Actual Play – The Battle of Jordan’s Damnation – (6/17/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

We played the last game of Burning Wheel. If you followed the previous AP posts, you know everything was on the line for the characters. Just like the epic battle, and then epic play session (which ran well after midnight) this is an epic AP report. Probably more detail than I need, but I wanted to get in all the last bits.

Also, without me knowing. Two of the players were “live tweeting” the game, which was awesome. I rounded up their tweets and put them as headers for the scenes.

Rules hacks for this game and Actual Play

Actual Play – Burning Chaos (5/20/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

We started off late tonight, about an hour late on account of me wanting all the players to be there. So, we passed the time playing Pandemic and watching the world descend into a plague land of disease.

When everyone was there I introduced my three warm ups, which were pretty quick (just over 15 minutes total).

The tale of Woe.

I asked the players to pick one of the traitors (Jaina or Brighton) and tell me their sad story, one sentence at a time. The decided that Brighton was the more “disposable” of the two and went for him. My hopes were that in creating his story he would become more real to the players. It sort of worked. It turns out that as a boy Brighton watched as his father was killed and received a letter from him instructing him to become king of all the Eastern Kingdoms. He grew up hungry for power but also resentful of the sniveling boy Arthas who was loved by all of the kingdoms. He grew to hate Arthas, for the seat he would one day hold, for the loving father he still had and for the beautiful Jaina who laid by his side. We also found out that he’s astonishingly opened minded when it comes to races and respects orks just as much as he does humans. Perhaps he is even more at home with them. Interesting, but a little cliché.

The epic journey. How did the heroes come here.

I asked the table to pick a character who’s epic story we would tell. We used the format of each player (except the one that actually played the character) would give one sentence that the owner of the character would have to incorporate into an epic journey. Colin, the sergeant of the scouts was elected and we gave him these sentences.

  1. The refugees from the village attacked by trolls ran screaming in terror through the night.
  2. Despite the howling winds his black arrow flew true and cut the rope.
  3. To see his face you could tell the boy was no more than 12 years old.
  4. As the Greench fell red blood seeped through the snow.

From that Colin told a story about fleeing from trolls, but seeing one of them grab a boy, no more than 12, and sink his teeth into him, an image he would never forget. Years later, now trained as a soldier, he snuck into a Troll encampment and despite the raging winds his arrow flew true and cut the rope from which an innocent woman hung. As he fled her from captivity he was visited by a man who appeared out of nowhere. Then man told him his destiny was not in Arathi, but in the frozen mountains of Alterac where another woman would need to be rescued.

Scene requests

I asked the players if there were any scenes they wanted to see in tonight’s game. This wasn’t so much a warm up exercise as it was a gauge of what people wanted to do. I had two scenes, and Colin added a third.

  1. The sorceress duel between Luke and Jaina
  2. A duel of wits between Genn and Luke over the fate of Arthas’ army.
  3. Colin wanted to meet Jaina and realize she was the woman he must protect.

Opening scene. The Sorceress duel.

The brown book has rules of using sorcery in range and cover conflicts so I figured that would be a good way to manage a duel, especially one that involved Jaina trying to run away. As usual with range and cover, I started off a little disoriented (even though I had been reading them just before the game started). I think the problem is the scripting sheets don’t explain it very well. I’m tempted to make another sheet on my own that fleshes out all the rules for positioning and actions you can take. I fumbled a few things, rolled like crap, and generally felt frustrated with the pace of the combat. We did have some good sorcery and counter sorcery, but the end was strange. As Jaina fled, Luke gave his last bit of energy to give her courage, ostensibly allowing her to see reason through fear. Chasing her across a battlefield strew the artifacts of war, he collapsed into a heap, exhausted from his own efforts.

Brighton’s Camp.

Jordan enter the camp with the dwarves who were still carrying on about their lore. The asked him where to find Genn Blackstone that they might put him to trial as an Oath Breaker. Jordan questioned what the punishment would be and when told exile, he argued that execution was more humane. The dwarves, affronted again by his lack of understanding of their traditions (and the importance of traditions) started arguing… very LOUDLY (thanks stenorious debate). This had the interesting that Jordan lost the debate but the entire camp was warned that Genn would be on trial.

