The Iron Lich Situation

The Iron Lich Situation

I spend time on the DM’s Academy Subreddit and lots of folks ask questions about how to start a game. This is very much inspired by the Situation model I learned through Burning Wheel and was also championed on the Alexandrian in his blog post, Don’t Prep Plots.

Here’s one take on it.

The skull of the Iron Lich with a dead star's light in their eye sockets. 

As created on Midjourney with the terms: skull of the iron lich in the style of raymond Swanland + ornate + highly detailed + concept art

Tell the players what the game is going to be about.

You’ve all learned that the Iron Lich is trying to take over the world with their manufacturing tombs.

Ask them to make characters who are bound to that plot.

I was the apprentice of the Iron Lich when they were mortal.

I’m a paladin who is sworn to destroy all undead.

I’m an elf ranger sent by the queen so the Iron Lich’s manufacturing tombs don’t destroy the forest.

During character creation, ask questions. Make shit up together. Write down names. The DM role is important during character creation. Help the players flesh out their characters and use this as an opportunity to flesh out the world. I am very open to learning about the world at this point and want player ideas about the part of the world where their character comes from and how the Iron Lich damaged that community. Through character creation I want to grow the antagonist and the world the antagonist threatens. There will still be plenty of blank space on the map and mysteries to learn in play.

I’m not precious about timelines or vague ideas about the Iron Lich. I don’t want to get rid of the main concept, “Industrialized Undead Wizard,” and don’t want to play in a tone that doesn’t work for me. If a player makes a Halfling named Dildo Haggus, I’m going to speak up and say that joke characters don’t fit. But as above, if my ideas about the Iron Lich said that they became a Lich three thousand years ago, I’m going to re-think that because having a wizard who was the Iron Lich’s apprentice when they were mortal is just so damned cool. If the Iron Lich being three thousand years old is key to the concept, maybe talk to the player about having a character who had been tossed outside of time in a void prison and just got out.

Once the characters are made give them a few choices that seem interesting to you. I like to do this the week before we play, so I have time to prep and daydream.

Do you all want to look into the devil-lich’s mountain lair where the Iron Necromancer became the Iron Lich or scout out the manufacturing tombs where caravans have gone missing or look into the duke’s counselor who is said to be a necromancer?

There’s no WRONG answer but sure, clocks will be ticking and things will change based on their choices. Also, maybe they have another idea or the first adventure becomes very clear during character creation. That is cool. Give yourself some time to prep but don’t over-prep.

The examples above were written quickly but looking them over, they feel like different kinds of adventures. The Devil-Lich’s Lair feels like a dungeon crawl. The Manufacturing Tombs is more stealthy and sneaky but also a bit dungeon crawlish. The duke’s counselor is very political, rooting out spies and cultists in the duke’s court. Each one would mean fleshing out a different part of the world.

Nothing about any of this is original. I don’t get an eff about originality. The game will become something original once out friends interact with all this stuff when we come together at the table.

I put together the tools I’ve worked on here in the past few years in a Medium article. If you liked this, you might like those articles too.

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Lich Collection
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The Tower Knight

Grey autumn clouds are gathering as the ducal council closes and the two richest duchies declare war, each declaring itself the monarch. Soon your modest tower’s place in between these two dukes will force you to choose your place as the storm of war approaches.



Knight’s Beliefs

  • Write a belief about the horrors of war you have seen and/or choosing a side in the coming conflict.
  • Write a belief about getting a warhorse.
  • Write a belief about what your late spouse taught you before they died and how you would like to live to honor their memory.

Squire’s Beliefs

  • Write a belief about helping your knight make a decision about the coming conflict.
  • Write a belief about getting a warhorse.
  • Write a belief about what you will do to prove to the knight that you are ready to be knighted.

Village Guard’s Beliefs

  • Write a belief about serving the knight through a previous war and how what you’ve seen effects what you will do now.
  • Write a belief about a skill or a truth about the world that you will teach the squire.
  • Write a belief about nobility by blood or by action.

Heraldry

Most Noble of Beasts of which they are five because five is a holy number, the number of spokes on the Burning Wheel.

  • Griffon
  • Dragon
  • Eagle
  • Lion
  • Unicorn

Upjumped commoners sometimes find their way to noble title and when they do their banners have objects to show their house’s humble roots.

