As the witch wills

12 February, 2008 at 10:12 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, , , )

This session was shorter than the previous ones due to wgaztari’s university stuff.


Game starts as everyone gets up, with a bit of retconning due to Mori first visiting Nässla and only then going to sleep.

I neglect to mention several rolls and both gains and expenditures of artha. They are a legion; artha is flowing as it should, dice get rolled often enough for my tastes. Thalin wants more. Maybe so.

Scene 1

Brunhildr and Halvard wake up. Brunhildr goes bathing in a nearby stream. I resist the urge to do the classical scene at this point, which might have been a mistake. I may get another opportunity. Anyway. After getting back she goes to get some food. ksym (plays Brunhildr) asks where Leif is. Of course he ust came in and is taking food at the same time as ksym is. Brunhildr very accidentally knocks his food to the floor (ksym gets fate artha for playing thug and moving the story forward). Leif is outraged. One of his soldiers challenges Brunhildr to a duel (this happy event involves  Brunhildr’s instinct to punch anyone who touches her without warning; she misses, having no brawling and soldier having some; this involved a roll). The soldier is pretty good at what he does: Relevant numbers are solid (black) fours, including stats and weapon skill. Not quite in league with Brunhildr, but still potentially deadly.

The duel was fought along more-or-less historically accurate model. I assume the “less”. A cloak was set on the ground. The one to first step off it, drop blood on it, be disarmed or dead loses the duel. In this particular case, this allowed using the rather elaborate Burning Wheel Fight! rules and disregard positioning, as both combatants preferred their weapons. I asked ksym if he wanted the long form combat; he did, though struggled a bit with it. When dueling, ksym quickly noticed how damn important armour is for survival and how frustrating it is to use a sword against an armoured opponent (the opponent used an axe and had lighter armour than Brunhildr). I once allowed ksym to probably save his character by expending a persona artha; this was a minor breach of the rules, I would handle it in a different way if the situation came back again. After a number of attacks clinging of armours and everyone noticing just how chaotic the combat system really is, Brunhildr managed a successful disarm. The opponent rolls steel due to losing a duel to mere woman and fails it. He stands and drools. Some witty banter and one attack on head that is handled by armour, Brunhildr gets a choice: She can slay the opponent then and there. It is clear that she did after having won. It breaks no rules but certainly will give her a fierce reputation. Result: Off with the head. Ksym gets fate and persona artha (IIRC, at least fate). A lot was used in the duel, too, so net effect on artha was probably mildly negative. This is one of the good gaming moments and I got to give ksym artha as a recognition.

Scene 2

Before the fight breaks out two important things happen. First: Halvard and Leif bet on the winner. Leif loses, gives Halvard a loan (one PC actually has a resources exponent to use again). Mori returns to the hall (catching the attention of two magpies due to failing a foraging roll; lame consequences), succeeds at inconspicuous (nobody pays significant attention to him). He flirts with Gilla and poisons the gobletful of mead (or something) that the winner of the duel is to drink. Nothing lethal, just something that will cause a mild fever for some days. ksym first intends to not drink it, but decides to go with it after I bribe him with a point of fate artha (slight breach of the rules, but stealing an idea from FATE/SotC is generally not a bad idea; worked fine this time).

This is an opposed test: Poisons versus health. Mori’s poisoning is successful with two successes over Brunhildr’s health test. I read this as giving -2D on everything for one day and -1D on the second. Both players agree. ksym burns a point of fate artha to open-end the one six rolled and reduces the effects of the disease to -1D for the next day due to mild fever. Both players are happy.

Pretty eventful morning, I must say. When Brunhildr gets back and talks to her daughter, it becomes clear (dice are rolled to find this out) that Mori was there and talked to her (about her seeing spirit or spirits, among other things). The poisoning is not discovered. All players know, of course. It’s fun.

