Avoiding negative health for sickly slave?

#1

While working on characters with my group, one of my players had a great idea. He wants to play a noble-born boy whose parents tried to kill him when it was discovered he was born crippled. Instead, he was sold into slavery where he eventually developed leprosy. Through a series of improbable events, he has learned of his lineage and wants to murder the family that tried to murder him at birth before he dies of his disease, but no one believes him and they think he is mad.

For his lifepath, we chose Born Slave > Leper > Deranged. He chose to lose a point from his physical stats from Born Slave, so that’s -2 to his physical stats already. Because his character is sickly, his Forte is 2. His character is bitter, and while intelligent, isn’t great with people. He put a 2 in Will as well. Great, so his Health exponent 2. No problem. Now, we answer questions about his Health to modify his exponent. He lives in squalor and filth, he is sickly, he has been wounded in the past, and he has been enslaved. His Health exponent is now -2. Ouch!

I couldn’t find much about how to handle this, other than the fact that a character with Health 0 is dead (or nearly so). Here are some possible solutions I have come up with:

  • Simply don’t allow the character’s Health to drop below 1. It’s the easiest solution, but seems like it might be a little ham handed to me.
  • Ignore the Health questions for this character. The character’s low Forte and lifepath choices already reflect his poor physical state, so the questions here might be redundant. The book does say that they “may” be used. I don’t like this solution as other characters will still be using the Health questions and I’d rather not hand wave them away to prevent a rules problem in this one instance.
  • I could ask the player to retool his stats until his Health is at least 1. This would require him to reallocate points to Will and Forte. I think a higher Will could make sense; while the character isn’t particularly social, he must have a strong sense of self in order to have made it this far. I can see the case for Forte as well; perhaps the character is strong enough to survive his afflictions.

Have you encountered this situation before? How did (or would) you handle it?

#2

I’d suggest that the player rearrange their stats. Model the lack of socialization as a dearth of social-type skills, rather than a low stat exponent.

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(Devon Kelley) #3

I agree with Shaun. If you want everyone to follow the same rules (which seems evident from your thoughts on the other two solutions) then have the character fiddle with the numbers until they have a viable character.

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(noclue) #4

The character isn’t viable at -2 Health, so it needs some reworking. Creating characters in Burning Wheel is often a heartbreaking experience. But, I think there’s some easy fixes.

He’s not Born Slave for a start. He’s a noble. So, I’d go with Noble Born and lose the -2. There’s plenty of negative health to be found in the rest of the LPs.

I have a question about the sold into slavery part. Who buys a crippled child as a slave and why? Maybe lose the slavery and just go directly to outcast with cripple?

Born Noble->Cripple->Leper->Deranged

If the character’s health is still below 1, I’d maybe think about losing the “wounded in the past” Health answer. He’s already a homeless, crippled and deranged leper. That wounds gilding the lily a bit, isn’t it?

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#5

Lots of great suggestions. Thank you to those who have shared their thoughts so far.

I’d suggest that the player rearrange their stats. Model the lack of socialization as a dearth of social-type skills, rather than a low stat exponent.

I agree with Shaun. If you want everyone to follow the same rules (which seems evident from your thoughts on the other two solutions) then have the character fiddle with the numbers until they have a viable character.

This definitely seems like the easiest way to handle the situation without waving away any rules. I particularly like the point about skills v stat and I will make sure to call attention to that when I next see this player.

He’s not Born Slave for a start. He’s a noble. So, I’d go with Noble Born and lose the -2. There’s plenty of negative health to be found in the rest of the LPs.

I have a question about the sold into slavery part. Who buys a crippled child as a slave and why? Maybe lose the slavery and just go directly to outcast with cripple?

I will have to ask him about the slavery bit. I had originally asked him if he wanted to be Born Noble, and his answer was that he wanted to avoid it as it would imply his character had also been raised noble, and he wants his character to have never known that life. It is a very interesting point, though, of who would buy such a crippled child to be a slave. I think it’s at least worth a discussion with my player. He can have lived a hard life without the slavery narrative.

If the character’s health is still below 1, I’d maybe think about losing the “wounded in the past” Health answer. He’s already a homeless, crippled and deranged leper. That wounds gilding the lily a bit, isn’t it?

I actually had this same thought after I wrote out the initial post, and the way you phrased it gave me a good laugh! Yes, I think he can safely lose the wounded bit without compromising anything about his character.

Thanks again for all the great replies. I think I have learned two important things about Burning Wheel from this exchange:

  • It is easy to “double dip” on aspects of a character during character burning. In this case, the player wanted to show a sickly character through stat allotment, lifepaths, and the Health questions, and it ended up just being too much.
  • The character burning process can be iterative. Each part of the character needs to be examined after burning, holes or issues can be exposed, and then the character can be reburned with this in mind. Seems like a great way to hone the character before play and to make him or her airtight.
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(noclue) #6

I like the Born Noble LP because it confers Mark of Priviledge, which gives the character some interesting options now that they know their lineage.

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