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Author Topic: [BW] Burning Pirates--Prep for play  (Read 2281 times)
Michael S. Miller

Posts: 846

« on: October 17, 2005, 03:11:49 AM »

I’m posting this both at the Forge and on the Burning Wheel forums, just to show how I’m preparing for my upcoming Burning Wheel game, as an example of how BITs can drive play, and that sort of thing.

Well, only 5 months after we started character burning, we finished it, and so I’m ready to start prepping for the game in earnest. Here’s the basic setting setup. BTW, we’re definitely on “romantic” end of the romantic v. realistic spectrum. I might throw in that optional rule about always being able to change to an Avoid or Block to make up for lack of armor.

This all started ‘cause my players wanted to play “pirates.” I wanted to take BW for a spin. But I’ve got this mental block about “pirates.” To me, the word doesn’t conjure up the romantic images of freedom and adventure upon the high seas. For me, “pirates” are murderous criminal thugs—they kill people and take their stuff. So, here’s the setup that will hopefully circumnavigate my mental block, while still scratching their itch for things piratical.

A few years back, the Old King was murdered. His son, the Rightful Prince, claimed that the Old King’s brother, the Usurping Uncle, had murdered him. The Usurping Uncle, of course, claimed that the Rightful Prince was the murderer. They clashed and RP was driven from the land. UU was crowned king. There’s an old prophecy, vague as these things always are, that says that the Kinslayer will rise, murder his own flesh-and-blood for power, bring darkness upon the land for several years, and finally  be brought to justice. Both UU and RP claim that the other one is the Kinslayer foretold in the prophecy. Anyway, although the RP has been driven from the land, he’s become a Pirate King, and continues to wage the civil war upon the trade routes vital for UU’s kingdom to thrive. The PCs are the cream of his fleet. Here’s the three characters:

Kat’s playing: Countess Olivia Darkwood—She was born noble, cast into disgrace for having a child. The child was taken from her. She disguised herself and  trained in the knighthood. Eventually driven to sea when her Rightful Prince was, she now commands the “County Darkwood,” a small, fast pirate ship with a loyal crew.

LIFEPATHS: Born Noble, Page, Squire, Knight, Privateer, Ship’s Captain

My prince is the True King
I will find my first born
Marry a prince or no one

Never trust a loyalist
Always obey my prince
Always accept parley

Mark of Priviledge
Sworn Homage
Your Lordship
Letter of Marque
Stern Demeanor
Practiced Precision
Hand Eye

NOTABLE SKILLS (she’s got a G3 Agility)
Sword G5
Crossbow G3
Firearms G5
Oratory G3

Bruce is playing: Captain Rafeal “The BearStalker”--a peasant hunter who, in hard times, was driven to a life of piracy. He moved up the ranks through hard work and determination to the rank of captain, swearing the service of his big, heavily-armed ship to the Rightful Prince.

LIFEPATHS: Born Peasant; Hunter; Pirate; Privateeer; Privateer; Ship’s Captain

People should EARN their station in life
No shipmate ever gets left behind
Women should stay home and make babies

Always start a fight in Aggressive Stance
If someone looks threatening, shoot him.
Never let booze go to waste

Problem w/ authority
Letter of Marque
Stern Demeanor
Booming Voice

Bow G6
Sword B6
Command B4

Michele is playing: Celeste, Sorceress of the Stars—Born high, brought low in her quest for power, she now serves the Rightful Prince in order to fulfill the Kinslayer Prophecy. She, too, has had a child taken from her—this one because of her quest for greater power.

LIFEPATHS: Born Noble; Arcane Devotee; Court Sorcerer; Crazy Witch; Pirate; Weather Witch

The Kinslayer Prophesy must be fulfilled—thus, the Kinslayer must be brought to justice
Family must come first
I am more competent than any man

Always leave them guessing
When surprised, always use The Fear
Never allow a child to be harmed

Mark of Priviledge
Base Humility
Intense Stare (changed from Inscrutable)
A Little Crazy
Problem w/ authority
Second Sight
Sea Legs

Sorcery B6
Knife B6
Stealthy B5
Falsehood B4

Call of Iron
The Fear
Fire Breath
Sarch’s Glare

Looking at these BITs and brief backgrounds, I need to sketch out some potential Bangs. The Bangs will tell me what characters need some stats, and from there, we’ll work on who’s related to whom.

The Countess Olivia Darkwood has “I will find my first born” and “Never trust a loyalist.” To me, these scream out for her first born to be a loyalist. He’s probably a three-lifepath character. Some squire attached to a knight who is sworn to the Usurping Uncle’s service. Once they fight, I don’t doubt that Kat will get the better of him. I think give Kat a free Assess once she has him down, before she can deliver the killing blow.

“My Prince is the True King” will serve her well in the whole overarching storyline about bringing down the Usurper. I foresee cool possibilities if they have to disguise themselves as loyalists. Perhaps one of the loyalists sees some sort of common cause with them, and they will be in a position to gain advantage if they trust him—triggered her “Never trust a loyalist” instinct. And if the Prince orders her to do it, that plays right into her “Always obey the Prince.”

“Always accept parley” is taken right from Pirates of the Caribbean and will lead to similar problems.

Last Belief is “I will marry a Prince or no one.” For this one to come into play, she will either stand to gain something important, or lose something equally important if she does not marry someone other than a Prince. What if the Rightful Prince himself arranges the marriage and orders her into it? Good potential drama with this one, but it requires an important and charismatic bridegroom character. I’ll sketch out the rest of the Bangs and see if there are any holes that match up with him.

