Blood, Forum Usage and Paka

I posted an AP thread over on and a mirror thread over on the Houses of the Blooded site about a late night chargen session with Pete.

This got me thinking about forum usage, from Story Games to the Forge to the ole Big Purple.  Lately, I post AP threads on their specific forums.  So, I’m discussing BW with BW fans and AW with AW fans and so on.  I browse and just don’t see threads where I have anything to say.  The New Thread button just doesn’t get hit.  If I have something to make up and share, I tend to do so here, on the blog.

I just don’t really want to have that discussion about the pro’s and con’s of fudging dice rolls.  I’m not sure what I have to say to someone who finds that Duel of Wits puts a crink in their immersion.  Threads about Githyanki politics, dragon genitals and orc sociology are always fun but dammit, they are more rare than I’d like and so I find my forum posting is a trickle.  Maybe that is a natural progression that I have gone through or maybe its growth or graduate school.  Maybe it has something to do with folks with different gaming styles, ideas or identity politics going to their separate corners where they can say stuff that makes sense to them and get knowing nods rather than outrage, idiocy and/or misunderstanding.  I dunno.

Posting a thread up on the Big Purple just got me thinking about the old decade-ago Paka days, when felt a bit like the Deadwood of RPG forums.

I used the name, Paka because it was easy to type and my fingers were keyboard-clumsy back then and I never thought I would meet any of these people.

I’m not nostalgic, exactly.  I don’t miss old days and I’m glad that 9 days out of 10 I can see a forum train wreck and politely walk around it rather than diving in with digital fury.  Post a thread on just brought something up out of me, got me thinking and musing about old days is all.

And here’s a quote from the AP thread linked above:

When we were done with the character, I asked Pete if there was anything in particular that bound the barons in his neighborhood or the barons under the duke who ruled them. He looked over the domains in his province and decided that his castle overlooked a river and I suggested that the river led to the capital, the Hub of All Revenge and at the river-mouth was the duke’s city. Somehow, we talked a bit about his nearest baronial neighbor and I thought it’d be a good chance to give the dice a shot.

Wisdom risk to learn about the nearest baron. I gave some details as I like to give the players some bones to build on before an information-based risk like this.

The bones:

* She is Jorja Burghe of House Bear.
* In her last duel, she disarmed her opponent, dropped her sword and broke both of his arms.
* She is married to a famous House Fox artist, often in the capital writing critically acclaimed opera.

So, Pete gathered his dice for his Wisdom and his relevant aspect and rolled above 10 with 4 wagers:

* She is a gourmand.
* She has her sights on the ducal seat for herself.
* More cunning than she lets on.
* Her spymaster was bought out from under her recently.

I can’t sleep, so I made up Houses of the Blooded aspects.

I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote up a bunch of HotB aspects.  I have a bunch more in my head, one for each color at least.

Back from the dulla

You shamed yourself, your house, your family, your sword, and your blood.  To cleanse the damage you did to the Houses the Senate claimed your lands, took your sword and dressed you in black with a gold mask. For a full year and a day you guarded your worst enemy with your spear as best you could. Now you are back, sword in hand.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when fighting in a situation where you have a longer reach over your opponent.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice in a social situation when they remind you of the folly that led to your shame.
Compel: Feels compelled to talk to those wearing black as if they were people, as if they were present, as if they were not shamed, thus shaming everyone involved.

I’ve had the above aspect in my head for a while.  I thought it would be cool to play a character who had to take the black for a while and now is back.  Do you bring up old grief or try to salvage what you’ve got as best you can?  It has a noir vibe to it that I like.

The following aspects came to me tonight when I thought that many barons would have risen up from vassal positions into power.

Former Master of the Road

You traveled your lord’s domain, quelling trouble and hunting ork before claiming your barony.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are trying to survive without a roof over your head, out in the harsh glare of Shanri.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice in any situation that occurs in your home; you just aren’t used to being in one place for so long, dammit.
Compel: Feels compelled to solve any given problem by traveling to the heart of the danger and facing it yourself.

Former Spymaster

No one knows that you used to be the duke’s spymaster. That is because you were so damned good at your job.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when creating mischief in another noble’s domain as long as they don’t know you are there.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice in any situation where you are directly confronted, bluntly and directly.
Compel: Feels compelled to see your neighbor’s lands for yourself. Spymasters cannot be trusted…you’d know.

Former Maid/Valet

You served a great lord/lady scrubbed their feet, stitched them into their clothes and brought them their drink. And while you served you soaked up their courtly knowledge.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice in knowing the inner workings of a ven household from talking with or observing the servants.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice in any situation where they hold rank over you.
Compel: Feels compelled to defend a mistreated servant.

