Artemus to assign as security detail to Heiser, but he never got a tour of the place. Oh well, next maneuver.

Maneuver End

We were tired ended the game as soon as we rolled the maneuver, but should have narrated the outcome in the fiction. I believe what happened was that Korak’s connections (his support network) is under scrutiny (Human’s successful assess) but not all hope for Cyrean and MH reconciliation is lost (Vaylen assess failed).

Beliefs for next game:

Duke Brenden Belief: “Let every fire be guided by the one that burns most brightly, and gather to him… In times of war, the men of state will bow before the men of Fire.  Let no man stand against the Fire when the torch of war burns.” – Ahmilahk Ahved Ahll’s Writings, Mundus Itinerantur 13:1-7. Draven will be released into my custody so that he may lead the war effort. (Building or Conflict)

Thoughts on the game:

I chewed up too much screen time doing too little. I’m going to work on shorter, more punchy scenes next game.

Corollary, the game was over four hours and ran later that is sane for me. I need to cut, cut, cut!

I was really trying to channel Lenny on the whole “clue” finding, that it should lead to an immediate course of action, which it did, but I found that action was still in the garden variety “hunt down the next clue” kind of action, rather than deal with the problem that action produces. I’m going to have to rectify that next game.

I should be harsher in my scenes. When Draven failed to intimidate Darius I colored the rest of the scene. It should have led directly to Obstacle penalties for Circles (for soldiers) or Resources (for vehicles, weapons, and ammo). Also, when the circles roll failed, the ambush should have had more teeth. Draven has lot of Sodalis, I should have capped one in the head, or done something more drastic.

I’m not sure if my beliefs (for the Vaylen FoNs) were targeted enough at the PCs. I didn’t have any scenes (except color) without a player present, but I don’t know that I actually challenged their beliefs. Player, your thoughts would be welcome on this.

I need to remember to keep my NPCs in my cross hairs. If Korak dies on the wheel, he’ll be a martyr and others will wise to replace him. Mechanically speaking, unless a phase objective removes a FoN from play, if he dies, I can bring in another FoN to take his place.

When Korak was imprisoned I didn’t know how to play out his belief about Heiser (The merchant league is laughable. They have sent another toadstool to finish the EVA7. I’ll scare that little bug so silly, he won’t know what hit him.) I should have had him work through his subordinates. He has a whole faction under his command, and has maintained communication with them. The could have put a little hurt on Heiser. Next time Gadget. Next time!

A question for the players. When my NPCs are fighting amongst each other, any reason to do that as anything but a color scene? I mean, I thought the whole Archcotare rolling to assault Korak’s safehouse thing was pretty dumb on my part. Unless you guys have objectives, I’m going to handle conflicts between my NPCs as color.

We need a dedicated roll-keeper, preferably a player not in the scene to keep keep track of every one’s die pool and Obs for advancement.

Could Rostov be a worm? I kind of like that idea. Let’s play and find out.

Shaun relayed some great advice from Luke. At the end of the night, no matter what, roll the infection mechanics and end the maneuver. It doesn’t matter if everyone got all their scenes in, the maneuver is over. I really like this.

As a corollary to that, I was a lot less worried about scene economy this game. We followed it, but I didn’t plan all my scenes for their type, more for their content. I had several that I could see going in a couple directs and just let it fly. I think planning scenes too much (especially building scenes) can lead to a kind of min/max – rules only, no role-playing mode of play, and I want to get away from that.

Vaylen scene ideas for next game:

Duke Brendan visits Draven in jail, Cason is with him. The Duke is there to reassure Draven of his support. He will not be abandoned, nor asked to be the sacrificial lamb.

Darius can finally get his scene with Draven (who now has a lot of time on his hands). He wants the deescalation of violence. If there are no soldiers, no power packs, no guns, there is no war. (Interstitial, Conflict?)

We need a Vaylen color scene. An actual Valen becoming aware of the planet and it’s internal strife. (Color)

Darius is getting his scene with Kirstoff – Gotta that belief off. Kristoff is still the threat here! (Interstitial, Conflict?)

