Saturday, December 21, 2013

Torchbearer


OK, so I might have Kickstarted this the instant I could, I might have man-squeed with delight when I first saw it and... I might have played a campaign of it already, before I even thought about writing the review. I might seriously be in love with this game, which Maria may think is a bad thing, but oh well. I suppose I'll have to work on it. Anyway, on with the review!

Torchbearer is the newest game by the Burning Wheel group, this time led by Thor instead of Luke. It takes the basic Mouseguard engine and screws around with it, making what the crew calls "Advance Mouseguards and Dragons". That's somewhat accurate, although not complete. Mouseguard, while hard, has a turn structure to protect the players from the GM's machinations against him. The Player's turn offers relief of sorts to the players that I'd never even known was there in Mouseguard. Y'wanna know how I figured out that the Player's Turn was a relief mechanic of sorts?

I played Torchbearer and cried.

On a surface level Torchbearer isn't all that different from Mouseguard. You have Nature, representing how much like your race, Will, your social stat, Health, your physical stat, Circles, how well-connected you are, and Resources, your cash (which starts at 0 at the beginning of the game, period). Your skills advance based on a pass-fail system that's extremely simple and intuitive. Extended conflicts are put together via a script-three-moves-at a time system that's simple and awesome. Actually, just to save space, here's my Mouseguard review. There, now that you're done with that, I can go on about the differences.

First of all, there's a clock of sorts put in the game. Every four checks not made as a result of an Instinct you get another Condition. These Conditions are similar to Mouseguard, but are much more beefed up and, well, terrifying. You do not want these conditions. One at a time they're not too bad, but start stacking them up and... well...


I think that communicates what happens to your character when you get all the conditions pretty adequately. Don't have this happen to you, just don't. 

Anyway, so there's the clock. You can reset the clock by either going back to town or taking a rest in the dungeon. Doing so invites it's own problems, of course, like accidents in the dungeon, new laws or being outright barred from said town. But it's still worth the chances to reset that clock.

Oh, and speaking of dungeons, don't think you can fight your way through: the Burning Wheel Co. put in a mechanic called Might, which tells you on what magnitude of awesome the creature is (your characters are at 3). If the creature has a Might 2 or higher than your character's you may not kill, drive it off, or attempt to capture it. That's it, there's no chance of anything like that working. You'll have to trick it or convince it to go away. There are things in the world you'll need to go around.

Monsters are also a bit different this time around. They're a bit more sophisticated than in Mouseguard, where they only really gave you the Nature and some of the weapons it would use. Here they give you the disposition for each of the conflicts they're in and the weapons appropriate to that conflict.

Now there's one particular set of changes that are the most obvious, and that's the BDnD-esque additions. There's levels, mapping (of a sort), spells, essential clerics (played a campaign without one, see the gif up above for the results), all like BDnD...except... well... better. Heck, if you're looking for a good old fashioned dungeon crawl done to the utter nitty gritty, this is that game. You even have to account for what's in each hand! This nitty gritty, contrary to a lot of games, doesn't slow it down or make it less fun. If anything, the constant minding of resources in the face of certain and utter doom is awesome. Going to town, getting your stuff replenished, heading back out to get stuff you don't have any actual room for...

BDnD done right. Yup.

I'M BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!

After an interminably long time of not posting, I've finally got a few things out of the way, and well, here I am! Here's a two thing update:

1) I'm engaged to Maria! It's been a crazy few months as we've tried to figure out what's going on with jobs and all that. I'm happier then I've ever been, being engaged to the lady of my dreams. It's been a wild ride so far, but it's everything I've ever wanted. S'yeah, happy :)

2) Linked to that I'll be going into the military as of February 19th as an E4. I've been accepted into the N25 job, which is basically IT for the Army. I'll be out late October of next year. Obviously there will be a hiatus of this blog while I'm in bootcamp from February to May.

Anyway, so I'll be putting out a blog post each week, hopefully with some iconography updates here and there as I get access to a camera. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 28, 2013

It Was Another One of Those Sessions...

... and I wasn't even the one GMing this time!

So my character, Tomar Leo, was storming in to confront his step-mother Queen Jain, who may or may not be a witch. Well, Tomar thought she was, that's why he was there. He starts to call her out on it, and lo and behold, my fellow player Marty shoots Queen Jain right through the mouth as she's screaming at Tomar! It took Andy and I a moment to process that, and all of a sudden we were taking advantage of the confusion and getting the hell out of there.

Sometimes things just don't work out the way you thought they would. I kinda figured that would have been the session, y'know? Screaming match with Jain, followed by either getting the hell out of there or killing her in a just fashion. So that was...sudden. The session ended with a shouting fest between the two characters that ended with both of them confused and more than a little angry at each other as they called each other inconsiderate jerks (and, to be honest, they're both right).

So what's next for our gaming group? Well, we're gonna make Torchbearer characters and sit on the revelations of character we just hit each other with, and when Torchbearer is done we're gonna go and do the right thing. For once.

Well, I think we will. We better not meet anymore witches.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Read Thru Review: Civil War


At the risk of looking incredibly tacky:




*Sniff*

Just go ahead and hit the replay button, I'll wait.  Yes, this RPG bit the dust after just one supplement was printed, Civil War. And it's really too bad. I mean, really it is, cause this book is amazing.

I'm not going to review the basic rules for this game, which I already reviewed here. You can go and peruse that if you're wanting to know what this now-out-print game is like (Short review: IF YOU LIKE MARVEL BUY IT!), but this is going to be all about the event itself.

Civil War breaks down the major beats of the comic book event Civil War, allowing players to go through the entire event. The authors were quite thorough: they chose beats from almost all the comics that were involved with the event to make a more layered story, cutting from talks in Washington to beating up Doctor Doom in a way that only a Marvel comic could allow. They also throw in enough random points sitting around, begging to be connected, that you could take this book and come out with a completely different story than what the established Civil War was.

So, to start out, the book details all the organizations that can be involved with the event, and gives you some ideas how on to use them. Almost nothing beyond SHIELD is truly mandatory, although even that could be swapped out pretty easily. The flexibility inherent in the set-up is truly remarkable. I could tell my players that SHIELD isn't responsible for enacting the SHRA, and that AIM instead is, and this event book would have the tools to allow for that! Or, maybe Hydra has been doing some serious kissing of bottoms lately, and so they got it. The possibilities are not confined by anything the book says, and that's a beautiful thing.

The next item in the book is the actual set-up of the Event itself, Acts 1-3. Each act is comprised of action and transition scenes in a suggested order.Act One focuses on the build-up to Civil War, Act Two on the actual implementation  of the act, and Act Three resolves all the plot threads.  Each scene has a series of suggestion as to how you can modify it, along with datafiles for the scene. It's important to note that none o these scenes demand a certain flow, although the suggest flow is one you should probably take at least the first time you run this. Honestly, however, they way you should do this is dependent on how you set up the game with your players.If it looks.. scattered... don't be fooled. With your players using their Milestones to full effect you won't find any trouble finding direction. The scenes are meant to interact with those Milestones and will drive the plot forward. You just have to have let the players drive the plot forward and throw these scenes at them in whatever way they come up.

After the acts there's an extensive set of  GM and player datafiles. Pretty much everyone you could think of who participated in the Civil War is here. There aren't a whole lot of X-Men,  but that's because they have their own Civil War event book. I would have preferred they put in more X-Men to this book instead, but oh well. The datafiles are all current to that time period of Marvel, including Spider-Man's red and gold costume.All the characters play differently from each other thanks to their SFX.

In conclusion, the now-defunct Marvel RPG really hit it out of the park with this book. You can run a game that, while using most of the main plot points from the Civil War comic event, make a completely new story. Hopefully one without all the stupid plot holes and convenient character decisio- I mean, something completely new and really cool!

