Burning death frost doom

4 October, 2009 at 11:40 am (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling) (, , )

We did indeed play Burning Wheel old school style. I had a number of pregenerated characters, seven I think, and there were five players. I had built the characters so that a number of them had specific drives; locations or non-player characters. There was a duel of wits to determine where to go and the result was, as the fate had it, death frost doom.

First, I’ll describe our play a bit; then, some of what happened in and under the cabin.


The player characters were a knowledge-seeking sorcerer, a haughty knight, a ranger whose family had been killed by orcs (traditional D&D character if there ever was one), an overconfident and mad monster hunter from the wastes and a doctor who could talk to birds and insects. They started in a tavern (the name of which I recall no more; maybe Broken boot?) and, after talking about where to head next (we used duel of wits; there were preciously few dueling skills around the table, so untrained duel of wits)  consulted the skies to see if this was the proper time for such traveling and tried recruiting some people; indeed, they managed to find one guardsman willing to travel with them. The circles roll was a failure, so I decided this NPC is a traitor. This NPC was, to some amusement, named Regdar. Onwards, then.

Since the DoW was a major compromise, they decided to travel to the Whitecap mountain, but first check out where the goblin hideout was. The orienteering was an abject failure: seven or eight dice, obstacle three, two successes. So there was getting lost and a bandit ambush. Here I chickened out, having only two bandits in the woods and Regdar make the attempt to rob the characters. It did not end well.

Lesson learned: Use credible threats. They can take it; else, they will perish. Now I have pretty much forced myself to create an incompetent bandit leader as a NPC. Too bad. Regdar lived and will have his revenge. Or make a fair attempt at it, at least.

With one bandit as a prisoner and another dead, and one mage now armoured in leather and plated leather breastplate, the party continued onwards. This my complication of choice for that failed orienteering roll, so I let it ride and had them reach the mountain. There they encountered the strange guy living in the woods. Some talk and dinner later they continued onwards, after punching the old geezer. (I did not get to deliver the tasty line, since death was not at line. A pity.)

The cabin and the underground complex of doom (and death and frost)

Inside the cabin they, in no particular order, made a fire, burned a tapestry/painting, destroyed a clock, the sorcerer stole the book of names (but did not read it, just snatched the damn thing, as per his instinct) and finally moved down to the temple. Again, in no particular order, there was walking on faces of stone, messing with doors, grabbing a skeletal hand or two, playing with the organ and stealing something from the altar. Three characters died, two lived. I refer any who own the adventure to read the back cover.

The atmosphere was quite good, though one player did not help the matter. One player actually commented that he was expecting more monsters, so, Jim, your design works as intended.

To do

I will try to organise more of these sessions, as this I count as success, even though few, if any, of the players had played together before this.

I will need to start naming things and drawing my map on paper; as is, it is firmly located in my head, but not drawn anywhere. Further, I will need to name places and things. The city, in particular, needs a name.

To transfer the characters to BW wiki or forums would also be useful.


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Burning sandbox

1 October, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling) (, , , )

This is a game I want to run some day. Maybe next Saturday, but probably later.


There is a bunch of kingdoms, fighting as they ever do, but also occasionally financing explorers to distant lands. There is a great waste west of the known kingdoms; there are few barbarians, some stunted people, a number of ancient ruins and scores of monsters there (or say the rumours). Some explorers discovered ways through the waste: An oasis here, a deserted town with a well there, easy passage through rocky wasteland somewhere else.

The remarkable things is what was found on the other side: There’s more waste, of course, but there is also a great sea, rolling hills and steppes, a range of mountains that separates the waste from the great forest further to west. Further, a walled city of no small proportions was found, deserted and with no sign of where the original residents are.

Rumours of the discovered new land quickly spread and across the waste many traveled. Now the once-dead city has plenty of life and the surrounding wilderness is slowly tamed. Yet there are tales of monsters, of ancient tombs and caverns, of unexplained vanishings of children in the streets and of strange foreign cults to vile gods. Many claim to have witnessed some or much of these mysteries. Furthermore, there are visitors from the sea: people of foreign appearance and language who trade in goods and slaves, sometimes even settling in the city born anew. They bring rumours of the past: A curse and deadly diseases.

Enter player characters. For whatever reason, they are in the city born anew. They are desperate for money, noble and idealistic, seeking power, or simply curious. They will brave the dangers that threaten the city from without and within. Maybe they will live to list their deeds and boast.


System of choice for this game is Burning Wheel, as the quick-witted and cultured among my readers might have already guessed. No experience with the rules is necessary; there will even be pre-generated characters. If you are not familiar with the rules, you may wish to skip to the game-wise section.

Three lifepath characters, exponent cap of 5 (four for sorcery, faith, etc.). Should stat or attribute exceed this, -5 and make it grey (in particular, faith B4 or G1; I heartily recommend B4). Available lifepaths are those in the red book, waste wanderers from the wiki and LPs in Magic Burner when and only when the book is brought to the game; I don’t own it, at least yet. Human characters only (for now; other stocks may be encountered by adventuring and be made available as PC races thereby). Gifted separately for different schools of magic (alchemy included in any) and separate magical skill for art magic, practical magic and standard sorcery with abstractions. Death art is a skill. The faithful should have some idiom and some deity corresponding to it; player’s responsibility, though I keep veto power in case of inappropriateness.

For beliefs, I recommend having one that motivates general adventuring; earning lots of money, arcane power, ancient secrets, or maybe glory and fame. One should be about specific monster, NPC, item or adventuring location; feel free to name the monster, NPC, item or adventuring location; I will cope. The third one can be about whatever; do keep in mind that the cast of player characters will not be static.

The rules for finding the path are in use; basically, locations are handled as relationships and finding them is similar to rolling circles.


