Floundering Around the Burning Wheel

Presently I’m running one Burning Wheel campaign and playing in another.  I feel both of them are circumventing portions of the game.

First, we rarely do proper Artha awards.  Instead of setting aside time at the end, we prefer to play until the last minute.  By the time we wrap up the session the kids are tired or others need to get to our next obligation, we only do a very simple Artha awards sequence.  Typically, we hand out 2 Fate and 1 Persona, then look for anything exemplary.

It’s not rules as written and it certainly feels awkward and shameful.  Ultimately, I believe we do these shameful things because character’s beliefs are not tying into the game.  This is a group failing.

In the case of Bloodstone, I provided the introduction for everyone to tie into. I didn’t work as closely with all of the players to make sure their beliefs tied into the game.  We don’t have a laser-like focus.  As such, there are some characters, namely Remy and Holden, who are typically more peripheral to the game.  Granted, negotiating beliefs for 5 characters of differing experience and age is challenging to begin with.

In the case of the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker, we had a vision of how our characters were connected, but those characters were made in a knowledge vacuum.  We certainly knew about the Crypt of the Slug Mother, but as players we didn’t know where the campaign was going.

These failings leave us in a somewhat jumbled mess, as some characters are floundering for their spot in the story.

One notable difference that I’m seeing between the two campaigns is the concept of complications.

I am perfectly content letting my players come up with many things…if they succeed on a test; Let them scavenge for anything, make Dark Secret-wise tests, attempt to console their companion…but I hope they know that a failed test will give me ammunition.  Sort of like roll a 6 or less in Apocalypse World, I now get to make a Hard Move.

Contrast with the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker, where several test failures are met with “Nothing Happens.”  And in a handful of cases, success could be distilled to “Nothing Happens.”  Which sucks.

The key thing I’ve learned is, let the characters propose actions.  If you don’t want to see it happen, make a high Obstacle.  Let the players then figure out how to reach for it.  If they succeed, give it to them.  If they fail…make a Hard Move.

Personally, a test should change the state of the game, and I believe other game players would agree.  Apocalypse World and it’s brilliant derivative Dungeon World, hard-code this in the moves.  In order to truly change the state of the game, you have to make a move – in Burning Wheel it would be make a test.  Think about it…in Settlers of Catan the state of the game changes when the dice are thrown…some people get new resources, others might get robbed.

It has taken a bit for me to more readily see the possible complications of a test.  It’s not that I wasn’t doing it before, its just now, I’m willing to throw things out there and let a player decide how hard they want to push for a success.  Its a calculated negotiation between players that directly impacts their characters.

What I’ve found to be best for running my Burning Wheel game has been to review the agenda, principles, and moves of Dungeon World (Get the Basic Rules PDF for $5).

In short, follow these guidelines, in order:

  • What the rules demand
  • What the adventure demands
  • What honesty demands – be open and honest
  • What the principles demand
    • Draw maps, leave blanks
    • Address the characters, not the players
    • Embrace the fantastic
    • Make a move that follows
    • Never speak the name of your move
    • Give every monster life
    • Name every person
    • Ask questions and use the answers
    • Be a fan of the characters
    • Think dangerous
    • Begin and end with the fiction
    • Think offscreen, too

I’ve already illustrated the moves of Dungeon World and Apocalypse World.  It’s not that I didn’t do those things before, its simply that the above outline is sort of like a liturgical invocation; a chance to set aside other thoughts and consider what the players demand; An enjoyable time with friends.

Dining with the Baron

After a long hiatus, we were back in Bloodstone. Previously, the party had arrived, and were going to be dining with the Baron Tranth.