Yeah, that's totally what I meant. Something new. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go and fantasize how to NOT screw up such a good idea...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Attack on Titan as of Episode 11


A lot of people I know have commented to me that there's no good modern anime, that it all seems to have come from a few years ago. I have always disagreed with this statement, mostly because we're in the moment of everything and we really can't tell what's going on til we have a few years to look back.

Also, Attack on Titan exists, so therefore your argument is invalid. 

Attack on Titan is about the struggle of Eren Jaeger to overcome the seemingly-all-powerful titans, a race of giant humanoids that have all but wiped out humanity. After losing people dear and near to him Eren swears revenge upon the titans and, with the help of his friends Mikasa and Armin, sets out to do everything he can to join the Survey Corps, the group that actually leaves the walls of humanity's last home.

To say that this show is one giant sucker punch would be a bit of an understatement. Every single hit in this show is brutal and horrible, contrasted by the slower heartwarming moments of the show. No, Titans does not forget that in order for horror to work there needs to be something mundane and slow, mixed at just the right amount. I'll admit that sometimes that pacing is a bit weird, but it all pans out in the end. 

The only real disadvantage of this show? IT'S NOT DONE, AND I WANT MORE. Particularly after the ending of episode 11! Mush! Mush! Faster! Now!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Someone Got There First...

John C. Wright is awesome.

The Importance of Fantasy


Us Catholics have begun a "New Springtime" according to Blessed John Paul the Great. With the aid of the Catechism, the Scriptures, the Magisterium, and our communities, we have begun a period of discovering anew our faith, a new understanding filled with a new zeal for what we have found. We study, pray, and live to the best of our ability what has been discovered. This means bumping up against all sorts of things in the world around us, particularly things like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and other fantasy series. And that's before we get into the plethora of horror movies that keep uh...gracing(!) our theatres and private rooms. While Lord of the Rings is mostly accepted by Catholics as a Catholic work, many good and moral Catholics I've met seem to have issue with the fantasy and horror genres in general. I find this a bit baffling, to be honest. Those two genres are more Catholic in nature than most, and we should be going out and owning those genres of fiction! This is because both fantasy and horror remind us of essential truths that other genres cannot and, since we live in a post-Rationlistic culture that has a hard time taking spirits seriously, it's more important than ever that we stand up for these truths, truths that are mostly ignored by modern Catholics in favor of a much fuzzier, friendlier Catholicism that's lost it's teeth.


1. We are not alone.  The basic tenets of Catholicism and Orthodoxy show us that we are not the only intelligent beings in the universe, and never have been. No, this does NOT mean E.T. That's a horrible stereotype that needs to be...addressed.  While we don't know if there are other corporeal intelligent beings, we do know that we are surrounded by angels, demons, and the souls of the righteous and unrighteous departed. Our world is a lot more like a tossed salad than a melting pot. Fairy tales in particular enforce this worldview, by describing the supernatural things that happen around people in pretty graphic and down-to-earth terms.

2. Most of the things that we are surrounded by  that we need to keep track of are malevolent.  I can now hear the rolling of eyes that are happening right now. "Ah, demons aren't anything to worry about, right? Ghosts aren't anything to worry about, right?" Wrong.  Each and every diocese in America has been required to have an exorcist, and for a good reason! Things like witchcraft and Satanism are very real and need to be watched carefully. Most fantasy stories revolve around how power can corrupt, warning to be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

3. Using the power of evil never gets you anywhere you truly want to go.  I mean, welcome to Lord of the Rings, right? The idea that we can't use power that's not meant for us is a huge staple of fantasy. Another good amount of fantasy plots revolve around the evil artifact or power corrupting someone into being the next Sauron or White Witch.

4. Evil deserves nothing less than absolute hatred. The type of hatred you need to go to war over.  Conflict is a necessary part of fantasy: you can't get along without it. Life is struggle, it is painful. You can't get around that, and fantasy makes no attempt to. In addition, the types of evil that a person can run into are usually best revealed to people in indirect ways first, through stories, so that way when you do meet something that reminds you of the evil you've heard of you know how to deal with it. Without that backing there's no way to deal with some of the more sinister things you'll run into in life.

5. It's actually easier to process for the average brain. If I started telling you how to operate a complex piece of machinery in the abstract you wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about, would you? Well, most of us wouldn't. But if I told you a story that resembled the process most of us would remember that, and be able to operate the piece of machinery. The same's true for all of life. Stories are always preferable, particularly with sensitive stuff. And considering how weird life can get, doesn't it make sense that the stories would be just as weird and fantastical?

Those are just five reasons I can think of right now. As time goes on I've become more and more convinced that fantasy is a necessary part of anybody's life, and I'll certainly be writing on the importance of it as time goes on.

Book Review: Talking Back


Some religious books are nice little add-ons to your library, some are heretical, and some are just plain old necessary. "Talking Back" fits into the latter category for any serious practicing Catholic or Orthodox. It resurrects one of the most uncomfortable aspects of Christian theology: demons and their role in temptation. While it's sure to be a bit of a surreal book for any post-Enlightenment Christian, it's something that really needs a look at.

The book begins with a historical look at St. Evagrius of Pontus and examines his place in patristics, which is considerable. Evagrius was one of the great Egyptian monks and helped synthesize all their teachings down. He was a contributor to the "Philokalia", a collection of Eastern Christian writings and was known for his practical advice. Talking Back was written as part of a request from another monk who wished to know how to resist demons.

Yeah, you read right. How to resist demons.

Turns out that the monks of Egypt all believed the same thing: our sins are the result of being actively tempted by demons. Our sins are not just from our corrupted nature., they're our demons taking advantage of our weakened nature. To deal with these temptations Evagrius suggests that the temptee rebuke the demon with scriptural passages.This fills a much-needed hole in practical theology: resisting temptation.

The following sections of the book deal with the eight deadly demons: gluttony, fornication, avarice, sadness, anger, despondency, vainglory, and pride.Each demon has a list of circumstances and replies. Each of the lists were compiled by Evagrius and his compatriots. These are very specific and practical. Some of these circumstances can seem a little strange to anyone in our modern day and age, but some of the other circumstances are so right on the money that I can't help but lend credence to the others.

Everyone should have a copy of this book. Period. It's essential.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Anime Review: Monster


*Gulp* Where do I begin? I mean, how do you review this thing? Monster is, honestly... it's Monster, how can I sum this thing up? 

Well, I'll try anyway.

It's a long, fast-paced, action-packed, dark, depressing, hopeful, light-hearted, beautiful, horrifying masterpiece. No, I did not use too many adjectives. This is not for the weak-minded, folks! Do not enter without doing some soul-searching first.

Monster follows the struggle of Dr. Tenma, a brilliant neuro-surgeon, and Johan, a young German boy who's essentially the anti-Christ. Johan, with a bullet in his brain, comes under Dr. Tenma's care and, what can only be described as an act of self-definition, Dr. Tenma fixes him. Dr. Tenma gets a lot of grief for healing the boy due to some political maneuverings and, in his despair, says that all the people giving him trouble should die.

In front of the comatose Johan.

What do you think is going to happen?

Well, I'll give you a hint: they don't go to the park for ice cream.

Anyway, eventually Tenma finds out that his sudden fortune was made possible by Johan's acts of violence, and resolves to go and kill Johan. He meets up with a lot of people along the way, finds out what Johan is and where he came from, and just how screwed up the bugger is.  And that's all I can tell you about the plot. No, really! In good conscience that is all you are allowed to know, and even that's saying almost too much. This is because Monster goes through a lot of material. Considering that it's 74 episodes long, you'd think that that's a no-brainer, but consider things like Narutard for a moment and you'll get my meaning. A LOT happens in this show. Every single episode is jammed to the brim with plot, character development, and philosophy. I lost track of how many characters were introduced and then given sufficient (at worst) development. Each person is given their due in a stunningly horrifying way, as they encounter Johan and learn to deal with the presence of such a malevolent being. 