This won’t be standard Burning Wheel. West Marches of Ben Robbins are an inspiration, as is Burning Thac0 and various old school luminaries around the Network. So, in no particular order:

This game does not require a stationary set of players or characters. Participate when you feel like it. I am willing to run the game whenever I have some time and some players (one or more); I may initiate a game as may any players; simply tell me the time and what you intend to do, so that I can prepare the location, if necessary, or create/convert monsters or NPCs.

I will have pre-generated characters that are somewhat capable of adventuring, if not outright optimised, but you are encouraged to bring a pre-burned character if you have the books. You can, the entire group willing, focus on adventuring outside, within, or below the city, or even in the nearby islands; Duels of Wits (social resolution system of BW) about adventuring locations are a fine means of solving the issue, but do inform me ahead of time where you intend to go. Getting to adventure locations is nontrivial; orienteering, sailing/navigation, or streetwise are useful skills. Moving in a party is recommended, but not a required.

I will prepare the adventuring locations to some detail; likely as not, this means using stuff found on the ‘net interpreted through BW lens. If I am not given suitable information on the plans of the party, then I will not prepare and the quality of the game is likely to decrease, as sandbox play requires some preparation to feel authentic and rooted. Note that players may use wises, circles and other relevant mechanics as normal: If I have decided why an NPC died and you want to roll murder-wise to know that it was the butler but it was not, then I will let you know that I have decided who the killer is and you may roll the wise to find out.

Players are encouraged to draw maps, write game reports, and generally communicate with each other. You can keep your characters or I can keep them; if me, than I will try to transfer into electronic format, probably on the BW wiki.

Burning Wheel is not a simple game and is very character-focused, so this is very much an experiment, but one that I am eager to try.

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17 October, 2008 at 5:59 pm (Burning Wheel, dungeon crawling, game element) (, , , , )

A take on goblins as actual monsters, not a race of ugly and evil and small people. Inspired by a blog post by Jeff Rients and some reviews of Changeling: the Lost.

I will further write mechanical implementations or sketches thereof to some goblin spells, especially for my dungeoncrawling game. Also, I hereby release the rules of the dungeoncrawling game (particularly their presentation) into public domain.

Born of fear and mud

Should it be so that some dark corner, or alley, or woods, or perhaps even cave is feared and dark rumours abound, there will, sooner or later, be a goblin there. Maybe goblins are born of these rumours, or maybe the rumours of the goblins.

Once born, goblins will do as their nature makes them to: Cruel tricks and stealing people, particularly children, is their calling and source of mirth. Should a number of goblins live together for a while, a shaman will emerge and a pit of mud will be constructed, if suitable one does not exist yet.

Captured children are thrown into the pit, only to emerge as ugly goblins, much like those who created them. Captured adults are cast in and emerge as ogres, deformed monsters and mockeries of their former selves, small-minded, aggressive and brutish.

Goblin magic

Goblins are demonic, or feyish, in nature, and some have sorcerous abilities. Not all do, and they are not equally adept at their use. Shamans are naturally the undisputed masters of these arts.


Goblins are born of fear and can use it against their foes. A goblin can, in lieu of surprise attack, (attempt to) scare its foes. Everyone surprised by the goblin must resist it; those that fail are affected as though affected by normal fear effects. If any opponent succeeds, the goblin is also affected by a fear effect as though victim to its own power.

Boo! does not work in proper daylight or lighting of equivalent quality. Other goblins can hear one yelling Boo! over great distances, and they are curious creatures…


For my dungeoncrawly game: Roll magic versus magic, each target resist individually, effect as though the fear spell. Typically a number of goblins equal to magic result of the one invoking Boo! come to investigate at their leisure.

Burning Wheel: Will versus will, with steel test being the fear effect.

D&D 3rd: Will save DC 10 + 1/2 HD + charisma modifier of the goblin saying Boo!, failure means being frightened for d6 rounds. Shaken if you want the goblins to not be infuriating opponents. Either way, if anyone succeeds, the goblin is frightened. Spell-like ability, takes a standard action.

Goblin doors

Goblins can open doors from and to dark places, partially disregarding the distance between such places. They are so small that adults must grouch or even crawl to enter one and look like poorly made. There is typically a short winding tunnel after such a door, containing at least one corner such that it is impossible to see the entry and exit points of the tunnel at the same time. At the end of the tunnel there is another similar door, which opens somewhere else. Typical goblin door disappears once closed or left unattended and further it is impossible to turn around after losing sight of the entry door (going back is the same thing as going forward).

When opening a door one must imagine the location where the other side is supposed to be (and tell it to the GM, if appropriate). Most of the time the door opens to the desired location or at least to that direction; sometimes the unexpected happens, for which is the following random chart. Roll a suitable die.

  1. Oops: The other side of the door is the spawning place of the goblin this sorcery was used or taught by.
  2. Long ways to go: Traversing the tunnel takes d6 hours.
  3. Goblins: d4 goblins are lurking within the tunnel, just in case you would happen to wander through.
  4. Horror: An undead, demon, spirit, or some shadowy beast is lurking within the tunnel, preying upon unwary passengers.
  5. Shadows: Travellers are cursed to see everything as though it was night at all times. No light is bright enough, no colours distinct.
  6. Shadowy sight: Travellers can henceforth see in dim light as well as cats.
  7. Reduction: Travellers are gradually turned to size of the goblinkin.
  8. Permanency: The doors and the tunnel is permanent.
  9. U-turn: The exit point of the door is the same as the entry point.
  10. Scared: When leaving the tunnel the one who opened the door casts Boo! on the others who are treated as surprised.
  11. Infused: When leaving the tunnel one character with little magical or mental ability acquires some and can henceforth open a goblin door at will.
  12. Roll twice, apply both results if possible, else use the nastier one.


