Burning Bagratha

The Dark of El'halar
Burning Bagratha Session 1

This was the first session of the Burning Wheel campaign set in our homespun world of Bagratha. It is also my first time running Burning Wheel (though I’ve played it for three years now), and the players’ first time using the system. For one player, it is their first experience role-playing.

Meet the PCs

Cyrene Hypatia—An outcast strider who is also the illegitimate heir to the Ulcrest thrown.

Grigor Wolfe—A secret mage forced to work in secret for the queen under the guise of the court researcher.

Grizzle Brand—A dwarven mercenary being paid to serve Ulcrest and her interests.

Zeik Draconis—The hotheaded blood prince of Ulcrest.

The Prologue

All the PCs were, for their own reasons, present at the battle of Aver’s Mill, located on the outskirts of Darkling Forest. The battle was drawing to a stand still when strange magics suddenly erupted, leveling the town and slaying all but the player characters. At the epicenter of the blast, they found a small, stone fragment, obviously part of something larger.

The prince and his court researcher decided to consult the Draconis family steward, Onmund Arakis, who told them the item was of elvish make. Though the elves had been extinct for almost a millenium, Onmund knew of a nearby ruin, El’halar, and sent them to search for possible answers.

And that is where the first session began, on the outskirts of Darkling Forest…

The Adventure

Under the dark canopy of Darkling Forest, Cyrene led the group to the ancient elven ruins. Unfortunately, they were not the only ones there. The ruins themselves were relatively simple to traverse, hop a ravine here, slay some orcs there, and in no time they found themselves at the deepest levels of the once great structure.

It was here that the drama unfolded.

First, they came across the skeletal remains of a dwarven archeologist, who bore a tome written about a powerful elvish artifact. However, as it was a treasure of his people (and the fact that it was bound in gold and encrusted with gems), the dwarf in his Greed claimed it as his own. Grigor, the court researcher debated bitterly with him, eventually convincing the bearded Grizzle to—under supervision—relinquish the tome until any information regarding the artifact shard could be gleaned.

Then Grigor was forced to use magic to open a vault, and Prince Zeik spied the act. They were momentarily distracted to find a living elf trapped in a cell beneath the earth. After many questions, both of the group to the elf and vice versa, the elf, calling himself Mithrellinoras, decided he had to see what had become of his people, and the new world that had sprung up, for himself.

After he left, the prince turned to his court advisor, binding him and preparing to return him home.

And we leave the group on their road back to Kingsford, Grigor bound by Zeik. What will become of the spooky court researcher?

The Game

Ok, for the actual game stuff.

This session’s blog description seemed pretty short, because—and I’m being honest—Burning Wheel doesn’t do the “dungeon crawl” thing well. It might if I worked hard at it, but to me that stuff’s pretty boring. For me, the exciting part was near the middle and end.

First, the players got the experience interesting failure often in their first session. They are 4 Lifepath characters, but their skills are spread way out, meaning they have low exponents, meaning they fail a lot. But they rolled with it well, even when a failed Beginner’s Luck Carpentry skill failed to fashion a bridge from a fallen tree and caused the thing to tumble away into a dark crevice.

I also got to pit the PCs against one another to ramp up the tension (without causing friend-shattering fights). I put Grigor’s belief that he would find information on the artifact against Grizzle’s Greed stat with the gold-bound tome, which resulted in a hilarious Duel-ofWits (as both sides were untrained in ANY of the dueling skills). I pit Grigor and Zeik against one another as the prince is a religious zealot and “all witches are evil,” which has already sparked two new beliefs and helped form the bulk of next weeks adventure.

It was a shortish session, but all-in-all I thought it went well.

Also, a note to the players, if you wish to write your thoughts (or your characters in-game thoughts) on a particular adventure, you can earn a Fate point for each blog you comment on.

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Homecoming
Burning Bagratha Session 2

Session two was great system-wise. I think the players learned more of how the systems of Burning Wheel work (such as taking action to complete a belief). The prince’s player especially took center stage. However, he shined so brightly some of the other characters got a little less screen time, which is something I’ll have to work on so everyone gets in on some action. Sadly, the dwarf didn’t get to chase his Beliefs much this session, but that’s my fault and I should have pushed him a bit more.

Story-wise, the group returned home with the information gained from The Dark of El’halar, specifically that the fragment was one fifth of an Elvish weapon of mass destruction. Unfortunately, it was revealed that Grigor Wolfe was a mage, and so the lawful prince Zeik Draconis bound the court researcher and drug him home. When they reached the city the mage was drug through the streets, commoners pelting him with rocks and rotten food.

He was sent to the black cells, to await inquisition and judgment. Behind the scenes certain of the mage’s allies were working to free him, but the prince was making the issue all the more difficult, getting the king directly involved and sealing the mage’s fate (execution).

Meanwhile, Cyrene Hypatia was busy tracking down the faction who was trying to use her as a figure head and oust the current royal family [this was the first Circles roll of the game… and it was failed—the consequence was that she contacted someone secretly working with the faction]. Through this contact she learned of a supposed meeting place the rabble-rousers liked to gather.

Back at the castle, the prince later realized that Grigor was no monster [perhaps a bit of the player feeling guilty that he had done this to another player], as the church had led everyone to believe, and had sentenced a good man to death. He first tried convincing his father that he should question Grigor and not the head inquisitor. Failing that, he decided to bust the mage out. At the same time, Grigor was deciding to attempt a jail-break.

In the cell, a guard arrived, planning to break Grigor’s hands so the mage couldn’t bewitch anybody during the execution. However, Grigor used Shards, forcing the guard to hesitate and beg for mercy. Grigor tied the man up, stole his clothes, and locked him up. The mage met up with the rest of the group as they were coming to rescue him, and the prince decided it was a good time for everyone to lay low in his personal keep well away from the city.

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The Road to Stormhaven
Burning Bagratha Session 3

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Forge, Rune, and Tome
Burning Bagratha Session 4
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