Actual Play – Governer Onerus (9/18/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Fattig, Shaun and Kristin
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

This game is really on wheels these days. The characters have gotten themselves in so much trouble, simply by pissing on people that I never have a shortage of confrontations to throw in their faces as they pursue their beliefs. Meaningful confrontations that stemmed from their own actions and that often affect their beliefs in the end. And this, I believe, is where games become really fun for everyone. The players know their actions are meaningful (else they wouldn’t get such strong reactions) and can work towards their goals but the GM has an arsenal of hooks, twists and bangs which are easy to imagine, fun to implement and automatically attractive to the players because they reincorporate elements the players brought into the game earlier.

So I may be gushing here a little, but think that somewhere around the 5th-6th session, Burning Wheel really starts to fly.

So, what kind of madness happened this time.


She spent almost the entire game high on opium. The Ironbound wanted to restrain her without hurting her, so he kept her perpetually doped up. There were many conversations they had that she promptly forgot, but the one that stuck was when Eonwe told her that since she had killed the ruler of Al-Habib she must find a fair leader to take his place. So, she offered up…


… Who was out in the desert looking for his old master Hemmet. Trekking through the sands of the Empire, upon a path he was sure would lead to his master’s remote abode, he, Atreus and Saleem (the merchant who Hemmet had stolen from), all stumbled upon a group of eight armed desert rats, who were looking for Siti had heard that Oneris and she entered the city together. The wanted revenge for being sent after a woman who was actually a demon. They wanted payment for the two that died fighting her. Instead Oneris offered an ultimatum “run now or face the sorcerer that bound the demon”. Sadly, cracnky as he is, this hedge wizard just isn’t that scary, especially not when you’ve got seven of your friends surrounding him with swords… To be on the safe side though, they opted just to take the merchant with them, he would have money. When he fought them off however, the decided the rings on his fingers were worth enough, chopped off his hand and were done with it.

[Here is an example of what I was saying above. The rats came as a result of Siti. Because Onerus has been taking charge of things, I constantly have people come to him when they want something fixed. I really had no idea what the Desert Rats would do with him besides demand money. I mean, dead men don’t pay the rent, so sure they were threatening but they never really intended to kill him, especially because despite a failed intimidation roll, he is a wizard, and that is scary stuff. Somehow we got to Saleem’s hand being cut off and left to bleed to death, which prompted…]

Atreus, the return to Al-Habib.

Atreus wanted to no part of it. He knew the fix for Saleem’s pain was to finish him off but Onerus insisted on carrying him back, so the merchant was flung over his shoulder and gracelessly carried him back to the city wall, were he unceremoniously dumped him at the gates and headed in for something strong to drink.

Atreus knew it was time to fix the debacle he created when he first entered the city and proclaimed the cure for a sick baby was to throw him in the desert. He found himself a place to speak outside a café and started getting himself some attention. In retrospect I probably should have made this a linked test Conspicuous –> Oratory, but hey it worked. Fattig, like the kind gent he is, agreed that the café he was speaking of was the same one they had learned from the desert rats, that Siti was staying in…. Siti who also had the health baby of the Bastucks. She offered him aid, in the form of telling him that if he called out for the baby, she would “heal” it by enchanting the parents so they believed the other child was their own. And it worked… mostly. Atreus earned the favor of the people.

Oneris, took the man to a surgeon, but found him drunk beside the corpse that was his last patient. He did everything he could to sober him up (including getting coffee from the same café and hearing the people applauding Atreus) and get him prepared for the surgery. By this time Saleem was near death however, and his prospects weren’t looking good. To complicate things further the Ironboun Eonwe finally found Atreus and asked him to come with him. There were some great insults that went back and forth, finally the captain agreed to aid in healing the man… but he died just the same. The surgeon, so frightened and determined, didn’t even realize the man’s heart had stopped breathing as he continued to suture the wound. For an Ironbound with 9 grief already, this hailed his end.