  • Keys
  • Swords
  • Axes
  • Chains
  • Castles

Sorcerers, wizards and witches are forbidden by law from holding noble title but once this was not so. Here are the heraldric symbols of an arcane origin.

  • Lightning
  • Crossed staves
  • Devil
  • Tower
  • Book

Holy symbols were once the five ducal sigils but now those houses are long since fallen but their symbols are still found on minor houses who married into the holy houses in ancient times.

  • The Burning Wheel, 5 spokes, aflame, fire and change
  • The Tidal Wheel, 3 spokes, water and fortune
  • The Storm Wheel, 4 spokes, wind and change
  • The Buried Wheel, 6 spokes, earth and stability
  • None know what the 5th wheel might be. A wheel without spokes? Leave those kinds of arguments for priests and philosophers.

NOTE: Why all this on heraldry? Because making things up from a vacuum is more difficult than making it up with a structure.


Notes

If you’d like the possibility of the knight leading an army, fiddle around with your general skills and get Strategy. It is a rare skill. I might even change the reputation so that it is known you can lead in battle and make war.

For Aaron

They are the last of their kind, still guarding this ancient tower with a young human squire and a village guard looking up to them.

Swordsinger’s Beliefs

  • Write a belief about the folly of humans and not choosing a side or what you need to see in a person to help a short-lived human become a monarch.
  • Write a belief about what you will teach the squire about their own people.
  • Write a belief about your people’s artifacts and what you will do when you find them in the possession of humans.

Fan-made Burning Wheel

More Burning Wheel Campaign Ideas at this link.


Photo by philippe collard on Unsplash

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Dune Collection
Scifi Dune Font by Hydro74 / Joshua M. Smith over a sand dune
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Exiled by the Emperor (Inspired by Renegade Crowns)

The Emperor and the Grand Theogonist have found your family guilty on charges of being Chaos Tainted.  Your house is exiled, sent to the lawless Borderlands due to Sigmar’s mercy. At best you will establish your ducal house as a Border Prince and maybe marry your children back into the Empire. At worst your house will fall under bandits, orc or Chaos Cults that all flourish in the Borderlands.

Duke

  • Write a Belief about the first thing you want to get done to insure your family’s survival in the Borderlands.
  • Write a belief about something you will ask of your wife to help you lead the family.
  • Write a belief about Chaos and how you feel about it upon being exiled from the Empire or about how you will make sure your children survive out here.

Duchess

  • Write a belief about how you will have to model change so that your family survives this dangerous transition into this dangerous place.
  • Write a belief about something you will make sure your children learn so they survive.
  • Write a belief about something your family needs to acquire to help them flourish and become established as a Border Principality.

Eldest Son

  • Write a belief about a heroic deed you want to accomplish to prove to your parents that you are not a child anymore.
  • Write a belief about something you will learn so you will be more valuable to the family.
  • Write a belief about being protective of your sister as she becomes more martial or about how your sister has protected you in the past.

Eldest Daughter

  • Write a belief about something ancient and dangerous that you want to seek out and learn more about in the Borderlands.
  • Write a belief about something you need to teach your brother before he gets himself killed.
  • Write a belief about something you need to learn from your mother or father to survive the Borderlands.

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Black Lotus Dispensary and more in the Geek Media Studies Collection…

Situation Mining over at Take on Rules

Jeremy over at Take On Rules has a few Situation Mining posts that are amazing. It makes me imagine a forest of gaming blogs with tons of ready-made BW campaigns ready to roll with folks playing each other’s games and talking about ’em and sharpening each other’s situations and beliefs.

A fella can dream, can’t he?

11294749513_f104231dbb_o

Black Plague

Bursting from the fabled city of Kyzantham, the Black Plague – a horde of orcs, goblins, and wolves – has spread like wildfire. Death and famine have taken root as the Black Plague banner now flies over half of the continent. There are no signs of the Black Plague slowing.

delve

Dwimmermount

The ancient wards of Dwimmermount have fallen; At least that is what you heard from a wandering ascetic. There must be treasure and forgotten knowledge buried within that legendary mountain.

I love how simple and evocative the Dwimmermount situation is.

