Hi all! Italian guy here, I hope my written English is going to be nice.
A friend and I gathered for a 1on1 of Burning Wheel. To be narrower, we were without our usual group, I suggested a 1on1, offered a few settings without making ruleset clear.
Nasty me I only had one experience with the Sword, and an adventure (unfortunately never started because the whole group quit but the GM), both as a player; and a few sessions of Torchbearer and Mouse Guard as a GM. But we’re both bold and focused, so I started to make questions.
Blossoms are Falling took his attention, “I just dreamt of japanese ghosts tonight” he said, and so he immediately chose Perilous Adventure, starting to reply to my other questions.
A great evil, a terrible crime: what has happened?
“A temple has been defiled, and a virgin kidnapped, and a holy artifact stolen.” Gosh, my friend really wants to go high
Forlorn places: choose and describe.
He dutifully describes a forlorn temple over a dried-up waterfall, in a dark forest.
Evil men: describe and take a relationship.
“Bandits took the fairest girl in the village, who is the holy monk of the temple, and took her into the forest, to have their evil deeds with her. My relationship with them? They did the same thing years ago, with my wife Hanako, and killed her. I’m looking for them, gnawed by vengeance.” Classic, and perfect for a one-shot, as this is meant to be waiting for our friends.
At this point I interrupted the sequence suggested at p.63, because by my understanding the question Angry spirits is reserved for religious PCs, and we wanted to get a better picture at the main character.
Who are you? What’s your social group? I put up the list of lifepath settings, also pointing out that hagure are suggested for Perilous Adventures. He went for hagure, but we both knew that PC’s a former bushi.
So who are you? I put up the list of lifepaths from hagure setting, figuring out he would’ve gone for duelist, ronin, or fallen bushi (the guy and I had some HEMA yearly courses some time ago).
He picks up duelist at first, but doesn’t fit with his loss-of-honor picture, then we look up at ronin, too focused on the recovering of honor by killing his lord’s killer; we end up with fallen bushi, and look up closely at No Face trait. So far, my friend knows nothing of ruleset and emotional attributes, and is enjoying a lot this discovery through play.
I skip the question about Angry spirits, and go for Foul demons: who’s the demon? what’s his role? what’s his name? write a Belief [I offer up some demons from the rulebook’s demons’ chapter]
“The demon’s a kitsune, name’s Genmei; she’s the mindmaster behind the kidnapping and the evil deeds; my PC knows nothing about her, not even her existence”
We work up this Belief: “I’ll discover who’s the mind who plotted my ruin and Manaki-kami’s temple’s” → this should lead to an investigation, and to Genmei; so the focus isn’t anymore simple vengeance over the bandits, but also taking info from them.
Of course we immediately write up another Belief, potentially in conflict: “I’ll punish Hanako’s killers with death”; we both know there’s going to be a part of the story when PC’ll have to choose between fast sweet vengeance and cooperation with a bandit. Juicy juicy
Unlikely allies: describe and take a relationship.
A yamabushi: romantic → friendly relationship: “He’s my friend and backed my up in all my difficult choices”. So Ota Yogi the yamabushi is PC’s sidekick, and the guy who pushed him hard into loss of honor. Why? How? We’ll play to find out
Lost artifacts: weak part of this world-and-story burning, we already have a lot of stuff for a 1on1 one-shot, but we comply and he chooses:
“There was a flask, named The Flask of the First Water, sacred to Manaki-kami. When my PC fled his position to hunt the bandits, they took over the temple and stole The Flask of the First Water; Manaki-kami lost his connection to the temple, the waterfall dried up, the temple fell into ruin and despair. PC’ll recover The Flask of the First Water and will give it back to the temple of Manaki-kami.” So we write a Belief (third, we’re full) about this. Also, yamabushi’s going to be useful to appease Manaki-kami (and so we also have a reply to our skipped question, Angry spirit). My friend loves to write long and detailed backstories, so he’s enjoying so much this world-and-story burning.
The Binding Thread: common philosophy. Well, this PC’s philosophy is vengeance and anger, so the Belief already written about avenging Hanako’s death is perfect, we don’t need to change it.
I make him choose the number of starting lifepaths, explaining the level of power, 2 is novice (not suggested), 3 is young (suggested), 4 is able (suggested), 5 is veteran, 6 or 7 or 8 is powerful and expert. He goes for 4. We pick Born Warrior, Provincial Kohai, Bushi, Fallen Bushi. Perfect.