One of Heiser’s family members that follow Korak will reach out to him. I want to see where this goes (Interstitial, belonging to Korak).

Darius still wants a tour of the EVA-7. The one hope for the planet’s prosperity. (Interstitial, Building)

Korak’s troop will capture a hostage to use as leverage to have him freed (Color)

Artimus’ bright mark has been seen. He’s an off world psychologist and they are not loved on non Circle of 10,000 planets. Career or safety in jeopardy (unsure which FoN or scene type, may have to mull on this one).

Officials don’t like to admit it, but Carom is broke. I need a scene showing people really dealing with poverty in an ugly way. (Color, probably Korak).

Rostov needs to take some action involving the EDA-7. He can’t just sit there and let them come for him. He’s needs to create a situation that Kristoff can’t ignore on planet. (Building, for what FoN though, Darius?)

Duke Brenden is infuriated with Kristhoff for not standing behind him during the declaration of war. He’s going to look to change the situation (either by replacing Kristoff or by changing his mind).

Korak is figure of note for this phase, so we needs to feature his resistance prominently. He’s going to try and win over  Kristoff (who already is a little disillusioned with the MH) but he first must fight to protect his people. Korak still have communication with the troops, so they can do a Firefight with him leading them.

Actual Play – Burning Carom – Character Burning (9/24/2012)

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

Human Figures of Note

Draven Nicandro, Cotar Fomas (Invasion Human FoN)

Groomed to be Anvil Lord, but wife was killed while visiting father/Archcotare when the Cyreans incited a riot. Her death drove him into the church, where he studied and eventually took over as Cotar Fomas. Fighting against the Cyreans isn’t a vendetta, it’s just what’s right.

Color notes: Draven has a son  that lives with him, but due to his Cotar Fomas duties, the boy spends a lot of time with his Grandpa, the Archcotare. There’s a lot of guilt for Draven over how little “raising” of his son he actually does. Also, Draven is badly burned from trying to rescue his wife Elena. It’s noticeable with his shirt on, disturbing with it off.  Son: Cason Nicandro


  • Belief 1: Darias is trying to pinch pennies from the Sodalis budget to make the bean counters off world happy. I will elicit Kristhoff’s help in persuading him to instead increase our budget in exchange for rooting out the excesses of the Dregutai.
  • Belief 2: I need to find Korak before the Constable can or I’ll never be able to share true justice with him. I will visit Artemus and convince him to turn over his leads so the church can handle Korak.
  • Belief 3: The Archcotare is adamant on paying Korak back with fire. I will insist the sodalis search the safehouse before we burn it, despite what Brendan wants.


  • Always wear long sleeves, gloves and a high collar.
  • Always be home in time for dinner with Cason
  • Never Strike out of Anger

Artemus Morikean, Imperial Constable (Usurpation Human FoN) – new to the planet.

His duty is to attempt to enforce Imperial law on Carom, especially after the EDA-6 incident. He’s a member of the Circle of 10,000, and a former Anvil Stormtrooper. Artemus is well known for being honest to a fault. This gets him into trouble. He’s also a Cyrean, though he’s a moderate, rather than an extremist. He’s very serious about his duty as an officer of the Stewardship, but he’s aware of what a detriment his beliefs can be in that pursuit.


  • Belief 1: Korak needs to be taken into custody before the Mundus Humanitas catches him, so that he can face due process of law.
  • Belief 2: If I can find the security hole, I can start finding those responsible for the EDA-6 disaster. I’ll help the Inquisitor in exchange for an open exchange of information.
  • Belief 3:
  • Instinct 1: Always tell the truth.
  • Instinct 2: When meeting someone new, regale them with war stories.
  • Instinct 3: Always read people’s mood.

Heiser Malamus, Chief Engineer – Recently returned to the planet of his childhood to complete the disastrous EDA project.

