Prep for Burning vikings, plus spoilers

28 January, 2008 at 11:03 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel, game mastering)

Once upon a time, Phil asked how much people prepare for their games. Here it comes (again).

If you happen to play in the game in question, read at your own responsibility and only if you think it won’t spoil your fun and with the knowledge that if the players don’t officially know it, it is up to change.

I mean that. Don’t read unless you are certain it won’t spoil your fun.

Rules aka crunch

Starting out with the short part. I have statted Nifur the giant once, just to get a feel for what the might be like. I don’t use those stats anymore. Statting out Nifur took some time, mostly because I am not used to monster burning, which stands for bad guy creation, for which there are rules in Monster Burner.

I also have written down the beliefs and instincts of all NPC relationships. This counts as rules-prep, but is a fine reminder of how intertwined rules and everything else really are, when constructed properly. Writing these took around an hour in train from Tampere to Jyväskylä, but it is done now, and they only need refinement in the future.

I might write down full stats for Leif, because there is a significant chance he will be engaged in martial or social systems. Maybe even this Tuesday, if I actually have time. The last lecture ends at six, so not much hope for that.

Story-wise, which means the spoilers

An acute reader might have noticed I don’t particularly enjoy pre-plotting stories or building intricate mysteries. I am assuming you have read my previous post, otherwise this will probably not make much sense.

All of the dispositions and relationships here are part of the relationship map I built. I’d be happy to make it public, but there are a few complications. Namely, I don’t have a scanner here, the map is written mostly in Finnish and it is written in my handwriting, which is not exactly clear. It takes the better part of an A4 sheet. Sketching it took maybe an hour in total.


Originally the giant was supposed to be after his brother Thorvald, but since seeing (as opposed to reading, and entire different, but no less evocative, experience) Beowulf and wgaztari having seen Beowulf, I decided to go another route. Thorvald had killed Nifur’s father sometimes in the past (it is known that Thorvald has adventured in the north and killed a giant or few) and eaten his heart to get his power. Now Nifur can’t do the deed, and decided to eat Thorvald’s heart instead. As a bonus, he gets to fill an oath to slay his father’s killer, which he evidently has sworn. Or maybe he is just bullshitting.

Nifur, in addition to being three times as tall as a man, strong enough to slaughter anyone with a good hit of fist, tree of rock, has nice powers. Inspired by Daniel’s post on game weather, I decided for weather to change according to Nifur’s mood. This gives a few perks:

  1. I remember to describe the weather.
  2. Nifur can’t sneak up on anyone, which someone is bound to use against him.
  3. Angry Nifur is hard to shoot due to raging winds, which prevents slaughter by hitting him with 9 good hits, which would be between 27 and 18 shots that hit, depending on the skill of the archers.
  4. Smart players will catch on the thing. If one likes solving mysteries or puzzles, this might make him happy. Thalin may be such a person. wgaztari appreciates movies like 6th sense and the Prestige, so he might, too. No idea about ksym.

Nifur is also quite impervious to physical violence. Nifur’s function, design-wise, is to put pressure on the entire situation. Nobody has time to not act with the giant eating all food, leaving none for winter.

Grímr and Gilla

The husband and daughter if Brunhildr, respectively. The ones who have not yet been seen. To be honest, I originally did not include them because I had no idea how to play them. Bad me. No cookie. Now I have, which means they might be encountered.

As currently stands, Leif has effectively separated them into some cellar, which is cold and pretty heavy, hence perfect for storing Thorvald without excessive rotting or munch-fests by random giants. Leif personally bring food to them, accompanied by few loyal guardsmen. Circles roll to find this out is at least obstacle 2 (3 if during particular session, 5 if immediately). Other skills may be useful. Finding one of the guards whose duty is to guard the entrance during Leif’s visits is +1 to previous for Brunhildr, +2 for the others due to differences in social status. Pretty brutal difficulties. Failure might be a warning to not meddle in the event, and someone watching after you (but still getting to know the proceeding; dice bring complications, not roadblocks) or something else. Sneaking to see where Leif goes is okay, but he will have some observation skill, which makes it risky. Complications obvious. Negotiating would likely take a Duel of Wits, which wouldn’t be easy, either, given no PC has true dueling skills.

