I decided to go into our first Burning Wheel game without any real preparation. I came up with a villain, a hook, and a town mayor. Otherwise it was just mostly improv. We didn't use any of the advanced systems with the exception of a couple Steel and injury tests, however this was for enemies and the players never actually got hurt.
Character creation took ages. A lot of it was it being our first time, and it ended up taking two sessions. Both players elected to remake their characters at one point after they began to understand the rules better. Cake initially insisted on playing a 'desperate killer' and despite my constant attempts to prod him for a backstory or something he just wouldn't budge. I told him to make a new guy with a proper concept, and to actually fucking think about it beyond wanting to kill stuff. I think the me of a year ago would have just buckled, but one thing I now appreciate more than ever is that as a GM I have to have fun too. If the GM isn't feeling it, how can anyone else? Everyone needs to be on the same page, and while Sophia and I were on Tolkien, Cake was still stuck on D&D*.
His second character turned out amazing. A crazy witch who genuinely wants to help heal people, but won't justify doing it for free. She also turns to the stars for answers to every little dilemma, forcing me to think on my toes. Sophia made an elf who wasn't aware of his own privelage, and considered other races to be inferior and thus in constant need of help. So my input helped Cake create a unique character, but because of my constant warnings about possible game situations, Sophia spread her elf too thin yet somehow ended up not having any social skills at all. This kind of worked itself out in an interesting way though.
The adventure started with sort of a joke. Both players thought it was ridiculous that reading required a skill and a roll, so the first thing that happened was a young mute wandering up to them carrying a parchment. This was their first real rollin Burning Wheel and they used the helping rules in order to read the note out loud together (since neither was proficient enough to read silently). "Looking for Heroes."
The players were led to a town and shocked to discover that orcs and men seemed to be working in harmony. They had a meeting with the orc leader only to find out that it was his twisted dream to see a 'hero' before he died. In order to do this, he would leave the town that night and return in 3 days to raid the town and leave no survivors. His hope being that this sudden life or death situation would spawn a real hero for him to witness.
I initially imagined the whole 3 days would play out in one session but the pace of the game is really sexy slow. We got about halfway through the first full day before we had to stop after 4 hours.
The players met a lot of resistance from the mayor but discovered that his family situation was kind of bizarre. They found a friend in the hunter, who spoke exclusively in nonsense but was sympathetic to the plight of the townspeople. The first major conflict was convincing the town to fight instead of flee, as the hunter knew for a fact that the orcs had set up outposts to keep anyone from leaving.
Sicki, the witch, went to the town meeting in order to sway the people using the Ugly Truth while Arvelon the elf used the oppertunity to sneak into the mayor's house and find out about his weird family and if he was hiding anything else. Sicki, with the aid of the hunter managed to convince the townspeople to stay and fight. Arvelon, however, failed to sneak into the mayor's house at all.
After entering the cellar and trying to get into the main room he discovered the maid was there sweeping. I couldn't think of a failure condition that wouldn't have just stopped everything in its tracks (which is against the rules of Burning Wheel), so when Arvelon failed the roll the maid turned out to be a ninja and drew a sword hidden in her broom. After being ejected from the house, Arvelon then failed to persuade an old codger who implied (drunkenly) that he used to be a great soldier.
I mentioned earlier that the elf had no social skills, which actually worked out in a cool kind of way as he discovered he had no way of relating to the race of men. He constantly prattled on about how things were done at the Citadel and in elven society, but couldn't convince any human to trust him about anything. Also this gave us the perfect avenue to discuss how learning skills works in Burning Wheel.
After the players returned to the inn I decided that the mayor's humiliation and the revelation that his maid was a ninja meant an assassination attempt was appropriate. Weirdly enough without any hint regarding this at all, Sicki chose to not sleep. I later realized it was because Cake was playing up a trait that caused her to dream about monsters (or something). The door creaked open, and when the assassin realized she was busted she tried to play it off like she was a housekeeper.
Sicki woke up the elf and they both rushed out the room, however the maid-ninja was clinging to the roof and fell down on them. They fortunately passed their test and avoided the attack, and Sicki casted Shards which caused a huge chunk of the inn wall to fly into her sword arm as splinters. They (bizarrely imo) decided to tie the maid up in a blanket and use this as a chance to get into the mayor's house. I think the players expected more intrigue than was there, because they rifled through the mayor's ledgers and shit trying to find out anyting suspicious. The mayor was not planning anything sinister - he was just a really offputting and stubborn person.
The players snuck upstairs into the room of the mayor's sick wife. At this point Sophia stopped and said that she had been playing her character wrong. I didn't know what she meant, but the entire confrontation with the wife was really great. Arvelon had a belief involving 'faking it into you feel it' and he marched into a stranger's room and managed to soothe some answers out of her. Unfortunately due to his lack of social skills he was not able to enlist her help convincing the mayor to join their side. The mayor also had his witch daughter locked up in a room in the house, and upon discovering sicki was a witch, the mayor's wife agreed to help with other things for she was secretly a witch as well.