Friday night I created a midwife character in Burning Wheel. That's right, a midwife! +luke crane
(the designer) is in Seattle and I got to jump into an ongoing campaign he runs when he’s in town with +Jared Sorensen
and locals +John Harper
, Colin Booth, Devin Binger, who generously allowed me to crash their game.
In Burning Wheel you create lifepaths for your character. Mine were Born Peasant, Country Wife, and then, naturally, Midwife. Country Wife is an interesting lifepath; you pick your husband’s primary lifepath and then you get to spend your skill points on any of the skills from his path. I chose Head of Household for my husband which earned me carpentry, hunting, and haggling. From Midwife I got skills like herbalism, omen-wise, and child-rearing. I also got to spend all my resource points on affiliations, reputations, and relationships because most everything I’d need for daily life I figured there's a good chance he'd have it (like a house, or a hunting bow). For affiliation I took “Daughters of the Moon”, a local witches cabal and for reputation I took, “The new midwife---you know, Anna’s daughter”. For relationships I took Ekatarina, the mayor’s young 8-months-pregnant wife; Bool, my only son, an 8-years-old child of a rape from when the Mongols came through town; and Alexi, my apparently-infertile husband whose love I have not known since "the Mongol incident."
My favorite part of Burning Wheel is that players create their own beliefs and the GM’s job is to challenge them. You get “artha” (like fate or karma points in other systems) for pursuing your beliefs, dramatically playing against them, and for using instincts and traits to create complications for yourself. Sound hard? It is. But as of this last session I am now a Burning Wheel master! Here’s how I linked everything together.
For a trait I took Hard Worker. She’s a busy-body who takes on way too much responsibility and carries the world on her shoulder. Then for the whole session I could pile on the responsibilities and point to this trait as creating the complication.
And then I created three beliefs with immediate, short term things that had to get done now. One was to take care of the 8-months-pregnant wife of the mayor. The GM helped me here by having her screaming at the sight of ghosts as the session’s opening bang. I responded by making some high risk rolls that complicated her pregnancy and added more demands to my time, almost killing the unborn baby in the process. Huzzah! The second belief was to help John’s wolf character. I didn’t really get to sufficiently engage with this belief, but the pressure was there. Third, I set a goal of having to attend a mid-summer-night’s eve ritual in the forest.
Another trait was Lonesome, because “home is a war zone.” This led to an extra-marital affair with Rurik, the town heavy, who tried to kill my husband. Alexi avoided death by locking himself in the root cellar. So if I play again I’m going to have to deal with being married to a brutal, self-loathing wretch of a husband while carrying another man’s child. As a midwife. Wow, how incredible is that?
Add to all that, this instinct: “Never take my eyes off Bool; who knows what Alexi would do to him if he had a chance.” The GM obliged by threatening Bool at every opportunity, including having Alexi sell him to the butcher (as an apprentice, not for carving). It didn’t create complications, but I took the Light Sleeper trait ‘cause it just seemed to fit.
I never picked up a weapon but I rolled tons of dice, earned lots of tests for advancement, was well-rewarded for my roleplaying, and had one of the best nights of roleplaying ever.