Burning Sanctuary - Session 1 is a game session report for Burning Wheel Gold. We played around the table on .
We met for our second session of Burning Sanctuary. Some of the players had not completed their beliefs. So we spent some time finalizing both characters and a bit of the world. This took about an hour of our 3.5 hour session.
Without knowing the players starting beliefs and instincts I wasn’t able to plan as much as I had hoped.
There was Shrewsbury Abbey (and clergy). One of the players provided beliefs related to smuggling something out of the Abbey.
I focused on writing various impressions and bits of scenery for Shrewsbury Abbey:
- Stooped monks harvesting squash and onions
- Moans of the injured
- Dripping water as bloodied clothes are wrung out over a bowl
- Chanting prayers as tallow candles crackle and flicker
- Hushed conversations in stone halls
- Wretched poor seeking alms
- Unarmed soldiers walking idling about
- Cool stones in open air passages
- A small girl asleep under an ancient oak
- A bell tolling
I used the above to add color to the environs. It provided a means for tredding water as we felt out the scope of the game.
What follows are a list of beliefs; not precise as they were workshopped during the session, but instead the notes and recollections that I’m working from.
Aneúpin (aka Nye) (Welsh Scout):
- B1: Wants solitude and to get back to the wilderness
- B2: Needs to get possessions back so I can be self-sufficient
- I1: Always looking for new cooking ingredients
- I2: Always fall to the back of the group.
- I3: Always watch the nobility out of the corner of my eye.
Raimund (Anglo-Norman Smuggler):
- B1: William was supposed to supply an artifact to me as part of the deal, but it’s sealed away at Shrewsbury Abbey. I’m to meet his contact there, obtain the artifact, and deliver it to Ranulf.
- B2: I need help to escort me back to Chester.
- B3: I will advance my status and wealth to return my family to the peerage
- I1: While at ports, large markets, or trade fairs, always chitchat with fellow merchants and look over their wares. Prioritize the exotic and foreign.
- I2: Never pass by a rare or exotic good without inspecting it.
- I3: Always carry a packet of herbs to ward off the disease-ridden miasma.
Old Travis (Anglo-Norman Elder):
- B1: Find the family of Clovis FitzTravis, my son.
- B2: I want to be known for my writings, but I must learn to compose. So I will study the manuscripts of the abbey.
- I1: When prattling on about travels always be assessing my surroundings.
- I2: Always take an afternoon nap.
- I3: Always work patiently when mending
Edmund Thatcher (Anglo-Saxon Doctor):
- B1: I will get my sister (Adwyn) out from the control of Robert of Gloucester. I will take her to Chester and seek an audience with Earl Ranulf. (wants to improve her station)
- B2: I have an academic interest in these relics, I know someone wants them I’m going to find out who.
- I1: Always provide medical attention to the injured
I’m adopting the procedure of having the players go around the table reading their Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits. It is a helpful reminder for everyone since each players BITs drives the Artha awards.
In this session we went around once to flesh out the beliefs. We then went around again to restate the more “formalized” beliefs. It was a collaboration.
Mixing throughout character burning was some world burning. We fleshed out the primary deity and the details of the relics.
Shirat, the Illuminating Eye
Instead of using a “vanilla” Christian God, we came up Shira, the Illuminating Eye. The “Catholic” church venerates her.
- Written Word
We discussed that Raimund is smuggling relics to Ranulf. The players know that these relics are Fey related. They are also being positioned along ley lines. The characters know none of this.
The Session Proper
We spent much of the session getting the characters into a common orbit.
- Edmund Thatcher became a local celebrity through his miraculous healing of one of Robert Gloucester’s men (Roger FitzWallace).
- Travis spent time fixing up the Abbey, always conspiring to gain access to the scriptorium and its books. He learned that Brother George had a key to the storeroom.
- Nye focused on gaining his equipment; Things went awry when he sought the help of several fellow Welsh men.
- Raimund was busy tracking down his contact and laying out an initial plan to smuggle out some “holy” bones.
The session drew to a close when they all noticed the Welsh men carrying out a corpse of one of the priests (Brother George). The church bell rang, raising the alarm; The abbey awoke; In the general chaos Raimund and Nye begun forming an alliance.
Non-Player Characters (NPCs 🔍)
The NPCs introduced throughout the session:
- Gwyir - a Welsh traveler and spokes person for 3 other Welsh men. They have sought an evening respite at Shrewsbury Abbey; They are not wealthy. They came with a wagon of wool.
- Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) - Abbot of Shrewsbury
- Brother Michael - contact for Raimund
- Brother George - oversees the storeroom.
- Brother Ferand - tends the kitchen
- Brother Albert - an elderly monk with one eye blind from cataracts
Faith (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
- Task: Seek guidance for the surgery to come
- Intent: Gain guidance
- Consequence: Brother Albert, the chatty old monk, will mark you a blasphemer.
- Result: Success. A glowing nimbus and a bead of sweat forms on Edmund Thatcher’s brow.
Surgery (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
- Task: Stitch up this severe wound
- Intent: Get him healthy and on the road to recovery and even ingratiate himself to the Earl of Gloucester.
