Last night was a scheduled night for a (not so) weekly Burning Wheel game over Skype with Jim Bryant and myself, run by Judd Karlman. Jim and I are playing hateful orcs who have scrabbled together a growing empire consisting of orc, goblin, troll, spider and even some human mercenaries.
Let’s go over some of the PC Beliefs so you can see how it drove our play.
Grbek’s (my PC) beliefs:
- The other kingdoms will recognize my legitimacy or die
- I will ensure the Nation of the Scar lasts forever
- The elves will fear the name of Grbek Pukk
The Slayer’s (Jim’s PC) beliefs:
- I will serve the baddest mf on the planet
- I will defeat anyone tougher than myself
- The Bloodraven (an elven female warrior) will stand by my side
The main plot of the session was that within our empire, a company of dwarves were attacked and killed by some rebellious goblins who weren’t interested in being part of our empire. The goblins had holed up in a valley and were set to make a last stand. Meanwhile, the dwarven kingdoms sent a small contingent down towards the valley led by Helson the Berserk, a dwarf who saw orcs as less than sentient beings. My PC, Grbrek Pukk, Orcish King of the Nation of the Scar and his most trusted advisor (Jim’s PC) Warder Gurth, The Slayer, most feared orcish swordsman on the continent, led a band of our finest to that same valley.
Helson expected that we would try to defend our goblins and began berating us as thieves. After some jawing back and forth and a punch thrown (by Slayer as he was testing Helson because he saw him as tough), Grbek stepped in to clarify that the Scar was here to fight side-by-side with the dwarves to help them retake their lost goods and that the dwarves would have full rights to the booty (an equitable act of a true king). Helson expected a trick, but knew that he didn’t have the strength of arms to fight a battle outside the valley, then enter it and defeat the goblins to recover his goods and avenge the slight to his kingdom. So, he grudgingly accepted the offer.
Rather than let the game session derail into a drawn out battle, Judd asked us to define our goals within the battle against the goblins and set up a series of tests against those goals. I wasn’t looking forward to making a bunch of die rolls to resolve the battle, so this was a great solution.
I defined Grbek’s goals as -
- Keep the two fighting forces working in concert to defeat the goblins (prove the Scar can be trusted and is powerful)
- Look for an opportunity to impress Helson, possibly save his life (prove I am a great king, help establish the Scar)
Jim defined Slayer’s goals as -
- Keep the two fighting forces working in concert to defeat the goblins (this was done to serve the baddest mf, which is Grbek)
- Use my spider riders as reserve to look for any goblins who escape the valley and lead them to the caves to escape the carnage (Jim did this because he’s a sneaky bastard)
- Try to get Helson killed “by accident” (this was Slayer’s drive to defeat someone tougher)
So as you can see, we had a shared goal and a conflicting goal, all reflections of our beliefs. The play proceeded first with the roll to keep the two fighting forces working in concert against the goblins. I rolled Strategy and forked in lots of skills and Jim gave a helping die and rolled a check to give me a second die. The Ob was 8 (meaning I had to roll 8 successes, a huge feat in BW). I ended up burning two Persona and opening up the 6s as open ended rolls with a Fate point. At one point, I was tempted to spend a Deeds point, but I kept it in reserve because both Jim and I know that this campaign will end with our two PCs going at each other in a duel to the death (either in a war or in single combat). We know it is coming, so I’m keeping my Deeds point for that.
With all my Artha and forking and helping dice I just make the 8 ob (it was ugly how bad I rolled, honestly). Judd describes the monumental effort of keeping the orcs from breaking the dwarven lines and keeping the dwarves pointed at the right enemy, but we held the line and were winning the day.
Then it came to the betrayal/trust issue with Helson the Berserk. Judd described a scene in the pitch battle where a troop of goblins had set up an ambush on a kind of natural overpass where they lay in wait for Helson armed with bows and arrows. Grbek and Slayer both saw this, and Slayer took the chance to ag Helson on into a full charge up the “hill” to survey the carnage. Helson took the bait, putting himself in mortal danger (as any berserker should, really). It was up to Grbek to charge his mount up to protect and save Helson from the goblin archers by using his Cry of Doom to intimidate the goblins to break and scatter. I made the roll and we won the day (meaning the Scar “we” since Jim failed to get Helson killed).
Helson took out a few pipes and sat down on a stack of goblin bodies to look over the field and soak in the victory. Grbek took the pipe that was offered to Slayer and ordered him down to the field to ensure every goblin was killed without mercy (since Slayer didn’t hide his intentions for Helson from Grbek). Slayer took the opportunity to make sure his spider-riders were able to help some goblins escape.
Here’s where it got really interesting.
While smoking pipes amidst the charnel house of a battle, Helson looked to the west at the elven citadel Orc Watch and commented, “This was a thing of beauty, these armies working together. We could march this force to Orc Watch and crush those elves. We should go right now and do this.”
This pinged Grbek’s belief about elves fearing his name. Because Bloodraven was holed up in Orc Watch and being assaulted by the rest of the elven nation, this hit on Slayer’s Belief about her, too. But in a straight up battle, the elves outside Orc Watch outnumbered the combined Scar and dwarven forces. How much do we Believe?
Of course we marched to war. And wow did Judd spin a small battle into something epic. I just love how this game surprises me.