Despite it's length, Monster does not feel all that long at all. You'd think that 74 episodes of a good anime would feel long, right? No, not this one. Monster grabs you by the hair and drags you along, demanding your full and undivided attention as it shows you the horrors of... everyone? Johan? Tenma? Lunge? Grimmer? Anna? It's hard to explain in a review, and even harder to understand at some times what the show is trying to do, right up until the end when it becomes astoundingly clear what's going on. I wish I could tell you more without ruining it, really I do, but this is a show that really needs to be seen without spoilers for the greatest effect. 

Yes, you have time for something like this. So go watch it. Now. I'll see you at The Three Frogs when you're done, with beer in hand. And I don't even drink beer!

(WARNING: If you don't like your anime anything less than clear-cut and juvenile, don't watch. Please, for everyone's sake. Thank you)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The REAL Mouse Guard Review



What the hell's so appealing about playing with a bunch of mice? Well, you won't know til you play, right? I mean, I rolled my eyes at first, I'll admit. Then I played a session, and stopped rolling my eyes, and realized this is possibly the best game Luke Crane has ever made. It's simple, but has all those crunchy bits that make a player like me jump up and down in happiness. It's strategic, but not convoluted. And, in a day where people try to make epics and fail, this game intends to be on the shorter side of things, allowing you to put as much as you possibly can into each Year of game time.

Mouse Guard is based upon the comic series by David Petersen. I've read Fall 1152, and am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of Petersen's volumes. Basically the mice decided to band together into a loose confederation of city-states so they won't get eaten anymore. The Mouse Guard are made up of mice who go around and make sure everything works. They're outside of all jurisdictions, can travel where they will, and sacrifice all they have for the sake of their brethren.  It's a story about facing a world that doesn't love you and coming out on top. It's a tale of survival against all odds. That's pretty heroic.

Mouse Guard, while based upon the RPG Burning Wheel, really is it's own machine. I'll do a little bit of comparison, but only because there will be some people who have played Burning Wheel and will need some serious guidance on playing this right. I know I did.

Character Recruitment
Oh, the length of time spent making characters is amazing. Go through the questions provided, and your whole group will have a character in an hour if they're n00bs. That's a feat a lot of RPGs can't boast of, especially Mouse Guard's crunchier cousins Burning Wheel and Burning Empires which can take quite a long time for people who are new. You come up with where your mouse was born, his parents, a friend, an enemy, and other details like that. You then figure out how old your mouse is and at what point he's in the Guard rank-wise, his skills and stats, his traits, his Belief and Instinct, and then finally his Goal for the session.

G-BITs

Each character has what I call G-BITS: a Belief, a Goal, an Instinct, and several traits. These help define who your character is underneath all the numbers and stats, allowing you to know who you're playing. The G-BITs are the heart of MouseGuard, plain and simple.

A character's Belief is a simple ethical statement. An Instinct is a specific reaction to a specific circumstance. And a Goal is, well, a goal that can be accomplished inside a single session of play. It changes every session.

Traits are a little more complicated, and are actually more important than any of the other G-BITs. Traits are your chatracter's distinguishing characteristics. Does your character have a bad temper? That's a trait. A long tail? That's a trait too. Sharper teeth, honorable, cowardly, impulsive, or thoughtful? Those are all traits. Your characters use the Traits in-session to help guide the direction of the mission, for good and for ill. There are three levels of Traits, and each level gives you a different, but more powerful, advantage. We'll get more into Traits when I talk about the way the session works.

Basic Dice Mechanics
Mouse Guard is a d6 dice-pool game: roll a number of d6's equal to the number of the stat or skill. 4's, 5's, and 6's are successes. You want to equal or beat the Obstacle, or Ob that the GM set up. Fail? The GM can either hit you with a Condition and let you get what you want, or he can twist it to something new and worse. Fail that Pathfinding test? You find a path alright... right into the den of a snake. Roll for combat, the snake's going to try and kill all of you! Let It Ride is a rule that means that the results of your one roll are applicable for the same test in the same condition. No more trying to re-roll your Scout over and over again to get a better stealth result, you're stuck with the first one. Same with successes and whatnot.

Extended Mechanics
Mouseguard has what are called extended mechanics, meaning that it has a section of gameplay where you do the basic mechanics a little more spread out. You and your opponent plot out three moves ahead, and play them, one at a time, rock-paper-scissors style. Both actions resolve at once, you don't have to worry about initiative. The system might sound a little weird to RPG vets, but if you do it enough it'll become second nature. There are four types of actions you can choose: Attack, Defense, Maneuver, and Feint. The four abstracted actions can be used for any type of conflict (and there are many, such as argument, speech, fight, etc). It might seem a bit abstract at first but, again, once you get used to the system it's incredibly flexible and tense. You have to make your plans, and hope they work.

The Way a Session Works
At the beginning of every session the GM picks from four different types of threats: animals, mice, weather, and wilderness. He chooses two, and those are the major threats of that session. The players are supposed to know about these two threats. For instance, they can be told by the GM that a flashflood has wiped out a town, and that a wolf has come to feast upon the wreckage. What a set up, get over there guys! The other two threats left are then reserved as twists, to be sprung upon the players when they fail rolls. The GM can also, if a player fails a check, let him succeed and hit him with a Condition, which are Tired, Hungry/Thirsty, Angry, Injured, and Sick. Each of these Conditions have a set of penalties for the character, and may only be recovered from during the Players' Turn (more on that in a minute).

The session officially starts with the GM's Turn, where the players beat the crap out of the mice. Notice I said players, not just the GM. The GM's turn is the beginning and the rising action of that session, where the mice struggle to make it against the harsh world. Players may join in by using their Traits to hinder their characters, earning a resource called checks. Once the GM runs out of Twists, he is supposed to end the GM's turn, leaving the players to end the mission in the Players' Turn. The Players' Turn is where the players become proactive, allowing them to finish the mission however they want. To do this, they must spend the checks they had earned by giving their characters trouble. It is vital to understand this: the players must put their characters through trouble in order for them to succeed! Otherwise there aren't enough checks to go around, and the players will fail the mission, and probably not get as many rewards as they'd like.

Rewards
Rewards are given at the end of every session, when all the players' checks run out. There are two types of rewards: Fate points and Persona points. Fate points allow you to reroll all 6's in a single roll. You get Fate points for acting on your Belief and attempting to fulfill your Goal but failing to do so. Persona points do two things: they allow you to tap your Nature stat and add those dice to a roll (at the risk of harming your Nature, a stat that really shouldn't be too low or too high), or just add one dice per point spent (to a maximum of three). You get Persona points for achieving your Goal, role-playing well, contravening a Belief in play, for being the most useful character all-around in the session, or making that one roll that was absolutely vital to the quest.

The game plays very smoothly, and is so well designed it will definitely trip up any RPG vets. To the vets I have this advice: throw out all preconceptions of all your previous games, including Burning Wheel, because they won't help you here. In fact, assuming that this game works like anything else will hurt your experience. Read the rulebook (shocking, I know) and play the game exactly as written! You will not be disappointed. Mouse Guard is a wonderful game, possibly the best Luke Crane and co. have ever written. The text is clear, the rules are amazing, and the artwork is gorgeous. You can't get a better deal. You just can't.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The REAL Burning Empires Review (Second Attempt)


Everyone knows one of those GMs: the bastards. The ones who seem to get off on the suffering they inflict, who try as  hard as they can to loophole your characters into oblivion and, when they do, crow about it? Yeah, him. Picture his face. Then picture the look on his face when you tell him there's a game that's designed specially for him. Then imagine the look on his face when he reads the rules and realizes that you can punch him back in game, and that the playing field has been mostly leveled. 