Freeing the peasants

Colin, in his effort to free the peasants of Spruce Hill sought out their leader, however not being someone familiar with navigating social structures, he sought out a hero of the people, Jordan. Who just happened to be losing a very LOUD argument. As the dwarf Sigrun talked very loudly at Jordan, the two used his megaphonic voice to conceal their private discussion of freeing the villagers that had been conscripted.

Eventually Sigrum allowed Jordan to lose the debate, with the condition that he still needed more education in the dwarven ways and would attend the trial in Dwarven garb, with stones to match his age.

Follow their leader

Excused from their argument, Jordan found a meek peasant who had heard of Jordan’s heroism but was terrified of showing him any favor for fear of earning the soldier’s wrath. The boy agreed to take someone less conspicuous (i.e. not freaking glowing with a cold light, i.e. Colin) to the leader of the Spruce Hill peasants.

The Plan

Colin met with Jotham, a butcher and the man that the rest of the Spruce Hill peasants looked up to. Jotham (thanks to the successful circles roll) was amenable to Colins plan, and while not the village head, he believed that he could round up most of his people during the evening meal. Colin would have to gather the serving women however as they would be busy during that time. He agreed and was successful (almost). The roll was tied, which I opted to rule that Colin thought he got all of the women free, but one was left behind. Alas, a lady he’ll have to save!

The trial

Jordan was given “ceremonial stones”, painful contraption of wooden slats tied together covered by heavy stones which hung from his shoulders. The dwarves had similar but more refined garb including worn stone beads. They explained that the age of the stone beads was an indicator of the dwarves age, the smaller the bead, the more refined it was, and the older the dwarf. Jordan, being a young one, of course was given mighty stones. This was a practical joke, which apparently was noticed by everyone in the camp but Jordan (thanks to a failed wise test)

Our story ending with Captain Genn Blackstone being summoned forth by to stand trial. He presented himself, forged documents in hand to the court. Then Sigrun Steeltoe was summoned… and summoned again… and summoned a third time. The dwarf however did not appear. As the crowd became restless, Genn noticed black orbs reflecting the torchlight and barely caught the silhouette as Gorund the ork disappeared into the night. Meanwhile Brighton sat with smug satisfaction as he watched the court processions descend into chaos. If there is no persecutor, no guild can be found. Or at least Brighton believes.


Luke woke in a cave which reeked of strange alien smells. As he saw hunk of meat cooking on a spit, there was a short flare as something caught fire, and an archer’s bracer fell from the “meat” into the fire below. As he would speak Jaina placed a soft finger on his lips “Do not speak, you are safe here”.

What rocked

The end created a few “oh crap” responses, which are always fun. I’m curious to see if the trial is continued with a proxy, if Sigrun (or parts thereof is found). I’m looking forward to sending Colin back into to the camp to rescue the one remaining villager, or to decide she isn’t work risking the mission for. Luke will have fun in the orc cave.

The warm up exercises went off okay. I felt like they got us in the mood to play the game and helped us connect with some of the characters.

We had a slow start but it seemed like once the sorceress duel was over, the game picked up. Actions were resolved in a roll and moved quickly.

I got the sense in Brighton’s camp like a lot of different stuff was going on, but the players could all interact with each other as needed. That is really what I want to see. Everyone perusing their agendas and intersecting with each other in interesting ways.

What could have been improved

KublaCon and Good Omens Con were really on my brain. A lot. It was hard to get my head in the game for Burning Wheel.

The game started an hour late. This left us two hours to burn. That was really frustrating for me.

Scripting, outside of Duel of Wits, just isn’t very fun for me. It takes too long, feels too… well scripted… and usually lacks horribly in interesting narrative because too much of our attention is focused on understanding the rules. The Range and Cover duel was real let down for me. Slow, mechanical and cumbersome. I thought about it this time, but next time I’m going to use the MouseGuard conflict system and see how it works. Magical duels will be Sorcery and Aura Reading with starting disposition of Forte rolled + Will base. Man, wish I had done that instead.

