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.

Done with the Dwarves

There is this sad moment when you are working with an artist and they send you the last item for the project. Vincent and I were working together for the 7 Kings Mountains in the upcoming Fight On! Magazine and I got the fifth piece today. It was good fun.

Here’s another more action-oriented bit, for the rest, you’ll have to get the issue:

Pictogram #1 depicts the three greatest warriors of the Dwarven Kings, Vestmark the Silver, Wicks the Wicked and Helson the Berserker, all fending off the Dragon’s Breath during the first engagement, the Battle of the Charred Valley.

7 Kings Mountains Pictograms

I had a write-up of the 7 Kings Mountains floating around and thought it would be a good fit for Fight On! magazine. So, I wrote it up and peeked at past issues of the magazine, noticing that Vincent had been contributing art and articles.

I asked him to draw up some pictures for the 7 Kings Mountains piece and he did. I liked Vincent’s pictures for this because it has that feel of something cool you would see in an old school D&D module.

Here’s one, maybe it isn’t my favorite. Maybe it is. I can’t decide yet.

Pictogram #2 depicts the marriage of Roselle Benvik and Benvki the Griffon-slayer being married by Ostergard the Wise in the days before the war. You can see the pictogram of the dragon sleeping beneath the proceedings.

EDIT: But Judd, it is a pictogram, what does this picture mean?

I don’t know; I don’t read Dwarven pictograms.


The Suck: #1 Burning Wheel Skype

The game has been going pretty well. Jim and I fell into an age-old pattern we have where his character get’s into trouble, way-way over his head and than plays the various powers against one another in an attempt to come out on top. Rich is right there with us now and it only took a few sessions for him to get his feet under him.

So, we’re into the second arc. The orcs have returned to the Broken Mountains, homeland to the orcs, to find that Rich’s character’s father has been driven into deep tunnels by an army of giant spiders.

And I heard myself say, “What do you want to do now?”

“How about now?”

“And now?”

I had no aggressive scene framing-fu at all. I was, as the GM, not contributing shit. I should’ve stopped, tossed some snow down my shirt and/or had the players read their Beliefs out loud again. I’ve got these two ambitious, brutal orcs with passions and hatred in their guts and I’ve got nothing to say.

If re-visiting the character sheets didn’t work I should’ve just cut the game short and admitted that I was just too tired to GM.

But I pushed on and GMed the most tepid session in years and years.

I e-mailed the guys and told them that I thought the game was suck and that it would be better next time.

Man, it is hard to write up experiences about games that suck. When you write about a game that is fun, you get to kind of re-live a touch of that fun and figure out what made it fun and celebrate each other. But suck is hard; its hard not to condemn anyone (including yourself) and just definitely not fun.