Nara and the Burning Wheel, Episode 6

Nara and the Burning Wheel is the third arc of our Burning Wheel game. We play every other Friday on the Actual Play Twitch Channel and the games are archived on the Actual Play youtube channel.

We’ll catch you up right here so you can watch along with us.

Title Card: Nara and the Burning Wheel Friday / 7:30PM PST / 10:30PM EST / @judd_of_kry / @seannittner

In the first arc of the game Nara was a baby and in that game she was declared an elf-friend (so that a cruel elf wouldn’t murder her) and prophesied to be the Arch-mage. When we learned this before we knew what an Arch-mage was, what the title meant or that Nara was going to be a character in the third arc.

Since then we have learned that the ages of this world are marked by Arch-mages, one per generation. If Nara is the next Arch-mage she will be the 5th, an auspicious number. An Arch-mage is a wizard who picks up the Burning Wheel, an artifact left on a mountaintop in the care of the Dwarven Wheelholdt clan, and carries it down the mountain.

Nara has been feeling the pressure to pick up this dangerous and powerful artifact while also feeling unprepared and unready to do so. Despite all of these pressures, when violence broke out in the city she picked up the Wheel and tried to stop this outbreak of violence with magic. She failed and is burned. That is where we find her today. Burned, frustrated, ashamed and trying to figure out what comes next for a wizard who tries to pick up the Wheel and fails.

Sean and I are playing Burning Wheel (Technically, Burning Wheel Gold Revised), a rules dense system that revolves around the character’s beliefs. Below are the beliefs Sean has written for Nara over the sessions of this game, to give you an idea of her growth and what interests Sean about the setting. It is Judd’s job to push these beliefs.

Theses are ambitious beliefs Sean has written.

Bury your own heads has become a kind of unofficial campaign motto since Nara made a deal with a powerful spirit and it led to her playing a role in the death of over a dozen bandits.

Sean putting Nara in a position to change the world. We don’t know how much she’ll change the world or how much the world will change her.

Join us tonight and find out.

If you have any questions please ask. Our friends in chat are friendly and supportive and we often respond when play allows.

What kind of wizard will you become?

Picture Text: The hedge wizard who taught you the arcane arts just died.
The decrepit tower, the towns seeking guidance, & the spirt beneath the tower are now your responsibility.

What kind of wizard will you become?

What school of wizardry were you taught?

Five Towers Guild – a modern school founded to serve nobles and thrones.

Play this if you’d like to serve local nobles and be in the midst of throne games.


B1: Write a belief about the local duke and which of their children has the best claim.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about how wizards should dispense wisdom.

B3: Write a belief about the relationship between nobility and the common folk and use your magic to bolster and change people so they can do better.

5 Towers Guild Art Magic

3 Specialties: Trait, Advantage, Arcane Knowledge

+1 Hinder

+2 Illusion

+3 Evoke

+4 Destroy with Sorcerous Fire

+5 Transform

+6 Sorcerous Weapon

+7Arcane Action

The Holy Dragon Mages – the Dragon Church’s official school of fire and lore

Play this if you want to light shit on fire and deal with church machinations.


B1: Write a belief about the local bishop and their conflicts with the duke.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about the passage from the Dragon Bible that guides your life.

B3: Write a philosophical belief about the church’s place in the lives of the faithful.

Holy Dragon Art Magic

3 Specialties: Destroy with Sorcerous Fire, Sorcerous Weapon, Arcane Knowledge

+1 Transform

+2 Arcane Action

+3 Illusion

+4 Hinder

+5 Trait

+6 Advantage

+7 Evoke

Twilight and Dusk – school of the fey touched

Play this if you want to change shape and summon alien fey beings.

Born Village -> Wizard’s Apprentice (codex) -> Hedge Wizard -> Rogue Wizard

Note: I’ll burn this up later.


B1: Write a belief about the local duke and their disrespect of the Olde Ways.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about paying debts and having manners that the fey folk have taught you.

B3: Write a belief about those who cross the fey and must pay a terrible price.