 

 

 

 

Images taken from the British Library’s Flickr account:

Image taken from page 42 of ‘The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family. Written and illustrated … by Mrs. J. S. Smith’
Image taken from:
Title: “The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family. Written and illustrated … by Mrs. J. S. Smith”
Author: SMITH, Jane Stewart.
Shelfmark: “British Library HMNTS 10370.ee.38.”
Page: 42
Place of Publishing: Edinburgh
Date of Publishing: 1898
Publisher: Printed for the Author, by T. & A. Constable
Issuance: monographic
Identifier: 003419501
 Explore:
Find this item in the British Library catalogue, ‘Explore’.
Download the PDF for this book (volume: 0) Image found on book scan 42 (NB not necessarily a page number)
Download the OCR-derived text for this volume: (plain text) or (json)
Click here to see all the illustrations in this book and click here to browse other illustrations published in books in the same year.

 

Image taken from page 143 of ‘Miners and their works underground. Stories of the mining of coal, etc’
Image taken from:
Title: “Miners and their works underground. Stories of the mining of coal, etc”
Author: HOLMES, Frederic Morell.
Shelfmark: “British Library HMNTS 07108.e.1.”
Page: 143
Place of Publishing: London
Date of Publishing: 1896
Publisher: Partridge & Co.
Issuance: monographic
Identifier: 001716783
Explore:
Find this item in the British Library catalogue, ‘Explore’.
Open the page in the British Library’s itemViewer (page image 143)
Download the PDF for this book Image found on book scan 143 (NB not a pagenumber)Download the OCR-derived text for this volume:(plain text) or (json)
Click here to see all the illustrations in this book and click here to browse other illustrations published in books in the same year.

 

Situation Mining: Until the blood on your hand is the blood of a king.

5 dead kings

Tiamat crowned 5 Her five chosen kings. Each king may ride one of her draconic consorts into battle once in their lifetime.

It is said that each of these kings will birth a daughter and those daughters will reign for a thousand years until the Messiah Empress, Tiamat’s truest daughter, will come to unite all 5 thrones until the end of time.

You can’t let that happen.

Insurrectionist Character Sheet

  • Write a belief about the people (fellow player characters) you are inspiring to rebel.
  • Write a belief about the crowns and thugs who will be destroyed in the coming glorious revolution.
  • Write a belief about the government that will replace the kings and how you will put it in place.
axe

Desperate Killer Character Sheet

  • Write a belief about what you are making with your knife-work.
  • Write a belief about something beautiful that allows you to momentarily forget about the death you deal.
  • Write a belief about an ambition beyond murder and revolution.
axe

Advisor to the Court Character Sheet

  • Write a belief about when you realized that the nobles were without morals.
  • Write a belief about someone in the noble court you want to save from the coming carnage.
  • Write a belief about someone you will need to see dead in order to begin the revolution in earnest.
axe

Merchant Character Sheet

  • Write a belief about how you could make money off rebellion and revolution.
  • Write a belief about you earnestly believe the government needs to change.
  • Write a belief about the moment you decided that you’d risk everything your family has to fund a rebellion against the five kings.
gallow ravens

NOTE: Maybe the characters will survive and succeed, founding a republic on the bodies of dead and surrendered kings. Maybe many will end up with their heads on chopping blocks or hanged for their seditious crimes. I can’t help but think it will likely be the latter or perhaps a blend of the two.

Have fun, see what happens and e-mail me or leave a comment about the bloody details if you give it a go.

Characters all burned up with the online character burner.

Images:

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Rubric; full-page miniature of kings strung up.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1445. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-e6dc-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Full-page miniature.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1445. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-e730-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

The British Library Flickr Account. “Image taken from page 81 of Rambles Round London Town.” The British Library Digital Collections. 1884.  https://flic.kr/p/hUc23o

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Situation Mining: House Mormont

Lady Mormont Inspired by Lyanna Mormont on the later episodes of Season 6, Game of Thrones, I thought I’d do a quick and easy Situation Mining post. Naturally, you don’t have to make this set in Westeros if that squicks you out. It is easy enough to file off the serial numbers.

I like the idea of a young, 2 lifepath character, learning how to lead and getting counsel from a few 4 and 5 LP characters.

Lady Mormont (Lady Mormont Character Sheet)

Write a belief about what kind of great Lady you’d like to grow up to become.

Write a belief about something you’d like to learn.

Write a belief about something childish, something you keep even though you must lead House Mormont.

Notes: You have so much to learn and will do so quickly. Read over the rules on learning new skills and improving stats and skills on pages 40 to 52 in the BWG.