Dungeoncrawling game: After having entered the tunnel and moved so that returning is no longer a possibility, roll magic; on roll of anything but 1, the maximum distance the tunnel can cover is 20 metres multiplied by magic roll; on roll of 1, game master rolls a d12 and consults the chart. (Reduction is likely to reduce might of the character to around half; infusion gives +1 magic and goblin door at will to one character with lowest magic attribute.)

Burning Wheel: Roll will, count successes, no successes is botch, otherwise distance covered is in the ballpark of 20 metres per success. Becoming smaller reduces power by 1 and gives power cap of 6. Being infused gives a character with lowest will some custom trait that goblins have and access to goblin door. Else treat goblin door as a natural magic skill related to will.

D&D 3rd: Wisdom check DC 5 to avoid mishap, 1 is always a mishap, otherwise distance traveled equals 10 metres * check result. Shadows and shadowy sight mean dim light and low-light vision, respectively. Reduction as though being reduced to small size. Neutralise with any spell that can remove curses. Infusion gives/increases inherent bonus to charisma by 1 and gives goblin doors at will. To determine who it affects, take the highest mental score of the characters and then take the lowest of these. That’s the character you are looking for. Spell-like ability, but full-round action to open the door.

Goblin trader

Goblins are vile monsters, but also willing to help humans and others, for a price. Here’s a list of services they might grant and of prices they might ask. They are not very reliable trading partners, either, and will weasel out of an agreement if able to. Goblin traders are typically shamans out of favour within a nearby settlement.

  • Equipment the goblin happens to have, typically of poor quality – As much coins as they think you have; you would not be dealing with them if you had good choices, so better milk the situation for all it is worth.
  • Training against opponents the goblins are threatened by (say, kobolds) – Beard of a dwarf or delicious, fresh ears of an elf, or something similar.
  • Boo! at will – One live adult, subdued.
  • Goblin door at will – One live child, subdued.

Goblin magic is, I feel, suited for old school play. I doubt it would work very well with encounter-based D&D play, for example, being utterly broken and too unpredictable.

I’d love to add stats for older editions of D&D, but I don’t have the rules for any.


Everything not keyed to rules of BW or D&D is released into public domain. The intro text is not, though.

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How does roleplaying work again?

9 September, 2008 at 5:24 pm (Burning Wheel, game mastering, roleplaying) ()

I’ll be introducing a new player to the wonderful world of roleplaying games and specifically my game mastering style and Burning Wheel rules. Two other players are likely not used to my style. Here’s a rough outlay of what I’m going to say, subject to change without notice (and the paragraph about beliefs will be discussed before or as beliefs are created). Heavily inspired by Levi Kornelsen’s post on the subject.

Add examples to the text as appropriate.

The content

Most play is casual or freeform play; I, or sometimes someone else, provides a situation and you, and often other people, tell what their characters do there. You say “My character blah blah” or “I blah blah”, whichever feels more natural. So: I give a situation, you act, I react, you react, so on.

I might skip between several characters or groups of characters if you are not in the same place. I might even ask some of you to play an NPC if your character is not present. You can decline, if you don’t want to do so, or play an NPC without any prompting. I’ll keep big important NPCs unless otherwise mentioned, though.

Evidently there will be tension in the game; maybe threat of violence, maybe an argument, maybe a risky financial move. Play will be slightly more regulated then. I explain the situation, if it is not already explained, and ask each player who is playing a character in that scene to tell what they are doing. You’ll say, or if you don’t know what to do, I will give a few suggestions. Others can, too. Sometimes it is appropriate to change your actions after hearing what others do, sometimes not.

The actions you tell are resolved in some order, typically from the least important to the most important. It is important that you always tell what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to do that. I have veto power over both, but will try to not use it; generally, almost all intentions are okay, the exceptions being genre-breaking stuff or general absurdity or dadaism. The action may also be inappropriate due to the rules, as many abilities in the game have limited scope. I’ll also ask for confirmation if you are doing something that sounds profoundly stupid and further make explicit why it seems so. We probably are seeing the game world in different ways.

So, once you have an appropriate action and intention, I have two answers I can give. First is to say “Okay. Go ahead.” The second is to use the mechanics; we’ll determine what you are rolling and I’ll tell the difficulty. You can also get more dice from elsewhere, but more on this later. You can choose to abort your action at this point if the difficulty is, say, too high. If you make the roll, you achieve your intention as specified in your action. If you fail, the intention may or may not be fulfilled, but either way it will not be pleasant. Sometimes I tell what will happen before you roll, sometimes after. Be that as it may, the results will stand; there is no retrying until circumstances change in a radical way.

Some parts of the game have more complicated subsystems, but I’ll explain those if and when necessary. In almost all rolls you can get more dice by spending artha or naming other relevant skills or getting help. Help means that another character with some relevant numbers on the character sheet lends a hand, giving you one or two dice, if you want them. You can also fork, which stands for field of related knowledge, skills by saying how you are using them or how they are of benefit to get one or rarely two dice. Some traits also give dice in particular situations.

There’s also the matter of artha, beliefs and instincts. Beliefs indicate what you want, as a player, to see in game and what your character wants to achieve. They generally should have two parts; an ideological principle or personal belief and a concrete action the other part fuels. Instincts also tell what you want to see in play and maybe what you want to avoid in play, of which you should notify me. If you don’t know what your character would do in game, consult your beliefs and instincts and traits and sense of the dramatic. Note that your beliefs and decisions will greatly shape the play; I don’t have a pre-designed story for you to play through.

