Actual Play – Put him in chains (7/13/2012)

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

A nice long Friday night session. We lost Noam again, which was a major disappointment, and we missed about three weeks of game, but we still managed to rock this one pretty hard.

Abdicate the Caliphate

In the Medieval Studies 20A, the first paper I had to write for my professor Kevin Roddy was a position paper as Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib abdicating the caliphate. He had to speak to a divided group of Sunni and Shia and step down gracefully without two of them going to war with each other over his proclamation. I remember using a lot of quotes from the Qur’an and trying to make Ali sound like he was following Muhammad teachings, when in fact the entire thing was a political clusterfuck.

Baldric started the game, more or less in the same situation. Moya rode up with her people, old dudes who served with her back in the Usurper’s war, and gave Baldric the look. The “stand down before I make you stand down” look. And that was cool, I never intended for Baldric to go back on his word. He got drunk, his time was up.

The hitch of course, was that the troops by and large fear Moya. They haven’t seen her as a commander, and even though it was her spell that one the battle, it was Baldric leading them, and probably more importantly, it was Baldric who was the duke’s son. It didn’t help that Baldric doesn’t have oratory trained. Yay, beginner’s luck.
Baldric failed to capture their hearts and minds. Rolf, a captain, stepped forward to challenge the change of station, claiming it for himself. Baldric and Rolf ended up in a fist fight, while Moya tried to cow, if not calm, the masses. She told everyone this was a temporary change of guard until Duke Roderick appointed someone else in charge.

A Conspiracy

After the ruckus, Baldric sought out Afon to make a request of him. It was pretty much the same old saw “My brother is missing and I have to find him.” Afon surprised the knight however, by agreeing. He was sure Aeric was a traitor, giving secrets to Kentigern and his ilk. They argued for a bit, Baldric convinced Afon’s cynical mind saw only evil in people, Afon believing Baldric was blinded by his love for his brother. Both probably right, but Balrdic won the argument, for now at leaest…

Afon agreed to sneak off with him in the night, specifically in defiance of Moya’s wishes, knowing she would have to chase after them and abandon the meeting arranged with the king.

A perfect plan, nothing could go wrong… because everything about it was ALREADY wrong!

Put him in chains

We made some contrivances for Baldric to find out about Andon and Moya having sex (see below). Baldric flew into a rage and killed the man. Baldric is pretty darn hard to stop when he wants to kill someone. A few guards tried to slow him down. Moya , who had just arrived, cast choking grasp to choke him out, but neither were quite fast enough to stop him from burying his sword in Andon.

Then the screaming began. “How could you! In the same night that you laid with me? How could you do this to me.” Then the menacing advancing began… and this triggered several things. Moya was surprised (she didn’t expect Baldric to come after her), so she cast the fear. Baldric was terrified by her magic, but the terror drive him to fight rather than flight (thanks Gloryhound trait) and he charged into her and tackled her (wearing plate armor) into the mud!

It was Moya’s turn to do some screaming “I didn’t want you. You took advantage of me while I was drunk!” She didn’t quite say Baldric raped her, but the implication was there. I didn’t even ask for a roll. She didn’t need to test persuasion or ugly truth. Hearing that just crushed him. The guards ripped him off her and he put up no resistance as the clasped him in chains.

Who is in command?

Before all the drama between Baldric and Moya, there was a dinner thing they were all supposed to be at. All the commanders had gathered in the mayor’s house for a final dinner before breaking camp in the morning. Baldric had excused himself to question the guards and later Andon. Moya followed after, noticing that Baldric wasn’t present. Afon stayed behind and watched a military coup unfold.

Rolf, with all the other lieutenants present, pointed out that Moya’s intent (which stemmed from Baldric’s original goal) to march into the King’s court and meet with him was lunacy. Instead he intended to take the men south, group up with additional troops and make a show of force advancing on Kentigern’s western border.  Possibly unwisely he sent Afon out to relay the message to the sergeants.  So what does he do?

He hears the commotion and comes skipping along, happy as a maladjusted school boy picking wings of a fly, with a note in hand.  Moya had just put Baldric in with the prisoners when Afon presented her with information (note: God, why does anyone every trust Afon?) that showed her orders were being countermanded by Rolf. She stormed back with her contingent of soldiers to settle this business.

A Choice

Afon lingered behind. Baldric in chains seemed like the perfect way for them to start their journey. He was still ready to make off in the night and go hunting for Aeric.