I forgot to do the belief review at the beginning of the game. This hurt it several ways. First it meant that nobody updated their beliefs to be more current. Second I didn’t feel like the players were thinking about the beliefs as few were driven towards. Third, I didn’t have them fresh in my head so I wasn’t pushing on them very hard.

Jordan’s player spent a good portion of the night trying to get a perception test, in order to raise his perception and consequently reflexes. I understand wanting to be more effective in combat, but if felt like every action was motivated by the goal of getting a perception test. I tried to be fair about it and meter out tests as appropriate, but it felt like the story was secondary to getting a mechanical advancement. There were some other really great scenes with him defending the peasants, but all the scenes with the dwarves just felt like an opportunity to make tests. I really feel like I failed to engage the player with thing that interests him. I need to encourage people to make their beliefs happen and make room for it in the game.

We didn’t get to a lot of the scenes we asked for. I need to be more aggressive about framing scenes to jump to the action and encouraging the players to just go for what they want. Jordan for instance wanted to be without his hammer, have to blacken his armor in a fire and punch someone. I really should have said “Cool, why don’t you make some kind of test (like as soldier-wise) to find reason to be offended with someone. If you succeed everyone understands and agrees with your actions, if you fail, they drag you off him and chastise you. Either way your mailed fist is black.” Next time I’m definitely going to open with “The dwarves are in a panic, if you ever wanted to impress them and get them to make your armor black, here is your chance.”

Three thoughts after listening to the Durham3

None of this is new. Just made me think.

  1. Secrets are more fun when all the players know and can drive towards the reveal. Practical application: When running the gift, and telling the Loremaster that he forgot the gift, I’m not going to take him aside. I’m going to tell him in front of everyone! Second application: In my Burning Warcraft game I’m going to ask the players why the traitors are betraying the alliance in the form of a warm up game (see below).
  2. Low trust comes from fear that another player or the GM will step on your fun if you make yourself vulnerable. I want to encourage the players to trust each other and me. Application: In the Burning Wheel game I’m going to have the players tell me an epic journey of one of their characters. Each player will say one sentence followed by the next player who will say “Yes, and…” and then build on the previous players ideas.
  3. A method of finding out what the players want: Ask them (PTA style) for a scene they want to play out. Where, who and what it’s about. As vague as “I want an introduction to Arthas” or as specific as “I want to seduce Jaina and convince her to lay with me in the moonlight”

Actual Play – Evil Machinations Afoot! (4/6/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

The game started off a little slow. Genn, Jordan, and Colin all in Perinolde’s camp. Somehow, Jordan only saw the good parts of the camp. Peasants weren’t having to work too hard and they didn’t react poorly to him bringing an orc into the camp. The latter really shouldn’t make you feel at ease, but it made Jordan happy. In fact he’s starting to think the Perinolde people aren’t all that bad. Once he finds out that they have lots of peasants because they forcibly conscript them from villages and because they occasionally feed them to the cannibal orcs, this will get a little hairy.

Rather than recap all, here were some highlights.

Brighton – Intent: Bribe Genn into blackmailing Arthas for him with the promise of removing Uther from his presence.
Genn – Intent: Convince Brighton that he’s working for him and that he doesn’t need an escort.
Result – Tested independently against each other’s will. Brighton succeeds and Genn agrees to go in his stead. Genn is so convincing to Brighton that he is his man, that Brighton introduces Genn to the orc Gorund who is his liason to the Horde. Not exactly someone the alliance should be mixing company with. As payment for his summons Gorund devours Brighton’s peasant servant. Scream. Crunch of bones. Yum.

Luke had a sword thrown at him by Arthas. Just a warning shot but a fun sign of Arthas’s madness brewing.

Colin, Brighton and Luke went out for a hunt… but none of them cared about hunting. Colin found out that the stories of Genn were total lies. Great hunter? Pfft. Genn however was able to separate Colin from the group and charge him with his task. Some unlucky scripting and worse die rolls ended in a flawless victory for Genn (not even a minor concession), using his rank to force Colin into sealing the peasants from Spruce Hill away

Jordan saw a caravan and realized: if it is a caravan, it must be in danger. After insulting the Dwarves in the caravan by calling them “little brother” he recouped some of his lost face when Orcs attacked and he charged into to fray heedless of danger to battle them. Some lucky rolls and he got out of the fight with naught but an arrow in his chest and a spear in his leg. Burning Wheel fights are brutal.
Luke returned to his chambers, tired and weary, only to find the cannibal messenger boy waiting in the shadows for him. He barely caught sight of the boy before he leapt upon him, hungering the taste of Luke’s entrails. There was quick bloody versus that ended in a tie, both got what they wanted. The boy took Luke’s finger with his knife and Luke knocked him unconscious.

