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[Burning Wheel] Burning Skype: Hateful Orcs


Or call me Judd
Validated User
The Set-Up

So, two buddies, both fathers of young children, exchanged e-mails with me within 24 hours about how they wanted another game in their life.

Rich and I had been instant messaging about gaming and how we do what we do. We hadn't gamed together. Shit, we hadn't ever met (but will do so at Gen Con '07).

Jim is the guy who mentored me into GMing for the first time when I was 13. I hadn't gamed with him for a while and I really dig gaming with him. He's intense and surprising and fun.

The three of us set up a time to meet over Skype and I proposed we play BW. Both were interested in Burning Wheel, so we were going to decide on a campaign direction, so they could burn up characters and we'd e-mail via yahoo group about the Beliefs and Instincts.

Rich's sign-in name is Orklord and I reckoned that Jim would dig playing a BW orc.

I proposed two orcs whose horde was just eradicated, stuck behind enemy lines, deep in the Elven Lands. At this point Rich and Jim started going through the Character Burner, looking over lifepaths.

In future games, I'll ask players to read all of the traits for any stock that they have interest in. Traits are where the setting tidbits for BW are hidden.

I asked that there would be no gory descriptions of rape. I want to wince but, let's just not go there.

Through e-mails I could tell they were looking for a little more to sink their teeth into while making characters. So I sent the following e-mail:

"The game will begin deep in Elven lands. There are three Citadels.

There's the gem of the Elvenkind, the Evenstar Citadel, somewhere west of here. There's the Raven Citadel somewhere north and the Owl Citadel somewhere north-east.

In the far north are some Dwarves who have been fighting a war with a dragon for a century now.

Longer than the oldest orc's lifespan ago there was a Avatar of the God of Darkness and Blood manifest on earth. The Whisperers say the dark God struck a deal with a Lich Lord from across the sea and the Lich betrayed Darkness and Blood and the Elves took advantage, turning the far away Eight Legged nation away before they could join and thus the Elves, Men and Dwarves, gathered together and smashed your people into the Broken Mountains, where you have dwelt ever since.

The Troll Warlord had said that he planned to use the battle to come and the good elven blood he would gather to attempt to summon the God of Darkness and Blood once again but that's effed good now. There are orc folk-tales of humans who worship the God of Darkness and Blood, dark cults hidden away in human cities, villages and castles."
A few interesting things happened at this point. They both, in their own ways, expressed that they couldn't give a fuck about the God of Darkness and Blood.

They both expressed interest in the Dragon and his situation with the Dwarves.

Rich began making up a Named and Jim made his grim second-in-command. It was a neat match that made for cool play.

We ended up with two bad-ass 5+ lifepath Orcs with the following Beliefs and Instincts:

The Named, Grbek Pukk's Beliefs and Instincts by Rich

  • -I will prove my axe is greater than Brodok's sorcery by claiming seven times the heads as his magic ever touched.
  • I will gather the power I need to take the horde from the dragon.
  • Raxor the troll lord abandoned my tribe to die and for that he will die.

  • I will attack spellcasters first.
  • I will always take a trophy from worthy enemies.
  • In battle, I will give mercy to a mother
He Who Slays for the Named by Jim

  • I will serve the baddest MF on the planet.
  • Loyalty is good but surviving is better.
  • I will be the most feared warrior alive; I will X other warriors who rival me.

X = really bad shit that I can't lay my hands on right now.

  • I will never be without a Weapon
  • I will always attack the deadliest foe first.
  • I will kill every warrior I meet who is more feared than me.
It is interesting because they each took different methods of Beliefs. Jim's beliefs are more about how he plays his character. He tends to rack up the Fate artha and it took Rich a while to get his into swing, it felt like.

But now Rich is hitting his goals, as he killed the Troll Warlord and finished his mission for the Dragon in order to get the Dragon's horde of orcs as his own, so, he's going into next game with two inert Beliefs in need of re-defining and two Persona Artha points in his pocket.

Online Issues and Play

Play, at first over skype, was rough. The role-playing was fantastic but our online die roller gave us some serious lag. So, we 'd play and as soon as it came time for a die roll, the game would grind to a halt, or at the very least a pause.

It wasn't until the 3rd or so game that we decided to drop the dice roller all together and things have been smoother since. But we're missing something. I mean, we're definitely missing that face to face interaction.

