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[Burning Wheel] Throne of Fire Session I

Started by Thor Olavsrud, August 26, 2005, 04:00:22 PM

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Thor Olavsrud

We played the first session of a new campaign for Burning Sand: Jihad last night, and I thought I'd share.

This campaign is set on a world we've called Ammun. It's got a sort of Greek/Egyptian flavor. In fact, the World Burning example from the Burning Sand: Jihad PDF was taken from our World Burning session for this campaign. Check it out if you haven't already.

Our story starts after the Jihad has made its presence on Ammun known. The previous day, the Jihad made a coordinated attack on several of the planet's propaganda stations, and also managed to seize two nukes from the noble family's stockpiles. It has also established several secret training camps, and its missionaries are out among the population in force.

Duke Alexander Martin Kordova, ruler of the planet Ammun and descendant  of Alexander the Great and Ramses II -- clancyjr

    * I Govern From Duty Heritage and Right
    * Always Trust Lord Machiev, Be Wary of the Sister.
    * My Gene Seed is Purist, and I will prove it to the universe.
    * Traitors are to be killed...after their families are burned alive.

    * Have a sweep team ready to strike visitors' homes at all times. See belief #4.
    * Have a sniper positioned out of sight but within range of me at all times.
    * Always shoot the messenger.

Lord Machiev Kordova (cousin), Analyst Master Assassin, AndyAction

    * The line of our Ancestry must be preserved at all costs.
    * Lesser minds are served best by manipulating them.
    * Emotion and Ancestral Intuition make my calculations more true than any technologies.

    * When in non-Noble circles, always remain inconspicuous.
    * Alway have an hidden reserve supply of Salt, with access to it only known to me.
    * Always arrive early

Lord Nathaniel Kordova (cousin, brother to Machiev), 9 Ambassador (after years spent on 9 as a Hostage), Drozdal

    * I will strengthen union between our house and 9 by marriage of my brother's daughter
    * Emotions should not be a part of any decision making
    * It's already too late to save out world, we have to make best of the time that's left.

    * Never leave my 9 Artifacts unattended (by me or trusted ones)
    * Always travel with bodyguard
    * Always have my med computer (Skill kit) on me

Sister Anastasia, Sisterhood Witch, Concubine of the former Duke, Mother of the present Duke's Niece (Selene), stormsweeper

    * The House of Alexander must not be allowed to fail
    * Selene's life (her daughter) is more important than any other
    * Only the "Mahdi" is more deluded than his followers

    * Always dress for the occasion
    * Always register a new target before the real fray
    * Never take no for an answer

Ur-Baron Imhotep Ptolemy, Warmaster and Engineer, Fourth Horseman
I'm still waiting for Fourth Horseman to email me the exact  wording of his beliefs and instincts, but this is basically what was important last night:

    * I will take my rightful place on the throne
    * My so-called 'betters' will serve me

Thor Olavsrud

The first scene opened with Lord Nathaniel opening a diplomatic pouch from Technocrat Hezekiel, a powerful member of 9's ruling council whom Drozdal bought as a relationship for his character. The pouch contained a deathwire reel. Lord Nathaniel played the reel, in which the Technocrat informed him that preparations to send legions of 9 fighting machines to Ammun were complete, and only proper payment was now required. The Technocrat told Nathaniel that 9 demanded that Duke Kordova's niece, Selene, be married to Nathaniel, and that their child would be named as Duke Kordova's heir.

I chose this very carefully as an opening Bang, and it worked beautifully. Only Drozdal's character was present in the scene, but we played it at the table with everyone watching so that everyone knew what their stakes were, and it really swept everyone up.

clancyjr, of course, as the paranoid and arrogant Duke immediately reacted to the scene. There was no way that anyone would dictate who his heir would be, especially not someone who by rights was once his liegeman.The price was way too high! Except, of course, for the fact that House Kordova didn't stand a chance without the fighting machines. clancy's first reaction was to tell Drozdal, "You know what's going to happen, right? You saw my third Instinct!" Now, that wasn't a dysfunctional, "I'm gonna kill you!" kinda threat. Instead it was just clancy letting Dro know that when Nathaniel revealed all this to the duke, it was gonna be a seriously high stakes conflict.

stormsweeper too, as Anastasia, was immediately hooked by it as well. She's the girl's mother, and even a eugenics obsessed, uber Queen Bee will have some qualms about seeing her 13-year-old daughter married off for political reasons to some freakish 77-year-old man that's part of some heretical technology cult, even if that man looks to be only 35 because of his Salt Addiction.