Lateef (the ex-gladiator rapist son-of-a-bitch) had gone out to find Eonwe, tell him that Atreus had hired him to kill him and see if the Ironbound would give him some reward for finking on Atreus or hire him to kill his old friend. Instead he found opium and Siti. He wasn’t really in the mood for rape though, he had business to do, so he hung out with Siti for a time in the tent, until she tried to get him inebriated as well by kicking the brazier (he had untied her) over to him. She failed an instead caught the tent on fire. This was a funny scene all around but led to Siti and Lateef having some bonding time, drinking elven spirits, in a papasan chair while they watched the tent burn down.

Atreus arrived… looking to kill Lateef… followed by Eonwe and Onerus. It was a bit of a comedy of errors, but it was also my attempt to actually get all the players together for a single scene (the first of which in maybe two sessions).

The end result was a great three way dispute. Eonwe wanted a good leader to save the unclean from their barbarous ways, he decided that leader was Onerus. Atreus was completely against this, he was the rightful heir and would take the governorship. Onerus had no desire to lead but neither he nor Eonwe though Atreus was the one to do it. And thus two awesome Duels of Wits ensued, with the results of Onerus would lead, but he would take the Ironbound’s sword. Atreus would agree to give him the post, but would be assigned as captain of the guard. Somehow the rapist Lateef, who had thrown his lot in with Oneris (despite really wishing he could get paid 15 shekels to kill him), tagged along and became a lieutenant, the one who ended up being in charge of escorting Siti to her chambers… and he still didn’t try to rape her, because by this time they had become buddies talking about wartime stories.

Eonwe left, without his sword or claim to leadership, of to the west. He imparted this one bit of information. Though Kiel had the power to bind Atreus in iron, it took a rarer Ironbound still to remove them.

Next up…

The order is tired of Siti taking so long. Al-Farqu (aka Greedo) is coming after her. The city is in shambles and Riska still seeks to undermine all the good they have accomplished under the pretense of giving them aid. Plus, Onerus has a lead to the location of his old master, and if he’s to be itinerant wizard… living in a governor’s palace isn’t going to work out so well.

What rocked

We had some awesome conflicts? Will Saleem live? Who will govern Al-Habib? Will Onerus find Hemmet? I continue to be amazed at all the trouble the players are happy to get into in the pursuit of their beliefs. We had a health mix of success, failures and something in the middle, that all spurned on more action still.

I really pull the pressure on Onerus this game, to salvage something reasonable out of all this chaos. Next character to be hit hard will probably be Siti, I guess it all just depends on what they get themselves into. An assassin is coming for sure.

What could have been improved

This is up to Babe to confirm, but I felt a little bad having Siti spend most of the session bound and drugged. I tried to make sure she still had agency in the game, and could still affect outcomes, but I was worried that Kristin would feel locked out of having fun by the whole thing.

Actual Play – He Raped a Line Too Far (8/21/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun, Kristin and Fattig
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

The sane part of the story.

The rebels entered Al-Hajib with the mission to liberate it from the Ironbound and earn the support of a city. Personally, Siti had come to do a job, Atreus was there to usurp his brother and Onerus just wanted to go to Al-Hajib to spite Riska…. So yeah, all noble intentions here.

The entered the city and immediately found that the natives worshiped the Ironbound as gods, to the extent that when Atreus walked in the front gate he was swarmed by locals asking him to cure their sick, bolster their crops and otherwise solve all of their ails.

Siti had a run in with a rooftop gang called the desert rats, who she sold out her own caravan to get information from.

Onerus started it off by telling three farmers they were stupid and ignorant and eventually sowing the seeds that the Ironbound are mortal (which you know, really isn’t true either, but it’s a good line) amongst the disgruntled peasants.

As the session went on Atreus declared that the “healing” for a sickly babe should be to cast it out of the city and let it die in the desert, to preserve the people. His orate roll, however, failed him miserably and the people appealed to a yet higher power (the one of the original Ironbound who roamed the city), who confronted Atreus and told him to return the child.

Fight! started but the Ironbound really didn’t want blood. In fact he so vehemently opposed to any more bloodshed that he captivated Atreus with a song and sent the gladiator fleeing into the city. Atreus set off to find Lateef, who had traveled with them and feeling that he had been robbed by Atreus and Onerus decided to take his fare back by drinking himself into oblivion on their bill.

