The Wheel Turns and Burns

Every once in a while I get all misty-eyed and I-love-you-man about the folks I game with.  This is such a time.

Look posted this up on the BW forum:

Five years ago today we released Burning Wheel Revised.
In five years we’ve sold over 7000 copies of BWR alone.
We’ve traveled the US and Europe promoting the game.
We’ve introduced thousands of gamers to the Burning games.
We’ve played incredibly games (that just keep getting better).
We’ve made amazing friends who will be with us for many years to come.

Thanks all for making this dream come true.
We hope to see you all at 10/10/10 so we can celebrate!

-Luke and BWHQ

And it got me thinking back on the past five years or so of gaming, looking back on AP threads.

Here is my first BW thread, I believe, 3 BW Games in 5 Days, in which I struggle with the rules, fuck up pre-game preparation, still manage to have a decent time here and there but I’m banging my head against the system. Some of my friends liked what they saw in the system and some hated the damned thing.

So, why and how did I continue playing the game and wrestling with it?

It is because, in Ithaca, I am blessed. I don’t have one group in this town. I am lucky to have a network of players and people interested in gaming, up for something new, game to try something. There are a few dozen games in this town whom I consider friends, people I’d be eager and happy to share a beverage with.

If I was gaming group monogamous, I’d never be able to play the game again as soon as one or two people hated it. I get to play games that I dig with people who are willing and eager to try them because when it comes to gaming groups, I lean polyamorous.

I don’t play PTA with Jim or Aaron because they tend to like more mechanics to sink their teeth into. I play Shock: with Pete and Janaki because we love making up worlds together and see how they turn out when we bang on them with anthropological hammers. The BW character sheets make Janaki dizzy but make Aaron sing with glee. And I full realize that I can do this because I have spent the last 10+ years gaming in this medium-smallish college town and rather than sinking one night a week into creating the perfect group of uber-gamers, I have flitted around, weaving webs and making networks of buddies.

Some I don’t game with at all, because their games don’t interest me and mine don’t interest them but we have fun IMing or having the occasional lunch to talk shop and geek out. Some are up for long campaigns, some aren’t. Some are down with the occasional one-shot once the kids are asleep, some want to game on Friday night have rocking a porch party. Some were strangers who PMed me on a forum (and some of those became great friends and others faded), some got dragged into a game I was playing with through a stagnant university gaming club and others have been friends we met under the mantle of Kryos over a decade ago.

My gaming privilege makes me wince when people post on forums how “their group would never play X game that they lust after.”

So, thank you, my friends who despite their busy lives, careers and families spend time playing games with me.

Thank you to my friends who played

the pirates,


revolutionary fast food workers rebelling against The Man,

the R&D exec and the Rogue Scientist,

the interstellar corporate agents,

the Patrol-men and Patrol-women,

the barber’s son from the Sangre,

the knight and the bastard,

the uncommon orcs,

the princess and the bodyguard,

the freebooter turned mercenary captain turned champion of humanity, the Herald of the Dawn, the Spider of the Book and the Chosen of Hell’s Honorable Brother,

the Horselord Prince, the Sheriff of Baal, the God-killers

the Elven Sword-singer and his loyal princeling apprentice,

the nobles and the jihadim,

the teen  samurai hostages to the sleeping emperor who dressed as ninja and went dancing at night,

the kids with magic out on the corner,

the Dragonborn Cleric, the Human Fighter, the Drow Ranger and the Elven Paladin,

the wolf pack traversing the World Tree in search of a new alpha,

the Barons whose lands surrounded the Hub of all Revenge,

the doomed samurai ascending a cold mountain for bloody reasons,

the cast and crew of Hare and Hound,

the Man in the Mountain,

the concubine and the dead god’s bride,

the Centurions,

Sharn’s Finest,

the cast and crew of Episode LV,

the Grey Legionnaires,

and many more.

Thank you, my friends for joining me in trying odd games, playtesting others and all in all making up cool shit.

State of the Table

MoBu City: This remains catch-as-catch-can with me and Pete.

The Gray Legion: Storn is excited to run Jaws of the Six Serpents and we are running a Black Company riff, particularly the Erickson comment on the books, saying that they are “Vietnam War fiction on peyote.” That is the vibe this game is going for. I am excited to play, excited by the concept and I’m intrigued by the system.

Danger Patrol: We have one more game of Danger Patrol left and then the Friday night group is at loose ends. We aren’t sure what we will be doing. I am half-tempted to run Dresden Files or see if J.C. will run it. I am also tempted to forgo the long and difficult group dialog and just say, “I am going to bring a damned game and we’ll play it and have fun. Enough with this democratic discussion crap!”