Viewed by many as an eccentric Genius (The Lord British of tech?) he returns to Coram to search for a way to free the planet from the Church, create something monumental and to do the impossible. Oh and find and connect to his lost past and family.


  • Belief 1: I will establish (weapons?) manufacture within and for the benefit of the Commune.
  • Belief 2: I will convince Korak that I am not his enemy.
  • Belief 3:
  • Instinct 1: Always have the proper tools at hand.
  • Instinct 2: Never speak plainly about technology.
  • Instinct 3: Go out of my way to appear devout if there’s any chance I’m being observed.

Kristhoff Van Der Meer, High Inquisitor ( Infiltration Human FoN)

Raised in the church, went up in the ranks of the inquisition, but was haunted by a personal failure offworld.  He’s looking to make up for the disaster offworld by mending the gulf between the Mundas Humanitas and the Cyreans – nonviolently.  


  • Belief 1: Korak was a good man, on some level I suspect he still is.  I will open negotiations with him.
  • Belief 2: The EDA 6 disaster cannot be repeated.  I will find the security flaw that allowed the saboteurs to access it.
  • Belief 3: There is nothing more dangerous or unpredictable than a Cotar Fomas- I will read him and see where his priorities lie.
  • Instinct 1: Always correct anyone who says “The Inquisition”
  • Instinct 2: Never out an informant.
  • Instinct 3:

Vaylen Figures of Note

Duke Brendan V (Invasion Vaylen FoN)

A hateful old man (52, but his deep wrinkles and heavy eyes make him look at least ten years older) bent on the destruction of the Cyrean heresy. He was born to rule and raised on a Core in the Kudus Theocracy (subject to change to match Kristin’s character). Thought a duke by title, he has transferred (rather than gave up) much of secular power and investments to Carom, which he now staunchly calls “his” world.

Brendan is a firm believer in burning out corruption, more with light than with fire. He holds all trials, all meetings, and all discussions in the Church of Ahmilahk in front of a congregation of Sodalis, Dregutai, and (now) Inquisitors.

7 years ago his daughter Elena was visiting with her son. A Cyrean riot broke out and she died in the crossfire. He has never forgiven the Cyreans for taking away his beloved daughter. He is now very close to his grandson, who he sees as the living memory of Elena.

More recently, after the Cyrean sabotage of the EDA6, he has told all those close to him that heresy is the greatest that exists, not only to the well being of Carom, but more importantly to the souls of the faithful, as their heresy may turn good men wicked. He is on the verge of declaring war against the heretics, despite the fact that it would mean a terrible civil war on Carom.


  • Belief 1: If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. I’ll burn the safehouse that Kristof has found to show Korak the price of his crimes. The price his people will pay for him.
  • Belief 2: Kristoff is new to me and despite his reputation untested. I’ll have Draven monitor him to ensure his loyalty to Carom.
  • Belief 3:
  • Instinct 1: Always have discussions with an audience.
  • Instinct 2:
  • Instinct 3:

Korak (Infiltration Vaylen FoN), ex Cotar Fomas.

Korak was the Cotar Fomas until the riot 10 years ago, when he publicly revealed corruption within the church. His oration incited a riot from the people where many, including Elena, were killed. Korak disappeared for years, and was declared dead by the church. He reappeared however just before the EDA6 launch, and has been openly opposing the Mundus Humanitus every since. He has openly declared his support of the Cyrean’s.

More here to tie into Fattig’s character and possibly Shaun’s. Heiser’s remaining family members on the planet may be working secretly with Korak.

  • Belief 1: The Mundus Humanitus is extravagant beyond all reason. I will offer Artemis a ledger of their assets and lavish expenses if he agrees to arrange a meeting between the Darius and myself.
  • Belief 2:
  • Belief 3:
  • Instinct 1:
  • Instinct 2:
  • Instinct 3:

Darias, Imperial Diplomat. (Vaylen Usurpation FoN

Darius has been sent to the planet to make sure proper tithes are paid to the empire. He isn’t a tax collector personally, but the empire is sick of the Monarchy demanding more and more military resources and Darius has come to make sure they pay their due.