Man-at-arms (Manatarms Character Sheet)

Write a belief about changing yourself from a soldier to a leader of Mormont’s armed forces.

Write a belief about teaching Lady Mormont about war, battle or combat.

Write a belief about getting something you need to conduct war (warhorse or maybe better armor).

Notes: You are a decent warrior but not a good leader and you know it. House Mormont has lost so much following the King in the North and you are all that’s left to lead the Bear Guard. Learn the Command Skill, improve your Strategy and Tactics. Offer to help others in war when you can. Become the general House Mormont needs.

Maester (Maester Character Sheet)

Write a belief about teaching Lady Mormont a skill.

Write a belief about what kind of great leader you’d like to see Lady Mormont become.

Write a belief about creating a treaty or a betrothal to a great northern house to ensure House Mormont’s security.

Notes: Offering helping dice, use your reputations and affiliations to make amazing circles rolls. Send out ravens and teach Lady Mormont. Read over the Instruction rules on pages 50 and 51 of the BWG. Keep track of how much time goes by and make those Instruction tests.

You are the power-house of this group and if House Mormont is to survive, they need you. You don’t have a weapon, nor a weapon skill. Be careful out there. The night is dark and full of terrors…and winter is coming and so on…

bear map

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/what-do-we-say-to-the-god-of-death
Situation Mining: Shattered Star

Situation Mining: Shattered Star

I’m looking at the Players’ Guide to Shattered Star and it is an adventure where the players are called upon to retrieve an ancient artifact:

The Shattered Star Adventure Path draws near, and bold heroes are needed to track down the scattered parts of an ancient magical relic in order to save the land of Varisia from disaster.

The guide provides a sweet map of Magnimar, a city built in the shadow of ancient cyclopean monuments that cast shadows over entire city districts, leaving the slums in perpetual shadow. Huh.

Magnimar_panorama

The guide also provides details for the Pathfinder Society and the manor where the local chapterhouse resides, no doubt to welcome the gold rush of adventurers who will be coming to Magnimar to seek out the shattered star and be big ole heroes

Slums in perpetual shadow.

Incoming adventurers looking for artifacts, prestige and gold.

The players are vultures.

/ˈvʌltjʊə/
Forms: α. ME volture, ME vowlture, ME– vulture (ME fulture), ME voultour, 16 vultour. β. ME–18 … (Show More)
Frequency (in current use):
Etymology: < Anglo-Norman vultur and voutre, Old French voltour, voultour, voutour (French vautour), or Latin vultur, or < Latin vulturius. The Old French forms, like Provençal voltor, voutor, and Italian avoltore, avoltojo, represent Latin vulturius, while Anglo-Norman voutre, Spanish buitre, and Portuguese abutre are from Latin vultur.
In Maundeville (1839) xxii. 237 the form veutour is probably inexact for voutour.

a. One of a number of large birds of prey of the order Raptores which feed almost entirely upon carrion and have the head and neck altogether or almost featherless.
The American vultures belong to different genera from those of the Old World.

α.
c1374 Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde i. 788 Ticius yn helle, Whos stomak foughles tiren euere mo, That highte volturis as bokes telle.
1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Proprietatibus Rerum (Bodl.) xii. xxxvi, The vulture haþ þat name of slowe fliȝt.
1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Prop

b. One of a number of thieves, reavers and rogues who make their living stealing the treasures and gold and artifacts from adventurers, tomb-delvers and would-be heroes.

“vulture, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 2 February 2016.

Here are player-characters, natural-born vultures:

Muscle Character Sheet (switch his crossbow skill to firearms)

Write a belief about making your name ring out on the streets of Magnimar.

Write a belief about following Wolf’s orders and carrying out the heist just right.

Write a belief about what you feel about violence and what adventurers do to your neighborhood when they come back from their adventurers, drunk and rich.

Puppy Character Sheet

Write a belief about making your name ring out on the streets of Magnimar.

Write a belief about learning from Wolf’s example.

Write a belief about what you feel about violence and what adventurers do to your neighborhood when they come back from their adventurers, drunk and rich.

Wolf Character Sheet

Write a belief about leading the team and what leadership means to you.

Write a belief about setting up the heist and learning what you can before jumping out.

Write a belief about what you feel about violence and what adventurers do to your neighborhood when they come back from their adventurers, drunk and rich.