We were going to be playing Jaws but Storn moved that game to the Tuesday slot, so we could take a break from both Bee Dubya and 13 Cities.

Sorcerer 2289: This Thursday will be the last game of our Sorcerer campaign with Christine and Bret. With Bret leaving town, I am wondering if I could wrassle up another player for a Thursday night game of something. I’ll talk about it with Christine post-Sorcerer.

And that’s my gaming table, right now. How about you? What are you playing?

“Let’s kill a god.”

From this Burning Wheel thread:

From the Inventory Lists of the Lyceum:

The Lyceum loaned 3 license-holders 1 bullet, 1 bullet-disc and a pole-axe head in the style preferred by the Grey Knights of Logos made of our Republic’s finest metal.

A few hours after midnight, every hearth-fire, torch, candle and lantern on the continent of Occulum and the kingdom of the 13 Cities went out and could not be re-lit for several hours. The Dragon of Gaham no longer exists.

One of the trio survived and reported the sacrifices made.

None of the weapons have made their way back into Lyceum hands, most likely due to the magical nature of the keep where the license was acted upon.

Long live the Republic of Occulum and the Occularae whose will and sacrifice keep it alive during our occupation by the blind and their foreign gods.

<!– –>


Two players died. A god was slain. Part of me wanted to hold on with both hands, start a new game where Nikolas trains some raw recruits to become god-killers, ask Storn and Aaron to make up a few 3 lifepath characters but I dunno…they killed a freaking god.

And for the first time in over a year, I will not be playing a Burning Wheel game set in the 13 Cities. We began talking about our next game and I was kinda sad. I wanted to just mourn this game a bit. The setting has really seeped into my bones. I am going to miss this place that we made, here.

I should have had some cool-down scenes, seeing Nikolas go north and tell the family of Marcus that his son died doing great deeds. We should have seen his name etched into the Hall of Remembrance for the Grey Knights, the Order of Logos.

I loved the game but most of all, I am kinda sad. I wanted to take more time saying good-bye to the 13 Cities. I guess its a good sign when a campaign comes to an end and the biggest feeling is that you just do not want that end to be here.

“Cant say Ive ever been too fond of beginnings, myself. Messy little things. Give me a good ending anytime. You know where you are with an ending.” – Neil Gaiman

By Crom! Check out this design and more in the Geek Media Studies collection…

God-burning: The Dragon of Gaham

BW god-burning thread:

The Dragon of Gaham is not literally a dragon, that is only a term for a powerful sorcerer in the 13 Cities – a sorcerer who is known for dealing out magical fire.

The Dragon of Gaham established himself as a force to be reckoned with when he threw in with the sorcerer-king’s revolution against the Druid Lords. The Dragon himself was responsible for the death of two gods, one while still a mortal and another after sacrificing his city, his people and everything he loved in order to become a minor deity in the Sorcerer-King’s newfound pantheon of the 13 Cities.

The destruction of the city is a cautionary tale, told to this who wish to rise too high too fast (or to those with the audacity and hubris to actually seek godhood).

When the war was in its last days, only two gods in the druidic pantheon remained, the Elder Ring and the Lord Under the Hills, said to be the Elder Ring’s own son. The Dragon of Gaham was in charge of the armies laying siege to the last druid-held city, their capital city of Baal. The Sorcerer-King accepted the druids’ surrender and spared their two remaining gods. The Dragon made it clear that he wanted to finish the job and destroy what remained of the druids, burning down their tree-god.

Will this be the instrument of a memorable battle in which the players’ Beliefs are challenged, even as their strategies and skills are tested or a total party kill…or both?

We will find out.

Pollen Returns on Friday

I can feel it in the air.  Spring is here.

Reading: Digging a bit into Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson and it remains good fun.

Planning: I have some school-related paperwork to catch up on in order to graduate in a timely manner.  Should have that sent out so I can get it finished up early next week.

Tonight, some Danger Patrol…

Wearing: Dickie’s jeans and a comfy shirt.

Writing: Some threads on the God-burning: Dragon of Gaham and Sorcerer 2289 AP.

And you?

In which the god-killers are given their bullets…

AP thread on Burning Wheel

Art by Storn A. Cook

Sir Marcus

Sir Marcus

I like these moments of world-building, when I get to just make up cool shit.

The willing ghosts of the god-killers who have died using these weapons are bound into the metal itself, a ghastly act of patriotic necromantic sorcery.

The ghosts all said similar things to the players, but with different accents based on the NPC and the players’ reactions.

