Categories: Actual Play, Burning Wheel


Permalink 08:56:36 am, Categories: Burning Wheel, 874 words   English (US)

Concluding BW

Concluding our actual play about BW. This has been cross posted at the forge and to see our upcoming actions, you might go read the answers that followed.

Maybe just to conclude this thread and summarize our (Francis and I) common position following this play test. Please note that some of the issues I'm going to address are on the verge of publishing.

Burning Wheel
This is, in my opinion, one of the best system out there. It really helps out playing and provides rules that helps me, as a DM at the table ; I mean it helps me and my players focus on what we want to address.
Maybe the most enjoyable and eye opening mechanic for me was the character burner. And I'd like to talk a little bit about this.
The character burner, in my opinion, is quite different than the classical character creation. In what way ?
I do see the character creation as having a character sheet and completing it. Character burner seems to me like a different beast : you have a specific sheet, with a lot of little characters on it, that you use to create your character. In this process, there is a lot of emphasis about the character personal story. After this process, you moved some parts of the initial sheet to the final character sheet, the one you will use in play ; thus throwing away the character burner sheet.

Now, would I prefer a simpler character sheet for BW ? I guess, yes. I mean, yes, BW is great, but a little bit too complicated to my taste (read here "rules heavy"). BW is great, but better to use it with hardcore players. And do I have access to this kind of players ? Not really, see below.

Also, which is great for Avalanche, BW seems perfect to play campaign, which is the purpose of Avalanche.

Finally, I do feel that BW and Avalanche is almost a perfect match. By that, I mean I don't see any real reasons to have a separate version of BW for Avalanche or a single version of Avalanche for BW. According to this AP, do I seem right ?

What's next ?
So, here's my situation : Francis is going to leave for China in two months, and for some reasons (including friends of mine living oversea) I don't have access to hardcore players. Also, setting out a campaign might turn out to be very difficult. And, please, bear in mind that I intend to publish Avalanche somewhere this summer ; that means a lot of work, leaving even less time for playtesting.

That said, we intend to continue a little bit of playtesting until Francis is leaving ; at least two games, but with very specific purposes. We want to try out some "demo" stuff. That means single session introducing Avalanche. Thus, no real space here for character burning and we do see TSOY to be a better take for this kind of play. Do you feel that way ?
And note that this is not really a problem as Avalanche is presented as a multi-systems campaign.

Now, back to BW. I do see my options as follow (there are not mutually exclusive) :
- Continue, against all odds, to playtest BW, eventually to the sake of other type of playtesting, or even work on the final product. Is there much more to learn for me in that context ?
- Write down a review, to be or not, included to Avalanche. I do have other ways to propose it, in my blog for instance.
- Write down suggestions, or guidelines, on how to best use BW and Avalanche together (taken mostly from this AP).
- Try to find playtesters within the community of BW. That would mean for alpha testers (free version of Avalanche for those testers). And note that I see a difference between encouraging this kind of playtest and providing guidelines, getting customers who play BW and let them build a community. But I do want limited alpha testers. Is BW really where I want to put the efforts ?
- Putting out characters sheets for BW in Avalanche is not an option I can do alone : I need Luke permission. Should I "push" on that ?

Or, maybe, I should just not worry about it and do nothing ... Or maybe, I'm missing out something.

Our goal, our system
After much thoughts, we decided to come up with our own system. But, wait here : that is no big deal !!! We're going to do a variation of the solar system, which works well with Avalanche, we know that already. And the system works too, so it shouldn't be too much work (*cough*cough* ... see "risky" here). That said, we would like to introduce a kind of character burner in the solar system.

Anyway, the main thing is : time is limited. I would prefer to spend time working out on this variation and playtesting it than BW. You see my problem ?

But maybe, there could be a couple of very little things I could do to close down the BW issue that would really pay off. Any suggestions ?
And please, keep in mind that I want Avalanche to be open about systems. That is one of our main publishing goal.



