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[Burning Wheel] Preparations for winter

Started by Kaare Berg, February 24, 2004, 07:32:19 AM

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Kaare Berg

It works.

Though I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the idea, I now bow my head and stand corrected. Using player motivation works.

How does it work?
Well that is what this post is about. It got a bit more verbose than planned, but please bear with me.

Prep Time

I prepared my game “live” here:, but to summarise I looked at their motivations, both player and character . . .

QuotePlayer Christer, character Liam

Christer want to see Liam grow into a position of trust and responsiblity, earning the right to lead. (Contrary to being given it by taking a noble lifepath.)
Liam wants to find his missing wife and resettle the peacefull life he had before she vanished. He also wants to build a group of rangers because he thinks this will allow him to keep their home safe.

QuotePlayer Jon, character Gorin

Jon sees Gorin guiding and teaching the good people the way to battle the Shadow. (More the Gandalf than the Aragorn.)
Gorin wants to wake his people from their despondent isolation and to rediscover the virtues that once inspired such great tales of heroes.
QuotePlayer Espen, character Calem

Espen wants Calem to ressurect the True Druids. (To better oppose the Shadow).
Calem is researching a lost magic art and for the moment this takes all his time.

. . . and compared this with my motivation (aka my plot) and what had gone before, throw in a nebolus theme, duty, and a mood, anger, and off we went.

The game

It was the final days of Autum, when the air is so crisp and clear that it nearly hurts one’s eyes, that Liam first heard rumours of trolls around the village Chalke. There had been little activity since he lead a raid upon the Beacon of Tirnen Pendrath, so he and his apprentice Joshua set out to investigate. In the fields of an abandoned farm they found troll-tracks meeting human footprints. Before any futher investigation an arrow struck down Joshua.

Here we began play in earnest Joshua’s player, Peri, wasn’t there with us and it was a convinent way to get “rid off” his character.

Liam was astounded by the skill of the assasin, and was torn between his choices. Ignoring the mysterious troll tracks and the fleeing assasin he carried the severly wounded Joshua to the Knightsbridge abbey. Leaving his wounded friend to the skilled care of the physician there he was reunited with his friend Gorin, who was at the abbey to study its books. The two went back to Chalke to investigate these troll-tracks, taking along sir Hute, an Iron Guard (order of knights that serve the church). Before reaching the village they came upon a train of refugees. It seemed that the trolls had struck Chalke without warning and that only its lord, sir Gerin’s brave stand had let half the villagers escape.

Here my few plans were already cast aside. I had “planned” for the two characters to stay at Knightsbridge and to have the refugees arrive closely followed by trolls which would lead to a siege. Looking at my timetable I realised this wouldn’t make sense and seeing no way to keep the players tied up in the abbey I had to change my plans. Luckily it was only two small pragraphs thrown out the window, and not ten pages.

The three sent the villagers on their way hurrying down the road to help the beleaugered baron. Unforunatly Liam must have been distracted by his failure as Royal Protector of the Forest, because he wandered right past two Woodtroll Sneakers (no not shoes, a troll lifepath). Scratched by an arrow he took shelter on the side ot the road, unable to spot the trolls before sir Hute cut one apart in the forest edge. Gorin having run right into some bramble bushes.
Still distracted Liam led the three into the forest, backtracking the trolls.

Christer rolled abysmally poorly on his perveption roll. Then when the conditions changed enough to warrant a reroll (the ambush), he rolled even more poorly. His tracking roll was up to speed though.

Liam was so intent on the tracks that he lead the three right out into a clearing, coming face to face with about a dosen or so trolls. It was hard to tell who were the most surprised but a harrowing battle ensued. Sir Hute, was run down and spent the battle fending of the wood-trolls clawing all over him. Gorin stood his ground and killed trolls right and left, throwing one off only to be jumped by another, saved only by his dwarven thoughness as dagger after dagger found its mark. Liam found his close quarters skills lacking and struggled with the two that reached him. Pinned to the ground he was saved by the fact that the trolls didn’t see him much as a threat, whishing to claim the dwarf’s head in stead. The battle ended. Too weary to continue they made camp.

BW combat is hard. They burned artha both to ignore wound penalties and for luck, but she didn’t favour them. So they had like three or four superficial wounds each, and afterwars when Christer failed his track roll they decided to make camp. So far I had been playing off Christer’s motivation, but I hadn’t touched much upon Jon’s which I had to find a way to do (the original having gone out the window an hour ago). Meanwhile Espen showed up and we cut to Calem studying the Book of Maeind, a magical tome he had found on a previous occasion.

