Fire in the Garden – A New Burning Wheel Podcast

Something I’ve been planning for a while is a new podcast for the Burning Wheel RPG. Those of you who are familiar with me know that BW is my favorite game, and I try really hard to introduce it to new players as often as I can.

Fire in the Garden is a 30 minute show which goes through the Burning Wheel system concept by concept, in an attempt to teach the game to new folks. Its definitely a show aimed at beginners, though hopefully veterans will find useful insights, or be able to offer commentary or corrections on.

The first episode is planned for next Sunday – that’s June 2nd, 2013 for those of you who might be going through the archives and picking up on this post -from 8:00-8:30 Pacific time, and we’ll be covering the concepts of Intent, Task & Failure.

I know that this post is going to get fed out to my Twitter stream, and I have a handful of folks who follow this blog, so if there’s a particular question you have about this show’s topic, or you have a good example or insight to share on it, feel free to send me an @ on twitter, or post your questions and comments on this blog entry. I’ll be posting another one for the next topic a week from today, so be on the lookout for it.


Fan Fiction Redux

I mentioned before that I was on my friend Freddy’s show, but I wanted to do a quick update, because he’s just gotten the audio version of the latest episode out.

If you’ve got an hour or so to kill, though, here’s the video of the show, where you can see my ugly mug along with a group of awesome people reading varying qualities of fan fiction!

Grappling with Fate

First, let me apologize for the spate of Fate related posts. Normally I’m a Burning Wheel guy, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m running a Dresden Files RPG campaign, and there’s a bunch of little niggling things that bug me about the system. Not that it’s bad. I’m just the Burning Wheel equivalent of a grognard at this point, and, well, this is my space to rant or throw out questions about the game, or how I’m running it.

Anyway, one of the most-used actions in our game is grappling. As it’s written up in the DFRPG book, it’s a pretty goddamned powerful move, although it takes two actions to do. First, you need to Maneuver to place an Aspect on your target, like Pinned or Full Nelson or something. Then you need to make a Might roll. Assuming you succeed, you now have until your next turn to do a block against anything the other character might do, plus you can take a supplemental action to do a 1-stress hit, move your target a zone, or add an aspect for free. That’s pretty nasty stuff. It’s also kind of a pain in the ass in play, because really, it’s something that takes 2 rounds to do, plus tagging an Aspect (that’s usually free, unless the grapplee is awesome and manages to Maneuver the aspect off). You’re dealing with 2 defense rolls (1 for the Maneuver, 1 for the Might roll), then the free supplemental action. There’s a lot of failure points, sure, but in my experience in play, the grapple goes off.

Now, I should say that none of this is bad. I only really have one complaint about the grappling system in DFRPG, and that is that it’s boring. Really boring. More boring than just going around with everyone attacking, because at least then you have some exciting narration. Choking someone out? Not super exiting.

I said all of that in order to say this: I’ve finally picked up and skimmed through the Fate Core rules, and they’ve done some thing (many things, actually) to the system that I really, really like. I’m sure I’ll post about them after I’ve had a chance to test out some of the new mechanics. But, one of the things that actually could have an impact on my current game is the changes they made to grappling.

Well, technically they didn’t change grappling. They got rid of it. Grappling was always just a fancy block, and they pretty much grouped that effect in with the Create an Advantage action. Which is really cool, because now, it’s a really simple thing. Create an Advantage to put an Aspect on a dude, let’s say Pinned. Doing that justifies an opposing roll to the NPC as long as the Aspect is applicable. Dude wants to get up and run away? Roll opposed Might vs Athletics. Easy, and you don’t have to keep track of how well you rolled from last time (Jesus, that was a pain in the ass). But that gets me to thinking, what about all those other cool things you could do?

In my brain, nothing’s free anymore. I totally think it’s appropriate to have to spend a Fate Point to take any of the other actions. Really, they’re just compels, right? It becomes, “Here’s an FP for a 1-stress hit,” as opposed to the usual, “Fuck you, I’m just going to sit here and inflict free damage until you go out. Cool?”

Yes, that’s hyperbolic.

So, that’s grappling now. I dig it. I’m sure it’ll cause confusion at the table until everyone gets used to it.

Also, I’m sure that this is all stuff that’s been covered before, and better, elsewhere. Richard Bellingham has an excellent guide to blocks and such over at, and you should totally read it if you’re playing Fate Core.

Freddy’s Fan Fiction Episode 9

Ooh, I’m reblogging again! Tune in to Freddy’s Fan Fiction tonight, because I will be on it. This is seriously one of my favorite shows to be on. Did Insay that last time? I probably said that last time.