This was a big turning point for Baldric. His first reaction was to break out, screw the army and go chasing after Aeric. His love for Moya, or more likely his shame, won out though. “Forget about leaving. Go catch up with Moya. She’s walking into a fight, see that she is protected.”

Yeah, it amounted to no more than a linked test for Moya, but for Baldric, it was a sacrosanct decision, to give up on his brother to support Moya. Beliefs about protecting Aeric are no more!

Darth Moya

Moya burst in as the commanders were ready to adjourn. “This is in defiance of my direct order Rolf! This is mutiny!” Pleasantries were pretty much over. Rolf advanced on the witch, but just then Afon showed up, got in his face long enough for Moya to cast choking hand and get all sith lord on his ass.  She choked him for a bit and ask if anyone else had a problem. Putting on the hurt!

Control of the camp was secured in the final scene were we see Rolf throwing into the prison wagon with Baldric.

Thoughts on the game

I enjoy it when characters are put in situations they don’t want to be in, but feel they have to be in. Like Baldric in prison, and Moya commanding the troops.

I really like how Shaun handled the bloody versus of Baldric trying to tackle Moya, because it re-emphasized the fact that injuring people is often the incidental effect in the game.  Baldric didn’t mean to injure Moya, but he did anyway.  I’d like to think of other BV scenarios where the goal really has nothing to do with injury, but knowing that blows will be landed along the way.

The fact that we have several times made contrivances in the game for Baldric to know what Moya is doing so that he can get upset about it has always felt a little weak sauce for me. I mean, no doubt we get an emotional pay off from the confrontation, but it does seem a little fake and rushed. So, here’s two things I think we can do to improve that:

  • Shaun’s suggestion: Test wises to know this stuff. Make a “hiding something-wise” or a “who slept with who-wise” roll to see if Baldric can figure it out. Sure, they will all be beginners luck tests, but that means that we can set awesome failure stakes, like Moya must be sleeping with the whole army! Or Moya was ensorcelled by Father Menden to bed Andon” or maybe “Balric’s unwanted affections drove her into his arms.” You know, good stuff that could mess things up pretty hard core.
  • Waiting on the beliefs: Part of the problem is that we’re always writing such aggressive “jump right on the problem” beliefs. I’ve been blamed by Lenny of trying to always have 10,000 kinds of awesome in every scene, and he has suggested trying to just savor one awesome before moving onto the next. So, perhaps the big payoffs would come if I let things stew a while longer. I mean, it was bad that I killed Andon… but how much worse would it have been if I killed him after he had taken us to King Kentigern and we were in the king’s castle making diplomatic negotiations!

Belief for next game: I can’t allow my dishonor to soil Moya’s good name. Only a few guards were present for my indiscretion. I’ll silence them before rumors can spread.

I’m ready to look at Baldric through cross-hairs. He might be destined a dungeon, or possibly a beheading (one could easily consider killing Andon, when he had the possibility of getting us close to Kentigern, treason). I don’t feel like he has to go, exactly, I just think if the character’s story ended her (or ended soon) I’d be satisfied with him. He’s changed incredibly, and the final act of surrendering command to Moya (after they finally had sex the session before),  giving up on his brother, and accepting incarceration means there is almost nothing about the original character that hasn’t changed, which is a good judge for me of when a character has been thoroughly played. He could still change again in other, cool ways, or perhaps he could enter an iconic state, where instead of changing, he changes the world around him. Those would be cool, but seeing him go out with either a bang or a whimper, could also be very cool. My only reservation here is that the campaign is probably close to ending, so bringing in a new character now might upset the natural rhythm of the game.

Actual Play – Breaking Morality (6/13/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

This has been brewing for a while. In the fiction, for nearly a year, in game for 17 sessions. Baldric, a young knight whose moral code and has been challenged and found wanting, is out if his mind infatuated with Moya, his war wizard companion. Besides the fact that they have very different outlooks on life, scream at each other all the time, and often despise one another, there is one major hitch in their would be romance. Their siblings. Or at least half-siblings, but it’s still close enough.

For ages that was enough to keep them apart. Baldric didn’t know Moya was his sister, and so he pursued her relentlessly. Moya cast him away over and over. It was their routine. They also fought. A LOT. So that kept things from getting boring, and from feeling like skeezy sexual harassment. Generally speaking Baldric would make an advance, be spurned, something (unrelated) would come up that they fought like cats and dogs about, and they would part furious with each other.  The would both kick ass to overcome their trials, growing closer to each other in the process and… repeat.