Dinner

  • There was some discussion about who would be attending
  • No one wanted all the dwarves to come
  • After some back and forth the dinner party invitees would consist of
    • Menas (PC)
    • Kruder (PC)
    • Remy (PC)
    • Holden (PC)
    • Lady Gwen (PC)
    • Dragan (NPC)
    • Crispin (NPC)
    • Katie (NPC)
    • Dellan (NPC)
  • Squire Marlin asked if anyone needed to be introduced.
  • Menas insisted on being introduced as High Captain Menas.
  • Squire Marlin escorted the guests into the dinning room and Menas to a waiting room.
  • Abbott Aldric and Sage Quillan were also present.
  • Holden had been at the College of Magic while Quillan was there.  They sat together.
  • Meanwhile Menas was introduced to Baron Tranth and his daughter Lady Christine.
  • The seating arrangement would prove key…At the head of the table was Baron Tranth, and then going around clockwise was Sage Quillan, Holden, Abott Aldric, Lady Gwen, Katie, Remy, Lady Christine (at the foot), Dragan, Dellan, Crispin, Kruder, Menas (to the immediate right of Baron Tranth).
  • Dinner was served, and the drinks were flowing.  Baron Tranth wanted no talk of business.
  • Holden and Sage Quillan talked about a student who was likely with the dwarves.
  • Lady Gwen kept eating to avoid any conversation with Abbott Aldric.
  • Dragan, Lady Christine, Remy, and Katie were conversing.

Complications

  • Crispin was devouring lots of food and Baron Tranth took note.  Menas dismissed Crispin, and as he was leaving Remy decided to poke fun at the Crispin to impress Lady Christine and Katy.
  • The test was a Comedy test with the consequence being he would infuriate Crispin.
  • Remy failed and Crispin tried to go over the table at Remy, but was restrained by Dragan and Dellan.
  • Crispin was escorted out, followed by Kruder and Menas.
  • There Crispin swore that he would exact revenge on Remy for the humiliations.  Menas interceded and promised he would be the one to punish Remy.
  • There was lots of cursing and threats in dwarvish.
  • Crispin was placated, and left.  Outside was Remy’s guard/bondsman Brandon…and Crispin, without his armor and weapons wisely decided to disengage from Brandon (I should’ve had the Crispin attack Brandon).  Instead Crispin cursed Brandon saying he would be put down along with his master.
  • While this is going on, Lady Christine is working to converse with Remy.  Remy is trying to deflect the attention onto Dragan, who only has eyes for Lady Gwen.  A bit of maneuvering, and Remy failed to redirect conversation.  Lady Christine was infatuated.
  • During the conversation I called for a test to not alienate Katie, but Remy failed and Katie stormed out.
  • Lady Gwen, tired of Abbott Aldric and his droning, seized on Katie’s leaving and excused herself to help Katie.  Together they hatched a plan to snoop around the Abbey.
  • Out in the hall Kruder and Menas were working up a plan when Lady Gwen and Katie came out.
  • Lady Gwen and Katie attempted to lie about Katie feeling sick…it was her time of the month.  But Menas and Kruder didn’t buy the lie.  They did, however, let the ladies go.

Clandestine Operation

  • Lady Gwen and Katie went to the Abbey, and were greeted by Acolyte Devin.  He was sweeping the entry.
  • Lady Gwen and Katie insisted on saying their prayers, and went into the Abbey.
  • Acolyte Devin kept sweeping, until Kruder arrived and asked a few questions.
  • Kruder left, and Acolyte Devin locked the Abbey up.  At this point, I was simply assuming Acolyte Devin was concerned about a dwarf in the night.
  • Lady Gwen and Katie started poking around the Abbott’s chambers.
  • I called for a Scavenging test… Ob 2, they’d find more information about the heretical books.  Ob 5, and they’d find a book of pure evil.  And this would be beginner’s luck.
  • Lady Gwen beseeched her god, who was the god of the Abbey, for aid…Her request was struck down and she would need to atone for her actions.
  • Not to be deterred, Lady Gwen’s player threw some persona into the roll.  With Fate and Persona, she managed to get 8 successes, though she would need 10.  She opted to burn her Deed point, and did indeed find a book of pure evil.
  • Lady Gwen was going to bring down the Abbot…but not before Acolyte Devin interceded.  With the successful test, I opted to have Acolyte Devin be more sinister.
  • Acolyte Devin attacked, trying to push Lady Gwen into the book.  Lady Gwen screamed.
  • Kruder hearing the scream tried to bust down the door, but failed.
  • Acolyte Devin, with black energy coursing through his veins attempted to strike Lady Gwen, but failed.
  • Katie fled the room, leaving Lady Gwen and Acolyte Devin to fight each other.
  • The scuffle quickly ended after Menas burst down the door and Kruder and Menas subdued Acolyte Devin.
  • Menas, Kruder, Katie and Lady Gwen carefully gathered up the book, and they brought the book and the unconscious Acolyte Devin to Baron Tranth’s manor.