A bit on character loss and lethality: Burning Wheel is not a lethal game. Characters rarely die. BW is a pretty gritty game, and getting hurt sucks. Don’t do it. Once the game starts, I won’t be protecting you from the consequences of your actions. I won’t try to kill you characters, either, beyond the extent of what is necessary to make an interesting game. If you do manage to get your character killed, it hopefully happens in a climatic encounter, in which game the game is about to end. I’ll give you an NPC to play where possible or you can play in other groups or just spectate. If there is still significant play time, I’ll give you an NPC for the session and then we can make a new character for further play if you are still interested.

A bit about squick factor. If there is something you really, really, don’t want to see in game, like graphic violence or rape, say so now or in game. We’ll fade to black or not have it happen or whatever is appropriate. There probably will not be anything excessive, at least as introduced by me.

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Gaming update: Burning Wheel

1 September, 2008 at 9:18 pm (Burning Wheel, generic fantasy setting) (, , )

The university group I am involved in, variously known as the Monday group or Ropeapina (which translates to rpg monkey), is active. Starting next Monday I’ll be running a Burning Wheel character generation session, than Burning Wheel game. Players are Opusinsania, another philosopher-in-training (a new face) and Halliz.

This is a pretty good group, given they are all unexperienced with BW. Chargen will be painful and there will be little time to optimise. I’ll probably try to come up with a few character ideas if someone has trouble coming up with one. Opusinsania will do fine, but the others I have not played with, so they are still something of a mystery. Halliz is a good actor, though, that much I do know.

The game idea, up to erratic changes and such: There is this small cult. Player characters play key roles in it. It is not doing particularly well, but has some large goals it may be able to reach right now, if action is taken. The authorities and the common people hate the cult. If I want to tie this game to Dragongame, which is a distinct possibility, the cult is the one trying to bring dragons back. Otherwise they are probably demon-worshippers or some random faction opposing the rightful ruler(s) of the land.

Character creation guidelines: Four lifepath characters. With no excuse more than 5 LPs. Too many traits to handle otherwise. All PC are humans, barring extremely good arguments and bribing towards other directions. One belief about another player character or related to such (this is recommended, but not absolutely necessary), one about the cult (’tis necessary), one about anything. If someone really, really wants to play a traitor, said traitor needs a damn good reason to not betray the others too fast. Conflicting beliefs about the cult are fine.

Game might focus on assassinations, inter-cult strife, running away from authorities or peasant mobs, scheming and bribing, or something completely different. Setting is likely to be a large city (Dragongame: Tirae), so that circles are likely to see use. Streetwise and resources might also prove useful. We’ll see.

In other news

I just ordered Dogs in the Vineyard from Arkkikivi. Actually, initiated the ordering process. Note to self: Stop buying so much stuff. I have Efemeros to read and review, too.

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Ragnarök now?

25 March, 2008 at 9:56 am (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel, game mastering) (, , )

The actually final session of the BW game.

Scene 1

Halvard is woken up by one of the crew members telling that Leif’s men have left. Some organising later everyone (including still somewhat befuddled Mori) are on their way back to the village. Halvard gets a roll to detect the ambush ahead; success. The group is divided into two: Brunhildr and Halvard both take 10 men. Mori hides before battle, as per the relevant trait and accidentally chooses to hide in a bunch of bushes where some warriors of Leif were hiding. Mori tells the plans of Halvard to the men, who happen to include the hunter/guide/tracker who helped in discovering the ambush site, and they use a bit of archery to carry the message forward.

Scene 2

Halvard and his men have taken a position below a rocky cliff (the best position for an attack, certainly). Bruhildr and the rest have likewise moved onward. Two arrows are let fly, both from behind them, one to the general direction of both groups. Brunhildr and the 10 rush towards the location of the hidden archers, who promptly try escaping across a river and taking Mori with them. Arrows are let loose, two out of the three perish, one escapes (that would be the guide) and Mori survives, but is just a bit cold.

Scene 3

Halvard and his ten rush the hillside and are promptly forced into hiding behind the rocks that are large enough for that by a flight of arrows and spears. Since Burning Wheel doesn’t have a mass combat system, I improvised and used the rules for ranged combats (Range and cover) with relevant adjustments. Some tense rolls are made with the defenders getting and keeping the edge, though Halvard does manage to sound his horn to notify Brunhildr about their location. Whenever they get successes that are not used to give more dice to them due to their location, I give wgaztari two choises: Take hits or have your men perish. The trick is that Halvard is well-armoured, which gives a fair chance of the arrows doing nothing at all. Some rolls are made and the situation looks grim: The defenders have position worthy of 3 dice which gives them an edge of two dice over Halvard and his retinue. They win another round. One of Halvards’ men dies and Halvard gets a nasty hit to torso. It goes through the armour. A midi wound: Very nasty -2 dice to everything. Steel roll is a failure, which means that an ordinary man would swoon, run screaming, beg ofr mercy, or just stand and drool and bleed.

Halvard, the gloryhound, instead yells “For glory!” and rushes forward. Steel close, practically suicidal maneuvre, unless one has absurdly high steel. Deeds artha, which basically let one double the dice pool used or reroll all failures, are used. End result: About 16 dice (10 is maximum for skills, 8 for human stats) are rolled. Halvard’s men run behind him. Few uneffective arrows or spears are let fly but after that the enemies rout. A massacre ensues, only Leif and few others manage to esape. Halvard gives chase.

Scene 4

Brunhildr and the men accompanying her discover a small ambush of theirs with the aid of Mori, who also fuzzes around with some poisons. There are few well-positioned men who try to stop their advance; end result of the sorry attempt is one dead defender (the rest escape).

