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

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Lofgeornost

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It will continue in two weeks. But I also have a one-shot planned for next weekend with a couple of people entirely new to RPGs (and two veterans), and I think I will run this same adventure for them. It's a good introduction I think, and also not focused on dungeons or being hired, just "you said you wanted adventure, well here is a messed up situation!" (For anyone wondering, the adventure is called A Stranger Storm, and is printed in the old Referee book of the Grindhouse edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess).
I'd be interested in hearing how the second iteration went, if you had a chance to do it.

I've been reading some things about the criminal justice system in Rome c. 1560 and hope to work up a post, or maybe several, on it soon. Characters tend to get in trouble with the law, sooner or later.
 

raniE

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I'd be interested in hearing how the second iteration went, if you had a chance to do it.

I've been reading some things about the criminal justice system in Rome c. 1560 and hope to work up a post, or maybe several, on it soon. Characters tend to get in trouble with the law, sooner or later.

The second one went very differently. Same general setup, except the characters were on paper more fleshed out and in my opinion interesting. There was Giulio Savoia, a tutor who had to flee Switzerland after an affair with the family's oldest daughter. Then Maddalena di Rossi, a 45-year old witch who had seen her family burned as heretics 20 years ago and barely escaped herself. Ernesto Mancini, a fighter and adventurer from Venice who had risen in society quickly, then had to flee a vendetta after killing a son of one of the leading Venetian families. Finally Ludwig Müller, a Swiss mercenary and former member of the Swiss guard under Paul IV, who had left after the Papal states left the war. So he tied himself directly to the Caraffas, which was neat.

Unfortunately, once the adventure started things went south. The group found the dead body and took it into the inn, which horrified the innkeeper who made them take it into the stables. Then when the original innkeeper descended down the stairs, they immediately resorted to violence and wrestled them down. Giulio advocated for killing them both while Ernesto wanted to just tie them up, but then the other guests (six dancers and four merchants) appeared. The PCs began to bully them, threatening their lives and punching out one of the merchants when they refused to go out into the rain to fetch a priest (thinking that it was a good idea to send people you have beaten up to get the local authorities under threat of murder). After this, and under threat of lethal violence, the remaining merchants complied and went to get their horses. Unfortunately, half of the horses were changelings and attacked them both. Maddalena and Ludwig ran out to see what was happening and were attacked by the horses. Maddalena had her face caved in by a hoof, then another horse changed into a copy of Ludwig and fought him. Ernesto ran out together with the dancers, who had all armed themselves with rapiers at this point. The real horses ran off, while the changeling horses turned into copies of the dancers and each pair fought to the death, while Ernesto was paralyzed with indecision. Eventually, four dancers remained alive and assumed that the others were all originals. The surviving Ludwig emerged from the stables as this point.

Inside, things had gone bad. Giulio's player wanted to kill people, so he cut the throat of one of the innkeepers. The two merchants who had remained at the inn as hostages flew at him with their knives and killed him.

So, the group was now down two PCs, both played by the two newbies. Very unfortunate that Maddalena died, as her magic could actually bring people back from the dead. Unfortunately, that's what happens when you go to check out screams of pain and only have on hit point. Her player decided to take over one of the dancers, and the dancer, Patrizio Pieri, joined Ernesto and Ludwig in going to the nearby village to get the priest.

Once there, the priest suggested they bring Lucrezio, a local tracker and the other new PC, to check out the trouble at the inn. Once they got back, everyone and everything was gone. The priest told them about the jewels in the hearts and bade them farewell. Lucrezio decided to stick with the other PCs. The left, walked for hours and come upon the overturned coach, then the four dead regular horses. Just like the other group they cut out the horse hearts, then moved on. They found the knight hospitaller fighting his double, but just watched as one killed the other. Then they claimed to know how to determine if one was a fiend and cut the dead knight open, only to finda jewel in its heart.

That was where we left the first group, but this one had more time. They helped bury the remaining six bodies (three knights and three copies), then an armed nun came riding up. Lucrezio tried to loose an arrow at her, but it had been raining for 24 hours and his bow was useless. Roberto smacked it out of his hand and declared that she was a real nun. She told the knight, don Roberto, that his group had left 21 orphans at the orphanage, not 20. Roberto was furious and set out for the orphanage at once to destroy the demon (he assumed this was another changeling). The PCs followed. Once they got there, they were asked to surrender their weapons if they wanted to come inside, but since this had turned into a band of vicious murderhobos, they refused. Then they tried to set fire to the orphanage, but were foiled by the fact that it had just rained for 24 hours and although the rain had let up at this point, the brick building was still not flammable, and neither was any other fuel they could have found.

Patrizio, being a nimble dancer, climbed up the side of the building and watched as the nuns grappled with don Roberto to stop him from murdering the children. He climbed in during the chaos and let the other PCs in through the door, who came up just as the nuns had subdued the knight. They took him to the basement and asked the PCs to wait outside while they deliberated on what to do. Soon they reached a decision. They could not allow the murder of innocent children, even if it meant letting the fiend live. So the PCs shrugged their shoulders and left.

