Actual Play – Epic Win (3/28/2012)

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

I don’t use a title like “Epic Win” lightly. I’m not Jane McGonigal, pronouncing every gaming experience as this awesome confidence building, real world preparing exercise. I think most gaming is gaming. Fun, but not enough to put a cramp in my stomach because I’m so worried, or to make me shout with joy after a great victory. Last night, however, was exactly that.

Two parts

The heroes were divided the entire game. Moya and Baldric in Duke Barec Catamere’s court and Afon sneaking around his keep.

I’m going to address Afon’s erm, “deeds” first. He was locked inside a room with Wallace, the Usurper’s man who we took as prisoner and let us to Catamere’s castle. Wallace had tried to bludgeon him when Moya and Baldric left (better odds) but ended up impaled on Afon’s blade.

Trying to turn this to his advantage, Afon gave himself a wound to make it seem like the fight had been more serious and then made a pentagram on the floor with Wallace’s blood. “Guards. Come quickly, I have found a sorcerer trying to cast a blood ritual to kill the Duke!” Yay for Falsehood! Convinced that Wallace was a sorcerer, they hauled him off to be burnt at the stake and conveniently left Afon free to sneak about the grounds.

Hiding in shadows, and using the clamor in the court (see Moya and Baldric below) to draw attention away from him, Afon searched the grounds until he found Aeric’s chambers, and although they were much nicer than he expected (the noble ward was well treated by the Catameres) they didn’t contain Aeric.

Missing his noble person, Afon did the next best thing, he ransacked Aeric’s chambers for anything of value. Woot! He found love letters written to Aeric from “L”. Some lady presumably, but we don’t know yet. All we know is that Afon failed his roll to find them, so when Aeric learns he possesses them instead of being grateful, he’ll be infuriated that Afon invaded his privacy and stole from him.

The Court of Duke Catamere

Last we left off Baldric had just offered Catamere a chance to join the winning side. After the laughter and mockery died down, Moya could see that Baldric was prepared to tell the Duke about the boy king and possibly even the Crown of Kings! If that won him over, that would be fantastic, but if not, it would mean putting that very fragile advantage in the hands of the enemy!

Wisely Moya interjected, she was in command of the mission after all, and said that she should address the Duke. We had a nice verses test to settle that. I’m such a bastard some times. I totally goaded Kristin in to taking over the conversation and then when she tried, I contested it, forcing her to make a beginners luck “Command” roll vs. my Noble-wise about who should address the Duke. Baldric decreed that because of his noble lineage and experience in the court, he should stay beside her, as her adviser (and won). Certainly not the most aggressive stakes I could have gone for, but as a player I actually wanted Moya to be leading this discussion (and what I knew would quickly become a Duel of Wits).

First, lets drink

As her first action, Moya called for wine, which was just so beautifully ironic.

First, the duke chided us for waiting until now to accept his hospitality. (based on the noble wise roll made the previous session that meant we weren’t guests until accepting food). Luckily, face was saved by a successful OB3 Etiquette roll (yay for having maxed that out at character creation) when we decreed that it would not be fitting for us to accept hospitality from anyone but the duke himself. Score for knowing protocol.

Second, after weeks of depriving Baldric of spirits, Moya just gave him free reign to them. He he was halfway into his second glass of wine before realizing that drinking until he reached oblivion would be a very bad idea.

We want Aeric back

After the formalities were complete, Moya jumped right in. We want Moya back. The norther lords were laid waste to after the war and to rebuild they need aid from Kentigern’s men.  Baldric followed with an additional incentive that he had accounts of the Duke’s nephew Captain Catamere (aka the guy Baldric killed and had been impersonating for a year) and his search for the crown that could be useful to the Catamere family and the king (yep, aiding with Falsehood!).

The Dukes body of argument was simple. Sure, you can have the hostage back if Duke Rothgarn (Baldric and Aeric’s father and all the heroes patron) swear allegiance to him and turns over his lands to the Catamere family.

Damn, those were some serous stakes. Serious enough that before the duel started Moya opted to Aristeia (spend 1 deed, 3 persona and 5 fate to turn one skill grey for a scene/intent) her Persuasion skill and turn it into a G5 before even rolling her Body of Argument.  (First Deed Spent)

The Duel of Wits

Kristin, Shaun and I are all pretty familiar with each others patterns. Shaun likes to play conservatively. He scripts Obfuscate and Rebuttals often and likes to go for an Incite followed by Dismiss if he thinks the temper of the character calls for it. Kristin is more direct, favoring moves that will reliably reduce her opponents BoA, she favors Point and Rebuttal. I like to try wacky things, hoping my timing will be right. Knowing they both like rebuttal, I like to chance throwing in feints, as well as avoids to trip up the incite and obfuscates. Usually that feint just gets me murdered but I try it just the same.

