Rat’s Nest: One-on-One play with Roden

Restarting GM-ing

My child, Tabitha, expressed an interest in gaming after having gone to the Phantasm convention in Peterborough, Ontario. She played in a Bushido game I ran, and in a Mouse Guard game run by anyone else. She was leafing through the Monster Burner supplement to Burning Wheel and saw the really cool images of the rodent species called the Roden. She asked “can I be a rat assassin” and I said yes.

This is the first GM-ing I have done in a long time. The Bushido experience was a while ago. I wasn’t even gaming before COVID hit. I kept falling into the same old habits and didn’t want to foist them on anyone anymore.

There will be a series of posts detailing how the 1-on-1 game with a relative novice goes. Tabitha began with color: a rat assassin, hairless and pink, wearing a cloak. (She’s a very private person and I will not post her drawings w.o. her permission.)

The setting was designed entirely to provide a rat assassin to do some subversion. Burning Wheel has “settings” where a character gathered experience and the territory needs to have locations for those generic settings. So there is a big city with underground tunnels — think Lankhmar and Waterdeep. There is a forest where a few of the more bucolic Roden have a little settlement and have made an uneasy peace with the Great Spiders and Great Wolves that share the forest. The city is under the authority of a Grand Duke who is impatient with the ancient privileges given to Freeport. So Men of the city and attached to the Duke are putting pressure on the Roden.

I want to follow the guidance in Burning Wheel about how to push on beliefs to get play happening.

Further posts to come. Wish us luck.

I have a Setting (the Duchy and Freeport). The opening situation is this: Ötlet is in a vulnerable place and at a loose end for what to do. He is uncertain about what to do next to get improve the lot of the Roden in Freeport. The NPCs that were part of the Relationships specified during character creation will all approach him with challenging opportunities.

Ötlet’s beliefs are:

  • I will bring justice to any Roden harmed by the humans [large goal]
  • No one will shake the resolve my years of exile have given me [personal enduring value]
  • I must earn Sliver [a Roden missionary working to bring the Roden below Freeport back to the true worship of Acer, and away from the dangerous Society]


  • Always spot somewhere to hide when entering a new locale
  • Point out greatest threat to my buddy Mallet with silent & secret signals
  • Never put a plan into action without having cast a horoscope first

Link to Setting Maps



11 responses to “Rat’s Nest: One-on-One play with Roden”

  1. [Having difficulty editing posts. Here are some corrections]

    “The setting was designed entirely to provide a rat assassin [opportunities] to do some subversion.”

    “He is uncertain about what to do”

    “* I must earn [the respect of] Sliver

  2. Tabitha used the Relationships rules to create 3 NPCs

    * Mallet Kalapacs: punchy friend from Otlet’s
    Exile days.
    Belief: “A lot of problems can be fixed with one good punch.”
    * Apro: kid sister mad at him for disappointing and abandoning mom
    Belief: “Otlet must be made to make good all the suffering he caused mother.” This is difficult because the mother is deceased
    * Silver Szorme, a determined religious fanatic
    Belief: “Otlet must be redeemed and made to serve Acer’s worshipers dwelling Bellow.”

  3. Otlet’s Final Form

    The character is not actually a blade and poision and bomb assassin. There are lots of leadership and planning skills. Otlet is a radical full of ambitious plans, and great confidence in his own genius, but has no Affinities with any groups and no allies. Think of exiled Marx in Paris scribbling away with radical newspapers but no actual fomulated doctrine and no participation in any groups.

    There is no immediate physical threat or crisis in the starting scene: Otlet at his shack trying to come up with a course of action that will make a difference to his people. It seems a little passive but this is a character who really wants to make a difference so not knowing what to do next is a crisis. I am curious about how Otlet will respond to the courses of action offered by family, friends, and foe. There is a possible change in the situation brought about by an unexpected detachment of the Cataphracts of the Eternal Overlord clomping down the Royal Road towards the Duke’s fortress.

    • I think you are approaching this game in a whole new way. What you’ve described in this comment makes a lot of sense to me, especially in light of the NPCs/Relationships that Tabitha created – and whom now you will play. I look forward to you not GMing NPCs but simply playing them.

    • I’m also looking forward to seeing how this plays out. I’m currently also in a 1-on-1 Burning Wheel game, but on the other side of the screen. We’ve been finding that giving a character a bit of room to breathe and maneuver works very well in BW (as opposed to the sort of constant-Bang advice that is at least semi-embedded in the culture of play surrounding the game).

  4. Erik, I live for the day one of the young people in my life points at a game, comic book, or novel cover to ask, “Can I be THAT?” and I get to say, “Yes you can!” Looking forward to reading along!

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