Former General

You led your lord’s secret armies…not that your lord ever had any such thing.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when leading ven into Mass Murder.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when engaging you in a civilized duel; you are used to the mad as ork heat of battle, mud and death.
Compel: Feels compelled to spit on peace; you are a hammer and you see the world as a series of nails.

Former Personal Guard

You kept a ven safe with your own blood.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when keeping someone safe with your body.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when attacking you and you are alone.
Compel: Feels compelled to protect someone else.

Former Mayor

You held a city in your hands and kept it safe.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when trying to find someone valuable in a city.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when you are stuck in the wilderness.
Compel: Feels compelled to do justice in any city, making it a better place.

Former Swordsmaster

Once you had your own Swordsman Academy with a shrine to old one-eye and eager students in your hall but now you have an entire domain. Can your sword solve every problem?

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when either teaching the sword or making art (be it a speech or an opera) about how good you are with the blade.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they attack you and neither of you has a sword.
Compel: Feels compelled to draw the blade when doing so will bring you glory.

Former Court Scholar

You discovered rituals for your lord and investigated sorcery because, y’know, sorcery is illegal and wrong and no ven should ever do it.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when researching sorcery.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are under the effects of sorcery that is unfamiliar to you.
Compel: Feels compelled to investigate sorcery.

Merchant Blooded

Your family made money, married well and here you are, the first to walk under the shadow of a House, to be blooded, to carry a sword and put on any color that you wish. They are threatened by you. You are the herald of the end of this age and they can smell it.

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when haggling.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a place of high society (party, opera, you know) and they can remind you where you came from and even infer that you aren’t truly blooded.
Compel: Feels compelled to be more ven than ven to follow a law, a custom or a ven way beyond the limits any other ven without so very much to prove would take it.

Spy from beyond the veil
The veiled houses conspire and you are their agent, placed into a position of power. Will you seek to unveil them through the senate or is a bloody revolution necessary?

Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are either being patient or brutal.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice if they are of the elk, as their House is half veiled.
Compel: Feels compelled to seek out the buried histories that lead a veil going over four Great Houses.

Houses of the Blooded + The Dark Tower = this, Ka-tet of the Blooded

The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

– the traditional opening line of the Ven Heroic Cycle,

an opera linked to Gilead’s golden age under the high kingship of

Arthur Eld, King of All-World, guardian of the Dark Tower

The following text was unearthed at the King dig site, linking the ven culture to the Dark Tower epic cycle:

Ven is an ancient word meaning fire-handler and person.  Perhaps in the old days the ven were the sorcerer-kings’ servants, the ones who held their torches and lanterns so they could study their foul and arcane arts, calling forth monsters from out of the thinny and beyond the prim.  I wouldn’t set my watch and warrant on that.  Today ven is the old-fashioned word for gunslinger.

The ven made their houses based on the guardians of the beam: the Bear, the Elk, the Falcon, the Fox, the Serpent, and the Wolf.  They represent the attributes that make for a gunslinger, someone who can help us all survive Shanri.  We need their steel, their ability to deal out death in order to preserve life because make no mistake, Shanri wants us dead.  Some say the Sorcerer-Kings left their mark on the land and so it hates us.  Others will whisper, if you get them good and drunk, during a trusted palaver, that the Sorcerer-Kings brought us from somewhere else, someplace down the beams and this land wants to expel us.

But we aren’t set to leave anytime soon.  We have our parties in the Riddle Houses, watch/compose/sing our opera and even though it is illegal, we ply our sorceries, yes we do.  Mayhaps we are just roont children, playing in our parents’ clothes while they have left us home alone.  But if they do come back, the Sorcerer Kings, I mean, if they do return, I somehow do not believe that we will cry pardon and fall back into holding fire for our former masters.  We’ve learned too much from the beams’ virtues and have not forgotten the face of our fathers.

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.

Little Thoughts

I went to be incredibly early last night and had damned strange dreams. There were spiders that I could hear walking around because they were so damned big and lost time that I couldn’t account for and travels in a Middle Eastern country that I couldn’t name with beautiful beaches but I had trouble explaining what gluten-free meant to my waitress.

With Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother coming out, lots of blog folks are talking about how cool YA fiction is and how many amazing science fiction and fantasy novels are over in the YA section of the book store. Seems to me that Rob Donoghue said those very things to me about two or three years ago when I started working on 1st Quest.

