Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Chapter 5 - The Calm Before the Storm

Chapter 5 - The Calm Before the Storm

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 - This session began with a discussion as to whether the players cared if the information about a living heir to the assassinated king became public knowledge.  The Magister, Vallo Embridge, who had helped them diagnose the nature of the strange injury on Fergus' spy, had realized that the wound could have only been made by a scion of House Dayne with Dayne's ancestral weapon, Wyrmclaw.  It was quite evident to the characters that Embridge would not keep this information confidential.  I gave them an opportunity to have a scene in which they could stop him or convince him not to share the knowledge.  They chose to let him share the knowledge as he saw fit and, subsequently, the information spread like wildfire around the city of Erenhead.  When the knowledge reached the Duke, who had assassinated the entire line of King Dayne 25 years ago and usurped his throne, he threw a fit and buttoned up the city.  All the gates were immediately closed and nobody was allowed to enter or leave.

This incident, however, did not cancel the tour that had been planned for Sharif Jahzir and Sahi Sunulael.  Along with Arik and a retinue of personal guards and servants, the visiting Sarcosans were brought into the city through a reinforced postern gate.  They were met my Cuyler Dale, newly appointed by the Duke to lead the tour since he dismissed Fergus Redguard several sessions ago.

The tour was completed without incident and the Sarcosans were escorted to the Duke's grand ballroom for the feast with the leaders of the Great Houses and their families.  Fergus has been waiting for the opportunity to challenge the Duke to single combat and he feels that the feast is the appropriate time, even though is father, the Earl of House Redgard, tried to convince him to hold off in light of the new information regarding the living heir.  Of course, Fergus refused.  He is focused on killing the Duke and he will not be deterred.  But that's next session....

What Was Great 

So many great things happened in this session.  Though there was very little action and only a few tests, we got to see some excellent character growth and interaction with relationships and NPCs.

Fergus, who had refused to address the issue of his missing son last session, decided to have a talk with his wife to make her understand why.  The speech was heartfelt and emotional, but he failed to sway her.  He left her confined to her suite of rooms under guard.  Kali was, of course, furious and hurt.  It was great seeing Fergus, a hard man to be sure, try to be tender with a wife that his actions have estranged...and fail miserably.  He managed to make the situation worse for himself and his wife.

Magnus and Arik had a scene in which they met an informer/spy in an inn.  They blundered the encounter so badly that the spy's cover was certainly blown and he had to abandon his post.  Magnus and Arik got a little information, but failed to follow up.  Their inability to get the info they sought will come to haunt them later as the situation grows more tense.

During the tour of the city, Arik was pulled aside by Sunulael and informed that his brother, Jahzir, was acting against the will of the Kalif and against the wishes of Sunulael.  In fact, Arik was informed that it was Jahzir himself who set up the whole assassination plot in an effort to destroy the Kalif's peace and bring war to the region, all in an effort to see the Kalif overthrown and Jahzir elevated to his position.  Arik, though polite to the Sahi, didn't believe a word he said and swore to take the information directly to Jahzir.  I can only imagine how that will play out.

What Could Have Been Better

Being a BW GM means you have to juggle many story-lines at once in order to cater to your players' beliefs.  For me, that's what makes BW so great.  I love weaving them together in the narrative and coming out with something that rises above typical RPG tropes.  It's like collectively writing a novel with your players.

It also means, however, that some story-lines and/or planned scenes and events have to be changed or even scrapped.  I had so many plans that I had for the tour, which was a central event in the whole situation.  The players were certainly waiting for something to happen and I could almost feel their disappointment when NOTHING happened.  I felt bad, sure, but I realized that if I pushed the action during the tour I would have, potentially, changed the narrative too much to allow for Fergus to have the HUGH scene that he'd been working toward for several sessions.  That scene, in which he calls out the Duke in front of the entire Dornish court, is something that we all want to see.  So, even though it probably disappointed several of the other players, I played it safe during the tour and adjusted my plans and schemes accordingly. Hopefully, all of the things I had planned for that event can still happen in modified ways, but I was deathly afraid of changing the dynamic of the game so much that I would have spoiled a potential scene that means so much to a particular player and has the potential to completely change the course of the campaign.

Was I wrong?  Could I have handled it better?