Lamentations of the Pope - LotFP campaign set in 16th century Rome

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raniE

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Hmm, a performance skill could work, but it's a very broad skill. One of my players said he'd like a Notice skill, something that isn't for deliberate searches but noticing stuff like "that man has a tattoo that looks just like the symbol we saw drawn in blood on the wall of the shack". Hmmmm, I've got to think about this.

On another note, money. LotFP runs on a silver standard, so one Silver Piece is one XP. Then one Gold Piece is equal to 50 SP and ten Copper pieces make a silver. Converting existing adventures is easy enough, just change all the coin values. But what of the real world? Well, there are so many different coins circulating, like the ducat and scudi and florin and ecu and thaler and peso and real and escudo and penny and shilling and doubloon and on and on and on. So I don't feel wrong about just going with a generalized scheme. However, copper coins weren't a thing in medieval Europe that I can find, and in Early modern Europe mostly in Sweden, and from the 17th century onward at that. So, I want to figure out something else to call the generic copper piece. Small silver? Just small coin? Any ideas here?
 

Simon Hogwood

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I think if you pick three denominations that correspond to the copper, silver, and gold piece in terms of value-ratio, it doesn't matter what they're actually made of. So, you say that ten scudis equals a thaler (or whatever), and if they're both made of silver, well, the players will be too busy trying to remember the names of the coins to care. :wink:
 

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As to werewolves; I don’t know how LotFP handles them in general, but it might be interesting to fit them better into the 16th-century European environment. That will mean jettisoning a good deal of the typical Hollywood werewolf image. I don’t know of any real Italian materials about werewolves in this era, but the stuff I’ve read from French and German sources does not treat werewolves as cursed individuals who must transform at the full moon. Instead, they are people who choose to change into wolves, attack, and eat people. They are often described as doing this by use of some magical item—say a belt, or a wolf-skin, or perhaps just a magical salve. They may have gained the item and the rituals needed to make it work through traffic with demons; they may be devil-worshipping witches themselves.

Actually, a lot of Early Modern discussion of werewolves revolves around whether or not they are physically transformed into wolves. A minority of authors, including some heavy-hitters like Jean Bodin, accept the possibility of this, while the majority deny it on philosophical and theological grounds. According to them, the werewolf’s apparent transformation is a demonic illusion, created either by demons’ ability to manipulate the material world (roughly like a practical effect in a movie) or by their skill in deluding the senses directly. The latter we might compare to a digital effect in a movie—the viewer sees it, but in fact there was nothing there at all. Personally, I prefer the idea that people are really undergoing a bodily transformation.

Early Modern texts don’t suggest that the bite of werewolves passes the condition on to others. Here I’d be tempted to play with things a bit and say that the bite causes a rabies-like disease in victims. This leads to dementia, in which the victim lashes out like a wild beast and tries to bite others, and shortly thereafter in death. That actually connects with another Early Modern idea about lycanthropy—that it is a form of madness in which people imagine they are wolves and act accordingly. It also helps explain why werewolves are so feared—the disease makes their bite fatal, even if the blood loss and trauma does not.

There’s also little hint in the Early Modern materials I know of that werewolves are immune to normal attacks and can be harmed only by silver or blessed weaponry. In fact, many werewolf tales from this era feature the monstrous wolf being injured (shot with an arrow, cut, appendage struck off, etc.) and then identified in its human form because it has an identical injury—or even has an identifiable arrow sticking out of it. So, to make werewolves tough opponents, I’d assume that they have a lot of hit points and move very fast. The latter might mean a better armor class (or equivalent), a high dodge rating (in games that have that sort of thing), and maybe multiple attacks per round.

As I said above, there doesn’t seem to be much Italian material from this era concerned with werewolves, but here is a suggestion of how to fit them into Rome c. 1560. It connects them with Rome’s Carnival celebrations, which deserve extended treatment on their own. As usual, I’ve spoilered the suggestions for length.

The historical background here is the Roman religious festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15 by a religious association—it is misleading to call them priests—the Luperci. The rite began with a sacrifice of dogs and goats at the Lupercal, a cave on the Palatine Hill in which Romulus and Remus had been suckled by the famous she-wolf. After the sacrifice, two young men had their foreheads smeared with the blood of the animals; this was then wiped away with wool soaked in milk. The two were supposed to let out a shout of laughter at this point. The Luperci feasted on the sacrificed animals and cut their skins up, making whips of them. Then came the main public part of the festival. Naked, or dressed only in the remains of the goatskins, the Luperci ran a set route through the city, whipping the crowd that watched them. Being hit brought good fortune, especially for women—it was supposed to help them conceive or, if already pregnant, to have an easy childbirth. The Luperci belonged to two different brotherhoods, the Quinctiliani and the Fabiani; in 45 B.C. Julius Caesar’s party added a new third group, the Julii, which did not survive his downfall. It was at the conclusion of the Lupercal race in 44 B.C. that Marc Antony three times offered Caesar a crown—really a diadem.

We are not really sure what the religious meaning of the Lupercalia was; it’s likely that by the time the Romans themselves were writing descriptions of it they had also forgotten, including which god it originally honored. It seems to combine elements of a fertility ritual with one of purification, and it was tied to the wolf and Rome’s legendary beginnings. The two original brotherhoods of Luperci were mythologically linked to Romulus (the Quinctiliani) and Remus (the Fabiani). The festival outlived the suppression of most pagan religious ceremonies in Rome at the end of the 300s, since Pope Gelasius complained about its continued existence in the 490s.

So, our Roman werewolves will in fact be Luperci, members of these two brotherhoods. There’s actually some earlier precedent for connecting them to “this transformation of men into wolves” as Augustine puts in in The City of God; he claims the 1st-century B.C. author Varro had made the association. We’ll substitute wolves for dogs in the Lupercalia and say that the Luperci create from their skins the magic belts or pelts that allow them to change shape. How often they can make the transformation is up for grabs: any night (or even day), or only at the full or new moon. The lunar link doesn’t appear in Early Modern werewolf lore, but we could justify it with references to Diana (as goddess of the hunt) or Hecate (by the Early Modern period often seen as a goddess of the moon as well as witchcraft).

To make things more interesting, let’s say the two brotherhoods of Luperci always functioned as protectors of Rome, but with different roles. The ones linked to Romulus (once the Quinctiliani, now just the Inner) protected the city itself from criminals and other internal threats; those linked to Remus (Fabiani, now Outer) defended it from external foes. But, after the fall of the Western Empire, the Outer Luperci lost their way. They came to see any foreigner—anyone not of ancient Roman blood—dwelling in the city as an enemy. In their wolf forms, they savagely attack and consume these outsiders, particularly women and children, since these threaten to supplant the old Roman stock. This fits with 16th-century werewolf lore, which often has them preying on women and the young. And since 16th-century Rome was filled with foreigners, they have a lot of potential prey. The Inner Luperci, on the other hand, keep to their ancient task of disposing of malefactors or other threats that the law cannot deal with. They also struggle against the Outer Luperci, trying to limit their depredations.

Now, let’s further posit that one brotherhood of Luperci or other is always in the ascendant. If it’s the Outer, they are free to attack foreigners in Rome as they like, without the Inner brotherhood’s intervention. If it’s the Inner, then the Outer Luperci are muzzled, so to speak, and may only make such attacks as the Inner brotherhood endorses—basically, they can then only attack evil-doers. The Lupercalia itself has become a contest in which the two brotherhoods compete to see which group will dominate. I’m not sure what form the competition should take—a battle (though not to the death) between the two groups, or their champions? Something to do with the race—whichever side can strike the most people with their thongs? Or perhaps a sacrificial victim is chosen and whichever side hunts it down first wins (the Inner would use an animal for this; the Outer might choose a human being). Anyway, one side or the other triumphs, leading to a ceremony in which the leader of that brotherhood is three times offered a crown, in memory of Caesar. The Inner leader will refuse it, the Outer accept it—but regardless of the gesture, the winning side presides throughout the coming year.

When does this happen? I’d suggest moving the Lupercalia from a set date to make it part of Rome’s annual Carnival celebrations, which vary in date depending on when Easter falls. The main reason for this is that those celebrations actually included some nude racing in the 1500s. The first day of Carnival, Rome’s Jews were made to field racing contestants who ran naked, pursued by coaches, and the second day neighboring communities in Rome’s contado likewise had to supply runners. And there were other races, both of people and animals, throughout Carnival. It would be easy enough to slip the Lupercalia race in here. More importantly, Carnival was a time when people often went in disguise, or masked, and when law-and-order became weak or were set aside. A description of it by a hostile English witness c. 1580 makes it sound like The Purge:

During this time, everyone wears a disguised visor on his face, so that no one knows what or whence they be: and if anyone bear a secret malice to another, he may then kill him, & nobody will lay hands on him, for all this time they will obey no law. I saw a brave Roman, who rode there very pleasant in his coach, and suddenly came [some]one who discharged a pistol upon him, yet nobody made any account either of the murderer or the slain gentleman. Beside, there were diverse slain, both by villany, and [by being hit by] the horses or the coaches, yet they continued on their pastime, not making any regard of them.