Back at the Dinner Party

  • While the others were out, the dinner was rather quiet, and eventually excused themselves to the sitting room, where the Baron began pouring find bourbons.
  • Holden began asking Abbott Aldric about books, after all Holden knew that the Abbott had sent some books to another priest.
  • Their conversation turned to heretical books of power, and Holden made a “Dark Secret-Wise” test to figure out how to destroy books of power.
  • He failed, and the complication that I gave him was that in order to destroy a book of power, he would need a person willing to sacrifice an appendage. I was particularly proud of this complication, as it was a moment where I could turn the failure into a complication, and still enable the player to craft what else must be done. 
  • As the conversations were turning, Kruder, Menas, Lady Gwen, and Katie burst into the room…and sought the Baron’s attention.
  • During the confusion, Aldric attempted to slip away Inconspicuously, but failed. Instead he fled.  He even muttered a baleful prayer of intercession, but his dark god would not listen.
  • Kruder, attempting to stop the abbott, threw Acolyte Devin, but wasn’t able to trip up the abbott.
  • Dragan, Kruder and Menas gave pursuit. A quick chase through the winding halls, and Kruder was left facing Abbott Aldric and his hostage, a serving lady.
  • Kruder advanced, and Aldric ripped at the hostages throat, drawing blood.
  • Kruder lunged but Aldric managed to put blood to his broach and turned into a puff of smoke…and was gone.
  • Lady Gwen was summoned and successfully tended to the serving lady.

I wasn’t intending for Abbott Alrdic to go evil so soon, but felt that I could challenge Lady Gwen’s beliefs and have her dig up some dirt.  It was a perfect confluence of being annoyed, etiquette, powder rooms, clandestine operations, and pushing real hard.  The story then naturally spiralled from there.

In reviewing how this campaign is going, I will say that Burning Wheel with 5 players is very challenging.  There is a lot to keep track of.  At times Lady Gwen, played by my 11 year old daughter, feels as though there is too much downtime.  I try to move the spotlight around, but it is challenging with 5 players.  In D&D, its simple, never split the party.

In this iteration of Burning Wheel, people are going off in separate groups, trying to accomplish something.  I also feel that if the player wants the spotlight, then they should grab it.  Or hook into the story in interesting ways.

…And Finally, Bloodstone

See my previous session notes concerning our ongoing Bloodstone campaign.

Village of Daedmyr

  • Holden is unconscious from a Forte tax.
  • Menas and a handful of dwarves look for their wagon. It is broken beyond immediate repair.
  • Menas finally pays the dwarves, making an Ob 5 resource test.
  • Kruder is noticing that Katie is throwing herself on Remy.
  • Kruder confronts Katie with the intent of making sure she doesn’t do something foolish during her mourning of Oban.
  • Kruder makes an Ugly Truth with Coarse Persuasion FoRK – the consequence is alienating Katie. Kruder almost succeeds, but can’t muster enough successes.
  • Katie slaps Kruder then storms off and throws herself at Remy.
  • Remy and Katie go for a walk, and Remy is hesitant but eventually he gives in.

Village of Skeld

On the border between Arcata and Bloodstone. The village of Skrech is comprised of a fortified manor, several permanent structures, numerous tents, an overflow of people, bodies being buried, buildings burning, and a standing mercenary troop. (This was generated via my Random War-Time Village Generator – harboring a neighbor village, raided 1 hour before arrival, plenty of supplies, paying for a mercenary troop, plus a few secrets).