However Brunhildr gets in contact with her family, they’ll be happy to meet her again. Leif has been bringing gifts to Gilla, which none of the family members are likely to approve. This puts more pressure on the PCs to actually do something about Leif. I want to know what they will do. Grímr is content in keeping the cellar fresh and rats away with relevant herbs. He does want Gilla out of there, though. The cold is not good for her and she is getting delusional, which actually means that she can see dead people see the auras of people, including that of Thorvald, who is still sticking around. Undead Thorvald is a possibility if the game gets slow and I can’t figure out anything more appropriate.

About Gilla; if she gets in contact with Mori and I am bored, there is the possibility that she falls madly in love with him. Take that, ambivalent and uncaring poisoner dedicated to Loki. The seeds of a fine tragedy, especially given the distrust Brunhildr has towards Mori.

Nässla, of whom more next, also wants Gilla as an apprentice to replace Mori, who is a lost case, in Nässla’s opinion.


Nässla, also known as Nokkonen, Nettle in English. Male (I should confirm, but won’t due to laziness; I’ll check before the game.) witch, Mori’s mentor, knows his poisons and a few other tricks. Nässla was defined as hateful/rival relationship, which translates to him not appreciating Mori’s adventures on high seas, into which he was forced. Doesn’t matter. Nässla thinks of him as a failure, but intends to make maximum use out of him before the eventual discarding. Fetching Gilla, who has shown promise, would be such a task.

Halvard’s and Leif’s mother (who needs a name) was cursed (probably poisoned) by Nässla due to the village not showing him the respect that is his right. They dared to use another witch, the pathetic [Grímr/Grímr’s dead mother], to cure Thorvald. Of course the mere meddler failed for reasons totally unrelated to whatever Nässla definitely did not do to him. Not a chance of that having happened. Not the slightest. Anyway, Nässla made the woman pay for her disrespect. Framing Mori for the deed would be far too great an opportunity to pass, though it is made a bit more difficult by the fact that Mori was not present when the lady entered her stupor. Maybe Nässla will come up with something clever.

The plot

You just read most of what I have planned that might happen. Note the lack of specific plotline. If players fail or succeed at some stuff, they will get some consequences. I feel the situation surrounding Gilla and Grímr may be even too tight. Game will show.

BBEG, mandatory random encounters

Nifur may be taken as a BBEG, as may Leif and Nässla. Mori has potential to become one, as does Halvard, and even Brunhildr, to lesser extent. Heroic sword skill and the belief that one is better at using it than any man may end up in blood.

I might throw some happiless animals as random encounters due to failed foraging, tracking, etc. rolls. Probably not, but I do have stats in the Monster Burner, if using them becomes an absolute necessity. I don’t foresee that many battles in this game, but maybe the players will surprise me.

That ended up being a rant. I am getting tired. Good night. Good something else for those who live elsewhere.


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Burning vikings: First session

28 January, 2008 at 4:58 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel)

First session report. Yay. It gathered a bit of length.

Originally I intended for the people to have forgotten the returning party, but decided against it, because everyone has a relationship or two in the village, and everyone having forgotten the PCs and others would feel awfully contrived.

Overall, I am satisfied with the fiction and very rusty with applying the rules. The problem is not knowing the rules, but rather being in the right mindset to apply them. BW works best when the rules are used a lot and becomes dead weight if they are avoided.

What follows is is a scene-by-scene overview of the game events. Scenes are not actually mechanically intertwined in BW, but they are an easy way of recalling the session.

Scene 1

Brunhildr (ksym’s char) and Halvard (wgaztari’s char) have some potentially interesting beliefs: Brunhildr wants to have her daughter Gilla to marry someone worthy (Halvard Thorvaldsson qualifies) while Halvard doesn’t want a dishonourable wife, and Gilla Brunhildrsdottir is the daughter of a woman who has gone raiding, which is forbidden, and of a man who can’t take care of himself, which is dishonourable, and whose parent was a witch, which does not help the situation any. I wanted to know how the situation starts.

