Burning Locusts: Session 1

Disruptions at Villa di Mari

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

Burning Locusts: Session 1 is a game session report for Burning Wheel Gold. We played via Discord and Roll20 on .

The player characters are: Frederico, Antonius, and Ansidora. You can read more about them from

A Game of Go to Size Each Other Up

Frederico opens with a Shakespearean soliloquy imploring Antonius to take Frederico on as a retainer; so that Frederico may improve his station and aid Antonius. Frederico offers to be a face in the crowds, to listen, and relay information.

Antonius responds, “Please step to the side you are blocking my light. Thank you, now, to this matter. Before I agree, I invite you to play a game of Go.“ I was channeling vibes from Episode 85 of Daydreaming about Dragons, in which Judd talks about in-fiction strategy games

In our Session 0, we established that our setting was analoguous to 14th-century Italian city states. We chose for Go to be our game of choice. Based on my reading and recollection of Go history and some strategy, there’s a once dominant strategy of securing the outer perimeter (e.g., the hinterlands) before working on the center (e.g., the capital).

Given that we have Scintillante surrounding Hartheld, and stated that the Cicada Company’s contract protects Scintillante, there’s some analogues to this. Then again, in the 20th century Masaki Takemiya won using a strategy dubbed “cosmic Go”, in which he ceded the four corners.

Antonius wants to glean Frederico’s disposition. Whereas Frederico wants to converse during the game with the intention of meeting Antonius’s expectations.

We engage in a test of Strategy Games versus Soothing Platitudes. The intent is for Antonius to glean Frederico’s disposition and intentions. Antonius achieves more successes than Frederico, gleaning that Frederico is ambitious and prepared to act on those ambitions.

Antonius Agrees to Take on Frederico

Antonius considers for a moment and agrees to take in Frederico. And asks for Maccio—his clerk and nephew—to draw up a contract. Antonius does not seek signatures, but instead uses these unsigned contracts as reminders of obligations and stakes. In a way, this is a manifestation of his “Always haggle over goods and services” instinct. If you don’t sign the contract, and someone fails to abide by it, that is an opportunity to again haggle.

Antonius clarifies to Frederico that in most all of his contracts, he allows all parties to terminate the contract at will.

Frederico asks for cloths that are appropriate for working for Lord Antonius. Lord Antonius picks up his paint brush and flicks paint on his clothes and says, “There, you are now dressed as your lord. But you are right, we should get you some new clothes.“ Antonius does not own finery, if he did it would almost certainly be paint splattered.

“And perhaps a sword?” asks Frederico.

“Ah, so you also wish to train in the sword?”

“Yes!” replies Frederico.

“My good nephew, add the sword training contract rider to Frederico’s contract,” says Antonius as he walks over to the rack of wooden sparring swords.

“Here, let’s see where we’re starting from,” says Antonius as he tosses a wooden sparring sword to Frederico.

As Frederico catches the sword, there’s a knock at the gate.

An Evening Knock at the Gate

“Pardon me, I must tend to the gate,” says Antonius as he crosses the open air courtyard towards the gate.

He opens the gate and sees a dwarf woman.

“May I help you?” asks Antonius.

“Ah yes, I’m Ansidora and I’m looking for a painter. I understand that you are a talented painter.”

Antonius steps back extends his arm and motions Ansidora into the piazza as he says, “Please come in. Frederico is the one with the wood sword and my nephew is the one at the desk with quill in hand. Now good Ansidora, tell me more about this painting you require.”

Walking into the piazza towards the Scintillante cityscape painting, Ansidora replies, “After my divorce, my ex-husband left me with little coin. But it’s my TumTum’s 70th birthday, and I want to get him something beautiful.”

Ansidora’s player asks if this painting should invoke a Steel test? We don’t know. So Antonius makes an Obstacle (Ob 📖)4 Painting test to make a polychromatic painting. If he meets the obstacle, it’s a quality painting. If he exceeds the obstacle it is a work of beauty. He’s been carefully painting and also Fields of Related Knowledge (FoRKs 📖) in History, as he’s capturing aspects of the city’s history in this painting. With the help of a Fate point, he achieves 5 successes.

The late autumn Scintillante cityscape painting is a work of beauty and will trigger Dwarven Greed.

She pauses and looks at the painting and fails her Greed test. She stands and drools for just a moment; in that moment, Antonius turns and with fresh eyes looks at the painting realizing he has finished.

“It’s beautiful. You have a gift for painting and I wish for you to paint my TumTum.”

“Well, as you are light on coin, perhaps you could help me. It is my understanding that the dwarves engraved a contract with the Cicada Company. I would like access to that contract,” says Antonius.

Frederico’s with wooden sword in hand, perks up at the mention of the Cicada company. He wants to learn more about this near legendary company.

