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?

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?

Friday: a quiet midnight at the library

Working the late shift this week and its a quiet evening.

Reading:  I can’t decide what to read.  Next to my bed is the Black Company Omnibus and I’m picking at the series’  second book.  In my bag are The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.

The Manual of Detection is charming but I think coming off of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is making it just seem plain odd.

Warbreaker is nifty.  I think Storn would love it, as its magic is based on colors and breath.  Also, to Storn’s wheelhouse are the protagonists, a plucky princess in a decadent city ruled by a god-king and also in the city is a sorcerer/swordsman right out of S&S with a sardonic and malevolent sentient sword.

We’ll see which book wins my heart and mind over the weekend.

Planning: UFC 112 on Saturday night and some Sorcerer 2289 on Sunday evening.

Wearing: New green Dickie’s jeans and a blue t-shirt.

Writing: Nothing I can talk about.

Adults in Transition, Sorcerers with Xeno-tech Demons

From the Forge AP thread:

Bret, Christine and I are all buddies who don’t game together.  Realizing this was silly, we got together to game.  We agreed that we wanted a finite game, 3 session and then we are done and if we want to continue, we can evaluate at that point.  We are all kind of in these odd places in our lives, getting ready to move, and go to new jobs or graduate school or whatever and we all wanted to get a good game or two in before real life swept us all hither and yon.

Bret and I had a strange disjointed couple of minutes and it was interesting that he said that it was something we had gone through before, but I will leave room for him to post about it.  It boiled down to me taking his kicker in a direction that he had no anticipated.  He thought it was going to be more of a mystery that his character would have to solve and rather than that, I kind of made it something his Demon was doing through its power to Spawn.  There was some kicker-vertigo to deal with, there.

I really liked how Bret’s character dealt with the dead getting up and walking, which was to flat-out freak out.

I almost want a table to check off for when Demon’s Needs are denied and when they are fed.  There was a nice moment when Christine’s R&D exec shooed her demonic martian ravens away from her boss’ computer that I really liked.

It was a solid first game, rolled some dice, and fed some Demonic Needs, denied some Demonic Needs.

We are in second and third gears and next week I hope we start revving up to 4th.

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?

The Looking Glass, the Cyclone, the Wardrobe and the Second Star to the Right

You came back from that other world no longer a child, changed, not a grown-up but certainly changed and no longer innocent. No one believed you. When you returned from your epic journey, people at best treated your life-changing adventure like a flight of fancy and at worse like a mental illness.

Fuck that – you never forgot.

Once you get to one otherworld, it isn’t too hard to gain access to others.  Your childhood was wondrous strange, curiouser and curiouser.

Now you are a cynical adult, taking control of the world around you with the only currency you have, bits of the otherworld that you bring here.

This is a Sorcerer setting in which Sorcerers are adults who went to otherworlds as children and returned; demons are parts of those other worlds summoned to the world.

Humanity is sanity and when you go to 0 Humanity, the otherworld and our world become horrendously blended together.

There are 54 demons, just like a deck of cards, two jokers, the rest divided into four suits: Emeralds, Swords, Hooks and Hearts.



Legendary: mythical warriors taught you about violence and strength.

Walking: a hardy constitution from walking across plains or yellow brick roads.

Addicted: something from the otherworld has left you craving more.

McBody: the real world has taken its toll.


And your little dog too: you hold grudges and take it all too far, having learned lessons from the wrong side of the storybook.

Faith: brought back religion to guide you.

Curiouser: a little madness can be a good thing.

And Curiouser: too much madness is not a good thing at all.


The Looking Glass: Madness, drugs or maybe some adult’s inappropriate attention.

Wardrobe: Have you heard the good news? The Lion has risen!

Cyclone: Your sorcery is usually accompanied by natural disasters.

Second Star: Once a proud lost boy…now a… pirate?

Bitter: You never went anywhere, didn’t have the courage but your friend/brother/sister did and you heard about it all from them.

Inspired by seeing Alice in Wonderland tonight.  There might be some of that shitty movie, Hook in there too.  The other inspirations should be pretty obvious.

What if the children who went to otherworlds grew up cynical enough to become characters from The Last Call by Tim Powers?

Thank you to Ben for referring me to:

Also a Forge thread.

Just thinking about one-shots

Burning Wheel: I realize this is a no-duh kind of thing but man, playing that game short-term misses out on character growth, trait votes, seeing Beliefs evolve, the things that make this game sweet. I am still tinkering with an essay about playing this game for a few years in a solid campaign and will get around to posting it up somewhere soonish.

Dogs in the Vineyard: Ya know, this game isn’t about judgment. It is about how rendering judgment changes these poor kids who are told to make the world a better place with only a book and a gun to guide them. Those changes take anywhere from three to half a dozen games to really start to see and then suddenly that blond cherub you started out with is a different creature all together.

Primetime Adventures: Despite a one-shot of PTA being one of my favorite games ever, it really shines in entirely new ways with a season of play. I’d have to have at least a 5 game season to play that again and honestly, I’d want two.

Sorcerer: Man, but this means not playing Mu at cons and I am sure I will get a hankering for doing that before too long. Still, even with the very best con scenarios of Dictionary of Mu, it is always that next session, that next four hours of play that would have been really keen.

I am noticing something similar with the Mouse Guard games I have played. The first game is about getting comfy and learning the rules but that second mission grows organically from the first. Either Gwendolyn sends the guards-mice out on a mission to cover up some holes created from their first time out or the players don’t go back to Lockhaven in order to make the Territories a better place. The second session is where things start to really heat up, where the mission is suddenly quite personal.

Maybe I am just in the mood to state the obvious today.