Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Your fantasy real estate: Palais de Papes

Credit: Jean-Marc Rosier from http://www.rosier.pro
I'm like a friggin' ReMax agent, showing you prime real estate for your campaigns. Just avoid Jimmy Nine Fingers; he'll sell you a subprime mortgage and homeowners insurance, then burn down your house with you in it and collect the insurance, which you so benevolently left to him.

Also don't ask him why he's Jimmy Nine Fingers.

Any hoot, the Palais de Papes was the seat of the Avignon Papacy back in the 14th century and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. What's the Avignon Papacy, you didn't ask? I'll get to that later. For now, let's ogle the pretty palace.

Credit: Jean-Marc Rosier from http://www.rosier.pro


Credit: Ingo Mehling.

Credit: ChrisO.
Just ignore the people in the anachronistic clothing. I nabbed all of these pictures from Wikipedia. Or you could pretend that they're time traveling tourists who are too lazy to dress for the period. Probably Japanese tourists.

At 15,000 square meters (or 161,458 square feet), the Palais de Papes is a behemoth of a structure. In addition to being used as the headquarters for the Papacy, it was also used as a military installation at various points in French history, so GMs have options for how to use such a structure for campaigns.

As I said, the palace was the seat of power for the Avignon Papacy during the 14th century. This was a period stretching from 1309 to 1377 where the Papacy - starting with Clement V and ending with Gregory IX - resided in the town of Avignon. At the time, the town was part of the Kingdom of Arles, which itself was part of the Holy Roman Empire¹. Clement and his six successors were all French and all of course fell under the influence of France. This period is sometimes called "The Babylonian Captivity" because why not?

So with all that, here's some ideas:

1. The most obvious thing would be either a rescue mission or an assassination. Maybe the current Pope or Pope equivalent wants badly to get the hell out of dodge, but can't because the reigning power in the region won't allow it. A party of adventurers are hired to sneak him out and escort him to safety.

2. Or their hired to kill him. Maybe a group of cardinals (or other high ranking clergy) want to solve the problem another way: if the current Pope dies, then the former can very quickly summon an enclave and elect one of their number as the new Pope and relocate the Papacy back to its original locale before the reigning power can even react. Well, the incumbent isn't likely to keel over anytime soon, so they hire some adventurers to take care of it.

It would be up to the players to decide whether to kill or rescue the Pontiff.

3. A heist, because everybody loves a heist. I read Michael J. Sullivan's excellent The Crown Tower back in 2015 and it included heist involving a religious tome. It was a neat idea, so naturally I'm stealing it. Sort of. The object to be stolen doesn't have to be a book. It could very easily be some other object of religious reverence. The Popes wear a special ring and possess other important regalia that could easily fit the bill.

GMs could add a level of difficulty by requiring that the party has to swap the targeted object with a fake and acquiring those fakes could be their own series of quests.

Hopefully the Palais de Papes and its history will fuel campaign ideas and present at least a night of fun for both GM and players.

One final note: Jimmy Nine Fingers is now Jimmy Eight Fingers.

Picture sources: One, two, three, four, five.

¹Which as we all know was neither Holy, Roman, or an Empire.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

This is the only fidget spinner that I want

You won't be fidgeting after using this sucker. Writhing, yes. Being rushed to the hospital, definitely. Fidgeting? Not so much, no.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Glen Cook's Black Company getting that small screen treatment too, courtesy of Eliza Dushku

Who will be executive producing with David Goyer (among others) and starring as The Lady. If the name Eliza Dushku sounds familiar, she played Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Echo on Dollhouse, and was in the 2000 classic movie, Bring It On. I have to admit, I'm pretty surprised to see her name attached and I'll freely admit that part of it is because she's a woman, but also awesome because a woman is exec producing and starring in a show based on a military fantasy series. Still, she optioned the entire entire series through her production company, so this isn't some kind of clever ploy by a group of men to try and snag media attention by using Dushku's name as a front.

Another admission: I've never read The Black Company. I have the book and its on my 'to be read' list, but I've just haven't gotten around to it yet. Still, this is good motivation to bump it up in the queue.

