The Rot of Hiri Handia - Session 3

One of my players posted this on the Dungeon Craft facebook page so there is some stuff in here that is pretty obvious for a BW player.

The Rot of Hirihandia

Session # 3 : The Ambush Below

A Synopsis and Commentary of our Burning Wheel Game

  • Overview: Please advise that this will be a long post, talking about a specific kind of narrative play and how it is supported by THE BURNING WHEEL game system. I am interested in sharing our experiences and welcome feedback from the community regarding alternate systems, and how they may be incorporated into D&D for a more nuanced style of play. This post may not be of interest to everyone; however, for those who value story telling and game crunch, are insatiably curious, philosophical or inveterate theory crafters… READ ON.

  • At the end of Session#2: Thindan led the party to where he was supposed to meet with the Queen, Turulbereth. Fileg “Broadwings”, sang the elven spell “song of the Arbors” to speak with the ancient trees who stand vigil along the secluded Glenn and waterfall. Our Heroes discovered the chilling truth behind Queen Turul-Bereth’s disappearance: She was abducted by an organized hit squad of Rat-men rangers. In fury and grief, Fileg orders the squad of guards to spread out and search for clues. What was found would lead them into the terrible darkness below The City of Hirihandia.

  • Dramatis Personae


Aiwendil Turulmegil: An Elven Sword-Singer & Consort of the abducted Fey Queen. He has come to the great City of Hirihandia to investigate what has happened to his beloved, the Queen of Turul’s Rook, rescue her and avoid a war.

Ser Laudislaus: A Noble Knight of the Hirihandia. He is Loyal but politically disgraced by his rivals at court, who have stripped him of his title and lands. House Laudislaus has long been an ally and friend to the Elves of Turul’s Rook for generations. Despite his diminished status, he has pledged to reclaim his family honor and stands with his blood brother, Aiwendil.


Queen Turul-Bereth, An Arch-Fey & Ruler of one of the Woodland Realms of Sylvan Elves called the “Rookery” or Turul’s Rook. She was mysteriously abducted by Rat-Men before her meeting with the Sorcerer King of Hirihandia. Was it the King’s treachery, the shadowy intrigue of an unknown hand or her own overconfidence?

Fileg “BroadWings”: A Young Elven Ranger; the impetuous son of Aiwendil and Turul-Bereth; he discovered the truth about his mother’s abduction by singing to the trees who witnessed everything.

Thindan: An Elven Master Smith who lives in Hirihandia and seeks to build an egalitarian utopia among Men, Dwarves and Elves. He was to meet Turulbereth in a Glenn outside the city, after her conference with King Zoltan. Thindan wrote to Aiwendil, informing him after the Queen’s disappearance.

Curufir: The Elven Ambassador to Hirihandia and King Zoltan’s court. He lives in the Elven Enclave, an ancient holy place of the Elves; filled with old stone monuments, soaring tree-dwellings and the healing hot-spring baths that are the center of veneration. Politically, Curufir is a figure head with little actual authority but great prestige. The Elves of the region are not unified in any form of centralized nation, but form a loose confederation of citadels, tribes and Fey Realms.

House Feketes : An upstart family of human Merchants who seek to rule Hirihandia through vile schemes, bribery, intimidation and base intrigue. They are responsible for Ser Laudislaus’s loss of title and lands. In the current power vacuum, the Feketes are attempting to declare martial law and “restore order”.

King Zoltan III: The Sorcerer King of Hirihandia; a benign dictator, generally agreed to be the legitimate ruler after the line of Warrior Kings died out. It is rumored that he locked himself in his tower, toiling to lift the plague that besieges the the city. Can he succeed in time via his magical arts?

Queen’s Guard: An Elite squad of Elven Protectors from the “Rookery”, led by Aiwendil, the Turulmegil.

Roden Ambushers: A gang of Rat-like humanoid thugs and thieves who live in the subterranean passages below the city.

Reigazt: A Roden Bruiser and enforcer, leader of a gang of Roden Ambushers.

