The Rot of Hirihandia, Session 1!

The Rot of Hirihandia: Session 1

Yeehaw, first session of Burning Wheel in a long time finally under my belt and both players were super stoked and really into the system and their characters.

My long time friend, Chris, and player in one of my first d&d campaigns in high school was playing, Sir Ladislaus, a Knight of Hirihandia, who has lost lands and prestige at the Sorcerer King Zoltan of House Nhilas’ court to a House Feketes, southerners who are rich, suave and mercantile. His beliefs are:

  • 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 believe that the Eldar are our allies, and for centuries we were sworn to answer the call when they need help. I will listen to Turul, but I don’t not see how he can help me defend the realm.
  • I am loyal to the Sorcerer King, and I believe that the plague on the land is that he has lost his way. I will attempt to help him find his way.

The other player, is Jay, whom I met on the Dungeon Craft facebook page. His character is, Aiwendil Turulmegil, an Elven Sword Singer and the consort/spouse of an ancient elven Arch-Fey who has mysteriously gone missing and suspicion points to foul play. His beliefs are:

  • Love & Duty : discover the truth to free my beloved & punish the guilty, I will: Question Thindan the BladesmIth who returned Turulbereth’s sword. I have a hunch that there is something else he knows and hasn’t revealed yet.
  • Honor & Brotherhood : Sir Ladislaus is FATE-KIN, help reclaim his birthright. I am concerned about Ser Laudislaus’ health and will use my powers to heal and preserve him through this dangerous business.
  • A sword has 2 edges: What legacy do I leave for Fileg, my Heir? The Ruthless Spirit of Turulmegil or Aiwendil’s calm, merciful, kindness? (Jay’s character’s name is Aiwendil and his is a gentle husband and father, but as the Sword of the White Towers and Consort to the Etharch, he is a ruthless warrior that is seething with anger and frustration at the loss of his beloved).

Situation: After a summer of extreme drought the skies suddenly opened up and it began to rain. For some weeks there was much rejoicing and the crops looked like they would bounce back. But to everyone’s dismay, the rain had never stopped. Fields flooded and the crops rotted out in the fields, and people new that it was going to be an extremely hard winter. As more and more crops were left to rot out in the fields, swarms of rats, driven out from the flooded nests, swarmed out into the lands and brought with them plague and pestilence. The Sorcerer King has sequestered himself in his tower for weeks, and House Feketes, the King’s closest advisors have taken control of the daily governance of Hirihandia the capital of the Kingdom. Among the elves, there is a great deal of tension, for recently, Turulbereth, an Arch-Fey Queen of the woodland nation known as the Rookery, has gone missing, and many in the Citadel Believe that it is the humans that have abducted her to help them heal the land.

Intro Scene: I didn’t know how to start the story, so, I asked the players if they wanted to start off with a scene. Jay volunteered at first, and said that he wanted to be in the city’s elven garden enclave discussing strategy with the local Ambassador. Now I love a player taking the reigns like that I had already planned to make that a thing. Getting into the city and discovering what’s going on in the elven enclave was something worthy to see happen in play, so I asked Jay to hold up and step it back a little. At first I thought that I might have burst his bubble by taking the reins…but he thought it out and narrated arriving in a swan necked ship to Hirihandia with his son Fileg the Ranger (Wild, Forester, Ranger) and a retinue of Elven Honor Guard. I was like Hot Damn that is some heavy duty power there. Wanting to get into the scene, Chris spoke up and said that Sir Ladislaus had received a message by carrier pigeon from Aiwendil and that he was heading down to the docks to meet him. That’s when I PROVOKED his belief about House Feketes and also challenged Aiwendil’s belief about discovering the truth.

Its raining. Its always raining. At the sighting of an elven ship at the dock, a detachment of House Feketes guards head out to greet them. Leading them is Sir Rodor, one of Sir Ladislaus, hateful rival relationships. As they are cantering up past Sir Ladislaus, I asked Chris want he wanted to do. He wants to be unnoticed, just a non-descript traveller heading down to the docks. Inconspicuous un-skilled. Chris rolls and FAILS! House Feketes owns most of the docks and they always have muscle down there, especially with tensions being so high. As they canter past they notice poor Sir Ladislaus and sneer at him, “heading down to the docks to drink way your sorrow Ladislaus, step aside, we are on official business.” That’s it…I didn’t want to get into it some more, just wanting to establish the character and push Chris on this NPC.

