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[Burning Wheel] Burning THAC0: Redemption and Lost Faith

Started by Thor Olavsrud, May 15, 2007, 05:23:29 PM

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Thor Olavsrud

In our Burning THAC0 game (a Burning Wheel game celebrating oD&D and AD&D 1st, set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos), our characters are dirt fucking poor.

A few weeks ago we had just gained a Reputation as Bandit Slayers after defeating a band of bandits that had been plaguing the trade of Threshold. We were living the high life as honored vassals of the Steward of Threshold (Lady Alderhart, niece of the Duke of Threshold) after killing the bandits. We accompanied her to a summit between the Duke of Threshold, the Althing of the elves of Alfheim and a prince of the dwarves. By the end of the evening, our cleric of St. Cuthbert (we know Mystara doesn't have St. Cuthbert, but we wanted Cuthbert and Vecna!) had announced to the Duke that his lands were infested with Vecna cultists before the entire delegation (we'd discovered the bandits were cultists), enraging the Duke because it caused a stir as he was negotiating his trade agreement. Pete's character, Merrick the Cleric, has the Provincial trait and failed his etiquette test to boot. The Duke refused to consider the possibility that Vecna's cults were returning to his lands, though the Althing seemed more concerned.

Then the Althing's adjutant was murdered. The elves left the summit in disgust and horror.

We caught the assassin (the last of the five bandit chiefs), but caused some serious problems when we refused to turn the assassin over to the Duke (our lord's lord). See, Luke's character Fletcher Flynn is an elven exile (Fletcher is an alias; he hasn't used his real name since he was exiled). He was exiled for his role in a misunderstanding that led to him killing several dwarves, who happened to be the last surviving clansmen of our companion (Rich's character, Dvalinn). Rich knows this, but Dvalinn does not.

Fletcher has few social skills, but Luke fought a blistering Duel of Wits with the Duke over whether we were legally within our rights as vassals of Lady Alderhart (and by extension, the Duke) to defy the Duke and take the assassin to the elves. Luke ended the Duel victoriously with a Dismiss, throwing back the hood of his cloak, brow shining with light, and declaring: "It is true that Fletcher Flynn is your vassal, but I am Varda Lightborn, First Born Under the Stars and Ranger of Alfheim! And Varda has sworn no such oath!"

It was an awesome moment. We'd been building toward it in play for months of real time. Luke's character has the Instinct, "Never speak about my past." He's been  working on his Belief about atoning for his crimes by serving Rich's character, to the point of giving away just about everything he owned (including his sword) in order to help Dvalinn out. There'd been little hints about his past here and there, but we'd always contrive something to prevent us from following the thread to its conclusion. And here was the big reveal. And we all knew that just ahead was a confrontation with the elven Althing to ask for Varda's redemption. The Althing would be a monster in the Duel of Wits.

So we refused to turn the assassin over to the Duke and with his men closing in on us took off in Lady Alderhart's carriage to catch up with the elves, knowing full well that we would probably be declared outlaws, and maybe Lady Alderhart would be hurt in the process.

The Duel of Wits with the Duke was topped by the Duel of Wits with the Althing, as Varda sought redemption. This Duel was grand fun as the Althing made points like, "Does Prince Dvalinn know what you did? Perhaps you should tell him." To which Rich would have the unwitting Dvalinn give Varda helping dice with lines like, "Varda is my friend and I have sworn to stand beside him. He need tell me nothing!"

It was a very powerful moment as the companions came together to support their own, and a really satisfying phase of the story arc. The dramatic irony -- we the audience know about Varda's secret but the characters don't -- is really what made this scene.

The Althing won, but Luke squeezed out a major compromise. He swore to help Dvalinn win back his kingdom under the mountain (lost to an ancient black dragon), and was kitted out with elven arms and armor and an elven cloak! When the deed is done, Varda's exile will be lifted. The rest of us immediately swore to help see it done. It was a poignant moment!

We returned to Threshold clandestinely with Lady Alderhart's carriage, only to learn that Lady Alderhart had never returned from the Duke's palace. There was something we had to set right.

