Hello fellow Burners!
Boy am I excited. I just got a small group together to start off a new Burning Wheel campaign after many years of playing 5e. It feels good to be back into Burning Gold’s dense pages. The opportunity arose when a total stranger on the Dungeon Craft facebook page posted a question about the pros and cons of skill based games. I responded with a hearty endorsement of Burning Wheel’s advancement system and offered to teach the guy by running a little mini arc. Later I roped my buddy Chris into meeting online for a session zero.
Starting up with email and text messages, and ending in a session zero, here are some of the things that we Burned up.
City Adventure: We wanted a city adventure, inspired by Lankhmar and the city of Greyhawk. Human city with elves and dwarven neighborhoods. Chris recently visited Budapest, so we kinda settled on a Lankhmar on the Danube vibe with competing Noble Houses, ruled over by a Sorcerer King. The city has a vast underground network - a megadungeon.
Young Sword Singer: Initially I had stated that I wanted to run a Burning Thac0 style game which recommends 3 lp characters. Jay had figured out that the fastest way for an elf to get to Sword Singer was Born City > Spouse (Wilderlands) > Sword Singer. This led to some interesting story elements…An Arch-Fey queen, centuries old, through some ancient pact with the citadel, is granted the right to choose her mates from a Citadel within her sphere of influence. The boy becomes part of her Honor Guard. A Lady Thranduil: “That one,” she pronounces, “I like him, I want him.” Creepy!
So, Jay, says that his Wife, the Arch-Fey Queen, was abducted/kidnapped and his mission is to free/rescue her. Belief 1.
Down on His Luck Knight: Chris wanted to play a down on his luck knight. A veteran of battles who, through political misfortune, is no longer welcome at court and is living a pretty modest existence in a rented flat in the fantasy Budapest city.
Plague in the City: Chris thought it would be cool, if, as a backdrop tension to the narrative, the city was in the throes of a horrible plague. I am picturing the plague as a kind of fungal rot. little puff clouds of pestilence belching forth from the victims. Tubers and rot grubs ruining crops. It’s bad.
That’s when he hit on our BIG PICTURE/SITUATION:
A vile plague has stricken the human cosmopolitan city and the Mad Sorcerer King, goaded by a rival house, has kidnapped the demi-godlike Arch-Fey Queen to Compel her to heal the land/Offer her as sacrifice to dark gods/start a war of races, etc…Not really sure why. A young Elven Sword Singer has come to the bustling city to seek the aid of a young Knight, calling up on an old debt (elf saved his life). Knight feeling a sense of obligation and seeing an opportunity to exact revenge on his political rivals accepts the quest.
Here’s Jay’s sweet Notes:
What’s the Big Picture:
- The city-state is ruled by a self styled “Sorcerer King”, legitimized by a local council of Nobles, Burghers & approved by treaty w/ a far away central authority.
- The “Sorcerer King” has betrayed his covenant with the land. As a result, his previously “ironclad” legitimacy is in doubt.
- The Crisis: A mysterious plague, populist uprisings, political factionalism, etc. all threaten to undermine everyone’s progress and prosperity.
- The city is a melting pot of cultures, races , trade and (pre-modern) industry balanced precariously on a knife’s edge.
- In a desperate attempt to right his wrong & hold on to power; the “Sorcerer King” employs his eldritch arts to summon & compel the aid of a Great Lady of the Fairy (Lady Thranduil).
- Rumors and innuendo swirl about the city, as ill omens, portents of doom and the mass suicide of seven soothsayers occur in front of the sealed the doors to the Sorcerer King’s Central Tower complex.
- No one has entered nor left the Tower for weeks; the court is in disarray, the bureaucracy has run out of excuses, blight blackens the countryside and the city is on the brink of revolt.
- Dark whispers abound as the iron grey clouds of war gather over the serene forests of Fairy. Elven citadels fade in and out of sight with the billowing river mists. Their swan-knecked ships are recalled and trade along the great river slows to a trickle.