They asked if there was anything a god could offer them to make them show mercy.

They asked why they wanted to kill a god.

They assured the person that there was no shame in backing out, up until the ambush itself. They would need to only drop the weapon discreetly and the ghost would see that it was returned to the Lyceum’s hands.

The ghosts are available for counsel, should the players need it.


Terror in Bos

From this BW AP thread:

Aaron really rocked this game. He shows real deft use of the rules. His rules mastery is really amazing and it enhanced tonight’s game. He got a Deeds point for leaving behind a rocking, working para-military group, where he had just found some former soldiers around a core of angry silversmiths, carpenters and bricklayers.

The players had two missions in the occupied city of Bos, one was to scout out the High Priestess, Avi and if possible, take a shot at her and and the other was to retrieve Xenovia, a spymistress who was posing as a butcher behind enemy lines.

Rough night in Occulum

From thread at the BW forum:

They made up a group of bad-asses. The game material is in the car, so I will list lifepaths and Beliefs later. It was the first campaign I can remember where the first draft of everyone’s beliefs were solid right off the bat.

It was an odd thing, because I thought we would be tightening everything up and instead, folks were ready to roll. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have taken the Beliefs and we should have added some details to the beautiful map of Occulum that Storn drew and called it a night.

Particularly with 3 sets of Beliefs, that time one takes to just kind of roll the characters around in your head, look at the Beliefs for a few days and figure out the campaign’s shape is really important; instead I jumped on in.

I always thought it was really important to write down what happened at the table during games that are either disasters or, as in this case, are just kind of tepid evenings.  I wanted to make sure that I sat down and wrote a bit about this one (if for no other reason, so you can cue up the come-back Rocky music when the next session rocks).

What is happening at your table?

Kevin, from Walking Eye podcast has asked me to be on his show.  We thought we’d talk about cool games and game hacks being written about in AP threads and such.  I figured I’d update the games going on at my table and ask you all what was happening at your own.

13 Cities: This game continues, now with Pete added to the mix.  We are taking the next campaign to the neighboring land of Occulum; the whole thing should have quite a different flavor than the past arcs set in and around the 13 Cities themselves and I think we are all hungry for combat and blood, so Fight! and Range & Cover should be in heavy rotation.

MoBu City: Pete and I are hitting this game about once a month or more as our schedules allow.  When we sit down to play, it is as if we never left.  In the coming games, we will get on our first legit heist and finish up the last heist by constructing a lie that will have to be sold to a demi-goddess.  I love this shit.  It is New Crobuzon meets the Gentlemen Bastards in a Burning Wheel pastiche.

Friday Night: We are going to play some Danger Patrol with Pete at the helm, while we sort out what to play next.  Storn is really hot and heavy for some swords & sorcery that is less humancentric than our 13 Cities game, so we are looking at Jaws of the Six Serpents.  At some point I will have to write up a debrief post-game post on Diaspora.

For Danger Patrol, I get to play, Jack Geist, the spy who haunts the solar system:

Special Agent Jack Geist traveled the solar system in service to the most noble governments of Old Earth.  He was investigating a Stygian conspiracy when the atomics were dropped back home.  When he heard the news, he lost all hope and in the reckless, grief-driven days that followed, the Stygian Overlord he had been tracking down got the better of him and he was killed.

His remains were spready all over the ten planets and when he gathers them all together, he will rest and join his family and friends who died in the last Earth war.  Until then, he haunts the solar system, smoking Lucky Ghost cigarettes and serving the Danger Patrol.

Sorcerer 2289: Me, Bret and Christine are getting together and playing Sorcerer, taking my science fiction solar system out for a spin.  The game is set on Mars with Bret’s outlaw medical researcher and Christine’s R&D exec wrestling with xeno-techological demons.  The kickers look really promising.

And you, what is going on at your table?

A republic founded on dead gods

The god-killers were mentioned here and there in our 13 Cities campaign but they were not fully fleshed out because it was not necessary. As play progressed, we saw more how the 13 Cities operated, how gods were created, the churches’ power and parables about how gods died. Player characters came into contact with god-killers, who came from a northern continent called Occulum.

One night, after a game, me and Pete and Storn sat around and talked about Occulum. I envisioned a nation where the people rose up and killed their deities, founded a republic and sent out squads of god-killers to liberate other lands. Pete and Storn added details and philosophies. We decided that our next campaign would be about the Occularae, probably centered on a group of god-killers.

The first salvo was sent by Pete via e-mail as he was thinking of a character:

No More Fables…

In our land there are no more fables, merely allegories.