Rome’s Carnival as an adventure setting deserves its own longish post. Suffice it to say here that it could serve as cloak for all kinds of shenanigans. Luperci killing people during the festival might be dismissed, if they were seen, as simply men in wolf costumes, and it would be easier to get away with murder at that time. In fact, I’d suggest that even in years when the Inner Luperci are in ascendant, the Outer are free to kill as they like during Carnival—then all bets are off.
The PCs could get involved with these werewolves in all sorts of ways. They might be targets of the Outer brotherhood, or if they are criminals, of the Inner. They could happen upon the competition between the two sides, or the ceremony in which the leader is designated for the coming year. They might stumble on an attack by some of the Outer brotherhood during Carnival and be very surprised when other werewolves leap to the defense of the victim. Or perhaps one or more of them could be recruited to join one brotherhood or the other.
 

raniE

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As to werewolves; I don’t know how LotFP handles them in general, but it might be interesting to fit them better into the 16th-century European environment. That will mean jettisoning a good deal of the typical Hollywood werewolf image. I don’t know of any real Italian materials about werewolves in this era, but the stuff I’ve read from French and German sources does not treat werewolves as cursed individuals who must transform at the full moon. Instead, they are people who choose to change into wolves, attack, and eat people. They are often described as doing this by use of some magical item—say a belt, or a wolf-skin, or perhaps just a magical salve. They may have gained the item and the rituals needed to make it work through traffic with demons; they may be devil-worshipping witches themselves.

Actually, a lot of Early Modern discussion of werewolves revolves around whether or not they are physically transformed into wolves. A minority of authors, including some heavy-hitters like Jean Bodin, accept the possibility of this, while the majority deny it on philosophical and theological grounds. According to them, the werewolf’s apparent transformation is a demonic illusion, created either by demons’ ability to manipulate the material world (roughly like a practical effect in a movie) or by their skill in deluding the senses directly. The latter we might compare to a digital effect in a movie—the viewer sees it, but in fact there was nothing there at all. Personally, I prefer the idea that people are really undergoing a bodily transformation.

Early Modern texts don’t suggest that the bite of werewolves passes the condition on to others. Here I’d be tempted to play with things a bit and say that the bite causes a rabies-like disease in victims. This leads to dementia, in which the victim lashes out like a wild beast and tries to bite others, and shortly thereafter in death. That actually connects with another Early Modern idea about lycanthropy—that it is a form of madness in which people imagine they are wolves and act accordingly. It also helps explain why werewolves are so feared—the disease makes their bite fatal, even if the blood loss and trauma does not.

There’s also little hint in the Early Modern materials I know of that werewolves are immune to normal attacks and can be harmed only by silver or blessed weaponry. In fact, many werewolf tales from this era feature the monstrous wolf being injured (shot with an arrow, cut, appendage struck off, etc.) and then identified in its human form because it has an identical injury—or even has an identifiable arrow sticking out of it. So, to make werewolves tough opponents, I’d assume that they have a lot of hit points and move very fast. The latter might mean a better armor class (or equivalent), a high dodge rating (in games that have that sort of thing), and maybe multiple attacks per round.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has a spell that seems to mirror those Early modern sources, Howl of the Moon. Basically, the spell makes a subject "abandon both reason and the facade of civilization, tearing at his clothes until he appears as a naked raving mad man. The transformation takes a full Turn to take effect. Once complete he will move with the speed and nimbleness of a wolf (180' movement rate). His senses also become heightened and he is able to eat raw meat with no ill effects. His savage attacks are +2 to hit and he inflicts 1d6 damage with nothing but his bare hands and teeth. This is not due to any physical transformation, as the outward appearance remains unchanged." If you cast the spell on yourself you will retain a sense of purpose and generally act as yourself but with animal intelligence. If you cast it on someone else they will lose all sense of themselves and become savage animals unless they save versus magic. The subject of the spell will also attract 1d6 wolves per hour if any are in the area (and there are wolves in Italy still). The spell lasts 1 hour per caster level (doubled during the full moon) or until sunrise, and works only at night.

There is similarly a spell called Transylvanian Hunger which only works at night and causes the subject of the spell to grow fangs and lets them drain blood from victims and use the drained blood to heal themselves, whether of simple hit point damage or diseases or even to regrow missing limbs or other body parts or to cure magical curses. Neither spell confers any type of immunity to damage either.

I think I'd limit "regular" werewolves and vampires to simply being an individual affected by one of these spells. This makes this kind of transformation of man into monster something brought about not by some terrible curse, but of free will, some witch/sorcerer/magic user doing it in order to prey on people for one purpose or another. This also makes it easy for any run-in with vampires or werewolves being different. Why can this vampire hypnotize people? Because he knows hypnotism.
 

raniE

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I think if you pick three denominations that correspond to the copper, silver, and gold piece in terms of value-ratio, it doesn't matter what they're actually made of. So, you say that ten scudis equals a thaler (or whatever), and if they're both made of silver, well, the players will be too busy trying to remember the names of the coins to care. :wink:
Might just pick penny, shilling, pound even if it's way off geographically. The two players I have so far are an Anglophile and an Englishwoman, so they'd at least be able to keep the names of the coins and the hierarchical values of them straight.
 

Lofgeornost

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Lamentations of the Flame Princess has a spell that seems to mirror those Early modern sources, Howl of the Moon...

I think I'd limit "regular" werewolves and vampires to simply being an individual affected by one of these spells. This makes this kind of transformation of man into monster something brought about not by some terrible curse, but of free will, some witch/sorcerer/magic user doing it in order to prey on people for one purpose or another. This also makes it easy for any run-in with vampires or werewolves being different. Why can this vampire hypnotize people? Because he knows hypnotism.

That makes sense. I have one of the free versions of LotFP on my hard drive, but I've never quite got around to reading it.

Might just pick penny, shilling, pound even if it's way off geographically. The two players I have so far are an Anglophile and an Englishwoman, so they'd at least be able to keep the names of the coins and the hierarchical values of them straight.

I think that Rome in the 1500s-early 1600s used a decimal system, with one scudo Romano being worth 10 giuli (or paoli) and 100 baiocchi. The scudi and giuli were silver coins; I don't know what the baiocchi were--or if they were simply units of account. One possibility would be billon--base metal with a wash of silver to make it look nice. And of course there was gold coinage, whose value tended to float a bit compared to silver; there was a gold scudo worth about 1.3 silver ones at this point, I think.
 

raniE

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That makes sense. I have one of the free versions of LotFP on my hard drive, but I've never quite got around to reading it.

Transylvanian Hunger only appears in the Vaginas Are Magic supplement, and I'm not sure Howl of the Moon is in any of the older free versions (it is in the new free version on Drivethru though). Apart from the spells you're mostly looking at BECMI with some houserules, most significantly in regards to the Specialist class (which replaces the Thief) inspired by AD&D2e. Then playtest versions of a new magic system and some other rules changes have been added with supplements (mainly Eldritch Cock) and I'll be using a lot of those this time around. They don't mess much with the core of the system though, except for the magic system.

I might still use the Lupercalli stuff, it is quite interesting. As always, thanks for the good feedbacks and ideas.

I think that Rome in the 1500s-early 1600s used a decimal system, with one scudo Romano being worth 10 giuli (or paoli) and 100 baiocchi. The scudi and giuli were silver coins; I don't know what the baiocchi were--or if they were simply units of account. One possibility would be billon--base metal with a wash of silver to make it look nice. And of course there was gold coinage, whose value tended to float a bit compared to silver; there was a gold scudo worth about 1.3 silver ones at this point, I think.
Yeah, looking it up on wikipedia, that would seem to work generally. But there were so many currencies and coins floating around on the peninsula I'll probably just pick three denominations (Scudo, giuli and baiocchi seem like they could work) and then just give everything in those currencies even if they end up going to Genoa, Venice, Naples or even further afield like France, Germany or even the New World.
 

Lofgeornost

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Transylvanian Hunger only appears in the Vaginas Are Magic supplement, and I'm not sure Howl of the Moon is in any of the older free versions (it is in the new free version on Drivethru though)...

I think I must have the newest free version, along with the older 'grindhouse' free version.

Yeah, looking it up on wikipedia, that would seem to work generally. But there were so many currencies and coins floating around on the peninsula I'll probably just pick three denominations (Scudo, giuli and baiocchi seem like they could work) and then just give everything in those currencies even if they end up going to Genoa, Venice, Naples or even further afield like France, Germany or even the New World.

That makes a lot of sense. There's more information about Roman coinage at http://roma.andreapollett.com/S7/monpap.htm , though I'd guess a lot of it only applies to the 18th or early 19th centuries. I'm also not sure how accurate it is.

I have some ideas about plague-spreaders and also the benandanti that I'll post eventually. And maybe the Roman Inquisition as well.
 

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As to werewolves; I don’t know how LotFP handles them in general, but it might be interesting to fit them better into the 16th-century European environment. That will mean jettisoning a good deal of the typical Hollywood werewolf image. I don’t know of any real Italian materials about werewolves in this era, but the stuff I’ve read from French and German sources does not treat werewolves as cursed individuals who must transform at the full moon. Instead, they are people who choose to change into wolves, attack, and eat people. They are often described as doing this by use of some magical item—say a belt, or a wolf-skin, or perhaps just a magical salve. They may have gained the item and the rituals needed to make it work through traffic with demons; they may be devil-worshipping witches themselves.
Or, alternatively, they may be turning into wolves to fight the witches, as recounted by a hilarious segment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.
 

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Or, alternatively, they may be turning into wolves to fight the witches, as recounted by a hilarious segment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.
I love this stuff in medieval sources. "Yeah I might be a werewolf. I admit it your honour. But in my defense I battle witches in hell".

I've not heard the podcast, but I assume it's about the Livonian werewolf Theiss from 1691, or a similar case. The benandanti also claimed to be fighting against witches, but not usually in beast form.
 

