Burning Warhammer: The Captain and the Witch (Session 6)

Joining a Grand Scheme

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

Burning Warhammer: The Captain and the Witch (Session 6) is a game session report for Burning Wheel Gold. We played via Zoom on .

Kasmiir and James had learned where to find the dwarf that framed Femke.

Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits

Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits (BITs 🔍) for Captain James van Shaw…
Beliefs
I need to get Femke out of jail…she’s going to need a lawyer that can focus on helping her.
Stapmï Thundergut’s framed Femke, I’ll find his angle and see if we can’t reach a deal.
Knowledge is just one currency of many, and right now we need coins more than we need knowledge.
Instincts
Always know where the exits are
Never accept the first offer
Always rummage through the paperwork
Traits
Paranoid
Rabble-rouser
Shrewd
Glib
Scavenger
Geometric
Scheming
Eidetic Memory
Blank Stare
BITs for Kasmiir van Shaw…
Beliefs
I am determined to find someone with close ties to the Tzeentch 🔍 cult; I want to get on Lilith’s good side. Maybe she can give me more information, or more contacts in the cult.
I need to stay close to James van Shaw, he pays my bills; I’ll help him with this weird Femke thing and see what I can do.
Currency is useless, knowledge is power. I’ll learn more about the shark tooth before I give it away.
Instincts
Books like my bag so much, they find their way inside.
I prefer shadows, so I always keep my hood up.
When at a crossroads, I look to the wisdom of the spirits.
Traits
Mark of the Beast
Extremely Respectful of One’s Betters
Spooky
Aura of Fear
Gifted
Obscure Aura
Weather Sense

Heading to the Five-Sided Square

Kasmiir and James head through Carroburg 🔍, towards the Five-Sided Square. They travel into the less patrolled area. There are people in the streets, plying their wares, and scratching out a living however they can.

Walking through the streets, they see an old roadhouse long in disrepair; Hanging above the door is a pentagon, with the word square etched inside. From outside they hear a Hurdy-gurdy 🔍 and other instruments banging out some lively tunes. People are coming in and out of the Five-Side Square.

Looking a bit out of place, Kasmiir and James head inside. A barkeep, with an impressive scar, a missing eye, and a cutlass at her side nods and motions for them to come to her.

“The name’s Elke Kleinemesser, and this here’s the Five-Sided Square. I haven’t seen you before, so what brings you in today?”

As they move closer to Elke, James and Kasmiir glance around to get a better sense of the place. Music fills the air as patrons laugh and drink and slap each other’s backs. Several people are coming and going from a doorway to the basement.

James responds, “We’re looking for a dwarf Stapmï Thundergut. We think there might be some trouble and want to warm them.”

Observation: Noticing Inconspicuous

While listening to James and Kasmiir, Elke’s cleaning a mug. She looks past them and the crowded bar. She raises her eyebrows as she tilts her head towards the basement doorway. James and Kasmiir glance back to see who noticed.

Task
Observation
Intent
To notice who responded to Elke's signal
Consequences
The characters won't have time to respond
Obstacle
Obstacle (Ob 🔍) 2 from an Inconspicuous 4D roll
Dice
6D for Jame's Perception
+2D for help from Kasmiir
Result
5 successes, reduced to 2 successes for Beginner's Luck
Success!
Both James and Kasmiir mark one test for opening Observation

James spots a barmaid suddenly change direction and begin moving towards the basement doorway; We’ll later learn her name is Analee. James moves quickly to get a word with Analee. And Kasmiir stays behind to keep Elke occupied.

Observation

This was a fun little moment. Two characters sauntering into a place with minimal information, hoping to talk with a dwarf. They have no information on how dangerous the situation might be. And this Observation test helped escalate the tension. James with his B6 Perception and Kasmiir with their B5 Perception are rather quick to notice many things.