- Consequence: He’s a bannerman of Gloucester and Gloucester will find out about it.
- Side note: The player rolled 3 successes. But one of them was a 6 and was the dice from astrology. With the open-ended dice, they got the 4 successes.
- Result: The bannerman is on the road to recovery. And Brother Albert is extolling the virtues of a miracle.
Persuasion (Ob 5) for Travis:
- Task: Persuade the abbot that this place is falling apart and you can help clean it up.
- Intention: Ingratiate himself with the abbot so he can gain access to the books
- Consequence: You draw the ire of the Abbot and he assigns someone to watch over you.
- Result: Failure
Stealth (Ob 2) for Raimund linked into Inconspicuous:
- Task: Moving through the abbey without being seen
- Intention: To observe each monk.
- Consequence: You draw unwanted attention as it is clear you are singling someone out.
- Result: Success, one over Obstacle (Ob 🔍), so the linked test gets +1D.
Inconspicuous (Ob 2 linked from Stealth) for Raimund:
- Task: Mingling without drawing attention
- Intention: To find Brother Michael without drawing attention.
- Consequence: You are unable to find the brother as he is out-of-town. This one was weak. I was thinking perhaps a Circles test.
- Result: Success. Raimund finds Brother Michael.
- Side note: I really should’ve called for an Inconspicuous test then an Observation test.
Scavenging (Ob 3) for Nye:
- Task: Find something that could be used to pick a lock.
- Intention: With a tool in hand, he’d pick the lock to get into the store-room.
- Consequence: you draw unwanted attention. Opted not to test.
- Result: The player stepped away from the test.
- Side note: With the Ob set, the player backed down. Instead going towards Rumor-wise
Rumor-wise (Ob 2) for Nye:
- Task: Poke around a bit regarding these Welsh men’s mode of operation
- Intention: I want them to help me bust into the store-room
- Consequence: These Welshmen are very bad news; burn down the Abbey, mass murder.
- Result: Success. These Welshmen are ready to help.
Mending (Ob 3) for Travis: I’m drawing a blank on this one, but I believe it was along the lines of you aggravate Brother Michael and he assumes you are stalling.
- Result: Success. Travis has begun ingratiating himself with Brother Michael.
Inconspicuous (Ob 2) for Raimund:
- Task: Pull Brother Michael aside to talk
- Intention: Determine what and where the relics are that Raimund needs to smuggle out
- Consequence: You are deep in conspiring and someone stumbles upon you.
- Result: Success. They engage in a clandestine conversation.
Persuasion (Ob 3 untrained, so Ob 6) for Nye:
- Task: Convince the Welsh men that there are valuables in the abby
- Intention: Get them to help me bust into the store-room
- Consequence: They’ll help but its going to escalate into the abduction/murder of a priest.
- Result: Failure (untrained got 5 successes). They murder a priest.
Observation (Ob 3) for all:
- Task: Looking into the darkening night.
- Intent: See if they spot the people leaving through the sally port.
- Consequence: You don’t see the events transpiring in the courtyard.
- Result: The players see four men carrying the body of another.
- Side Note: I wasn’t sure how to proceed. The party was not coordinated in their effort. So I called for individual tests.
Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) insinuates the Edmund Thatcher’s miracles could draw pilgrims to Shrewsbury and bolster their coffers. The Abbot wants to talk with Edmund in his chambers.
Nye and Arnolt have their first conversation. Arnolt offers cash to Nye if he will help get some relics to Chester. The beginnings of a plan take shape. We end the session.
I am keeping a running log of what we establish via Wises and Duel of Wits. Both resolutions are manifestations of the Let it Ride principle.
- The Four Clovers are a band of Welsh rebels; They despise the English. They are destabilizing England. (via Rumor-wise)
- The relics are three leg bones from the Abbey crypt. These bones are in a prominent spot.
- At temples of Shirat, at least one brother or sister maintains a nighttime vigil for Shirat’s return.
I also like to reflect on the sessions that I’ve run. I have personal notes for where to go with the next session; But I’m not going to publish those at the moment.
Task and Intent
I was insistent on players providing both Task and Intent. In doing so, we were able to map tests to beliefs. This made the end of session Artha awards smooth and meaningful. The wrap up discussion concerning Artha award categories was helpful for me; We were generous in interpretation. It also felt like we ended on the same page.
An interesting note, no one earned Artha for character traits. There are a lot of parts, and I believe those traits are something that is hard to pay attention to in the first session.
Once we completed the session wrap-up, the players saw some of the reward cycle. They now have greater clarity on how to write their beliefs. They can also focus their beliefs to the immediate situation.
An interesting observation is that I think User Stories (from Agile software development) are an excellent template for writing beliefs. They have the following form:
As a ____, I will ____, so that ____.
Odd Getting Started
The players are not well aligned; I believe this is a failing on my part. The initial situation (everyone has declared sanctuary) doesn’t have enough teeth to bind them. I also didn’t lead them through group creation.
I’m not worried about keeping the characters together, but hope to nurse goal alignment.
Then again, it’s a first session. Everyone is feeling out their characters and intentions. I imagine the next session will move better.