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.

Transcipt

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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Appeasing the giant?

5 February, 2008 at 9:51 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, , , , )

I’m pretty busy with schoolwork for the time being, so pardon the lack of interesting posts. They’ll be back sometimes within three months, I hope.

These AP reports are now linked from actualplay.com, which seems to be a bit slow right now. Link: http://actualplay.com/actual_play_directory.php?id=661

Session report

Second session of the pretty fast-moving BW campaign. The scenes may not be in actual order they were played in, but the continuum of any given character should work. I jump pretty quickly between players and detailing that after the occasion is next to impossible.

Scene 1

Mori, Thalin’s char, goes herb-gathering. To be more precise, he wants to gather an herb thatwhen prepared successfully, in addition to killing someone, will also age that someone in appearance. I set the foraging difficulty at 3: pretty hard. I don’t know if that kind of poison exists or anything, but it was reasonable enough a suggestion from Thalin, so there it goes. Consequence for failure would have been encountering Nässla, Mori’s now-bitter witch mentor, who had just gathered what Mori was looking fo. That way the herbs would still have been available and I could have introduced a relationship and some potential conflict. Alas, Thalin succeeded at the foraging roll with the help of bonus dice from herbalism and poisons-skills. Mori gets the material for said poison and decides to meet Nässla, first getting some eggs he was supposed to deliver before getting on the raiding trip.

Nässla would have commented the lack of eggs, had Mori not went to get them.

Scene 2

Halvard (played by wgaztari) and Brunhildr (by ksym) activate a bit later. Brunhildr wants to find his family and asks about, getting the response that only Leif (Halvard’s brother) knows where they are. Halvard tries to get her mother to talk with no effect and to eat with some small effect. I felt like I was blocking a lot there. I definitely need to keep my mental image of who has done what out of the way of good gaming. Blocking isn’t fun.

Leif comes in and is engaged by Brunhildr and Halvard. It is quickly discovered that he was visiting the dead Thorvald and has no excuse to not let Halvard visit him, too. He asks his guards to stay at the house; what evil could come to him with his brother, they great hero, at his side? I did this for two reasons. The first was to give Halvard the opportunity for some bloody-handed murdering. It was interesting to see if such would happen. The second was to imply that Brunhildr should also be left behind, which did happen. This was done solely to ratchet up the tension: Would she do something stupid to get to her family?

Scene 3

Halvard and Leif get to the cellar that is used to “store” Thorvald. Some knocking, Grímr (Brunhildr’s husband) opens. The cellar is small, lit by a total of two torches. Thorvald lies on a makeshift bunk atop some barrels (reminder to self: always barrels or chests, never boxes). He is covered by various herbs, put there by Grímr. Their purpose is to keep the body in shape, to keep the smell down and to keep rests away. Death was not by violence. The players fixated on solving a murder mystery, so they’ll get one. Gilla Brunhildrsdottir is sleeping in corner wrapped in a heavy cloak.

There is some exchange of words between Leif and Halvard; Leif manages to insult Halvard for the third or fourth time; Halvard tries intimidating him, but only wins his disdain (failed intimidation without the skill). I’m not really happy with this roll; the consequences of failure should have been more tangible. Leif leaves the cellar.

Scene 4

During all this, Brunhildr does some scounting of the area, mainly about where the giant went the last time. I was floundering, no roll to make, nothing interesting happened. After that (possibly after some out-of-game spurring of ksym; encouraging the players to do something is a thing I do, for better or worse) Brunhildr gets sneaky and decides to just randomly wander to where her family might be, in the hopes of somebody getting out of the hidden place and revealing it. Her (unskilled) inconspicous roll is successful, which means that she happens to see Leif coming from the cellar, walking to her direction but not noticing her. (Failing the roll would have meant that she bumps on Leif some distance from the location and looks suspicious skulking thereabouts; I stated as much to players.) Brunhildr calmly walks past him, “accidentally” pushing him a bit (and ksym gains artha for playing his character as the thug she is).

Brunhildr enters the temporary crypt. There is a happy reunion, which I am uncomfortable or unable to play. I need to practice more. Getting comfortable with emotional scenes is a matter of playing (or living) through enough of them. Anyway. It is found out that Leif has been bringing gifts to Gilla Brunhildrsdottir, who has something of a fever (and is still deep asleep). After some time Halvard and Brunhildr leave.

Scene 5

Mori grabbed some eggs from the livestock that currently resided in the great hall. None asked pointed questions (inconspicuous). He went to Nässla’s hut, which is sort of small. Nässla is there cataloguing his herbs. I mentioned the herb Mori just had gathered were some Nettle was throwing away due to them being old, but Thalin didn’t catch on. It probably won’t become relevant, given Thalin didn’t make it so. Maybe it was intentional.