In the days when our Godkings first took us in their parental embrace, we were savages. They taught us to build, to cultivate, to husband, to domestic, to worship, to supplicate, and to genuflect.

And it was into these days that the Deva fell from Heaven. It arced across the night sky and plunged to our land. It left a crater. In the crater, there was a stone. The stone was as black as the moonless night and filled with tiny stars. We treated it as a gift from the God of Heaven. We built a shrine about the stone. Then, a hall about the shrine. Then, a keep about the hall.

And it was to this keep that one of the Godkings strode. He was mighty. He was arrogant. He was so beautiful that we could look upon him openly. He entered our keep. He strode through our hall. He sneered at our shrine. He touched our sacred rock.

He fell down dead.

Once it became clear that the world would not, in fact, end because of this demise. A whisper ran through us. This whisper became a tale. The tale became a story. The story became a banner.

And our rock became weapons. Forged by men. Wielded by men. To kill Gods.

Once the brutal yoke was thrown off, we moved – we thought, we adapted, we learned, we studied, we theorized, we proved, and we redefined.

We created humanist philosophy and natural philosophy and plumbed the depths of knowledge that our fickle dead gods had hidden from us.

And we began to see.

We found the Lyceum, The Academy, and The Congress. We organized the Orders of the 23-Fold Thought, The Deepening Sight, and Logos. We debated, we determined, we gained liberty, and we gained an objective.

An over-riding objective. One where our world was free of these charlatans called “Gods.”

And we have come from our forests and our plains and our bays to rid this world of a plague.

We are the Occularae: “The Sighted Ones.”

You call us: “Godkillers!”

And we call you: “The Blind.”

After that, I couldn’t stop myself and added in to the mix:

5 Icons

Long live the republic. May our nation leave a trail of dead gods and a foundation of human accomplishment that our descendants might build upon.

In the first days after the Five Slayings, there were intense debates as to how we should deal with the cultural detritus left over by thousands of years of worship and slavery. Should all mention of them in poetry and verse be expunged and their visages be scraped off of stone? Should we pass sweeping laws against our brothers and sisters in order to keep the Gorgon, the Bull, the Dragon, the Crone and the Huntress from ever being mentioned?

Should we wipe our gods from history itself?

In the end, we decided that to forget what we were enslaved to would one day allow them to rise again in another incarnation.

But the Five Slayers set the tone. They faded into our society, their names and identities left unknown. The populace demands icons, if not to worship, then to identify with, to remember past eras and achievements. This was how the 5 Icons were born.

Those in the Lyceum still look at the icons with distrust, thinking that they could, under the adulation of the populace, gain powers through worship. But, to this day, over a thousand years since their use, they have remained symbols of what humans can accomplish.

The spear that killed the Bull, the axe that killed the Dragon, the arrow that killed the Gorgon, the garrote that killed the Crone and the summoning circle that banished the Huntress remain with us. Through the Lyceum’s tireless vigilance, they have not gathered dogma but have remained with us – on the banners, shields of our soldiers and carved on the walls of our republic’s government buildings. They are not objects of worship but symbols of inspiration, reminding us all what is possible when we humans put our will to great deeds and take the time to gather the right tools to our purpose.

Philosophies of the Occularae

Philosophical Theists: The existence of gods does not matter as much as the culture that they have transmitted. Those traditions are worth keeping. These are people who still make small sacrifices to the Five Gods, facing the nearest step pyramid while doing so and keep the old holy days.

Humanist Jihadist: Gods are tyrannical by their very nature and should be killed along with any spirits who attempt to put themselves above humans. Once the gods are killed the cultures that they came from should be stamped out of existence, joining the republic’s culture of philosophy and reason (note that magic and sorcery are well within reason, as they are tools humans use).

Humanist Moderate: Gods are tyrannical and society’s evolution dictates that this will occur in time. By going into other lands and killing gods, we are creating a maelstrom of identity politics and destruction that will not help the people we are meaning to liberate. People must slay their own gods and we must be there to subtly support the blind when they open their eyes.

Rabid Theists or Pentad Loyalists: Killing the gods will bring ruin and damnation on our land and its people. We must prop up the children of the gods who have been left behind and seek guidance from their divine wisdom and grace.

Human-centered Theists: Godhood is the highest pinnacle of human achievement and should be encouraged, though once a human has made themselves into a god, we must observe and learn from the laws of the Han and the Druids to formalize a way to contain them and learn from their wisdom without devolving into worship.

The game will take part in the portion of Occulum that is occupied by 13 Cities’ armies and the players will be assassins and god-killers.