Overall, a more promising start, but too many murderhobos with no concept of consequences for violence involved.
 

Lofgeornost

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Overall, a more promising start, but too many murderhobos with no concept of consequences for violence involved.

Wow, I'd say so. It looks like they will have some difficulties adjusting to the setting and the limits it can place on p.c. actions.
 

raniE

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Wow, I'd say so. It looks like they will have some difficulties adjusting to the setting and the limits it can place on p.c. actions.
One player, the one who played Giulio and Lucrezio (and I had such high hopes for him, he's Italian after all) was just bloodthirsty. The guy who played Ernesto was more "why isn't everyone just doing what I say? Of course everyone will believe me over the rich merchants I threatened" and was less willing to actually kill people (hence why he punched out one of the merchants rather than killing them). The other two were more along for the ride and I think can play much more normal characters if placed with different players.
 

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So, today was the first session of this campaign. The players rolled up characters; a Neapolitan doctor (A Specialist with several skill points in Medicine), an experienced Lombard mercenary (a Fighter with the best stats and a whole lotta luck), a Turkish thief, pretending to be Christianized, and a Spanish witch on the run from the Inquisition. They all showed up drenched at a country inn in the duchy of Milan, seeking shelter from the worst storm in memory (and this was February 1559, so not a pleasantly warm shower) on their way south, finding a dead body only a few hundred yards away. They opted not to bring the body inside, but laid it down outside the inn, then went in and spent hours conversing with the innkeeper over wine. Then the innkeeper came down the stairs, and the panic started. There was some sort of mimic afoot. Pretty soon the guests arrived downstairs as the PCs were trying to keep the two identical innkeepers from murdering each other. Among them was a man identical to the corpse they had found outside. Arguments, threats and brandishing of weapons ensued, then they all went out to check the stables, and found that rather than the two coaches and eight horses the guests had stored there, there were two coaches and sixteen horses. The kitchen girl arrived, and was shocked to see two identical innkeepers. A bit later, the kitchen girl arrived, and both were shocked to see an exact duplicate of themselves.

Finally the PCs went off to fetch the local priest from the nearby village. When they got back with him, everyone was gone, including the coaches, the corpse and the horses. The priest left and thanked them for their service but said there was nothing left to do but write the bishop. He also informed them that he had heard legends of such mimics, and that the only way to tell the difference between them and the real thing was that the mimics carried a jewel in their heart. Well, that and a test devised by German witch hunters Voight and Kampff. The PCs decided to sleep in the empty inn for a few hours. Except for the Witch, who chose to cast a spell that turned the moon so that the Mare Imbrium pointed straight down at her and would be projected in a large image past the cloud cover, which would means she had no need of sleep and could travel at a faster rate than normal. A few hours later, the PCs left the inn and headed south. After about five hours of slogging through mud, they found one of the wagons from the inn, then four dead horses spread out a few hundred yards apart. They cut each horse open to see if they could find a jewel in its heart, no such luck. Then they heard a fight up around the bend.

The PCs hurried only to find six dead knights of the order of St John, as well as two remaining identical knights fighting each other. They decided to side with one of the two knights, and killed the other. Three of them dragged the dead knight into the woods, to examine him and cut out his heart. They left the Witch alone with the living knight, who quickly transformed into a copy of the Witch. She then took a chance and cast a spell that surrounded her with a cloak of acid that ate through all her clothes and most belongings on her person (luckily she had a mule), which the doppelganger could not match. The PCs then charged down the fleeing mimic, with the witch gaining the upper hand due to her spell allowing her to ignore impediments to travel. She tackled her twin and burned it to death with the acid. Then they cut her open and did indeed find a jewel in her heart.

And that is where the session ended. Still got a third act of this scenario coming up, then onwards to the south.
So, the other group, the reasonable group, finished the scenario off last weekend. Continuing on from the death of the changeling and finding a jewel in its heart, thus confirming that this was an actual thing (which they had started to doubt), the doctor then set about cutting open the remaining hospitaller bodies, one set of identical bodies at a time so as to minimize the risk of cutting up any more real knights, and thus secured three more jewels while only cutting open one real human. They then buried all the real bodies in a mass grave by the road (one PC had a shovel and they found another one in the overturned wagon) and marked it with a makeshift cross, then figured they needed to get rid of the changeling bodies as well and buried them in an unmarked mass grave a bit further away from the road. As they were finishing up this task, they heard a horse approaching. Sister Barbara, a nun from the local orphanage, came riding along, saw the overturned cart and asked the PCs if they knew where the knights had gone. They said they'd found them dead and buried them. They conversed and she divulged that she had come from the nearby St Ivo's Home for unwanted children to tell the knights they had forgotten to leave the paperwork for one of the 21 orphans they had left. The PCs helped her search the wagon but found no extra paperwork or even remains of such. They then explained about the changelings and decided to return to the orphanage with her. During the journey there, the driving rain finally let up. Once there, they were let in without their weapons and commenced with an examination of all the children, finding no copies. They then slept in the barn and the next morning went over all the paperwork, finding one child with no papers. But as it looked different from the other children, they could not be sure it was a changeling. The nuns then held a meeting and decided they could not allow any harm to come to the child without proof it was a demon. The PCs agreed this was a reasonable decision and decided to move on.

