[1 on 1] The Venetian Affair, Session 2

So, my brother and I have elected to use the one-on-one format in a little bit of a different way, opting to introduce and play a number of characters from our situation, and see how their stories come to interact. This session, we burned up Danilo’s uncle, Marinko Kuzmanovic.

Marinko was born noble, on Danilo’s mother’s side, and has been friends with Danilo’s father since they served as hussars as young men. He is an inveterate drunk, gambler, and layabout, but an excellent musician. He is extremely self-centered, and endlessly creates problems for others, but is also charming and great fun to be around.

While brainstorming how he fit into the situation, we decided that he’s gotten himself into troubling with gambling, and owes money to the minor criminal family, the Pacittos. Though I didn’t mention it in the last session notes, when Danilo was given his dead brother’s šargija, it was in a cedar box, which we realized he did not open upon receiving—so we saw an opportunity to weave the stories together. Marinko had secretly pawned his nephew’s šargija for gambling funds, leaving a decoy in the box, and planning on buying it back and replacing it the same night. While out losing all his money, he let slip that his nephew was his “financier”—and then Jovan turned up dead just days later. Marinko is convinced it was his loose tongue that got his nephew killed.

Marinko’s BITs:
B1: Life is short—self-denial is for old women and priests.
B2: It’s not my fault; but I have to buy back Jovan’s šargija. I will get the money from my friend Lubomir.
B3: They’re after me! I must talk to Danilo’s friend about getting protection.

I1: Never turn down another drink.
I2: Keep playing when you’re hot

Traits: Drunk, ebullient, prone to exaggeration, colorful, odd, recondite, mark of privilege, charming, sonorous voice, the story

It is late at night, just after Danilo’s own confrontations at home. The scene opens with Marinko meeting his friend Lubomir Bojevic on a misty nighttime bridge over one of Venice’s canals. Marinko is dramatically inconsolable, and Lubomir takes him to a little cafe for vodka. Marinko spills the beans, while getting quite drunk (-1D penalty), that he thinks he got his nephew killed, and needs money to buy back the šargija (he’s always going to Lubomir for money). The two discuss in hushed tones, and Marinko rolls persuasion to get the money. He rolls five dice, and gets the four successes he needs. This turns out to be a theme for the night. Lubomir can’t help but grin at his old friend’s shamelessness, and says he can get the money by sunup—he tells Marinko to hide until then. Cheered, Mari saunters off down the alleys to the home of an old lover.

On the way, however, he succeeds in a Beginner’s Luck observation roll to notice he is being tailed by two men in wide-brimmed hats and cloaks. Panicking, he tries to lose them with an opposed city-wise check, at which he succeeds. Disturbed, he changes course to see a friend of his criminal nephew Danilo’s, whom he recommended in case of trouble. Marinko knocks on the door of a surprisingly well-kept house in a nice part of town, and is grumpily invited in by the burly, neatly-trimmed Bastiano, whose house is impeccable, and whose walls are covered in his collection of weapons of all kinds. Marinko pleads with Bastiano to help him—I tell my brother the penalty for failure is that Bastiano will turn him in to the Pacittos to curry favor. He burns a persona, and rolls six dice against Ob 5—and gets six successes. We are both thunderstruck. Marinko’s second instinct could not be more fitting for the night. Bastiano sighs that he hasn’t had a good fight in a while, and declares they will bring the trouble straight to the Pacittos. He arms himself with a small warhammer, and hands Marinko a shortsword to conceal in his coat.

They travel by gondola to the little gambling den of the Pacitto family, where Marinko so got himself in trouble. Bastiano tells him to go in first, distract whoever’s inside and get them off their guard, then give him a signal when to charge in. Marinko says he will sing an Italian national song as a sign. He only asks that Bastiano spot him some large coins.

Marinko ducks into the parlor, where an elder Pacitto and his cousin are playing cards with a few players. They can hardly believe their luck that their quarry has waltzed in of his own accord. Marinko plays up being drunker even than he is, and starts bragging about having their money, and more, and looking to play a hand with them. Marinko rolls Acting to convince them that nothing is afoot—4D vs Ob 3, and succeeds yet again. Bemused, they welcome him to the table, biding their time. Marinko loses the hand, and buys everyone a drink. They start getting very smiley and handsy with him, malevolent but relaxed. Marinko gets them to sing the Italian song along with them. Suddenly, Bastiano is inside, cloak whirling, eyes glinting, warhammer spinning. Marinko succeeds in an opposed speed check to draw his own sword and get the drop on the Pacittos. He rolls 3D + 1D for surprise + 2D for Bastiano’s help: a single success comes up. I roll for the Pacittos as they scramble to draw knives: zero successes. Marinko, amazed at his own savagery, drives his sword deep into the elder Pacitto, and Bastiano caves in the head of the younger. The other card players watch in shock. Bastiano asks what to do with them, and, hands still shaking from his own nerve, Marinko tells them to spread the word not to play games with Marinko Kuzmanovic! They flee, and Bastiano smiles for the first time, clapping the stunned Marinko on the back and calling him brother. Marinko steadies himself, and decides he will not hide, but return to his family’s home this night.

Marinko succeeded at literally every roll he made, a stark contrast Danilo’s performance last time. It was uncanny—I wasn’t pulling any punches with obstacles either! But it was just a blast of a session, my brother played Marinko with hilarious aplomb, mercurial and melodramatic to the hilt. It was a big night for a listless bum. Very excited for session 3, where we’ll doubtless add a third character to the mix!


Interesting! So, are you guys basically doing a series of one-shots with related characters?

Well, we’re probably going to go back and start revisiting characters soon. It’s more like having a regular game with multiple characters being played by a single player, separately. I imagine we’ll top out at three or four characters, and maybe have our friends step in as guest-players to run a character here and there. We’re just seeing where this experiment takes us!


Cool way to flesh things out. I look forward to more.

I just want to say, I’ve read both of these session summaries now and was hooked the whole way through. For some reason, session summaries are usually hard slogs to read through, and the narrative arc is difficult to discern, but I love the pacing of the events and the stakes you’ve built into the situation and characters. You and your brother seem to be excellent role-players and know the system well. It’s a blast to read.

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Thanks, Joel, that means a lot! I started playing Burning Wheel more than a decade ago, but left off for a loooong time, and after listening to some of Sean Nittner and Judd Karlman’s actual play, I had a sort of revelation about how to play the game properly, and my enjoyment of role-playing skyrocketed because of it. Burning Wheel really just is the most remarkable game when you approach it with the right attitude, it’s got me more excited than ever about roleplay.

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I’m listening to them right now! They’re fantastic, and I’m learning so much.

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