  • Crispin, Menas, Holden, and Remy were going into town to purchase supplies, a wagon, and a bow for Lady Gwen.
  • Holden was going to disguise himself as a younger man – And fails his Sorcery
  • Garbled transmission and a restless dead rises from the bushes. Most everyone failed their Steel tests, except Menas.
  • Not missing a beat Menas delivered a B13 wound to the restless dead. In hindsight, should have one of Holden’s dead students from the college rise and seek him out.
  • Holden again tried and succeed G7 Sorcery vs. Ob 3 should be a cinch.
  • Upon arriving at the village, the mercenaries exact a toll – 60 pieces of silver (Ob 3 resources), of which Menas had no problem paying.
  • They made their way to a general store and began negotiating for supplies.
  • Menas tried to eavesdrop on a conversation between two patrons of the shop, but they noticed and left (The player called for a Whispered-Secrets-Wise. The consequence would be that the entity in the village would find out. Menas failed the test).
  • Remy, with soothing platitudes, unsuccessfully haggles with the merchant that also engaged in flowery banter.
  • Menas succeeds at a Resource test (Ob 6) to purchase Carriage Wagon, Hunting Bow, and Supplies.
  • Unbeknownst to Menas, Crispin, Holden, and Remy, they were being followed back (This was the direct result of the failed Whispered Secrets-Wise).
  • Menas, Crispin, Holden, and Remy made it safely back to camp.
  • Kruder, having set up a camouflaged sentry was about to break cover when he noticed a huntsman sneaking through the woods.
  • The huntsman noticed him as well.
  • Menas had a crossbow drawn and pointed, while the huntsman only had an arrow nocked.
  • They stared for a bit, then the huntsman dove as Kruder let fly.
  • I gave the huntsman a Speed test to add to the Ob for the Crossbow shot – I figured Ob 3 for the woods +1 Ob per two successes by the huntsman was reasonable.
  • Kruder’s shot was true and delivered a B11 – he was bleeding.
  • Hearing the twang of a crossbow and a thud, the others quickly came to the scene.
  • Lady Gwen worked to save the huntsman, but her skills failed her.
  • Menas wanted to scavenge up some papers – I couldn’t think of anything interesting on failure, so I gave them a map of the Bloodstone vale, including the bandit camp.
  • Clearly they weren’t going to be going back through town. I called for an Orienteering test Ob 2 to skirt around town without being noticed. They failed.

Range & Cover

  • They stumbled into a clearing, and 8 mercenaries in the fields armed with light crossbows took notice.
  • The guards were under the impression that there was a wagon with about 5 people.
  • We dropped into Range & Cover – Matt quickly explained this to Aidan. They were talking about withdrawing.
  • Menas instead chose to split the group.
  • Menas, Crispin, and the dwarven mercenaries would provide rear guard.
  • Kruder, Katie, Dellen, Holden, Dragan, Remy, Brandon, Garlin, Garvin, and Lady Gwen would flee.
  • The mercenaries scripted Close, Close, Charge – They were hoping to fire some crossbows, then finish off the remainder.
  • Menas scripted Withdraw, Maintain, Charge – He wanted to fall further back into the woods then let the opposition come and finally engage with superior forces.
  • Kruder scripted Withdraw, Withdraw, Withrdaw – He needed to ensure everyone was out of the way.
  • Kruder and company managed to escape while the mercenaries beat Menas in the first exchange and rained arrows, however, Menas in his dwarven mail was unassailable.
  • Menas plan worked, and they inflicted some light damage, but the mercs hesitated.
  • And then the dwarves charged and it was mostly over – I called for a Tactics Ob 2 for clean up of inferior forces. Menas failed and one of the dwarves suffered a Traumatic wound.
  • Lady Gwen immediately rushed to tend to the wounded – but the dwarves had finished them off.

Enroute

  • Holden notes that Crispin has been eating lots of meat.
  • Holden attempts to use Second Sight, but is unable to determine if anything is wrong – Jaron should’ve petitioned for a few FoRKs.
  • Lady Gwen, Remy, and Dragan were conspiring to open the letter from Brother Kevin of the Fendowns, a priest of Ilmater.
  • Menas grabbed the letter from Lady Gwen, and opened it (Opposed Speed tests, Menas succeeded)
  • Kruder threatened Menas then bashed him, grabbing the paper and giving it back to Lady Gwen (Brawling vs. Speed).
  • Lady Gwen proceeded to read the letter aloud.
  • The letter’s contents made mention of sacrilegious texts sent by Abott Aldric of Bloodstone, a boy named Elven who showed signs of true faith. The letter was gracious for the other true religious texts of Ilmater.

Bloodstone

Clearly a village that has seen better days, the village of Bloodstone is run down. The walls are in disrepair, the gates are broken, the villagers are without hope.

