2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play

I just listened to the first two episodes of Sean Nittner’s and Judd Karlman’s actual play podcast about their Shoeless Peasant game. It’s the first time I’ve listened to other people play. I did this while making bread, making salad, cleaning up the kitchen, simple manual stuff to do with my hands. I don’t think I’d like to see it on video, but on a podcast, it works well. Hearing two people do nothing but play, practically no banter, very slow and deliberate, very much concerned about the rules and the dice, and forking and helping, beginner’s luck, scripting for the duel of wits and all the other details that used to turn me off, turns out to work really well.

I used to like a raucous table of six players or more, where people are exited, there’s shouting and groaning, cheering. Things go back and forth quickly. What a change in tempo to my usual games. Everything is slow and deliberate. The dice are cast and some words are spoken, the hosts talk about what they see is happening, decisions are made, scenes change, but dice rolling is used like an oracle to see which way a story goes, even for minor things: does the woman run when she sees the elvish runes? Does she cut her feet on a sharp edged stone when she runs? Everything is tested.

At the same time, the rules seem to push for poignant moments – the kind I love so much. In the duel of wits, the two hosts have to add some words to make their points, their dismissals, their feints, and it leads to some wonderful lines. The girl needs to be calmed and it leads to some wonderful lines. A decision needs to be made and it leads to some wonderful lines.

Now, you could say that nothing stops you from saying those lines in a different game. I remember our last session in the Humblewood campaign using D&D 5. Previously, we had kicked some mousling thieves from the upper market. When the cleric saw how desperately poor they were, he arranged for them to be taken into the temple he serves. So when we returned from a long fight in the bandit camp, our pockets full of coin, I made it a point to visit the temple, to inquire about the mouslings, and to donate most of my money for the time when they finished their school and left the temple. I felt the short exchange with the referee was moving. This is also something I like about role-playing games. And right now I think perhaps I can better appreciate how Burning Wheel might be better suited to produce maybe not the scenes themselves but the opportunities that we can use to create such scenes, such poignant scenes, moving scenes.


So glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the show. I agree that listening to AP is the way to go!

Sean Nittner 2021-01-19 23:12 UTC

I was so thankful that Sean made the Podcast available. I take lots of mental notes on Judd’s GM style and how he handles the numerous failures of Vena. It’s not about hitting hard and beating Vena down, it’s about not giving Sean exactly what Vena’s trying for, but taking that focused desire and redirecting with a complication; and those complications are grandiose.

Jeremy Friesen 2021-01-20 01:50 UTC

I saw this post and thought of a hex describe feature.

It users the therefore and but rather than and then tactic from South Park.


Also on contact page you list Matrix, is there a room for that or what is your contact info there?

– Oliver 2021-01-21 20:34 UTC

For Matrix, I’m @kensanata:matrix.org, and I’m not in any rooms.

When I read your statement it sounded pretty confusing, but the blog post makes a ton of sense. And then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, this is why one of the ways to telling a boring story, absolutely. I loved the Swordfish Island example you have for the other method. This happened, but then this happened, therefore this happened, but then this happened, therefore this happened. In my mind’s eye, I can see fans talking about the plot, excited, using exactly those conjunctions. I like it a lot. Thanks for that link!

I’m not quite sure how to use this to build a generator. Perhaps I would have to start small… Hm. 🤔 Perhaps if we could group these statements. Like… how did the ruler of this village rise to power?

[this village was built], but [this village was razed], therefore [this village has a secret], but [the current lord does not know], therefore [the opposition is strong]. I’m not sure, it feels like the results from the table about the opposition would have to “know” about the secret. Or perhaps this is a sign of strong coupling that is unnecessary?

[this village was built], but [this village was razed], therefore [this village is not important], but then [something happened in this village] and therefore [this village is now doing changing]. Now the parts are not interdependent.

this village was built

  • In the old days [old human name] convinced [some giants] to build this castle
  • Many years ago, [wizard] built this tower using spells and slaves

this village was razed

  • in the War of Dragons is was laid to waste by [dragon name]
  • in the days of our grandparents the [disease name] killed almost all of us

something happened in this village

  • they discovered a gold mine upriver
  • [wizard name], who ruled during the time of my parents got involved in some wizard power struggle and disappeared

this village is now doing changing

  • but now [human name] is handling the affairs of [trade society] and we’re recovering from all that
  • but that opportunity was squandered and when [human name] showed up last year, we practically begged them to stay

What do you think, something like that?

– Alex 2021-01-21 21:29 UTC

I think it sounds great! I initally thought about it when you mentioned generating in game books.

For town/ regional history I think its a great idea!

Glad you liked the post!

I was also thinking about Hex Describe and Rougelikes.

The tile and ASCII games look simple but the code behind them is often very smart and often free/ open source (so you can use parts for Hex Describe)

For generating worlds I think : Dwarf Fortress, Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead, Caves of Qud (not free but very Gamma World/A Subsurface Environment), ADOM and TOME (renamed Tales of Maj’Eyal) (Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is really good but maybe not as useful as its only dungeon based)

These gamea do a really good job at generating lived in places and are often Open Source!

– Oliver 2021-01-22 13:48 UTC

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