Here’s the punk-ass 1st level party that arrives in town full of condescending talk and hopes and dreams – The Bastards Adventuring Company. If you want to play a posse of adventurers, they will do well for that too:

Adventurer Fighter Character Sheet

Adventurer Ranger Character Sheet

Adventurer Wizard Character Sheet

Here’s the bad-ass party with the big score.

Elf Adventurer Character Sheet

Dwarven Adventurer

Adventurer Wizard Character Sheet (1)

Here are the Pathfinder Society’s own Vulture-Hunters. Yeah, this isn’t their first rodeo. If word gets out that thieves are taking down their Pathfinders in town, they are going to send these folk out and they mean business.

Elf Vulture Hunter Character Sheet

Human Vulture Hunter Character Sheet

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Check out this design and more in the Monster Manual Heraldry Collection…

Situation Mining: Skull and Shackles

I’ve been using Paizo Adventure Paths as the inspirational starting points for Burning Wheel campaigns.

350px-Skull_&amp;_Shackles_logo

There’s adventure to be had on the high seas when a group of press-ganged strangers seizes a ship and becomes embroiled in the plots and politics of the Shackles—an infamous island chain dominated by pirate warlords. But as these new swashbucklers make names for themselves, rival scalawags, enemy navies, legendary sea monsters, and the infamous Hurricane King himself seek to see them walk the plank. Who will survive when there’s glory to plunder?

Rogue_Pirates'_flag

The Situation

You’ve been press ganged into the Chelaxite navy!

Is it true the old ways of Cheliax have been subverted since the Thrune Ascendancy? Is it true that the state religion is now worship of Asmodeous, the God Tyrant of Hell? Is it true that human sacrifices to said Devil-God take place in the city of Westcrown?

All true! Welcome to the Chelaxite Unholy Navy. We’ll be hunting pirates to bring back and sacrifice to our Infernal Dread Lord upon his fell, basalt altars.

Desperation has driven you to the capital city and you had drinks in the wrong tavern. You awaken in a state of impressment – press ganged into naval service.

You might need this map of Golarion’s pirate-y area or the Player’s PDF Preview of the Adventure Path or the Adventure Paths themselves or the Story Names Names for some fast access to pirate names.

The Characters

These are 3 lifepath characters. They are rank beginners. Can you survive your new life at sea?

Life as a 3 LP character is a hard one and the sea doesn’t make it easy. Look to your beliefs and look to the world around you for future beliefs you’d like to write. The beliefs are your way of letting the GM know what interests you. You  might go from 0 to hero or you might be fish-bait. You might be admirals or pirate-kings or you might just use your cunning to get home to your old landlocked lives.

The Shepherd BW

Kid from the Village BW

Carpenter BW

blackbeard-pirate-flag

Belief Guidelines

Write a belief about accepting your new life at sea or something about your land-life that you will hold onto.

Write a belief about something you will learn so that you might better survive.

Write a belief about those who have been press-ganged with you. If you stick together you just might survive this mess.
double_demon_flag

Olde Salt

What’s that, you want one character to be a mentor, to ease the land-lubbers into their sea-legs? Sure, Old Salt will do it. If you are playing Old Salt, just make sure the press-ganged don’t drown in bilge on their first day.

Olde Salt BW

noonan

Olde Jacob Salt if played by Tom Noonan

Olde Salt’s player, you have a special roll in all this and you get different belief guidelines. If possible, the person playing Jonah should have experience playing Burning Wheel, especially if the others are green at the gills and don’t know the spokes from the hub.

janet_

Olde Janet Salt if played by Melissa Jaffey

Write a belief about what you love about the sea life.

Write a belief about something you will teach the press-ganged so they might survive.

Write a belief about getting these sandcrabs up to speed so they might be of use to the captain.
 Oh sure, Olde Salt was a captain once but not anymore. His best days are in his wake. To the player who takes up Olde Salt – help the characters and help the players. You’ve got helping dice to lend in almost every situation but at the same time, you have to let the go out on their own and fail and make mistakes too. It is a fine line to toe and no easy task but the Captain is watching and ye don’t want to disappoint him.

captain is watching

Ian McShane as The Captain Who Be Watching

If you play, please let me know how it goes.

Next Week

I’ll look at the Shattered Star Adventure Path as inspired by Omar Little.