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I've not heard the podcast, but I assume it's about the Livonian werewolf Theiss from 1691, or a similar case. The benandanti also claimed to be fighting against witches, but not usually in beast form.
Yeah it's the Livonian werewolf. Led me on to learnt that the last native speaker of Livonian died in 2013 :sad:
 

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Yeah it's the Livonian werewolf. Led me on to learnt that the last native speaker of Livonian died in 2013 :sad:
According to wikipedia " it has been revived with about 40 reported speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. "
 

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I've actually run a Renaissance Rome game, though set a little earlier. We used 1st edition WFRP but the magic system didn't fit at all which proved a pain.

I've also played in a fairly long running PBEM set in Pope Leo X's Rome (objectively* the best pope). It was based on the classic En Garde rules, but all the PCs were political priests and instead of regiments there were factional alliances - the Medici, the Sforzas and so on. Clerical debates replaced duels. It was inspired.

Anyway, it's a great setting. Massively underused. What makes LotFP good for it out of interest?

* Pope Leo X. "God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." Literally bankrupted the papacy, mostly through excessive partying. Best. Pope. Ever. Except for sort of triggering the Protestant reformation which I guess could be seen as a misstep if you're picky.
 

raniE

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I've actually run a Renaissance Rome game, though set a little earlier. We used 1st edition WFRP but the magic system didn't fit at all which proved a pain.

I've also played in a fairly long running PBEM set in Pope Leo X's Rome (objectively* the best pope). It was based on the classic En Garde rules, but all the PCs were political priests and instead of regiments there were factional alliances - the Medici, the Sforzas and so on. Clerical debates replaced duels. It was inspired.

Anyway, it's a great setting. Massively underused. What makes LotFP good for it out of interest?

* Pope Leo X. "God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." Literally bankrupted the papacy, mostly through excessive partying. Best. Pope. Ever. Except for sort of triggering the Protestant reformation which I guess could be seen as a misstep if you're picky.
Man, everytime I see a non-Swede reference playing En Garde I do a double take before I realize they aren't talking about the Swedish rpg En Garde from 1987, but the American one from a decade earlier. Obligatory cover picture of the Swedish game.
En Garde omslag.png

You may recognize the names Gunilla Jonsson and Michael Petersén on there, they're the original creators of Kult as well.

Anyway, since I'm not actually using En Garde for this enough about that. Why Lamentations of the Flame Princess? The most basic reason is, it's a simple system (basically BECMI but with extensive houserules) that I've come to appreciate more over the years for its simplicity and ruggedness (you won't be messing anything up by changing or adding rules, the system isn't a swiss watch but an ak-47 with wide tolerances). But why specifically LotFP and not any other retro clone or OSR D&D variant? Well, LotFP has become more focused on using the real world in the early modern era (the game gives 1492-1683, so about a hundred years shorter than the actual early modern era), it's added rules for firearms and era appropriate armor and many adventures are set then (there's a whole supplement about the English civil war for instance).

Then there's the magic system. The basic magic system in LotFP is pretty much your standard D&D stuff, but with some interesting omissions (no fireballs or lightning bolts) and some interesting new ones (the Summon spell in particular). The playtest magic rules though are much freer from the constraints of traditional D&D. There are no more Clerics and no more spell levels, there's a risk of miscasting spells if you use them in "risky situations" and all the new spells are quite weird, which suits the game's subheading of weird fantasy role-playing. And that's basically the kind of vibe I'm looking for. I want a fantasy game where magic is fairly rare, and also feels unpredictable and dangerous and at the same time powerful, while dealing in a different kind of power then warriors do. Basically, if you want to kill people well, be a Fighter. If you want to be a specialist in something else, be a Specialist. If you want to do weird occult shit that creeps everyone around the table out, play a Magic User.

Setting the game in the real world removes a lot of the work of worldbuilding (which can be fun, but isn't what I'm looking for with this particular project) and gives the players and GM a "shared knowledge" of the setting through default that is almost unbeatable with fantasy settings unless you play in the same setting for a long time or use a published one that everyone is very familiar with. If I'm worldbuilding and I say "it appears the documents are written in Old Coraxian and details the life of the dead king Muralma and the location of his tomb as well as some treasures buried in it", then that is never really going to be as immediately clear or evocative as "it appears the documents are written in classical latin and details the life of Alexander the Great as well as the location of his tomb as well as some treasures buried within it." The same thing with "oh, he's from Cormyr, and his friend is from Shadowdale" versus "oh, he's French, and his friend is Dutch". It just gives an immediate connection (especially since we live in Europe). It also makes it easy to maintain that "magic is weird, there aren't a bunch of demi-humans running around" vibe if the setting backdrop is always the real world.

I tried this before, but apart from problems with the group, the one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb when we used LotFP for historical Portugal in the early 1600s was the magic system. It just didn't fit in. The spells were too workaday to be seen as blackest witchcraft and heretical sorcery. With the new magic system, that will almost certainly change. The new spells are almost uniformly fucked up, and some of the miscast results can be catastrophic for the group as well as sometimes the whole planet.
 
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Lofgeornost

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But why specifically LotFP and not any other retro clone or OSR D&D variant? Well, LotFP has become more focused on using the real world in the early modern era (the game gives 1492-1683, so about a hundred years shorter than the actual early modern era), it's added rules for firearms and era appropriate armor and many adventures are set then (there's a whole supplement about the English civil war for instance).

Then there's the magic system. The basic magic system in LotFP is pretty much your standard D&D stuff, but with some interesting omissions (no fireballs or lightning bolts) and some interesting new ones (the Summon spell in particular). The playtest magic rules though are much freer from the constraints of traditional D&D. There are no more Clerics and no more spell levels, there's a risk of miscasting spells if you use them in "risky situations" and all the new spells are quite weird, which suits the game's subheading of weird fantasy role-playing. And that's basically the kind of vibe I'm looking for. I want a fantasy game where magic is fairly rare, and also feels unpredictable and dangerous and at the same time powerful, while dealing in a different kind of power then warriors do. Basically, if you want to kill people well, be a Fighter. If you want to be a specialist in something else, be a Specialist. If you want to do weird occult shit that creeps everyone around the table out, play a Magic User.

That makes a lot of sense. My own preference for historically-inspired gaming is a system that doesn't include class and level, but that's just a matter of personal taste. I'd also go a different direction with magic--rather than being rare and always weird, there would be a lot of it that was concerned with pretty mundane tasks--and everyone would know some of it. My inspiration is something a Lutheran minister wrote, complaining about his flock in Wiesbaden in 1594.
A disapproving Lutheran view of popular magic: said:
The use of spells is so widespread among the people here that not a man or woman begins, undertakes, does or refrains from doing anything … without employing some particular blessing, incantation, spell, or other such heathenish means. To wit: in pangs of childbirth, when a babe is taken up or put down (so that no evil enchantment may befall him) … when cattle are driven into the fields, or are lost, etc., when windows are shut against the night, etc… Whenever an article has been mislaid and cannot be found, when someone feels sickly or a cow acts queer, they run at once to the soothsayer to ask who has stolen it or put a bad spell on it, and to fetch some charm to use against the enchanter…

Daily experience with these people shows that there is no measure or limit to the use of these superstitious spells, both among those who cast them, and among those who ask them to be cast, believing thereby to keep their lives and property from coming to harm. All the people hereabouts engage in superstitious practices with familiar and unfamiliar words, names, and rhymes, especially with the name of God, the Holy Trinity, certain angels, the Virgin Mary, the twelve Apostles, the Three Kings, numerous saints, the wounds of Christ, his seven words on the Cross, verses from the New Testament.... These are spoken secretly or openly, they are written on scraps of paper, swallowed or worn as charms. They also make strange signs, crosses, gestures; they do things with herbs’ roots, branches of special trees; they have their particular days, hours and places for everything, and in all their deeds and words they make much use of the number three. And all this is done to work harm on others or to do good, to make things better or worse, to bring good or bad luck to their fellow men.

So I guess I'd end up with one of the D100 systems, maybe Renaissance, since it seems to be designed for this period. But I'd be happy enough with just about any of them.

Setting the game in the real world removes a lot of the work of worldbuilding (which can be fun, but isn't what I'm looking for with this particular project) and gives the players and GM a "shared knowledge" of the setting through default that is almost unbeatable with fantasy settings unless you play in the same setting for a long time or use a published one that everyone is very familiar with. If I'm worldbuilding and I say "it appears the documents are written in Old Coraxian and details the life of the dead king Muralma and the location of his tomb as well as some treasures buried in it", then that is never really going to be as immediately clear or evocative as "it appears the documents are written in classical latin and details the life of Alexander the Great as well as the location of his tomb as well as some treasures buried within it." The same thing with "oh, he's from Cormyr, and his friend is from Shadowdale" versus "oh, he's French, and his friend is Dutch". It just gives an immediate connection (especially since we live in Europe). It also makes it easy to maintain that "magic is weird, there aren't a bunch of demi-humans running around" vibe if the setting backdrop is always the real world.

Amen to that. And no imaginary setting can compare to the sheer depth of material available for a real-world one.
 

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That makes a lot of sense. My own preference for historically-inspired gaming is a system that doesn't include class and level, but that's just a matter of personal taste. I'd also go a different direction with magic--rather than being rare and always weird, there would be a lot of it that was concerned with pretty mundane tasks--and everyone would know some of it. My inspiration is something a Lutheran minister wrote, complaining about his flock in Wiesbaden in 1594.