Action was also hooked by the situation, though slightly less directly. His first belief would allow him to support a marriage, but he knows it would displease his duke (which is never healthy). At the same time, the marriage could make his brother the father of the House's next ruler.

And finally, Fourth Horseman was also somewhat invested in the situation, as his first Belief would cause him to see Nathaniel as a potential obstacle to his own ambitions.

Dro immediately called a meeting with the duke, who insisted that Machiev, his analyst, sit in as well. However, Dro did not have Nathaniel demand these new terms from Duke Alexander. Normally I would think a player were turtling in that case -- refusing to engage in what could be a really hot conflict out of fear. But it seemed fully functional here because all the players already knew what Nathaniel's conflict was, even if the characters didn't. Action and clancy helped create a lot of neat tension in the scene by deliberately asking questions designed to get Nathaniel to reveal more than he wanted to. Action even called for a contest with his ungodly Analyst Perception to spot the fact that Nathaniel was not being entirely truthful. Nathaniel did not have the Falsehood skill, and so had to make due with Beginner's Luck and a double Obstacle penalty. However, a poor roll on Action's part (his only poor roll of the night, in fact), and judicious use of a Fate point on Dro's part allowed Dro to pull this test out. Nathaniel was allowed to continue playing his cards close to his chest. And I think we all really liked that result because we knew the fallout when all is finally revealed will be that much more explosive.

We then cut to a meeting between the Duke, Lord Machiev, and Ur-Baron Imhotep, as they discussed their plans for turning the populace of Ammun against the Jihadis. They decided that part of their plan would involve recruiting a cadre of the peasants the Jihadis have been courting, training them and then infiltrating the Jihadis converts. Imhotep suggested Sister Anastasia would be perfect for questioning potential candidates, which made the Duke wrinkle his brow in distaste (see the Duke's second belief). Sensing his chance, stormsweeper has Anastasia, who had been watching hidden in the shadows, stride forward and offer her services.

Earlier, clancy had explained that the Duke had a sniper stationed in the shadows on a catwalk in the throne room, and another sniper also in the shadows that was watching the first sniper. clancy immediately looked at me and said, "I wriggle my thumb. It's a signal that the second sniper should shoot the first sniper for failing me by not spotting the witch!"

Wow! That told everyone in the table exactly what Duke Alexander was about. I awarded clancy a Persona point for Embodiment right there.

We finished up that scene by deciding what maneuver the House was taking in the Propaganda War. Their initiatives were the recruitment described above, and broadcasts or the horror and devastation wrought by the Jihadis in blowing up the propaganda stations around the planet. They decided that their maneuver was a Rebuttal.

During the scene, I had one of Lord Machiev's propaganda officers approach and tell him that they had intercepted Translink broadcasts which excoriated House Kordova for selling out the good people of Ammun to the infidel Technologists of 9, endangering the salvation of the whole planet and all its people. Also, threats were made to blow up a mining operation near the capitol city of Heliopolis. Before they told me what they were scripting for their maneuver, I had privately noted that the Jihadis would be Feinting.

Meanwhile, a servant nervously approached Sister Anastasia and told her that Selene (her daughter) was missing! Before approaching with the servant, I had asked stormsweeper whether he had purchased a relationship with Selene's nursemaids/servants. He said no, so I told him that he would not be able to keep this news secret if he wanted to. While he had Anastasia begin turning the palace upside down (did I mention the palace is an artificial moon?!), another one of Lord Machiev's informants approached and told him that Selene was missing.

After Machiev told the Duke, clancy had the Duke immediately seal off the palace (full alarms and all), just as Anastasia discovered that Selene had probably left willingly (no sign of a struggle). A few tests later and it was fairly clear that Selene had snuck aboard a transport headed for the planet early that morning, though Duke Alexander still suspected a Jihadi plot.