Isn't that satisfying?

Welcome to Burning Empires.

Burning Empires is based off of Burning Wheel, the famous indie fantasy RPG (which, if you've been reading this blog, you really don't need another intro to). And by based I mean it looks really similar until you start to play it. Because of this, it's really not helpful to look at Burning Empires in terms of how it relates to Burning Wheel, but on it's own merits. So I'll do that. 

Burning Empires is based off of the comic book series Iron Empires, which are about the body-snatching Vaylen trying to take over what's left of the human race in the far future. I haven't read the comics and so I can't vouch for them, but I hear they're very good. Anyway, Burning Empires was made to replicate that series. The central theme of the game is based around what you're willing to sacrifice in order to win the war, and the mechanics do this pretty darned well.  How? Well, first you have to build your world, then your characters, and then you play out the characters fighting for what they believe in even if it means sacrificing a whole lot along the way.

Building the Wheel
The first thing you do is burn your world. You pick from a series of lists and ideas that are in the book, and get your overall disposition (another word for "hit-points"). You decide where the planet is in the interstellar empire that is the Iron Empires, it's geography, it's main government and industry, and all sorts of things like that. There are three disposition numbers per side (human and vaylen) and they're usually in the GM's favor. You decide upon what the general problems of the planet are that the Vaylen can take advantage of, which then informs your character burning. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS TO USE THE REFERENCE LIST OF IMPORTANT SKILLS FOR EACH PHASE THAT'S IN THIS SECTION. DO NOT MISS THIS, BECAUSE IT WILL WIND YOU UP WITH VERY UNHAPPY PLAYERS. I put that in all caps for a reason (I might have missed it, and my players and I suffered as a result...)

Last thing to do before character burning? Decide who the Figures of Note are. Figures of Note are characters the big dogs of the planet. They're the ones who actually make everything work. You're only allowed to have up to three per side. Each phase features one.

Character burning is the arduous process of making a character. You make this character by deciding upon his history: where was he born? What did he do as a child? As a teen? An adult? and so on. These questions are answered by the concept of lifepaths, which give you the stat, skill, and trait points that you need to build up your character. I'm not going to lie, it can get pretty hairy for a beginner, especially if you're used to something more like DnD where you can just pick whatever you want. Here you will face consequences for each of your decisions, and you will be closed off from some things for good. Trust me, it's worth it! 

Before the mechanical stuff you decide the most important stuff about your character: Beliefs and Instincts. Beliefs are the top three priorities you the player have for the character, written from the character's point of view. They can include goals ("I will save my brother the duke or lose my honor!") to ideologies ("The Burning Wheel is the source of all truth") to a mix of the two ("The Burning Wheel is the source of all truth, and it commands me to protect my brother the duke. I will do so or lose my honor!"). This is not a case of you getting into your character's head and figuring out what he wants: it's naked metagaming of "what would I like this character to be about?" You get rewarded for acting on these Beliefs in such a way as to drive the story forward.

Instincts are the top three gut reactions you find interesting about your character. They can include things you'd figure he'd learn from one his lifepaths ("Never turn down tail")  to gear-related ("Always have a gun at my side") to skill oriented ("Whenever there's nothing to do practice my sharpshooting"). There are very specifics reactions to specific events. You get rewarded for intentionally ignoring your Instinct when doing so would get your character into trouble.

Traits are small bits of mechanical stuff that you attach to your character.They either help with characterization, muck with the game rules in your favor, or muck with the dice.All three are extremely good to have around. You get rewarded for using traits if it pushes the story in an unexpected route or if it hurts your character to use the trait. 

The GM also makes characters for the opposing side. They follow almost the same rules as your characters, with some leeway given to the GM since he'll always be outnumbered in this game. These characters also get  BITs (Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits) who get rewarded for all the same things we just talked about. 

Turning the Wheel
Now that you know some of the basics of making characters and what they get rewarded for doing, let's turn to actually playing the game. Yeah, I know, that was a lot already. Well, it's all worth it. The campaign is divided into three phases: Infiltration, Usurpation, and Invasion. The first phase centers around the Vaylen using the planet's existing conflicts to get a foothold on the world, with the humans unconsciously stopping that from happening (for the most part). Usurpation is focused on the Vaylen trying to get as many of the Figures of Note and other officials under their wing as soon as possible. And Invasion is exactly as it sounds. 

So the first thing you do is decide which phase you'll be starting in. If you want a full campaign start in Infiltration, and work your way up. You then start figuring out your maneuvers. Maneuvers are the big moves of the game. The GM picks his move in private, and then sits back and allows the players to pick theirs. They then start to role-play the characters doing their thing. There are a number of scenes the players and GM gets to use to accomplish their goal. Each player gets one of these scenes. No, you may not do "whatever you want", you should go by the scene structure. Why? It's a competition. You're not just role-playing, you're trying to win! Anyway, at the end of the series of scenes you played out the players and GM reveal exactly which maneuver they picked, and then one character from each side rolls to see what happens in the big picture, which determines how successful you actually are. Usually you're trying to target the other side's disposition with your roll. Once a side is knocked down to 0 disposition the phase is over. It's a really tense roll, I can promise you that. After the maneuver roll everyone gets rewarded as mentioned above, with Fate, Persona, and possibly Deeds!

Fate points allow you to re-roll 6s on a single test. They're a nice last-minute stopgap against failure. Persona allow you to add one die per point spent, to a maximum of three. And the almighty Deeds point lets you double your base stat or skill. You also get rewarded for roleplay, being the most useful, making that big roll that would have made things go badly in your failure had it been anyone but you doing it, and so on. After you're done with rewards, you play another maneuver, and then give out rewards again. 

The Physics, Large and Small
Oh goodness, there's MORE?? Well, I could lie and say no, but then you leave out some of the best parts of Burning Empires! S'yeah, there's more. Suck it up and keep reading.

Burning Empires is a d6 dice pool game: your characters have numbers next to their stats and skills, and that's how many six-siders you roll. 4-6 is a success. You're trying to beat the target number, or Ob, with a certain number of successes. Failure means the GM (y'know, the opposition?) gets to muck with your intent somehow. You may help each other and use FORKs (Fields of Related Knowledge) to get your skills higher, but that'll mess with your advancement. Skills and stats increase as you use them, there's no leveling system to save anything you don't use all the time. You may also train skills in game, but I don't recommend that, since you'll just be handing another win to the GM, who is already cackling with glee as he imagines hulling your character and getting to use him on his side. Finally, there's the Let it Ride rule, which means you can't roll multiple times for the same test. If you succeed, you're successful as long as the situation doesn't change in a meaningful way. If you fail, the same applies. You have to then try to change the situation itself. But considering that, thanks to the scene economy you'll probably only get one die roll a maneuver (more if you pick the extended conflict, but we'll get to that) it's a pretty big deal whether you succeed or not.

And then there's the extended conflict mechanics, which are The Duel of Wits and Firefight! All these work the same basic way. It's essentially the maneuver roll put into a smaller context. Choose three moves in secret, and then play them against the other side, one at a time. If no one's disposition was knocked out by that volley, pick another three! And don't worry, you roll a smaller disposition then the one you did for the phases. This doesn't directly influence your larger disposition. Do not let your DnD-instincts (if you have any) get in the way of these extended conflict mechanics. Once I got used to it, I found that I couldn't really go back to standard initiative. Why? Well, this is really dynamic and intense. You literally have no idea what is going to happen next. Firefights! in particular get unpredictable, with characters in mortal danger from the very start. There are no smaller fight mechanics beyond a simple versus test, so if you want to get anything done, this is it! If you have preconceptions of what fights and arguments should look like, throw them all out and give this a try.