After this, we spent the rest of the session going over their backgrounds. This was supposed to happen during their conversation with the innkeeper during the first session, but the players seemed a bit paralyzed by that. We agreed that the characters had met while in the Genovese army fighting to take back Corsica from France. Only one character, Pagolo Marionetti the fighter, had actually fought in the campaign. Ysabel Cabrero the Spanish witch, had spent her time in the baggage train as a cook trying to keep her head down. Domenico the doctor had spent his time treating the wounded. The last player changed their character from a Turkish thief to an Italian vagabond, thief and gambler named Elmo Morelli, who had spent his time in Corsica gambling and stealing. They had all gotten to know each other and having left Corsica after the main war effort there had died down were now travelling together. Pagolo, being an adventurer an sell-sword, decided that the jewels proved this monster-hunting business could be fruitful and thought they should form a company of monster hunters. So that's where we are right now, with the PCs also needing to get to a city in order to find a jeweler to sell their heart jewels to.
 
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raniE

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Ok, so they're about to enter a city, this weekend. I'd like to have some scenario that takes place in the city. The closest city to the PCs right now is Piacenza, also nearby are Cremona and Pavia but I think we can assume Piacenza. Overall it seems Piacenza was a prosperous city at the time, but had also been fought over a lot in the recent (and technically still ongoing, peace is not due until April) Italian wars. It was part of the duchy of Parma and Piacenza, ruled by Ottavio Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III (who died in 1549). But at this point the capital of the double duchy was in Parma, and I'm not sure who ran Piacenza in the dukes absence.

I have two ideas for scenarios, both of them involve investigation. The first is that the jeweler the PCs try to offload their heart jewels to wants to hire them to help find his daughter, who has disappeared. This is amid a rash of disappearances among the lower classes, including some who have turned up dead. The city rulers (whoever they may be) are not particularly interested in helping a Jewish jeweler and so he enlists the PCs to do it. They can investigate the deaths, which will bring them to a Vampiric Mist, a cloud that sucks the blood out of people and is only vulnerable when it is full. This is not what caused the disappearance of the daughter though, for that they will have to go to the tavern where she spent her evenings and caught the eye of a narcissistic Englishman with a pair of magic rings that allow him to control people. Careful to not draw too much attention to himself, he mind-controlled a violent gang of brothers to kidnap the girl when she was walking home and bring her to his house, where he locked her away in a cell and delights in being in control of her. He also uses the brothers to steal valuable collectibles for him. If the PCs can find the brothers (holed up with their dogs in an abandoned winery outside of town) they will find that the brothers have strange gaps in their memories, from where the Englishman has wiped them clear after using them. They can identify a short man (the Englishman) as having been present several times right around when their memories lapsed. The PCs should be able to remember him as well if they've visited the tavern (I'm thinking Danny DeVito short, so very noticeable). They can then confront the Englishman, or find out where he lives and then try to break in at night or any other plan they might come up with. (Note that this adventure is based in part on some material from TSRs Book of Lairs II).

The second idea I had was for a nobleman who fears assassination to hire the PCs as guards. Turns out several members of his family have been murdered and he fears he is next. The killer is a demon of some sort summoned by his younger cousin, who feels cheated out of his inheritance and wants to snuff out the main branch of the family. There should be some tell-tale sign around the various murder sites that can lead investigators to the creatures lair/the cousin's hideout. I haven't developed this idea as much yet.

Which one of these do people think sounds more promising? And does anyone have any more information about Piacenza (like who ran the city, was there a bridge over the Po or did people use ferries?)

Slightly cartoonish map of Piacenza from 1627.
Piacenza.jpg
 

Lofgeornost

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Ok, so they're about to enter a city, this weekend. I'd like to have some scenario that takes place in the city. The closest city to the PCs right now is Piacenza, also nearby are Cremona and Pavia but I think we can assume Piacenza. Overall it seems Piacenza was a prosperous city at the time, but had also been fought over a lot in the recent (and technically still ongoing, peace is not due until April) Italian wars. It was part of the duchy of Parma and Piacenza, ruled by Ottavio Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III (who died in 1549). But at this point the capital of the double duchy was in Parma, and I'm not sure who ran Piacenza in the dukes absence.

I have two ideas for scenarios, both of them involve investigation. The first is that the jeweler the PCs try to offload their heart jewels to wants to hire them to help find his daughter, who has disappeared. This is amid a rash of disappearances among the lower classes, including some who have turned up dead. The city rulers (whoever they may be) are not particularly interested in helping a Jewish jeweler and so he enlists the PCs to do it. They can investigate the deaths, which will bring them to a Vampiric Mist, a cloud that sucks the blood out of people and is only vulnerable when it is full. This is not what caused the disappearance of the daughter though, for that they will have to go to the tavern where she spent her evenings and caught the eye of a narcissistic Englishman with a pair of magic rings that allow him to control people. Careful to not draw too much attention to himself, he mind-controlled a violent gang of brothers to kidnap the girl when she was walking home and bring her to his house, where he locked her away in a cell and delights in being in control of her. He also uses the brothers to steal valuable collectibles for him. If the PCs can find the brothers (holed up with their dogs in an abandoned winery outside of town) they will find that the brothers have strange gaps in their memories, from where the Englishman has wiped them clear after using them. They can identify a short man (the Englishman) as having been present several times right around when their memories lapsed. The PCs should be able to remember him as well if they've visited the tavern (I'm thinking Danny DeVito short, so very noticeable). They can then confront the Englishman, or find out where he lives and then try to break in at night or any other plan they might come up with. (Note that this adventure is based in part on some material from TSRs Book of Lairs II).

