Dwarves in Eden – A Midnight Kidnapping

My gaming group has started a new Burning Wheel (Gold) campaign. It feels good to be out of the GM’s seat. I’ve been mostly running since around February.

Anyhow, the setup we came up with is that the PCs are all dwarves from a formally very powerful hold. The clan wasn’t well liked, but even together the other clans couldn’t oust us. Eventually they got the help of some elves and the entire clan was forced to retreat into deeper tunnels. About 100 dwarfs survived the journey — that we know of, we were cut off from the Prince’s party and they’re assumed dead. The tunnels are collapsed and flooded behind us, so the only way to go is forward. We find ourselves in a dense jungle. In the distance we see the top of a volcano, belching up smoke.

In play we’ll discover this is a cradle of life sort of area and it’s still inhabited by men — tribal, with spirit binding. There are also ancient dwarven ruins scattered around and huge golem/automoton sort of things called Collossi that were probably built by dwarves in the ancient past.

Four of us were there for the initial campaign burning and character brainstorming. By the end we had a solid situation and solid ideas for characters, but we spent the next couple of weeks (had to take a week off with Thanksgiving) nailing down our characters.

We went into play this week with 3 fully burned characters: Flint (me), artificer turned retired adventurer. Bozkar, noble turned gambler. And Kardin, artificer turned runecaster.

We had a 4th player and he decided to go with a pre-gen — he’s newer to BW and hadn’t had time to get a character fully burned in time, so he took the dwarven coward example out of the book and tweaked him a bit and he was ready for play.

NOTE: I love that all the characters so far have gone through the outcast sub-setting. For one reason or another we’re all seen as less-than-dwarf compared to the rest of our group. But now’s our chance to change things! We’re alone and (basically) exiled. Time to change things up! Smash the status quo! I’m hoping the 4th player decides to burn up another type of outcast dwarf.

I hope to do pretty regular APs for this campaign. Still trying to decide on a format I like for these posts and how to point out mechanical things when they crop up. For now I’ll focus on the events that happen and reference rolls by bolding and putting in parentheses. Also I’ll be wording things assuming some familiarity with rpg’s in general and BW specifically. I’d be happy to clarify anything in the comments if anyone has questions.

The rescue

It’s the middle of night. We haven’t been above ground long and we’re still looking for suitable shelter. There are screams in the camp, Kilgen (a trader) has two infant twins that have been kidnapped by someone or something in the night. The four PC’s group up with Kilgen and head off into the forest. Bozkar manages to find some tracks (successful Beginner’s Luck Tracking) of some sort of animal, “There’s two of them, going this way.”

We all follow the tracks, Bozkar taking the time to occasionally notch a tree (advantage for future Orienteering to get home) so we can hopefully find our way back to camp.

After thirty or 40 minutes we come to a clearing with a ziggurat-like building (in disrepair, of course). Kardin runs forward, his curiosity and interest in the ruins overcoming any sort of danger. He nearly comes face-to-face with a large cat-like creature stalking around the columns. The rest of the party spots a second cat heading towards the entrance of the building with what looks like some sort of bundle in its teeth. Flint doesn’t hesitate to take a shot (Instinct: always keep Marina loaded) at the beast with his trusty Dwarven arbalest (successful Crossbow), causing it to roar in pain, drop the infant, and rush into the ruins.

Meanwhile the other cat charges Kardin. He fends it off as the rest of the party rushes to his aid. Together they’re able to take down the wild beast, but not before Kardin gets bruised up a bit (Bloody Vs between cat and the group, Superficial wound for Kardin). Urgo rushes up in the mean-time to secure the dropped infant, in the shadowy depths of the entrance he sees two eyes reflecting light back at him.

Fearing for the safety of the second child, Flint, Bozkar, & Kargin rush inside after the second great cat while Urgo and Kilgen stay behind with the first child. After leading the trio on a chase through the tunnels (vs Speed using the chase rules), the party manages to catch up with the beast just as it retreats into its lair and are able to put it down and find the second twin.

After loading up the cat corpses (food and hide) on Urgo’s mule Flint leads the way back home, but the group gets hopelessly lost in the dense forest at night (failed Orienteering) and are forced to set up camp for the night. Everyone’s tired and hungry and Kargin is able to forage for some berries (successful Foraging). Unfortunately no one here is familiar enough with the wild life here and everyone but Bozkar is violently ill for the entire night (Forte tests all around -1D for 24 hours for those that failed). Luckily Flint is able to get a fire going to keep predators away.

The next morning the party finds their way back to the ruins where they’re able to pick up the trail back to camp. Kargin, thinking Bozkar’s little knife notches on trees aren’t enough begins knocking down smaller trees and saplings with his hammer. NOW THAT’S A TRAIL!