Tweet report:

Siti, having sold out the caravan (which got robbed that night) prepared to assassinate Ishok (Atreus’ brother and the leader of Al-Hajib) by acquiring a horrible excuse for a maid costume and sneaking into the palace.

Oneris returned to the caravan to find things in a total mess. The caravan had been robbed and an angry café owner was demanding payment for all of the spirits Lateef and drunk on their bill. He told everyone they could go to hell and the proceeded to scrounge about the city to try and put some order back into his caravan.

Well, that’s when things went a little nuts.

The sane bits… Siti killed Ishok, quite handily by the way. But was caught fleeing by the Ironbound who wanted an explanation for her bloodshed.

Tweet report:

  • Snuck into another PC’s half-brother’s house. I’m there to stab him. Wearing this. One shitty maid costume (via @_TheRussian)
  • PC just annihilated the NPC and his guard, now it’s quick out-the-window escape. #GoGoNinja #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • I’m not not an assassin. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • My assassin just got captured by a high-grief elf that wants her to absorb his grief. Awesomesauce. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)

Then came Lateef and Atreus. Long story short, after some haggling Lateef agreed to kill the Ironbound for 15 sheckles and sex with a wizard.

The tweet report does it more justice, or more injustice, or more something.

  • The gladiator, @TheFattig just promised 30 sheckles & gay sex with @ThisModernDeath to an NPC in exchange for a murder. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • So @SeanNittner and @TheFattig have a weird obsession with including “queermos” in rpgs. #burningwheel #DFRPG (via @_TheRussian)
  • @SeanNittner is acting the Gladiator NPC trying to have buttsex with @ThisModernDeath’s wizard. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • Now they’re rolling to see is the gladiator can force the wizard to the ground and…well, force him. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • This just went to #Fight! to see is @ThisModernDeath’s wizard gets raped in the butt by a gladiator. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • Shaun scripted ‘withdraw’ Sean scripted ‘Close’. ‘Close’ just took on a whole new meaning. #burningwheel #thisissogay (via @_TheRussian)
  • Ohhh Shaun’s ‘withdraw’ to get out from under the gladiator just succeeded. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • Sean scripted ‘draw’ but it wasn’t the weapon I thought it’d be. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • Shaun’s winning, trying to put distance between himself and the gladiator. Gladiator is losing him. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • Sean just forked in “Rapewise” to his ‘Lock’ action…seems appropriate for this NPC. #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)
  • One final ‘withdraw’ save’s the wizard’s virgin ass for another day. (via @_TheRussian)

We ended with a narrow escape by Oneris and Siti knocked unconscious by the Ironbound. The ruler of the city is dead, but gaining the favor of the people may be difficult as they nearly all hate the player characters.

Final line: “He raped a line too far.”-@TheFattig #burningwheel (via @_TheRussian)

What rocked

“Can I draw two swords?” “Sure.” “Wait, I’ve got a baby in one hand. Baby trumps sword. Ah hell, I throw the baby at someone, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

I really had a good time giving Onerus the tough job of sorting out all these bills and debtors. He’s said that his character is very similar to House, so I I’ve responded by having a bunch of both ignorant and intelligent people throwing their problems at him, some with ideas (usually bad) of how to solve them.

Shaun said he liked Fight! and I had been a bit reluctant to jump into one (because it has been a long time since we did it) but we had two, and then were both pretty cool. Realized I could have handled the “chase” between Siti and the Ironbound with Range and Cover rules rather than an opposed speed test.

Lateef is a lot of fun for me to play because he’s so callous about certain things (i.e. killing people) but still swears he’s got a broken heart. He’s got layers… like a cake. I’m not sure I was ready for a Fight! that resolved a rape, but it sure did a lot for building the character relationships.

What could have improved

I’m not sure what are good ways to challenge Siti during her assassinations. I think allowing the assassination to happen without much stiff resistance and then having the Ironbound arrive just after the fact was a decent challenge but it was quite contrived. I definitely want her to be able to do her job, just not sure if I’m making it fun enough.