Persuasion: Slowing Down Elke

Kasmiir’s original framing was plunk down and intimidate Elke. However, as we talked about it a bit, Kasmiir didn’t want to go there. Though, if the situation warranted, they would’ve dropped their hood and unleashed their Aura of Fear. For this game, we’ve established that the Aura of Fear is dependent on seeing Kasmiir’s face and mark of the beast.

With James moving to confront the Analee, Kasmiir plops their elbows on the bar top and says, “We’re just here to talk, and besides look at that guy he’s a threat to no one.” We framed this as a linked test for Jame’s persuasion.

Task
Persuasion
Intent
"Hey we should talk about this for a bit"
Consequences
Elke's going to get up and intercede
Obstacle
Ob 4
Dice
3D for Persuasion
+1D for Persona
Result
Fail!

Elke ignores Kasmiir and steps around the bar, both following James and urging Analee on.

Observation

It took a little bit to determine task and intent, but once we framed the moment in those terms, it became clear that Kasmiir wanted to use persuasion. They could always fallback on Aura of Fear.

Persuasion: Convincing Barmaid to Not Alarm Stapmï

As Kasmiir’s attempting to delay Elke, James scampers ahead to get between Analee and the doorway to the basement.

James gets to the doorway, turns and tries to convince Analee to give them access to Stapmï.

“Hey, we need to talk to Stapmï. We’ve learned of some danger and an opportunity, and want to see if we can help,” says James.

Elke catching up interrupts, “Now Analee, you go warn Stapmï.”

James responds, “Analee, you’re smart and can see there’s too few of us cause trouble; We’re here to help prevent some.”

Task
Persuasion
Intent
To convince Analee to give access to Stapmï
Consequences
Analee will brush past and will be further predisposed against the characters
Obstacle
Ob 4
+1 Ob for the failed linked test
Dice
5D Persuasion
+1D Soothing Platitudes
+1D Falsehood
+1D Persona
Result
Success!

“I suppose it’s only a matter of time before this all ends. Analee, do what you will,” says Elke as she turns back to the bar. The Game Master (GM 🔍) invoked the Let it Ride rule saying that James’s achieving his intent meant that he didn’t have to also convince Elke.

Analee looks over James, and says “Alright, but don’t you ruin a good thing for us.”

James steps aside and along with Kasmiir they follow Analee downstairs.

Observation

James has a 5D Persuasion, and to advance Persuasion needs a Challenging test (e.g., Ob 6 or greater). Alas, the circumstances weren’t quite right to get the challenging test; it is non-trivial advancing a B5 skill.

However, in this success, James likely defuses a situation that would most certainly escalate or block direct access to Stapmï.

Into Stapmï’s Den

Analee leads them down the busy stairs into the basement. At the bottom of the stairs they see several gambling tables and several side rooms. Analee leads them through this room and approaches a door.

She knocks on the door, and a panel slides open. Behind the panel, two eyes look and assess the situation. Analee nods and tips her head towards James and Kasmiir. They hear some scraping and the door opens.

Analee whispers to James and Kasmiir, “Now don’t you go ruining a good thing for us.” She turns and leaves as James and Kasmiir enter into the room.

Towards the back of the room, there’s a table with several people playing cards. At the table, but facing the door sits a dwarf atop pillows and amongst women fawning on him. All attention is at the table, and the dwarf is soaking all of it up.

As Kasmiir and James enter the room, they notice the two armed and leather armored guards at the door. There are a few other sycophants in the room. The door closes and the guards lower a wooden beam to secure the door.

“Well, what is it?” asks the dwarf as he turns back to the card game.

“We’ve learned that someone from Kreutzhofen 🔍 may be interested in something you might have.”

“And who are you?” ask Stapmï.

“By our accent, I hope you hear that I’m not associated with this person in Kreutzhofen. Instead, we’re looking to see if you might be in need of our services.”

“Well right now, I’m living the good life and just want to keep living it,” quips Stapmï as he turns back to the game, “You play?”