Scene 5

Halvard and his men catch the fleeing Leif. A spear to his back, after which Leif grovels and is then slaughtered by Halvard. All PCs meet again. There are rolls made so as Halvard could recover from his wounds; failed treatment implies a permanent -1 to some stat; in this case, forte, which is kinda nasty. Mori doesn’t suffer any significant consequences due to his icy bath.

Scene 6

Halvard and Brunhildr go to meet Nässla, with the hearts of Nifur and Leif safely along. Gilla’s been fine. There are two plates of food ready; Brunhildr eats, Halvard does not. The food is, naturally, poisoned, but more on that later. The fire used for cooking and such is smoking profusely.

After some fumbling it becomes clear that Nässla is willing to tell who killed Halvard’s father for the small price of Nifur’s heart. Leif’s heart is evidently of no value to him.

Nässla consumes the heart, seems to change somehow, throws some random herbs into the fire, which fills the entire hut with smoke. Steel tests are rolled: Gilla (played by Thalin) miserably fails while Brunhildr and Halvard both make it and don’t panic. A brief exposition ensues: Nässla was the one who poisoned Thorvald as a punishment for him consulting a pitiful pretender Grímr instead of a competent witch (Nässla). This heard from the hut’s entrance. Halvard rushes out to find that Nässla is there no longer; Brunhildr finds the panicking Gilla (who can see her aura and is more than a bit scared of her) and gets out.

One of the Nässla’s magpies craws something about the village and flies that way, guiding the characters.

For the record: Nässla never left the hut. This trick partially stolen from some Icelandic saga that I can’t name right now. They are good reading, full of drama and with a taste of the fantastic here and there.

Scene 7

Meanwhile, in the village, Mori had a bit of fun with a drug of his that makes people very impulsive and prone to, say, violence. I adjudicate this as a poisons test: Achieving Obstacle 4 means some deaths, 5 much killing, 6 minor fires, 7 major fire, 8 a totally devastated community. The fun part: I give Thalin the ability to get two extra successes if Mori gets caught bloody-handed. Thalin can make the call after rolling. Test result: 5 successes. Thulen makes it 7.

Brunhildr, Halvard and Gilla rush to the town. The entire place is burning (even the few wheels of any carts that might have been there). The mead hall has crumbled. Mori is standing atop the ruins, laughing/giggling in an unhealthy way. “Gilla, what do you see?” quoth Brunhildr. “He is no human.” sayeth Gilla. Brunhildr uses her bow and Mori falls off, an arrow protruding from his torso. Halvard and Brunhildr rush there. Some futile questioning ensues, followed by a summary execution of Mori by Halvard (with spear, not Nithingr).

Scene 8

Grímr is discovered in the ruins of a burning building. Some treatment after it is clear he will survive (albeit scarred by the flames). Some more exposition by the coughing Grímr: Thorvald did indeed ask him to divine the future. He is not actually much (or any) of a witch, so he could only give his best guess that something nasty was coming.

Not much after that was Thorvald found dead. Soon enough came Nifur.

Time paradox aside: Thorvald asked Grímr to predict the future. He said something bad was coming. Hence, Nässla poisoned Thorvald, which was a bad thing indeed, and hence predicted by Grímr. Or maybe the prediction was about Nifur and there was no time paradox.

And everyone lived happily ever after

In the distance, a ship with the body of Thorvald in it is burning.

The poison that Brunhildr ate was mind-affecting one: Brunhildr now has an instinct to guard every witch. (This is totally realistic.) Nässla is healthy and young again.

There is a bunch of scattered norsemen around with no leader and little hope. The winter is coming.

Mori is dead; Loki or Hel will no doubt enjoy his company.

There is a would-be-assassin and no doubt more than a few very angry people who would do almost anything to kill Brunhildr and Halvard; they slaughtered many men.


Personally, I am fairly happy with Burning Wheel. This is my first successful game with it; a solo game with Nakano didn’t go too well beck then. Next time I’ll be using the rules much better and not cut quite as many corners.

Traits worked well; I am confident in being able to use anything similar to any game after this. Instincts had some effect; beliefs didn’t work well. They were what the folk at BWHQ call proto-beliefs since they tended to not have a concrete statement of action in them. Most of the blame is mine to take, of course, but part goes to the character sheets not having sufficient space for them.

My acting still sucks. I can play maybe one or two different characters. Improving this is a matter of practice. Ouch.

I can now GM in a game with actual (emergent) story, even if preplanning one is out of the question due to my distaste for knowing what will happen. I can also run a game with epic enough events; Gastogh and Cryptic would be happy, now, and the Dragongame could have worked.

Next task is to update the character info on wiki. Then, chargen for Thulen’s game.

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On giant-slayers and fiery visions

21 March, 2008 at 8:56 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel, game mastering) ()

This was supposed to be the last session. Actually was the second-to-last one. The game started with the confrontation with the giant.

Scene 1

Nifur is moving towards the ambush site, at first followed by Halvard, who then lets the giant take some distance and blows to a horn to warn the people that the giant is coming and of the direction the giant is coming from. The relevant roll is successful and people duly warned.

These people include Mori and Brunhildr, of whom the latter stands guard next to the corpse with Nithingr and the former, having no time to poison everyone with a good meal, decides to go for toxic fumes. I rule the feat as absurdly hard, obstacle 8. Thalin, in spite of his generally good luck, manages to fail the roll (but gets a challenging test towards advancing poisons), which manifests as Mori accidentally inhaling some of the fumes and, after a brief struggle, falling unconscious. Thalin gets to play a soldier. To be more precise: A bowman ambushing the giant. This one just happens to be the one whose brother Brunhildr killed in a duel and who seeks revenge.