There's a lot more going on, but frankly you don't need to know about it to get the game or not. And by this time? You should probably have a good idea of whether you want it or not. If you're a die-hard rules-lite dude, do NOT get this game. Just, save yourself the 45 bucks (hardcopy, there's a pdf for 20) and find something else. For anyone else who wants to take a shot a war-game RPG, this here is a good bit. There are a lot of crunchy bits that move around and look confusing, but if you get past the learning curve and give this game an honest shot I promise you'll be very happy you did. In the (so far) one time I ran this game, the players had a blast. We were playing on a prison planet of liquid oxygen, and as a last-ditch effort they blew up the whole planet rather than let the Vaylen get it! The role-playing was incredibly intense, and the plot was moving like a roller coaster. The mechanics make for a very intense and fast game, one that will leave you a bit breathless and surprised. 

Give it a shot. You won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Please Help This Priest!


This priest has faithfully served his parishes in Africa for years, and now he needs a truck to consider serving. All you need to do is donate a little bit, even if it's just a buck. Please help this guy out!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GM, Know Thyself


Whenever you sit down to GM a game, you think about a few things, but do you ask the most obvious question: "What do I, as a player, want out of this game?" Because you're a player, Mr. GM! You're supposed to have fun. You are not beholden to the group for the type of fun you want to have. If anything, they're at your mercy, since you're the one who's directing the game. This isn't to say that you abuse this: it's a game, everyone needs to have agreement of some sort. But GM's sometimes forget they're players too. They just play a different role. 

What role is that? Well, your chief role is that of arbiter. You are the the representation of the other side of the imagined dream-space, the laws of physics, you represent adversity. All other roles are secondary to this one, because without this one the vast majority of games fall apart. Yes, there are GM-less games. If you're reading this article you're obviously not playing one of those games, so arbiter is your chief role. Everything else is secondary in running the game, but no less important. 

You'll notice that nowhere in the previous paragraph did I say that the GM made up the stories, that he put forward his own vision for a game, or even that he had anything to do with the story at all! But he does, doesn't he? Since the beginning of time the GM has something to do with guiding the game. We could go into why, but that's a bit beyond the scope and intent of the article. We're here to discuss how you want to be a part of the story your group will make. There are three basic extremes, each based upon the three things I'd talked about earlier. They're that of passive, active, and aggressive. 


Passive: The Passive Extreme is fun because it allows the GM to sit back and just let the players do their thing. They don't really want to effect the shared dream-space more than they absolutely have to. Think of a drop of water: it falls into another body of water. What happens? The drop of water falls, and the laws of physics take over. This type of GM usually just makes sure that that drop of water's effects take place, but nothing more. You might stick your head in and take care of things every once in a while, but for the most part the GM has fun enforcing the natural consequences of actions. Dungeon World is an RPG that sets this up the best. The GM just prepares the fronts, throws them at players, and watches what they do. He then applies consequences based upon the player's actions more than any agenda he's got. The weakness of a Passive Extreme is that they often don't come up with an overarching plot, making the game meander.

Active: You don't sit back,you stick your nose in. Fail that Climbing check? The bishop whom you hate more than anyone else is at the top, and he helps you up. Now you have to deal with him. The Active GM has an idea, he wants to get his point across, he has a vision. While he does make sure that the natural gaming world gets enforced, he's far more interested in throwing his own two cents in. Usually these people come up with incredible plots and characters and want their players to experience what they came up with. Burning Wheel is the quintessential Active Extreme game.  The weakness of the Active Extreme is that they are prone to rail-roading on the drop of a hat because they forget this isn't just their story, it's the everyone's. 


Aggressive: We all know those GMs, don't we? The dicks. The ones who love to beat up their players. The  GMs who, on failed checks, make the world go to hell in a hand-basket because they think it's fun. Yeah, that's not the type of GM I'm talking about. He's just a jerk, the perversion of this type. I'm talking about the GMs who openly tell you that they're out to get your characters. That your character is a piece in a wargame, and he is intent on winning. Notice that? He wants to win. He'll play by the rules (hopefully), and he's not a jerk, but you know he's out to get you. And that's fine, actually. As long as he's open about it, and the players are fine with the fact that this GM is so damn competitive that he wants to turn the story into an epic struggle in and of itself. Old-school Dungeons and Dragons is usually what we think of, but a more clear example is Burning Empires. The GM is out to win, and he is bound by the rules of the game, same as the players. Granted, the rules grant him different abilities, but that doesn't change the fact that the GM's open and stated goal is to kick the crap out of the players. 

Now, the important thing to remember is that these are extremes. One is not likely to always want the same thing out of a different game. I know GMs who were playing it passive for a while all of a sudden become very aggressive. But can you "fit" into one of these extremes? Of course you do, otherwise everyone would be the same and it would be boring. So think about what you want out of the game, and how you get enjoyment out of it. It'll help you not only pick a game that'll help out your style, but it'll signal to the other players what you're in the mood for. And clear communication is always helpful.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dan Slott's a Genius: The Superior Spider-Man vs. Urich's Hobgoblin


In this corner is Otto Octavius, aka Peter Parker, aka The Superior Spider-Man. He started off not all that great, as Dr. Octopus, and went through a variety of evil ambitions, from trying to fry the planet to taking over New York City. His last scheme was to rob Peter Parker of his identity, born of his dumb luck and Peter's better nature. His intention? Do whatever he wants in Peter's body. Peter, of course, stepped in, and gave Otto a sense of responsibility for his actions. Since then Otto has gone on to rid the city of more crime than Peter ever did, and kill a mad-man who was believed to be beyond all redemption, as well as cutting Mary-Jane loose for good so that way she'll no longer be in any danger. OK, so he went and became a bit big-brother-esque and brutalized a bunch of bullies, but no one's perfect, right? Right!

AND IN THIS CORNER!
A normal guy who accidentally stumbled onto the Green Goblin's lair, Phil Urich became a hero until his equipment broke. Unable to fix it, he wandered from place to place, and became a part of The Front Line. Disillusioned, he found one of Osborn's hideouts and went there to impress Norah. He accidentally bumped into Dan Kingsley in The Hobgoblin's uniform and killed him in a moment of crisis. Fueled by his refound power, Urich has gone on to become the Kingpin's right-hand man, and finally got the girl of his dreams. He completely hates his responsibilities, but fulfills them because of his power!

...do I smell a dark mirror, akin to the Amazing Spider-Man and the Green Goblin? Does the Hobgoblin show up in... Superior Spider-Man 14? According to Dan Slott, he will. The seeds for this confrontation were sown at the very beginning of the Big Time run. By the time we get to Superior 14 we'll have two very well-developed characters on a collision course. I just... wow. I'm amazed. This is truly a superior pair-up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

3 Things I Learned from Revenge of the Countess of Fire

So I was just thinking about GMing, and how each game teaches you a little something. Here's three things I picked up from Countess of Fire:

1. NPCs need Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits too. For awhile I had difficulty figuring out what the Countess of Fire wanted, until I started writing mini goals for each session and reading them out to the players. These Beliefs should be explosive enough to make the player want to write Beliefs that contradict what you've written.Make the conflict boil right there in the Beliefs-writing stage, and then make your NPCs go after them with all the fiery passion of Hell. If you did your job right you've made a bunch of Beliefs that you think would be interesting for a bad guy to chase after, and your players made Beliefs they want the heroes to chase after, and these two sides will combine in a roaring conflagration.

When in doubt, make it personal, offensive, and downright evil to the player. You can't go wrong there.