The next morning Luke took the boy and made an example of him. He claimed that any who defy him, defy Arthas and the Crown! He then had a soldier hold the boy’s hair and with this sword beheaded him. After that he channeled silver flames and incinerated the boy and the cart he was on. Wow, that made an impression. Enough, in fact to make the traitor flee. A shame how hard it is to catch a sorceress. Next up Luke vs. Jaina! Woot.

We ended with the Dwarves entering the camp to put Genn on trial as an Oath-Breaker. Fun for next time.

What rocked

The conflicts with Luke were super charged. I loved them. Everything mattered in large amounts.

Jordan actually got to find a place where there was some peace for him. No asshole soldiers abusing peasants (at least not that he saw), no members of the Silver Hand around to abuse their faith, nobody trying to kill the woman he loves (well, at least not the one he thinks is in danger, Jaina on the other hand!). After several sessions of living on “tilts” he finally found a “platform”. [1]

Genn got something really juicy out of Brighton. He might not use it yet, but having a liason to the orcs is a powerful tool either for blackmailing Brighton or to find out about the other side.

Colin got to uncover one of Genn’s lies. If he keeps digging deeper he could be a real threat.
Fight! without positioning works really fast. I know positioning is important, but I like the speed of Fight! without it.

What could have improved

The pacing. Man, I was trying to figure out ways to round robin quickly so that nobody got to bored so I bounce back and forth between scenes instead of finishing one and then moving. This slowed things down and made the scenes lose momentum. Next time, I’m going back to just running once scene and then the next.

Also, I don’t quite have a juicy hook for Colin yet. I want to make something good out of this “free the peasants” affair. I’ll work on it.

[1] From Play Unsafe by Graham Walmsley

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

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

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

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

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

What rocked

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

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

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

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

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

What could have been improved

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

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

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

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

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

Actual Play – Burning Treachery (4/9/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Wow, Burning Wheel continues to deliver. Last night we picked back up on the story of rooting out the traitors inside Arthas’s camp as well as introducing a new character.

The thing I love about the Burning Wheel game is that all I need to do is create a spark for the characters to run with. Essentially I just create bloody awful opposition and they tear it up. I don’t think this is lazy GMing. I’ve been a lazy GM who just kind of lets the story do whatever. In this case I’m really driving towards a vicious retelling of Arthas’ journey from nobility to insanity and finally to utter corruption. But like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern we’re telling it from the perspective of those around him. Hamlet has gone crazy, that is for sure, but what will those who love him do about it.

Last night I started off with a few belief questions and a bang for everyone in the camp.

Review beliefs:

Jordan: Caged, diseased, and unable to help the one he loves, what are his beliefs now?
Genn: Confronted with a hungry dragon demanding a sacrifice, what will he do?
Luke: Prisoner in hand as he storms to Arthas’ tent, what does he want now?


Outside there is a commotion as the Orcs make a surprise attack, many of Jordan’s guards depart to join Uther in defending the camp. While in the distance he hears others shouting “that bitch had brought her hordes right to us, kill her now”

The result was a few great beliefs coming out of this like “I will have this traitor’s head” and well as a ton of action. We actually had two Fights!, which is a first for me.


Jordan broke free of his captivity and joined with Gavin Perinolde to defend the just, whoever the just end up being. This is a frequent pairing and one I like. Gavin and Jordan are both desperate in their own way. Jordan to be a shining pillar of light, Gavin to restore honor to his family’s name.

