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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