Sir Rodor greets Aiwendil courteously, as befitting his station, and asks him to state his business. There is some resentment from the humans about how unfair it is that the elven lands seem to be spared from the plague and hunger. How nice to be graced as the eldar. A bravo, mutters that their time will come…

Jay states that he is here as a representative of the Turulbereth’s court and he has official business with Ambassador Curufir. Sir Rodor says that there is a great deal of tension in the city, and it is better that they stay in their ship until he has cleared it with his Lord. Wouldn’t want you to get hurt would we. They roll. Aiwendil, Persuasion B3, with forks from Fealty-wise and Paen of Deeds. Sir Rodor, rolls Persuasion b4, forking Etiquette and Authority Wise. Success for Jay and I play it off like the magic from the Paen of Deeds sort of spooked him and he cantered off.

Throughout the exchange Sir Ladislaus was observing from the sides…not wanting to draw attention to himself.

FIRST CONTACT: This is always a tricky part in D&D campaigns. They are usually pretty cheesy…but I love how in BW, character’s even brand new ones, have already come to life and players sort of already know what they need to do. Aiwendil says that things with the elves are not good at all. He believes that his Queen and beloved has been kidnapped and taken to Hirihandia. He wants to meet with the Ambassador to see what is going on. He asks Sir Ladislaus to come with him. Chris does not want Ladislaus to say at in the Elven Enclave. He is says that he will stay down in the lower city and keep an eye out. That was interesting. Normally players do what they can to stay together. But I like that Chris was playing Sir Ladislaus carefully cautiously. They did a pvp roll for it. I LOVE THIS PART OF THE GAME! SO MUCH BETTER WHEN THE DICE DETERMINE A PVP STRATEGY THING. SO MUCH MORE FAIR. However, Sir Ladislaus is unskilled and he got smoked. He agreed to join Aiwendil in the enclave.

Jay was playing up to his belief that he and Sir Ladislaus are Fatekin and that he cares for his health and safety. There is an icky plague going around and he does not want Ladislaus to die from it.

Elven Enclave:

Since we started the premise of this campaign an homage to d&d done right, Lankhmar and Greyhawk inspired, I had made a random encounter chart of possible situations while travelling through certain districts. In this case I rolled up Rats! So, I asked for a perception test and Chris/Ladislaus met his ob. He spied a giant rat stalking them along the awnings and rooftops of the narrow winding alley leading to the enclave. When spotted the creature darted away. I’m using this for a later thread to the campaign.

Throughout the streets the signs of misery and death were everywhere. It was wet and muddy and the air smelled foul.

The enclave by contrast was pristine. I asked Jay to describe the home of the elves of Hirihandia. He said it was a garden, with stone dwellings and some of the grander homes built into the trees. There are several hot springs that have healing properties (interesting…I’m sure Jay wants me to include this into the story vis a vis the plague!) and beautifully sculpted tree dwellings. Sir Ladislaus expressed his wonder.

Jay had to Circle up the Ambassador. B3 circles with bonus dice for Sword of the White Towers, Reputation as the Queen’s Champion, and forks for Fealty-Wise and Elf-Wise. Chris offered a helping die as a noble of the city. (Not sure if we followed the rules here) the Ob was 5! Failure would have meant that the Ambassador was teetering towards Spite and was ready to start spilling human blood in the hopes of finding the Queen. Jay rolled and Succeeded! Ambassador Curufir was distressed and eager for the help of Aiwendil’s Sword Singer brigade. He said that the population of the enclave was succumbing to their Grief in the presence of so much death. Morale was down and many elves had returned to their woodland realms because they couldn’t handle the pain.

Jay said that Aiwendil was eager to offer aid. He wanted to fortify the enclave and make it defensible. We debated what skill to roll and settled on Persuasion with Forks for Command, Formation Fighting, Elven Protector-wise, and a helping from his second. 1 success. OOF! The elves of the enclave were indeed down and grief stricken. Work was not proceeding well. I will have to use this for in future when the humans start to riot.

Secondly, Aiwendil suggested that they send riders out to all the Elven woodland communities asking for aid. We really thought that this was the purview of the Ambassador and didn’t roll anything.

During this time of planning Chris wanted Sir Ladislaus to head out into the streets and learn more about what was going on. Rhythm of the Streetwise, to cruise through the city and find a bar frequented by soldiers. He wanted to Intimidate some soldiers from other houses that are aligned with the Feketes. He circled up a poor sod from House Bathor who was drunk and puking in an alley. It was raining and it was nighttime. Very Batman. Sir Ladislaus in his black armor materialized out of the shadows and roughed up the young bravo and menacingly asked “You pissant with no honor, what-the-fuck was going down? What was house Feketes up to?” House Bathor were northern houses like his who traditionally allied with the elves and believed in the old ways. Intimidation roll success! The soldier revealed that the Sorcerer King had locked himself in his tower and seven of his Soothsayers committed suicide outside the tower this morning. House Feketes was going to call Martial Law tomorrow! Chris roughed him up a little more and let it be. I loved watching the players dig into their characters!