  • Katie immediately, throws coins to the innkeeper, and drags Remy to a private room.
  • Lady Gwen and Holden go to the abby and speek with Abbott Aldric.
  • Lady Gwen stretches the truth saying brigands took the letter and opened it.
  • Holden calls her out.
  • Lady Gwen recants, and gives the letter to the Abbott.
  • The Abbott asks if Lady Gwen read the letter.
  • Lady Gwen lied, and was caught by the Abbott.
  • The Abbott insisted Lady Gwen seek penance the Ilmater way – self-flagellation (Lady Gwen has an ongoing +1 Ob until the next day).
  • Dragan is flirting with Lady Gwen.
  • Dragan reveals his holy Illumination of Lady Gwen – created with masterful detail (4 successes).
  • Lady Gwen gives her valiant lover a kerchief – And thus the chivalrous love blossoms.
  • Squire Marlen, a 60 year old man, is grandfather of Garlen and Garvin. He is the squire of Baron Tranth of Bloodstone.
  • Squire Marlen thanked Lady Gwen for her tending to Garlen, and offered any future assistance
  • Menas learns that since the Bloodstone mines were abandoned, there is little contact between the neighboring dwarves.
  • Holden learns of Instructor Jeffry, a member of the college, who was last seen with the dwarves to the north.
  • Lady Gwen and Katie have a conversation about Remy being so wonderful.
  • Garvin is dressed up in finery and invites the characters to dinner with the Baron.

We ended the session with the characters preparing for a formal dinner with Baron Tranth.

End Session Procedures

Artha Awards

We wrapped up by going over the Artha awards – prior to this session I’ve defaulted to giving 2 Fate and 1 Persona without much discussion. I warned the players that this would be the last session where we would have the default awards.

It turns out Aidan has been doing pretty well with Menas, though one belief needs refocusing. Savannah simply needs to refocus her beliefs, and she will knock it out of the park. Matt needs to tweak his beliefs a bit to reflect the current state of the narrative. Jaron and Joe are having the hardest times with their beliefs as they put most of the work on me, a busy GM managing a host of NPCs.

Trait Vote

We did a quick trait vote and handed out character traits to everyone. Menas is impulsive. Kruder is watchful. Remy is honey-tongued. Lady Gwen has a healing touch. Holden is counseling (though Trustworthy may be better).

Changing Beliefs

Lady Gwen changed her belief from a very passive belief to “I will be the religious leader of Bloodstone by telling everyone of Abbott Aldric’s vile books.” I like it a lot. Lady Gwen told a lie, got caught, and is throwing a gigantic tantrum – one that will rock the faith community of Bloodstone. Then again, Abbott Aldric may need a kick in the pants.

I encouraged others to review their beliefs and ask me for some help. I want to hear the wheels humming!

Players, did I miss anything?

Observations

And Time Passes

After my conversation about advancing the timeline, I wanted to make sure that the characters arrived in Bloodstone.

All said, this session spanned 8 days of campaign time; Since the beginning of the campaign 12 days have passed.

Questions

I used a handful of pointed questions to provide a bit of flavor for the trip. By preparing and asking questions, I believe I was able to help the players get into their character’s minds and respond accordingly.

This bit was inspired/borrowed from Robert Bohl’s “Mispent Youth“, and D. Vincent Baker’s “Apocalypse World

Scavenge

I need to read up a bit on Scavenging and spend some time thinking about what to do about it. Any advice from fellow Burners?

Consequences of Failure

Everyone was pounding on this, making sure that a test had the appropriate complication. Matt in particular was asking what the consequences were. While I welcome the request for consequences, I need to push back and ask “What is your intent and how are you achieving it?”

Garbled Transmission

As I was writing the session report, I realized what Holden’s garbled transmission should have been…a sense of forboding followed a few days later by a restless dead finding Holden’s room…the restless dead would be a student that in part blamed Holden for his death.

Range and Cover

I’ve been leaning on Range and Cover, so I need to brush up on the rules of engagement. I’m really enjoying it, and was proud that Aidan stepped up and scripted what turned out to be both a brave and brilliant tactical decision.

Advancing the Timeline in an RPG Campaign

On Tuesday, Joe and I went to Matt’s house.  Matt was wanting to talk about the Bloodstone game; He had been working on writing an email but was at an empasse.

Matt is the only player in the present group to have started Bloodstone several times, played to completion once, and acted as assistant GM for another.  He knows the adventure series quite well.

Matt’s concern was that we were spending so much time getting to Bloodstone. There are lots of distractions enroute, and the campaign is only slowly marching towards its namesake.

I’ve been aware of this potential problem, and in my preparation for the next session, I’m trying to better plan the key scenes.  I’m hoping we are able to get to the first large-scale conflict in the village of Bloodstone; I don’t know if I’ll have the curtain drop before the conflict, or if I’ll abbreviate the large-scale conflict by having some linked tests tie into a final Tactics test.