Permalink 05:17:00 pm, Categories: Actual Play, 747 words   English (US)

Learning about TSOY

Maybe you remember (or maybe not) my article concerning the last game I played using TSOY. Well, finally, the conversation that followed on the forge, turned out to be quite fruitful, at least for me. I must admit that I'm only starting to fully understand how narrative games work and that I tend to have my old d20 reflexes coming back in once in a while. So, live and learn ; all the better for me.
That said, here are the major points I learned about the core of this system, thanks to the collaboration of Eero :
- So far, we have put a lot of emphasis on the negociation occuring before any dice roll, but only concerning the case of success from the players' part. Alas, the defeat is as important !!! For instance, in the case of the golems, we could have agreed on something like this : "If you succeed, you can go thru this room, bypassing this threat, if you lose, you can't go this way and all suffer two harms".
- Speaking of the golems, another important thing : TSOY takes life and death very seriously. This is why the "survival" of the PCs should be a very rare stake. Speaking of this, when playing with this system, there should be few or no monsters just wandering around, looking for PCs to kill.
- When a PC reaches no "hit point", it doesn't mean its death, unless this is the stated stake.
- There is no damage done oustide of BDTP (except for some abilities, spells for instance).
- The most important ressource for the PCs is their pools, not their "hit points".
- When resolving a conflict outside BDTP, it doesn't matter if the PCs have one or five success. Their succeed in either case.
- When confronting multiples opponents in BDTP, the attacking side who is more numerous just collaborate (like outside BDTP). But, the less numerous side can only attck one target, unless they have a special ability. One important thing : the less numerous side can only defend on "one pool".

Continuing this in our next session ...


Peut-être vous rappelez-vous (mais peut-être que non également) mon article relatant ma dernière partie en utilisant le système TSOY. Et bien, finalement, la conversation qui s'est poursuivie sur the forge s'est révélée, pour moi, très instructive. Je dois reconnaître que je ne commence qu'à maitriser les bases de système narrativiste et que parfois je demeure un peu trop sur des réflexes d20. Enfin, vivre et apprendre. Tant mieux pour moi.
Cela dit, voici les choses importantes que j'ai apprises sur le coeur même de ce système grace à l'expertise de Eero :
- Jusqu'à présent, nous nous étions surtout concentrés sur la négociation préalable à un jet de dés, mais seulement dans le cas de la réussite des joueurs. Or, le cas d'échec doit également être négocié et très clairement. Par exemple, dans le cas des golems, nous aurions pu convenir que "dans le cas d'une réussite, vous arrivez à les contourner, dans le cas d'un échec, vous ne pouvez traverser par ce passage et subissez tous deux points de dégâts".
- Parlant des golems, un autre point important : TSOY traite de la vie et de la mort très au sérieux. C'est pourquoi, il est relativement rare que l'enjeu soit la survie des joueurs. A ce propos, en jouant avec ce système, il doit y avoir peu de "monstres" dont le seul objectif est de déambuler dans des corridors, cherchant des PJs à tuer.
- Lorsqu'un PJ n'a plus de points de vie, cela ne signifie pas sa mort, à moins que ce n'en soit l'enjeu.
- Il n'y a pas de points de dégâts d'infligés à l'extérieur de BDTP (à l'exception de certaines habiletés, tels les sorts).
- La ressource la plus importante pour les joueurs est les points de leurs différents pools. Ce ne sont donc pas les points de vie.
- Lors de la résolution de conflit à l'extérieur de BDTP, peu importe le nombre de succès des joueurs. S'ils gagnent, ils gagnent, que ce soit avec un ou cinq succès.
- Pendant BDTP, lors de combats où un des groupes est plus nombreux, ces derniers collaborent normallement (comme à l'extérieur de BDTP). A noter qu'un défenseur ne peut se protéger que contre "un pool" à la fois.

Bon, la suite lors de notre prochaine partie ...



Permalink 04:30:33 am, Categories: Actual Play, 1942 words   English (US)

First AP post : an example of play

First article of a new category, Actual Play (aka AP), which is there to present factual examples of play session. After all, this is the final objective of any rpg creation.

I've cross posted at the forge and you can find the discussion here : [Avalanche using TSOY] - Battles, battles and more battles ...

You'll notice that I don't master this master, yet. But, I'll come to it very soon I guess.