Yeah, I mean one could go any way with it really. LotFP has three classes, and to me class based systems work best when the classes are few but broad, so it has that going for it. My other penchant with historical settings is no magic or anything, just straight up set in history.


So I guess I'd end up with one of the D100 systems, maybe Renaissance, since it seems to be designed for this period. But I'd be happy enough with just about any of them.

I mean, I grew up with BRP-based systems (that and TFT, and some D&D) as that was the big system in Sweden (D&D didn't really catch on here to the same degree until recently). None of them really had folk magic though, so if you want that, I think check that the particular iteration you get has that first.



Amen to that. And no imaginary setting can compare to the sheer depth of material available for a real-world one.

No. And it is really unusual for more than one player to be particularly interested enough in the setting to use any of the material that is actually out there anyway, whereas any player can surprise you with some random knowledge of real world history or geography (for instance, the longest proven sightline in the world is from Pic de Finestrelles in the Spanish Pyrenees to Pic Gaspard in the French Alps, 443 km away. Good luck finding anyone who knows what the sightlines are between mountain ranges in the Forgotten Realms).
 

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So, another adventure seed for Rome 1560: The plague-spreaders (spoilered for length):

People in the 16th-17th century sometimes blamed plague outbreaks on deliberate action of malefactors. I don’t mean people simply transporting or selling items thought to be infected, like the clothes of plague victims (though there were charges of that sort of thing, too) but instead attempts to bring on an outbreak by powders or ointments that would cause the disease. These materials might be put on people’s clothing, but more often they are described as being smeared on surfaces people would touch—doors and doorknobs, a cathedral’s benches or steps, etc. One case in France even mentions putting the stuff on the rocks by the riverside where washer-women plied their trade, thereby spreading infection widely through the town. Some of the descriptions of these ointments, powders, etc. treat them as purely natural agents, concocted from the remains of plague victims or other substances with would bring on the disease. Others, though, hint at a diabolical origin for them. The plague-spreaders (untori in Italian) are then imagined to traffic with demons, who inspire them to their murderous activities and perhaps provide guidance on how to make the poisonous substances.

All of this sounds pretty far out, given that the germ theory of disease was still centuries in the future. But some contemporary medical theories of plague held that it derived from a toxin or ‘poison’ that might be absorbed through the lungs or the skin. Once a body was infected by the toxin, it produced more of it, rendering a plague patient’s breath, sweat, likewise toxic—and making the disease infectious. The powder or ‘grease’ would just be a concentrated form of that toxin. Of course, in reality the people accused of this crime were probably innocent victims of the panic that attended a plague outbreak, forced into confessions by judicial torture. But in a game, things don’t have to work that way…

I’m not sure if charges like this were ever made against anyone in Rome, but you find them in France and Switzerland in this period, and in Northern Italy as well. In fact, there are warnings about untori from Genoa’s Health Board in 1559, claiming that they might be dressed as pilgrims, and mentions of them in Mantua, Pavia, and Milan in 1560; Milan even executed someone for the crime in that year. So it fits well into your suggested era for the game.

So, let’s assume there is a plague-spreading conspiracy in the city of Rome in 1560. Who is behind it and why? I’d suggest one of the cardinals, who is looking to improve his position within the curia. He’s fairly sure that Pope Pius will leave the city to avoid the epidemic, as will many of the other cardinals. Our Cardinal X will volunteer to stay to minister to the people and keep the government running during the outbreak. His plan is that he will preside over a series of religious processions (a typical spiritual remedy for epidemics). After his processions have ‘cleared’ a neighborhood, the untori will no longer infect people there. He gets credit for stopping the plague, gaining a reputation for piety and for helping the populace when others have fled. That may help at the next papal election. Also, he can have the untori target his rivals or enemies among those who remain in the city.

That alone could make for an interesting scenario. Maybe some other authority has caught wind of the plot and hires the PCs to investigate it or stop it. Or maybe they have been hired to guard an absent cardinal’s palace and they witness the untori in action, or something else that pulls them into the plot. Or we might posit that the untori have an antidote to the poison that acts as a plague-cure, if given promptly enough, and one of the PCs needs it as he or she has contracted the disease. Further, there is a lot to be done simply with the city during the epidemic as a setting. PCs could help enforce, or run afoul of, public-health measures like the closing up of infected houses, the burning of household goods, or the transport of the ill to the lazaretto. Though it’s about a century too late, there’s a great pictorial representation of Rome in plague-time available through the Welcome Institute’s image collection here.

The processions themselves could be interesting set-pieces—visually striking and involving behavior that the players will probably find bizarre, like mass self-flagellation. They would likely involve the parading of the crucifix of San Marcello through the streets—it was credited with stopping the plague of 1522. It has its own intriguing legendary history—supposedly its creator mortally wounded a man and then modeled Jesus’ figure on him as he died in agony. It was also by the 1560s the centerpiece of one of Rome’s largest and most prestigious religious confraternities. Plenty of material to work with there—maybe part of Cardinal X’s plan is to gain or tighten his control over this confraternity?

But, we can complicate the story and bring in more weirdness. Let’s say that, unknown to Cardinal X, the leader of the untori is actually either a diabolist or a plague spirit in human form. His goal is a much larger epidemic the cardinal wants, one that kills many more people, disrupts the functioning of the Church, and perhaps spreads elsewhere. So as the PCs investigate and think they’ve just about figured out the situation, the bottom falls out, so to speak, and they are dropped to the next level of the conspiracy.

There are lots of ways to imagine a plague spirit—I wouldn’t be surprised if they already show up in some LotFP module or other, and of course WFRP has that sort of thing. Or we could imagine simply a demon, as pictured in the art of the 1500s. But this would be a good opportunity to draw on some Classical lore, specifically Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana:
With such harangues as these he knit together the people of Smyrna; but when the plague began to rage in Ephesus, and no remedy sufficed to check it, they sent a deputation to Apollonius, asking him to become physician of their infirmity; and he thought that he ought not to postpone his journey, but said: "Let us go."

And forthwith he was in Ephesus, performing the same feat, I believe, as Pythagoras, who was in Thurii and Metapontum at one and the same moment. He therefore called together the Ephesians, and said: "Take courage, for I will today put a stop to the course of the disease."

And with these words he led the population entire to the the theater, where the image of the Averting god has been set up. And there he saw what seemed an old mendicant artfully blinking his eyes as if blind, as he carried a wallet and a crust of bread in it; and he was clad in rags and was very squalid of countenance. Apollonius therefore ranged the Ephesians around him and said: "Pick up as many stones as you can and hurl them at this enemy of the gods."

Now the Ephesians wondered what he meant, and were shocked at the idea of murdering a stranger so manifestly miserable; for he was begging and praying them to take mercy upon him. Nevertheless Apollonius insisted and egged on the Ephesians to launch themselves on him and not let him go. And as soon as some of them began to take shots and hit him with their stones, the beggar who had seemed to blink and be blind, gave them all a sudden glance and his eyes were full of fire. Then the Ephesians recognized that he was a demon, and they stoned him so thoroughly that their stones were heaped into a great cairn around him.

After a little pause Apollonius bade them remove the stones and acquaint themselves with the wild animal they had slain. When therefore they had exposed the object which they thought they had thrown their missiles at, they found that he had disappeared and instead of him there was a hound who resembled in form and look a Molossian dog, but was in size the equal of the largest lion; there he lay before their eyes, pounded to a pulp by their stones and vomiting foam as mad dogs do. Accordingly the statue of the Averting god, Heracles, has been set up over the spot where the ghost was slain.

I’m not sure precisely how I would try to fit this into the scenario, but I like the idea of the PCs having to convince people that some poor old pilgrim is actually a demonic plague spirit. If we want to tie it down to a specific demon, then Marbas might be a good choice—he was credited with being able to cause and cure illnesses and appeared in the shape of a lion (which we might substitute for a dog). Or Merizim was supposed to be chief of the ‘aerial powers’ who brought epidemics. But I noticed that LotFP urges leaving the occult elements of the game mysterious—so maybe it would be better to offer conflicting theories about what the plague spirit is: a demon? A ghost? A servant of some Cthulhoid ‘Old One’?

I think I’d try to work in another part of Rome’s legendary history with plague. The plague outbreak of 590 was said to be ended because of processions organized by Pope Gregory ‘the Great.’ Gregory knew that God had agreed to relent and remove the epidemic when, in the course of the procession, he saw a vision of the archangel Michael sheathing his sword atop Hadrian’s mausoleum. That building later became Castel Sant’Angelo, a papal stronghold—Cellini took potshots at soldiers from it during the siege of Rome in 1527. It had rich papal apartments, a chapel, a treasury, and (from 1536) a marble statue of the angel at its top.

I’d aim to have the main showdown between the PCs and the untori take place in this building. Their leader could have persuaded Cardinal X to arrange for them to gain access to it—perhaps some of the rivals he wishes to eliminate are staying there during the epidemic. Or maybe he is himself, and they have access so they can speak with him. In any case, the untori actually want into the building as part of their nefarious plan. Maybe they need to do some devilish ritual in the place to intensify the epidemic—it was part of ending the plague of 590, so perhaps it is the ideal spot to inflame an epidemic now? Alternatively, maybe they are looking for something hidden in building. A French text of 1577 claimed that the Emperor Commodus manufactured an epidemic in Rome during his reign, having agents spread it by ‘greasing’ surfaces. Perhaps the untori are looking for his ‘recipe’ or a surviving stock of the ‘grease’ sealed away since his day. Or maybe they seek his bones, which once might have rested in the mausoleum—one supposed ingredient in the poisonous lotion was the bones of plague victims, and Commodus as the arch-untori might have potent remains, from a magical perspective.