We ran into a rules question that we didn’t know how to resolve. In a versus test, If one side is at +3 OB and the other side is at double OB, and both sides roll 5 successes, who wins? My initial thought was the side that had double OB was facing OB 10 and the side at +3 had OB 8, but then neither would win and this was a versus test, so we were looking for a winner. I could have called it a tie, but decided to go with, the side at +3 OB one because they got closer to their OB (5 out of 8) than the other side (5 out of 10).

I may have played the Ironbound too heavy handed, I’m not sure. Physically he could defeat any of the characters, but his tactic was always one of discussion. Well, I get the feeling the players are all just going to gang up and kill him anyway.

Actual Play – Children in Inventory (7/24/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Kristin, Fattig, and Shaun
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn


Every game should start with a failed circles roll. This one started with Siti (Kristin’s assassin) meeting a contact to drop off payment. Only the contact was dead and another customer was already waiting outside. This one wanted to hire her to kill a noble, specifically Fattig’s brother. And he had payment ready in advance.

Kristin’s twitter feed:

#burningwheel I assassinate people in exchange for children for my order. I’m stuck with this currently.

It got worse.

I have a baby and an 8 year old boy and if I don’t deliver them to my order, I’ll be assassinated myself. #burningwheel

Just had a moment where I thought @TheFattig yelled at @SeanNittner’s wife “You’re an ugly mother fucker!” She’s not part of our game.


Atreus was busy in the bazaar rounding up a magical cure all, a powerful portent to ward off the sway of demons. Sadly, this luminous elixir (which actually had flecks of gold in it) cost a small fortune to procure, and the merchant selling it was a brutal negotiator. Dismayed that his funds could not possibly cover such and expense, he bumped into an old friend amongst the gladiators.

The gladiator was great. He was such a callous jerk, happy to sell anyone out for a shekel. He was a huge brute with an utterly inappropriate nickname that inevitably led to sexual innuendo, which led to sex, which led to his troubles. His woman, the whore, had taken his gifts, his money, his heart, and left him for another man. The double standard that he slept with every whore he could find seemed not to affect his mindset in the least. He wanted to find this woman that broke his heart and kill her.

Somehow, I think perhaps just to prove to this ruffian that the spirits were powerful, Onerus agreed to speak with the spirits and find his lover. A strong wind picked up a bit of paper that was burning as a sacrifice and blew it through the city streets, leading the trio to a café filled with smoke, snake charming music and a beautiful woman dancing on the stage.

As the gladiator pushed forward to claim his prize (and cut off her head) Onerus demanded that Atreus stop him and boom, the duel of wits began. This was particularly cool for me because it became a question of identity for Atretus. Did he side with his old friend, who had killed men at his side and was clearly much more “kin” than Oneris was, or did he ally with his new team? In the end the team won and the woman escaped, but Atreus broke faith with his friends. This should make raising an army of gladiators interesting indeed.

What rocked

The game was pretty intense. We only had a few NPCs (Siti and Haroun showed up at the end to cap off the game) but they all presented some tough challenges for the PCs that banged on their beliefs and instincts pretty hard. I like that.

At the end, we felt good about leaving the Blessed Isle of Osiris for another city, which is the format we wanted to go for (in a rather Dogs in the Vineyard fashion). Next stop… Taking the head off Atreus’s brother. Man, nothing tastes like fratricide in the morning!

Siti’s equipment

Riska kept messing with the 8 year old boy, which is payment. This will continue to heat up as they go to the next city.

What could have improved

My memory of the game maybe. I’m doing this one a month out so I know I’ve got some holes in it.

Pitting Siit against Atreus’s brother may not have been a good move. It means that they’ll be little conflict between the player characters about what to do with the brother. Yep, I’m an instigator; I like it when the PCs are brawling it out with each other.

Actual Play – The City is Saved (6/26/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Kristin, Shaun, and Fattig
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

I was a little off balance this game, but it worked out okay. A few hours before Travis called to let me know that he and Chrissy couldn’t make it. In some ways this was okay, the end of last session their characters were heading out together, so I could isolate them from the action this game. In other ways it threw me because as I received the call I was working on the NPCs beliefs that were specifically targeting Hassad and Rashidi (their characters).