Here's the original description :

Well, continuing our adventures (and playtesting) of Avalanche. So, here it goes ...

The context
We had not been playing for a while now : almost ten months (since my child was born) !!! For one reason or another (seven to nine weeks of vacations in France tends to complicate those kind of things) we didn't have the chance to play. Well, now we're back again and ready to play on a more regular basis for the coming months !!! It was our second session using the solar system and our 18th (or so) overall session.

The game in itself
Last time we played, we left the game at the beginning of a big battle : the PCs were entering into a catacomb, as other militaries were there to hunt down a great menace. The good news was that the players didn't have to take any political parts ; since the last time we played was so long ago, they had to take their time to put all the pieces together.
It turned out we played more than three hours of battles !!! We had never done that before ... Overall, we played two days (also a first) into the calendar.
It was quite fun : a good game to restart. By the time the session was over, they had put back all the pieces together ...

About Avalanche
We did almost nothing concerning the plot (so few days into the calendar), so we didn't learn much about Avalanche. That said, here's a couple of things that came to me :
- They were facing a very strong foe. In fact, they wouldn't have stand a chance confronting him directly. It reminded me that the "levels of strength" of the proganists depict in the plot are various. Sometimes, the PCs are strong enough, sometimes not. It is for them to make the call ...
- The pace is [i]so slow[/i]. At the end, they were trying to figure out what to do next. They are aware that if they stay in this city to continue the hunt, this will take much time. Their primary objective (I'll come to that later) is to save the king. To acheive it they have a deadline of less than a month and much ground to cover. I don't think they'll stay in this city.
- The impact of things happening in the world. Previously, they chose to go south as other main characters (Theobald) went north. At the end of the session, they heard news (rumors, maybe ?) from that region. They had not been there for the last month. Their reaction was immediate : "Ho no !!! Maybe this won't go as we planned. They are making mistakes. They will be in trouble soon ..." Giving their knowlegde of the world (they traveled a lot and know many characters), even if they choose a different paths, they also try to be kept informed about other plots, almost ready to jump into them if needed. That's cool. Well, that's what I'm looking for.
- We debriefed after the game about their feelings toward the "cycles" problematic (they started with no memory of who they are) : everything seems fine according to them. They have so much on their hands that this goes into the background. Still interesting to them, but in the very long term.

About the solar system

This is the right choice
We're getting into it, and pretty deep. I still find it amusing and somehow strange. For instance, the first time we came to throw dices, we negociated about the results and not the intent !!! We realised it soon enough. Repeating myself here from other posts, but this all make so much more sense !!!
Otherwise, strange as it is, the session was almost constitute of battles, but still, TSOY worked out pretty well. The pace is fast and I find it more exciting than the usual hit points system of d20. And note that never the PCs chose to break down the pain and they realised it is pretty risky : once you're into it, it goes very fast !!!
Last thing maybe : I kept the battles to a minimum. The PCs affronted "archetypes" of adversaries. Once they would have defeated them, they would not fight them again. This seems fine with everyone ...

For one reason or another, the first time we played, the PCs didn't have keys. A big mistake. So, at the beginning of the session, we chose keys for them.
I like not giving the xp to the players, it's great !!! And they are really encourage to hit those as it is their only way to progress. Well, by the end of the session, they made between 7 and 15 xp each, which seems like a good advance.
I think playing without keys doesn't make much sense I guess ...

I'm currently working with Eero to make an adaptation of the solar system for Avalanche (to be honest, Eero is doing all the job, I just reread and help ...). Eero came with a problematic and a solution, so I playtested it ...
The solar system, as it is build with the keys, doesn't necessarily encourage group adventuring, as PCs might be tempted to split any group as to hit their keys. But Avalanche is maybe best suited for group adventuring. So, Eero is trying to come up with some kind of mechanics to encourage this.
Here's an example :

Secret of the Party Quest
The character's adventuring party takes on a side quest, which may modify or extend the goals of the party. The character and his whole party is considered to have the Key of the Quest for the quest in question, except that it cannot be bought off by any other character. Each character may only have one Secret of the Quest at a time, and the Secret is removed when the player opts to buy off the Key.