Check it out tonight, anyway. If you can’t, you can always catch it on YouTube afterward (I’ll probably embed the video here for your edification), or subscribe to the audio podcast.

Something's Brewing

Hey everyone, it’s that time again!  We’re planning a big crew this time, and we will have most or all of the following as guests tonight:








Shareece will be contributing the exclusive story, premiering only on Freddy’s Fan Fiction.

You can watch live tonight (Thursday night) at around 11:45 PM Central Time.  The live show will air on my Youtube Channel, and you can follow me on Twitter to get up to the minute updates on the show, as well as other random crap I say.

Hope to see you there!  We have tons of fun dramatically reading ridiculous and hilarious stories.

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Like Motherfucking Pythagoras

I’ve been playing guitar for a long friggin’ time. Way longer than I should probably admit to, given my current skill level. I mean, I’m okay. I can figure stuff out by ear sometimes. I can improvise a lead. I can play and sing at the same time. I’m about good enough to be in a garage band. Maybe a gigging punk outfit.

Anyway, I’ve been in a creative slump for a while, so I figured that a good way to pull myself out was to follow the pack of jackals I’m friends with on Twitter and sign up for some lessons. I met my teacher on Saturday. He sounds like Otto from <em>The Simpsons</em>, but he knows his shit, and that’s cool. He’s also super friendly. I have a feeling we’ll get along just fine.

The first thing that Tony (that’s my teacher) gave me was some paperwork on the major scale, which is awesome because, after playing with it, I finally figured out how the major scale modes work. Also, I learned a great mnemonic device for remembering them: I Don’t Play Like Mr. Alex Lifeson. That’s , Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.

As I was going over these, I figured out that the Aeolian mode is the same thing as the natural minor scale. This is a known thing, among people who actually know what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to music theory. I, however, felt like motherfucking Pythagoras sorting out the relationship between a triangle’s sides and its hypotenuse! It was Archimedes in the bathtub time for me.

It’s a silly thing, I know. It’s not a great discovery. It’s certainly not new. But it’s been a long time since I felt like I actually accomplished something musically, and that was awesome. I’m pretty convinced that picking back up with guitar lessons was pretty much one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. I find myself excited to play, when I really haven’t been in a long time.

Oh, Fate, How I Want to Beat You in the Facemeat

I’ve been running a Dresden Files game for the Tuesday night Google+ group. It’s been going… okay. Fate, I’m realizing, is not my strongest game. It’s not bad, by any means, and lots of people have a great time with it.


I’ve come to really like certain things out of an RPG, and there aren’t many that deliver on my particular tastes. I like struggle. I like conflict. I like difficult choices. Drama. Fate does all those things pretty well. I like games that offer players a solid direction on where the fiction is headed. This is where things sort of fall down for me.

We had this situation where I (being the big asshole of a GM that I am. Mwahaha and all that) put the group in a shitty situation. There’s a private mom-and-pop orphanage (more like a specialized foster home, really), full of half-demon kids. Think of Changelings from the DF canon, but instead of consciously making The Choice, these kids go full-infernal when they express their basest instincts, right? So, a half-demon that’s all built on rage and violence might start reaching for that extra power in a fight, then pretty soon, rage and violence starts looking like a good solution to most problems and yada-yada-yada you wind up with a super-nasty demon. Probably. Anyway.

So, there’s a group of religious zealots who’ve killed one of these kids already, probably going to go after more. Oh, and one of the player-characters is a Warden, and this whole mess has been going on under the White Council’s nose. And to top it off, the demon-daddy of the kids shows up and asks the group to help him fulfill the contracts he has with the parents of these orphans (all nice and signed and legal, according to the Unseelie Accords). Yeah. I totally gave everyone the shit-end of the moral stick here, as best I could. It was a moment of pride for me.

In any case, the predictable debate broke out, right? Players arguing about what to do. Everyone looking at their Aspects, pointing to reasons why they should do one thing or the other. As a GM, my instinct was to give them a couple of minutes to yell at each other, then push for someone to grab for some dice. But I didn’t. Because nothing, mechanically, seemed right.

Sure, Fate’s got a social conflict mechanic, but it isn’t really well geared for dealing with a conflict between player characters (which, really, is almost always a conflict between players, anyway). It’s cumbersome against NPCs, and it seemed awkward to trot it out for this. I could have compelled an Aspect as a GM, but I felt like that would have been pushing things in the direction that I wanted, rather than letting the rest of the players get on the same page. Or, players could have started an Aspect-tagging bidding war, trying to bribe everyone else to go their way. That probably would have been the best thing, but it didn’t happen.

