Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Burning Wheel] The End of Vault

Started by Judd, May 22, 2006, 05:10:17 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


I'm really great at running a one-shot that everyone wants to keep on playing.  A few pick up and play games among my friends have become years long campaigns, serendipity, pure and simple.

But finding that spot where the game comes to a close in a way that is satisfying has never been something I have been good at.  People move away, player v. player conflict, me just out and out losing steam on a game have all gotten in the way of bringing a game to a close, putting a ribbon on it and just walking away with closure.

And man, I crave that closure now.  I have a burning hunger to run three mini-campaigns in a row, a season of PTA, DitV from Bridal Falls to Back East and back to Bridal Falls again and then some Lacuna, really tear it up in ole Blue City.  'Cause that closure, it is a mighty nice feeling.

We all didn't realize until tonight, when we were talking into Jeff's iPod for a post-game Sons of Kryos interview/talk how many people in the group saw themselves as newbies to the group.  3 of the 5 guys said they were the newest members of the group.  Aaron was new to town and had just started gaming with me in another game where we played together.  Kolja had met me online and we gamed together in a two-shot Burning Wheel Classic game I ran for a few friends who were in a gaming starvation state.  And Jim had just returned to Ithaca after living in Baltimore for a few years.

And they all thought they were the newbies to the group.  Funny, that. 

Shit, I really drew us all together with e-mails and enthusiasm because Burning Wheel Revised came out and I wanted to do something epic with it.  I had a thin grasp on the rules and its a dense mofo.  It all made sense but it took a while, some one-shot geared for different kinds of conflicts.

If I were to go back, I'd have not just one-shots but scenes, specific scenes with Duel of Wits, Fight! and Shoot and Cover.  The scenes would feed into the campaign's starting situation and the players would do chargen after that.

A Duel of Wits between two great wizards during a climactic gathering of magi, sorcerers, witches and prophets.

A Fight! between two nobles in a dueling blood feud.

A Shoot and Cover with an assassin hunting a young prince through a castle at night.


But there I go, chasing a new beginning rather than concentrating on the fine ending.

Jeff's dwarf's ending was the least climactic but it fit his character and the kind of support role his character largely played in the game:

QuoteI can meld the races arts together
Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right
I will preserve the wonders of the races

His character was the broker between the Dragon, who had a fine hoard of the finest artifacts of the age, and the players.  In the end, the Tome, whose fate dominated several early sessions of play last year, was in Jeff's PC's hands and it was the dwarf who chronicled the history of hwo it all went down.

When the game ended, Jeff narrated how his PC's dwarven greed was slowly turning him into a dragon.

It was only a matter of time now.  We'd never see it but that's fine.

Kolja's first character had gone to the dark side via the Darth Vader Ballot Box and so he burned up his original PC's brother:

QuoteI am my brother's last hope.
I will not be tainted by the sword.
A knight's duty is first to his people, then to his lord.

Kolja's big dramatic moments were really last game.  He had a brutal Duel of Wits with his brother, each trying to turn the other to his cause and then a brutal battle with another PC over wanting to kill the traitor who had given the world to Hell.

Kolja wanted a fight tonight but honestly, there were no battles for him to fight.  He had buried his brother, broken his sword in the first fifteen minutes of tonight's session and his knight was largely done.

Jim had this great description of his character when we recorded our post-game thoughts Durham 3-style.  He said something like, "My character is Aragorn if instead of going to live with the elves he went and smuggled with Han Solo for a few years and then got revenge on everyone who slighted his family before taking the throne."

Quote* My children's lives will not be so dark as mine.
    * The Vault was my family's downfall; it will be my family's rebirth. (This one may get tweaked to include more of the redemption of Vault from Hell's forces.)
    * I will wrest the body and soul of this world from Hell's grasp.

Like Kolja, Jim's big moments were last game and he walked into tonight's game knowing that, even saying so.

I had this funny moment with Jim and his Aragorn via Han Solo that I'll write about in the end, where I took a jab at his Beliefs via a bang.

Aaron often described his character as the elf he always wanted to play.  His combat with the Lucifer/Balrog was the centerpiece of the game.  If he had lost, it would have meant some brutal decisions and the world would have been the darker for it.

But he didn't.

Quote-Aermegil will sit the throne of Man.
-I can end this all with a swing of my sword.
-I love my brother, not the king.

He plain and simple out-scripted me.  His dice failed him early and when he hesitated, I had scripted a Block.  We didn't know it but it was in that heartbeat that he won the fight.  The Lord of Fury, Fire and Famine should have cleaved him in two that very round and couldn't do it.  Such is life.