Calem’s study was interrupted when a tall aging stranger entered his chambers. At Calem’s request he identified himself as Allarnorn the druid (who’s Terry Brooks?) and he came for the Book. Naturally Calem refused and when the duid said he just would have totake it then Calem began to chant. This was how Calem learned the duid’s first rule: “Do not rely too much upon magic”, as the ancient druid swept the mage’s legs from under him with his staff. The scuffle continued, with Calem successfully casting his first true magic spell before the Druid miscast a spell and reduced the mage to a bubbling idiot.

I had intended for there to be a little conflict of interest, knowing well that Espen would play up Calem’s suspicion and ambition and that he would never hand over the book easily. Actually it turned out more  complicated than I had planned, but the scuffle between the two was highly entertaining. Espen got real close to getting away throwing a massive monkeywrench in my plans, it was just bad luck that didn’t let him.

Returning to the three warriors, their rest was broken by cries of pain and death from far away. Deciding not to tarry any longer they headed towards Chalke. The village was eerily quiet, no houses were burned, nor were any trolls to be seen. Only a fire behind the open gates of the Chalke manor and the open doors showed that something was amiss. Investigating they found some dead men-at-arms aswell as another wood-troll sneaker that taunted them while he sniped at them with his bow. It took Liam a while, but he finaly spotted the cretin and finished him so that they could attend to the dying sir Gerin, who they had stumbeled upon while avoiding troll-arrows.

The dying man told them that the trolls had taken his daughter Gwen and he told them (a very stubborn man) to rescue her. Gorin swore an oath to the dying man that he would return Gwen or die trying. Afterwards Liam found that the trolls had split in two, half going back into the hills wile a large group of Grey-trolls had gone towards Knightsbridge. Again they had a choice, rescue the prisoners or warn the Vale.

As dawn broke, Liam set out to bring word to Laranne, while Gorin and Hute went back towards Knightsbridge.

At this point I was struggeling, I had planned for for the three to meet, instead they split up. It was the right thing dramatically, anyhing else would have felt forced, but by now I was struggeling. As Espen's conflict with Allarnon deepend.

Calem woke to find Allarnon sitting conserned by his side. The young mage learned that the book had been burned, and was chastised by the old druid who said that true magic was hard, even for him to control. Before Calem could learn any more he had to learn responsibility. Allarnon left to examine the curse of Cribannogwend (a previous session) and he brought Shea with him. Calem set out for Knightsbridge to join up with Gorin, whom he thought studied there.
As he was leaving Liam entered the keep, having run all night. The ranger delivered his warning and collapsed. The mage tried to sway the lords to action but they would not respond without deliberation. Calem left in a huff to got to Gorin’s aid.

Great, I had finally joined two characters just to have them wander in different directions the minute they met. Espen cast Turn Aside Blade, but rolled poorly and only got one point of protection. But Calem didn’t know that the spell had failed him o he wanderd on.

Meanwhile Gorin and Hute had reached Knightsbridge. The small village was deserted, its residenst having sought shelter within the abbey walls. Sneaking over some arguing trolls, the two made theyr way up to the back door, where they were after some confusion let into the monestary seconds before alert trolls nearly caught them.
Walking among the scared and confused villagers Gorin met with a distraught abbot. Before they had a chance to discuss the defenses three trolls approached the gate. They demanded that the dwarf should surrender to them, or they would burn the abbey.

After havning walked for two hours Calem came upon a dead rabbit pinned to a tree. Curious, but wary of a trap he carefully to poked with his staff, trusting his spell to protect him.  The assasin that had shot joshua nailed Calem too (pun intended). Severly wounded Calem fell to the ground incapitated. Moaning in pain he was carried away by the Aelfric, a killer that was known to the party.

Liam woke and was summoned to the council chamber of earl stennarch and grilled for his failure to warn the villagers of Chalke. Well aware that he done so Liam was certain that he would be arrested. Sir Fedred, an outsider, was foremost in this grilling, while Liam’s protectors sir Gondrins and Jarad kept silent. Having been chastised for failing, unable to convince the lords to weaken Laranne’s defenses to go to the aid of Knightsbridge, Liam set for the abbey, hoping to catch up with the mage.

Gorin had reached a descision. He held a speech on the virtues  and handed the Garb of the Herald over to the abbot for safe keeping and went out to face the trolls. “If you want me, come and get me”, he shouted holding his family axe high. Though he cut down one, he was overpowered and captured. In the scuffle he got hold of a dagger which he snuk into his belt. The trolls then began to run back towards the mountains, staying on the road.

Calem awoke to find himself at the mercy of Aelfric, the two had a brief conversation and the assasin was silently furious to learn that the book of Maeind had been destroyed. Uncertain what to do the assasin sat pondering, leaving Calem trying to eat some stew (same rabbit as earlier).