Aftermath and prep for an excursion back to the ruins

The party is given a big welcome upon returning. Kilgen’s wife cooks up breakfast for the family and the 4 heroes. Kilgen says he owes everyone and will try to help them out with anything. At one point Flint pulls Kilgen aside to demand some gems and jewels for his part in the rescue. Kilgen offers some money (1D Cash on Hand), but Flint wants more. He tries to up the price pointing out the twins may very well have died without the heroes and how could Kilgen put such a low price on his children’s safety? Kilgen doesn’t back down and eventually Flint grudgingly accepts the original amount (failed Haggling).

Back at the table Kilgen demands his fair share of the two large cats we took down. “I was there and I helped, I deserve some share of the meat and hide.” Flint & Bozkar are having none of that and try to talk him down, but Kilgen’s a trader and knows his way around a deal and eventually gets his cut (failed Persuasion).

During the meal the adventurers talk about how the ziggurat ruins could make for a great new settlement. They plan to get the host involved in helping to clear it out and secure the area and get an artificer or two to judge the how sturdy the structure still is.

After the meal Flint introduces the others to his brother, Arak, who is a captain in the host. They decide Arak would be the perfect dwarf to be the leader the exiles need. He’s reluctant “I’m young, I haven’t even been in any battles yet!” But he eventually breaks down under the verbal assault of Kardin, Flint, & Bozkar (successful Coarse Persuasion). Urgo went against them and played up the fact that Arak was inexperienced and young.

Afterward Flint & Kardin go in search of an artificer. They both have connections there and Flint wants to make sure word doesn’t reach his father (hateful relationship) who is a senior Artificer. They manage to track down an artificer that will go along with the expedition (successful Circles).

That evening the party breaks up to prepare for the next day’s expedition.

Kardin decides to give a hand around the camp and borrows Bozkar’s tools and helps some smiths with the various mending work that needs to be done. He’s also hoping to start earning back some respect from the various artificers (successful Mending).

Bozkar goes off in search of a mark. He’s itching to gamble and he wants some easy money. He finds a dwarf with a bit of money that’s willing to gamble (successful Circles). They sit down for a game and Bozkar comes out ahead (successful Games of Chance earning +1D Cash on Hand).

Meanwhile word has been spreading through camp about Arak stepping up to be a leader and how Urgo, Kardin, Bozkar, & Flint were part of making that happen and how they also save Kilgen’s twins. They’re starting to be seen as heroes (successful Rumor-wise by Bozkar).

Urgo goes off in search of Halel (daughter of a high-ranking officer, betrothed to the Prince, and Halel & Kardin are in love — unbeknownst to all but them and Halel’s father, who doesn’t approve of course). Urgo’s gone a bit mad and has decide Helal and the nobles are all to blame for what happened. He didn’t want to leave the hold. He doesn’t want to be stranded in this awful place above-ground. First he stops in to see Kilgen and cashes in on his favor for a length of stout wire. He stalks through the camp and catches Halel alone behind her tent. He manages to get the drop on her and starts viciously strangling her, but the struggling creates too much noise and he’s caught before he can finish the deed (failed Stealthy). He’s caught and nearly cut down on the spot by Halel’s father. Some guards recognize Urgo and decide to take him to Arak for his fate to be decided while Halel’s father sees to her wounds.

Flint has been stalking around Kilgen’s tent eyeing the cart of goods he managed to bring along from the hold. “One measly bag of gems? I deserve more for what I did!” Suddenly there’s a commotion off near where the host is camping and he takes the opportunity to get in closer to the cart. Luckily Kilgen and his family are asleep from the trying day they’ve had, but that doesn’t stop a passerby from spotting Flint (failed Stealthy). He finds a well-locked strongbox and gets into it no problem and gets more gems and trinkets (successful Lockpick, +2D Cash on Hand).

Back in Arak’s tent Urgo is brought in and the situation is described to Arak. Arak’s trying to decide what to do when Urgo starts ranting about how he was doing her a favor and we’re just all going to die here anyway and we might as well get it over with. He wants to break Arak’s will and lose his new found confidence and get away from the camp before someone decides he should be executed. He manages to make Arak falter for a moment and get away, but Arak’s resolve stays (failed Ugly Truth). Urgo runs off through the camp yelling like a madman and disappears into the forest.

The End

The session ended there. We’d previously decided the resource cycle for the game would be seasonal and the GM said since we were suddenly cut off from everything in the foreign land that we’d be making a resource maintenance test at the end of the session. Luckily most of us had managed to get a little cash on hand or an advantage (our share of the dead cats). Luckily Flint & Bozkar were able to maintain their resources, but Kardin’s resources took a hit and he’s now taxed a die. We’ve got a whole season to prepare for the next one. Plenty of time to make some cash and bolster our resources a bit!

Next session may either involve tracking down Urgo the mad Coward or investigating the ziggurat ruins. I love how even though we all knew Urgo to be a throw away character that he ended up introducing some pretty awesome stuff. We decided he’d be made into an NPC (that player will burn up his own character for next time). He could get lost in the forest and possibly make first contact with humans (souring them against us perhaps), or maybe eventually manages to meet up with the Prince’s entourage that we were separated from. Lots of possibility for mischief for the GM to draw on.

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