Like Sony's Wheel of Time adaption, The Black Company doesn't appear to have a TV deal yet. Given that the eponymous Company are a group of sell-swords who fight for the highest bidder, I think it would fit well with AMC. It depends on how expensive the show is. AMC is infamously tight wadded even when it comes to their biggest hit, The Walking Dead, which reportedly has a shoestring budget. I just hope it doesn't end up on one of the movie channels because I want to at least be able to check it out if and when it hits the boob tube.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wheel of Time getting the TV treatment from Sony Television

And may we all hope and pray that they don't try to Game of Thrones it and add a lot of pointless sex and violence and breasts. Unfortunately, everyone wants their fantasy TV show to be the next GoT rather than let it be its own thing.

But anyways, Sony Television is producing it and a guy named Rafe Judkins is the showrunner and writer. I've never heard of him, but he's written for other shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chuck, and some show called Hemlock Grove. I guess that's good? I honestly don't pay attention to who writes what when it comes to television.

What I'm curious about is what and who gets cut during the adapting process. At 14 books, there's no way that every character and subplot is making the jump to the small screen. I imagine the main plot will be streamlined with events jumbled around for better flow. Unless whichever network this show ends up airing on plans on doing one season per book, I wouldn't be surprised either if entire books are merged.

Now that happens to be easily the most important question: where will it air? I'm hoping against hope that it won't be on one of the "premium" channels like HBO, Showtime, etc. or on a streaming service like Netflix because I'd like to be able to actually watch the damn thing.

Then there's the casting, but I don't know who should play who. I can't tell the latest Hollywood darling from Gregory Peck, so I'm useless on that front.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Your fantasy real estate: Neuschwanstein Castle

It does have a very fantastical look that would make it ideal for adventuring.
So I was farting around on Wikipedia last month and stumbled across this article about a castle in Bavaria called Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in the late 19th century by King Ludwig II as both a personal retreat and as an homage to composer Richard Wagner.

Seeing the castle immediately got the hamster running in my head and I started to speculate what this thing would be like in a fantasy setting. The first thing that jumps out at you is that Neuschwanstein is not a military fortification. There are no outer walls or any kind of protection save for the hill it's built on top of. So clearly not meant to withstand a siege or hold territory. It wouldn't need to do either if it was located within the interior of a kingdom or empire where having a military fortress wouldn't be needed.

Ludwig II, King of Bavaria.
But like I said at the beginning, Ludwig II built the castle as a retreat and that's how I see it function in a fantasy story or roleplay setting. A nice getaway place for the monarch and royal family for whenever they want to get away from the capital for a while or to hold secret negotiations with foreign powers. Even far from the borders, a castle like this could be a source of much intrigue if a GM had the mind to come up with a quest line.

Of course, it wouldn't have to belong to a monarch. It could just as easily belong to a powerful member of the nobility such as a duke or an earl. There too is a potential source of intrigue for a campaign. A castle such as Neuschwanstein Castle would be pricey to build. Indeed, Ludwig II accumulated huge debts because he insisted on funding the construction with his own money and loans. That level of expenditure could draw the attention of the monarch's court and make them very curious about where the good duke or earl (or duchess or countess) is getting the funds for such endeavors.

A castle full of mystery and intrigue.
(Arto Teräs/Wikimedia)
Campaign ideas:
  • A member of the royal court, likely through a less visible functionary, hires a group of adventurers to pay a visit to the noble and try to discover the source of their funding. The infiltration is left to the party, but discretion is preferred by their employer.
  • The noble in question is found to have been skimming tax revenue or involved in some less than legal operations. The court wants them in custody but is unwilling to go about it in public for fear of triggering a rebellion or civil war. The party is employed to find a way to extradite the felonious noble back to the capital where they can be formally charged. Alternatively, the court decides to send the party to take care of the problem. Permanently.
  • Another alternative is that the royal court decides to make an example of the noble by sending a force to seize their castle and take them into custody for a very showy trial. The adventurers are sent to reconnoiter the area for secret entrances/exits that would allow the approaching soldiers to take the castle from the inside. Failing that, they're to try and sabotage and compromise the castle's meager (because again, this thing isn't a fortification) defenses to make the royal fore's job even easier.
Of course, a GM could also use Neuschwanstein Castle as the setting for a standard dungeon crawl, but I like the three above ideas better. I'm biased in that regard, though. Any of these ideas could easily be adapted into plots for stories too, which is a nice bonus.

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