Nässla asks Mori to make food. The materials have been waiting for him all the time. They look like it. Mori chooses to go to the village yet one more time, searching for other foodstuff this time. Some inconspicuous linked to (successful roll gives a bonus die to the next relevant roll; failure adds difficulty; exactly succeeding does nothing) falsehood later Mori returns with new foodstuff and wants to appease Nässla by making a fabulous dinner. This is a bit suspicious, given how the relevant contact is characterised by rivalry or hatred. I set the difficulty at 3; Thalin makes the roll. Nässla is pleased with the food and doesn’t throw too many cutting remarks on Mori’s way. Maybe, just maybe, Mori can win over his former mentor.

Nässla tells Mori to get Gilla to him. She has shown some talent. Mori gets on the way, arrives to the village, where all the PCs are together (rare enough an event even without me arranging it whenever possible). They all decide to go see Gilla and the late Thorvald to see if Mori can tell why he died and possible even to treat Gilla, though Brunhildr is not delighted at the idea of Mori doing anything to her.

Scene 6

Gilla is still asleep. Mori investigates the corpse, Thalin rolls poisons with maybe some dice from fields of related knowledge such as assassination-wise; success and Mori discovers the reason of death with Thalin deciding how it came to be; failure and the same happens but the reasoning Thalins gives is the wrong one; I tell both of these to the players. Thalin is successful (not a big surprise given Mori’s grey poisons skill). Successful roll and some narration after: Thorvald was killed by poisoned barb disguised in an amulet. Poison was very rare due to being foreign. I got to check the name with Thalin but I think it was something to the effect of “maiden’s kiss” or “tears”. Grímr recalled some foreign trader who sold furs and some suspicious material visited but left quickly after being shown general dislike. Suspicions are thrown on Leif.

Thalin was a bit uncertain, possibly thinking that he maybe was overstepping his bounds. I might have contributed to that with my body language, as I had not expected him to seize quite as much authority on the fiction as he did. Worked out well in the end.

Brunhildrs specifically asks Mori to keep away from Gilla. He doesn’t do that, of course, but checks her health as the others are discussing something else. Failed inconspicuous and he gathers some attention. I don’t remember if there were any notable consequences. A bad roll, overall.

Leif ordered Grímr and Gilla to stay there, but Halvard orders Gilla taken away (with no little pushing from Brunhildr and Mori). Brunhildr carries her away. Before that, Mori grabs some herbs and fails sleight of hand against Grímr, who is not pleased and recommends Brunhildr to keep Gilla away from Mori.

On the way to the hall Gilla finally wakes up. Halvard continues on, Mori stays between. There is some confusion, greetings, and finally Gilla tells to Brunhildr that she has occasionally seen Thorvald around his body. He seems to be full of hatred or fear. Actual talking has not happened.

Scene 7

The giant is coming. Everyone knows this. Preparations happen with great hurry. Halvard and the others dig up a grave to get a replacement body to offer to the giant in place of Thorvald.

That’s pretty severe breach of all possible laws, but nobody is complaining, as long as the giant is tricked.

This asks for command rolls to get the people dig and do it before the giant gets there. Brunhildr and some men go get two chests of treasure so that Brunhildr still has tiem to help with organising the digging project. Far too many successes are rolled by wgaztari, which means there is plenty of time to get the body done (linked test). Halvard gets Thorvald’s equipment. Disguise is done. Again, many successes. Well disguised. Things look promising, don’t they?

Scene 8

Mori sneaks away to meet the giant (this probably happened earlier, but it doesn’t really matter that much). Upon meeting (no rolls needed because Nifur the giant is a relationship and they can generally be found when requested), Nifur picks Mori up. Mori divulges the main points of the plan, but also asks the giant to not kill everyone quite yet, because there is about to be a battle between the two would-be-leaders and this is likely to weaken the settlement and also warns about two formidable warriors (that would be Halvard and Brunhildr). Mori also asks the giant to not harm any young girls (that would be Gilla), because he needs one of them. Giant more-or-less agrees. Mori wants to know why Nifur is after Thorvald’s body, and Nifur says that Thorvald killed his father an he is here to pay the debt back. One can see the forming of a magnificent bastard PC, which I guess is the archetype Thalin gravitates towards. Insufficient gaming experience with him to be certain.

After the deal with the giant, Mori gets back in and starts cooking for Gilla.