Over skype, I can't tell when they're on the edges of their seats or see when they smile or see them wince. They can't see me nod my head while they role-play. We have to take special care to let everyone know when the awesome is brought.

The dice being each to our own is not a trust issue but it is enjoying each other's die rolls. That's a nice thing to be hunched over the table during a tense combat, seeing someone's action fail or succeed or just barely make it.

We've been using Thinkature but really, it is just a place for me to peruse the map. We haven't used it much at all. Perhaps in the coming weeks, as the combats promise to become more and more complicated, Thinkature will be more necessary and I'll have to scratch pad out some stuff for them to see.

Having the game be just two players and a GM was a wise move and I'm glad I stuck to it. Scheduling can be difficult and the added wrinkle of technical difficulties make it even moreso. We've lost two or three sessions because of cable hook-ups being out or mic's not working.

The Cool Shit

  • Duels of Wits with a Dragon always rocks.
  • The torturing of a captured elf when they were en route north to the Dragon's Mountain.
  • The map, my man Storn drew for $40:

    I love that damned map. I handed Storn my map that I drew in red pen on a piece of printer paper and let him know that while I wanted all of the elements on the page, there was room to play. Neat.
  • Damn, but I wish we all lived in the same state so we could all hang out. Jim's in Maine, I'm in upstate New York and Rich is in Florida. But the cool thing is that we get to game and that's nice.
  • The 7 Dwarven Kings

[*]The first couple of games I ran really fast and hard. I think we all were a little surprised, myself included, at how much ground we were covering in a game. They made their stealth roll...or their Great Wolves made their stealth rolls and they made it north to the Seven Kings Mountains and the Dragon's Mountain, evading the Elvish patrols looking out for orcs who had escaped the horde's destruction.

They've wedged themselves into this crazy situation last game. Now they have their horde but their machinations against the dragon are bearing fruit. Jim's Slayer wants to kill the dragon, maybe as much as he wants to serve it and Rich's character wants to kill the dragon, wreak havoc upon the elves and deal with his father back in the Broken Mountains, who is apparently under siege by some Giant Spiders but he isn't sure which order to do so in.

The Hatred is palpable and they're playing it to the hilt enough so that the evil isn't sexy. The orcish hatred is an awful thing. They aren't angsty; they are fucking angry and hateful. I've never run a campaign with two characters who mostly want to burn the world.

The Why

Setting up and then GMing a game over skype has been really interesting and I just wanted to write about it a bit.

I love setting up a campaign world and figuring out what's where and so on but what is really neat is seeing it all come together and then playing it, seeing what's on the map and beyond it. I'm digging this game way more than I had expected and at the same time, I want to see these two bastards die horribly.

They're awful.

Its great.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.


Registered User
Validated User
That sounds like a lot of fun. I've always thought there was a lot of mileage in the Black Legion setting.

We've been playing over skype a couple of times a week for about a year now, but it nowhere near scratches the same itch I get from my real life games. There's something that's missing, like you said, there's that lack of physical interaction.

Plus everything seems to take much longer online than it might face to face, especially things you take for granted in real life such as comparing dice rolls or drawing maps.

Online issues aside, how are you finding a game with a very small group?


Or call me Judd
Validated User
That sounds like a lot of fun. I've always thought there was a lot of mileage in the Black Legion setting.

We've been playing over skype a couple of times a week for about a year now, but it nowhere near scratches the same itch I get from my real life games. There's something that's missing, like you said, there's that lack of physical interaction.
There is a comradery that is growing but even then I can tell that while we're buddies online (Jim and I have been friends for over a decade now), we'd be REALLY good friends if we all lived in the same city and gamed together once a week, shared a meal here and there and caught movies together.

Plus everything seems to take much longer online than it might face to face, especially things you take for granted in real life such as comparing dice rolls or drawing maps.

Online issues aside, how are you finding a game with a very small group?
Things are moving pretty fast in this game. I'm fairy pleased with the pace.

The small group, a GM and one or two players is a dynamic that I'm not new to and that I really enjoy. There is an intimacy to these small games that I really dig.


Registered User
Validated User
Paka, can you talk a little bit about Hatred and how it affects the players' role-playing choices, and what it makes you feel as a GM/audience-member?

