Art and the Wheel

I am thinking about how Art works in the Burning Wheel. This is coming up in my own mind since I am about to start a game set at the beginning of the Renaissance (although in a Birthright inspired world, so not, realistic or anything).

Looking at art on the wheel you get some very distinct situations.

Elves, obviously make amazing art. The Song of Form, Starcraft, Archcraft, and their ageless nature makes them able to patient, spending years to perfect a single work. Their artists create citadels sung from the stone, their artists form sculptures of breath taking beauty. Adding their great Will and their years, Elven Artists are wonderful. Adding in that much of it will be magical, sculptures which tell tales of distant lands, sculptures which merge with the trees and let the elven citadels know the health of their forests.

The Dwarves do very little that isn’t functional. Only White Metal Artifice and Gem Artifice have non-useful functions, although Hallmaster will likely be used to create wonderful works of art. Dwarven artists aren’t likely creating paintings and sculpture (and if they are, this is simply a normal non-magical thing), they are building axes and armour, things they are can use. Likely they have wonderful art, but it’s not going to hang in a gallery like human and elven art.

Humans seem to do very regular art, the kind of art that we in the real world do. However, there is the fact of the Greater Muse trait. A non-trivial portion of Painters within humanity are creating art worthy of the title heroic. Sculptures made as well as Excalibur, things which would cause a Dwarf to drool.

Orcs of course Hate all Art.

As it stands, the Elves may have magical skills which allow them to make great art, but Humans make Heroic art which can be only matched by the oldest and most powerful Elves, the elves most likely consumed by Grief. Humans burn more brightly, for less time.

Similarly, Elves have their homes, the great places of beauty where they live to remember that their homes are in a world they watch decay. But, by making their homelands so full of beauty and things of magic and purity, they ignite the fires of greed in the hearts of Dwarves. Likely, the beauty the Elves create to limit their Grief causes the Dwarves to go mad (and of course, destroy or steal such treasures, which of course increases the Grief of the Elves,leading to the deep racial enmity).

Starcraft. Silmaril, Ob 5. Really? Elves are disgusting.

Dwarves also have Etching and the special Dwarven Art of Lithography. Lithography in particular is definitely decorative. I agree, they’re less likely to make purely decorative things—even gems are likely to be added to something else, like arms and armor, drinking vessels, and the like. But they can decorate everything. Their weapons are inscribed with decorative patterns. Their walls are carved with runes and reliefs. Their clothes… are probably simple, but any hard object will be an object of art for any Dwarf of any means.

It’s interesting that the humans with the easiest access to Greater Muse, the Painters, perform an art that the Elves and Dwarves lack entirely. Of course it can affect other things, and of course a few Men will pick it up without being painters, but it’s pigment on canvas where Men shine brightest, apparently.

The Greater Muse trait is open to anyone, too. 6 points, and the fact that Men get more points means the other Stocks are unlikely to be able to afford it—it’s a minimum of 6 LP for anyone else. But then you can have an Elf with G Will, G Agility, and Greater Muse. White art. It probably creates wonderment all on its own.

I’m not sure I agree with all your assumptions about Elves and Dwarves. They can hold true in a particular game, but they’re not really implied. If Dwarves are so unable to control their Greed they’d be unable to function at all; most of the beauty likely to trigger Greed that Dwarves encounter will be made by other Dwarves. What would happen is a whole lot of Dwarves failing tests and choosing to Stand and Drool. That’s true whether they’re visiting the magnificent hold of his prince or the stately halls of the etharch. But notably while Dwarves would be loath to give up their treasures, Elves have no such compunction. Sure, they’re not going to give away the prince’s mithril armor or the finest treasures held by the Elven-King, but they might well be flattered and be willing to trade or even gift away their fine works. How well Dwarves and Elves get along is entirely a world-building choice.

Really, the problems only arise when the Elves try to have the Dwarves make a proper setting for their finest jewels and then refuse to pay. Solution: don’t show the Dwarves your Silmaril. Having the Nauglamír (briefly) just isn’t worth the trouble.

I apparently missed Lithography, and it appears one more step in my Burning Dwarf Fortress “game that wont be”.

Silmarils are definitely an insane example, since I assume they’d be Grey (or White?) shade items based on what they are, but yes, the book simply says they are Ob5.

Well, ignoring the tension that the Dwarf and Elf attributes leads to seems unfortunate. What happens when the Dwarves go here:

I think a lot of Dwarven greed gets Stand and Drool followed by fixation. Think Gimli and Galadriel, and even Gimli and the Glittering Caves. Greed doesn’t always make Dwarves vicious. Some Dwarves can behold beauty, weep over it, and then decide to enhance it, defend it, or talk ceaselessly about it instead of seizing it and clutching it and hissing my precioussssss while rocking back and forth.

Also, I suspect a Dwarf might look upon the great edifices of Man, smile, and congratulate Men for putting in a really good effort. No, really, it’s good craftsmanship! Solid work! But there’s just a little, well… um… Look, give me a hammer, adze, and chisel, and let me get me cousins here. Do a little touching up. Smooth out some of the rough edges, you know?