Scene 2

Brunhildr stands next to the Thorvald’s body. Nifur is near the valley and jumps down. Halvard runs to the scene. A tactics roll is made to determine if Nifur jumps to a pit or such; alas, that is not to be. Brunhildr runs towards Nifur, Nithingr on hand, and cuts the giant’s leg badly, making the giant fall and getting away from it. Nifur fails a steel test and some scewering is done; a dead giant lies slain, bleeding profusely. Brunhildr gets the hatred of Mori, as a result of the killing.

While this is happening, Halvard commands the people who were hidden around the valley and armed with javelins or bows. They are about to shoot/throw as the giant falls. Halvard yells: “Don’t shoot!”, and a single arrow is fired towards Brunhildr. It hits her armour, harmlessly glancing off. (This is a pity; the scene would have been beautiful if Brunhildr had died.)

Halvard demands to know who shot at Brunhildr. One man points at the character played by Thalin who is the shooter. Thalin’s NPC points back. Dice are rolled; Thalin gets far more successes than I do. The other man is hence one of Leif’s and thus can’t be trusted. Some accusations and such after, the man is thrown off the edge by Halvard, who manages to calm the situation before any further fighting is done. The man survives, Brunhildr tosses him around more than a bit, but doesn’t get any answers.

Scene 3

Mori’s awake. One belief of Mori was linked to Loki, who is linked to fire, so I decided this to be an excellent moment for including some drug-enhanced visions. I left the details to Thalin, which was possibly a mistake, since he didn’t seem all too eager to share them. Message: Go and cause mayhem. A lot of it.

The player characters are all more-or-less present. There is some discussion about eating the giant or immediately going to the village, but since it is dark and Nifur is nigh-inedible without suitable cooking (Brunhildr tries), the plans are postponed. Halvard gets Nifur’s heart from Brunhildr and further gets Nithingr, as Brunhildr feels it brings bad things to the one wielding it.

People are asleep, save for some guards. Mori sneaks to Thorvald’s corpse and takes the heart out. The relevant rolls are quite successful so nobody notices this (ever, as it happens). Mori is blessed by Loki: Opens a new skill at G2 (intimidate, but revised to be soothing platitudes which is essentially a form of flattery) and gains a version of the lawbreaker trait: Around Mori, fires and shadows act strangely. Mori, too, sleeps.

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The end is near

14 March, 2008 at 4:31 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel, game mastering)

Some Wednesdays ago was the second-to-last session of the Burning Wheel game. It might have been possible to make it the last, but the price would have been significant. There has been some time between the game and the write-up, so details are very much not present.


There was a short summary of the recent events due to the significant break. I have a bad habit of forgetting details I don’t consider significant, but at least Thalin seems to remember them and think they are valuable. Makes one wonder…

I started generally ramping up the consequences of rolls in this session; since the end is nigh, significant rolls to any effect are unlikely to totally spoil the play for anyone and they add some tension to the rolls.

Scene 1

Mori (Thalin’s char) is in the village, hears that Leif and some others are preparing to go and rescue (more-or-less) Gilla Brunhildrsdottir from the clutches of the evil witch. His response is, as normal, to poison them. The game is approaching the end so I try to have many rolls have pretty high stakes; as in, fail the roll to poison them and you will be caught and clearly be guilty. Of course the roll was successful. (Though some fate artha was used). Leif and his best warriors are enjoying a fine diarrhea.

Mori also finds out that all the crew members are busy preparing the ambush site.

Scene 2

Halvard, Brunhildr and the five warriors are near the village. Brunhildr starts moving towards the ambush site while Halvard and the others go to the village, meeting Mori on the way. Leif’s fine plotting that resulted in sending all Halvard’s men away does not bear fruit. There is some dialogue, almost a duel between Halvard and one of Leif’s men, inspiring speech from Halvard to the (not too friendly) audience, and orders to get Thorvald’s body moving. Halvard also manages to lose Grímr’s trust by being a bit secretive about Gilla and not good enough a liar to pull it off. Halvard starts moving towards the ambush site. His men carry Thorvald’s body in hiding and use another way.

Brunhildr arrives at the ambush site and talks to the crew members. They are not very happy at her having “deserted” them to do some petty quest. I have trouble playing them properly because the hostility is due to the sword and the in-game justification is a bit too shoddy. Idea of the sword is good, but I am not sufficiently skilled at playing the effects.

Brunhildr starts moving back towards the village to find Halvard.

Scene 3

Mori seeks Nifur (the giant), finds him after some wandering, tells about what is happening everywhere, and heads back towards the village.

As it happens (damn these coincidences; credit goes to Thalin, more-or-less), Nifur happens to meet Halvard (but not his men) while Mori and Brunhildr meet elsewhere in the woods.

Mori and Brunhildr wander towards Nässla’s hut for some time. Brunhildr gets suspicious about how long it will take (she should be at the ambush site); dice are rolled. It is draw, so I let Thalin decide from two options: Either Brunhildr notices Mori has been misleading her and is within an arm’s reach but she doesn’t have time to get to the ambush site or that Brunhildr does make it to the ambush site in time but Mori was not obviously misleading her. Thalin dutifully avoids the issue as well as he can, eventually arriving at the latter decision.

Scene 4

Halvard and the giant. Halvard leads Nifur to the village first (Nifur goes and immediately checks the temporary tomb, finding it empty, which ought to be suspicious), then start moving towards the ambush site. Nifur knows what is there.

And during the next session

Our intrepid heroes shall confront a giant over the corpse of a dead hero. Or maybe they will be poisoned and die a painful death while the giant feasts. Who knows?

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A heroic quest

21 February, 2008 at 9:27 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, , , , )

This is the last AP post for a while; real life gets in the way of gaming for at least two weeks, possibly for longer period.

AP report

Last session, everyone ended up resting in the same place. Rare.