Twilight and Dusk Art Magic

3 Specialties: Transform, Illusion, Arcane Action

+1 Hinder

+2 Advantage

+3 Destroy with Sorcerous Fire

+4 Evoke

+5 Sorcerous Weapon

+6 Arcane Knowledge

+7 Trait

The Circle and the Fortress – a difficult path dedicated to summoning and banishing otherworldly forces

Play this if you want to ritually summon the spirits of the dead, devils and pay their terrible prices (it takes hours, can’t summon in the midst of battle).

Note: I’ll burn this up later.


B1: Write a belief about the spirit bound to the duke’s ancestral blade.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about how the art of summoning guides all aspects of your life.

B3: Write a philosophical belief about how common folk should deal with otherworldly beings.

Circle and the Fortress Art Magic

3 Specialties: Arcane Knowledge, Trait, Illusion

+1 Hinder

+2 Destroy with Sorcerous Fire

+3 Arcane Weapon

+4 Evoke

+5 Arcane Action

+6 Transform

+7 Advantage

NOTE: Maybe this is not a school of Art Magic but just a summoner who hasn’t been trained in a school just yet. If so, burn them up as such and have a belief about being trained in a school

War Wizardry – built for battle and supporting generals

Play this if you want to see battles, make lines on maps, bolster troops and such.


B1: Write a belief about the duke’s heir, a warrior knight who is warring with neighbors.

B2: Write a philosophical belief based on your favorite tactician’s treatise on war and life.

B3: Write a belief about how you feel when you see war’s fell hand smash the common folk.

War Wizardry Art Magic

3 Specialties: Destroy with Sorcerous Fire, Arcane Weapon, Advantage

+1 Hinder

+2 Illusion

+3 Trait

+4 Arcane Action

+5 Transform

+6 Arcane Knowledge

+7 Evoke

Necromancer – practitioner of the Death Art

Play this if you want to do fell rituals upon corpses and be infamous for commanding undead.

Note: I’ll burn this up later.


B1: Write a belief about the duke’s dead father, said to haunt the wetlands as an undead abomination.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about death and your skill in evading and twisting it to your purposes.

B3: Write a belief about some necromantic goal that you wish to accomplish to prove your power to the world and yourself.

Another Note

Twilight and Dusk wizards might find themselves in the midst of battles. War Wizards might have to deal with throne games. Five Towers Guild trained wizards might have to deal with church politics. It is just a matter of degree and how your skills are built.

* = five towns the wizard offers guidance to, as per the ancient agreement made when the tower was first built

*Stipel – little town that built the wizard’s tower long ago

*Aelton – village on the far side of the Southward Ash River, on the other side of the stones but asked for the wizard’s guidance when the tower was first built

Dusk Stones – said to have been placed by fey folk to prevent war

*Castle Byrne – ducal seat

*Port Gersum – on the verge of becoming a bustling port city, seen to by the duke’s sibling

*Livarin – town built around a construction site where foundations for a castle has been laid

Southern Wyrd – spooky forest

The Wizard’s Friend

Just in case you’ve got a third player. The way I’ve made this character creates a very real danger of this game going from being about a wizard finding their place in the world and coming into their own and a hackneyed peasant-prophesied-to-become-king tale. Don’t let it.


B1: Write a belief about hiding from that damned prophecy.

B2: Write a philosophical belief about the simple honor you find in serving a wizard.

B3: Write a belief about supporting the wizard in coming into their own power.

Last Note

I burned up the characters I could with the online character burner but when some wizards needed hand-burning because they needed Codex lifepaths. So I set those aside aside in order to get this blog post out sooner rather than later. I’ll burn them up in the coming weeks and add them to the post as needed.

If you use this as a jumping off point for a game, please let me know. I’d love to hear how it went.

Looking for more Burning Wheel Campaign ideas? I’ve got a page for that.

Want to be emailed when blog posts go up? I’ve got a dingus for that:

Want a wizard t-shirt? I’ve got a shop for that:

In which we begin Book 3, Nara and the Burning Wheel

The Ballad of Bina Janos as a rumpled softcover.