Yesterday, everything that was physically challenging that I tried to do just felt difficult. I managed to do it and get through it all but it felt like there were weights on my lungs. Nutrition-wise, I had a stout breakfast and a decent lunch and hydrated properly. Just one of those days, I guess.

In other news, my gaming schedule is chilling out a bit, with the Friday night game going every other week and I have to downshift the orc-via-skype game to monthly for a bit in order to get on school, some other writing and 1st Quest.

No ideas…how about the Hound of Cthulhu

I had no idea what we would do for our Houses of the Blooded game tonight. It has been weeks to almost a month since we played last and this arc hasn’t been as laser focused as the last.

Storn had some ideas about trying to figure out if his Count should be High King and we kicked the idea around for a few minutes before just diving in, having the characters meet and discuss the issue. Turns out, running the Hub Baronies is complicated business and the initial reason for gathering everyone together got shelved.

They swore a standard fealty oath to the Hub Barony and their newfound Count with some sorcerer blood-magic hoodoo behind it. They talked about the High King stuff a bit but got side-tracked when Anthony wanted to tell the Count how his Barony was doing.

Did he make a roll to see what he knew or did he just decide that something was ravaging his country-side? I’m not sure.

Turned out, something was ravaging Anthony’s Barony and whenever he sent scouts, they never returned.

Off they went.

I peaked at the orc rules and decided that this thing was going to be a monster. I looked at Storn’s newly drawn purty maps of the Hub Barony and saw that Bayul, Anthony’s character, had a Barony near the lake at the center of Shanri. At that moment I decided this thing was a Lovecraftian Cthonic menace, something brutal, something Bayul’s father had kept in check but now that the old sorcerer was dead it was loose again.

It was the hound the Sorcerer Kings used to send after ven slaves who tried to escape.

I picked powers.

Terror can be between 1 and 10. I chose 10.

Orcs can be rated between 1 and 10, I chose 9.

Fuck them. This is a monster they might have to lose to and come back to fight another day.

They found one of the scouts. He was naked, covered in mud, shooting arrows at them and raving. Storn’s Count killed him while Bayul tried to talk reason to his vassal.

They had dreams about the dead vassal in which he insulted them and talked about how they were all slaves playing in their master’s clothes and how all of ven society was a sham to convince them all that they were no longer the Sorcerer King’s servants. I had a damn lot of fun with that NPC’s ghost.

Bayul suggested that they go get help and not knowing the numbers I had chosen for this monster, Storn and Mario’s characters gave valiant speeches about how ven do not cower.

And they met this thing, this tentacled hound with breath that puts ven to sleep so it can take them to its under-water lair and store them for the Sorcerer King’s punishment.

They round up their Courage rolls to beat the damned 10 Terror and they each, one by one made it. None were going to run.

We ran the combat like a Mass Murder and none of us were sure if it should have been Mass Murder or a Duel. It felt like Mass Murder, as it was them, their personal guards versus this godzilla beast.

Their guards were slaughtered, 40 ven killed but they finally beat it due to one of Storn’s special gifts from the suaven, the ven ancestor-saints.

It was a funny thing because before that, the game was kind of limping along with some petty bickering and no real cohesion. Killing that monster brought them all together. They were hooting and hollering and smiling. It was damned fun, killing a lovecraftian beast with swords and guile.

Mario has epic plans for the creature’s skull.

The dreams were funny things, I asked them to set the scene as to where the dream would happen. I liked that. The dreams were really fun.

They had dreams again, in which the vassal’s ghost was put to rest. Mario’s character me the suaven she most intensely worships, a grizzled swordsman whose nickname is Old One Eye. Anthony got to put his vassal to rest in style. Storn had this odd dream set in the senate but with the High King’s throne in it and when the vassal’s ghost was gone, Jamyne Steele, the suaven who was the last and only High King, entered the senate and tried to talk to Storn’s young Count, try to council him on grasping or not grasping for the crown but there were spider-webs gagging his mouth.

That was a good damned night of gaming.

I needed that.

Rock Out With Your Geek Out Thursday

Check out Storn’s art for Houses of the Blooded. I think they’re my favorite of his pieces, particular that first one, chronicling a bit of our campaign. I can’t wait to see the other 11. Shit, I can’t wait to hold this damned book in my hands.

And Clarkesworld has an article by Justin Howe and Jason S. Ridler about authors and how RPG’s had an effect on their fiction and writing, for good and ill.

Houses of the Blooded: Sub-Systems

I posted this on the Blooded thread on but thought some folks might appreciate asking questions hereabouts rather than thereabouts.