Scene 1

Everyone wakes up. Brunhildr is at -1D on everything due to fever; significant, not fatal. The day started with the repercussions of the previous day’s rumour-spreading by Mori. To wit: Brunhildr gets told that Mori is present and the he was telling certainly very exaggereted stories about Halvard having sold her daughter to a witch. The “certainly very exaggereted” part was due to Halvard being close enough to hear. ksym gets artha for Brunhildr flat out trying to punch Halvard righ then and there. Well, being in fever and not having any brawling skill are not conductive to successful punching. Halvard has the instinct to always hold his spear ready; there is an opposed test with Brunhildr’s sword skill, with the end result being her sword at his throat and some warnings to not mess with her daughter.

The little incident done with, there is discussion about taking a trip to retrieve a particular toy and to prepare a trap for the giant.

Scene 2

Halvard talks to Leif (back at the village). Some threats, some genuine getting things done. At the ambush location. There is some planning done and other boring bits. Mori does not get near enough to really listen. Soon enoug, Halvard, Brunhildr and five loyal mooks (but without the red shirts) start their great quest. Brunhildr is still is mild fever, so I get an excuse to ask for a roll on complications. Depending on the speed of travelling, ksym must make a health test. Obstacle 1 for 8 days, 2 for 6 days, 3 for 4 days total. The time that remains is there for Leif to further any of his plots. Halvard is the leader; wgaztari sets the obstacle at 2. Stakes: Success means no complication and a cured disease; failure means that Brunhildr gets a trait like “hacking cough” or such and permanently loses 1 health. Nothing crippling, but not good either (and ksym would get artha from that pretty easily). Successful roll again spoils my clever and oh-so-planned consequences for failing. Given that, the seven happily adventure in the wilderness.

Scene 3

Meanwhile Mori enjoys a week of time without the two watching over his actions. He pays a visit to Nifur; after that, the giant knows about the trap and the fact that Thorvald’s actual body is likely to be involved. He also hears about the sword.

Mori goes to check on Gilla (as asked/ordered to by Brunhildr or Halvard). I play Nässla, let ksym play Gilla, and give a magpie to wgaztari, who is not very good at playing inhuman sentient creatures without warning. He doesn’t screw up, it just sort of falls flat. A matter of experience, certainly. I’ll try to give the two others the hard creatures to play, from this on. Anyway. The relevant events: Nässla doesn’t much care about Mori. There is some interaction between Mori and Gilla, who has been doing okay.

Mori does yet another trick: Some disguise to look like Leif going alone to the woods. He succeeds and hence someone spots Leif going alone into the woods.

This’ll have wider implications; I started a thread on Plotstorming about it. (Nice site and has monthly writing contests that I have sadly neglected.) There is likely to be some spoilers in that thread, so my players should be certain they want to be subjected to such if they intend to read it.

Scene 4

Inside the mountain. The trip there is promptly skipped. Brunhildr fixes for armour with untrained mending roll (when any armour die show a 1, that location’s armour loses one die; the earlier duel had cost Brunhildr a few armour dice). I give Thalin (usually plays Mori) the monster book open on troll brute. “Can you play this?”, after which I quickly explain a few things and give the troll an additional belief: “I must have my father’s sword; I will use the humans to get it.” Said troll has will and perception 2 (2 is almost retarded) and no social skills beyond intimidation.

There is some roleplaying as Mori brilliantly plays a moron who tries to manipulate humans. Good times. I kicked the process a bit forward when it seems Thalin was not getting on with it (hope I didn’t step too much on his toes). They enter a large cave with a stone statue of troll holding a sword. Brute, Halvard and Brunhildr dahs forward; Halvard gets less successes, falls behind (the troll has 5 speed; ouch). Opposed strength checks between Brunhildr and brute to grab the sword (the stone-like troll also resists with G6 strength; brute has B8 and rolls well). At this point we enter the long form Fight! subsystem. The five companions simply aid in positioning tests of Halvard and Brunhildr (I can’t be bothered to script and play out their actions unless either char commands them, which they did not do, though I informed them of the possibility a couple times). Long fight short: ksym is bothered by bad dice rolls and Brunhildr getting superficially wounded. Brunhildr and the ancient troll who soon wakes up grapple on the ground, with Brunhildr actually resisting (not bad at all). There is a number of ineffective attacks against the stony skin (mail equivalent). Halvard scares/convinces the brute to attack the ancient former troll king (brute does so with a throw, lock and defensive actions). After this Brunhildr, who grabbed the sword and was hit for her troubles, slays the troll. I give both characters a deeds point for getting the sword and killing the troll; deeds is the most powerful form of artha in the game.

Observations from the fight: It is chaotic. It tends to get dirty with people panicking, locking, running away, etc. It takes time. ksym doesn’t enjoy the chaos when the dice are not on his side. I hope the sword that kills every human with a single strike but that also severs one’s contacts to all humans and such fixes that. On the sword. Stats visible in the BW wiki (I have also updated the characters a bit). Whenever you kill someone with it, it corrupts one relationship, affiliation or reputation of yours. After those are done it gives the GM pretty free reigns. Brunhildr killed once with it (the troll king who used it enough to no longer be a king) and lost the respect of the ship’s crew, who no despise her for whatever reason I come up with. ksym got to decide what was spoiled. He enjoys this curse and even said I am brilliant for creating it. Thanks, ksym. I am pretty sure I stole it from somewhere, though.

The aftermath of the combat: The brute suddenly becomes quite worshipful of the two characters. It even follows them some time outside the cave and maybe even follows after them if I ever need to introduce an extra troll to the game. Trolls turn to stone in the sun, which kind of limits their options, though.

And that was it.

Miscellaneous ramblings

I assume the game will take a session or two to finish, after which Thalin will GM something. At this point his idea is wuxia with homebrew system. Up to change. I have a character concept ready for the wuxia game, if that is what happens.