Anyway, just a few ideas you can use, or not, as you like. Since the COVID situation has put an end to my actual gaming, posts like this are as close as I can get to running adventures.
 

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So, another adventure seed for Rome 1560: The plague-spreaders (spoilered for length):

People in the 16th-17th century sometimes blamed plague outbreaks on deliberate action of malefactors. I don’t mean people simply transporting or selling items thought to be infected, like the clothes of plague victims (though there were charges of that sort of thing, too) but instead attempts to bring on an outbreak by powders or ointments that would cause the disease. These materials might be put on people’s clothing, but more often they are described as being smeared on surfaces people would touch—doors and doorknobs, a cathedral’s benches or steps, etc. One case in France even mentions putting the stuff on the rocks by the riverside where washer-women plied their trade, thereby spreading infection widely through the town. Some of the descriptions of these ointments, powders, etc. treat them as purely natural agents, concocted from the remains of plague victims or other substances with would bring on the disease. Others, though, hint at a diabolical origin for them. The plague-spreaders (untori in Italian) are then imagined to traffic with demons, who inspire them to their murderous activities and perhaps provide guidance on how to make the poisonous substances.

All of this sounds pretty far out, given that the germ theory of disease was still centuries in the future. But some contemporary medical theories of plague held that it derived from a toxin or ‘poison’ that might be absorbed through the lungs or the skin. Once a body was infected by the toxin, it produced more of it, rendering a plague patient’s breath, sweat, likewise toxic—and making the disease infectious. The powder or ‘grease’ would just be a concentrated form of that toxin. Of course, in reality the people accused of this crime were probably innocent victims of the panic that attended a plague outbreak, forced into confessions by judicial torture. But in a game, things don’t have to work that way…

I’m not sure if charges like this were ever made against anyone in Rome, but you find them in France and Switzerland in this period, and in Northern Italy as well. In fact, there are warnings about untori from Genoa’s Health Board in 1559, claiming that they might be dressed as pilgrims, and mentions of them in Mantua, Pavia, and Milan in 1560; Milan even executed someone for the crime in that year. So it fits well into your suggested era for the game.

So, let’s assume there is a plague-spreading conspiracy in the city of Rome in 1560. Who is behind it and why? I’d suggest one of the cardinals, who is looking to improve his position within the curia. He’s fairly sure that Pope Pius will leave the city to avoid the epidemic, as will many of the other cardinals. Our Cardinal X will volunteer to stay to minister to the people and keep the government running during the outbreak. His plan is that he will preside over a series of religious processions (a typical spiritual remedy for epidemics). After his processions have ‘cleared’ a neighborhood, the untori will no longer infect people there. He gets credit for stopping the plague, gaining a reputation for piety and for helping the populace when others have fled. That may help at the next papal election. Also, he can have the untori target his rivals or enemies among those who remain in the city.

That alone could make for an interesting scenario. Maybe some other authority has caught wind of the plot and hires the PCs to investigate it or stop it. Or maybe they have been hired to guard an absent cardinal’s palace and they witness the untori in action, or something else that pulls them into the plot. Or we might posit that the untori have an antidote to the poison that acts as a plague-cure, if given promptly enough, and one of the PCs needs it as he or she has contracted the disease. Further, there is a lot to be done simply with the city during the epidemic as a setting. PCs could help enforce, or run afoul of, public-health measures like the closing up of infected houses, the burning of household goods, or the transport of the ill to the lazaretto. Though it’s about a century too late, there’s a great pictorial representation of Rome in plague-time available through the Welcome Institute’s image collection here.

The processions themselves could be interesting set-pieces—visually striking and involving behavior that the players will probably find bizarre, like mass self-flagellation. They would likely involve the parading of the crucifix of San Marcello through the streets—it was credited with stopping the plague of 1522. It has its own intriguing legendary history—supposedly its creator mortally wounded a man and then modeled Jesus’ figure on him as he died in agony. It was also by the 1560s the centerpiece of one of Rome’s largest and most prestigious religious confraternities. Plenty of material to work with there—maybe part of Cardinal X’s plan is to gain or tighten his control over this confraternity?

But, we can complicate the story and bring in more weirdness. Let’s say that, unknown to Cardinal X, the leader of the untori is actually either a diabolist or a plague spirit in human form. His goal is a much larger epidemic the cardinal wants, one that kills many more people, disrupts the functioning of the Church, and perhaps spreads elsewhere. So as the PCs investigate and think they’ve just about figured out the situation, the bottom falls out, so to speak, and they are dropped to the next level of the conspiracy.

There are lots of ways to imagine a plague spirit—I wouldn’t be surprised if they already show up in some LotFP module or other, and of course WFRP has that sort of thing. Or we could imagine simply a demon, as pictured in the art of the 1500s. But this would be a good opportunity to draw on some Classical lore, specifically Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana:


I’m not sure precisely how I would try to fit this into the scenario, but I like the idea of the PCs having to convince people that some poor old pilgrim is actually a demonic plague spirit. If we want to tie it down to a specific demon, then Marbas might be a good choice—he was credited with being able to cause and cure illnesses and appeared in the shape of a lion (which we might substitute for a dog). Or Merizim was supposed to be chief of the ‘aerial powers’ who brought epidemics. But I noticed that LotFP urges leaving the occult elements of the game mysterious—so maybe it would be better to offer conflicting theories about what the plague spirit is: a demon? A ghost? A servant of some Cthulhoid ‘Old One’?

I think I’d try to work in another part of Rome’s legendary history with plague. The plague outbreak of 590 was said to be ended because of processions organized by Pope Gregory ‘the Great.’ Gregory knew that God had agreed to relent and remove the epidemic when, in the course of the procession, he saw a vision of the archangel Michael sheathing his sword atop Hadrian’s mausoleum. That building later became Castel Sant’Angelo, a papal stronghold—Cellini took potshots at soldiers from it during the siege of Rome in 1527. It had rich papal apartments, a chapel, a treasury, and (from 1536) a marble statue of the angel at its top.

I’d aim to have the main showdown between the PCs and the untori take place in this building. Their leader could have persuaded Cardinal X to arrange for them to gain access to it—perhaps some of the rivals he wishes to eliminate are staying there during the epidemic. Or maybe he is himself, and they have access so they can speak with him. In any case, the untori actually want into the building as part of their nefarious plan. Maybe they need to do some devilish ritual in the place to intensify the epidemic—it was part of ending the plague of 590, so perhaps it is the ideal spot to inflame an epidemic now? Alternatively, maybe they are looking for something hidden in building. A French text of 1577 claimed that the Emperor Commodus manufactured an epidemic in Rome during his reign, having agents spread it by ‘greasing’ surfaces. Perhaps the untori are looking for his ‘recipe’ or a surviving stock of the ‘grease’ sealed away since his day. Or maybe they seek his bones, which once might have rested in the mausoleum—one supposed ingredient in the poisonous lotion was the bones of plague victims, and Commodus as the arch-untori might have potent remains, from a magical perspective.

Anyway, just a few ideas you can use, or not, as you like. Since the COVID situation has put an end to my actual gaming, posts like this are as close as I can get to running adventures.
Lots of good stuff there. I'm looking at the PCs gaining a cardinal as an on again off again patron early on, so things involving high church intrigue fit right into that idea.

LotFP demons tend to run more toward Lovecraftian ones than more traditional Abrahamic models, but mainly it's quite open to do whatever one likes in. Still, that kind of alien monstrosity should still work for these purposes. One can imagine a thing which simply causes disease in anything it touches, and some poor sods using mops and buckets to collect its drippings for later use.

Coupling this to an earlier idea, one could also see it as perhaps a plot by the Carafas to avoid punishment by the new papal regime. If Cardinal Carlo Carafa, or his nephew Cardinal Alfonso Carafa, can get the credit for ridding Rome of plague, then Pius IV may be forced to leave them in their stations instead of arresting them. I've considered using the Carafas as major antagonists early in the campaign (thinking of beginning in late 1559, and the Carafas were not arrested until June 1560) and this would be an interesting villainous plot.

This campaign won't get off the ground until the COVID crisis is over anyway, as I have one player who really prefers to play in the real world, as it were. So right now all I'm doing is planning and checking out various adventures on Drivethrurpg and information on the early modern era in general and 1560s Italy in particular. I've compiled some images of contemporary art showing fashion, food, armor and weapons of the time.
 

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Lots of good stuff there. I'm looking at the PCs gaining a cardinal as an on again off again patron early on, so things involving high church intrigue fit right into that idea.

LotFP demons tend to run more toward Lovecraftian ones than more traditional Abrahamic models, but mainly it's quite open to do whatever one likes in. Still, that kind of alien monstrosity should still work for these purposes. One can imagine a thing which simply causes disease in anything it touches, and some poor sods using mops and buckets to collect its drippings for later use
.

That would be cool; the leader could then be some sort of evil magician using plague demons rather than one himself. Actually, it reminds me of something I was reading about Calvinist demonology--the idea that demons need the human will of witches to allow them to use their evil powers. From the Calvinist perspective, this was to gain divine permission for the evil. But it would be interesting to interpret it differently--that angels (and demons are fallen angels) are so different from human beings on the scale of existence that they really can't come up with this sort of thing on their own--it is simultaneously beneath and beyond them. So demons would not be the 'please allow me to introduce myself' antagonist, but largely-incomprehensible alien forces that are malevolent. Which, I guess, tends to erase most distinctions between them and Lovecraftian Old Ones...