Having all three of us involved in a DoW meant a lot of guessing, and second guessing (at least on Kristin and my part). We ended of scripting Avoid, Rebuttal, Point vs Shaun’s Obfuscate, Rebuttal, Incite. The first two volleys nothing happened, but in the third Moya (and her giant fucking G Persuasion plus persona) got a whole bucket of successes and took out the duke in a single swing. Perfect victory.


Man, I have to say I felt bad about this. I didn’t want the results to be so quick and decisive in our favor. I was all ready to offer up Baldric as a hostage as a concession, if we needed to make one. But as is we had a perfect victory.

So I did the back seat GM thing I do. “Hey Shaun, you know he can always just draw on us and not accept the DoW as valid.” I mean it’s an option in the book. I should have shut my mouth. Not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because Shaun was planning it anyway and I may have stole his thunder. Still it earned me these tweets from Kristin:

The duke called Aeric forth (who had been in the court all along, we just didn’t notice him because he wasn’t making a display of himself and the years it had been since we had seen him). He said “My dear Aeric, it seems our time together is at an end. You are free to return to your family… The same cannot be said however for you two. Guards!”

Instinct: When surprised I cast The Fear

Hah, Moya has been toting that belief around since character creation. It’s come up once or twice before, but it really went off here.

Results. Everyone hesitated except Moya (who cast it) and the guards (who came charging forth, swords drawn). Wow, this was going to be ugly. Four armed guards against Moya (who was trying to cast Choking Hand on the duke) and Baldric (in his armor, but unarmed). Oh dear!


What ensued was one of the hardest fights I’ve ever seen played out. Who knew a dragon would go down easy, but four run of the mill guards with the upper hand (weapons drawn, hell just having weapons at all) and things were grim for us.

Highlights include Moya getting really, really, really stabbed up (two superficial wound and one midi wound that nearly took her out of the fight) and persisting through to get off her spells anyway. Second Deeds spent making the steel test to endure that midi wound.

Baldric doing not one, but two disarms in the fight (the first with his bare hands). The ob on the fist one was only 4. The second, after he had picked up his sword, but was at “hands” range was 6. In retrospect there are moves I could have done to take the advantage back but instead, I dropped my deeds int Sword to double the B7, to a B14, and that happened to be the only think necessary to “Epiphany” and change my sword skill to G7 permanently. Wow! So I rolled by (now) G14 and handily took away the last man’s blade. A few strikes (and shards) later and the fight was over.

“You’ve lost, surrender my brother now or die.”

The Duke Catamere has lost the Duel of Wits, his guards had lost the fight (although only barely, Moya was hanging on by a thread) and the final roll of the night came down to one giant intimidation check. Either he would surrender willingly, or Baldric was going to take of his head “just like I did your cousin!”

Failing would have been cool. His pride would have gotten the better of him and forcing Baldric’s hand, the knight was ready to kill a duke and make ALL KINDS of enemies in the process, but the dice were in our favor tonight. Shaun offered a generous +2D Advantage for us winning both the DoW and the Fight!, I forked in my Sword for +2D more and Moya helped with Falsehood (“you’ve only seen a portion of what my magic can do” when really she was about to pass out). Success!

House Catamere surrenders to House Auley!

Read that? We went to rescue Aeirc, my characters’ younger brother, and we’re going to come back with him AND the dutchey that had him captive. SO DAMN AWESOME!

Thoughts on the game

This Fight! had the most interesting use of positioning I’ve ever seen. We are all using different length weapons and and several moves (one charge and two disarms) kept changing who had the advantage (not to mention positioning between exchanges).

Holy Metal Rocks Batman. I had a character have an “Epiphany”. I’ve never seen that in any Burning Wheel game I’ve played. Ever. EVAR. It helps that I’ve used Aristeia  twice (once fighting the Ophidians and once fighting the Dragon Feraxus), and use Fate and Persona on Sword whenever I can, but still. Epiphany. Crazy.

