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.

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