The second idea I had was for a nobleman who fears assassination to hire the PCs as guards. Turns out several members of his family have been murdered and he fears he is next. The killer is a demon of some sort summoned by his younger cousin, who feels cheated out of his inheritance and wants to snuff out the main branch of the family. There should be some tell-tale sign around the various murder sites that can lead investigators to the creatures lair/the cousin's hideout. I haven't developed this idea as much yet.

Which one of these do people think sounds more promising? And does anyone have any more information about Piacenza (like who ran the city, was there a bridge over the Po or did people use ferries?)

Slightly cartoonish map of Piacenza from 1627.

All very cool! If you want a somewhat more detailed Early Modern map of Piacenza, there's a zoomable one available at this site.

The scenario with the jeweler's daughter seems a bit more interesting on the face of it, but that may simply be because the other one is more skeletal at this point. It seems to me that the key issue, for either possibility, will be making it reasonable for the patron to hire the p.c.s. to do the investigation. I'm not sure which of the two parties you are planning this for--or both--but they don't seem like the kind of people one would exactly trust, if you know what I mean. The jeweler might make a bit more sense in that regard--he may not have many places to turn, when a noble presumably would.

I wonder if somehow the magic jewel itself could be important in sparking the scenario? Maybe because of its demonic origin, it can be used to track demonic presence or influence? That would work better for the nobleman scenario, I guess--assuming that he suspects a demon is involved--but it could work for the jeweler as well, if he thinks that the Vampiric Mist has some connection to his daughter's disappearance. In either case, possession of the gem could be the reason that the p.c.s are picked as investigators.

A little poking around on the internet produced the information that the ducal palace in Piacenza was undergoing reconstruction in 1559. The duke and especially his wife, Margaret of Parma (Charles V's illegitimate daughter) wanted a more grand residence, and work went on from 1558-68. The early plans were for a much grander building than was ultimately constructed. We know what it would have looked like, because they hired the famous architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola to redesign it in 1561, and his plans survive. From them a wooden model has been constructed that shows what the building would have looked like; it's in the palace, which is now a museum:

Model-Palazzo-Farnese.jpg

One of the more interesting features that wasn't built was an open-air theater in the Roman style, shown here:

Cutaway showing Theater Piacenza.jpg

This has got me thinking again of an idea from upthread--that somehow these unfinished building projects could exist, in some other occult space or region. Maybe that is where the Englishman is hiding with the jeweler's daughter? That would require upgrading his magical powers a bit, but so what? Maybe the magical gem is also connected to gaining entrance to this 'architectural plane'?

I guess I just like the idea of an adventure, or part of one, taking place in a monochrome world that is actually an architectural drawing. It certainly has a weird vibe, and its very Renaissance, so to speak.
 

raniE

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The architectural drawing idea is very neat, and I remember it from earlier in the thread, but I'm thinking maybe it would be better to save it for when they get to Rome itself? Not sure though. As for the Englishman, he wouldn't have to increase in magical prowess, he would just need to possess already enchanted architectural drawings.

As for the PCs being hired, this is for the sane group, which is a mercenary adventurer, a Neapolitan doctor, a Spanish camp follower (and witch, but she isn't public about this) and a general scoundrel/petty criminal pretending to be a merchant sailor down on his luck. Perhaps not the group you want around for regular company, but when it comes to hiring people to find and save your daughter from possible kidnapping, precisely the kind of people you want. Especially for a Jewish jeweler who is going to get scoffed at by the authorities anyway. But they may be a bit too low profile to be hired as bodyguards by a noble yet. The doctor lends the whole thing an air of respectability, but the rest are pretty much dime a dozen people. They'll need to get a reputation first. Right now they'll have featured in two letters sent to the bishops of Cremona and Lodi. Both of them happen to be cardinals, Federico Cesi and Gianantonio Capizucchi respectively, and they will both be at the papal conclave later in the year. So the PCs already have an in there (although I'm having trouble finding exactly which cardinals belonged to which party, will probably need to buy this book on the conclave coming out in September of this year).
 

Lofgeornost

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Oh, and Lofgeornost Lofgeornost, that link only leads to a "session timeout" for me.
Sorry about that--it does for me too. Another route to the map would be through the Old Maps Online site--if you search there for Piacenza, you should get this page. There is a sidebar on the left side of the page with results, the second is a link to the map I meant: Florini's La nobliss.a cita di Piacenza (c. 1600-50). Clicking the link leads you to a page in the digitool.is.cuni.cz website (which I think is the Charles University digital repository, but my Czech is nonexistent) where the map is found. You might find it also through this URI if it works. A smallish image of the map is:

Piacenza.jpg

As to the group, I agree that their skills and background are good for the task. I would just think that, if a father had lost a daughter--or a noble feared he faced assassination--he would be looking for somebody he knew he could trust to do the job, not a stranger of doubtful antecedents.
 