Sean and I playing Burning Wheel started out because a Blades in the Dark game we both played in had a few nights a month where he and I were the only players who could make it. I suggested a BW side-game and now, several years later, that campaign is still going. Having just purchased a map making program I made a map:

The map helped. It forced me to name things and gives things shape. The human dukes were divvied up into 3 groups that I think of as the Gold Dukes, the Iron Dukes and the Wyrd Dukes. That will help when I need to make up a human on the fly. I can see where they are from and know a bunch about what their political life is like. Naming the dwarven holdfasts wasn’t something I thought about but became important later. Only now have I started to get more firm ideas about Ostofair and Andune.

I knew the BW system wouldn’t be an issue with Sean. He might hate it (and that would be fine (but he didn’t)) but he wouldn’t bounce off it the way I’ve seen some folks do. So I asked him to take a look at the BW Situations I had tweeted and one of those tweets grabbed him.

When I imagined this campaign, I imagined a conscripted soldier who returned home to farm and just wants a peaceful life but is very aware of the perils of war. Instead, Sean burned up Bina Janos, a servant who worked in a tower at the crossroads, serving the knight there. It was not what I expected at all. The game straight up made me nervous. There aren’t many (any?) fantasy books about Bina Janos. She didn’t secretly have magic powers nor was she secretly the lost child of a queen or a knife murder goddess in hiding.

Bina was a mother who married a decent guy, a wheelwright (and it is a Burning Wheel game…huh? get it?) and had a daughter, Nara, with him. She had been taken from a nearby village during some feuding and never went back home. She got by with a skill called Soothing Platitudes, being good at her job and knowing the local gossip.

That first campaign was an exercise in GMing failure without beating up the player. In following Bina’s journey we learned and made up a bunch of mythology in the world. The Burning Wheel, an actual physical artifact that could be seen like an arcane beacon atop a northern mountain and its church. The lore behind the dwarves and the elves that was leading to war. The 17 Great Debts of the Dwarven Princes. The politics behind the human dukes and the songs of the human peasants. There are immigrants from a faraway continent who have traditionally guarded the gold mines and the caravans that take the gold from the mines to the capital after a few local knights turned bandit or rebel lord, trying to control the wealth.

During the game it was clear that a dragon still had an important elf, a consort to the elf queen, and so the second book was about a working class dwarf in charge of tunneling into an abandoned holdfast that was being squatted in by a dragon. The dragon was trapped within but still, there was real imminent danger there.

Into the Vault as a worn softcover you might find burned under some dirty towels in your cousin’s hatchback.

Pellara the Pillar would become Pellar Dragonsworn and also Prince Pellara Dragonsworn of the Vault through the course of play. That was not at all my intent. I wanted to stay away from noble games but she was born to and was the matriarch of a working class family. To be honest, having a game about a strong woman taking control of a political situation driven into the shitter by born noble princes felt pretty damned good. All of those dwarven holdfasts at the top of the map suddenly became very important. I made notes on each prince and what made those places unique.

I was making stuff up as I went and adjusting to the beliefs Sean made but I daydreamed myself enough content to give myself structure so I wasn’t ever making shit up in a void.


In a subreddit someone asked how GM’s make character arcs. It might look like I very carefully planned everything. Book 1 and 2 are both nine sessions long.

I didn’t. I didn’t plan a damned thing. There was no arc in mind. I didn’ tknow where Sean’s beliefs would take us. I know how I want to push on them but once I push, I have no idea how Sean will react to that pressure. I didn’t want each game to be 9 sessions long and I don’t mind if Nara’s time in the campaign takes 3 sessions or 99 sessions.

Here’s what I wrote in the thread:

Just let he players deal with the problems and cool stuff and arcs will happen naturally because we are humans and we like to find patterns and familiar rhythms in things. Don’t plan the solutions, just put forth the situations filled with problems and wonder and see what happens.

Me, saying stuff, link above

This third book’s situation is more vague. We found out in the first book that Bina’s daughter, Nara, was Gifted and might be destined to be the next Arch-Mage. What does that term even mean? Arch-Mage. All we know is that an Arch-Mage is a wizard who picks up the Burning Wheel, braves its sorcerous fires and takes it down the mountain. We know that her destiny is wrapped up in that mess. I am relying on the lore we’ve built and the fact that we’ve barely scraped the surface. There is still so much that Sean doesn’t know and Nara can learn.