When I read BW I was like, "Oh God, I have to play an Orc," but I've never had a chance to play yet, and I'm curious.

PS. That map is awesome.


Or call me Judd
Validated User
Sorry, James, life's been crazy lately.

Paka, can you talk a little bit about Hatred and how it affects the players' role-playing choices, and what it makes you feel as a GM/audience-member?
Hatred's pretty hot. It links up to skills and traits in really interesting ways that definitely drive the game. One of Jim's orc's traits in particular comes to mind, as it allows his sword skill to explode as Hatred based but it means he has to go WAY over the top in his actions, driving him to further and further depravity and mayhem (as if Jim needed any driving).

Their Hatred stats are pretty low, so they aren't feeling the pressure as the hatred explosion of hitting 10 looms. As the game goes on, I'd imagine it will become more and more of an issue.

PS. That map is awesome.
I love looking at that damned map Storn drew for me. It makes me giddy.

Thanks for the awesome questions, James and thanks to Jim for pointing them out. This thread has gotten lost in the shuffle of the mad, mad summer's end with Gen Con, a move, a long distance relationship and more all adding up to obscure what is really important, BW AP threads. /sarcasm


Or call me Judd
Validated User
The Dwarven Hosts have surrounded the Dragon's Mountain due to the careful planning of the two orcs.

One of them is set to lead his newly won horde out of the gates, the very gates he plans to jam open so that the armies of the rock brothers can enter the dragon's mountain and perhaps slay the beast.

The other is burgling a dwarven keep with four trolls on behalf of the dragon while their armies are away.

I have no idea how they're going to get out of this or where it will lead us.

They could both very easily die tonight.



Or call me Judd
Validated User
The Hollywood Pitch for this game:

Picture a movie that is nothing but Mordor Orc scenes from Lord of the Rings but the camera does nothing but follow them as their horde is decimated and they must decide how to regain power while deep in Elven Lands. Its like two Mordor Orcs whose chopper left them behind in a Vietnam film.

I'm going to post some mini-monologues from various NPC's who have been effected by these orcs' actions. I'm having fun with it.


Or call me Judd
Validated User
Dead Dragon Monologues

Human Mercenary

I saw plenty of fighting but not during the final battle. Truth is, much of that was done in the air, between the Great Eagles and the Dragon. Eagles took a beating, air fouled with burning feathers and bird-meat.

They say the King of the Eagles died and his people won't choose a new king, just not enough left, they say. I guess that is sad.

We surrendered, hoping the Dwarves wouldn't find the gold and such we had secreted on ourselves.

They did.

Took our arms and marched us to the south, to the Stone. Dwarves call it the High King's Marker but to my eyes, its just a stone near the road.

Told us that if any humans ever came north of the stone, they'd have their heads cut off by the High King himself. Gave us some weapons for the trip home, nice enough.

And that was how the Dragon's War ended for me, hungry, armed, angry and penniless.

Dwarven Graybeard

When the last of the human stragglers stepped past the marker, we carried on a bit. We sounded the horns and chanted the victory songs. Dirges for the dead will come later. Anvil knows we've had enough of them this century.

I got ahead of myself, called King Wicks the High King. My officers looked at me sideways for that. How can I help being proud of the boy?

What other king would have cut a deal with orcs? What other king in all of our history has held the title, Dragonslayer?

I thought not.

And now we've got two kings in need of mourning and then crown the heirs. Kull's heir is a pup but his mother will see to him. Bannor's brother will likely want the throne, another kingly coward. Damn him to brimstone, I say.

But the war is over after a century of feuding with the most dangerous beast ever tucked into the earth. Now we go home, with a generation of Dwarves who have no idea what that means, who have been trained their whole life to keep one eye on the sky in case the dragon has taken to wing and who have no idea what it means to be a son or a father or anything else that really matters.

The High King will have a difficult reign, or so thinks this old Dwarf.

Orc Whipmaster

I served a Dragon. Not many outside of my clan can say that. He taught us that our Hatred was a tool, to be turned on our enemies. We worshipped the Dragon like a god. He gave us names, names as if we were people.

Grr'bek Puck, He Who is Mighty and Earned the Ancient Right to be Named, came to the Dragon's Mountain. Suddenly, armies that were deadlocked for a century began to move. Blood began to flow. Our clan was given to the Named, a gift from our Dragon...our god gave us away, like a trifling piece from his hoard.