Lofgeornost

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Right now they'll have featured in two letters sent to the bishops of Cremona and Lodi. Both of them happen to be cardinals, Federico Cesi and Gianantonio Capizucchi respectively, and they will both be at the papal conclave later in the year. So the PCs already have an in there (although I'm having trouble finding exactly which cardinals belonged to which party, will probably need to buy this book on the conclave coming out in September of this year).

I'm looking forward to that book by Hollingsworth--her The Cardinal's Hat was quite interesting. In the interim, I think you can find most or all of the information about factions in Pius IV's election in volume 15 of Pastor's History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, available on the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/historyofpopesf15past
 

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Sorry about that--it does for me too. Another route to the map would be through the Old Maps Online site--if you search there for Piacenza, you should get this page. There is a sidebar on the left side of the page with results, the second is a link to the map I meant: Florini's La nobliss.a cita di Piacenza (c. 1600-50). Clicking the link leads you to a page in the digitool.is.cuni.cz website (which I think is the Charles University digital repository, but my Czech is nonexistent) where the map is found. You might find it also through this URI if it works. A smallish image of the map is:

View attachment 33813

As to the group, I agree that their skills and background are good for the task. I would just think that, if a father had lost a daughter--or a noble feared he faced assassination--he would be looking for somebody he knew he could trust to do the job, not a stranger of doubtful antecedents.
Right, but a lot of people won't know anyone that they can trust such a task to. If you're a member of a distrusted minority, so the authorities won't give you the time of day, and you don't know anyone who can handle such a mission, hiring someone who seems competent may be your best option.

I'll look into the map, thanks! Unfortunately, something came up last minute for one of the players (he had to help a friend move immediately to get out of a bad situation) so this week's session was postponed. Well, it gives me more time to work on everything.
 

Lofgeornost

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Right, but a lot of people won't know anyone that they can trust such a task to. If you're a member of a distrusted minority, so the authorities won't give you the time of day, and you don't know anyone who can handle such a mission, hiring someone who seems competent may be your best option.

That makes a lot of sense. Of course, people in distrusted minorities like Jews in Renaissance Italy may tend to be even more distrustful of outsiders, for good reasons. But it's at least plausible that the jeweler would hire the party.
 

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Does anyone have a good resource for population numbers in Italian cities in the 16th century? Or even the 17th century? You can find stuff for the largest cities, but for places like Cremona and Piacenza it is difficult.
 

Lofgeornost

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You might want to look at Paolo Malanima, "Italian cities 1300-1800: A Quantitative Approach," Rivista di Storia Economica 14 (1998): 91-126. It has an appendix giving city population estimates by century. For Cremona it gives 40,000 in 1500 and 1600, and for Piacenza 25,000 in 1500 and 33,000 in 1600. The chart is a little hard to use because it is divided up by regions that Malanima constructed.

The article is available on Researchgate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241763094_Italian_Cities_1300-1800_A_quantitative_approach . I found I could download it in .pdf format even though I am not a member. I think membership is free in any case.
 
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raniE

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You might want to look at Paolo Malanima, "Italian cities 1300-1800: A Quantitative Approach," Rivista di Storia Economica 14 (1998): 91-126. It has an appendix giving city population estimates by century. For Cremona it gives 40,000 in 1500 and 1600, and for Piacenza 25,000 in 1500 and 33,000 in 1600. The chart is a little hard to use because it is divided up by regions that Malanima constructed.

The article is available on Researchgate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241763094_Italian_Cities_1300-1800_A_quantitative_approach . I found I could download it in .pdf format even though I am not a member. I think membership is free in any case.
Thank you, just what I was looking for. Unfortunately the game was delayed because one of the players had a crisis, and this weekend was the annual meeting of GothCon (the largest gaming con in Sweden) were I was reelected secretary (and one of my players was reelected chairman) but it's on for this weekend again.

I've been thinking about it and I think you're right that the PCs might not be the first people to come to when your daughter is in need. I've been thinking of adapting an adventure from the Dungeon Magazine compilation Road to Danger. The adventure is Trouble at Grog's and is about an inn run by half-ogres and welcoming to anyone in a small riverside town. The half-ogre proprietor is threatened with expulsion by the town council after a crime wave hits the town. This is actually being perpetrated by the owner of one of the town's other inns, who wants to drive the half-breeds out to ensure his own inns prosperity and his control over the town.

Now, in true D&D fashion, the town itself makes no sense, having "over 200 inhabitants" but three inns (where are all the guests coming from? Can you imagine a place with 200 inhabitants and three hotels?), but the PDF I have lacks a map anyway, so I figured I could transpose this to Piacenza (a riverside city, and large enough to easily accommodate more than three inns), have the town council instead be the Guild of Innkeepers, and of course change all the half-ogres and half-orcs to various human minorities who would be looked unfavorably on at the time. Jews, berbers/moors and perhaps sub-Saharan Africans was what I was thinking. What do people think of this plan?