Scene: The ship is approaching the village where everyone has lived in. Brunhildr and Halvard are discussing the matter. Mostly Halvard stalls, so nothing conclusive is achieved.

Soon enough, a fishing boat is seen. The village itself is located in the far end of a fjord (the game happens either in Norway or an analogy thereof), but few families live close to the sea proper. They can alert in case of incoming attacks and fish in the open seas, as long as weather allows it. The longship approaches and fishermen tell them to get away while they can due to a giant. Doesn’t work.

Not to self: What if they had decided to get away? I kinda trusted them not to, because they knew what the game was about, all their relationships and some beliefs are tied to the village, and the ship doesn’t have that much supplies left. I should probably more clear on this not even being a choice.

Scene 2

Approaching the village, a large shape can be seen walking towards it. Ship’s navigator/captain spots it (none of the PCs can navigate, Brunhildr has some skill in seamanship). This is where I should have asked for steel tests all around, but didn’t, for some peculiar reason. My bad. It is decided that the ship will not be brought near the village. Few men are left to guard it and the rest take a hike (in armour, naturally) towards the village. Mori (played by Thalin) snuck away a bit earlier (instinct: always inconspicuous), but the rest catch up on him due to his low speed (not a roll, I didn’t feel it was important enough). Mori decides to hide and manages to do so with his B1 stealthy +1D from darkness versus the perception B4 of Halvard. I gave Halvard a bonus die for help, which is a breach of the rules, but a shipful of people are worth a bonus die in this situation, IMO. Mori got a routine test for stealthy, Halvard and Brunhildr one towards evidently opening observation.

Scene 3

At the village. Weather becomes windy and there is sleet raining. Gotta love autumn. The giant is seen (another opportunity for steel missed), probably drinking something from a barrel. PC’s go forth (Mori joins the party) and leave their men to wait. They get to the giant, who is discussing with Halvard’s brother, now named Leif, but unnamed in the game. Giant notices Mori, who pretends to fail at sneaking (this would have been a fine opportunity to roll for acting or such, but, alas). The other PCs are likewise noticed. When talking as Nifur the giant, I stand so as to look down on the players. I also try talking more slowly than usual. My first attempt at this theatrics stuff. Hope it somewhat works.

Nifur is straightforward at making his demands: Dead Thorvald’s body due to a blood oath, the treasure the vikings got from their raid and a good meal’s worth of meat, which amounts to a couple of cows. The cows are brought immediately and the rest promised tomorrow. The giant leaves.

Scene 4

Halvard gets the door open via communication. Inside there is some conflicting and sharing news with Leif, Halvard’s brother, who has taken power in the village. Mori mingles with the crowd. Brunhildr seeks her husband and daughter to little effect (should have been a circles roll, dammit), but does find out they are guarding or taking care of the dead Thorvald. Halvard meets her mother, who stares into nowhere and recognises nobody. I make a point of staring past the players when playing her.

Scene 5

Brunhildr send some men to unload the ship and carry two chests (out of five) to the village for the giant’s ransom. This might actually have happened before he went looking for his family, but that is a minor problem. Leif holds a “feast” in Halvard’s honour, mostly to showcase they have preciously little food for the winter. He insults Halvard pretty severely. Halvard walks away, as do his men.

Scene 6

Halvard orders his men back to the feast. Mori goes wandering. Halvard goes to sleep a short while thereafter. Brunhildr asks Leif about her family, hearing that they are not to defend against the giant, but rather keep the corpse in good condition. Leif also insults Brunhildr, IIRC. Brunhildr organises watches for Halvard and then goes to sleep.

Scene 7

Mori goes to his small hut, which incidentally is not located in the village proper. Someone’s been using it, probably as a hunting cabin, but also kept it in fair condition.

Next post: Preparation, spoilers, secrets.

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