More at its core, however, is the fact that our group, as a whole has not normally advanced a campaign’s timeline off-camera.  That is to say, we don’t often mutter the phrase, “and the winter passes.”

We have tended to play campaigns that grow in scope and march towards saving the world – a task that doesn’t lend itself to saying “and the seasons pass”. I’ve cleaved too close to the urgent timeline of Lord of the Rings, and haven’t taken cues from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Animated Series) nor the Tails of the Earthsea books.

The H-Series has an initial sense of urgency – bandits will collect tribute from the village in two weeks – but then backs off after the first adventure book; Seasons can and will pass quietly.

So I’ve pondered how I can practice incorporating that into my games, and my growing suspicion is that I don’t offer conclusions to my sessions.  In other words, my games tend to follow the cascade of actions and reactions, ever flowing, uninterrupted.

So I’m wondering, what are some tricks that I can use to make sure that the characters in my game are not always a season of 24.  I don’t want an endless stream of action that carries between many sessions.

Is the trick simply to plan for end points?  After all, every published adventure has an ending.  Or in planning for end points, do I need to plan the points in-between?

A Circles Epiphany – Burning Wheel

While I was working on the next session Bloodstone campaign, I was reviewing the character beliefs. Some of the beliefs have changed since last I’ve posted. However, many remain the same.

I started thinking about Holden’s belief:

I don’t know who else survived from the College, if they are alive I must help them.

I haven’t done much regarding this belief. I’ve had a few points where I was going to drop in hints, but ultimately, at run-time I haven’t incorporated those elements. It felt wrong.

Then it dawned on me. Holden’s player has all of the tools at his disposal to pursue this belief…Circles. And this means as a GM, I can ignore this belief until Holden’s player brings it into play.

Off-Loading Work onto the Players

As a GM, I’ve got plenty of things to balance — everything except the player characters. I do my best to challenge the character’s beliefs and instincts, but with a table of 5 players, this can be a bit more challenging.

So, if a player has a means of challenging their own character’s BITs, I’m all for it. In fact, it becomes a veritable Artha mine for them. And in doing so, the player is bringing elements into the narrative.

By initiating a Circles test the player is saying “Hey GM listen, because this belief is important to me.”

Bringing it Back to the Game Master

Regardless of success or failure, a Circles test is something that will likely bring another character into the existing narrative.

In the above case, a successful test might be finding a survivor who needs only the slightest of help; Or may be able and willing to help Holden.

A failed test would most assuredly invoke the enmity clause; Holden finds a survivor but he blames Holden for the collapse of the college, or maybe for the death of a student.

Now I, as the Game Master, have an NPC who is tied to a PC and I can continue to leverage that NPC for other situations.  In this way the player has brought their belief to the table and the story is better off for it.

Bloodstone Observations

Following up on Bloodstone Session #4

Bloody Vs. Instead of Fight

Instead of using the Fight mechanic, I chose to have the conflict resolved with Bloody Vs.  This felt a bit anti-climatic.

I was unprepared to drop into Fight, but in hindsight really wish I would’ve.  Having a Fight running parallel to a Range and Cover could’ve increased the dramatic tension at the table — if paced properly.  In addition, the death of Felix, one of Menas’ goals, was very anticlimactic.

Lady Gwen and My Daughter

Towards the end of the game, my daughter held up a sign saying “I’m bored and tired.”  The session was winding down, so I hastened to the end.

That evening, in talking with Savannah about Lady Gwen, she said she wished her character could fight — after all that is one of the ways to interact with the system.  I instructed her to have Lady Gwen demand to be taught archery.

Lady Gwen could be a much more active participant in combat if she relied more heavily on prayers.  I believe the abstract Faith system may work against her.  An idea I have is to create a handful of Prayer cards that she can reference during conflict.

Indivisible Action Sequences

When Savannah was thinking of what prayer to have Lady Gwen mutter, there was a suggestion to choose a lower obstacle prayer — Hinderance at Ob 4-6 — so she could get away and then immediately follow-up with another prayer to help Holden get away.

There are two problems that I see. First, the Hinderance prayer would’ve needed to have been muttered as part of the Speed vs. Speed test. We could’ve retconned this, but it didn’t feel like it would help.