Genn negotiated with Dragon Searinox for his heart of fire. A bold request to say the least. He had to go through a lot of crap to do it as well. Losing his personal effects, offering up innocent villagers as sacrifice, pledging to a village that he would avenge the misdeeds of the Perinolde’s, offering up a false deed that will surely ear the Dragon’s ire at some point and soon to be hunting down a young boy. Yeah, he pretty much went through hell but in the end he was granted not only the dragons orb, but a jewel encrusted silver mirror that speaks whispers to him while he holds it, stolen from the dragons’ horde when he devoured the peasants.

Luke brought Gavin Perinolde before Arthas and branded him a traitor, demanding to know why he had the battle plans. In a duel of wits, Luke crushed him, agreeing to spare his life but only after Gavin confessed he had taken the plans from his brother, who had apparently traveled from Alterac and was somewhere at large outside the camp now. As he headed out into the night to join the fight he found a squad of men advancing on the infirmary shouting “That orc bitch has poised us with her lying tongue, cut it out and let us rid ourselves of her threat.” Though he had no compassion for the orc captive, Luke saw that it was Uther’s men protecting her and did not want to give the Lightbringer another reason to hate him. In an attempt to unify the troops he ordered them to the front line but was challenged by a surly sergeant. The sergeant argued that we cannot turn our backs on our enemy and so long as this orc lives the camp is in danger. Though he made a good point, he was disobeying a direct order from a superior officer. We broke into a duel of wits and in a single exchange Luke destroyed him and branded him a mutinous traitor. As evidence of just how bad things are, the sergeant bellowed “I’ll not be marshaled by the likes of you” and charged into Luke, axe drawn. Another Fight! ensued and while the soldier landed a hefty blow into Luke’s helm, it did not penetrate. Invoking the power of white fire, Luke burnt the mutinous bastard to a crisp. Leaving a dying pile of flesh to be tended by the Silver Hand.

What rocked

Again, I continue to be impressed with the ingenuity and creativity of the players. I throw a few things at them and they really roll with it. Burning down buildings to escape, serving up peasants three at a time. The players do a great job of making their own character’s lives interesting.

We tried out Fight! without using the positioning mechanics and it worked really well. In fact, without positioning to worry about Fight! is almost easier to script than Duel of Wits. The reason being that most of the moves are independent of each other vs. DoW where all the moves interlock and you need to see how they work with one another. I love DoW but I’m starting to really like Fight! too. Most importantly I’m not intimidated by it anymore.

The Dragon came off exactly how I wanted him. Incredibly powerful but also lazy, overconfident and totally hedonistic. He was not easily swayed and his demands were huge but he was beatable… and beat him Genn did. It was also fun to script something that normally never work (like Incite) and to play out the interactions between dragon and man. In the end the Dragon got the shaft, which is cool. It’s the classic case of the hero outwitting the monster.

Both Genn and Jordan have shown that they will stop at nothing to get what they want. This is the stuff heroes (and villains) are made of. I can easily see either of these characters being great champions or heinous villains. I’m quite happy about that.

We had some great lines. During a questioning of the traitor:
Gavin: “I give me life for my liege!”
Luke: “And that would be?”

The Artha awards went pretty smoothly, didn’t take much time and were quite rewarding. The characters are definitely moving their abilities into the heroic tier (grey).

During the middle of it all, we made a character! Sergeant of the Fletching’s Shadow! He is the commander of a group of scouts determined to learn the ways of orcs and seek out the elusive mountain rams of Alterac.

What could have been improved

I had a pretty major case of micro managing and missing the intent on one player’s tests. He was looking for a few things and I boiled it down to some rolls that a) were crappy for him and b) were probably unnecessary. I think it’s important to think on a larger scope and realize that making someone test for every piece of a small insignificant puzzle goes against the design ethics of Burning Wheel. The let it ride and the task/intent rules are mechanical reinforcements of those ethics and I wasn’t paying enough attention to them. The end result was a frustrated player.

Time. I know I can’t do much about this but I’m frustrated that the game is always squeezed between the time people can all arrive (which is usually around 9PM) and when we get to tired to continue (around 11 to midnight). I’d really like this to be a game that goes from 7:30 to 11:00, with half an hour at the end to do trait votes, beliefs and wrap up. Unfortunately schedules don’t allow for that and the end result it’s a came that feels a little disjointed at times (filling people in on what they misses) and squeezed for time.