Scene 3

Next in order: Gathering information. Halvard and Brunhildr have a cunning idea of setting up a trap for Nifur the giant. It involves finding a suitable place for ambush, which involves finding someone who knows the local area very well. This is a circles roll. Halvard gets Leif to help as it is for common good. Brunhildr also asks around. Helping dice are a powerful thing; success. Failure would have meant that the hunter who knows the area like his backyard just tragically lost his brother by Brunhildr’s arm. Failures complicate, not block. Too bad the roll was successful.

Halvard asks around for someone who knows about giants and gets directed to a witch who lives in a nearby spruce swamp with a nasty reputation. That’s Nässla. He, too, gets two magpies following him. Gets fate artha for throwing one with a rock; misses, though Nettle doesn’t really appreciate it, which probably did not show enough. Mori found out the magpies serve or report to Nässla.

Scene 4

Halvard knocks on Nässla’s door. Mori opens it. Situation is somewhat interesting. There is some subtle unhospitability on Mori’s part and lots of negotiating with the witch. Halvard wants to know about the giant; Nettle promises to tell where and how he can obtain a weapon suitable for slaying it, for a price. Namely; to bring Gilla there and make sure she remains there. This after Halvard didn’t want to give Nässla his strength.

A note on OOC talk: I explicitly asked players if they want a magical weapon in the game; wgaztari wasn’t particularly keen on magic in general, but okayd the sword, assuming it is not very flashy. Well, I can guarantee there will be no threat of that. Our senses of aesthetics seem to be quite compatible. Good.

Halvard further asks if Nokkonen knows about his father’s death. Answer is flat-out yes. Price: Halvard’s strength. Nässla does accept the strength of someone else, too (Leif is the most likely target right now). Halvard leaves, Nässla orders Mori to accompany him (and make sure Gilla really gets there).

Meanwhile: Brunhildr and some men start seeking a suitable place for ambush.

Notes and some minor spoilers

There is likely to be some retconning, namely: Did ksym order his men to keep Mori away from Gilla? Did she leave her armour to be repaired or take it with her?

There is a chance that Leif’s men will ambush Halvard on his way back. It would kind of fit, but would,on the other hand, be dramatically a bit unsuitable when thinking about the possibility that Leif is taken to Nässla and his men attack after that, which I would prefer. I have not decided yet. Time’s running.

There is a significant chance that Brunhildr and the others meet a giant. The giant. This for two reasons: First, if they fail a suitable roll, I can use Nifur as a consequence; second, other Brunhildr will be less active for significant time (one and a half sessions) and that is not good.

Gilla will not be too willing to meet the witch; if nothing else complicates the matters, she will see some aura on the magpies. I assume she will be taken to Nässla regardless.

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Death note?

12 February, 2008 at 8:17 pm (game design) (, , , )

There exists an anime called Death Note. I have seen some episodes of it. Premise: A college student finds a notebook. Writing a name on it causes the death of the named person. Kills criminals. Implausible plots and death gods are involved.

Why is the relevant? Well, Thalin just finished he SW d20 game he GM’d in the Monday (university) group. I’ll run a one-shot, or maybe even longer, game with inspiration from the aforementioned anime. (Implying that I steal the idea of death note and ignore everything else.)


I’ll likely go with Egypt. Something like Indiana Jones, tech-wise. Other possible setting is South or Meso-America. Doesn’t matter that much, anyway.

Characters are people who organised an excavation to get hold of the fabled Book of the Dead or Book of Death. Whatever. Write any name on it and think about the person and he will die. Possible elaboration: Death occurs within an hour and not immediately, character can determine the method of death, some sort of sign is left, the killed follow the character as undead bodyguards, character turns into undead, … It is quite easy to come up with more.

Characters should either know each other well (in which case getting the item is of extreme importance) or be strangers who have used false identities so as to not give each other power over themselves. Either works.


This is what I call a generic system. It makes relatively few assumptions. It does have a new way to roll dice because I like experimenting.