Beliefs / Instincts

Actual Play – Chaos in the Streets (6/5/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis, Chrissy, Fattig, Shaun and Kristin
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Empire of the Golden Dawn

I love the images of a war torn world. People limping along with horrible injuries untreated. Buildings collapsed from the fighting. Fires burning in the street to provide warmth to the now homeless. Weary soldiers just trying to remember how to live, let along fight. A pervasive feeling of impoverishment soaking through the bones of even the wealthy.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a place I’d like to be, but there is something so chilling and human about those images that I keep coming back to them.

So sets the stage for post-riot Blessed Isle of Osiris. The Arachnos are dispensing their own brutal form of justice, posting eight heads at every crossroad, indiscriminate of who those heads belong to. The city guards are trying to keep some modicum of order, even after their authority has been nullified by the invaders. The people, motivated by fear and anger either raid each other’s homes and businesses or lock themselves up in their own, trying to isolate their small sanctum from the chaos outside.

Good times.

Beliefs / Instincts

Actual Play – Empire of the Golden Dawn (5/15/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Chrissy, Travis, Fattig, Shaun and Babe
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: Fantasy Pseudo-Egypt

Back in the saddle! Yes, for those of you who are particularly observant (read: bored with nothing better to do), you might have noticed that the name filling up the GM slot in many of my play reports has not been Sean Nittner in some time. Or if it has, it’s been for single session games. It’s been a while since I ran a campaign game, in fact, it’s been back since the Silver Age Sentinels game, which I was running while grinding to a creative halt.

So, what is this new found thing I’m doing? Probably my favorite game to run: Burning Wheel. We sat down over Chinese and talked about settings we could do with Burning Wheel. Several licensed properties were suggested (Discworld, Song of Ice and Fire, another I’m forgetting) but we couldn’t establish any common readership and/or interest in any of them… so we started talking flavor and quickly settled on Fantasy Egypt-like. Sure, we’ve got Osiris and mummies and what not, but that is decidedly not our limiting factor. We’ve also got a conquering empire of Elves (called Ironbound) from the North who have seized control of the Empire using the power of their military troops, the Arachnos (Using the Great Spider life paths but introduce in the fiction as just emotionless soldiers).

We all agreed that rebels/freedom fights/terrorists are fun to play, so the characters will all be fighting for independence of the EotGD against the evil Ironbound transgressors. Yeah, it’s a bit Star Wars, but so is every great epic.

The characters, as I know them are:

Aytreus the Jackal – A recently freed Gladiator who was told his profession was “barbaric” and being outlawed under the new Ironbound law. While he has them to thank for his freedom, he’s also without a job.

Siti – An assassin trained by an ascetic order founded on the belief that death must be paid for by life. Each assassination is paid for by giving a child to the order. Siti now seeks the parents that gave her away as a child.

Rishidi – Master of the Dead. A temple priest in the Cult of Amet. Brother to the High Priest and lover of his wife. Osiris has tasked Rishidi to purge the corruption from his Temple, starting with his brother. Nothing tastes better than a little Fratricide in the morning.

Hassad – Captain of the Capital City Guard (Blessed Isle of Osiris). Hassad seeks order in a time of chaos. He was given the job of ensuring safety for the Ironbound as they addressed the dessert people and told them who their new leaders were.

Oneris the Spirit Binder – A traveler who has returned to find his home sold off to the Ironbound. He seeks to free his people from their rule but at the same time learn of their magic.

The game kicker:

During the new prince’s speech to the people, a riot was started and the guards were overwhelmed by peasants. One woman broke through their lines and buried a dagger in the chest of the prince. All assembled have gone mad. The Arachnos will take a price in blood for their masters murder, the princes brother seeks to fill his shoes, and the peasant woman hopes to escape with her life. Our heroes are right in the middle of this… in the moment of calm before a horrible storm.

My NPCs:

Bainwen – The Prince’s younger brother, ambitious and hungry for power.
Sipho – The captain of the prince’s personal guard, an Arachnos with disturbingly human passions.
Riska – The peasant woman who started the riots and killed prince Kiel. She seeks to cause such chaos that the Ironbound cannot possibly rule. Oh… and she’s a sorcerer to boot.