More reasons for the PCs to interact. I really like the story but I’m going to need to think of some more bones to throw at the characters to make them interested in each other. We had one scene were one character was running (naked mind you) past another. They just didn’t have any reason to interact however, so the scene was over as soon as it started. I think in the upcoming scenario I can see Jordan and Luke being at each other’s throats. We’ll see.


So… if you can’t tell, still loving Burning Wheel in general. Next session Jordan should have a Fight! and DoW on his hands almost right of the bat. Genn will hunt down a boy and return to the camp and Luke

Actual Play – Burning Conspiracies (3/25/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Last night we picked up the Burning Wheel game after missing a session (maybe two). We started late and ran late on account of doing a trait vote.

Genn started things off by trying to gain insight into the dragon’s desires, such that he could use his weaknesses against him. Genn failed the circles roll however which invoked the enmity clause between in him and the dwarf Sigrun. This played out in the form of Sigrun giving dwarven nog to Genn and consequently getting him immediately drunk. In his stupor Genn revealed, or at least hinted that the dragon was not dead and that he felt really bad about Faenor being dead, especially as he was probably the cause. Genn got his information but earned the mistrust and (if these drunken allusions prove true) the hatred of the Dwarves. Currently because of the Oath Faenor swore to Genn they will continue to serve him, but if Sigrun finds out the truth Genn will be marked as a oath breaker and enemy of the Steeltoe clan.

Meanwhile Captain Luke took stock of the command quarters and found that his battle plans had been stolen. He inquired to his fellow captain Leon Musgrave but also failed his circles roll. He found Leon drunk with his men and was told that while Leon couldn’t share anything with him, the rosy cheeked runner saw many things during the battle. The runner told him how he saw the supposedly injured Gavin Perinolde flee at great speed from the infirmary tent and return sometime later with a large parcel in his possession.

Jordan’s clock is ticking to save Jamie, and he just keeps hitting walls. Uther, after hearing that Jordan’s body had been infused with the foul magic of orcs and that demon blood now coursed through his veins had to make a decision. Trust the man who has already proven himself an unstable element and a liability to the Silver Hand or locked him up where he could do no more harm. Regrettably he chose the second. Uther tricked Jordan into disarming himself and summoned eight member of the silver hand to detain him. Jordan looked pained and as he summoned the light around him to fend of his detainees he said with a hurt voice “All you had to do was ask.” Uther winced not only at Jordan’s cutting remark but also at the power of the light within him.

Genn, waking up in the mud, managed to drag himself back to his quarters and prepare for his journey to the Dragon. He packed more clothes than food, which will haunt him soon enough and made it to the Dragon’s lair. Miffed at being awoken so early the dragon was instantly irritable and became even more defensive when Genn mentioned the orb of fire. Unhappy and seeking satisfaction, he has sent Genn off to fetch him some food.

Luke confronted Gavin and interrogated him, shaking him from his hospital bed and revealing that beneath his blankets he had the Alliance battle plans, guilty as charged. Without remorse for his wounded state, Luke grabbed the knight by the throat and dragged him back to Arthas.

Confined to Uther’s quarters, Jordan made another plea for aid in curing his taint. He tried to woo the ladies of the Silver Hand and with them the other members but fell just short and earned a wrap on the head for his efforts.

What rocked.

All of the central conflicts right now are really exciting me and I can’t wait to see how they play out. Jordan vs. the corruption. Jordan vs. Uther. Jordan vs. everyone who would hurt Jamie. Oh… and if he remembers, Jordan vs. the traitor. And I’m pretty sure as he agreed to do Genns bidding against his own good judgment, we’ve got Jordan vs. Genn. Luke, however has the traitor on his mind and will continue to peruse Gavin till he finds out everything. We’ve also got a Luke vs. Uther rivalry as Arthas’ number two. Finally with Genn, there is now Genn vs. the Dragon, Genn vs. Uther (man everyone hates Uther), Genn vs. the Dwarves (if it comes to that), and Genn vs. Leon Musgrave. The killer thing is that these are all going on at the same time, many of them interlocking.

The system continues to spur on great scenes. I love the task/intent/consequence/negotiation mechanic. It means fewer rolls, but each of them with MUCH more significance than in most games.