Whenever he speaks, he covered his lip with a finger, as though he was thinking on an idea. This is done to cover a birth defect (a cleft lip) and make others feel more comfortable looking at him.

More on this Darius to make sure his relationship with Shaun’s character is sufficiently complicated.

Heiser was in school with Darias and recognizes him as (secretly) a local Southern Commune citizen.


Kristhoff Van Der Meer arriving on planet and terrifying everyone.

Korak pulling a Dregus out of a church and inciting a riot after revealing his largess.

Thoughts on this game

I still need to do a bit more burning of my NPCs to get their beliefs and stats ready, but otherwise this game is a go!

Actual Play – Burning Carom – World Burning (9/17/2012)

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

We all got together excited for some serious world burning… and this is what we made:

Dude… what it with Burning Empires and tables man? It’s like you need them!

World Burner ChoiceVaylenHumanNative SettingNotes
All WorldsFreeman, Outcast, Criminal, Underworld, Vaylen
Core World231228Carom - Comoran Worlds
Partial Life Supporting303231Only poles inhabitable, center is a covered in dense un-breathable atmosphere, and unstable geothermic activity. Prisoners and entrepreneurs mine the area for rich soils that are used for agriculture and as fuels.
Predominately Liquid312024Muggy and humid atmosphere
Naturally Rugged213132Dense vegetation at the poles. Broken earth and magma rivers in the center.
Low Index231222SpacefarerGeothermic energy capable of fueling the EDA7 (a space station in order that creates gravity wells to control the collision of asteroids into the planet's center
Theocracy141302TheocracyMundus Hummanitis controls the world, but still reports off world to an Imperial Stewardship
Yes, factions exist411(available factions below)
Religious Orders231114
Hysterical Fear444333Having the "worm" in an accusation made much like "he's a commie". Totally misunderstood but used as a weapon of hate just the same.
Ram Materials123132Soil/Fuel from the center. Ore from mined asteroids.
Basic Quarnatined333222Advanced quarantine for any traffic destined for the polls. No quarantine for the center.
Tightly Regulated150411
Human Bonus: World1
FoN Bounus53
Civilian Commune033South Pole ex-convicts and refugees. Very poor and little access to planet's resources
Imperial Beauracracy213Off planet power. Responsible for aiding the Theocracy and ensuring the empire's needs are met
Indigenous Lifeforms303Giant Trap-Door Spiders
Merchant League204In charge of construction of the EDA7 (after disaster with the EDA6). Behind schedule
Theocratic Institution312Cyrean sectarians who believe the Mundus Hummantus is morally bankrupts and corrupt.
City Names:Not available on planet:Sex Trade
Alexia (Capitol)Military Manufacturing
Buckman's Folly (Cap of the south)
New Vandis (city under Cyrean Control)Regulated on planetMarriage
Immigrant Labor (must convert)
Medical Practices/Hospitals

Carom, in case you didn’t gather, is one messed up planet.

A religious divide there is everything short of a religious civil war between the Mundus Humanitas and the Cyrean herecy.

The planet itself was once wealthy but is now just a resource suck for the empire. The Theocracy keeps asking for more money to fight the heretics, but can’t come through with it’s major project, the EDA.

The Merchant Guild has been trying to successfully build the EDA for years. They are on the the 7th model and are ready to throw in the towel. The plan for the space station is to create intense gravitational fields that would drop orbiting asteroids into the planets uninhabited “center”, which could then minded for very rare ores.

The commonwealth to the south is made up of impoverished ex-prisoners who have built there own community but do not have a space port or orbital access to leave the poor region the have been given. Except for the lucky few, most are serving out lifetime sentences simply due to the logistics of leaving.

The imperial bureaucracy is fed up with how expensive Carom has gotten. They’ve send “reinforcements” but instead of being there to fight a war, they are their to try and reclaim some of their losses.