Also, side-question, almost every D&D map of an inn or tavern has a bar, that is a counter in the main room with a bartender behind it. Would this actually be period accurate? I'm not sure when taverns actually started having bars in them.
 

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I've been thinking of adapting an adventure from the Dungeon Magazine compilation Road to Danger. The adventure is Trouble at Grog's and is about an inn run by half-ogres and welcoming to anyone in a small riverside town. The half-ogre proprietor is threatened with expulsion by the town council after a crime wave hits the town. This is actually being perpetrated by the owner of one of the town's other inns, who wants to drive the half-breeds out to ensure his own inns prosperity and his control over the town.

Now, in true D&D fashion, the town itself makes no sense, having "over 200 inhabitants" but three inns (where are all the guests coming from? Can you imagine a place with 200 inhabitants and three hotels?), but the PDF I have lacks a map anyway, so I figured I could transpose this to Piacenza (a riverside city, and large enough to easily accommodate more than three inns), have the town council instead be the Guild of Innkeepers, and of course change all the half-ogres and half-orcs to various human minorities who would be looked unfavorably on at the time. Jews, berbers/moors and perhaps sub-Saharan Africans was what I was thinking. What do people think of this plan?

Also, side-question, almost every D&D map of an inn or tavern has a bar, that is a counter in the main room with a bartender behind it. Would this actually be period accurate? I'm not sure when taverns actually started having bars in them.

It sounds like an interesting way to reskin the adventure. A couple of random facts that you might be able to use in converting it:
  • Inns, taverns, and similar establishments in Italian cities were usually owned by an aristocrat, rich merchant, or other investor in real estate. They were leased and operated by somebody else lower down the social scale. So part of the conflict could be against the absentee owner of the property. Maybe others have a long-standing conflict or rivalry with him/her and keep driving off whoever the inn is leased to.
  • Inns in most cities (though not Rome, I think) were required to report to their town governments whenever 'foreigners' checked in. I'm not sure, but I'd guess that 'foreigners' included people from other Italian states.
I don't know if Jews were allowed to operate inns (except maybe for their co-religionists) in Italy in the 1500s. I suppose it would depend on local laws, but my guess would be that most places would not have permitted it. Instead, for the outsider running the inn in question, I'd suggest a 'foreigner'--maybe someone from Germany, Spain, or even just a distant Italian city or state. If you wanted religion to be part of the picture, you could make the innkeepers Spanish Moriscos or conversos, that is, descendants of Muslims or Jews from Spain who had converted under pressure to Christianity in the early 1500s. Such people were often viewed with suspicion by other Spaniards, who thought they might secretly be practicing their ancestral religion. It's easy to imagine them moving elsewhere looking for greener pastures. Alternatively, the innkeepers could be secret Protestants.

As to the presence of bars (i.e. counters) in the common rooms of Italian inns in this period--that's a great question. I'd guess the answer is that they might be there, but probably wouldn't be. Most contemporary pictures I've seen of taverns or inns from the 1500s and 1600s don't seem to show one, though the vast majority of those are from Northern Europe, not Italy. The word 'bar' does appear in English meaning 'counter at which drinks are served' by c. 1600, though, so apparently they were not unknown. My impression is that inns/taverns in Italy not infrequently served drinks and food out in the courtyard, at least in good weather, rather than inside.
 

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It sounds like an interesting way to reskin the adventure. A couple of random facts that you might be able to use in converting it:
  • Inns, taverns, and similar establishments in Italian cities were usually owned by an aristocrat, rich merchant, or other investor in real estate. They were leased and operated by somebody else lower down the social scale. So part of the conflict could be against the absentee owner of the property. Maybe others have a long-standing conflict or rivalry with him/her and keep driving off whoever the inn is leased to.
  • Inns in most cities (though not Rome, I think) were required to report to their town governments whenever 'foreigners' checked in. I'm not sure, but I'd guess that 'foreigners' included people from other Italian states.
I don't know if Jews were allowed to operate inns (except maybe for their co-religionists) in Italy in the 1500s. I suppose it would depend on local laws, but my guess would be that most places would not have permitted it. Instead, for the outsider running the inn in question, I'd suggest a 'foreigner'--maybe someone from Germany, Spain, or even just a distant Italian city or state. If you wanted religion to be part of the picture, you could make the innkeepers Spanish Moriscos or conversos, that is, descendants of Muslims or Jews from Spain who had converted under pressure to Christianity in the early 1500s. Such people were often viewed with suspicion by other Spaniards, who thought they might secretly be practicing their ancestral religion. It's easy to imagine them moving elsewhere looking for greener pastures. Alternatively, the innkeepers could be secret Protestants.

