Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chapter 4 - Dark Magic

Chapter 4 - Dark Magic

GM: David "Dork Rage" Benson
Players: John Love, Joe Newton, Lewis Wakeford
System: Burning Wheel
Setting: The Flames of Rebellion, A Burning Midnight Campaign

Recap:  The game opened in the same location as where we ended last week, in Jahzir's tent.  Arik, Jahzir's brother and second in command of his vast host of horsemen, tried to convince Jahzir to ally with Fergus Redgard in his attempt to bring down the Duke and establish House Redgard as the rulers of the North.  Jahzir, under orders by the Kalif to ensure peace with the Dorn and to quash any attempts at rebellion, refused to consider it.  He argued that he was there under the Kalif's orders and that his personal feelings or the feelings of his brother could not supersede his orders.  A fantastic battle of wits ensued in which Jahzir did a tremendous amount of damage to Arik's body of argument in the first volley.  It looked like it was over as Arik was forced to stand and drool for the next volley.  However, Jahzir's point fell flat and Arik was able to marshal all his persuasive power (and a helper die from Magnus) to crush Jahzir's argument in the final volley.  Jahzir agreed to meet with Fergus and support him if it was in the Kalif's best interest as long as Arik agreed to help him eliminate any Dornish Earls who were pushing for open rebellion.  

Back in Erenhead, Fergus discovered from his wife that their son, Ethan, was no longer in the city.  He had been fostered by the Duke for several years but appears to have been removed from the city for reasons unknown.  Fergus refused to allow his wife to confront the Duke and declined to take action on the matter himself, much to his wife's surprise.  He left her fuming with impotent rage at the situation.  Happy wife, happy life, eh Fergus?

Joe (Fergus' player) decides that he would like to have had one of his men following his sister about.  His sister, Caitlin, stole the House's ancestral weapon and wounded her father in the attempt (as seen in last week's AP report).  Fergus successfully circled up a spy by the name of Conall Crannach.  He found Conall in a seedy poor-man's hospital in the poor section of Erenhead.  In the course of his attempt to follow Caitlin he had been attacked and stabbed in the leg.  He lost her tail but discovered that she'd been frequenting a tavern called the Pig and Whistle.  The wound, however, was festering so quickly and so badly that Conall would almost certainly have to lose his leg or die.  Fergus feared the wound was magical in nature, so set his men to trying to find Magnus to consult with and, hopefully, treat his man.

Back in the tent city, Arik and Magnus decided to check in on the prisoner that Arik had turned over to Jahzir.  He was being kept under guard in a tent on the outskirts of the tent city.  When Arik entered, he was almost felled by an odor so horrific that he was forced to make a Steel test.  He passed the test with ease and was unaffected, but poor Magnus spilled the contents of his stomach all over the tent.  They found the man's body under a thin blanket; his muscles were clenched tight and his mouth was twisted in a rictus of agony.  When Arik uncovered his face, a mass of flies poured from the open mouth and filled the tent.  Magnus, fearing sorcery, slipped into Mage Sight and surveyed the body.  He was able to detect black currents of foul magic such as he'd never encountered before.  The ring that had been given him by the Elf Queen, Aradil, grew so cold on his hand that he was forced to remove it or suffer frost burns.

Arik decided to take the matter to Sunulael, the Sahi of the Sorshef and Grand Vizier to the Kalif (a character who has had no screen time yet).  Arik and Magnus were turned away again, this time forcibly by the Sahi's three sorcerous assistants. They did hear shouting from within the Star Tent and identified the voice as that of Jahzir.  This was the second time today that Jahzir has been in the Star Tent.  Eventually, Arik gave up and the pair returned to Erenhead where they were met by Fergus' men and escorted to the Duke's hospital, where Conall had been moved.

Magnus was able to determine that the wound was magical in nature, but he was relieved to report that the wound did not have any traces of the same black sorcery that he had seen in the tent previously.  The High Magister, Vallo Embridge, was summoned to examine the wound and he was able to determine that it was caused by the old King's weapon, Wyrmclaw, a sword that disappeared 25 years ago when the King and his entire family were assassinated by Duke Torbault.  He said that the necrotic effect was called "The Kiss of the Dragon" and it was a power that could only be activated by someone with the blood of Dayne in his veins.  It slowly dawned on him that this meant that a living heir to King Einar Dayne was still alive!

News of a living heir to the Dragon Throne is sure to throw the entire city into an uproar.  How will the players deal with it? How will it change their plans and beliefs?  I cannot wait to find out!

What was great:

The Duel of Wits between Arik and Jahzir was great!  I was sure that Jahzir would win and force his will on Arik, which would have thrown most of Arik's beliefs into chaos.  Instead, Arik secured a much needed ally (hopefully) and his plans can proceed apace.  

I was also very pleased to finally let the players see the effect of the dark sorcery that is present in the game.  We've seen little magic up to this point and I was able to impress upon them the strength and the foulness of that which opposes them. It might not really affect their beliefs now, but the seed is planted for the long game and I hope they keep the threat in the back of their minds.

I was also able to use this session to plant some seeds that I'm sure will grow and bear fruit in upcoming sessions.  I'll not speak too much about them so as not to spoil anything for the players, but I'm pretty excited.  As a BW GM, I have to say that it's fun not knowing what is going to happen.  Sure, I have "plot points" and schemes, but they never work out the way they are supposed to because the player's beliefs always interfere (as they should).  I do enjoy, however, planning for and envisioning certain scenes in my mind that I hope...pray...will come about.  Time will tell if my schemes come to fruition or if those meddling kids...err...players spoil all my fun!

What could have been better:

Well, I have to say that the scene at Sunulael's tent was quite frustrating, both for me and the players.  I have, so far, refused to let them see Sunulael or even enter his tent and my refusal this time did not seem organic to the story.  It felt forced for sure and I could feel the player's frustration.  I wish I could have played that scene better.  

I'm not sure if I impressed upon Fergus the anxiety his wife is feeling at not being able to see her son.  She hasn't seen him in some time and traveled a great distance to do so.  Finding him gone or out of her reach is very frustrating to her and she will take drastic action if Fergus does not.  This whole situation brings to mind the fact that Fergus has 4 relationships that he's purchased.  That's a lot of NPC's to imperil!  I have mini-storylines plotted for each of them, but since our entire game as taken place, so far, over the course of half a day, it's hard to bring them all into the plot...or at least do so without the situation feeling forced.  Once we can dilate the timeline a bit and get more breathing room it will be easier.  How do others deal with a multitude of relationships?  I'd love some guidance/feedback.  Not a complaint!  I love the characters and the relationships, I just want to make sure I don't mess it up.

End Note:  You may find the new format of the recap very familiar.  That's because I stole it from the very talented Sean Nittner, who blogs at http://www.seannittner.com/.  By all means, read his stuff.  It's very inspirational.  I hope he doesn't mind my absconding his format!