Chris then went to one of his contacts in the Red Watch to try and get him to know that the elves needed help. Circles B2+1D affiliation with the Red Watch, and +1D infamous Reputation for being a disgraced knight, against Ob 3 (same station, Broadish profession). Chris rolled 4d and succeeded!

But negotiating with Captain Yulin was wary of the Black Knight. The Red Watch were responsible for security within the city and the Black liveried soldiers were responsible for outside of the walls. Also, he believed that things were totally fucked up…maybe House Feketes was right…steady had and all that. A mad Sorcerer King could be really bad. We had a Duel of Wits on our hands!

Chris/Sir Ladislaus does not have a Dueling Skill. He had a dispo of 5 (Will B4 + 1 (3success unskilled Persuasion test) halved to 1)). Sir Yulin was the same. Dispo 5. I scripted Point, Counter Point, Point. And Chris scripted Point, Point, Counter Point. Sir Ladislaus destroyed the Captain of the Red Watch in the second volley with only 1 point knocked off of his dispo. So 4 vs -1. Captain Yulin was convinced that House Feketes were up to know good and he would lend his hand to the elves.

Father to a Son:

Last scene of the night went to Jay, who wanted to interact with his son Fileg a Ranger of Turul’s Rook. He found Fileg bathing in the hot springs of the enclave. Fileg was not happy in the city. He wanted to ride out with the other heralds and try and help gain outside help for the search for his mother. He hated the city, the death, and the stench…he wanted to be out in the great forests. Aiwendil said that he should view the city like a great forest, one that needed culling from all of its evilness. “that’s what I am afraid of father. I do feel like raising my blade against those of this city…but I feel like I would love control…like an animal!” Jay wanted to roll Persuasion, forks from Elven-Protector wise and Fealty-wise to remind Fileg that his duty was to his father and the leader of this delegation. I need your help. Fileg is unskilled negotiator and Aiwendil defeated him easily with a Persuasion roll.

That’s where we left it.

Overall I was super happy with the night!

The players earned Embodiment Persona for great roll playing and 2 Fate Points each for pushing their Beliefs!

I did not expect such a politically wrought campaign and am excited to see what happens next. Thanks for reading this far! What’s next?

I think House Feketes will need to call a meeting of the House of Lords…a Juma or Clan Moot, to gain the approval for them to move against the Sorcerer King.
Also, the elves are in lots of trouble. Some within their ranks are fed up and are full of spite. They want war.
The heroes have still not made any headway in their search for Turul Bereth.
Also, the Sorcerer King…he is part of a Cabal of wizards. They might send a delegation to deal with his madness.
Finally, the Rat. He is part of a larger subterranean plot from Below.


I always love hearing how other games went. Will be really interesting to see how Sir Ladislaus and Aiwendil evolve during play!

A few comments:
Since you asked about circles and FoRKing “You may never FoRK into Circles. Circles is not a skill. Forks are only for skills.” Very bottom of page 381, BWGR.
Often Linked tests are a good way to get advantage dice off of relevant skills if you really have one that first for the circles roll but allowing it isn’t really the end of the world.

I’d love to hear more about the DoWs when they come up in the future! Knowing the scripting is nice but telling us the jist of what was actually said as part of those actions is even cooler. What was the minor compromise he had to give for losing that one point of his dispo?

Lastly I’d just touch on both players earning embodiment. I wasn’t at your table so maybe they both really freaking brought it and deserved it, sweet. I would just be careful to make it not become the obligatory “you roleplayed” award that role-playing awards can sometimes become. It’s for the really awesome scenes that really bring your game to the next level! Again, I wasn’t actually there, maybe the both did that, and that is awesome, it’s just a trap I see new GMs/players fall into where thinking that not giving it out means the players did a bad job RPing, rather than for those extra special every few sessions “wow” moments that it is meant for.

Sounds like you guys are rocking it though, please keep us posted!


Hey Novaniv,

Thanks for the kind words. You know I wanted to include all the awesome dialogue but to be honest my notes said nothing and my memory was pretty vague at this point. I think because we were at the end of the session and a little rushed We couldn’t match the roleplay with the dow actions.

Yeah I think persona will be for more distinctive roleplaying.


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