Coupling this to an earlier idea, one could also see it as perhaps a plot by the Carafas to avoid punishment by the new papal regime. If Cardinal Carlo Carafa, or his nephew Cardinal Alfonso Carafa, can get the credit for ridding Rome of plague, then Pius IV may be forced to leave them in their stations instead of arresting them. I've considered using the Carafas as major antagonists early in the campaign (thinking of beginning in late 1559, and the Carafas were not arrested until June 1560) and this would be an interesting villainous plot.

I really like that idea; I hadn't made that connection.

This campaign won't get off the ground until the COVID crisis is over anyway, as I have one player who really prefers to play in the real world, as it were. So right now all I'm doing is planning and checking out various adventures on Drivethrurpg and information on the early modern era in general and 1560s Italy in particular. I've compiled some images of contemporary art showing fashion, food, armor and weapons of the time.

I'd love to see some of them, if you want to post links.
 

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.

That would be cool; the leader could then be some sort of evil magician using plague demons rather than one himself. Actually, it reminds me of something I was reading about Calvinist demonology--the idea that demons need the human will of witches to allow them to use their evil powers. From the Calvinist perspective, this was to gain divine permission for the evil. But it would be interesting to interpret it differently--that angels (and demons are fallen angels) are so different from human beings on the scale of existence that they really can't come up with this sort of thing on their own--it is simultaneously beneath and beyond them. So demons would not be the 'please allow me to introduce myself' antagonist, but largely-incomprehensible alien forces that are malevolent. Which, I guess, tends to erase most distinctions between them and Lovecraftian Old Ones...

Yeah, that sounds a lot more like Lamentations of the Flame Princess. And it makes it easier to have a plague demon as not something the PCs can beat up or even magic away. What they need to do is find the person using the demon. Once they get rid of that person, the problem should resolve itself momentarily.


I really like that idea; I hadn't made that connection.
Thanks, and than you for turning me onto them. I looked into them after you mentioned them earlier, and there's some interesting stuff there to work with. They could be involved in all kinds of plots and shenanigans, both occult and mundane.



I'd love to see some of them, if you want to post links.

Much of it was found on wikipedia, but also some other pages around the web. I can post some of the images here. We'll start with some fencing images.

3Rapier.jpg
4Rapierfighters.jpg
Rapier killing1.jpg

I don't think they're all from quite the right period (the middle one especially screams 17th century to me) but still useful in showing rapiers in action.
 

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Next some style icons from the 1550s and 1560s. Mostly upper class because they tended to get painted more.
Italy 1556, MoroniPOAG1555-60.jpg
A knight, posing with his helmet.
Italy 1557, Portrait_of_Bianca_Ponzoni_Anguissola,_by_Sofonisba_Anguissola.jpg
Note the dead animal with a jeweled head hanging from a chain around her waist. That was high fashion.
Italy 1558, basketfruit.jpg
The slashed shoulders are typical of the period.
Italy mid 1550s, MoroniKnightPossiblyConteFaustinoAvogadro.jpg
Another soldier, this one posing with more of his armor. Possibly this is Conte Faustino Avogadro.
Italy 1560, Lavinia1560.jpg
Again some sort of fur bushel hanging from a chain.
Italy 1560, MoroniGentlemanMadonna.jpg
This guy is in something inspired by the more restrained Spanish style. Lots of black and a slimmer silhouette than the previous 25 years dictated.
 

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Much of it was found on wikipedia, but also some other pages around the web. I can post some of the images here. We'll start with some fencing images.

I don't think they're all from quite the right period (the middle one especially screams 17th century to me) but still useful in showing rapiers in action.

Neat! I agree about the middle image--it does seem to come from a somewhat later period. One interesting source for roughly contemporary images of regional costumes is a manuscript by Lucas Heere, Théâtre de tous les peuples et nations de la terre avec leurs habits et ornemens divers (c. 1575). The University of Ghent digitized the whole book, and I think you can download it, though I haven't. You can also consult it online. Unfortunately, it only has one page dedicated to contemporary Roman dress: page 16. (I hope the link works; I'm not sure if it is permanent). But the book has a number of pages showing people from other Italian cities and also some nice images of Swiss, Germans, inhabitants of the Low Countries, even Scots. Since Rome was a magnet for people from all over the continent, I suppose you'd see costumes of many regions there.
 

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Another roughly contemporary costume-book that has been digitized is Kostüme der Männer und Frauen in Augsburg und Nürnberg, Deutschland, Europa, Orient und Afrika (last quarter of the 1500s). This has two whole sections on Italian dress; one for Venice alone and another for the rest of Italy. The Italian section starts on folio 74r. (Again, apologies if the link doesn't work). The book is available through the Bavarian State Library's website.

I'll try inserting a picture: Kostuem der Manner und Frauen-Italian Woman.jpg
 

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Cool. The link worked, I'll see if I can find the Lucas Heere volume too. And it is really difficult to find specifically Roman dress of the period, unless you're looking at the popes. Most of the stuff I can find is Venetian, with some general "Italian" stuff mixed in as well. Unfortunately Italian and English fashion diverged considerably at the time too, so I can't use sources that focus on England too much either.
 

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Cool. The link worked, I'll see if I can find the Lucas Heere volume too. And it is really difficult to find specifically Roman dress of the period, unless you're looking at the popes. Most of the stuff I can find is Venetian, with some general "Italian" stuff mixed in as well. Unfortunately Italian and English fashion diverged considerably at the time too, so I can't use sources that focus on England too much either.

Yes; I have a memory of reading somewhere that the dress of secular Romans in the 1500s was pretty conservative--lots of black fabrics. That's what the Heere picture suggests. Clerical garb may have been more colorful, which is something of the opposite of what we'd expect. And apparently 'foreigners'--meaning Italians from other cities--were recognizable by their dress.

Switching from images of people to pictures of the city itself, have you encountered the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae? It's a collection of prints made by Antonio Lafreri, a Frenchman who settled in Rome c. 1540. He produced prints of various places and scenes in Rome, some contemporary and some imaginings of Ancient Rome, mostly for the tourist trade. They were sold individually, but by the 1570s often a selection of them were collected in a bound volume. The exact contents would vary, depending on what the purchaser wanted. The University of Chicago Library has a huge collection of the prints, and similar material, almost 1,000 items in all, which they've digitized--this is the home page. You can search for specific things, or take 'tours' of the material--one of those features a number of different period engravings of the Castel Sant' Angelo, which I mentioned above, like the one here (if the link works).

Upthread, it seems that I somehow cut off part of the quotation from Philostratos about Apollonius and the plague spirit, so here's the whole thing:
[4.10] With such harangues as these he knit together the people of Smyrna; but when the plague began to rage in Ephesus and no remedy sufficed to check it, they sent a deputation to Apollonius, asking him to become physician of their infirmity; and he thought that he ought not to postpone his journey, but said: "Let us go."

And forthwith he was in Ephesus, performing the same feat, I believe, as Pythagoras, who was in Thurii and Metapontum at one and the same moment. He therefore called together the Ephesians, and said: "Take courage, for I will today put a stop to the course of the disease."

And with these words he led the population entire to the the theater, where the image of the Averting god has been set up. And there he saw what seemed an old mendicant artfully blinking his eyes as if blind, as he carried a wallet and a crust of bread in it; and he was clad in rags and was very squalid of countenance. Apollonius therefore ranged the Ephesians around him and said: "Pick up as many stones as you can and hurl them at this enemy of the gods."

Now the Ephesians wondered what he meant, and were shocked at the idea of murdering a stranger so manifestly miserable; for he was begging and praying them to take mercy upon him. Nevertheless Apollonius insisted and egged on the Ephesians to launch themselves on him and not let him go. And as soon as some of them began to take shots and hit him with their stones, the beggar who had seemed to blink and be blind, gave them all a sudden glance and his eyes were full of fire. Then the Ephesians recognized that he was a demon, and they stoned him so thoroughly that their stones were heaped into a great cairn around him.

After a little pause Apollonius bade them remove the stones and acquaint themselves with the wild animal they had slain. When therefore they had exposed the object which they thought they had thrown their missiles at, they found that he had disappeared and instead of him there was a hound who resembled in form and look a Molossian dog, but was in size the equal of the largest lion; there he lay before their eyes, pounded to a pulp by their stones and vomiting foam as mad dogs do. Accordingly the statue of the Averting god, Heracles, has been set up over the spot where the ghost was slain.
 

Lofgeornost

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On the plague-spreader front: in reality, these accusations were of course false, with the possible exception of some cases in Geneva. They were brought forward in times of panic and 'proved' with liberal applications of torture. One way they tend to show up in fiction is as examples of miscarriages of justice and mob mentality; that's how they appear in Manzoni's The Betrothed, for instance, which deals with the Milanese cases of 1630.

It might be a good idea to incorporate some of that material into the invented Roman case in 1560. We could imagine that, once the PCs have found some of the untori, panic grips Rome. We could re-use some of the actual events from Milan's later experience. There, an eighty-year-old man brushed off a bench at the cathedral; bystanders thought he was spreading toxin and assaulted him, leading to his death. Some French tourists, taking a rubbing of some stonework of the Duomo were accused of being untori by the mob and barely escaped injury by being arrested. That latter detail would fit especially well with Rome, given all the ruins there where people might be making rubbings. And accounts from Milan speak of peasants from neighboring villages hauling in suspects every day.

