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Burning Empires: Phase 2, Session 1

Last night was the first play session of the Usurpation phase of our Burning Empires game. Things that stood out to me:

  • I needed some fishing to get started. (I had only one clear idea for a scene, involving the Archcotare fighting a Duel of Wits with the Forged Lord, and not a lot else.) So we dug into the description of the customs surrounding the wedding that featured prominently in the session. That sparked a fun idea in my head about the father of the groom, who, because of vagaries surrounding the clan system and the Church, isn't considered his own son's father. Which meant that his place at the wedding was ceremonially filled by his ex-wife's second husband, Yakov. There were already fun thematic issues surrounding that dynamic, but the scene really put me on the path to emphasize that tension more in upcoming sessions. I really needed to soak in the color of the world for a few minutes, though, to come up with it.

  • I needed to be pushed. While I knew that I wanted this phase to focus on the Archcotare's bid for power, I had absolutely no idea what to do with Jael, the head of the secret police. Fortunately, Roy (Jael's player) came up with a plot for me, involving illicit slave trading on the part of one of the noble houses, which eventually will be connected to the Vaylen spy on the planet. Unlike the idea above, I wouldn't have come up with this one, since I was trying to distance myself from the smuggling/piracy aspects of the first phase. I did put my own spin on it, though, by linking it Yakov's family. Kudos to Roy for driving on this one.

  • Re-contextualizing characters is fun. We had some brief cameos by NPCs from the first phase in completely different circumstances than they'd been in before. In some case, this was just a logical extension of where the plot had taken them, like seeing Goliath as Mukhadish liberator. In some cases, it was emphasizing different aspects of a character's personality or of existing relationships, like seeing Pitr as less as a disgruntled security officer and more as Michael's rival for Miriam's affections. And in some cases it represented a real change in the character, like the decision that Cerelia has a substance abuse problem. Seeing old characters in a new light is important to the continued growth and health of the game.

This was definitely a building session, despite my being quick to pull out a conflict scene in the first rotation. And thanks to the other folks around the table, I have a much clearer idea what I should bring to the table next week.

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