So, there are sub-systems in the game, all rooted to the same root mechanics.

Basic 7 Virtues Stuff:

The main mechanics are rooted to the 7 virtues the ven hold most dear and instead of skills, you figure out how the player is solving a problem and base it in a virtue. They can roll just to see how much they succeed or fail or they can roll vs. another creature or another ven’s opposing virtue.


When two ven get together and decide to try to harm one another, usually with pieces of sharp metal in their hands like civilized people.

Mass Murder:

When more than one on one combat occurs. This is a brutal, brutal system that can deal with 3 vs. 3 street fights or epic battles with banners fluttering in the wind.

Either way, mofo’s are going to get hurt.


Loooove, exciting and new. Yes, there is a sub-system for romance and its nifty with the romancers going back and forth and the romance inevitably ending. Love helps those in it, their passions making them achieve more than they thought possible.


Duels with words. The loser takes an insult as an aspect that can be tagged by others. Two players get into it last night and one of the players got tagged with flacid dagger or something, a rumor that he can’t get it up. It lasts for 3 seasons. The player was relieved the insult will be gone in time for his wedding.

That’d be embarassing.

We haven’t been touching on that one so much and I really dig it. It will now see serious use.

Season Actions:

From spying on your neighbors to creating art to taking another’s lands, its in season actions with little tweaks to the already existing rules.

The players in our game have been creating art to give as gifts and it has an in-game value too, which is neat. Creating opera is supposed to be really neat. One of our players is writing an opera about the death of another PC that occurred earlier in the game.

Houses of the Blooded: Mass Murder of orc

Orc in HotB = Anything that isn’t ven. Not to be confused with the hate-filled, Tolkien-inspired orc of the Burning Wheel game via skype. Orc is just another name for monster, more or less.

Last night we played Blooded with a few new characters in the mix. Storn led an army into the former County Seat and destroy the cloven-hoofed orc invaders, led by The Horned One. While the battle raged, Anthony’s young Baron and Jeff’s old former spymaster (with the former Count’s spymaster in tow) stealthed into the castle and freed the hostages the orcs had taken to insure the infrastructure of the domain would keep running through fear and threat.

The army was broken, the orc killed and all who were aiding the orc will be brought before the Senate. I forsee some taking of the black for them.

Fighting orc and the private armies they blackmailed into working for them wasn’t too difficult. Storn and company had them a touch outnumbered and smart use of Style Points and special powers gave him a solid edge. Mass Murder get’s really messy when there are a few different armies and you can’t be sure where they will stand from moment to moment in the battle and there are other ven with powers of their own.

It was good stuff, though. It was a fun night.

The High Revenge of Sagay Steel

The ven capital city’s has a few translations. One way to translate it is the Hub of All Revenge (Wick, 2008).

The death and revenge of Sagay Steele is different in the two opera, three pillow books and one commoner shadow play in which it is depicted. All we know for sure is that he declared High Revenge and his claim for revenge was ratified by his liege and the senate and that Szazs was found dead in his wardrobe and Sagay was found dead under a bridge only day into donning the Red officially, setting aside his sword for only daggers and dedicating his life to destroying his enemy. The bridge was among cherry blossoms and named after an ancient Sorcerer Queen, said to be the beautiful site of many illicit romances.

In one opera that concentrates on the Sagay’s rivalry with Count Szazs, he stabbed the former count in the heart with a dagger coated with his dead brother’s blood, just as the possessed Szazs stabbed him in the throat. Sagay staggered through the city, singing of his revenge and his success before his brother’s ghost ushered him to the river to die.

In another opera, Szazs was only a cat’s-paw for the evil spirit in his guts and it is the spirit that killed Sagay, though his brother’s ghost saved him from damnation at the hands of the evil.

Maybe the unblooded had it closest to the truth. The shadow play depicts Sagay killing the count, having used the spirit in the deposed count’s gut’s own magic against her and her vessel, dying rather than becoming her plaything. In this version of the tale, Sagay used his friend’s magic ring in order to sneak into Szazs’ wardrobe and murdering him viciously. The stage is often sprayed with pig’s blood during this scene and the most beautiful girl in the village is allowed to play the cunning Sorcerer Queen, tempting Sagay to be her willing slave. His brother’s ghost saved him in these productions and the stage is burned as Sagay denied her and that bonfire is used to roast the pig.

Either way, the twins, Lonor and Sagay show up in many other pillow books and opera, counseling those who seek revenge. The Hub of All Revenge is a haunted city.

Click here for Sagay’s six final letters.