Sequels: What can you accomplish?

So here’s what the Brick says about Sequels:

[LEFT]Now, over in the Banyan threadI noted that we’d been sloppy about formalizing our Sequels. Pretty much we’re hitting our rolls, checking dispo changes, and moving on. But we’re also having some issues working out big-picture efforts (levying taxes, imposing sweeping social changes, etc.). Luke says the sequel is where we should address these big-picture efforts.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]To recap my questions from the original thread:[/LEFT]

[LEFT]In the course of a maneuver, players describe doing something big and substantial regarding, say, a faction they control. Like…the farmers are gonna withhold food and force those in power to come to the bargaining table. That happens as a color scene, probably, within the game.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]So the maneuver wraps up, we have our Infection roll-off and the players win the roll. They get to narrate the maneuver’s Sequel, and recap that the global food-extortion racket is well underway. By doing so, are they sort of hard-coding that color? Making it a fact within the game that everyone has to agree to? Because that’s totally cool and I can live with it. It helps me figure out the timing if the Sequel is when that happens.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Assuming the above is true: what happens when, on the Infection roll, the players totally biff the roll? Does the GM now get to say as part of his Sequel, “Well…the leader of the communes called for global food rationing but the message hasn’t quite spread far enough to impact anyone in power (yet)”?[/LEFT]

[LEFT]And finally, I assume there’s no direct causal connection between the skill used in the Maneuver roll and the contents of the winner’s epilogue. True? Or should the roll winner be fitting the epilogue around what he rolled?[/LEFT]


In most traditional games the GM gets to dictate the results of the players’ activities. When he tells the players these results, they become facts and are now “hard-coded” into the setting. Often, they become part of the situation for the next session, “Grain prices are sky rocketing. People are starving. You’re going to have to go on your knees to the Governor to eat!” The players respond, “Like hell!” And we’re off and running.

In Burning Empires, no one player has that power. It’s shared by the players who win the maneuver roll. So each turn it could be a different person – one turn it’s the GM, the next it’s player 1, the next player 2, then back to the GM, etc. Aside from that sharing, the power is exactly the same. The winner of that roll gets to change the setting and build a new situation (though there are some limitations*). This comes with all of the attendant game mechanical effects, the same effects that a traditional GM would typically impose on his own – obstacle penalties, Resources tests, Forte tests (to handle those starvation rations), etc.

Casaul connection is up to the group.

*Limitations are based on the scope of the game. You can’t win a phase, knock an uncontrolled faction out of play, narrate a character’s death, etc. Those are all controlled by specific subsystems and conditions in the game proper.

Does that help?

Yup, totally get all that. Definitely an interesting and important step we’d been bypassing. Sounds almost like a mini-Phase epilogue.

One more, probably remedial (!) question:

At the start of the maneuver, everyone discusses their side’s intent for the maneuver (p. 410). Is this a formal “intent” per the Versus rules? That is, does the side that wins the maneuver accomplish its stated capital-I-Intent? Or is the “intent of maneuver” discussion just each side sketching out what they’re hoping to accomplish with their scenes?

My understanding thus far has been that the Intent of Maneuver discussion was strictly informal and lacked any sort of mechanical weight. But now I’m wondering – and this would be a hilarious oversight! – if the Maneuver roll is to be treated exactly like any Versus test. I mean, each side sets out an intent and each side picks its task (the maneuver itself)…so it’s sounding an awful lot like a Versus test.

I’m not trying to set a logical trap here. I see this opening a big can o’ worms (so to speak).


No, it’s informal sketching. It’s meant to help guide the maneuver and speed play. The end result of the sequel is up to the players to decide after they have processed what’s happened during the course of the maneuver. It’s not meant to be a “this is what I want, so this is what happens tonight” thing.


In ‘Burning Nautilus’ we used a sequel to describe the PCs’ activities off-planet. The PCs had selected a Conserve maneuver to generate the downtime necessary for intergalactic travel, and they won the maneuver. We debated portraying the events on the distant planet in the next maneuver, but it seemed to make sense–and there was sufficient downtime generated–to do it as a sequel. The sequel was probably atypical in that it did involve a couple of scenes, and a fight, but it worked out pretty well and got the PCs back onto Nautilus for the next maneuver.

Would it be a bad idea to declare an intent for the maneuver roll right before you make the roll?

Nah, I suppose that’d be fine. As long as what actually happened in the maneuver is informing the players’ decisions, that is.

Sequels are all about synthesizing “what just happened” and firming up into the “this how it is” space of the shared context of the game.

Right, groovy. So back to my last maneuver:

  1. Players explain that they’re going to cut food to those in power (the Church and the military junta factions) for the purpose of forcing the power players --the Archcotare and the top Anvil Lady – to the bargaining table. They control the communes faction responsible for making the food, the world is gripped with hysterical fear, it’s all good.

  2. At some point in the scenes, one of the players sets this up via color. I see no reason to say “no.” Done and done.

And now this split, which is what I want to discuss:

3a) The players make their maneuver roll and win the maneuver. They recap what they did (cut supplies) and why (force the power players to the bargaining table). Is accomplishing the task sufficient to fulfill the intent? Is the sequel basically them saying “the food’s cut off, and we all agree that your folks need food, so your GMFONs had better step up”?

3b) The players make their maneuver roll and lose the maneuver. So the GM describes what his side was trying to accomplish. What about what the PCs were trying to accomplish? Because they lost the maneuver, is it now within the GM’s rights to say “Yeah, you guys were trying to cut the food off but word really hasn’t spread far enough to force anyone’s hand yet”?

Here’s my concern, and maybe I’m overthinking this:

If the players can accomplish intent by making Maneuver rolls, does this bypass the scene economy? The players’ intent is to force a meeting with the Archcotare and the Anvil Lady. A Duel of Wits is a clear way to accomplish this: if the PC sets stakes to “The powerful will agree to sit for negotiations” and wins the DOW, then that’s what happens. But can they blow off the need for direct mechanical conflict by winning the Maneuver roll?


3a) Yes, but they can take it a step further. While they can’t dictate any action or reaction for GM FoNs, they can frame the next conflict. I think using a sequel to set up a round of Big Talks is totally cool.

3b) Yup

4X) No, it accelerates it and focuses it. Sequels allow you to spin out narrative glue and move the story forward to the next important set up. You can’t bypass a conflict, but you can jump right to it.


Yeah, excellent. Thanks for talking it through. I was arriving at these conclusions myself but didn’t want to, you know, reply to myself. How gauche!

It’s pretty clear in my head that a situation is “real” but it’s “real” in a different way than achieving one’s intent with a roll. You can achieve narrative control over a situation, but it’s still unresolved.

Like the starvation thing: The situation we’re all agreeing to is that, yeah, you’re starving out my forces. Your intent is to force me to the bargaining table, but how I deal with your situation is really up to me. I could also march my troops into the cities and establish martial law! Or I could Circle up quislings who will secretly provide food to me for some shiny Resources. Or whatever.

But in either case, if I ignore the situation you established with your sequel then I’m being a dick, and vice versa.

This also expands what you can do with your factions, which IMO is A Very Good Thing.