Baldric has even found out Moya was his sister. Twice! But the Dragon Magic (she gave away her family name) keeps robbing him of that knowledge. Every night he forgets and wonders what revelation he had but like a dream was forgotten.

And of course there was even more than all that…

Continue reading Actual Play – Breaking Morality (6/13/2012)

Actual Play – Changes (6/6/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

This session of Burning Theorsa can be viewed online here:…

This session was definitely one of characters changing. Shaun had some specific prompts for us, things to set our characters off, but also their dynamics changed with each other. A lot of that, of course had to do with beliefs:

The visitors will be leaving Redvale soon; I will pledge my enduring fealty to the Duke so that I might have an opportunity beyond this village. – Ayernand
Baldric’s praise is mocking and self-serving. I will make sure all men understand the true meaning of war by telling them of my sacrifice. – Ayernand

Ayernand is a symbol, but to be loved by the people he must embrace it. I’ll convince him to speak at the feast, to embolden the troops as he accepts the mantle “Troll Slayer.” – Baldric
Afon speaks incessantly of his prowess at killing nobility. Since we cannot get to the king through Andon, perhaps Afon can do it. I’ll convince him to infiltrate the kings men and deliver our message to him. – Baldric

Baldric clearly thinks very little of my magic, and believes me to be an immoral monster. I don’t need family who feels that way about me, I will convince Aziz to let me head his personal guard. I will begin by sending him a letter by raven. – Moya

Ayernand – Baldric. Noam is just setting himself up for mold breaker. He wants to swear fealty to Roderick, he wants to put Baldric in his place. Will he have to choose between those two?

Baldric – Ayernand: Baldric can be remarkably callous with regard to how people feel about things. He’s seen men dying from being burned to death, he’s committed horrible atrocities. After that, hurting someone’s feelings just doesn’t register with him.  He was determined that Ayernand would accept the mantle of Troll Slayer, regardless of whether or not he believed in it.

Baldric – Afon: By the gods, what have I done? Sent Afon off to kill the king!

Moya – Baldric: We made sure Baldric saw the letter. Fires burn hot between these two.

Continue reading Actual Play – Changes (6/6/2012)

Actual Play – The monsters we’ve become (5/30/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

Moya bolted upright. She heard the screaming and ran outside to douse the flames!

Yep, that is actually how our game started. Krisin wasn’t here last game so we presumed she was sleeping it off. She woke however to the sounds of our ending scene last gane, notably Andon Torron being hamstrung. For her, however, what she remembered was all those people burning to death from her spell. So she grabbed a buck of water and doused the wailing man!

Unfortunately that did very little for his bleeding. Fortunately once she did this, she woke up, realized he was bleeding horribly and tried to bind his wounds, to at least prevent them from getting worse.

As she recovered Baldric and Ayernand carried the night to the surgeon’s tent. There were many men worse off than Andon, however. Men with intestines bursting out of them,  men with head trauma, and men that would be losing their legs, rather than having them bandaged.  Andon could wait.

On the way out of the sick tent Baldric asked Ayernand if he meant what he said about killing the prisoners (from the duel of wits last session). “Are you prepared to follow through on your threat, to kill every man in Andon’s army until he yields or there are none left?” Baldric hoped to find some modicum of mercy in Ayernand’s heart, but there was none. The solider didn’t have the authority to order all of the prisoners executed but it was clear that was his desire. Continue reading Actual Play – The monsters we’ve become (5/30/2012)

Actual Play – Life without Moya (5/23/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

Kristin was stuck on a job and so couldn’t make the game. We endeavored to carry on without her.

The Aftermath

After the battle, our characters set off to fulfill their own agendas.

Afon, in the guise of helping to tend the wounded, scavenged loose coin and trinkets from the soldiers, collecting a pouch of baubles worth 1D cash.

Ayernand, in an attempt to retain his stations as “just a soldier” managed to offend a veteran warrior that wanted to offer him drink and lodging.  He didn’t want to kick someone out of their house and the veteran took this as a sign of him been too good for soldier’s hospitality. The “Troll Slayer” is too good for us.