And to top it off, “Vaylen” is a curse word used to describe someone who has different beliefs than you. The people on Carom accuse anyone who acts different than they do of being a Vaylen, with no real idea what the word means. Yay!

Thoughts on this game

I really, really want the first phase to focus on Carom’s internal politics. Enough so that I’m not bringing any vaylen into the story yet. It’s a gamble, they may feel alien by the time they arrive later in the phase, but it’s critical to me that the players (and myself) be invested in this world and it’s human issues before we get all gung-ho worm hunting.

I’m excited about the world. After we made it we came up with some character concepts. A league member sent to ensure the EDA7 is complete. A member of the imperial bureaucratic sent to try and keep the peace. A cotar fomas leading the MH army and an inquisitor, here to stamp out the heresy! Yay.

Actual Play – Burning Taramai, part 3 (8/13/2012)

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

Oh my, oh my, oh Firefight!

We knew this game was going to have the Firefight that almost happened last session. It was going to conclude the 2nd maneuver, which would most do a major blow to the Vaylen (Gambit scripted vs. Flak). I thought, foolishly that I had some time to built up to it however, so I kicked off a few scenes before the Firefight.

That was a mistake.

Scene Breakdown

VaylenArtoisConflictDuel of Wits with Routhy to make him "willingly" accept an optic hulling in exchange for his other son Micah's freedom.
HumanGraceColorPreparing the outlaws for the fight.
HumanMarcusColorWith Micah in the gardens, given him a medical examination to see if he has been hulled.
HumanMarcusInterstitialWith Routhy. Thanks him for his sacrifice. Tells him that he’ll look after Micah.
HumanGraceConflictOMG Firefight!

The last three scenes I’m shamed to admit I don’t remember very well. We were so damn tired after the Firefight.


At the end of Maneuver the human’s rolled and dropped the Vaylen disposition by 3, they lost 3 as well due to the Gambit maneuver. That left them at 15 and 2 respectively. Not enough to finish off the humans, but we decided we were done anyway. Mostly we were all itching to start World Building a new planet of our own.

The results were grim. We narrated Routhy going in to get hulled (as per his DoW condition), Marcus staying behind for Shoshana and Grace being the only one to make it off planet (Kessling was killed in the firefight).

Thoughts on this game

Firefight did a lot that I liked. Lets talk about that first:

It was unpredictable. Kessling died right out in close combat. He took an H10 wound with no persona (for Will to Live) and like that was dead. It wasn’t a high probability of happening but looking at the dice rolls that happened, it also wasn’t that exceptional (really it came down to the die of fate after he got hit).

There was a lot of back and forth. Trading hails of bullets with each other. I didn’t use the Ammo Check rules (mostly because I forgot until it was too late) but even if I had, I think the number of suppressible fire and direct fire maneuvers would have been tough.

Reducing disposition is TOUGH! I didn’t realize until I did it that you generally need to first create a shot opportunity and then take someone out with that shot to drop disposition. (There are other ways but that seems to be the default way to do it when scripting “Fire” moves).

Starting with a position, as the GM is brutal. You have all the cards. My Vaylen holed up in the most defensible position on the map. Speaking of maps, I was pretty happy with this one.

Having only one leader is very dangerous. The human side lost because Grace got hit, failed a steel test and her disposition was lost. They had no position or other advantages to give them disposition and in the blink of an eye were routed. I like that breaking morale has a huge effect on one side winning, as very few combats are fought to the last man.

The whole thing felt epic. We were talking about dozens of soldiers, multiple buildings, explosions, hails of bullets, and a lot of moving around the battlefield (several flank maneuvers were scripted).

I really, really like that Burning Empires is much more restrictive about FoRKs. In Burning Wheel, I see (and do) a lot of dice mongering. I like that in BE there are only a few skills for any action, and only those will help. It made a major difference if who pulled of what moves, and that shifting responsibility (like you see in Mouse Guard conflicts) is awesome.

