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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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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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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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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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.


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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Burning some vikings

5 January, 2008 at 11:34 am (Burning vikings, game mastering, roleplaying) (, , , , )

So, I’m starting a Burning Wheel game soon enough. There shall be vikings (without the horned helmets) present. And a giant.

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