GM: Sanjeev Shaw

IV. Synopsis of Session #3:

  • Elven grief: One of the unique aspects of Burning Wheel is the way it prioritizes both individual and societal belief systems into the mechanics and role-play of the game. Just as every PC has a trio of BELIEFs that inform how the he/she/they interact with the world (and when played, are rewarded with “ARTHA”, in game meta-currency like inspiration points); each “RACE” have their own cultural outlook that can provide balance and benefits. Elves accrue GRIEF as they interact with the world and experience the many sorrows, trials and tribulations that life is heir to (ie. Injury, killing, the death of comrades, betrayals, etc). Although, it can be mitigated, GRIEF is essentially a countdown to existential oblivion for all Elves in the game; for once their GRIEF score reaches a certain point they either whither away or “pass on to the West”. This mechanic is both a systems balance for how powerful Elves are in the game, but also a great aid to role playing the central tension of “Burn out” among a people who are essentially immortal. Elves take the long view, are circumspect, subtle and thoughtful BECAUSE of GRIEF. Otherwise, their passions would consume them in a “Super Nova”, obviating their long lives. Upon being confronted with the Queen’s abduction, all the Elves suffered Grief tests. OB 5.

  • Ser. Laudislaus’s frustration: Peering into the dark with a flickering torch, Laudislaus was struck by futility of searching … his own human frailty. Observation Untrained B4 Perception vs Roden Stealth of Ob2 upped to Ob 4 = Failure. Sir Ladislaus is frustrated and fearful in the dark. He feels inadequate.

Sensing his friend’s flagging spirits, Aiwendil reassures him that he sees the world with fresh eyes. He may not have the elf eyesight, but his perceptions are clear and sharp in ways no elf can appreciate. Persuasion B3 fork command vs Ob 4 will = Failure. Sir Ladislaus is even more down.

  • Aiwendil & his Falcon -His discussion about seeing the world from a different perspective gives him an idea. Unhooding his faithful falcon, Aiwendil let her fly and after a moment follows. Moonlight and feathers flash through the night, Laudislaus followed them both. After a brisk chase, the falcon led them to some ancient Ruins and the buried broken bridge that once spanned a river. Ser Laudislaus discovers a recent campsite and tracks leading to a secret passage to catacombs under the bridge. Aiwendil sends his Falcon to bring his son, and Fileg brings the rest of the company.

B3 Falconry +feywise +Elf-wise vs Ob 2 = success!

  • The tunnels & Ambush: Once assembled, the company arrays into a defensive formation with shields and short swords for close quarter combat. Thindan and his apprentices, nestled in the center, hold lanterns aloft to provide light as they enter the darkness beneath bridge. The tracks lead ever onward and deeper into catacombs, twisting tunnels like the veins of the earth. Hidden in a crevice is a scrap of the Queen’s cloak… as if it snagged on an uneven crack. Innocently it fluttered, twitching in an unseen breeze. Goading, prompting and tantalizing us; once found it ensnared our imagination, our hopes. Not longer after that, only the precisely perfect degree further… was the very moment the TRAP sprung!

Failed Tracking test.
Failed Observation vs stealthy.

  • The desperate fight: From the shadowy ledges above, a gang of Rodan (Rat-men, tall, sinewy and bent over from a life of scurrying in caves) ambushers drop down with knives and hateful fury. Had our heroes not been an organized fighting force of seasoned professionals, all would have been lost. … The Roden were quick, vicious, had the element of surprise, home turf advantage and superior positioning to overwhelm unwary trespassers. What they lacked was the esprit de corps, disciplined formation fighting skills and armor of an elite military unit… all the advantages of Ser Laudislaus and the Elves of the Queen’s own guards. For their initial engagement, both sides were evenly matched. The Roden’s objective was to use the shock and awe of their feral ambuscade to drive the interlopers from their tunnels. The heroes’ needed to withstand the assault and subdue one or more Roden for interrogation. Neither side was able to conclusively gain the upper hand. Despite their element of surprise, the fell creatures of the dark tunnels could not overcome the party. Having held their ground, the pell mell of sustained melee favored the organized and armored soldiers. With the zeal and ferocity of a warrior, born of steel and sinews; Ser Laudislaus smashes down the Roden’s heaviest thug under a flurry of well timed Sabre slashes and shield buffets. Seeing their champion fall, the Roden loose heart and break; as Aiwendil, his blade a blur cuts down his opponent. Recognizing when they are beaten, the Roden ambushers flee deeper into their subterranean lair like the rats they are. Consumed with the battle fever, Ser Laudislaus pursusued the retreating foe; ending the slowest of their rearguard. Aiwendil, Fileg and the company secured the surviving prisoners for interrogation. Answers would be had from them.