Despite being jacked in several ways it seems the players are having a really good time. I’m always concerned when I jack a player character as I know I have a real personal desire for character masochism that other people don’t necessarily share.

What could have been improved

I really should have had Uther talk to Jordan first rather than just jump him. The thing I didn’t want it to become was a social contested roll or a Duel of Wits. That can certainly come, but I want Jordan to encounter some difficulties than he can’t talk his way out of, not can he conscionably break his way out of. The goal here is to make him make a tough decision: Sit back and let horrible things happen to Jaime or take action and have to work against the Silver Hand, further confirming everyone’s belief that he has allegiance to no one but himself. My goal isn’t to kick him out the Silver Hand but rather to make his affiliation full of tension and mistrust. So, my hopes is that on his next attempt Jordan is able to break free of his custody, but that he has to hurt and/or disappoint the Silver Hand to do it.

The game went WAY too late. We were falling down by the end. I decided that as the game has taken a shift we needed to do a trait vote. It’s an important part of the character progression but it takes so damn long. I think in the future I’m going to do a trait vote the moment a belief is changed and someone gains a persona or deed for it. That way we won’t miss people’s accomplished beliefs nor will it take so long to do in the future.

I screwed up Jordan’s faith advancement (again). It was early on and I calculated his difficulty on a vs. test as the number of dice his opponent was rolling, not the number of successes he got. So I gave Jordan a challenging faith test (8 ob 15) when it should have been a routine one (8 ob 5). buffaloraven , I hope you’re not too bent for me ret-coning that.

Actual Play – Ash Wheel Wednesday (2/25/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Another great Burning Wheel game last night. We started late as two of the three players had obligations that held them up, but nevertheless had a great session.

We opened with Captain Luke in a private meeting with Leon Musgrave, the veteran from the Perinolde army. Leon wanted Jordan to instate him as captain of the Perinolde forces, as the men were clearly useless without their leader. Luke wasn’t really opposed to this, per se, as it gave him more standing with Arthas, but he wanted a spy. They dueled and Leon won with a minor concession. He’s not going put his own neck out to gather information, but he does know the soldiers and will relay the rumors they spread back to Luke.

Genn met with his number two and told him that he would have to lead the Gilnean forces in battle, he needed to go on his own epic quest and recover an artifact of the Dragons. Genn is a damn good liar and managed to convince his number two this was a good chance to prove himself.

Then the battle raged… and an epic one it was. The orcs were fortified with the edrich might of their warlocks, the suffocating darkness of their black magic, the hatred that burns in them fueled by Mannoroth’s blood and the aid of the Wrathguard demon. The alliance had the aid of Luke’s strategic mind, his well trained wizards countering the demonic magic, and the forces of Perinolde as well as Gilneas at his disposal. Luke managed to recover some of the ground he had lost in the previous day’s massacre. If he can manage to rally Uther’s forces, and possibly the Dwarves who have thus far only allied with Genn and not show force in the army, he might turn the tide of battle in his favor.

Strange things are a foot inside the alliance encampment however. The captive was attacked by a wounded soldier, a torrential storm broke out, briefly stalling the battle, and new banners have been seen on the battlefield. The orcs seem to represent not one, but three clans.

Returning from their discussion in Corran’s Dagger, Jordan and Jaina were met by Genn, before he left for his personal journey. The discussed the merits of Uther’s guidance over Arthas and with a whole lot of subterfuge and feigned concern for Jordan’s beliefs he convinced Jordan to drive a wedge between the two commanders. It was a pretty cool Duel of Wits, we saw again that incite is hard to pull off and when it backfires, it backfires big. In fact, I probably just should have had Jaina (who was the audience) leave after that epic failure, but it was fine as is.

Jordon then confronted Uther, told him that Jaime was not what she appeared and asked for his mercy. Initially untrusting of Jordan (for pretty much EVERYTHING that Jordan has done), Uther had to concede that if she was a human she deserved mercy at the very least. Jordan, Uther and Jaina have formed a temporary alliance to help Jaime. They will be directly opposed by Arthas, Leon, and possibly Luke, we’ll see.