As to the presence of bars (i.e. counters) in the common rooms of Italian inns in this period--that's a great question. I'd guess the answer is that they might be there, but probably wouldn't be. Most contemporary pictures I've seen of taverns or inns from the 1500s and 1600s don't seem to show one, though the vast majority of those are from Northern Europe, not Italy. The word 'bar' does appear in English meaning 'counter at which drinks are served' by c. 1600, though, so apparently they were not unknown. My impression is that inns/taverns in Italy not infrequently served drinks and food out in the courtyard, at least in good weather, rather than inside.
The adventure hinges on most people in town being very intolerant toward the bar's owner, so it needs to be someone who would be utterly distrusted by many I think. My thought was to have the proprietor be a man with a Muslim Berber father and a Christian Spanish or Italian mother, and be a converted Christian who has settled down in Italy to run an inn, and then have the staff be that mix of various cultures and religions. I could do a Spanish Morisco too. However, a lot of the adventure sort of hinges on it being in a small town, so I think I may save it for slightly later and place the adventure in the small town of Fornovo di Taro. Why that town? Well, it's on the banks of the river Taro (and being on a river is likewise important), and it is a small town on the Via Francigena, the main pilgrimage route from France to Rome (and at this time often the main land route for anyone, the battle of Fornovo was fought there in 1495 between the French and the Venetians as the French army was marching north from Naples). Towns on pilgrimage routes will have more inns than regular anyway, so it can work.

As for a rich owner, the adventure itself gave me a nudge in a certain direction. The main supporter of the half-ogre innkeeper in the town is the retired adventurer and captain of the guard named "Sidon Bearclaw". Now Sidon is an Old Testament name but mostly shows up as a surname for people associated with the city of Sidon in the Holy Land. So this man could be someone whose family once owned land there, before the crusaders were driven out. However, Bearclaw is interesting. Bear in Italian is Orso, in surname form Orsini. The Orsini family was a very powerful noble family and had at times been popes, dukes, counts etc. And one of the family daughters is the mother of Ottavio Farnese, duke of Parma and Piacenza. So I figured I could take some historical license here and place a Simone Orsini as the local landowner around Fornovo di Taro (or if you have another suggestion for a good riverside pilgrimage town that can work too). He could then have been a lesser member of the family and a lesser condottiero rewarded with some land after service in previous wars. He's helped stake an old friend, the Berber or Moresco Christian, to run an inn on the pilgrimage route. This stirs up bad blood both because of xenophobia, but also these two newcomers are starting to horn in on the business of the other inns and the power structures in the area.

Taking part in this adventure could then gett he PCs a good "in" with a Roman noble family, as the Orsini are still powerful in Rome. Maybe Paolo Giordano Orsini, recently married to Isabella de Medici and soon to be created duke of Bracciano.

On the bar thing, yeah, that's what I figured, but as you say, this seems to be about the time when it starts becoming a thing to have such a counter.
 
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So we finally got the third session in. First we had to clear up the dates, as I had messed up and used the Gregorian calendar somehow (despite it not being invented yet). The previous events thus had taken place between the 6th and 8th of February. 8th of February 1559 was also the start of Lent. The PCs had spent two days recuperating in a small village, but now were ready to enter Piacenza. They got to the city in the late morning, after having taken a ferry over the river Po. They bribed the gatekeeper to let them in despite not having booked accommodations (since they had a doctor with them they couldn't really be a group of vagabonds now could they) and got sent on to the inn The Moon Under Water (the owner presumably gave kickbacks to the gate officials for this). They asked for directions to a jeweler to pawn their heart stones to, and were given directions to Joseph ben Kalonymos, a Jewish jeweller. Unfortunately, it was the Jewish sabbath, so the PCs tried to find another jeweller, without success. They decided to try their luck again after mass on Sunday, which they did.

Joseph asked them if they had served in the war, and said he was desperate for help and would buy their jewels at an inflated price if they could help him find his daughte, missing for a week. The PCs agreed, but since they were almost out of money they asked to sell one stone up front, which Joseph agreed to. After this, the female PC went through Miriam bat Joseph's room and found some hidden incomplete loveletters and poems written to/about one Ferdinando. After talking to her friends, they learned that Ferdinando was Ferdinando Esposito, the son of the tavernkeeper of the Three Cups tavern and a boy who Miriam was infatuated with. She often visited the tavern, unbeknowst to her father, but had never had the courage to say anything to Ferdinando. The PCs at this point thought it likely that Ferdinando was the person behind the girl's disappearance, but sent one of their members to deliver one of the unfinished letters to see if Ferdinando was still at home, which he was. Deciding to come back as guests the next evening, the PCs spent the rest of the day asking the guards at the various town gates if they had seen a young Jewish girl leave the town. They had not. Nor was there any sing of a disturbance by her mother's grave. Finally, the PCs made it back to the Three Cups and were there told that Miriam had last been there a week ago. She had talked briefly to one of the Somma brothers (Giulio, Augusto, Tiberio, Claudio and Diocletiano), known drunks, brawlers and shady types who live on a vineyard outside of town. And that is where we ended the session.
 

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I found this resource about entering a walled city in the early modern era very interesting and useful. Italian cities often required you to present a certificate of health from the last city you left in order to enter. Combine that with having just suffered through an influenza outbreak in the preceding years and Italy in 1559 is starting to sound eerily familiar.
 