Her skills will also need tough tests for advancement. With gray Sword, Crossbow, Firearms, that means that the Usurping Uncle needs a champion just as accomplished. Perhaps he’s the knight that Olivia’s son is squiring for. I see lots of duels ending in draws and some range-and-cover. The gray Oratory will need someone equally formidable at the Duel of Wits, along with opportunity to make such duels. It might be Usurping Uncle himself, but why would he debate a known follower of that rebellious Rightful Prince? It could come back to the disguise thing, or perhaps the real County Darkwood is torn between swearing loyalty to the Usurping Uncle, under rule of Olivia’s silver-tongued cousin; or declaring itself for the Prince, under rule of Olivia. Hmmm. This will take some thinking.

Kat also paid for her ship and crew, so I’ve can’t forget the nautical adventure and piracy.

Which brings us to Captain Rafeal. His “People should EARN their station in life” will bring him into conflict with any character with a Mark of Priviledge—like the two other PCs. Come to think of it, it should also put him at odds of the Rightful Prince. I need to talk to Bruce a little more about why Rafeal is loyal to the Prince. He may become the potentially-traitorous character, who is tempted to join the forces of the Usurping Uncle.

Perhaps “No shipmate ever gets left behind” could be one way for that temptation to manifest. One of his men is captured by the loyalists. They agree to free the crewmen if Rafeal helps them with something/betrays the Prince in some way.

On the other hand, I know from past experience that when Bruce turns on the rest of the group, things can get rather ugly rather fast. I fully expect him to be able to outscript me and everyone else in the group by session three. Thus, I need to also give him a stake in remaining loyal besides some vague “Well, we’re all on the same team.” I think I’ll say that Celeste is part of his crew, also making her a shipmate that is not to be left behind.

Which brings us to “Women should stay home and make babies.” Bruce chose this specifically to cause friction between Rafeal and the two other PCs. It think their very presence will be enough story-meat for this one. I’ve seen the three of them play out this kind of thing before, and it’s much fun. If he ends up playing too nice with the other two, maybe I’ll throw in a NPC who has some sort of authority over him.

Then there’s “If someone looks threatening, shoot him.” This one is too obvious. Someone helpful is in threatening disguise. Maybe somebody like the Prince? We’ll see.

“Never let booze go to waste” will come into play virtually any time there’s a social occasion. Perhaps the first cargo they pirate includes some fine wine intended for the Usurping Uncle.

Bow G6 and Sword B6 are Rafeal’s strongest skills. But Command at B4 isn’t nothing to sneeze at. I don’t think I want to match him up against the same knight that Olivia spars with. He needs a loyalist naval captain with grey firearms and big, heavily-armed ship. If foresee lots of range-and-cover both on land and on sea. And this dogged loyalist should be a nobleman, too.

Finally, Celeste. She’s most closely tied with the overarching civil war story through her “The Kinslayer Prophesy must be fulfilled—thus, the Kinslayer must be brought to justice” Belief. For this, of course, I need to throw in clues on both sides—some things that indicate the the Usurping Uncle is the Kinslayer, and some that point to the Rightful Prince. Prophecies are funny that way—it all depends on how you interpret them.

Michele decided on “I am more competent than any man” after Bruce had chosen his “Women should stay home and make babies,” so Cap’n Rafeal will be a major foil for this. But also I think that the Usurping Uncle’s sorcerer has to be male. Perhaps an old acquaintance/tutor of Celeste from her days as a Court Sorcerer?

Celeste’s “Family must come first” will likely be triggered just by witnessing Olivia’s interactions with her son. But that’s not nearly enough. Michele has already said that Celeste has a child out there as well. I could do a parallel story where Celeste’s daughter is apprenticed to her sworn enemy, just as Olivia’s son is. But maybe Celeste’s daughter wants to break away from her mentor to join her mother but can’t because of some magical prohibition. Or perhaps there’s a double-play on family, and Celeste’s daughter has already wed a loyalist and has a child of her own. And the husband, Celeste’s son-in-law and father of her grandchild, is someone that the group has to kill in order to bring the Kinslayer to justice! Now that’s drama!

“When surprised, always use The Fear” coupled with “Never allow a child to be harmed” simply beg for Celeste to be surprised by a child. If I’m feeling particularly cruel, perhaps even her own grandchild.

I think Michele will have some fun with “Always leave them guessing.” Although I personally am not real fond of the “passing notes” style of play, Michele is. I think when she comes across information relating to the identity of the Kinslayer and such, I’ll give it to her secretly, with a reminder that she needs to pass it on to the others in a cryptic fashion.

Sorcery will get plenty of tests on its own, I think. Knife, Stealthy and Falsehood will surely come up as she sneaks around for information. But the Usurping Uncle’s spymaster will certainly be a foil of hers. Perhaps he’s even her son-in-law?


Well, that’s all the Bangs I’ve come up with so far. I’m not sure what order they’ll come up in, but that is for improvisation. For now, I know that I need a few stats, as well as names, for the following NPCs:

Celeste’s daughter
Celeste’s son-in-law
Celeste’s grandchild
UU’s SpyMaster (possibly also the son-in-law)
UU’s Sorcerer (possibly also the son-in-law)
Loyalist naval captain, nobleman, foil of Rafeal
Rafeal’s First Mate
Olivia’s son
Olivia’s son’s Knight
Loyalist offering common cause with Olivia—he should have earned his position, to play to Rafeal, as well.
Olivia’s cousin, the current Count Darkwood—perhaps he offers to share the county with her in exchange for her hand.

Various mooks can be just that. Next thing I need to think about is the first session itself. We need some piracy right off the bat, but I’ll get into more detail on that in a later post.

All this to say: Look how the BITs, once you put them together, create story meat all by themselves! The rest of the character burning process is, y’know, cool and all, but it’s the BITs that lead to the conflicts, and the conflicts that are the campaign.

Any and all commentary welcome.

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