Working through the Fallout of a Moldbreaker Artha Award

Something Must Change, Let's Do Some Digging

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

Working through the Fallout of a Moldbreaker Artha Award is a game session report for Burning Wheel Gold. We played via Discord and Roll20 on .

In session, the group voted for my character, Viscount Nentres Rhydulf, to receive the Moldbreaker Artha award. This post also provides further context for .

Diving into Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits

To set the stage, let’s look at Nentres’s Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits (BITs 📖):

Having humiliated my great uncle in court, his Eminence keeps me at a distance and moves me as a pawn on the chessboard. And in this move, he's pushed me to Castle Umbria and the hour grows late. I will find someone that can secure me an audience with the Duke.
As second in line for Rhydulf, I must bring to court folks I can trust. I'll keep an eye out for trustworthy folk; I'll learn more of this traitor in Castle Umbria and what motivates them so I may avoid that in my court.
There is a wisdom of the ancients that the church would do well to learn. With the Fey afoot, this is ever more true. I must inspect where Brother Blake was murdered to learn if the fey are involved.
When rhetoric fails let them know your nobility.
Never turn down a chance to play a game of strategy.
Never hold back on stating the ugly truth to those beneath me.
Character Traits
Your Eminence
Cultural Character Traits
Die Traits
Mark of Privilege
Thick Skin

There’s a bit of an overlap between When rhetoric fails let them know your nobility and Never hold back on stating the ugly truth to those beneath me. But they highlight Nentres’s mental framing. Were I to refine these, I might craft an instinct pointing up in station and down in station.

He always leads with logic, yet views his nobility as something on which supersedes even logic. And when conversations fall apart, he escalates the situation with incendiary ugly truths. As I’ve brought these instincts into play, they’ve lead me to realize that Viscount Nentres’s upbringing was likely one in which his family surrounded him with folk who acquiesced to the young brat.

In our private Discord server I mentioned that I feel like I’m setting Nentres Rhydulf up for a Thomas Becket type ending.

Setting the Mold

In I wrote about one of Nentres’s instinctive outbursts. In session, Nentres had another outburst.

This time, the PCs 📖 had sought out the captain of the guard to report the murder of Priest Blake. Coming out of the night’s driving rain, they entered the barracks and the captain was up and in their finery.

Nentres, as a member of the church, requested to be part of the investigation into the murder. Nentres failed his persuasion check. The captain, with annoyance issuing from their voice said that it was improper for an outsider to participate.

And in that moment, Nentres unloaded an ugly truth, highlighting that as a noble the captain should show some deference. I wasn’t trying to change the result of the test, but instead to have the captain treat Nentres with future deference. Alas, also a failure. And the Game Master (GM 📖) rightly slapped the effects of the enmity clause on Nentres’s relation with the captain of the guard.

The Duke had summoned the captain of the guard summoned to court, and with the PCs reporting a murder, the captain insisted that they be brought along.

Breaking the Mold

They arrived in the court. In I introduce the cast of characters and allude to the fallout. By the word of the court jester, the Lady Kiera, the one who witnessed Nentres original outburst, accused the PCs of vial deeds.

Now in the Ducal court, Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren (both PCs) spoke to the captain of the guard, trying to convince him to plead for their case. And as they reached for the dice, assembling the help, I narrated a brief moment for Nentres.

As Sir Vaughn and Berren speak, Nentres lowers his head and closes his eyes letting out a sigh of resignation. He then looks up casts his glance at those now here, then looks towards the captain of the guard. He waits for the captain’s gaze to lock with his, then Nentres nods in deference of the captain and his station.

Three times, Nentres’s instincts had got him into trouble. And in this moment, where a fourth opportunity presented itself, Nentres chose to refrain from opening his mouth. Here he was at the intersection of the many walks of life, and neither his nobility nor logic could save him.

Fallout of the Broken Mold

The GM was setting up this situation for a Duel of Wits, and the preamble was garnering support or damnation from the cast of characters with whom we’d previously interacted. But Nentres looked and saw a situation in which his logic and brusque discourse had helped bring them to this ruinous precipice.

He would not engage, but would instead seek a bargain. He would surrender himself, as prisoner of the Duke of Umbria, but in return requested that Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren be given leave to join in the pursuit of the accusatory court jester. Nentres didn’t call for a Duel of Wits but it would’ve been a perfect moment for one. Instead Nentres haggled with the Duke. And in success secured imprisonment conditions appropriate for nobility.

The Duke agreed to those terms. And as Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren gave chase, Nentres remained behind contemplatively writing a letter to his Eminence Count Rhydulf.

I’ve now been thinking about Nentres BITs and how this moment clearly brought a change. As we head into session 8, with no sign of slowing down our game, I think it’s a perfect time to refine Nentres’s BITs. In this case, I think the right approach is to refine a belief.

Beliefs are at the foreground of consciousness, whereas instincts are much more reflexive. And for this next bit, I’m going to see how Nentres navigates the tension between a conscious and deliberate change and the more ingrained instincts.

Belief Workshopping

While my first inclination was to modify Nentres’s first two beliefs—Having humiliated my great uncle in court… and As second in line for Rhydulf…—I’m going to explore modifying There is a wisdom of the anciencts…. I intend to keep the first sentence of that belief.

And here’s why, as Nentres has revealed himself to me, I see a childhood perhaps overly influenced by the church. His instincts speak towards a clear acceptance of hierarchy and the tension of both being in that hierarchy and yet what he would hope to be the self-evidence of logic and “truth.”

I want to challenge the learned hubris that one person could be above another, let alone above nature. In the , I deliberately chose imagery of fire, water, and earth. There is an implication in this that the written word is the capturing of the wind. Yet Nentres deliberately uses honorifics and invocations of visions and radiance, bringing with it the holy and the unholy.

Third Belief

Here is what I think I’ll set as my third belief.

There is a wisdom of the ancients and I must learn more of it. Where once I looked for remedies and story, now I look to learn more of life itself. Whilst imprisoned I shall make my cell the great library at Castle Umbria, and there I shall read and learn.

First, perhaps more critical, Nentres shifts from the church would do well to learn to I must learn more of it. He’s taking ownership of self instead of saying what the church should do. The next sentence reflects that he was learning for history, now reading to learn empathy and true wisdom (not just knowledge). And the last sentence creates potential tension in drawing Nentres out of his penitent and pensive state.