I’ve never had a session feel like such a triumphant win. Considering all the struggles our characters have had, all the times they have had mud on their face but had to carry on anyway, finally they had a moment to be both Awesome (TM) and Right (TM)! It doesn’t happen often (nor should it) but damn it feels good when it does.

Here’s the note I sent to everyone after the game:

I want a trait vote after this game. I know we had one very recently but I can think of several that are very important.

  • Baldric is losing Maudlin. I’m striking it down. Perhaps he can take addict/alcoholic in it’s place and we can see he struggling to stay sober, but Maudlin is going.
  • Moya needs Sworn Homage (if we haven’t given it to her already) to represent her knighthood and fealty to Roderick.
  • I want a reputation for us out of this. Personally for Baldric, the court just saw him Epiphany. I’d personally like 1D Bested two swords unarmed. Kristin you have an idea for Moya? I think she deserves one as well.
  • It may be exceptionally close to our last one, and I don’t mean to be Artha mongering, but I think we went so damn far above and beyond, not just for Aeric, but for the Auley family. I’d like to propose a deed. If not (since we just got one) that is totally cool, but I feel like this game was so far above and beyond, it is worthy of one.
  • Moya getting a fucking never stand down, never give up trait. I dunno what it is yet, but thinking of something like that. Maybe a call on for steel? The ones I found were “Resigned to Death” and “Show no fear”. Both are conditional (only work in certain cases) but I think either could work just fine. Anyway, she deserves it!

Actual Play – A Belligerant Drunkest (3/23/2012)

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

This rounds out the third and last “my character is an asshole drunk” game. It was, for unknown reasons though, a night we were all of our game. I was tired, Kristin was tired, hell, we were all tired.

The result of that was me pressing for very simple solutions hoping someone else would figure out what to do when the got complicated. Anyways…

A drunken appology

The game started with Baldric and Moya trying to explain to Lord Galen why Moya wouldn’t be coming with him as he departed Stormwarden. Oy, that was fun. Baldric, still drunk declared that he needed Moya and the decision for her to leave his service was made without him present. Lord Galen pointed out that was being he was busy pissing himself and beating his servants, an accusation Baldric (still drunk) did not deny.

Curiously though, Baldric won Galen’s blessing through tricks he picked up from Moya. The knight who started off as “Idealistic” had lied so many times he now had Falsehood open at B2. He lied a bout a letter being sent to Moya’s mentor Houdin and that the old man would be summoned and serve in her place. It was a bold lie, especially considering that Baldric can’t write (the folded parchment was blank) and that Houdin is a whole continent away, but miraculously it worked, and Galen was mollified.

Belief:  I need Lady Moya’s respect not her pity. I’ll earn it by taking responsibility for breaking her pledge to Lord Galen, as a knight should!

That didn’t quite work thought. Galen was off our back but Moya was not pleased. Yes sir, may I have another fate, I only have 29 now.


Moya made an observation roll to root out all the alcohol Baldric had been stashing with their envoy and forced everyone to make a “dry” expedition. During the trip she didn’t allow anyone to go into town or civilization either, they had been camping all the way, all in an effort to keep Baldric sober. It worked, instead of being drunk, he was just mad when they arrived at the border. I was playing off these two:

Belief:  Life is hard. It’s harder without a stiff drink. I’ll ensure our envoy is well equipped with spirits.

Instinct: Always keep a stiff drink in hand.

End result was one cranky, but sober Baldric. Which I was pretty please with (thank you Kristin).

Fatigue sets in

From there I think we all lost some imagination and creativity as we got more tired. Example, I wanted to sneak past the border patrols and into the keep. I made a stealth roll and we were there. Shaun had some ideas for encounters along the way but we just avoided that all together by playing off let it ride. I thought that was probably a lot less challenging that it should have been.

When we arrived, I had fun with a noble-wise roll stating that once you accept food from a host, you are considered a guest and both parties are bound by rules of hospitality (stolen without shame from Martin/Song of Ice an Fire). By not eating we essentially granted ourselves license to act as enemies within the Duke’s keep…. only we didn’t. Instead believing diplomacy would be a better option.

In the morning we were admitted to Duke Barec Catamere’s court (yep, the uncle of the knight Baldric killed and impersonated for so long) and when asked what a bunch of cowards and traitors were doing in his court we answered “Giving you a chance to join the winning side”.

Thoughts on the game

The claim seemed utterly ridiculous at the time, but it was oddly prophetic. Fun.

Being tired sucks. We all felt the like the game fell flat.