2. When in doubt kick the players. Hard. At every last second you, the GM, are the opposition. It's your job to make the players sweat and bleed for their Beliefs. Is there smoke? Make everyone get +1 Ob for it. Is the your target next to a tree and you're swinging a sword at him? Give him a +1 ob so that way he doesn't hit the tree. Make it difficult, make it hard, because if you don't they, the players, won't get everything they can outta the system.

3. Make their failures trigger Beliefs and Instincts. "Oh, did you fail that Orienteering roll? *Evil chuckle* Your evil twin brother that you hate so much, but totally outmatches you, is now here. And he wants to 'talk'". Does your character have an Instinct about never accepting an insult? Make sure you insult him, and then sit back and see what happens. Even the cautionary Instincts, like daggers in boots and such, can get mileage, cause you can take away their gear and have them not notice it as consequences of the failure. Oh, and just cause one player failed doesn't mean you can't jump on another character's Beliefs and Instincts instead. In fact, it might be better that way, because then the other guy will wanna help out!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some Thoughts (Rants, Really) on the Gun Control Debate



Obama's got some thoughts on what the Republicans are doing to stop his gun control stuff, and I've got some thoughts on Obama's thoughts. Now, I realize that this is a bit of a hot-button issue. I don't care, it's my blog, and until I'm labelled as an extremist nut (Oh wait, technically I am) and get my blog taken from me, I'm gonna speak my mind.

Now, here's some of the facts I've learned over the years. The numbers are pretty easy to find, they're not hidden. Chicago, the city with some of the most restrictive gun control laws of any city, also happens to have the one of the highest murder counts in the country.States where there aren't conceal-carry licenses have much higher murder rates. However, States with conceal-carry licenses have drastically lower murder rates except around their airports, where guns are banned. The fact that so many killings happen around schools, where guns are outlawed, sorta seems to confirm the theory conservatives have been pushing this whole time: guns help save lives more than they take. I know it's a bit simplified down, but honestly it's a pretty simple problem. I'm quoting numbers that are not difficult to find, especially since the advent of the Facebook meme.

Now, as the first link says, Obama's saying that the Republicans keep throwing out political stunts to stop his bills on limiting guns. Even if you ignore any of the stuff that I just said, the hypocrisy of the situation is something awful. Obama signed his executive orders with the children from these shootings surrounding him. He doesn't quote any facts, he just references these children over and over again. He says that he's willing to go around Congress to get what he wants, and the list of his political maneuverings goes on and on. Who's actually pulling the political stunts that are designed to tug at our heartstrings, even if not necessarily our brains? Yeah, that would be Obama. I'm not understanding where he gets off saying this sorta thing, to be honest. Pointing fingers when there's three coming back at you is just a stupid move.

The REAL 13th Age Review

This, my friends, is my DnD.

13th Age is a game written by the lead designers of 3rd Edition and 4th Edition, who decided to make their "love letter" to DnD. They took the flexibility of 3rd, combined it with the balance of 4th, and threw in some cool elements from Burning Wheel and a few other indy RPGs. The result is a light and fun game that sets the standard for d20 games across the board. Yes, I do mean the standard.

The vast majority of the game is a good mish-mash of 3rd and 4th edition, which I'm not going to cover here. Enough typing has been done on both editions, and better writing then I can do here. You get the at-wills, encounter, and daily abilities of 4th edition, wrapped in a 3rd edition package where not everyone gets the same thing, but is balanced against each other and given a difference emphasis. I've played about six sessions, with a variety of classes, and didn't see any obvious over-powered-ness between spellcasters and non-spellcasters. What I did see was that spellcasters were usually better at taking out groups, but non-spellcasters owned at one-on-one combat.

There's one stand-out combat mechanic: the escalation die. At round two of every combat, the GM brings out a giant d6 and sets it to 1, putting it up by one every round thereafter. This number is added to all the players' attack rolls. It's assumed that the players are pushing as hard as they can in each round: if they start to run away, the escalation die decreases in response. Most monsters don't add this escalation die to their attack rolls, but when they do it's a terrifying thing to behold. When the players realize that the dragon is getting as accurate as they are, there's a real sort of fear that's a bit... um... invigorating. And it's because these monsters are the exception, not the rule, that makes the escalation die so good. I can't recommend stealing this mechanic enough. It is tension in a bottle for boss fights, and general awesomeness for the players on a normal fight.

The mechanics of the combat aren't really where the game stands out, however. It's the storytelling mechanics that really matter, and 13th Age has two. The first storytelling element is The One Unique Thing. The player gets to choose a story element to his character that is wholly unique to him. It can be anything, anything at all, and that's the beauty of that. These things can vary from "I was saved by the Great Gold Wyrm from the curse of a witch and am now immune to fire as a consequence" to "I'm an undead half-angel whose mind hasn't been changed by becoming undead". If your player picks something that has a mechanical consequence you have to give up some of your class talents (a bunch of features you can choose a few from) to do it. This helps the GM guide the story in a direction you, the player, want.

The other storytelling element is the backgrounds/skills system. The players get eight points that they get to spread acrost as many backgrounds as they so wish. Again, these backgrounds can be anything you so wish, and the more detailed the better. Whenever you make a skill roll you choose a stat (standard 6) and one applicable background, adding that background's bonus to your check. It's an incredibly flexible system, one that reminds me of DnDN's not-so-inspired system of backgrounds. That's actually a comparison that I'll get back to in a bit.

Both of these mechanics define the setting for the GM, allowing him to set up a story that flows from these setting elements. I can't begin to say how cool this is, since the party is effectively defining the setting and what sorta seeds should be followed up on. I suggest to all who are playing this game to pick backgrounds that interest you, the player: it'll mean that the story can involve things that interest you. So with both those mechanics in place the story can revolve around whatever the players wish. This puts the GM in the more directorial chair, akin to Burning Wheel, a spot that I think is best for the GM, period.

Speaking of GMs, the GMing section is awesome. It is the toolbox of 4th edition perfected. Gone is the crappy math, and the need to define encounters ahead of time. The advice for using the story mechanics is a bit sparse, but this is something that the authors acknowledge openly and so I can hardly fault them since they don't attempt to conceal the weakness of their advice. Heck, I'll probably put up some advice pretty soon.

Earlier in the review I brought up that some elements of the game reminded me of DnDNext, but in the sense that all the things that DnDN tries to do, 13th Age does. I know that DnDN is in playtest mode, but given the stuff they haven't changed, I think it's a fair thing to say that this is the next edition of DnD. You keep the high action and systems of all the previous editions of DnD with actual story elements that allow you to put the story around your players without the railroading of previous editions. It's an amalgamation of what made earlier editions of DnD great, while adding it's own thing. That's what a new edition is supposed to be, right?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Revenge of the Countess of Fire Chapter Eight

These are the notes from my Burning Wheel game Revenge of the Countess of Fire. I figured that now that we're at a certain point I'll put up the play report. Check out the tag "Revenge of the Countess of Fire" for more posts! BTW, this session was recorded by the players of Claire Romar and Elenor Grinslow.



The body that crawls out of the well looks like it's been mummified, and it freaks everyone out on a level that's hard to communicate. Everyone stands, absolutely shocked. The Countess of Fire gapes at the body of her father, who turns to her. "It's OK, daddy's home" he says. The Countess throws up, and the body chides him for not giving him a ready welcome. He turns to Elenor, and his nonverbals change to that of her father. He talks to her as if he is her father. All his mannerisms are so right they're wrong. The body thanks everyone for helping him, saying that he couldn't have gotten this far without any of them, with all their messed up desires. He looks at his body, and says that it isn't so bad, a bit weaker than his first, but still good enough for his purposes.

Kincaid finally snaps out of his fear, and says that this is definitely The One in the Deep. The One in the Deep says that he wants everyone to follow him down the well. And that he will show everyone what he's up to, and that they will understand that he's not all bad. After understanding what he's up to they can make up their minds.