But first, Merrick had to stop in the Temple of St. Cuthbert. See, he'd been having visions (sent by St. Cuthbert) that spoke of dogs and wolves, and St. Cuthbert's dissatisfaction with priests who spent their time spreading his word rather than devoting themselves to emulating his actions. In Merrick's visions, St. Cuthbert had ordered Merrick to smite the dogs so the wolves could thrive.

This, too, has been months in coming. In a previous adventure, we had made our way into the Hall of Chronicles in the ancient and lost Hall of the Allfathers (the first, lost dwarven kingdom, hidden in the Lost Valley of Hutaaka). We had been seeking important information. We found the Hall overrun with Great Spiders and had spent more than a month holed up in the Hall of Chronicles, living on tinned dwarven cram, while my wizard, Petronax, performed his research. On the way out, Dvalinn and Petronax thought to make their way to the Great Armory to equip themselves with dwarven gear and magic, but Merrick argued that it was too dangerous and it was too important that we escape with our hard-won information. Merrick prevailed in the Duel of Wits, but in his anger Dvalinn laid a curse on Merrick by reading his fortune with his dwarven Rune Casting magic.

The way that works is that Rich had to offer up a destiny, which was something along the lines of: "You will betray your faith and your god!" Both Pete and Rich had to write a new Belief related to that fortune. If Pete had Merrick fulfill the curse, he would earn a Deeds point of Artha and Dvalinn would earn a Persona point. If either changed the Belief before it was fulfilled, the fortune would not come to pass. It seemed like fun, so I gave Petronax a Belief about saving Merrick from his dire fate. Rich and I would spend the next few months having our characters egg Merrick on to ever-greater feats of Faith in the hopes of getting Merrick to begin questioning his faith. The visions would begin later, after our first encounter with Vecna cultists, and an episode where Vecna himself may have spoken to Merrick through the corpse of one of his cultists.

So after we returned to Threshold, we followed Merrick to the temple, where Merrick smote down the acolyte who opened the door and strode in to confront the head priest. There was some tense role-play from all sides (our characters were horrified by Merrick's actions), and Pete went to have Merrick strike the priest down. Anthony (the GM) had the priest call upon his Faith to stop the blow and succeeded! The moment of truth was here at last!

In the moment that Merrick hesitated, I had my character, Petronax the wizard, cover the priest with his body. Petronax has the Instinct, "Leap to the defense of the innocent" in addition to his "I will save Merrick from his dire fate" Belief. I was half convinced that Pete would have Merrick brain Petronax with his mace. Instead, after some agonized role-play, "St. Cuthbert, why have you forsaken me?!" Pete had Merrick throw down his mace and stalk out.

Rich and I each earned Persona points for our Beliefs and Merrick's Faith, and Pete earned a Deeds point!

That's where the session ended. At the beginning of the next session, we held a Trait vote in which we awarded Merrick the Lost Faith trait. That makes Merrick's Faith inaccessible until he redeems his Faith Belief, at which point he gets his Faith back and earns another Deeds point.

In the next session, Merrick would fight a Trial by Combat with the Duke of Threshold as champion of Lady Alderhart (who had been imprisoned for treason)! After beating the Duke nearly to death, Lady Alderhart was freed and we decided it was time to leave Threshold while things cooled down. We would subsequently fail our Lifestyle Maintenance Resources tests for the season (Petronax is still hobbled by debt from the loan he took from a loan shark in order to finance an expedition to the Isle of Dread to retrieve an artifact). Our true poverty was about to begin. A week after being feted by the Duke, Merrick and Dvalinn would be digging ditches to clear an open sewer in order to pay for repairs to some straps on their armor, and Petronax would have a violent case of food poisoning after downing some poisonous berries he found while foraging in the woods.


Quote from: Thor Olavsrud on May 15, 2007, 05:23:29 PMA few weeks ago we had just gained a Reputation as Bandit Slayers after defeating a band of bandits that had been plaguing the trade of Threshold.

Thor, how does gaining a new reputation through play work?

Thor Olavsrud

Quote from: Paka on May 15, 2007, 07:30:57 PMThor, how does gaining a new reputation through play work?

Judd, it works exactly like a Trait vote. See New Reputations on page 118 of the system book.