We already have some traits (Buke, Bushido, -san, No Face), some opened skills (Kyudo, Kenjutsu, Streetwise - I changed Clan Secret-wise into Streetwise for the Fallen Bushi lifepath), three Beliefs about Genmei, vengeance, and artifact, two relationships.
We work on Beliefs, I want him to understand how central they are for the PC’s growth and artha cycle. We polish them and make them shine and click.
Then we work on Instincts (I’m actually following Burning Empires’ PC burning order, where Beliefs and Instincts are early in burning, rather than at the end just before the name).
“I always keep my large-rim hat on, when in town” (it blends with his Shameful No Face mercenary - and with Streetwise)
“I always take defensive stance at beginning of a combat”
“When a friends cries for help, my answer is always a Yes!” - this one is going to be tricky to challenge, but it’s okay, it’s a one-shot and likely I’ll only challenge some BIT, not all of them.
To work up Instincts has been the most difficult part, so far. It took a while for him to understand them, and examples from Torchbearer and from Burning Wheel Gold have proven valuable.
I describe him stats, and correspondence between value and narrative ability, without explaining opening values for skills and stuff. He picks
Now we work skills, it took a while but basically he worked with skills already in lifepaths (of course), and asked for “something ghostly I took from my friend yamabushi, to understand my dead wife Hanako’s ghost when she tries to give me directions” - so he takes also a bit of Shugendo and Seifukujutsu. Also here I explained the link between value and described capability, without explaining FoRK thresholds and stuff
Ugly Truth 2
Traits. I already decided, along with substituting Clan Secret-wise with Streetwise, to substitute Yojimbo with Driven, to simplify setting for my friend and for one-shot purpose. So he already has Buke, Bushido, -san, No Face, he picks Fearless (from Bushi) and Driven (from my modified Fallen Bushi). He has two spare points, and asks for a master list. I blank. Then I give him the full list. He blanks. He then chooses, just because they click for him, Extremely Bitter and Drunk. I refresh him with Character Traits and their use for roleplay and for getting artha. He loves them. We go on.
He also picks Shugendo as the skill with Driven, and vengeance Belief. I LOL. I obviously suggested Kenjutsu (I’m a munchkin), but he said “I might use this Call-On only once, but it’s going to be so useful in that scene.” I bow.
I explain him artha cycle and rewards, again, and then we move forward. We work up Health and Steel, easy peasy.
We work up Honor. I know that he has erased Honor because of No Face, he does not. We work Honor as if he were still at court, before fall. He has (had) 5, not bad!
“Beside father and wife, I’m ready to obey my lord”
Then I explain him exactly the whole matter of Honor, Honor-debt, seppuku request, No Face. He loves it. We work exactly the phases: disobedience, request of seppuku, refusal.
Disobedience comes from leaving his line during the skirmish. Why? They took my wife, to bait me away, the temple gone destroyed, and so forth. Why did you go? Love, and friend’s advice.
Request of seppuku, when did it come? While I was chasing the bandits.
Refusal, we decided to play it as a prologue (it’s the scene depicted in my previous post)
Now we worked up Shame, a big beautiful 6. Not an evil bushi, not a good one.
We both loved how all these questions built up a “first-, second- level PC [as of power level] with such a deep story and detailed allignment [sorry for the metaphor, I hope you get what we meant]”. And with mechanical consequences on play and dice!
Finally, resources and equipment. After many thoughts, and explanations by me about starting Resources depending on property, relationships and affiliations (“Come on, you can’t start with 0! Take at least some affiliation with those mercenaries you worked with these five years as a fallen bushi! Come one, I’ll let you take Res1 if you spend 13 respts, instead of 15 - and don’t say I never give!”)… as I was saying, after many thoughts and talks and haggling, he stubbornly refused: “I’ll start as a poor ruined guy who just spent his last coin for a bottle of sake, his last job’s wage utterly gone, only with his horse and weapons” Such a cowboy! But we all know how much western movies stole from Kurosawa, so it perfectly blends, I guess.
11 respts on relationships: one friendly (yamabushi), two hateful (taisa, bandits)
3 respts on clothes, sandals, travel gear
10 respts on run-of-the-mill weapons
5 respts on run-of-the-mill hankyu
20 respts on o-yoroi
6 respts on riding horse
no respts left, LOL
Finally, “choose your clan and your name”, and I give him last pages from rulebook, along with chapter of Etiquette (pp.145-149). Nakatomi no Takai. It’s going to be a story of vengeance.
Nakatomi no Takai no Setsujoku.
Burning world-and-story, burning character, a game in the game, so fun and exhilarating. We play out the prologue. We get thrills. We’re hot and ready to play out our next session.