Philippe Artois, despite his bureaucratic heirs and ridiculous obesity, still got his thick hands around Marcus’ throat to choke the life out if him. Two injuries, but no maiming.

Specialty actions are awesome! We had demolitions experts, Routhy recruiting said experts, signals warfare, and field medics dressing wounds. Very cool stuff.

What I didn’t like as much:

The whole thing took almost three hours. A lot of that was us just not being familiar with the rules and me having to look up stuff like circles difficulties, field medicine rules, and steel tests. I need to get a PDF copy for faster reference.

There were several times (and this is endemic to BE) where I was torn between advocating for the Vaylen and trying to help the players understand the system. It just isn’t fair for a GM (who already has advantages) that is the only one who knows the rules to be playing as hard as he can against new players. Generally I’m happy to be merciless in Duel of Wits, but as we were all learning here, I pulled back a lot, which led to…

Stalemate. Because the Vaylen grossly outclassed the human resistance it was very, very difficult to reduce their disposition, but because I was having the Vaylen choose sub-optimal moves, the weren’t knocking much disposition off the Humans either. In the end I think it would have been faster (and funner) for me to just play hard and crush the humans in a few volleys.

Clearly, not having the right skills to get into a firefight is REALLY problematic. We saw a lot of beginner’s luck (on both sides), which was cool in the moment (trying something risky) but predictably ended in a lot of failure.

Actual Play – Burning Taramai, part 2 (7/30/2012)

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

We started the game doing Artha awards for last session. After that the players discussed what maneuver to take (I had already picked mine before the game). Once we got started playing it was 9PM.  Several of our color and interstitial scenes were quite short but the building and conflict scenes were all very protracted. All this meant we didn’t finish a maneuver this session. My hope is we get fast enough that we can roll them out regularly once we start the new campaign.*

Man, knowing Burning Wheel does not mean you know Burning Empires. I keep having to look up Circles OBs, and what skill to use for things. It’s a good process to become more proficient with the system but slow. And we haven’t tackled firefight yet.  Next session!


I had already picked flak (Artois closing his defenses by hulling slaves and and Dermot making a blanket attack with the tectonic interference device.

Wisely, foolishly, or both, the humans chose Gambit. They are giving up access to the mines where they collect water from (already in short supply in the camps) to divert the Ganesh forces away from the camp while they make an aggressive assault!

 List of scenes

VaylenArtoisInterstitialArgument with Dermot over the Aadau clan's claim over the "stock" vs. the Vibhuuten's plans to hull them and move on.
HumanGraceInterstitialDiscussion with Marcus at the outcast camp. "We need to get them back"
VaylenArtois (via Junior)Building SceneThe hell you will. Junior, infuriated with Marcus and Grace blame them for losing Kessling and Routhy. He tries to kick them out of the camp but relents to keep them if they accept him as the leader.
HumanKesslingInterstitialKessling asks Routhy what to do if his son is a Vaylen. There is no response.
HumanRouthyBuilding SceneRounded up slaves to prepare for the coming firefight. Unfortunately his contact was the Vaylen sleeper Jepard.
VaylenArtoisColorKessling sees Jepard and Routhy planning something and then sees Jepard report back to the Vaylen.
VaylenDermotInterstitialDermot shows Routhy the plans they have for terraforming Taramai and asks him to be his father once more (accepting a Vaylen hydrologist)
HumanMarcusConflictMarcus tries to trick Artois into moving his troops into the mines while the outcasts attack, but is tricked into revealing his love for Shoshanna.
HumanKesslingBuilding SceneBreaking out of his cell, beating up one of the ganesh to recover his weapons and belongings. It's on!


We ended just before Grace leads the assault. Our first shot at firefight next game!

Thoughts on this game

*Given our session length I think we should plan on doing the “2 maneuver per session” scene currency even though we’re just doing one maneuver per session.

Does Flak still get it’s offensive roll against gambit, or is just proper fucked like Rebuttal vs. Feint.