- Even the ubiquitous Dwarven barges and caravans from the Beard-girder’s magnificent mountain-polis cease to ply their unending quest for commerce.
- The situation worsens, as supplies run out, fate teeters on a knife’s edge.
- Then two unlikely heroes from different worlds appear. They must strive together to bring back the land, restore hope and save a dying race.
So we have we have plenty to work with:
Advise from Knock! 2: In an article by Jack Shear in Knock!2 entitled A Powder Keg the Dune Way, the author suggests that if you follow the factions design of the Dune situation you can easily create a powder keg of a scenario ripe for adventure. You need:
- Two antagonistic rival Noble Houses (in our story, we have House Feketes who are politically ascended and have manipulated the Sorcerer King to kidnap the Elf-Queen and House Blahblah who my player hails from.)
- the Bene Gesserit, a religious organization that masks its poltcal power in the guise of spiritual guidance. I am thinking of creating a faction of holy pricks like the White Cloaks from the Wheel of Time. Followers of Pholtus of the Blinding Light. Not sure.
- Fremen. An unaligned Tribal military force that exists outside of the structure defining the other factions. Maybe Elves?
- The Padisha Emperor: A distant ruler wiht a powerful military force that defends traditional power structures. This would be our Sorcerer King and his Black Guard.
- The Spacing Guild. A mercantile force that masks its political power in the guise of pure economics. We think that House Feketes shares some of this role. Or Dwarves?
Sir Ladislaus, Dishonored knight from a proud House. (Born Noble, Page, Squire, Knight)
- I am from a heroic line of Hiri Handian warriors and defenders, I am sworn to defeat any force that threatens the realm. I believe that House Feketes is a threat to the city.
- My family have always believed that the Elven people are our allies and for centuries we were sworn to answer the call when they need help. I will listen to Turul, but I will be wary of being led astray.
- I am loyal to the Sorcerer King, and I believe that the plague on the land foreshadows that he has lost his way. I will be loyal to him and free him from the machinations of the lying connivers.
- Always be meticulous and disciplined.
- Always listen respectfully to the common people.
- Distrust the mercantile burghers.
Traits: -Mark of Privilege (D), Sworn Homage (D), Cool Headed (C-O), Disclined (Char)
Relationships: 1d Lady Cousin at Court, 1d Hateful Prick from House Feketes.
Reputation: 1d dishonored knight;
Affiliation: 2d with the Nobility from traits, and 1d with the Red Watch.
Turulmegil Aiwendil, Desperate Sword Singer in search of his beloved wife, the Fairy Queen. (Born Citadel, Spouse, Sword Singer, Lieutenant)
- Love and Duty: Discover the truth, free my beloved and punish the guilty.
- Honor and Brotherhood: Sir Ladislaus is my Fate-Kin. Help him reclaim his birthright.
- The Turulmegil is Ruthess; Aiwendil is kind and merciful.
- Always act with Honor and Respect
- Always talk to birds to get the lay of the land and give them an offering.
- Always Seek Truth and Beauty.
Traits: Elven common traits, Sword of the White Towers, Ear to the Ground, and Practiced Precision - drawing the sword super fast.
Relationships: Filegor, his son, a ranger that is out on patrol to the other elven citadels who prepare for a war council. Turulbereth, 8rp Elven Fairy Queen of the Wilderlands…Arch Fey who has been abducted by somebody. the only clue he has was that her sword was returned back to him along with a white rose. He suspects that it is the Sorcerer King.
Reputation as his wife’s newly appointed champion.
Affiliation, Sword of the White Towers, Sword Singers.
So far, the players are doing great! They are really getting into the world building and their beliefs and mini worlds. I have had to state, however, that its enough of out of game world building for now. We would like for more to the setting to revealed in play through the roll of the dice.
Its been awhile since I have GM’ed BW. I find myself so tempted to create scenes and push conflict, but I am reminded that this is a collaborative game, and to make sure that the players feel a part of it, I could also just sit back and let them make the first moves.
Do you think I should prepare a few bangs to attack their BITs?