In a world building session, we talked about the possibility of the Dwarves having engraved the contract. But we didn’t record that as an established fact. So, I chose to use Antonius’s Cicada Company-wise to establish that fact.

Task
Antonius declares that the dwarves engraved a contract with the Cicada Company.
Intent
Ansidora has access to these engravings.
Consequences
Ansidora does not have direct access to the engravings.
Obstacle
4
Dice
3D Cicada Company-wise + 1D History + 1D Contract-wise
Result
Failure.

Ansidora responds, “One does not just get access to the hall of contracts. Perhaps I could ask my father for a rubbing. He is the master engraver of Hartheld.”

“A rubbing will do, though I require half-payment before I begin my paintings,” says Antonius.

As Ansidora extends her hand she contemplates spitting on her palm but refrains as she says, “You have a deal.”

Antonius grasps her hand and they shake hands in agreement.

Antonius turns to Maccio and says, “My good nephew, draw up the contract.”

“You have boulder plate?” asks Ansidora as she looks to Maccio flipping open a book, then answers her own question, “Oh, contracts written on paper.”

“No worries my good dwarf, you needn’t sign anything, this is more of a habit and a means for me remembering what all I owe.”

A Second Ask

Ansidora turns and looks at Frederico, who has quietly stood out of the way. “Did you say you were Frederico? I’ve heard of you. You’re quite the problem solver.”

Frederico nods as Ansidora continues, “Well, I have a problem that I need solving. Perhaps we could talk elsewhere about this, so as to not disturb your lord.”

Antonius interjects, “Nonsense, why don’t Maccio and I put away this painting, go and prepare some refreshments, and give you time to talk.”

Frederico and Ansidora nod in agreement. Antonius looks once again at his painting, and carries it off to his gallery. All while Maccio gathers up the contract book and heads into the house.

Frederico and Ansidora move closer to talk.

“Vadam Samaal,” says Ansidora as she spits and mutters a curse, “divorced me and left me with nothing but these meager possessions and a big house. My problem is that he still has some of my stuff.“ Here Ansidora makes her Ob1 Stuff-wise test to successfully enumerate her stuff.

“Most important, I want my Dwarven Chronicles.”

They talk more about the details and come to an agreement. Frederico will case her ex-husbands place and layout a plan for liberating agreement.

As they each spit on their hands and shake, Antonius returns to the courtyard with tea, olives, and cherries.

Antonius says, “Ah great, to see you’ve agreed to your arrangements. But alas, Frederico, the light is too far gone for a test of swords. But let us enjoy some tea, olives, and cherries.”

Antonius sets down the tray, picks up and olive, pops it into his mouth and spits the pit out into the courtyard. And the camera pans to the cityscape painting the fades outs.

An Early Morning Knock at the Gate

The camera fades in with a view of Scintillante from Antonius’s courtyard. The sun has yet to crest the horizon, but faint light shows Antonius preparing to setup a fresh canvas to begin a new painting.

As dawn breaks, there’s another knock at the gate.

“One moment,” says Antonius as he sets the canvas on the easel and walks towards the gate.

He reaches for the gate, opening it and in recognition says, “Morning to you Lord Jade, it’s a bit early for a game, so I must first ask what brings you to my villa?”

Lord Jade a banker and member of the Hinterland Players, a Go game club of established citizens of Scintillante, enters the courtyard. Antonius has the minor affiliation Hinterland Players. And Frederico has the romantic relationship to Lady Jade.

“Ah, my good Antonius, I have a favor to ask of you.”

Antonius turns and meets Lord Jade’s gaze, “How unexpected. Before you ask, might you have time for a game.”

“Only a 9 by 9,” replies Lord Jade.

“Then a 9 by 9 it shall be. What say we make this interesting? But first, I must know, is this favor something that would contravene my values?” asks Antonius.

Lord Jade, shifting his stance responds, “I would hope not, but perhaps.”

“Now that is interesting. What say we place a wager on this game. If I win, you provide me with some hired bureaucrats who can at least get between me and all those that keep seeking Captain Antonius di Mari of the Radiant Company. I grow tired of the «Oh captain, my captain» spouting suitors. And I’ll hear out your request. If you win, I will honor your request, though I do ask for permission to abstain,” says Antonius as he gathers his 9 by 9 Go board and the bowls of white and black stones.

“Lord Antonius, though you are my better, I accept these terms,” says Lord Jade as he settles down for a quick game. Lord Jade has a B3 Strategy Games and Antonius a B4 Strategy Games. Antonius spends a Persona and gets 3 successes (with 2 sixes). Lord Jade scores 3 successes. Antonius spends a Fate and snags 3 more successes, for a total of 6 successes.