At this point, Dro used a relationship with his 9 followers on the planet to justify a Circles roll to bring Selene into the story. I set the Obstacle at 6 and explained the consequences as I saw them. If Dro failed the roll, I would invoke the Enmity Clause and Selene would think Nathaniel was a disgusting, dirty old man, and would be utterly resistant to a marriage. That galvanized the whole table! It was clear that this roll would have some serious long-term consequences. Dro decided he would go ahead and make the roll anyway. He pulled out his Ancestry through a Persona point, but came up 1 success shy anyway! Excellent!

Not only did Dro thus determine that Selene would prefer to see him dead, but he also Failed in the eyes of his Ancestors! His Ancestry attribute was taxed by 1D.

However, he succeeded in locating the girl, and the orbital battlecraft and legion of troops the Duke mobilized converged on the 9 mining camp outside Heliopolis where she was hidden!

stormsweeper had Anastasia storm into the building where Selene was, finding Selene holding hands with a Fellahin boy and talking! Selene had her moment, "You can't control me!" as stormtroopers converged from all around. The Fellahin boy was taken in for "questioning."

The next scene was necessitated by a shortage of Resources at character burning. Specifically, both clancy and Fourth Horseman had not purchased Salt or Salt Caches for themselves at character burning because they had prioritized other purchases. A day had passed and they had only a few more before withdrawal from their Salt Addictions would lead to their deaths.

So the next scene opened with Lord Machiev and Ur-Baron Imhotep approaching the Syndicate Bank in Heliopolis in Imhotep's ship. They hoped to purchase a cache of Salt from the Syndicate. I explained how the Black Market rules worked, and that they would have an Obstacle penalty on their Resource test to buy Salt if they did not make a successful Circles test first (and they would have an even worse penalty if they opted to make the Circles test and failed). Pushing his first Belief, Action risked making an enemy of the Syndicate Representative and went for the Circles roll. Everyone helped except his brother (Nathaniel), who decided that the Duke's death might be the answer to his own dilemma about 9's demands! And Action said Lord Machiev certainly took notice! I further explained that they had the option of specifying Time if they wished. If they kept the Obstacle on the Circles test low and let me choose the time that the Syndicate Rep would be brought into play, then both the Duke and the Ur-Baron would be close to death. A failed Resources test would be fatal for them. If they chose to specify Soon, then a failed Circles test would leave them one chance to find another solution before they expired if they failed the Resources test. Or, they could shoot for the gold, declare "Now" and not find themselves in time pressure, even if the Resources test were failed. Action chose "Now."

Action put his Ancestry on the line with a Persona point, and pulled out the Circles roll! Awesome.

We flowed smoothly into a negotiation scene for the Resources test with the Syndicate Rep. I set the Obstacle for a 5D Salt Cache at 10, as per the Basic Sample Resources Obstacles. They negotiated but had to do so with Beginner's Luck, as neither Morchiev nor Imhotep had the Haggling skill. However, they managed to pull it off and lowered the Obstacle to Ob 8, learning in the process that the Syndicate had an "arrangement" with the Jihadis.

Fourth Horseman brought his G7 Resources to bear with some Help, and called on his OCDC Directorate trait, to pull out exactly 8 successes on the roll! As I pointed out, now HE controls a supply of Salt that can keep everyone alive for a good while. But since Imhotep's priorities clash with everyone else's ultimately, that could get very interesting indeed.

Finally, we decided to see who had won this phase of the Propaganda War. We checked our maneuvers and learned that the PCs had scripted a Rebuttal and I had scripted a Feint. Feint counteracts Rebuttal! However, the Jihadis don't have the Propaganda skill, so they have make due with Beginner's Luck. I pulled out a total of 8 successes on the dice (4 at double obstacle), reducing the nobility's Body of Argument by 4D. Now the war for the will of the populace is even at 20D apiece.

After the Propaganda War, I told them that mining operations had not been bombed. That had been an unfounded threat. But the next day, a lead mining engineer with a reputation for brutalizing workers was found dead. With his feet cut off.

(in our last campaign, when everyone played Jihadis, the Fedayin captain played by stormsweeper had a habit of cutting off people's feet when they offended him.)

Everyone at the table looked at each other and grinned that "oh shit!" smile when they realized their old characters were behind this.