I’ve been methodically changing out Baldrics Beliefs and Instincts to be less and less focused on being drunk all the time, as well as less petty. Despite the session not being our finest, I’m really happy that everyone has been down with me pulling him out of his rut.

Actual Play – A Belligerant Drunker (3/20/2012)

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

Again, with the belligerence. This game was a continuation of the last one. We didn’t really feel like the last one was over so we held off on Artha awards at the end and played this as the continuation of the last. However, in this one, after being put in the dungeons for a night to sober up, Balric finally did something good (or good-ish) and I already started feeling much better about him. But I get a head of myself…

The opening scene was in Duke Rothgarn’s court where everyone was supposed to attend. Moya was there, even Afon was there. Baldric was getting drunk in the dungeons while trying to worm information about his brother Aeric from their captive.  Court was notably annoyed that Baldric didn’t attend but ventured to proceed anyway.

The stakes -> The nobles would work together, fight off the usurper king, but the powerful Lord Galen wanted Moya in his service. He needed a wizard to aid his troops.  And without much fight Moya gave it up. To secure the alliance between Duke Rothgarn and Lord Galen, she would leave the duke’s service. Wow, big sacrifice.

Just as that deal was sealed, Baldric came stumbling in, completely inebriated and smelling of piss and ale. The original plan had been to try and marry Baldric off, but he successful thwarted that plan but being so undesirable, nobody would have him. He also managed to halt the meeting by vomiting on a guard and offending the noble host.

This ended him up back in the dungeons and this time, behind the bars. Yet, there was a point to all this drunken belligerence!

Baldric could not, or would not, allow his father to go to war with the usurper while they still held his brother (and the Duke’s youngest son) hostage. Baldric loves his brother like nothing else, and would do everything in his power to keep him alive… Thus came a very important Duel of Wits to make his father agree to send Baldric and Moya (who had just been promised to Lord Galen) south to the lands where Aeric (the young brother) was kept hostage and free him.

Despite Moya working against him, Baldric won, but only by the smallest margin (Body of Argument down to 1) so he conceded that Moya, the level headed one, would lead this expedition.

Later, he protested that a servant could not take charge of a knight, and just when Rothgarn though he was trying to rebuke the decree that Moya would lead them, he suggested that his father use that sword it his side to knight er already. Moya from ex-family servant to knight in one blow. I felt very, very good about this:

Thoughts on the game

I had a plan to use his drunkenness as a ruse, something to put off the nobles and by the heroes time to save Aeric. Would it be reasonable that Baldric would have actually thought of that plan? Probably not, but it made something redeeming about him and I needed that. Winning drunken master style!

Should a single night in the dungeon with a wretched headache have sobered Baldric so much? Again, probably no, but I played out his headaches, his aversion to light and noise, and took obstacle penalties for all of that, so I felt good winning that Duel of Wits. Besides, even if Baldric was drunk, the emotional drive to save his brother was still loud and clear.

Actual Play – A Belligerant Drunk (3/13/2012)

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

This isn’t a game I want to dwell on too much. My character became a maudlin ass hat over the course of the last two chronicles (dividing chronicles by trait votes) and now, even though they returned victorious, he was drunk and bitter.

What he managed to accomplish in this game (which dominated a lot of the game mind you):

  • Disappointing and infuriating his father.
  • Unlawfully detaining Moya and trying to whip her, but instead taking the beating out on Afon.
  • Disgracing the Auley name in front of the visiting nobles.
  • Generally making a giant ass of himself.

Thoughts on this game

I talked to the group about this one. I am fundamentally apposed to the “that’s what my character would do” defense used to explain horrible behavior. I don’t think it is okay, ever, to be an asshole at the table and blame it on a fictional construct call your “character”. I’ve talked about this on Narrative Control, and I really believe there is no excuse for asshattery at the table.

That said I had a conundrum. How to honor the fiction and make some sense out of the story? How my make Baldric still be a believable character and not suddenly “all better” after all those betrayals? So I asked everyone “is it cool if my character is a complete ass for a bit, and gets punished for it accordingly, on his way to redemption?” The players were for it so I tried it.

I also asked the internet “My knight lost “Idealistic” and gained “Maudlin” and “Hypocrite”. Any advice on playing emo porn without being lame?” Kindly, they replied:

Playing was satisfying in that “oh, look how horrible I can be” way, but man, it isn’t for me. I was very glad that at the end of the session, impending trouble was coming Baldric’s way.