Meanwhile the ranger had come upon the ambush site and tracked the tral back to a cottage. Sneaking up to it he observed a bound Calem, and tried to figure outwhere the assasin was. Knowing that close-combat would kill him he kicked in the door, suprising the killer and putting an arrow in his head. The killer died, but Liam took no chances and slit the assasin’s throat. Supporting the wounded mage Liam led them back to the road and the two made their way to rescue Knightsbridge.

There has been a pattern emerging in Christer’s fighting style: arrows and more arrows. However his character is a master archer, and his planning is sound. By using Luck (artha) and even more artha he was able to pull of a move that is generally reserved for swat-guys with MP5s. He was also keenly aware that he just needed one poor roll and his character would be facing a knife-fighter at close quarters. For the first time the entire session he got lucky.

At the crossing between the road to Chalke and the road to Knightsbridge, both Calem and Liam heard the running trolls approaching. The mage began to cast a spell, and Liam snuck into the woods, keeping well away from the area where the mage had said the spell would take effect.
The trolls came over the low hill and saw a single figure leaning against a tree. Fearing a trap the main party moved forward while their leader and his bodyguards remained at the rear.

Now things got chaotic.

To stall the trolls Liam shot one, by the arrow bounced of his helmet. Screaming “ambush” the trolls headed into the forest to look for their attackers. The dwarf saw his chance and cut his bonds while all attention was turned to the front. Liam saw what the Dwarf did and put an arrow through the head of the rearmost guard. All the bodyguards turned to the sound seeing the dwarf unleashed. Still bound to the leader Gorin did the only thing he could, he got inside the leader’s guard and stabbed himover and over again. Unable to get a hold on the furious dwarf the other trolls couldn’t help their leader from takng stabwound after stabwound.

Then the spell errupted. The sky had been gradually growing more and more crimson, with fire swirling between the clouds casting a red light over the landscape. And as Calem, with rushing trolls no more than ten paces away, finished his spell it exploded.

Espen burned artha and rolled. Not only did he cover the area he wanted, he did Grey 14 damage.

The fire cleansed the hill top. Burning the grey trolls to cinders and burning the ground down to the bedrock (the place would be called Calem’s crossing for generations and no gras would ever grow there). The distraction let Gorin and Liam finish the remaining trolls and silence fell.

I was bushed and we called it a night.

The lessons learned:

The biggest lesson learned was simply that baseing your prep work on player and character motivation gives you a lot for free.
I was not in my best form, having had yhet infamous one too many gin tonic during lunch, and had a times trouble keeping my preparations straight (don’t drink and game, kids). One of my players was sick (and broke his voice shouting “you want …”, Gorin was whispering from this point on). So the setting was not ideal for gaming.
But by using what my players had defined as their motivation we had a cracking game.

I have always dreaded split party games, but during this five to six hour session the characters spent no more than 30 minutes in the same location. (didn’t help my alcohol befuddled brain). But by jumping from player to player a short intervalls and keepng the action flowing they didn’t get bored. A bit of an eye opener actually.

Any input?


Sounds like a whole lot of fun, broken voices and befuddled brains be damned!

So I see Liam's motivation, he's bound by duty and the more bad shit happening in his neighborhood, the more he's got to do. (Especially when his friends are involved.)

Gorin's motivations seem pretty clear, too. The Shadow is bad and I shall kick its ass whereever I see it. So through in some minions of evil and he'll at least be interested.

Calem lost me. Ok, he's researching, he's talking to the druid (didn't the druid try to kill him? who failed that spell?), but then what takes him out and about in the world (only to get wounded and captured)? I don't see his motivation in this.


Kaare Berg

QuoteCalem lost me. Ok, he's researching, he's talking to the druid (didn't the druid try to kill him? who failed that spell?), but then what takes him out and about in the world (only to get wounded and captured)? I don't see his motivation in this.

I do not have Calem's BITs, the only trait I know is weird.
This is because I have let the players develop their characters over time.

I failed to som extent with Calem, Espen might have wanted to go to Knightsbridge because he knew OOC that there was where the action was.
He had not been warned about the assasin (Espen wasn't there when it happened), nor did he have time to speak with Liam.Thus he walked blissfully unaware right into the sharp end of an arrow.

The druid didn't try to kill Calem, mearly destroy the book so that Calem would not learn true magic (abstractions). His spell was to control will, but instead ended up with tax will. Luckily the effect wasn't permanent.
Since Espen wants to revive the druids, the Druid will become his mentor.

However it was never my intention to have him show up from out of the blue and say: hey I'll teach you. The anatagonsim between the two will cement their friendship later, or vreated a love/hate relations ship.

Just because Espen wants (motivation) for this to happen dosen't mean he wont have to work for it.


Thanks for the feedback though.