  • The interrogation: Ser Laudislaus , being adept in the ways of wringing the truth out of pernicious liars, began to put the prisoners to the question. Inured as they were to a life of hardship and crime, these Roden were a tough nut to crack. Torture and intimidation alone was insufficient to loosen their tongues completely. Saucy and flippant, Reigazt the Roden enforcer laughed when asked why his folk had abducted Turul-Bereth, the Queen of Turul’s Rook. “We are drowning from the torrential rains that wash into the sewers of the Human City. We tire of being ignored and treated like ignoble creatures.” Moved to anger and WROTH, the elves stared down at the rat-like-man with their inhuman eyes of flashing star light. Aiwendil, the Sword of TURUL and Consort to the Queen, bent over his prisoner and gazed into it’s beady little eyes. “Until now, we were not enemies. Had you come to us in humility or simply asked for aid and succor; we may have helped, moved by your plight. Had you attacked any other elf, you may have been yet heard and spared. We are not unfair, nor unkind; however, that ship has sailed, once your took our Queen. For that is an act of WAR! That is an act of disrespect that cannot be brooked, nor forgiven. From that instant forward, your folk were doomed! Slow to wroth, our people may be; once awakened, the vengeance of the Elvenkind is immutable and swift! We can no longer forgive such hubris as yours. All of your kind are from that moment, dead. Once it is known, even should I wish it, there is naught that I can do to assuage our anger. We will not be sated until the last of your kin drowns on it’s own blood and filth, crushed under our boots! I will give your this one, last chance to tell us how to find the Queen.” EMBODIMENT PERSONA!

  • The dilemma : Shaken to his core, Reigazt relents; not out of fear for his own skin but for those of his family. A bargain is struck, should he cooperate fully, he and his family will be spared the ultimate destruction. Fileg, impetuous, young and eager to rescue his mother argues to strike while the iron is hot. Himself, eager and passionate for vengeance; Aiwendil too wishes to press forward, come what may. He instructs Thindan to return to the Elven enclave in Hirihandia and make a report to Ambassador Curufir. “This knowledge is too important to die with me, you must return with word of what we have discovered. With luck, we will succeed; however, should things go hard…”. Ser Laudislaus, ever the Military Man, recommends that we regroup, so that we may move against the Roden threat in force. Thindan points out that should he return to the Elven enclave and entreat Ambassador Curufir to bring the remainder of his Protectors down into the tunnels for military support; little would that avail us. For Curufir is a coward, ever cautious and never acting; furthermore an ocean of bad blood stands between and Thindan. Their council, wise, sways Aiwendil and he reigns in both his and his son’s hot-headed inclinations; hard as that may be for the two of them. For Thindan and Ser Laudislaus speak true; no one but The Queen’s Consort has the authority to rouse the Ambassador to action, and without the living proof and confession of Reigazt; few would believe the “tall tales” of Roden treachery. Few but he has the keys to unlock the right doors, galvanize the grief stricken Elves of the Enclave and prosecute the war against their enemies. It is his duty to make sure that it is done and correctly. As much as it pains him, Aiwendil must play politics before he and Fileg may play cat and mouse in the dark places underneath the rot within Hirihandia. Is House Feketes involved in the Queen’s disappearance? Reigantz claims that they have no alliance with the Feketes. Can he be trusted? Would he even know?

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