Perhaps the PCs themselves might run afoul of these suspicions and find themselves accused of being untori. Cardinal Carafa (or whoever is sponsoring the conspiracy) might use his control over the city's government in the pope's absence to steer the investigation away from the real untori. False accusations of plague 'greasing' could be another way for him to dispose of some of his rivals--or shake down people for acquittals. It's interesting that several of the accused in Milan were bankers, a profession that thrived in Rome at this point as well.

Another set-piece for the adventure could be the execution of some accused untori--either the real ones or people falsely convicted. These were often over-the-top, even by the standards of Early Modern Europe, because the crime was thought to be so heinous. In Milan, two of the untori underwent an extended death ritual in which they were torn by red-hot tongs, then had their bones broken with heavy rods. After being exposed on the wheel for six hours, they were killed and their bodies burnt; their ashes were then scattered to the winds. Another suspect was hung up by one foot for hours before being burned, and yet another flayed alive. There's a contemporary etching showing these gruesome ceremonies (fortunately not with much realism), available thanks to the Wellcome Collection of medical images.
 

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Yes; I have a memory of reading somewhere that the dress of secular Romans in the 1500s was pretty conservative--lots of black fabrics. That's what the Heere picture suggests. Clerical garb may have been more colorful, which is something of the opposite of what we'd expect. And apparently 'foreigners'--meaning Italians from other cities--were recognizable by their dress.
From what I've read, Italy varied a lot. The trend of black fabric and less extravagant dress seems to have been a Spanish thing which then spread to other parts of Europe in the latter half of the 16th century. Thus, whether or not this style became popular among the upper classes depended in part on whether emulating the Spanish court was the done thing. Apparently it was the done thing generally in western and central Europe except for France and Italy. So it's possible that the Spanish fashion was popular in Rome (especially after the death of Pope Paul IV who was very anti-Spanish) but not so much in other parts of the peninsula.

Switching from images of people to pictures of the city itself, have you encountered the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae? It's a collection of prints made by Antonio Lafreri, a Frenchman who settled in Rome c. 1540. He produced prints of various places and scenes in Rome, some contemporary and some imaginings of Ancient Rome, mostly for the tourist trade. They were sold individually, but by the 1570s often a selection of them were collected in a bound volume. The exact contents would vary, depending on what the purchaser wanted. The University of Chicago Library has a huge collection of the prints, and similar material, almost 1,000 items in all, which they've digitized--this is the home page. You can search for specific things, or take 'tours' of the material--one of those features a number of different period engravings of the Castel Sant' Angelo, which I mentioned above, like the one here (if the link works).

No I had not encountered it, at least not in collected form, and it is great. Lots of good stuff there. It always helps to have pictures, both for yourrself and to show the players. They can give a real sense of how things look. And I've been going through the Kostüme der Männer und Frauen in Augsburg und Nürnberg, Deutschland, Europa, Orient und Afrika too and it has some really good and clear pictures of clothing. Maybe a decade or two off by period, but that is probably close enough for most purposes.
 

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From what I've read, Italy varied a lot. The trend of black fabric and less extravagant dress seems to have been a Spanish thing which then spread to other parts of Europe in the latter half of the 16th century. Thus, whether or not this style became popular among the upper classes depended in part on whether emulating the Spanish court was the done thing. Apparently it was the done thing generally in western and central Europe except for France and Italy. So it's possible that the Spanish fashion was popular in Rome (especially after the death of Pope Paul IV who was very anti-Spanish) but not so much in other parts of the peninsula.

Very interesting.

Along the lines of another thread, something I was reading recently suggested that there were wolves in Rome c. 1550.
 

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Very interesting.

Along the lines of another thread, something I was reading recently suggested that there were wolves in Rome c. 1550.
Wouldn't be surprising. Animals could easily get into most cities, and the city was very ruralized at the time. Much of the land inside the walls isn't town any more, as evidenced by the map I posted earlier.
 

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Another possible adventure idea—a hunt for buried treasure.

The background here is the coincidence of two events:
  1. By the summer of 1557, Paul IV’s ill-considered war against Philip II of Spain was not going well and troops from the Spanish kingdom of Naples were raiding within 5 miles of Rome. In late August the duke of Alba’s forces were encamped at La Colonna, only about 15 miles away, and on the night of August 25 he attempted to take the city by storm, only to draw back after advancing to within a mile of the gates. Spain’s military superiority, and the defeat of its French allies at St. Quentin, ultimately forced the papacy to agree to a peace; a treaty had been hammered out by September 12.
  2. Then, three days later, a disastrous flood swept through Rome, as the Tiber, swollen by days of rain, burst its banks. Much of the city was soon underwater, as the river rose about 6 meters above its normal level. Some thousand or more people may have drowned, and the destruction was widespread. Half of the Ponte Rotto was carried away, 10 mills along the river were destroyed or heavily damaged, and on Tiber Island the monastery of St. Bartholomew was obliterated. Buildings flooded above their ground floors—in the lowest-lying areas, up to the third floor. Tiber water backflowed through the Cloaca Maxima and other drains, which made the mud left behind by the flood especially noxious.
Now, military operations are a good opportunity for money and valuables to go missing. We can imagine that someone buried a considerable cache of treasure near the Tiber in late August, maybe within the city itself, but more likely outside its walls. Then the flood hit and obliterated the landmarks that showed where the treasure was placed. It could not be recovered at the time. Now (in 1560) the original depositors, or perhaps someone else, is looking for it.

So, what is the source of the treasure, who buried it, and why? It could simply be pay for Alba’s army (or indeed for the papal forces) that was heisted or embezzled. Or it might be valuables plundered by Spanish troops that they did not want to turn in to the army command. The buriers would then be some of Alba’s forces—which included Italians from the Regno, German mercenaries, etc.—who had to leave the neighborhood of Rome by early September and who returned to find they could not locate their cache. Or they might be Swiss mercenaries that had been fighting for papacy—2,000 of them arrived in Rome on July 19, and suffered a heavy defeat by Alba’s army by July 27—who likewise could not retrieve their loot before the flood hit.

Maybe a more interesting alternative would be to make the money a pay-off to someone inside Rome to open the gates to Alba’s forces. The turncoat probably would not be able to get the money back into the city after visiting Alba’s camp, and might choose to bury it near the Tiber, because it could then be picked up and transported by boat. We could imagine that Alba’s projected assault on August 25 did not take place because our conspirator either could not actually deliver the city to the Spanish, or because he turned his coat once again. Then before he could reclaim his ill-gotten gains, the flood hid them.

This latter possibility would open up possibilities for political intrigue. Maybe the cache includes not just payment but also evidence of the traitor’s agreement to hand the city over to Alba. Then he would be seeking it not just for its value, but to avoid disgrace, or even arrest.
 

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One obvious place for some hidden treasure to be would be in the ruins of San Bartolomeo, damaged by the flood (what I can find suggests it was reconstructed in 1624, but I don't know if it was in use between 1557 and 1624 in a damaged state). Perhaps the pope or his nephew had some treasure moved there during the invasion scare, and now that there's a new pope, cardinal Carafa, although banished from Rome even before the death of his uncle, wants to find the treasure to finance his schemes to keep his family on the up and up.
 

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One obvious place for some hidden treasure to be would be in the ruins of San Bartolomeo, damaged by the flood (what I can find suggests it was reconstructed in 1624, but I don't know if it was in use between 1557 and 1624 in a damaged state). Perhaps the pope or his nephew had some treasure moved there during the invasion scare, and now that there's a new pope, cardinal Carafa, although banished from Rome even before the death of his uncle, wants to find the treasure to finance his schemes to keep his family on the up and up.

San Bartolomeo, and Tiber Island in general, would be a good choice in some ways. I think the church had been restored enough to come back into use by 1583; I don't know about the monastery's fate. The hospital that is on the island now was constructed beginning c. 1584, if one can trust Wikipedia.

Carlo Carafa is a good candidate in most ways for the hider of the treasure. If you want to use the idea that the cache is a bribe to open the city to Alba's army, it's notable that Carafa was very active in the city's defense on the night of August 25, 1557. One could spin his actions differently, though--maybe he was riding around & checking the walls and gates not to make sure they were well-manned, but as part of a plan to betray the city. But for some reason he could not carry it through--perhaps he was accompanied by others who suspected him of treachery and thus he could not arrange for the gates to be opened. The cache could include correspondence that shows Carlo was engaged in secret negotiations for his family without Paul IV's knowledge--negotiations that then led to the peace made at Cave in mid-September. That was actually one of the main charges against him at his trial, so once he was arrested his agents would be avid to reclaim any such document.

Of course, there is the question of why Carafa would have hidden the treasure to begin with, since he controlled the city. If he could sneak it onto Tiber Island, then he could just as well have had it delivered to his apartments or anywhere in Rome. That's not so much of an issue if the cache was buried outside the city, maybe by Carafa's agents. Then we could assume the bribe could not easily be snuck into town during the siege. It also makes it easier to explain why the incriminating document is there--the agent didn't realize, in the dark, that the chest he was hiding included correspondence as well as money. Another issue is why Carafa did not search for the money sometime in 1558, after he returned from his embassy to Brussels. He was in charge of the secular government of the papal states for some months then and could have launched recovery efforts--which could have been disguised as salvage operations. But then, perhaps as long as the pope was alive, Carafa did not think it was that important to recover the money, and if he did not know about the correspondence...