Key of the Quest
The character has a quest he has committed to.
1 xp - Investigate about the quest.
2 xp - Act towards the quest.
5 xp - Make significant progress in the quest.
Buyoff - Fulfill the quest, or abandon it.

Now, that's something I really wanted to playtest, so I gave the secret and key to the each member of the group. But which quest ? That's the funny part.
First of all, we agree that a quest is not to be understand in a strict Avalanche way. It is not necessarily a [i]story[/i]. It could be a subplot, or quite franckly, anything ... The big dilemma for the players was : "do we go for a long term quest, that will probably last all the way to the end, or a smaller one, and rechange later ?". For instance, they could have chosen a quest related to their sudden appearance into the world (cycling), that would last until the end.
They decided to choose a small one : the quest to save the king of Carcandas. Well, that's not a story, not even a subplot. No one cares about the king ... except the PCs now !!! I don't know exactly why, they got into their mind that the king would be assassinated on his birthday. I guess you could see it that way. He'll need rescue, that's for sure, but things are not exactly as the players think they are. Anyway, this seems to me like a viable quest, so that's fine.
But what would happen if the PCs come to choose a non viable quest ?

They hitted that key only once during the session, for 2 XPs. They "discovered" that the ones who are helping the guys they were hunting are also the ones that would try to kill the king. Major information from their point of view. But it's not exactly like that. I chose to let them take the XPs (anyway, I don't manage that anymore) and let them believe they were right.

Talking with the players about this key, they find it very nice and very coherent with Avalanche. That way they would be able to hit keys altogether. Now, they told me that this key wouldn't have prevented them to change plots all the time. They think it is very useful to the DM. Given the numbers of plots they can take part in, this key may help he DM for his preparation. I guess they are right.

A quick question : what would prevent PCs to choose a very small quest for a short period of time and then come back to the other ? Once they leave a quest, can they retake it afterward ?

We've came across some difficulties and interrogations about the use of Solar system. So, here they are :

Case study 1 :
A pyromancer is using his magical power to attack two undead in front of him. His intention is to hurt [i]both[/i]. Now, he throws his dices, got three success. I throw the resist for the undead, one success and none. Now, how do you attribute damage ? Three to each (thus two and three) ? Three among them, at the caster's discretion ?
We did the last option, the mage having knowledge of the score of the resist of each undead.

Case study 2 :
Three PCs are forcing a blocked door. Level of success needed is 4. According to the rules, we start with the PC with the strongest ability score and then "report" his success level as bonus dice to the next one. We throw the first dices, 4 successes. Then, the door is open, right ? No need to report the success ? Seems to us that this works that way ...

Case study 3 :
The group are fighting a golem. The mage and an archer are quite easy to manage, but the other PCs (let's called them A, B and C) pose us some problems as they were all three fighting the golem in close combat.
The intentions of A, B and C were to damage the golem.
The golem's intention was to hurt B.
Now, how does this work exactly ?
- A is attacking the golem. We assume that the golem would resist normally. Does it need to specify this as an intention ? Can it spend dices from a pool for this "action" ? If A has less success than the golem, do the golem does some damage to A ? If A has, let's say, 3 more successes than the golem, does he damage it for 3 or does he transfert those three dices to the next player ?
- A is attacking the golem. He only got 1 success more than the golem. Knowing that the golem reduce one damage, can A transfert this damage as a bonus dice to B ?
- If the intention of the golem was to hit all three PCs, how would that work ?


Premier article d'une nouvelle catégorie, Actual Play (aka AP), qui a pour vocation la présentation d'exemples factuels de jeu. Après tout, toute création de jeux de rôle a pour objectif de jouer.

Vous m'excuserez, mais je n'ai pas la patience de traduire ce que j'ai initialement écrit en anglais, et encore moins la conversation qui s'en ait suivie.

Vous trouverez la conversation en question ici : [Avalanche using TSOY] - Battles, battles and more battles ...

Si ca vous intéresse, vous verrez que je ne maîtrise pas encore complètement ce système. Mais j'y arriverai.


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