Scene 9

Here be giants. Nifur enters the village. Parley time. First we roleplay a bit of negotiation, me as the giant and Brunhildr mostly speaking for the village. Time to roll out Duel of Wits, the extended social resolution in BW. No participant has haggling (Mori has but is inside), Nifur has will 5 against Brunhildr’s 4. I recruit Thalin to help the players with scripting and give him a cheat sheet (given that Mori is not involved). I script (plan three actions ahead of time what Nifur does) first and then let the players discuss, answering any questions they have. I don’t change Nifur’s scripts based on what I hear (that would be cheating) but do script to the best of my ability. Round by round, everyone declares their actions and they are cross-referenced in a handy table. Small part of dialog is mandatory. The stakes are that this confrontation determines how much treasure the giant will want; base obstacle is 3 (formidable), -2 for total victory of players, -1 for partial, +0 for draw, +1 for Nifur’s victory, +2 in case of total victory to Nifur. End result is that Nifur barely wins; Nifur retains one dice out of the five he started with. Also: DoW without relevant skills makes rebuttal a poor choice. Resource obstacle: 4. Quite hard.

During this all Halvard went to ask for Mori, but failed a conspicuous test and didn’t manage to get his attention before too late.

Halvard orders the body brought to Nifur, who promptly picks it by, rips the armour off, pulls out the man’s heart and swallows it whole. Pretty hardcore. I should have asked for steel tests here, but, alas.

After that is the payback time. Resource test tells if Nifur is satisfied with what he got. Halvard gets all the treasure they looted or traded for, puts his meagre possession and contacs in play to get some extra stuff on top of that, but decides to not use the village’s winter stash. Mori is hired to prepare some food for the giant, which is a linked test. Mori fails, which implies +1 Ob which means obstacle 5. Not gonna work. Dice are rolled. Artha is burned. 3 successes. The giant is not happy. He shrugs, grabs a few chests and lumbers off with them. Nobody attacks.

Scene 10

Mori succeeds at cooking to win Gilla’s favour. I am a bit uncomfortable playing out a seduction with one of my best friends and getting tired, so the detailed discussion is glossed over. Thalin rolls persuade to get Gilla’s trust, but fails, which means that Gilla succumbs to fever and sleep before anything happens.

Everyone goes to sleep, Mori in his own cottage.

Spoilers and other stuff my players might not want to read

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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.

Nifur

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

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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Character burning: The crunch

20 January, 2008 at 12:06 pm (Burning vikings, Burning Wheel) (, , , , )

This Wednesday I had the pleasure of actually getting the Burning Wheel campaign going. Sort of. BW is an excellent game, but it does have the problem of involved character generation, especially with only one copy of both core books (and one Monster Burner which was not used).

I am the GM. Players are Thalin, wgaztari and ksym. Thalin has played around one con game of BW and is somewhat familiar with the basic mechanics and knows what combat is about. wgaztari is new to roleplaying and has only played in Thalin’s Like umbrella. ksym has played some Warhammer fantasy roleplay (and is somewhat familiar with lifepaths), as well as the aforemention Mage game.

Thalin had a concept and started burning it, adjusting pretty well to the system, which was not surprising. ksym took to it pretty quickly, too, and at the end of the session told that the chargen was pretty inspiring. I agree. wgaztari had problems. BW is not the game for beginning roleplayers. He had similar problems in the Mage game, too, so it may be he does not enjoy building characters. Maybe it is due to the huge amount of choices one can make and inexperience at building character concepts and translating them to mechanics. Or maybe he just doesn’t see the relevance: The chargen choices don’t matter. Note to self: Ask about this later.

The session ended after midnight (University starts at 8.15 on Thursdays and I would rather not go there without at least four hours of sleep) and all the rules-stuff was dealt with. The actual meat of the game, beliefs and instincts, we did not have time for. Some ideas were thrown around, so it should be a breeze. BW has handy character burning worksheets. By “handy”, I mean absolutely invaluable. I am pretty happy at printing them. I can do chargen with pen and graph paper, but I doubt the others could have achieved the same.

The cool bits

Lifepaths are the way BW goes. The orcish lifepaths are available as a free sample (and I recommend reading them for pure inspiration; they positively radiate inspiration). Each life path gives skills, skill points, traits, trait point (or not), resources, years and sometimes stats, physical or mental. Pretty standard fare, but it does create character history with little extra effort. Also: The first skill and trait (if any) are always mandatory for each LP. This gives nice colour to characters.