Second, it felt like that would run contrary to “Let it Ride” principle. Namely, if we broke the narrative into steps, Lady Gwen and Holden have been cornered. The hinderance would apply to the test “We try to get away.”

Lady Gwen can use it to get away, but Holden has failed the test. He can’t get away. The next hinderance would need to be injected into the current state; Holden is now in a Fight with 3 bandits. Certainly the hinderance would aid Holden, but not directly in the escape.

Artha Awards

Given that we are playing with 5 players, two of them being under 18, I’ve altered the way we do Artha awards.  If we have a humdrum session, I’ll award 2 Fate and 1 Persona to each character and then have the group choose a workhorse and MVP.  Players can petition for more, but must make a strong case.

If the session seems to click, and players are in character, I’ll up the base award to 3 Fate and 2 Persona.

Does it create Artha bloat? Perhaps.  Am I fully engaging the system? No.  Are we enjoying  ourselves?  I hope so, because I know I am.

Asking the Table for Feedback

I am terrible at asking for feedback concerning my campaigns.  I want to know if I’m engaging the players.  I’m usually pretty bad about folding their back stories into the main story and instead prefer to let actions generate reactions and fold those reactions back into the story.

So players that are reading this, what could I do better?  What do you want to see?

Bloodstone Session #4

Here follows the raw notes I have concerning the 4th session of Bloodstone.

Leaving the Fendowns

  • Lady Gilliam releases the party from their obligation.
  • Menas pursues orcs fleeing to a neighboring village on rumor that Felix is there. Menas calls off the pursuit as the village has too many hostiles.
  • Lord Tomson is left in the care of the church of Ilmater.
  • Lady Gilliam agrees to part with Lord Tomson’s warhorse — he won’t be using it.
  • Brother Robert gave Lady Gwen a letter to deliver to Abbot Aldric.

Figuring Out How Many Horses They Needed

  • As they are traveling, they opt to avoid Daedmyr — It is home to Lord Tomson
  • They agree that they need more horses for scouting both ahead and behind.
  • Menas begrudingly parts with some of his wealth; Menas wanted to produce a bag of silver for Remy to purchase horses. The test was B3 vs. Ob 2, but due to his greed this became an Ob 3 — Converting his much needed routine test into a difficult test — and no one was willing to risk their resources on a failed roll.
  • After a rather heated argument about who is going into town and with what money, Remy and Holden head into town on one of the horses. They are going to buy another riding horse for scouting.
  • Arriving in Daedmyr, they see another massive warhorse (likely Felix’s warhorse). They approach the inn with caution, but Remy decides to circle up someone from the underground to help him out — Not a single success — sounds like an enmity clause to me.
  • Opening the door to the inn, Boris the Shiv turns and sees Remy and howls “You! You owe me money!” and draws a knife.
  • Remy, saying to Holden “Let’s get outta here” quickly flees.
  • Opposed speed tests (Remy, Holden, and Boris) – Remy is able to get away to their horse, Holden can’t get on the horse in time; Boris throws a knife at Remy, and misses (I gave the Ob 2 Throw test for Boris an additional +2 Ob based on Remy’s 6 Successes vs. 2 successes of Boris).
  • The thrown knife missed and Boris was drawing again — However, Holden was able to cast “Call of Steel” in time and successfully disarmed Boris. In the meantime, Remy was trying in vain to lift the old Holden onto the horse.*
  • Boris drew steel again and was again disarmed. Holden swooned for a brief moment but gained his composure (Forte taxed to 0, but the test raised it back to a taxed B1 Forte)
  • Boris, out of frustration, charged Remy, but Remy was able to position his horse and Boris slipped to the ground. Not wanting to get trampled, Boris crawled away and Holden was able to get on the horse and they fled.

Back at the Wagons

  • Meanwhile, back at the camp they all noticed some movement in the brush. Menas and a 7 of the dwarves advanced.
  • Traveling rather stealthily, they were able to get closer and determine there were about 5 to 15 orcs.
  • Menas had them flank their opponents but gave up their position.
  • Both sides charged each other and carnage ensued.
  • It looked like a potential blood bath – 12 orcs vs. 8 dwarves. Not wanting to bog things down too much, I called for a single Command test saying, each success would result in a mostly uninjured dwarf. Menas, calling up his Greed led the charge saying “This victory will be ours!” — An amazing 11 successes on 10 dice, and all the orcs were dispatched.
  • Using the Mythic table – I checked if any dwarves had sustained even a Light wound – and they had escaped without a scratch.
  • Curious about finding information – Menas scavenged for loot and clues. I gave the player (Aidan) the choice: Ob 1 would be find some wealth, Ob 3 would be to find evidence of Felix and his plans, Ob 4 would be both. He opted for an impossible untrained Ob 4 test. Failure!