Kincaid stands up to him, saying that the elves and wolves would never accept whatever it is The One in the Deep has planned, which only makes The One in the Deep chuckle. Kincaid swings his sword at him and it's caught in The One in the Deep's bare hand! He grins at Kincaid, and tells him that if his body dies, he'll just take over another body. The broken sword and stone gave him all the conscious and unconscious brain patterns he'll need to take over any body he wants.  He releases the sword, and dares Kincaid to kill the body.

Thieran Markov has been dead for awhile, killed by a horde of orcs led by the Countess of Fire. And ever since he's died his father (who's now 40 feet tall) has chased him, relentlessly. Finally Thieran turns and asks why his father is chasing him, to which his father replies "You ran! Of course I chased you!" Thieran turns round, and pulls out his sword. His father swings his sword, a forty foot long monstrosity, cutting Thieran in half. Thieran comes to in a forest, and he hears the rumbling of his father's footsteps in the distance...

Claire finally snaps out of her fear, and prays for a miracle from God. She asks, begs, God to intercede and save everyone from The One in the Deep. Blood gushes out of her hands, feet, and side, and she screeches in pain. She hears a voice telling her to touch Kincaid, and she does. Once her blood touches Kincaid he comes to a horrible realization: The One in the Deep was originally an elf! This is the final straw-Kincaid can take no more. He starts to wander off, full of the realization that his race created the ultimate evil. He turns and charges The One in the Deep with his sword, and once again he's blocked. The One in the Deep asks, once again, if they'll go into the well with him.

On the other side of the afterlife, Thieran faces his father once again and is once again struck down. He comes back to, and starts to put the pieces together. Maybe what he's facing isn't his father, but himself. Maybe, just maybe, he's what's in the way. And with that his father vanishes, as does the forest. The sky is bright, the grass is green but painful, and there's a road. He gets up and follows the road.

The One in the Deep extends his hand to The Hungry One, and offers, once again, to take him to see the plan. The Hungry One walks toward The One in the Deep, and finds that he can walk on air. Claire follows. But Kincaid doesn't. Elenor walks up to him and asks why he isn't moving. Kincaid  tells her that The One in the Deep was an elf once. How could any one creature become so horrible, do so many terrible things? Elenor responds that the only way anyone can get that horrible is if they choose to be that way. But Kincaid can choose to be different. Kincaid can choose to hope, and that means going with The One in the Deep until a weakness presents himself. Elenor tells Kincaid that he needs to hope until something presents itself. Kincaid nods, but says that he doesn't know why they bother: The One in the Deep will drag everyone down with him. But he does get up, and walk towards the well. The Countess gets up, and wearily stands next to Kincaid. 

And down they go. 

They all descend for 3 hours, losing light after fifteen minutes. There's a shrieking sound from below, and it gets progressively louder. When asked, The One in the Deep informs them that the orcs have build been building him a machine that'll let him get to the center of the planet. They ask what he's looking for, and he asks if they've ever heard of the myth of the flame. The flame is at the center of the planet, and it is the flame of life itself. All the goodness of everyone rests on this one flame, and if he can just merge with this flame he, who believes he is the collective evil of everyone. If it works the way he thinks it does, he'll become the good and evil of everyone, connecting them into a super-entity that will defy all individuality. No one will be able to hurt each other anymore, because they will be each other. So therefore no one will have to die, and no one will have to encounter God anymore: God will become worse than unknown: he'll be useless. Kincaid realizes that The One in the Deep doesn't even feel the grief inherent in each elf anymore, that he's denied everything so he doesn't have to merge with God when he should have passed on.

They all enter the ship, and descend into the magma that is the core. It's unbearably hot, and then all of a sudden they hear a crunching noise. The One in the Deep opens up the hull, and water spills in; it's breathable Everyone descends into the water, and Claire sees a young boy walking towards them. It's the same boy from the vision."All you have to do is hold him still" the boy says to him in her mind.

Thieran's been following the road for awhile, when he happens upon Honey, who's being attacked by Thieran's father as well. Thieran manages to kill his father, but he reappears and starts attacking Honey again.  Thieran tries to get Honey's attention, so he stabs her with his knife. She comes to for a second, and Thieran convinces her that she's torturing herself. He points to the road, and asks if she'll follow him down the road. She says that she will. They come to a lake, and there's a light in the lake. They go into the lake, and they see a large flame.

Back on the other side, The One in the Deep puts his hand in, and starts screaming. The flame is consuming him, he was wrong! Kincaid takes his sword and rams it into The One in the Deep's back, and he starts to fall in. Thieran sees a pair of hands coming through the flame. He also sees Elenor and Thieran, and he shouts out to Elenor. Elenor shouts out to Thieran to pull The One in the Deep in. Everyone, even The Countess and Honey, jumps in to help. The One in the Deep begins to shapeshift into a bunch of different forms, including that of a dragon, and finally returns to that of an elf. He pulls Kincaid in with him, who finds that the flames are soothing to his grief. He says to The One in the Deep: "You need to confront your grief". The One in the Deep replies "**** you", and his body is destroyed, and he is dissipated. Elenor, The Hungry One, Claire, and Marion find themselves back up at the top of the well.

Kincaid finds himself in Eternity now, facing Thieran and Honey. He hugs Honey tightly, and looks up. He finds this new world soothing. He informs Thieran that he's got an eternity of card games. Thieran groans, and they turn to the road and follow it into the light.

Back in the world, Marion starts to move aimlessly. Claire tries to reassure her that she lived for a reason and did help destroy all the evil in the world. Elenor and The Hungry One persuade her she has good in her, and that she shouldn't kill herself like she intends. Marion says that she won't kill herself, but that she won't go back with them. She'll go and do what good she can in the world awhile, and promises that they will all see her again.

Epilogues

Elenor goes back home, marries Luke, and convinces the country to give up slavery peaceably. She is regarded as a hero amongst the spiders, and lives on to a ripe old age with Luke.

The Hungry One becomes a vigilante in a neighboring barony, prowling the streets to devour evil. He is known as a doer of good and, while not everyone accepts him, the people he protects know he is good and protect and love him.

Claire tries to go back to the Church, but they don't accept her. Disillusioned, she runs into her old unit of knights, who accept her anyway. She continues to be a champion of justice, even if the Church doesn't accept her visions, which she never receives again.

A city is built over the well, so that no one can ever go into or come out of it ever again. A statue is put directly over the site, commemorating Kincaid and Honey.

The Last Scene

When Elenor gets back she finds Luke in the chapel, and tells him that she didn't kill Marion because Marion saw the good she could do, and she renounced the evil she had done. He accepts her decision, and tells her that she did what he wouldn't have been able to do, and that he admired that. He says that the marriage is schedule, and that he's getting the annulment well under way. After hearing about Kincaid, he smiles and says "Someone around should find rest around here, but not us." Elenor smiles at Luke.

"No, not yet." And they walk out of the chapel.

[Here, at the end of the notes, are two quotes from me. I include them because they thought it was worthwhile to note them:

"All you need to do is push..."
"Failure and success don't matter, try"]

Revenge of the Countess of Fire Chapter Seven

These are the notes from my Burning Wheel game Revenge of the Countess of Fire. I figured that now that we're at a certain point I'll put up the play report. Check out the tag "Revenge of the Countess of Fire" for more posts!




Elenor starts talking to the guy she brought up with her at the end of Chapter Five. He shouts "Look! to the left!" at a familiar girl with one arm running by. Hope has a sword floating by her stump, screaming that she can't seem to let get the sword to go away. This gives the man the opportunity to bolt, and he takes it. Elenor gives chase, but the man is remarkably fast for his size, and easily outpaces her, even in the fullplate.  Elenor bumps into Kincade and The Hungry One, and they fill her in on Claire's condition. They bring Claire to a doctor to help Claire recover faster, but Kincade gets into an argument with the doctor about who's the better healer. Kincade eventually just takes over for the doctor. 