So, Aaron's elf delivered a brutal blow to the demon's face, taking out his eye.

A few shots later it was done.

When the battle was over and the armies of humanity were cleaning up the ragtag orcs, a messenger came to Jim's character.

"Your wife (she'd been pregnant), she delivered a boy, right as the battle began.  It is a boy."


"Your majesty, strangest thing, he only has one eye."

Jim looked at me like, "What the fuck!"

In a good way, I think.

But yeah, I couldn't stop with the bangs.  Some reflex in me was ready to see the elves to the west and keep on keepin' on.  And we could too.  It'd be easy to re-tire the characters that need to be retired and run games in the Age of Man.  Is his one-eyed son the Lord of Fire, Famine and Fury born into flesh?

Will there be a War of Dragons once Jeff's dwarf changes fully and the greed of the two creatures begins to pull at the continent?

What will Kolja's PC do about his cousin, the kinslayer, on the throne?

But we played, give or take, what we agreed to play when we got together on the first days of chargen and brainstorming when our PC's Beliefs and Instincts were still fetal and forming.

Now its done and that feels really damned good.  Picking up and playing would muss that.

The questions in italics are for daydream musings.  For now we get to say, good-bye to Aaron as he goes away to the north Jersey/southern N.Y. border for the summer, game with Kolja for as long as he remains in the U.S. before returning to Germany.  Spycraft and Lacuna and Sorcerer and Iron Heroes and Afraid and 1st Quest are waiting for us.

And if those questions naw at us and daydreams just ain't doing it, there's nothing stopping us.

But for now, this is just a post to say that a nice clean ending feels really good.  Its an end that's been coming for a year and it isn't where we thought we'd end up and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Things I learned in the running of this game:

1) The less words you use to inspire your players, portray the world's color and situation, the better.

2) The next game's events don't have to take place the day after the last game's events.  It can take place five years from now.  It can take place a hundred, it just has to take place right when the good shit is happening.

Picking my head up and selling the idea of pushing the fast forward button five years was a crucial idea that really saved the game when it was lagging.

3) When running an intense game where you are continually hitting them where they care and thy are hitting back with their hearts, it is important to just let quiet moments happen too.  One of the nicest moments tonight was Kolja's prayer for his PC's brother's soul over his grave.  It was really sweet.  No zombies, no demons, just a brother who wanted his broken family whole and couldn't have it. 

4) Fighting in RPG's, particular awesome fight RPG's like BW is really fun, especially when the players develop the knack and the skill for it but it becomes this whole other animal when the player is more than willing to lay waste to their PC for what is being attacked and want to lay waste to the NPC who has the temerity to attack it.

I really enjoyed trying to kill Aaron, just trying to absolutely kill the bastard and beat him.  That was fun.  Knowing that even if I did it would mean awesome story was even more fun.

5) My favorite types of games are when I can put forth a world and be ready for the players to really ravage it and kick it in the teeth and make it their own.  But there is a flip side to this coin.  I want the players to make characters, tied to the conflicts of this world, and be ready for the events of the game to change their characters as much as their actions will change the world.

One of the nice things about this game was how we rather ended up in a very different place from where we ever thought we'd be and I think the players really being willing to throw out weak beliefs, change beliefs that were no longer relevant and just continue to churn their character concepts and keep them evolving was a big piece of that.  It was a nice, slow churn but really cool to see the years and the blood have their effect.

This is all stuff I knew and had used before but in the play of the past year, it was all really driven home again and again.

Thanks fellas.  This group probably won't have an opportunity to all sit together again but its been a pleasure and a learning experience.

Jim DelRosso

Quote"Your majesty, strangest thing, he only has one eye."

Jim looked at me like, "What the fuck!"

In a good way, I think.

Definitely a good way. :-)

It was a truly amazing game, and as good a way to get back into gaming as I could've hoped for.


Excellent! I'm so glad!

Even better, are those questions left unanswered. I'm a big fan of games ending with as many questions as answers. It speaks to the depth of the story and the characters.

Rock on!


Sounds awesome.  Sounds like it was handled with panache and care of both the characters and the players.  I bow to you, sir.

As for pushing time substantially, I have used this to much beneficial effect.  I let players sketch in what had happened in the intervening years, built off of that and then had my own juicy events to add.  I'm probably about to do it again, if I get back to that game.  Weapons of the Gods is on the table at the moment.  So it will be awhile.