Antonius chooses not to stamp out Lord Jade, but to give him a decisive yet not humiliating loss.

Lord Jade says, “Well you have won, so those men shall be yours.”

“Wonderful, I cannot convey enough how disrupting those suitors are. Thank you. Now, please state your request. I’m inclined to agree even without foreknowledge,” says Antonius as he looks to Lord Jade.

“Good Antonius, you are an honorable man, and I do not wish to besmirch your integrity, but it has come to my attention that a man by the name of Frederico has recently sought your services,” says Lord Jade as he leans closer to Antonius to ensure more privacy on this early morning.

“Lord Jade, please describe this Frederico,” asks Antonius.

Lord Jade describes a man that matches Frederico’s description. The same Frederico whom recently entered Antonius’s service.

“I have recently brought on that very Frederico into my services,” says Antonius as he leans back to think.

Lord Jade leans closer still and says, “This man has besmirched my honor, and I see that you yourself are in a bind. I do not want you to renege on a contract but I also wish to protect my honor.”

Antonius rises from the game table, turns partially away from Lord Jade, and responds, “I am inclined to do as you ask, but I need some time to think on this. And of course talk to Frederico.”

“That is as much as I could hope for my dear Lord Antonius,” says Lord Jade as he rises and extends a hand in friendship, “I will get those men to you forthwith.”

Antonius grasp Lord Jades hand and says, “Thank you, I will know my course by end of day and send you word of my decision. And please, sometime you and the lovely Lady Jade should sit for a portrait.”

“You’re too kind,” answers Lord Jade as he turns and leaves the courtyard.

Antonius walks over to his blank canvas and sits in front of it. His mind churns on his next play.

Casing the Ex-Husbands House

Meanwhile, Ansidora and Frederico attempt to find Circle Up someone who might have access to Vadam Samaal—Ansidora’s ex-husband— house. Failure. This is a point where I had audio issues so missed much

Swords Drawn

Antonius stands in front of a blank canvas and greets Frederico as he returns to Villa di Mari.

“Good day Frederico, I have some information that inclines me to dismiss you from my services. But before I decide, I want to hear from you,” says Antonius.

Frederico seeing his options collapsing says, “My lord, you will find my services both useful and discreet. Publicly dismiss me but keep me on as a private retainer. But I must know what lead you to this?”

“Well, my good Frederico, perhaps we could test your sword. If you best me I’ll tell you who and accept your counter offer. And if I best you, what might you offer me?” asks Antonius as he walks towards the sparring swords.

“Why the truthful answer to any question you might ask of me,” responds Frederico.

“I accept,” says Antonius as he tosses one sword to Frederico and assumes a sparing posture.

Frederico postures as a brawler, while Antonius stands as fencer. Antonius and Frederico circle then clash.

This is Frederico’s B2 Sword + 1D FoRK from Brawling and +1D Persona versus Antonius’s B4 Sword. Both roll 3 successes. A tie.

Their swords clash and they press close to each other. Frederico offers a draw where they both get what they want. Antonius dismisses the draw, and attempts to overwhelm with Power. Given Frederico’s offer, we agreed that Antonius could set the task for the next task in this sword fight. Looking at Antonius’s character sheet, I wanted to secure a Power test in hopes of helping advance his B3 Power.

Frederico tests their B4 Power, achieving 3 successes. Antonius tests their B3 Power, and gets 1 success.

Antonius, forgetting the atrophy of life in front of a canvas, presses a bit, and Frederico shoves back knocking Antonius to the ground.

“I yield. It was Lord Jade who came to me,” says Antonius as he brushes himself off, rises, and salutes Frederico, and continues, “and as for the other arrangement, I will ensure that we cancel the contract. Let me get you a small purse for the next few days. As for our next steps, I will need to think on that, though my mind is already turning. Where can I find you?“ Antonius tests their B6 Resources to generate a 1D coin purse. Success. Not much, but Antonius doesn’t keep lots of spare coinage around. After all his fellow Hinterland Players member is a banker.

“At the Silver Eel,” smiles Frederico as he clutches the purse and departs from Antonius’s piazza.

We close our session.

Reflections

I’m playing Antonius and so the narrative is through that lens. I also recognize that Antonius had a lot of screen time. This really helped cement my understanding of him.

As I played him, and reviewed his beliefs, I further realized that while he loves to paint, he misses the action. His tendency towards haggling and wagers comes from a place of boredom. He’s super knowledgeable about contracts, but the ones he enters, he treats with only the most minimal of concern. Instead using them as a launch point for more haggling.

I look forward to our next session and to see Ansidora petition her father. I also want to see how Frederico navigates both his deal and the knowledge that Lord Jade knows of his affair with Lady Jade.