What does it mean when a god disowns you and your people?

The Named and his second in command, He Who Slays for the Named, will come back to these hills soon, if they should live. But if they return, it will mean that they killed the Dragon. If they return it means they killed my god.

I'm not sure what that means.

But I know that I hate it.

I still remember the name the Dragon gave to me.


Or call me Judd
Validated User
Tonight we did some talking about where the game would be going. After the Dragon died and they ate its heart, bathed in its gore, deals made with the surviving Dwarven King they re-joined the horde, looked over the map and made plans.

We talked a bunch in and out of character and I GMed my first dream sequences in a long time. I remember dream sequences being a big part of how I DMed when I was a wee lad.

If this game was a TV show, everything up to the killing of the dragon would have been the first season, all nightly tucked into a DVD boxed set. Now we're on to the second season, baby. And its sweeps week.

Beliefs were re-worked for Rich's Named and we re-kindled our passion for this game. There's plenty of places on this map to burn to the ground yet.

I'm excited.

Feel free to follow long to tonight's game with Storn's map.

What do orcs do after killing a Dragon?

Grbeck Puck, He Who is Mighty and Earned the Ancient Right to be Named and He Who Slays for the Named dined on the dragon's heart with King Wicks son of Walen of the Lion. All were granted the title dragon-slayer but it was the Named whose axe made the killing blow.

Neither Wicks nor Slayer would forget that fact.

Orc dreams are bloody, violent things, a blending of the horror perpetrated upon an orc during its growing and the brutality an orc perpetrates upon others during its life.

Grbeck Puck's Dream of Blood and Shadow

The Named knew when a dream was infiltrated by a blood whisperer, as his father had done so in his lifetime. But it was his sister this time.

She had sacked Spider Watch, an Elven citadel and the army of spiders she claimed to lead had their father, a potent master of blood magics hiding deep in the warrens. Grbeck Puck was pleased to tell her his own going's on, pleased to humble his sister, as if some paltry dining on elf-flesh while riding an eight-legged steed could over-match the vicious deeds of the Named.

The trolls were giving stubborn resistance in the Bridge-Keep over the Heartless Chasm, fending off his sister's spiders' siege with great rocks they heaved over the walls.

The Owl Citadel's armies were on the move. But to where?

She asked for his aid. He told her to find a defensive position and await him. He would be there soon enough.

Just after a stop at the Raven Citadel. An elf the Slayer had tortured had spilled an architectural short-coming of the citadel's walls, a grate that allowed the river to make its way through had a hole, a hole large enough for an orc.

The Broken Mountains could wait. First a stop to visit some Elves.

The Slayer's Dream of Mor Carach

The Slayer had his habit of proclaiming the orcs as related to the elves. He couldn't say where this idea came from. He just knew it and the other orc thought him crazy for thinking it, much less uttering it. But none had the courage to argue the point.

The Slayer, still nameless, thought the sword he found in the dragon's horde was fine but he didn't know it would teach him that he had been right about the Elves and the orc.

The sword, Mor Carach, the Black Fang, belonged to an ancient Elvish King. This King had found a path, through a fell song, that would took him from the elven manner of Grief to a new way, a Path of Spite. From Spite it was only a short distance to Orcish Hatred.

The sword was haunted and the Slayer's dreams would always be uneasy for as long as he wielded it. He was learning to sing and his songs would bring a plague of Dark Elves to the world, twisting the star's chosen and ocean's blessed with their own magics.

What do orcs do after killing a Dragon?

Whatever the fuck they want to; great pains would be brought to any in their path.
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Retired User
Awesome stuff there. Looks like the Orcs have plenty of options for post-Dragon slaying Beliefs to aim for. It's been really enjoyable reading how the games been going so far.

Would you care to elaborate more on the actual slaying of the Dragon?

Was it fun scripting such a powerful creature & how close was the Fight! ?

How did you as GM & the players end up solving your question (posted on the BW forums) of 'How does one slay a dragon?'. They're mighty tough beasts in BW.

And lastly, on a scale of 1 to 11, how much did you all cheer once the dragon was slain? :)

Like you say, a great end to Season 1, roll on Season 2!
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