I just started GMing a one-on-one game for my brother and had our first session last night—it was an extremely exciting running. The situation: we’re playing in a loosely historical early seventeenth-century Venice. My brother’s character Danilo Tadic is part of a small, despised community of Eastern European refugees who have taken up residence amongst the canals of Venice. There are two large rivalrous families in this community, with violence between the two imminent. Danilo is himself a family outcast, having turned against the law, and creating a burgeoning organized crime gang. He’s gotten into trouble by accidentally killing a local war hero’s brother, and he needs his brother’s duelling pistols for protection. He sets off to obtain them somehow, not knowing that his brother has just been murdered, and that his whole family is in mourning.
B1 I will get my brother’s duelling pistols to protect myself
B2 I will knock over a local merchant to aid my sister, and garnish my reputation
I1 When my father is mentioned, start stammering
I2 Abuse those who ask for charity
Traits: Cruel, Colorful, Plain-Faced, Streetsmart
The affair opens with Danilo standing outside his family’s delapidated complex of apartments, which surround a small courtyard. It’s dusk, and the sound of two šargijas playing in harmony wafts over the crumbling wall. He can hear his sister Mina’s voice, singing a song of mourning. Danilo lights a candle in an empty window across the street, his sign for his sister to meet him surreptitiously [Relationship privilege, meet without a check].
Mina draws away from the music and finds him, falling into his arms, in disbelief that he actually heard, actually came back, that they need him more than ever now. Danilo’s confusion has her realize that he doesn’t know their brother Jovan is dead. Danilo is shaken, but is still here for a reason, and starts asking who has Jovan’s possessions. Mina starts getting indignant that he clearly wants something, and doesn’t care enough about the family. Danilo decides to persuade her to just help him sneak into Jovan’s apartment, saying that he promised Danilo something that he now desperately needs [persuade + FoRKed falsehood]. He fails this test, and Mina tells him that he can go to the apartment, but has to ask their father before he can take anything. Danilo is terrified of their father, but has no choice but to agree.
They meet the old man in Jovan’s apartment, which has been terribly mutilated. Their father sits alone brooding in the middle of the mess, swinging a sabre thoughtlessly. Danilo stammers his way into a conversation, in which his father repeatedly shames him for abandoning his family, shaming their name, and flaunting their culture, against which Danilo is unable to defend himself. He tries to get his father to allow him to take Jovan’s old šargija, lying that he’s trying to go straight, and become a performer again—if he can just be left alone for a moment, he can get the pistols [another persuade+falsehood]. His father’s Will is no joke, however, and he fails a second time—I elect that his father gives him the šargija, with the stipulation that Danilo lead the music in Jovan’s funeral the following day. Danilo is forced to agree.
He decides that he will just have to spend the night, and try to sneak back in to find the pistols under cover of darkness. But first, he has to comfort his mother, while being seen by as few family members as possible. He succeeds his inconspicuous test with a helping die from Mina, and has a tearful reconciliation with his mother, who accuses their rivals, the Bojevics, of murdering her son. She insists he spend the night, and Danilo waits in his old room for the family’s commotion to die down. He then rolls beginner’s luck stealthy + two advantage dice for darkness, and familiarity with the apartment, which he fails (something of a theme this night). He sneaks into Jovan’s apartment, to find Jovan’s widow sitting on the balcony weeping, and cradling a pistol. At first she mistakes Danilo for Jovan’s ghost, but then wildly accuses him of the murder, seemingly unable to decide whether to turn the gun on Danilo or herself, saying she has nothing left, and only blood lies in the future. Danilo rolls persuasion + acting + falsehood to convince her to give him the gun, and that he and Jovan has been on good terms just before his death. He needs three successes, and I tell him that she will shoot herself if he fails. He rolls six dice, and two successes come up. One of them is a six, and Danilo anxiously burns a Fate point—it comes up a success, and my brother leapt up from his chair in intense relief; he needed a win, badly. The widow gives him the gun and runs off to find her son. Danilo collects the duelling pistols, hides them, and goes to sleep. We close the scene there.
I’m pretty sold on the one-on-one format for Burning Wheel. The intensely collaborative nature of it, and ability to stay so focused on a single character’s beliefs makes it really rewarding. We were both acting our asses off, and it was so wild how the failure-as-twist system just led us right into a completely unexpected and emotional series of scenes.
Also, don’t think I didn’t notice how much Danilo seems like a young Vito Corleone!