[BW One-on-One] Part 1, Master Si Juk
About a month ago, my friend Rich (Fourth Horseman on zee boards) told me he wanted to finish up the arc of one of his Burning Wheel characters.
His character, Si Juk, was on a quest to assassinate a pair of wizards. During a running fight through the woods surrounding the sorcerers' lair, he took an arrow to the chest -- a Mortal Wound. He was knocked out of the fight. In fact, the rest of the group tended his wounds as best they could and then fled the scene with his body.
They returned to a nearby city, reorganized and then headed back up north to the wizard's bizarre lair (a crater lake basin which they were draining). Si Juk was going to be in a coma for months, so they took his spirit blade wih them. He certainly wouldn't be needing it.
Rich asked if we could pick up from there. When his character went down, he initially wanted to let him go. We convinced him to spend the Will to Live and keep going. I sent him emails with visions for the comatose Si Juk. He agreed, but vowed to make it Si Juk's life's work to destroy all magic and sorcerers. Fair enough!
It's been at least a year and a half since that game. We'd played a few other times in that campaign world, but it the play involved really high level stuff -- old magic, gods, heaven and hell, etc. In fact, in our last game, the players "saved the world." Awesome. I think we all assumed that we'd put that world to bed.
Rich wanted to play in the aftermath of the saved world. There was a remaining wizard to be killed and he wanted to do it. (There are actually two, but that's another story.)
I was still doubtful. I asked him what he wanted to do.
"I want to start a cult that practices trance fighting. The trance fighters can't be swayed by sorcerous manipulation." Hm. I'd wreaked havoc on Rich's group with Persuasion. It sounded like there could be a story in there.
"Are you willing to play out learning the trance fighitng and gathering the cult? We could do it like we used in the old days," I said. Back in 92-93 Rich and I played a lot of Shadowrun and did a fair share of one on one sessions. We called them "vignettes." They were meant to be side adventures and to fill in time inbetween Shadowruns. What did you do when your buddies were healing up or getting implants? You took side work and got into trouble (or out of it on occasion). In this case, we could use Resources and Circles and Practice in order to make it all happen.
Rich agreed with me. He wanted to give it a shot.
A week ago we sat down for our first one on one session. I was a little skeptical and doubtful. Rich and I have an adversarial relationship at the gaming table. We've had a number of blowouts that have been unpleasant to watch.
During the MW catastrophe, if I remember correctly, Danny failed his Herbalism treatment test. Si Juk received the Short of Breath trait. His Forte dropped by 1, from 4 to 3, and was then capped at 5. Then we couldn't remember whether or not he'd made the additional recovery tests for the MW. We decided that he had. In one respect, it was a hand wave. In another respect, we really couldn't remember, so we just assumed the best.
I pulled out the old campaign folder and a couple of my old campaign notebooks. We decided we'd pick up right when Si Juk woke up. He was attended to by his loyal hobgoblin shaman. Everyone else was gone. They left cryptic word, "One of them got away." And they took his spirit blade* (help them confront the wizard).
We started off with simple practice. Rich was one or two tests away from advancing in a number of his abilities. He practiced his Power, his special sword martial art Takashido, a few other skills I can't remember and then dumped the rest of his time into practicing his Forte to get it from 3 to 4.
This practice took 6 months. In his spare time, he read and reread a book of poetry written for him while he was comatose by the Princess-Regent of the realm. She wrote one poem for every day he was unconscious. Just before he woke, she left with Si Juk's master to journey across the sea (and learn some Terrible Secrets).
At this point, it dawned on me that Rich was going to have to keep a log of time for all the stuff he was doing. The passage of time is very important to this type of play. Because rather than just a series of practice tests and advancements, play becomes a description of the passage of time.
After fully recovering and practicing his Takashido skill up to 6, Rich decided that Si Juk needed to move on. Rich wanted Si Juk to start his cult and the trance fighting. I asked him, "What do you want from the trance fighting?"
"Complete immunity from Persuasion."
Wow. That's a big power. We talked about it and decided that this would be trait that he would have to earn. Essentially, he'd have to get me to vote for him to get this trait. Fun stuff.
So I asked him right away, "Well, let's start with a Meditation routine. What's your Meditation skill?"
He didn't have one. Ah hah! "I ain't voting for you to get this trait until you have Meditation. That's your first step."
So Rich sent Si Juk overland to a city in which he knew the Master Priest, Chima Park. The Master Priest was an old friend of his and they'd had some cunning adventures and stunning coups. Since then, his friend had been appointed as Master Priest of a temple and become a sort of spiritual advisor and safe haven for Si Juk. Rich went to see him and we roleplayed the discussion.
Park agreed to help, but there was a kink. He didn't have the Instruction skill. Practicing Meditation into a skill would take Si Juk three years! I quickly referenced the Instruction rules and the practice times and came up with a solution. "Very well, I shall teach you, but first you must go and empty your mind. Sit and think on this and come back to me in six months time."
I then confided in Rich, "While you're practicing for your first test, Chima's going to teach himself Instruction." Rich loved it.
Si Juk returned to the temple and Chima had a B2 Instruction. It's an Ob 2 test to teach. Each time I would fail the test, I would get gruff and pronounce, "You are a bad student! Return to your studies. Six months!" And Rich would have Si Juk slink off. When he returned, I would ask in a gentle voice, "What have you learned?" And Rich would say something like, "I have learned that wind feeds the flame, master."
It took Si Juk about a year and a half to learn how to Meditate. During the course of the training, Chima also earned a B4 Instruction. Not a bad deal. The process took a half hour of play and was rather entertaining.
During that time, the Princess-Regent returned from The Land of Terrible Secrets across the seas. Her first stop was the city in which Si Juk was currently living. He went to see her.
And I'll pick up my next post with what happened when he did!
*That spirit blade, btw is from L1, Bone Hill. I think it as a +1 Sword with Detect Magic. Another character retrieved it from the ruins back in '94 or something! It's been in our game in one form or another ever since.
"Athos—Porthos, farewell till we meet again! Aramis, adieu forever!"
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