Since the flood affected regions both upstream and downstream of Rome--one contemporary source says it wreaked havoc for some 40 miles of the Tiber's course--I'm inclined towards a hiding spot near the city but outside the walls. That makes it easier to explain why the money was hidden to begin with--because the recipient couldn't get it inside Rome safely--and why it can't be found easily now. If we imagine a relatively undeveloped stretch of riverbank, then after the flood there might be no obvious landmarks remaining by which one could guess where the burial spot was. And there could be a big area to search, too large for just a 'guess and dig' approach. My own preference would be for a burial site next to (or within) some contemporary wooden structure--a shack, boat-shed, etc.--but also in the vicinity of some ancient architectural remains (a tomb, villa, column, temple, what have you). The wooden structure has been entirely carried away by the flood and its foundations buried in thick mud, but the ancient site, which was above the flood level, is unaffected.

So why the ancient site? It has to do with how the buried treasure can be found. A slight digression--in 1551, Leonardo Bufalini, an engraver and military engineer, published a large (200 cm x 190 cm) map of the city of Rome. Bufalini claimed to have engaged in extensive surveying to create it, and it is the first surveyed map of the city since ancient times (as well as the first printed map of Rome). There are mistakes in it, I guess, and it shows some ancient monuments as if they were whole instead of ruined, but it's still a remarkable achievement--a full-size printing of it would make a great visual aid for this game. There's an image of the whole, and of the 24 segments that comprise it, at http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/waters/bufalini.html I think you actually can buy reproductions of it as a wall-map. I'll also insert an image:
Bufalini Map.jpg

Anyway, we can imagine that Bufalini made preliminary maps, sketches, and surveys before producing his magnum opus. These might well have been at a smaller scale than the published map, showing more detail. There's no reason why they could not have included studies of the Tiber outside the city walls--particularly areas of it that had ancient remains, which apparently interested him.

So, if Bufalini made a survey map of the region where the treasure was buried, showing the ancient ruins but also contemporary structures (like the vanished shack or boat-house), then that could be the key to finding it. The map would show the bearing and distance of the wooden building from the still-extant ancient ruins, showing therefore where to dig. But the PCs cannot simply find Bufalini and get the survey map from him. He died shortly after his great map of Rome was published, in 1552. They need to figure out who got control of his papers and effects after his death and where they are now, eight years later. And they'll be competing with the person who buried the treasure to begin with, or his agents.

I have some ideas for who has the survey map, and why, but this post is getting pretty long so I'll bring it to an end.
 

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My thinking with having them hide it in the church would have been in case the siege was lost and the city was sacked the valuables would still be there. Then when the city was not sacked, no great rush in getting the valuables back as they control the city, then comes the flood and getting the valuables back becomes hard and then a new pope and suddenly it is of a lot more importance to find whatever was hidden in the ruined church. But nothing says one can't use both ideas. Incriminating documents as well as a big cash bribe hidden outside the walls can be one plot thread, and some other treasure, perhaps a church artifact or magic item of some sort, hidden in the flood damaged San Bartolomeo.

The map looks great, by the way. I already have some other contemporary maps, but nothing as detailed as this.
 
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Lofgeornost

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My thinking with having them hide it in the church would have been in case the siege was lost and the city was sacked the valuables would still be there. Then when the city was not sacked, no great rush in getting the valuables back as they control the city, then comes the flood and getting the valuables back becomes hard and then a new pope and suddenly it is of a lot more importance to find whatever was hidden in the ruined church. But nothing says one can't use both ideas. Incriminating documents as well as a big cash bribe hidden outside the walls can be one plot thread, and some other treasure, perhaps a church artifact or magic item of some sort, hidden in the flood damaged San Bartolomeo.

The map looks great, by the way. I already have some other contemporary maps, but nothing as detailed as this.

That makes a lot of sense. Tiber Island was also the site of the temple of Asclepius in Ancient Rome (on roughly the site of San Bartolomeo), erected as part of an attempt to end an epidemic c. 293 B.C. So there could be a tie-in to the 'plague spreader' scenario as well.

Since I made the earlier post, I've found that Bufalini's map was reprinted in 1911 in a study by Franz Ehrle, Roma al tempo di Giulio III: la pianta di Roma di Leonardo Bufalini del 1551. This doesn't show the map fully assembled, but it has images of each of the sections that make it up. The University of Heidelberg digitized it; it's available as https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/piante_roma_bd1/0001/image . You can download the sections and get better resolution than in the link I posted above.

I've been thinking about the outbuilding where (or near where) the treasure was buried and I've come up with a slightly more 'Roman' possibility. Although Rome had some (barely) working aqueducts and some fountains c. 1560, many people drank water from the Tiber, as frightening as that may sound. Apparently there was a considerable pamphlet war in the 1550s between physicians over whether the Tiber was safe to drink. One sort of typical street vendor was the acquarolo, who traveled the city delivering water from casks carried on donkey-back. Here's an example from a 1582 broadsheet showing ~190 different types of street sellers:
Aquarolo Rome 1582-crop.png

The broadsheet as a whole might interest you; there's a digitized copy available courtesy of the British Museum: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1947-0319-26-173 . Anyway, these water-sellers collected river water from a few locations, put it in special decanting barrels and let the sediment precipitate out of it before loading it in casks to sell throughout the city.

It would make sense to me for an acquarolo (or maybe a group of them) to have a shed or building right on the Tiber, perhaps with a dock out into it for gathering their water. The shed would hold the decanting barrels; you would want it as close to the river as possible to avoid the trouble of hauling unclean water very far and to make disposal of the sedimentary dregs easy (just empty them back into the river). Contemporary accounts say some acquaroli got their Tiber water just north of the city, beyond the Piazza del Popolo. That could be the site of the cache's burial. Presumably the conspirator has ties to this group of acquaroli, so they will not ask questions about evidence of digging near their building.

I'm not sure how far north along the river bank the site should be. Contemporary maps don't show anything like it, but they do show the bank as agricultural or undeveloped, so there's certainly room for it. The Villa Giulia, then newly completed (1553) is just a bit up the Flaminian way from the city walls, so maybe north of that would make sense, though from practical reasons I'd think water vendors would want to take water just upstream of the city, to minimize the distance they must travel hauling it.
 

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So, who has Bufalini's survey that could be the key to finding the treasure? It could be his family, of course, but that's not particularly interesting. We know from his will that his son Antonio had predeceased him, and his general heir was his wife Magdalena, whom he wanted to enter a convent--I don't know if she did. But he left debts, including to his printer, so it's easy to imagine that his widow sold off or gave away his papers. Two possibilities for the current holders would be:

Pirro Ligorio (c. 1513-83). From a minor noble house in Naples, he moved to Rome in 1534, where he made a career as a painter, architect, and antiquarian. By 1560, he was more-or-less at the top of his game--he had been papal architect for Paul IV, for whom he designed the famous Casino of the Belvedere (which is not a gambling house, alas) and was kept on by Pius IV. He had a keen interest in ancient Rome's topography, and published maps and studies on it, culminating in his Roma antica map of 1561, which emphasized reconstruction drawings of ancient sites over the actual state of the city in 1560. (The Metropolitan Museum has a nice version of it online: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/403213 ;the file is too big to insert here.) He was also deeply interested in water--rivers, fountains, aqueducts, etc.--and designed the gardens at the d'Este villa at Tivoli, with their elaborate system of fountains and other waterworks. He compiled a massive encyclopedia on water-related topics, drawing on classical authors, but never finished or published it. It would make sense for him to be interested in Bufalini surveys or plans showing the Tiber, especially if they note ancient sites. He'll be hard for the PCs to get to see--he's a very busy man--and he is also famous for having an irascible temper. Dealing with him could be an interesting challenge for characters who specialize in diplomacy or social skills. One possible route to him--or way to gain leverage over him--could be his (possible) occasional 'liberties with the truth.' He was accused several times of forging some of the ancient inscriptions that he recorded in antiquarian publications, and in 1565 he was imprisoned briefly for embezzling building materials, though little came of this (and that kind of peculation was very common, anyway). But if the PCs got some dirt on him...

Antonio Trevisi (d. 1566), a military engineer from Lecce in Southern Italy. He relocated to Rome in 1559 to work on flood control. Paul IV had asked Rome's city government, the Capitoline Council, to address the matter and they had a meeting in March of 1559 to appoint a committee to handle the issue. Trevisi seems to have been just one of many people at the time working on how to prevent another disastrous flood like that of 1557. According to his writings, he engaged in surveys of the areas affected and gathered information about the flood--which he had not of course witnessed--estimating that the cleanup efforts had cost 1 million gold ducats. To stop future inundations, he urged that a canal be dug parallel to the Tiber along the 'Left' bank (i.e. the side with the Vatican and Rome's main river port) to provide more drainage when the river rose.

The key point, for our purposes, is that to attract support for his project (which never came to fruition), Trevisi republished Buffalini's map from 1551. In fact, his second edition is the only one that survives--we don't have any copies of the 1551 original. At the bottom of the map, he inserted letters explaining his drainage scheme and urging support for it. In reality, he was able to do this because the printer had kept the woodblocks from which the original was produced, so re-issuing the map was not all that difficult. But he too would seem like someone who would be interested in having Buffalini's preliminary surveys and drawings, especially those showing the banks of the Tiber. He would also be easier for the PCs to meet and deal with, I would think.
 

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Can I drive by and just comment that I always want to read the title of this thread as Lamentations of the Flame Pope? Which I think would be a totally cool name...
 
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