You can see part 1 here.
Dramatis Personae (distributed randomly, except the monster):
Brechtanz the destitute dwarven adventurer, played by Franky
Fidhean the exiled elven bard, played by Eric
Robard, the gambling debts-ridden human thief, played by Math
Ssisz, The roden (rat man) cultist, played by Mike
Mah Dhusa, Ophidian sister of the 2nd Scale, played by Yan
Settling into the Game
Following the advice given in the adventure, I gave a short explanation of the game, making a conscious effort to stick to the game’s fundamental rule: the beliefs and instincts and the test and the abilities/skills they are based on. I read the adventure’s sole descriptive text:
You’ve journeyed long through this crumbling, ancient citadel, down through ruined chambers into muck-filled tubes. You arrive, at last, in the wreckage of this collapsed temple. Laying on the shattered altar, in the chamber before you, is that which you seek: The sword!
I had the Roden character roll perception (i.e. an untrained skill) vs the hidden Ophidian’s Stealth skill, the guide never saw the Snake women, who chose to stay hidden for the time being.
Mike (In a low voice): I brought you here, anyone intends to pay me now?
Canadians & Compromises, 1st edition
I’m not quite sure what happened right after that but all the other players either ignored Mike or failed to hear him. Instead, Franky and Eric, 2 players who were at odds about the Sword’s final destination, started cooperating to take the sword back to the surface…
Franky: All right so we don’t see anything? Fine, I pack the sword into my bedroll…
Eric: Here take mine!
Chatty: Wait Eric, are you really cool with the Dwarf taking the sword
Eric (Shrugs): We’ll work it out once outside.
Chatty (pauses): ooookay, and what about paying the roden?
Franky (dismissively): We’ll find a solution outside…
Math: Yeah, we’ll sell it as soon as we exit the dungeon, I need the money fast.
Mike: Me too!
Franky: Of course not, it belongs to my people…
Chatty (Mental air pump): Finally…
As players realized that they had beliefs that were at odds about the sword, they asked me if they could find facts from the sword that backed their claims. I introduced “wise” checks, based on specific, applicable knowledge skills PCs had. The elf had “ancient artifact” and the dwarf had “Stuff-wise”, both perfectly acceptable skills to establish facts about a rare item (I was generous and didn’t call for ” obscure facts”, making the checks impossible for them)
Chatty: Great work! However, these facts reinforce your personal belief that the sword is yours to take, but has no binding impact on others…
Chatty: We have social mechanics for that type now…
But my attempt to get them arguing with dice was to be foiled and thus true, high quality roleplaying began.
As tensions rose, I was waiting for that fine point to be reached for me to ask if someone was willing to throw down the gauntlet. I wanted to wait for that point where arguments started being repeated, but some of the stuff the players were saying was powerful, I didn’t want them to go to “waste” mechanically by being used outside of the game’s “duel of wits”, a form of social combat where PCs can argue and force a binding outcome.
Chatty: Okay guys, I can see that things are heating up, so do you care enough about who get the sword to formally argue for it here and now?
Sensing that the conflict could get serious and messy, my players decided to compromise there and there. The elf and the dwarf would bring back the sword to the elf’s father who forged it and then would be brought to the dwarves. Payment would be figured later.
If they won’t act, introduce more incentives…
The adventure had a section about overly compromising players. One saying that you could come out and ask for more conflict, given the scenario’s nature. At that point however, the players were immersed in their PCs and the situation. They were having a good time. The energy level was quite high and we laughed a lot. Eric ad-libbed songs for his bard and Math played the thief like his life depended on getting a piece of that sword.
That short 30 minutes spent with the game had already outlined just how good roleplayers my players were when engaged. I couldn’t break imerssion by requesting a meta-game driven shift in play. So I went the other way
Chatty (Talking to the Roden and Thief): Hey guys, you do realize that these two are too poor to pay you anytime soon and that there’s no way to know for sure that the elves or dwarves will pay you for the return of the sword. Oh and Mike, the Roden is the only one who knows the way back out for sure. Just thought you should know that.
Mike: Right! Right!
Franky: You are a bastard Phil!
Chatty: I get that a lot, just don’t say that when my mom is around.
The Roden looked around the room and found a few snake scales. Hinting at the presence of Yan. I couldn’t oust Yan’s PC because of a rule called “let it Ride” which says that the result of a prior check can’t be reversed unless a situation clearly calls for it. Yan’s earlier Stealth check held even though the Roden performed a search of the premises.
Yet, instead of plunging into a duel of wits, Eric dropped a game-defining bomb:
Eric: We’re in some sort of temple right? Could we look around to see if we find some sort of valuable piece of the past that we could remove and use to pay the Roden with?
Chatty: … yeshh? Roll for it, Obscure knowledge for sure.
Others helped and they succeeded. Then inspiration struck.
Chatty (making this up on the fly): The walls of the temple have been damaged by centuries of water trickling through the walls of the cavern-temple. You do find one relatively intact piece of finely-detailed ceramic mosaic. It represents a pagan ceremony by the snake people of the Old Empire. You need to roll excavation Obstacle 2 to get it out the wall without breaking it. It’s worth enough to pay the Roden.
Yan (sotto vocce): Well played asshole!
Franky: I dislodge it, with the help of others
Yan (Hissing): Sacrilege!
Chatty: Out of the darkness comes an armoured Snake women, armed with bow and barbed arrows, sporting a head-full of serpents! Yan, is your bow notched?
Yan: Yes, I’m aiming at the Dwarf.
Party: Woot! We attack!
Up next: The conclusion to this first contact with Burning Wheel.