“What’s the game?” asks James. For all of James’s social skills, he doesn’t have any Gambling or Strategy Games. This is definitely something he’s ready to open. However, James’s finances are quite dire, so he hesitates to scrounge around his purse for the precious few coins.

“Six Dwarf Miners,” replies Stapmï as motions for someone to move another chair up to the table, “Come sit and play, then we’ll talk.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know the rules, but I’ll watch and join in in a hand or three,” responded James.

James sits down, eager to speak more privately with Stapmï. But Stapmï wants to keep playing cards.

Astrology: Draw Attention Away

Kasmiir looks around, sees an unused deck of cards, and begins to do some tarot readings.

Task
Astrology
Intent
To draw some of the room's attention away from Stapmï
Consequences
No ones having it
Obstacle
Ob 2
Dice
2D Astrology
+1D Sorcery (We hand-waved the Spirit Binding of a minor helping spirit)
+1D Persona
Result
2 Successes

Kasmiir’s readings draw just enough attention from the room, that interest in the main table dwindles.

Observation

Perhaps this should’ve been a Conspicuous test? Regardless I loved the little moment when a woman from the entourage came over to Kasmiir and confided in them that they’d followed another fortune teller’s advice.

Conversation

As Kasmiir’s drawing just a bit of attention from the table, James is learning the rules of the game. He notices that Stapmï’s pile of coins is much smaller than the others around the table.

James is gently nudging Stapmï to have a more private conversation. Eventually Stapmï proclaims, “Alright everyone. Why don’t we take a break.”

Those around the table cast baleful glares at James. He’s the one that’s putting a stop to their winnings. James adds, “Stapmï, instead of a break, why doesn’t everyone cash out, then you can all buy back in and start anew.”

Stapmï agrees, and the glares from the fellow gamers turns to appreciation as they get to walk away with their winnings. The room clears, except for Stapmï, two burly guards, James, and Kasmiir.

“I came upon a ledger, learned some things, and was curious. I know I can make whatever’s going on better.”

“That’s Femke’s ledger. You with her?”

James, slowly looks to the distance. He quickly assesses the situation, looking for exits and pushing back his paranoia. He replies, “In a way. I’m curious what happened.”

“Ah, well, it’s simple, when everything went down, I outran Femke,” boasts Stapmï.

“You outran Femke? Now that I would’ve loved to have seen. A fast of foot dwarf is an oddity,” quips James.

“Ha, I’m rather fast. So, you come here, offering to help and I don’t even know your name or what you’re about. As I see it there are two options. First, I get my two buddies over hear to beat that book out of you. Or, you give me the book and get out of here.”

Thinking quickly, James says “I’m Jens, I’m from Marienburg 🔍, and I know I can make these good times roll even bigger!“ James doesn’t want to tip his hand too much, and instead gives the name Jens, the boat patrol captain from .

I call for a Duel of Wits (DoW 🔍); Stapmï accepts.

Observation

I was struggling with an approach for James. First, he wants to get Femke out of jail. He doesn’t know the details of the situation around Stapmï’s betray (or if there even was one). Second, he doesn’t know the scope of involvement. And third, Stapmï’s somewhat resigned to fate but keen on letting these good times continue.

The only leverage the James has is Femke’s encrypted ledger. And skills to offer.

While the above reads quickly, the scene was a bit more involved. Again, my struggle for James approach was a significant barrier to a smooth flowing scene. Had we went to the dice, it would’ve moved quickly. In hindsight, I should’ve pull back from my character for a bit and state my intent, which was encoded in James’s belief: Stapmï Thundergut’s framed Femke, I’ll find his angle and see if we can’t reach a deal.

Duel of Wits

I’ve built James for DoW. With a B5 Persuasion, B4 Falsehood, and B2 Soothing Platitudes, I have a lot of skills to fiddle with. I’m missing Rhetoric, and would have love to start opening that up. However, for this Duel of Wits the states were high, and I wasn’t going to chance Beginner’s Luck.