Baldric directed troops in preparing for the wounded, the hungry and the prisoners. He summoned the newly appointed quartermaster Leon and sent him off to a nearby village Duskwood to commission supplies. He placed the mayor’s sigil in his possession so that he could prove his authority to the locals of Duskwood.  Martin the Mayor saw this and of course was infuriated. “You can’t just hand out my office. Who do you think you are?” Baldric tried to be civil for a bit but eventually pushed the now ex-mayor in the mud and told him he was a coward for fleeing when war was at his gates.  Continue reading Actual Play – Life without Moya (5/23/2012)

Actual Play – Ayernand “Troll Slayer” (5/16/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Kristin Hayworth, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

We finished this “session”. It only took three weeks. But it was very satisfying. It felt more like an “adventure” than a typical Burning Wheel session as well. Travel to a place, rally the troops, and fight a huge battle. And we did it, all of it.

As per the last session, we streamed this episode, all 3+ hours of it on youtube. If you’re particularly fond of actual play, check out Continue reading Actual Play – Ayernand “Troll Slayer” (5/16/2012)

Actual Play – That is “Sir” Blue Blood (5/9/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Kristin Hayworth, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

Action – Reflection – Response

Yay! First off, very fun game. In response to my previous game write up, we started this game having some discussion of intent and expectations. I mentioned the ideas that I had namely that I want everyone to play bold, getting into danger characters, and that I want us to shine the spotlight on our characters with a sympathetic eye.  Just like heroes of stories, the lens that we view our characters through makes all the difference.

Shaun pointed out that all characters in Burning Wheel are like Walter White. They are melodramatic, and it is their successes (and failures) that drive the story forward, not an external plot.

Noam also established some expectations for his character, namely that he wants the payoff of a showdown with Baldric or Moya (or both) to be something he builds up to. My hope is we can have many “minor” squables along the way.


Wow, everything on the internet is forever. Our games are now streamed on youtube. Sadly my video decided to die when we started this. We actually had lots of technical difficulties. It’s sad because I get pretty crazy eyed and emotive during play, especially tonight. Hopefully you’ll be able to see my pretty mug in the future.

To see this game (and others) hit up Shaun’s youtube channel: Continue reading Actual Play – That is “Sir” Blue Blood (5/9/2012)

Actual Play – The battle of Redvale (5/2/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Kristin Hayworth, Justin Dhiel, and Noam Rosen
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

Hah. I loved the beliefs that we have for this game. Baldric and Moya are up to their their normal conflicting beliefs.

Baldric: I can no longer live without Moya. She detests me because of my actions in Kashkyr, most of which is a drunken haze. To make amends, I must first find out what I did. I’ll get the information I need from Afon.

Moya: Baldric’s affections are overbearing and unwanted. I will involve myself with Ayernand to put him off for a while. Continue reading Actual Play – The battle of Redvale (5/2/2012)

Actual Play – Trait Vote (4/26/2012)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Kristin Hayworth, Justin Dhiel, and… Noam Rosen (he’s back)
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Burning Theorsa

I mucked up this session some because I forgot about prior obligations, so I didn’t end up making it till around 8:30. Thankfully the plan was to do the train vote and that usually kills a session anyway. So we did it, and then spent time bullshitting afterwards. Woot.

We zipped through it fast. I was delighted to ditch maudlin. I argued pretty hard for a 2D rep as well, but I think it was worth it considering the culmination of Baldric’s badassery.


  • Vote Off
    • Arrogant
  • Vote On
    • Sworn Homage
  • Reputation
    • Accepted Catamere’s Surrender 1D


  • Vote Off
    • Hard Hearted
  • Vote On
    • Jaded
    • Big Talker
  • Reputation
    • House Auley’s Honorable Man 1D


  • Vote Off
    • Maudlin
  • Vote On
    • Alcoholic
    • Romantic
  • Reputation
    • Killed the Catameres! 2D

Actual Play – Cut off his thieving hand! (4/11/2012)

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

This game was a pivotal one for the characters. Baldric and Moya had been allied in their cause since the beginning of the campaign. They both served the Duke Roderick (who also happened to be their father) and sought worked to put the heir Owain onto the throne of Theorsa. This is a crazy bold mission, one that has sent them all over the world and consumed the last year (and change) of their life.