I’ve started writing notes about how Arch-Mages are selected and the previous Arch-Mages and how each of them has led to the current state of affairs in wizard society. We will get to see Wheelholdt from a very different point of view. I’ve been daydreaming about wizards, apprentices and how they learn, what their hierarchies are like and how they interact with the rest of human society.

B1: I’m supposed to carry the Wheel down the mountain, but nobody will tell me why! I’m going to find out what happened LAST time an archmage did it.
B2: To take the Wheel I must master the School of Fire. Great, more mentors! Ah well, fighting this prophecy has never worked out, I better get to it. I’ll find a praticioner to teach me.

One of the things BW does well is learning. Seeking out teachers and reading books can be a big deal.

I’m glad we’ve got an empty third belief to start off with, it allows Sean to jump on something that comes up in play as we get to know Nara.

Here are the playlists for the first two books. Come join us in a week for the beginning of the the third. I have no idea what is going to happen. Or…I know some stuff but have no idea how Sean is going to play Nara. We’re going to find out about the history of wizardry and Arch-Magery. We’ll see where Nara fits in all that mess and if she agrees with the prophecy told to her mother years ago that said she was destined to pick up a fiery magical artifact created by a sorcerous fire god.

We’ll be at the Actual Play twitch channel next Friday at 9PM EST or so, please stop by if that kinda thing is your cuppa tea.

Also, Sean put the first book’s games into a podcast if that is a better format for ya.

The Ballad of Bina Janos, Book 1
The Rise of Prince Pellara Dragonsworn

I’m adding a link to the third arc’s playlist just so they are all in one place:

Book III Nara and the Burning Wheel

Where’s Judd?

If you’d like blog posts sent right to your inbox, please subscribe below:

These are the places you can regularly hear and/or see me talking about gaming or doing the thing and streaming some play. Links are both in the pictures and in the text beneath.

Here’s the link where I store my links.

I’ll update this as more comes up.

The logo for my podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons

In which I have a conversation with you about techniques that are shaking out at the tables where I sit and inspirational media.

Daydreaming about Dragons Podcast

In which Jason and I discuss the Trophy RPG and in doing so end up talking about game culture and techniques that link up to all kinds of tabletop RPG’s.

The Sixth Ring, a Trophy Podcast

I’m often gaming on the Actual Play twitchstream channel.

World of Dungeons,


My first time getting back to Marr’d since I playtested the Dictionary of Mu almost 2 decades ago.

I’ve been honored to play so much on the Actual Play channel, a place where I’ve made wonderful friends and played wondrous games.

I have a Threadless shop, all artists’ proceeds go to amazing causes. My hope is that my nerdery will make the world a better place somehow. Design examples below:

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.


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.


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

More Campaign Book Covers

Sean has our Bina Janos Burning Wheel Campaign from a youtube playlist to a podcast. He’s breaking it down into bite-sized chunks and offering commentary as he goes. If AP is your thing please check it out.

The ribbons coming off the wheel might be my crowning artistic achievement. You’ve gotta start somewhere.

Lip, the Cyberpunk Nurse, is at TTI HQ, talking to a mid-level exec and getting a feeling that not all is well. Playlist here.

Ell, the Mars Operator, is caravaning through a dried out riverbed and hoverbikes are attacking; shit is getting Fury Roadish. Playlist here.

Cyberpunk Nurse and Mars Hustle were made with templates from and then turned into old books with Affinity.

The Ballad of Bina Janos was made with the following pixabay items and then turned into an old book with Affinity:

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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

The Servant and the War

The game starts at around 56 minutes in if you want to skip the character burning and belief writing.

The Situation

Our scoundrels were not going to make it to the table tonight, so we went to the Burning Wheel Campaign Ideas and chose one. Sean got stuff ready so we could stream and he got it up in about fifteen minutes; it was a heroic effort.

