Actual Play – The Sword (9/1/2012 2PM)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun Hayworth and three peeps leaning the wheel.
System: Burning Wheel

It’s really my bad for not recording the names of the players. I hate referring to people as “the peeps” but I met so many people at PAX the names all mush together. I think this game we had Robert and Chris, but I can’t say for sure.

Our second game of The Sword, we again had two players, and again one of us (in this case Shaun) played the 3rd and eventually a fourth hopped in to round out the game. Shaun played Fidhean (the Elf). The player who grabbed Brechtanz did so with zeal, so I was excited to see what he would do with him. Predictably he went right for the blade and forced everyone to really get in his face to slow him down at all.

Failed rolls – Awesome results

Some fun things came about from failed rolls. They went a little like this.

  • Sssisz figures there are probably traps around the sword. He makes a below-wise test to declare Roden trap their lairs and that when the sword is pulled from it’s resting place the floor will collapse below the front of the alter. The failed roll indicated that the actually entered the room from the back side, the front having collapsed long ago, and he was turned around. End result. Trap springs and Ssisz falls into a natural crevice below. He also took a B3 wound so we got to introduce the wound mechanics.
  • Brechtanz failed a climbing roll to climb down and help Ssisz out. The result was him getting down there but his armor getting stuck in the natural rock formation below and being unable to get himself out without taking it all off. Also, he heard further up the fissure, water starting to run.

These two really gave the game a spin. Up to this point the Dwarf had brazenly claimed ownership of the sword and wasn’t going to listen to anyone. This particular situation make it possible for the Elf to insist that they talk about it. Essentially not offering Brechtanz until they could talk it out. A duel of wits, where one person has the sword (Fidhean was “holding” it for him) and the other person is stuck in a filling with water natural crevice is a beautiful thing to behold.

  • Later, when leaving the chamber Brechtanz declares the sword glows and fails a “stuff-wise” roll. I declare, in very Tolkien-derivative fashion, that the sword glows… in the presence of orcs!

As soon as I said that I wondered if it was a good idea to present an external threat to the party. The trap was arguably a threat, but one that made them turn inward to bicker with each other. This was a threat that was easy to unify against… Well it turned out awesome, because Robard and Ssisz wanted no part of a fight, but when Fidhean and Brechtanz broke past the first orc scout, it was Fidhean that had to stop them to wait for the rest of the part, endangering all of them.

We left off with the party together, hearing the growing thrum of war drums in the tunnels.

Thoughts on this game

In all future con games EVER, get the player names at the start of the game and WRITE THEM DOWN. If allowed, take a pic as well.

External threats have to be measured carefully in a really tight scenario. They have the potential to deflate (or at least pause) the internal conflicts and unite the characters to face them. Usually I try to make external threats a pressure cooker, where they magnify the characters fears about each other (like the trap) but I got really worried about bringing orcs into the game. It worked out fine, but I’m glad they didn’t show up till nearly the end.

Ssisz seems to want too much. I find it really hard to imagine him ever fulfilling his beliefs of both getting paid and getting the sword. Further, I’m not sure (except by saying the sword “is” the payment) that I see a way he can even start to argue for it. And he certainly can’t fight for it. He’s got the “you can’t trust him because he’s a thief” stigma going against him, which kind of sucks, because he’s really just doing a job and the party not wanting to pay him (they never do) are really the ones being cheep ass bastards.

Bloody versus was a perfectly elegant solution in this game. I found that by explaining that combat and injury were implicit to the roll, and for the player to tell me what they wanted as a result of the fight (to get free, etc) that the mechanics depicted the narrative beautifully. They didn’t kill the orc scout, but they gave him a gnarly wound left him staggering long enough for them to run past.

Actual Play – The Sword (9/1/2012 10AM)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner and three peeps leaning the wheel.
System: Burning Wheel

Shaun and I were running demos of Burning Wheel HQ in the Games on Demand room for the Burning Wheel booth. The hope was to do a variety of game, but we had some misfires and only ended up running three games (Shaun 2, me 1).

Shaun ran the first game, which started with only two players. I hopped in bumping it to three. Later we had a 4th add to complete the roster.

The sword is a fun scenario, it’s a single scene where each character is presented with conflicting beliefs. They each want the sword for themselves but none of them want to fight for it. The Elf and the Dwarf because of personal moral codes, The Roden because he still hasn’t been paid, and the Human because he sucks in a fight.

What I love about the game is that it forces players to make a decision about which belief to adhere to. The one demanding they take the sword, or the one honoring (or fearing) the other PCs.

Who gets the sword?

I played Brechtanz, which probably wasn’t a good pick. As an experienced burner and player who is comfortable getting aggressive at the table Brechtanz was a bit too easy. I should have gone for Robard (the human) or Ssisz (the Roden). End result, I ended up with the sword, despite refusing to take it until others accepted my claim to it.

We also had one hiccup on the game, which was Robard convincing all of us that the sword was a fake. I didn’t really know where to go with that. We planned to explore the ruins more, looking for the real one, but none of us were about to leave the sword behind. Even as a “fake” it looks amazing. Shaun was gracious and gave me a Steel test (for Greed) when the blade was finally drawn from the scabbard, failing that I claimed the “It must be mine result” and sought it anyway. That sort of worked, but it didn’t honor the Let it Ride rules in spirit. I had effectively negated the lie by saying “well, this might not be the sword of my ancestors, but it’s a beautiful blade and I’m not giving it up anyway!” So, not great on my part.

Teaching the System

One thing I really enjoyed about playing in Shaun’s game (and later having him playing in mine) was that we work together pretty well to teach the rules. Thought we didn’t hit a Fight! we did have a Duel of Wits (over the Roden getting paid) and it was fun to see new players interact with the DoW mechanics. I thought they got a hold of it just fine and were really good at acting out the moves without letting the mechanics eclipse role-playing. Anecdotal evidence shows that if people don’t think Burning Wheel is “too hard” or that they should “fix it”, it plays out just fine.

Thoughts on the game

The woman playing the dancing, prancing elf was a stereotype but very fun. She abhorred the idea of conflict of violence but was positively delightful with her singing. Oh, and she revealed her grubby, greedy ways when it came time to barter with Ssisz. It was great!

Games on Demand had a lot of misfires. People who were told to come back in two hours when GMs were just minutes away. Or players that said they would come back, but never did, or came back after a game was full. Coordination could use a two things to help this.

  1. A white board to record GMs names, games they would offer, time slots coming up and players who want to play in those games.
  2. Central communication via text, tweet or email. Some way for the organizers a) know the GMs they had on staff and b) let them know when them when players arrived.