The truly brilliant part are resource points. It is a pool of points that can be used to buy gear (equipment, stuff), property (house, workshop, cattle), affiliations (membership in a group), reputations and relationships. Usually there are a few extra points left after the expensive things are bought. Minor relationship is five points base, but can be modified: -2 for close family, -1 for extended family, -2 for romantic love, -2 for hatred or rivalry, -1 for a forbidden relationship. The minimum cost is 1. This means that almost every PC will have a minor relationship that is rivalry or forbidden, both of which are great story fuel, especially when combined with love or family relationships. Players get to create a number of NPCs that I must make relevant in play, which goes a long way towards building player investment.

Thalin’s char

The lifepaths for Thalin’s char, whose concept is “cheater”: Village born – village peddler – lead to outcast setting – itinerant performer – poisoner – conscript – pilgrim

Those do tell a story, sort of. The pilgrimage was just an excuse to get a few more skill points. The story explanation is a bit hazy as of yet, but it’ll clear up.

Stats: Will 5 (good), perception 4 (normal), power, forte, speed all 3 (poor), agility 6 (excellent). The character is quite likely to be very wounded if ever engaged in combat, melee or ranged.

Skills: Poisons is grey, or heroic, 5 (very good), cooking 5, inconspicuous, falsheood and herbalism 4 (professional), mending and sleight of hand 3 (trained), and big heap of skills 2 (nominally trained). Stealth is 1, which ought to be amusing, unless he wants to increase it.

Traits: Odd, off-kilter, hide before battle, collector, scheming (edge in social conflicts), chronologue (always knows the time of day, which means Thalin will keep track of time or impro it; less work for me), tidy aspect (the character is always tidy, no matter the circumstances), unlucky (arbitrary decisions are always wrong; can be bought off by having the character screw up at the moment of total victory, which removes the trait and gives artha [hero points]), plain-faced (call-on for inconspicuous).

Gear is not interesting, but notably includes a pet and no weaponry, not even knives. Relationships: Forbidden relationship with the giant, forbidden and hateful relationship with the village witch, his aunt.

Resources ability, which is actually used in game and derived from resource points used on affiliations, reputations and property, is zero. Nada. No money, no favours owned, no nothing. This’ll be fun.

ksym’s char

Concept: Warrior and the wife of a loser (ksym is male; I hope this turns out fine). LP: Son of a Gun (born at sea, in other words), sailor, marine, lead to village, village guard, village sergeant.

Stats: Good power and forte, others average. Steel attribute, used to resist pain, fear, surprise and shock, is notably 7, which is not bad at all.

Skills: Sword grey 6 (expert and heroic skill; ouch), command, bow and field dressing 4 (professional), intimidate 3 (practiced), seamanship 2 (nominally practiced), plus shield and armour training. Pretty focused combatant, all in all.

Traits: Sea legs (no sea sickness, call-on for speed on deck), sailor’s oath: I vow to drink to excess at every opportunity I get (this will be fun trait to poke at), bruiser, thug, cold-blooded (reduces hesitation; that is, makes steel tests easier).

Relationships are romantic family: husband (this may be liberal interpretation of “close family”, but let it be so) and hateful family: child. Fleshing these out ought to create some great story fuel. Also has a local reputation, the details of which were not written down. This must be done.

Oh, yeah: Resources 0.

wgaztari’s char

Concept: The son of the village king/leader/ruler/whatever title I will be using. LP: Village born – village guard – village sergeant – lead to soldier setting – bannerman – lead to village – captain of the guard (technically, guard captain is a city lifepath, but it was a good fit for the character and the lifepaths are not built for vikings, so I tweaked it a bit).

Stats: Good will and agility, others normal. Notable attribute is steel at 8. When combined with will 5 that gives hesitation 5, this character can actually succeed at steel tests, which is rare enough.

Skills, which may be revised significantly: Spear 6 (expert), command 4, conspicuous, brawling, sword and tactics 3, few at 2, plus shield and armour training.

Traits: Thug, honoured, exasperated, gloryhound. The last on is interesting, but requires some explanation. Generally, when a character fails a steel test, there are following options, of which player selects one: Run screaming, stand and drool, swoon, beg for mercy. The game has a bit of a gritty edge. Gloryhound adds another possible reaction: For glory! In melee, this means charging the opponent. In ranged, this implies a steel close, which basically means charging the opponent. In both cases, it has a significant chance of being suicidal. Cool trait.

Relationship: Rivalry with a brother (about the leadership of the village), 1D affiliation with the crew of the ship, 1D reputation as fearless. Resources 1, which means the character might, with good luck, actually be able to get a bread to eat.

Conclusion

All of them have good story potential. BW is good at that. I can barely wait for generation of the beliefs and instincts.

I’ll post the characters on BW wiki, once they are finished.

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