Elenor tells them about the one-armed girl with the sword. The Hungry One immediately volunteers to go find her, and Elenor says she'll tag along. When asked why he cared so much about the girl, The Hungry One intentionally dodges the question, and eventually Elenor just drops it. As they go outside, a girl shouts "It's a wolf!" and the crowd gets whipped up into a frenzy. Kincade pops out of nowhere and calms the crowd down, enough for a little child to come up and hug The Hungry One's leg! The Hungry One, bashful and a bit irritated, growls at the child and tries to shake him off, scaring the kid. Elenor and Kincaid find The Hungry One's discomfort hilarious, particularly when the mother of the child comes to take him away and The Hungry One informs the mother that he won't eat the kid... this time. And with that all hopes for finding the girl vanish, as she has too much of a head start and they still have to look after Claire. 

They go back to see Claire, and she informs them of the vision that she had. Luke overhears it and barges in, overwhelmed with grief at the accusations thrown at his wife. They try to find The Countess, only to find that she's gone. Claire suggests taking Luke to the dungeon, so he can see what his wife has been up to. 

They take him down to the catacombs, and Kincade fills Luke in on what his wife was up to. Luke sits down on the ground, and with tears in his eyes informs them all that if they want to do something, now is the time to do it, before Luke does something he'll regret. Elenor tries to comfort him, but Luke gives her a dagger that the Countess had given him for an anniversary present and tells her to kill the Countess with it. As Elenor walks away Luke informs her that the two of them married could make for a strong alliances, and their baronies would be better off for it. When asked why he's talking about the future like this, Luke states that since the past and the present are currently destroyed for him all he has left is the future. Elenor agrees to the alliance, and leaves with Kincaid and The Hunry One. 

Kincade explains to the group that he knows of the well that's shown in Claire's vision, and that he's had dealings with The One in the Deep before he got the Black Stone. When asked what The One in the Deep is, Kincade only says that he wished that he knew. No one knows, but he's been there for as long he can remember. But it's time to know what this thing is. It'll take about a month to get to the well.

They get a cart for Claire, who will be healed up by the time they get to the mountain. Luke sees them off, and Elenor tells Luke he better be there when she returns. He nods and wishes them luck. 

Most of the way is uneventful, but during the trip The Hungry One smells human blood and wants to "go hunting". Elenor points out the nearby human tracks with bloody in them, and asks if he was going to hunt humans. The Hungry One tells her no, but that he'll allow her to come along. They leave Kincaid with Claire, who's just started walking again, and off they go. Following the tracks, they come to the edge of a forest and decide to go in and become surrounded by wolves.  

In the midst of this circle they find a whole bunch of children, who are being guarded by Hope, who still has the mysterious Black Sword. Only now the Black Sword is being held by a mysterious energy arm that's appearing to come out of the stump where her arm used to be. She shrieks when she sees the Hungry One. She tells everyone to get back, and fire begins shooting out of the sword at the wolves, Claire, and The Hungry One, which catches some of the trees on fire. 

Meanwhile, back at the road, Claire is found by some members of her order, who are looking for a bunch of homocidal wolves. Kincaid laughs and informs them that all they need is to go into the forest and they'll find what they're looking for. Claire decides to join them, while Kincade derisively sits out. 

Hope has gone ballistic in the meantime, shooting fire balls nilly-willy at anything not the children that moves. The Hungry One tries to tell her that he's only here to help protect the children, but Hope isn't buying that, and tells The Hungry One that she can't trust him because of he had killed her parents. Claire and the knights arrive. Claire tries to soothe Hope, and it seems to work for a second. But she snaps and goes even crazier than ever. Claire finally recognizes the sword. Elenor climbs a tree for a vantage point, and as The Hungry One runs up to Hope, she throws a knife past Hope and distracts her. Claire comes in at that point, and starts trading blows with her. Hope's strength has been greatly increased by the sword, so she's able to fight with Claire quite easily. But the magical arm detaches from Hope and stabs her with her own sword, before flying off!

Hope is now lying on the ground, dying. The Hungry One goes up to her, promising that he will make sure no one else has to suffer and be made that weak on his watch ever again. They go back to Kincaid, who leads them to the well. The Countess of Fire is already there, and she's already started the ritual. She electrifies some blood in a vial and dumps it on the sword (which has just flown up to her). They crack open. Up out of the well crawls the body of The Eaten One, the Countess of Fire's daughter!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Revenge of the Countess of Fire Chapter Six

These are the notes from my Burning Wheel game Revenge of the Countess of Fire. I figured that now that we're at a certain point I'll put up the play report. Check out the tag "Revenge of the Countess of Fire" for more posts!

There's plenty of blood on the dark walls of the dungeon, and the stench is horrifying. The Hungry One first hears soft cries and screams of many people in the cells that are in the next room. There are a ton of maimed prisoners The Hungry One finds in one of the cages Hope, the last member of the family who had imprisoned him. The Hungry One tries to kill her, but Claire intervenes and challenges him to a Duel of Wits.

Claire: You can't kill  Hope for something she did in the past
The Hungry One: Yes I can, and I will.

The Hungry One loses, but gets a compromise. The player pretty much reneged on this, however. The original compromise was that Hope would stand trial for her "crimes", but Kincaid took her aside and told her to get the hell out of town. He gives her some money and to find the Grinslow guards to help break the other prisoners out. She accepted, and ran away.

As Kincaid, The Hungry One, and Claire progress through the next room, they hear horrific screams and the pounding of an anvil. In the next room they find a large , spiked, and spinning metal wheel with Jarl on it. Jarl's pain makes electricity, which makes the wheel turn faster. Kincaid and The Hungry One both dart for Jarl, both wanting to kill him. They both set him on fire, not even bothering to get him off the wheel. Marion, The Countess of Fire, comes out and puts the fire out.  She asks why they're here, stating that she's here to complete her revenge. She tells Kincaid that he had killed her father, The Eaten One, fifty years ago. The Countess of Fire informs Kincaid she wants the stone that he has. Kincaid asks The One in the Deep for help in  keeping the stone from the Countess, and find The One in the Deep is silent.

The Countess reveals that she now has Jarl's lightning powers, and uses them to electrocute Kincaid and The Hungry One in an attempt to get the stone from her. Claire calls upon God and takes the lightning on herself and almost dies in the process. Kincaid tries to bargain for Claire's life, offering The Countess the Stone in exchange.

The One in the Deep agrees to this.

Kincaid tells The Countess that she owes him one for granting such a huge favor to her. She replies that she'll be at The Well, and she wants them to have front row seats. "Yes, I will destroy all the Evil in the world, and all it took-was the life of... my son..." Kincaid replies that it's her son that's the hero, not her. She glares at him.

Returning to the surface Kincaid commands the Grinslow guards to pick up the bodies and wishes the nobility would just get the hell out of time. He sings the Song of Soothing to Claire, narrowly reviving her. The guards who go down to get the bodies run into the Countess of Fire, and she slaughters them all.

Claire, after falling back asleep, receives a vision. A boy comes to her, telling her to get up and come with him. He takes her to a deep well in a mountain, telling her this is where the Countess of Fire's father was killed fifty years ago. The boy tells her he was present when the Countess wavered in her resolve for revenge. She loved him, but in her time of need he wasn't there for her. Because of his role in her damnation he is fated to throw himself into this well every day until she is killed. Claire asks if there is any other way. The boy informs her that he was sent from God to tell her this, and Claire acknowledges that her faith won't waver in the matter. The boy explains that The Countess's plan won't work, and will only release The One in the Deep.

The Countess of Fire needs to die.