Sean narrowed it down to 3 and he chose some of my favorites from the list. In the end we chose this one:

shoeless situation

BW campaign idea: You are a shoeless peasant. The armies of the dwarves, elves and humans will soon clash near your home. #burningwheel


Sean did a great job of walking through the lifepaths and teasing out the setting implications of his choices. Bina was a captive of war turned servant who married into the village, built around a tower at the crossroads. Bina has a husband who is a wheelwright and a lover who is a hunter. She has a 4 year old child. She serves the lord knight who rules this tower at the crossroads, where farmers from all over meet for market.

To the north are the mountains, ruled by dwarven princes. To the south is the ancient forest, ruled by elves. To the east is the capital, ruled by the human ducal council. The elves forbid anyone from going too far west.

I peeked at an old article, Elves at War, on the BW forum written by Luke.

burning battles



  • Convince Deek to flee.
  • Keep Bodnar from raising the alarm.


  • Keep Bodnar’s flagon full.

We got up and moving pretty fast. In that time we cleared up our expectations. Sean seemed to be expecting a fast and furious one-shot but I’m more into a long, slow burn with BW. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Sean definitely burned up a character who gave me plenty to work with but it was challenging. Bina is not a traditional fantasy novel protagonist and I liked that. As the situation demanded, she is a normal person swept up into an epic and dangerous event.

Deek Nandor – Bina’s husband, a wheelright

Nara – her 4 year old daughter

Sir Bodnar Butond – the knight in whose tower she serves

Vas – her hunter lover, tired of waiting, wants to run away with her

I prodded at Bina for a few hours. We rolled some dice, played out the consequences – did a Duel of Wits and learned how far Bina will go. We got to know the place, this lonely tower at the crossroads where farmers and shepherds brought their goods to market. We got to know the important people in Bina’s life a bit. I left Sean with a terrible choice, putting the life of the lord-knight directly into her hands.

We’ll find out what choice she makes next time.



The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The Two Armies” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1530.

Edited by me using pixlr.

Burning Greyhawk, Comic Strip AP, Episode 6



After Session Thoughts

I was hoping for some time to let the Range & Cover mechanics breath a bit, have some arrows and fireballs flying around the back-alleys of Greyhawk but the dice decided and death was swift.

Accererak is in the mix! I was excited when I heard that the Tomb of Horror‘s demi-lich was back in action in Tomb of Annihilation. This episode pre-dated that announcement by a few weeks.

Thanks again, Rich for the wonderful editing and playing.

What is Comic Strip AP?

Comic Strip AP started as a short, 10-15 minute actual play of Dungeon World at the end of every episode of Discern Realities. It is like sprint training for GM’s, really making me think about how I manage a 15 minute time range.

I wouldn’t want to play every game like this but it is a fun weekly exercise.

If you like this, you might like the Sorcerer game Rich and I played, where demons are buildings in New York City.




General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Buteo Cooperii, California Hawk.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1860.
General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Franc-archer, archer de la garde : 1460.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1910.
Burning Greyhawk, Comic Strip AP, Episode 5

Burning Greyhawk, Comic Strip AP, Episode 5

gloam circle

Episode 5




Reading about Greyhawk in old school forums is kind of like reading about a religion with many different sects. I have found it fascinating and often inspiring.

Dragonsfoot: Talk to me about Gloams

In the Gord the Rogue books, specifically in City of Hawks, Gord travels to the Shadowplane and encounters evil beings known as “gloams”. The leader of these monsters, called Imprimus, is referred to as a vampire lich.

Does anyone know anything more definitive about Gloams and specifically Imprimus, such as a monster description and/or stats?

Dragonsfoot: About Vecna

Vecna’s not from Greyhawk.

Reddit: Greyhawk synopsis from the upcoming Tales of the Yawning Portal

Greyhawk, the pinnacle of D&D settings, is reduced to a few blurbs here and there in WotC’s new supplements.

Sad state of affairs, really.



Mavis, Tanday the Gloam-walker’s apprentice

Harkhim, Tanday the Gloam-walker’s lost apprentice



Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Diagram of an eclipse of the sun, with the moon casting a shadow cone.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1260.
British Library. “Castles and their Heroes…With Illustrations, etc” British Library Flickr. 1891.