In other news, I’ll spend two of the three forthcoming weekends prepping some random person for math. Matriculation examinations are coming up. This will show how much of that stuff I have forgotten. Probably a lot. Specifically: No or extremely limited internet access during the weekend. My grandmother doesn’t have internet.

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The nature of scheming

17 February, 2008 at 1:33 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, )

Another short session. Also, Thalin’s schedules change which changes our gaming schedule into an unreliable, yet hopefully surviving, one. Regular gaming is important and I am not happy with the change. This’ll be brief report. We played on Saturday, too, though there is likely to be a break until the next game happens.

Actual play

Half a day in the fictional timeframe. Artha flowed a bit slower this session. I seem to need some time to get into the zone properly and can notice the effects in play. Not a good thing, but won’t go away without practice.

Scene 1

Mori and Halvard leave Nässla’s hut. Mori goes on to manufacture a pretty nasty poison (causes a B10 wound, which kills weak characters and even the strong will be utterly unable to succeed at anything for a long time and will need help to survive without permanent injury; giant would actually notice it), while Halvard goes to the village. The stakes for Mori’s roll were that failure indicates that the poison is very easy to notice, makes the cause of death obvious, or some such. The poisonousness was not even a question. The poison’s actual effect, in addition to fatal wounding when the target sleeps, is to seemingly age the target. Maybe actually, if the target happens to survive. The herbs for this were gathered a some time ago and the roll was pretty successful, giving a bonus die to this roll. Some artha was also used.

On his way back to the village, Halvard is kinda-sorta-almost ambushed. One arrow from the woods, and that one is not particularly dangerous. I intended it as a warning, but wgaztari interpreted it as an attack. Leaves some options open for me. Halvard took the arrow, intending to later investigate the matter.

Scene 2

Halvard in the village. He tricks Gilla (Brunhildrsdottir) to come with him, which takes a bit of effort (a good roll or two). She gets pretty scared of the magpies, claiming that they are not natural. wgaztari actually succeeds at a pretty hard orienteering test (unskilled) and manages to find the way to the witch’s hut without any help from the magpies, which would have a forced a new steel test on Gilla and had all sorts of potential amusing consequences.

Once inside with Gilla and Nässla, I get to use one of my favourite GM tricks: Assign players whose characters are not there to play the NPCs. I play Nässla, let kysm play Gilla and Thalin gets to play one of the birds (the other is not present). Gilla is persuaded to stay with the witch due to it being good for the village and other reasons. Nettle gives Halvard what was bargained for: Vague direction, guidelines to go to a mountain with lots of caverns. There is a former troll king there with a sword that will be able to slay the giant. Halvard leaves.

Scene 3

Brunhildr and her retinue are looking the the ambush position. They see the giant walking towards them and promptly hide. Brunhildr sends the competent tracker/hunter (named Varg) to track the giant’s tracks, in order to find out where it came from, with orders to come back at night if the trip would be too long. Brunhildr further wants to send one of her men to follow the giant towards the village; this is a circles roll to find someone capable of following the giant. Success: Find someone who can do it and not get caught; failure: find someone who should be able to do it but is not quite good enough and does get caught (is what I tell to ksym). Successful the roll is. The others get as comfortable as they can without fires (which Nifur could notice).

Brunhildr is feeling somewhat sick (due to Mori’s herbs) .

Scene 4

Mori goes talks with the giant. Some information about giant-slaying swords is shared, as well as the body having been a fake. Dice get rolled, just in the case of the soldier following Nifur identified Mori. A tense roll, but Mori remains unidentified. Mori first goes to the village (no Halvard or Gilla there) and then towards Nässla’s house.

Mori encounters Halvard, there is some paranoia from Halvard’s side, who threatens Mori with a spear. Thalin rolls steel, fails, Mori runs screaming through the dark woods. This is a chase situation; Halvard is eventually victorious with some artha burned. There is an interrogation; Mori has falsehood, Halvard no interrogation skill, which leads to a quick defeat on Halvard’s side. Mori must compromise a tiny bit (as opposed to spilling his dealings with the giant); Halvard trusts him, for now. The compromise was that Mori told Halvard that the giant wants to eat Thorvald’s heart to gain the strength Thorvald gained from eating the heart of Nifur’s father. After this bit of exposition, the two return to village.

Scene 5

Leif and Halvard interact in very brotherly manner, with Leif implying that Halvard raped Gilla. There is some further talk, too.

Brunhildr hears of the traitor (identity unknown), tells everyone to keep quiet, fails the roll that would have made it so, implying that at the next opportunity someone will tell about the existence of the traitor and probably more, sends a messenger to get Halvard, some loyal men and specifically no Mori. Messenger finds the Halvard, makes his request, which which Halvard agrees to. He picks some men, Mori comes with him, messenger questions, is denied.

The man who tracked the giant returns and can approximately tell where the giant might be, but didn’t get that far. It can move pretty fast over long distances. This was not a roll, but possibly should have been. I just find it boring to roll dice when player characters are not the target and found no way to translate this test to a test for any PC.

Scene 6

At Brunhildr’s campsite everyone meets, happy as ever. Mori is inconspicuous enough to not get Brunhildr’s attention and goes spreading rumours among the men, mostly about Halvard having sold Brunhildr’s daughter to a witch. Mori fails in being discreet enough so that people would not remember who originally spread the rumours.

Halvard admits to having sent Gilla help an old man and tells what he knows about the sword. There is some negotiation about who would go about getting it, with Brunhildr not being very well and all. I could have asked for duel of wits, but decided that this is pretty much a foregone conclusion and thought the dialogue as mostly elaboration.

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