Characters are defined by an archetype: Something that tells their general skill-set and way to solve problems. Occupation is a good idea. In addition, all player characters and important NPCs have other traits. I think I’ll go with one related to appearance (like lean, scar-face, sun-burned, tidy aspect, big, kid) and one to personality (religious, friendly, scheming, irritable, curious). These are simply to make the characters easy to remember (appearance) and to play (personality). More can be added in play as explained soon.


Resolution is engaged if and only if there is a consequence to both succeeding and failing such that both take the game to interesting directions.

Dice pool. Get two dice if doing something clearly suitable to the archetype (soldier shooting or marching, chemist investigating a foreign susbtance), one die for something related to the archetype (journalist repairing a camera, guide telling about local legends of man-eating ghouls), one die for every relevant trait, up to two dice for favourable circumstances, variable number of dice roll-over from any linked rolls. Also: One die for every trait the opponent has that hinders the opponent. If you have no dice, you get one and the opponent’s pool is doubled. If neither would get any dice, both get one. If a roll is not opposed, GM sets a suitable amount of dice for it.

Before any dice are rolled, the consequences for succeeding or failing are described by GM. They are open to negotiation. After they have been agreed upon (negotiation is rare), dice are rolled as follows: Both sides total their dice and roll them (example sets: {1, 2, 2, 4, 4}, {2, 3, 3, 6}). Matching results are negated so that both sides lose an equal number of dice (example continues: both have one 2 and one 3, so lose one of both => {1, 2, 4}, {3, 3, 6}). Highest number indicates the triumphant side (the second, 4<6). Number of dice the winner has that are greater than all the dice the opponent has indicate the number of successes the winner got (6>4, 3<4 => 1 success). This number can be rolled over to any roll that is clearly linked to this one.

Foo points

Every system needs foo points. I might call them willpower in honour of WoD or maybe something setting-appropriate. Any ideas?

Players start with 2 or 3 foo points. Foo points do any of the following but only when rolling the dice, up to veto by other participants in the game:

  • Define a new trait for your character. This must be relevant to the roll at hand, either beneficial or harmful, and does contribute a die to the roll. “Did I mention my char is a pretty good swimmer?”
  • Define a new trait for an NPC in the conflict, up to the condition above. I am not certain of including this.
  • Get 2 dice in the conflict. Use before rolling. “I buy flowers and chocklad to her before knocking on her door.”
  • Spend n to get n dice in the conflict. Use after rolling. “The dog is about to catch me when a hare jumps from the bushes. Dog runs after it, barking loudly.”
  • Give to another player for whatever reason, but hopefully for entertaining play.
  • Remove a trait the character has grown over after demonstrating said development in the conflict. This probably won’t happen in such a short game.

Foo points can be earned in the following ways:

  • Get them from another player, hopefully due to entertaining play.
  • Get them from GM due to good (role)play.
  • Get one when your trait gives a die to your opponent in a conflict.

I’ll use whatever small objects I happen to find to represent foo points and kill book-keeping.

Designer’s rambles

Chargen is quick and simple. I can drop movie references (quality movies like Mummy [who may return], Indiana Jones) if someone gets stuck. Character development, if any, happens in play. Players have narrative power if they want to seize it, but doing such is not mandatory.

Dice are rolled when it matters and players can, if they care about it, influence the result significantly. (Forge theory or at least Ron Edwards would call this a position mechanic or some such.) This also has the tendency to build more colourful fiction as a side effect. As a bonus: Resolution practically always resolves something. Draws are rare and can only happen when both sides have the same amount of dice. Also: Adding dice after the roll can, in certain situations, wildly alter the result.

Giving foo points for good roleplaying is something that keeps me active and watching the performance of people. I just need to lower my standards to get the foo flowing properly.

The situation: General structure is one of my favourites; there is this powerful MacGuffin. You are about to get it. Who will take it? Who will get to use it? Will the others be killed? After that has been resolved, the nature of the game changes significantly. The main theme becomes: You have the power to kill anyone. Any public person at all. Anyone who has ever slighted you. Ultimate power. Ultimate corruption?

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