What did happen was that all the characters went off on their own, and this left me pretty frustrated with Fate. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by how well Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits mechanics deal with this exact sort of player conflict, but I was really unsatisfied with how that turned out. I should have known better, I guess. The last time I ran DFRPG, the entire campaign self-destructed when I put a different set of players into just this sort of conundrum. Maybe Fate just doesn’t handle that kind of no-good-answer scenario. Maybe I’m just shitty at running Fate. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it fell flat, and I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to handle it.

Deleran at the Moathouse

My good friend, Sean Nittner, offered to run a little test-run of Thor Olavsrud and Luke Crane’s new game, Torchbearer. I created Deleran Ap Denemir, an Elven Ranger from the remote village of Nulb, and he joined up with a couple of gents from Hommlet and Verbobonc and headed out to an old abandoned moathouse, hoping for maybe a little treasure, maybe a little fame.

I’m not going to bore you with a full account of what happened. Also, this isn’t really a review of Torchbearer as a game.

What I will tell you is this: Creating a character for Torchbearer is a fuckton of fun. Seriously.

Yeah, there’s a list of questions, kind of like in Mouse Guard, but it seems like, if you’re just jumping into the game, you can pretty much be left to your own devices for most of it, maybe have the GM ask you the required questions for Nature, and be ready to play in ten minutes or so. It felt a lot like playing old-skool D&D, where you roll 3d6 six times, pick a name and a class, and join everyone else in the filth and the muck to scrounge for gold and treasure.

There were a couple of things that came up in play that really highlighted how this game is supposed to be run, I think. Granted, this is pretty much speculation based on trying to estimate changes from the Mouse Guard rules to the hints of what’s to come that are on the Torchbearer character sheet, but I think my suspicions are at least on the right track. Also, from here on out, I’m going to assume a general knowledge of the Mouse Guard RPG. I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments though (hint hint).

First, since we were playing through the Temple of Elemental Evil module (that’s T1-T4, if folks are old like me), we tried to start by heading into Hommlet to start asking questions. What we realized, though, is that, since Torchbearer characters start with no checks, we didn’t actually have a way of interacting with the townsfolk. The only way we could actually start an adventure was by assuming that we’d already asked people where a group of dirty murder-hobos like us could find some loot, and then skip straight to being out in front of the moathouse. I dig that. The less time spent looking for the adventure, the more time there is for adventuring.

The second thing that struck me is the brutality of Conditions in Torchbearer. After a brief conflict in which we drove a huge spider out of the moathouse tower, poor Deleran got saddled with the Afraid condition, which prevents a character from offering helping dice or using Beginner’s Luck tests. That’s nuts! You sit and cower in fear while your friends yell at you to give them a hand. I love it.

Lastly, there was the inventory system. Some people might not want to play the “can I carry this loot?” game, but I seriously dug it. The first bit of treasure we found, after the tussle with the spider, was a carved ivory box, which took up one inventory slot. It took us all of three seconds to start asking eachother who had room in their pack for it (I did, fortunately). That gave me a bit of a “woah” moment, though. If nobody had any room, because they were carrying stuff, we would have had a hard choice – what do you leave behind? I imagine that, when the full rules are available, there will be something about the consequences of putting your loot down and trying to come back for it later.

Anyway, playing Torchbearer, even in the hacky way we did, was an absolute blast. MM Olavsrud and Crane had my money at the words, “New game,” but I’m super glad that this one is going to scratch the dungeon-crawl itch that I’ve been having trouble reaching for the last couple of years.

Sensitive Saturday – Freddy’s Fan Fiction Episode 8

So, I was on this show. It’s a great podcast, and I would recommend it even if I weren’t a fairly regular guest. However, this particular episode contains the first story I’ve written in, oh, five years or so. It’s at the end. I’d give out the time it starts, but you’re going to be way more entertained if you just listen to the whole thing.

Something's Brewing

Hey y’all!  I’d like to direct you to Freddy’s Fan Fiction Episode 8!  It was recorded this past Thursday night, and I’ve just finished cobbling together the audio-only podcast version.

Watch the YouTube version here.

Listen to the Audio Podcast version here.

Subscribe to the podcast here.

Read along with the show here.

This is a project that I’ve been having a whole lot of fun with.  I’d like you all to tell your friends about it, subscribe to it, and even write in with ideas and stories!  I’m going to keep doing this for the foreseeable future.  You won’t want to miss any of it!

Have a great weekend

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