Just as they were leaving however, Jordan told Uther than he had been corrupted by a demonic influence! Wow, that rocked the giant in his boots. Also, Luke found that his battle plans had been taken, offering anyone who had them a huge advantage in the next encounter. Dun dun dun…

What rocked

This sounds boring I guess, but all the regular stuff. I loved watching beliefs collide and mash into each other. I really dug that people were diving into their stories with drive and direction.

The fight is feeling very World of Warcraft like. Huge forces clashing, demons being summoned, champions on both sides, large scale magical effects, etc. I think we’re doing the setting justice.

We’ve got some shifting sides, with Arthas being the shiftiest of them all. It makes sense, he’s technically in charge, but he’s also the youngest and most impressionable (read “easiest to manipulate”) and I can’t wait for the players to use him as a weapon against each other…. I just figured it out. I think Arthas is Sylar… Hmm… think on that some more.

What could have been improved

I had some stuff I wanted to see come out and realized I was probably pushing a little too hard for it. There is a traitor in the midst and I think that should ratchet up the tension and paranoia but what I think I wasn’t being considerate of was that the players already had some pretty concrete agendas that they wanted to (and should be) fulfilling. It’s not a big deal, I’ll just keep lacing the story with extra bits that will eventually come out. As Uther said “patience is a virtue.”

Actual Play – Jordan, I Want You to Love Only Me (2/18/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Burning Wheel

Just finished the Burning Wheel game. It started really late because we were waiting for a player that was supposed to show up at 8:30 but didn’t make it till two hours after that. We ended up starting without him but really only had three scenes.

First, Jordan met with his cousin and old lover Jamie, now in the body of a vile orc. She told him that she must escape from their captivity, and that there was a traitor in their midst.

Next Genn tried to get on Arthas good side but the young prince had a temper tantrum and threw the table over on him.

Last Jordan in the rain convinced Jaina of his love for her once again, but got her to agree to help free Jamie from captivity if he would forsake her after this.

What rocked

The conflicts were really charged, the way I want them to be. Genn really needed Arthas on his side, and he got it, but had to pay the price of facing the dragon again. Jordan really wanted Jaina on his side, not just because he need her help but also because he didn’t want her to feel betrayed by him.

Arthas totally through a teenage temper tantrum on Genn and wiped him out with one massive Dismiss. It was nuts, Arthas should have lost handily, but as is he merely had to make a major concession. The scene of him knocking over tables, throwing a fit and then apologizing for it later, blaming his temper on the pressure around him was great.

We got another little scene with Gavin. He’s not an important NPC per se but he’s one that I like and hope will be an ally to Jordan. Basically someone who has been on the field and understands the atrocities of war. He is definitely not Jordan, but they both have something to prove and both want to do so through deeds of glory. I could equally see them being good friends, rivals or bitter enemies. I hope that progresses.

Jaina and Jordan had it out on the hills over Taren Mill. She reluctantly agreed to help Jamie despite her jealousy. I really think the Arthas – Jaina – Jordan – Jamie love quadrangle will be fun to keep playing out. I’ll probably need Arthas to be more of a “player” though as so far he hasn’t done much to win Jaina over.

What could have been improved

The game was short. I wanted to call it early so I could watch Doll House with my better half and still get to bed by midnight (been really tired lately). Add that to the fact that we didn’t start till 9:30 PM and we had a very brief game.

Jordan didn’t even flinch when I told him there was a traitor in his midst. The traitor, which only Jordan knows about should make everything more tense. Someone in Arthas’s army is working for the orcs and I expect this to make everyone know finds out about it paranoid (or if the mole finds out and is able to contain them… dead). I think maybe I was just throwing too much at the player, but I expected that to be the big reveal and as is it fell flat. I think I’ll have to prove the threat next session.

I need to stat out Arthas and Jaina. I was just making up what I thought I remembered them having which meant 4-5 dice on most rolls plus a FoRK or two. I don’t think that was unreasonable, but it will be more fulfilling when I have then stated out and really know what they can bring to the table. I think Jaina is going to be a Duel of Wits machine, but we’ll see.

I am really loving this game, I’m having a blast running it and it seems like the players are really digging into each other their beliefs, which rocks.