But What About Daedmyr

  • In the distance they heard a loud commotion coming from the Daedmyr. There was concern that the village was under attack.
  • Menas rallied all the dwarves, leaving Kruder, Brandon (ally), Remy, Lady Gwen, Dragan (ally), Holden, Garlen (NPC), Garvin (NPC), Katie (ally), Dellan (ally) to guard the wagon train — a mixed bag of mostly lightly armed and armored characters.
  • Menas was going to approach the village to see what was happening. He approached near dusk – and saw a large contingent (50 or so) bandits and orcs being rallied by none other than Felix.
  • While Menas was approaching the village, Kruder would get the wagons closer to the tree line to better conceal them.

Abandoning Friends to Their Fate

  • Menas had again managed to approach quietly, and waited for the bandits and orcs to dispatch.
  • Felix commanded them to split into two groups and search for dwarves. Felix then withdrew into the village.
  • The enemies split and went separate ways leaving an open path for Menas to approach the village and ultimately confront Felix.
  • Menas approached the inn where Felix was staying and burst in.
  • Felix was talking with four other men who self identified as members of the Crying Man — likely assassins thought Menas. He rose and challenged Menas to single combat.*

Under a Rain of Javelins

  • Kruder and company tried to hide, but were found by one of the groups. We dropped into range and cover. The bandits split into two groups.
  • Kruder took command and wanted to get everyone on a horse so they could ride off to safety. The bandits, armed with spears and javelins wanted to engage in melee.
  • The first volley saw Kruder successfully hold their position. Everyone had their horses, and they managed to get a few supplies, but the javelins closed.
  • The second volley brought a rain of Javelins. The enemies won the positioning and threw five javelins. Garlin took a Traumatic wound, Kruder absorbed a few hits taking a Light wound, Dragan and Brandon’s armor successfully deflected the worst of it.
  • The third volley brought more javelins as the enemy engaged. Kruder took a Midi but otherwise the others were unscathed. A melee was about to start.

Throwing Down in the Inn

  • Menas accepted and we went into Bloody Vs. — I had thought about using Fight, but this would’ve been the first Fight scripted by Menas’ player, and I was running the Range and Cover concurrently. It would’ve been a bit much.
  • The first exchange resulted in a tie. No one was able to punch through. I’d give them one more Bloody Vs. to see if someone would emerge.

Attempting to Flee

  • Back at the grand melee, I had everyone make opposed speed tests. Each ride would make a speed test, with +3D advantage vs. B6 opposed speed. Kruder, Remy, Brandon, Garlin & Garvin, Katie and Dellan all succeeded. But Holden and Lady Gwen & Dragan’s horse had not escaped.

Death Comes to All

  • The second Bloody Vs. saw Felix land a Light wound against Menas
  • And Menas landed a Mortal Wound to Felix.
  • Menas quickly disarmed the Crying Men. They cooperated.
  • Menas looted Felix’s room, getting documents and a massive chest filled with gold.
  • While opening the chest, Menas felt ill — there was poison on Felix’s blade. Menas took a B9 (a midi).
  • The accompanying dwarves quickly dressed the wound to stop the bleeding.
  • Menas then took Felix’s horse, the other dwarves stole horses and they all left town.

Victory out of the Hands of the bandits

  • Kruder was going to turn around.
  • Holden attempted to cast a spell, but it harmlessly dissipated. He collapsed in complete exhaustion.
  • While the spell was being cast, Lady Gwen beseeched Ilmater to deliver them (Ob 8 Faith test). She rocked it with a Deed point.
  • And into the waning dusk the party retreated.

Confusion

  • Menas returned to where the wagons were, and seeing that it was being looted by bandits he fled into the night.
  • Out in the brush, Menas, feeling worse for the wear, cried out for Lady Gwen and Kruder answers.

And finally, the group was reunited, and Lady Gwen tended to the wounded Menas.