Kasmiir and James's Statement of Purpose
We can help you get this bigger and better, and that means letting us into your operation, and give us some coins to get started.
Kasmiir and James's Body of Argument
8 (Will of 4 + 4 successes on 5D for Persuasion + 1D for Scheming)
Stapmï's Statement of Purpose
Give me the book and get out of my life.
Stapmï's Body of Argument
6 (Will of 4 + 2 successes on 4D for Coarse Persuasion)

For the first exchange, James scripts: obfuscate, point, and obfuscate. Stapmï scripts: point, incite, point.

The exchange looks to favor James. Obfuscate defends against Stapmï’s point. James’s point will chip away against Stapmï’s body of argument. And if Stapmï’s incite works, Stapmï will knock down some of James’s body of argument. At this point, I’m assuming someone will be offering a compromise.

Volley One

As Stapmï begins counting the coins still on the table, he says “You can’t just come in here…”

James interrupts, “Listen, as a boat captain, I’m well aware of making money.”

Kasmiir piles on, “It’s a great ship.”

Stapmï tests Coarse Persuasion, throwing 4D and getting 2 successes. James tests Falsehood at 4D plus 1D for Kasmiir’s help and 1D for persona. After spending a fate, James gets 5 successes. James’s successes negate Stapmï’s action, and add +1 Ob to Stapmï’s Incite for volley two.

Volley Two

I go into this volley thankful for the +1 Ob to Stapmï’s incite. James has a B4 Will, and I’m a bit nervous about needing to make an Ob 6 Steel test with a B4 Steel attribute.

Stapmï focuses on James, “It takes some stupid nerve to come here!”

James, under the rising ire, calmly says, “You’re clearly doing well for yourself, but money makes money and we can help get even more!”

Stapmï tests Coarse Persuasion, throwing 5D and getting 4 successes. James has a Will of B4, and the +1 Ob for the successful obfuscate. So Stapmï’s incite fails.

James tests Persuasion at 5D plus 1D for Kasmiir’s help and 3D for persona. After spending a fate, James gets 7 successes!

James reduces Stapmï’s body of argument to -1. James and Kasmiir body of argument remains unscathed. No compromises.

Observation

James is ill-prepared to fight his way out of anything. And I the player couldn’t quite figure out how to pull on Stapmï’s strings. The DoW helped us dive into the rules and use those to navigate a social situation.

Obfuscate works rather well as a delaying tactic, and can offer a small residual defense. I figured sliding in the point in the middle volley would help shape the stakes of the second exchange. I also thought that ending an exchange with an obfuscate would create some second guessing for the first volley of the second exchange.

Yet fortune shined on James and Kasmiir. And it felt like I’d landed a critical hit to fell some beast.

Yet in the moment of absolute success, I was a bit nervous for James. Yes, James and Kasmiir won a DoW with a dwarf that had threatened violence. And had gotten even more than they hoped for out of it. But would Stapmï escalate to violence?

Duel of Wits Denouement

Stapmï, a bit of the jovial nihilist, warms up. He takes the coins he’d been counting, scrapes them into two purses and throws one to James and one to Kasmiir.

“Alright, so everyone knows that someone stole the Archduke’s bracelets. And it just so happens that I’ve sold a pair or two. But I’ve got about 30 copies. And I still have the originals,” brags Stapmï. “I even sold a copy to some folks in purple robes talking about the Changer of Ways. They paid good money, and I’ve got more of these bracelets.”

With 2D of coins each, James and Kasmiir pondered if they would turn Stapmï over to the Cult of Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways. More important is how to get get Femke out of jail.

We wrapped up the session, and as is typical, by the end of the session things were clicking. It also helps to end on the high of an uncompromised DoW.

My advice to those playing Burning Wheel Gold 🔍 is to frame the opening scene and go early to the dice. Lean into the oracular nature of the dice. Let the dice speak and listen to their input. And throughtout the session, it’s good to both role-play and also step back a bit and ask “What is it your characters are trying to accomplish?” This metagaming conversation both clarifies and encourages going to the dice.