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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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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As the witch wills

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

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


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

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

Scene 1

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

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

Scene 2

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

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

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

Scene 3

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

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

Scene 4

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

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

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

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

Notes and some minor spoilers

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

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

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

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

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