Their companion, Afon, however, really, really doesn’t care about that mission. Like he actively could give a shit about it. His only tie to the mission, to the characters at all was his old friendship with Moya. At times he has sworn allegiance to various patrons, but (to steal a little bit from Martin) words are wind. As Baldric’s squire for instance, he never actually served him. In fact the idea of serving Baldric was so alien to him that the one time the knight asked him for a sword, Afon just looked at him dumbstruck. Until he said “you know, like squires do for their knights?”

For a while this wasn’t a problem, either for the characters, or the players. Even when the characters were infuriated, that wasn’t a big deal. I mean, our characters are always infuriating each other. But eventually it’s started to cause a problem for me as a player. One thing that I think makes a game VERY strong is having a common social construct that the characters are all invested in. Dogs in the Vineyard is fantastic in that it asserts that all the PCs are Dogs, and that they all care. When I ran my Burning Warcraft game, it rocked so hard because the characters were all invested in Arthas, and his quest. The other night, we were talking about how “teenagers in high school” really doesn’t bond the characters together nearly as much as “teenagers in a rock band”. One is something forced on them (they have to go to high school), the other is something they chose to do, and that choice makes the difference.

As a player, I was getting frustrated because I realized we didn’t have a common bond between our character, or in fact, any bond at all. This had manifested in the game in the form of neither Afon nor Baldric caring about the other one, and even being quite willing to kill (or at least let die) the other.

So… now fast forward to the current situation. Afon has stolen from Baldri’s brother Aeric. Aeric wants Baldric to hold Afon down so he can cut off his hand! Thinking in character my first impulse was “Yeah, he’ll totally do that.” but that wasn’t very satisfying for me. Cutting off Afon’s hand is not the way to bring the characters in line. So, instead I thought about the knight Baldric thinks he should be and opted for these two beliefs:

Belief: By Argent’s Tits! I’ve let the spirits get the better of me and now my brother is about to cut off Afon’s hand. I must be a better knight than this. I’ll convince Aeric to stay his anger.
Belief: Ferros’ Bent Nail I hate Afon and his self-serving insolence. I’ll find out the cost of his loyalty, by sword point if need be.

I also emailed Justin about where these came from, and what I wanted as a player: for our characters to find common ground. We went back and forth a bit, over text and just before the game, and he came up with this belief, which to me was all that I needed.

Belief: I know no road to follow anymore but the one my sister-in-arms know. I must be worthy of following Moya and make a sacrifice to her cause.

The play is the thing…?

That said, this game was really more about our characters bonding that, the amazing events that happened.

We started with a Duel of Wits between Baldric and Afon to try and get him to cool his heels and let justice be measured out by trial (and not trial by combat).  Baldric won with the concession that he be the prosecutor.

The trial itself, because we just had had a DoW to make it happen, was handled as a versus between Baldric and Moya. Moya won, and Afon kept his hand, was given an apology even (her case being that he didn’t steal them but was trying to keep them safe for Aeric).

After the trial, Baldric and Afon were left alone in the yard. We had what would have been called an interstitial scene in Burning Empires. I’m not sure if I led off with “how can I ever trust you?” or “what makes you tick?” but the results were the same, Afon revealed that the only thing that he was loyal to was Moya, she was his sister and because of his bond to her, he would follow her anywhere. Baldric is in love with Moya (though he only admits that when he is drunk or thinks he is about to die), so for him, that’s good enough.

After that Afon, Baldric, and eventually Moya got drunk in a tavern outside the keep. Badric boasted of his prowess with the blade, danced with patrons, and got silly drunk. Moya and Afon snickered about the knight and found their peace as well, agreeing that their bond to each other was enough to carry them through the tough times ahead.


The game started with a letter from Moya to Lord Galen requesting his presence at Duke Roderick’s castle and ended with him arriving and treating with us. Though he wanted Moya as his war wizard Baldric made the plea that he should accept Duke Catamere’s soldiers in her stead, as Roderick needed her to fight off the inevitable advances of King Kentigern.

Just as the alliance was made and as we toasted the doors burst open. My lords! Redvale is under attack. The King is at our borders!

Thoughts on the game

Though the plot did move forward, I was really, really happy with the character development. Afon and Baldric’s relationship has been like a broken record. I’m glad to see it changing.

I’m also glad the game has mechanics for awarding characters for changing. Afon earned both “Moldbreaker” and “MVP” for this game. Deservedly!

I’m looking forward to a trait vote. Some things need to change on our character sheets and want a big honking reputation for Baldric!