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I found this resource about entering a walled city in the early modern era very interesting and useful. Italian cities often required you to present a certificate of health from the last city you left in order to enter. Combine that with having just suffered through an influenza outbreak in the preceding years and Italy in 1559 is starting to sound eerily familiar.
Very cool. I'd not heard of that article, but now it's on my 'to read' list.
 

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Very cool. I'd not heard of that article, but now it's on my 'to read' list.
Yes, it was a short but very informative article. Luckily for my player groups one of the PCs is a doctor, so he can take care of the whole "certificate of health" thing.

I'm not sure about the Jewish names, I'm using Hebrew patronymics but I'm not entirely certain how historically accurate that is.
 

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I don't know either. My impression is that Italian Jews of the 16th century had names that were similar in form to those of their Christian neighbors, first name + family name. Those family names might be based on place of origin, occupation, or other characteristics. Robert Bonfil's The Jews of Renaissance Italy (California Press, 1994) mentions such individuals as Immanuel Norzi and Abraham Raphael Finzi (both moneylenders), Rosa da Montalcino, Isaac Danuti, Joseph Tamari (a Venetian doctor), Samuel da Perugia, nicknamed Venturozzo, and so on. There were distinctive Italian Jewish first names, like Abramuzio, Aleuzio, Dattilo, and Consiglio, though somewhat more for men than women, Bonfil states.

As to health certificates, here's an example from Chiogga in 1611, courtesy of the Wellcome Library. They were often printed forms with information written in:

Chioggia_HealthPass_1611.jpg
 

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I should print out something similar and hand them out to my players, would be a neat prop. Good info about Jewish names too, will probably go a bit more Italian with the name structure in the future (too late to change for the characters in this adventure).

Anyway, the rest of this adventure will probably play out with the PCs visiting the vineyard of the Somma brothers next. The brothers have fortified the abandoned vineyard, have a large number of guard dogs and are all ex-soldiers, so hopefully the PCs either bring reinforcements or avoid a fight altogether. The brothers in the original short "lairs" are berserkers who have been charmed by a nasty Halfling with a Ring of Human Influence, who uses them as muscle to steal precious objects and kidnap people, who he then delights in exerting control and dominance over. He also wipes the brother's memories after every episode of control. The PCs will thus be able to find out that they talked to a certain person each time they then blacked out during their binge drinking sessions and thus find the person responsible for the kidnapping, and the various thefts.

Now, I'm obviously not going to be using a Halfling in a real world setting, so I changed him to a Human. As his name in the original is Branko Gobbet, and Branko is a South Slavic name found in the Balkans, I changed him to Branko Golubic, a thief from Ragusa who inherited property and a large sum of money from a rich relative in Piacenza. In honor of the Halfling theme, I decided that he is about the size of Danny DeVito. DeVito of course has also played some real scumbag characters in his day, like Frank Reynolds in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Penguin in Batman Returns, the father in Matilda, Vincent Benedict in Twins and of course Louie de Palma in Taxi, so that fits too.

However, the Ring of Human Influence doesn't fit for a few reasons. First off, it doesn't have the powers that Branko displays, like wiping memories. It also raises your Charisma to 18, while Branko is described as an intensely unlikeable fellow. Those are minor points though, I could just substitute an item which did that. But I don't want the PCs to get their hands on a ring that allows them to mind control and memory wipe people. So that kind of magic item is off the table. I could just make Branko a Magic-User and give him some spells like Charm Person and some sort of Memory Wipe, but I started thinking if there might not be something else. I thought of making him a mesmerist, but Franz Mesmer worked in the 18th century. Is there something else, some superstition of the time, or from an earlier time, that could explain Branko's power? Or does someone have an idea for a Magical item with some sort of tradeoff that would make using it constantly a bad idea?
 

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However, the Ring of Human Influence doesn't fit for a few reasons. First off, it doesn't have the powers that Branko displays, like wiping memories. It also raises your Charisma to 18, while Branko is described as an intensely unlikeable fellow. Those are minor points though, I could just substitute an item which did that. But I don't want the PCs to get their hands on a ring that allows them to mind control and memory wipe people. So that kind of magic item is off the table. I could just make Branko a Magic-User and give him some spells like Charm Person and some sort of Memory Wipe, but I started thinking if there might not be something else. I thought of making him a mesmerist, but Franz Mesmer worked in the 18th century. Is there something else, some superstition of the time, or from an earlier time, that could explain Branko's power? Or does someone have an idea for a Magical item with some sort of tradeoff that would make using it constantly a bad idea?

I like the idea of Branko as Danny Devito.

As to his powers, how about making him an alchemist? According to Galenic medicine, memory loss could be the result of an excess of 'cold' in the brain, which would keep the memories from forming (Galen thought memory formation required soft, malleable nervous tissue to take up the impressions from the senses). Memory loss could also be associated with deficits in or disorders of the reasoning faculty--which would fit with making people very suggestible.

So, Branko could be an alchemist who has perfected an elixir we might call 'waters of Lethe.' This is a distillate of substances that have a 'cold effect' on the body--like mandrake, opium, or 'sleeping nightshade' (dwale)--that has the dual effect of rendering those who drink it very easy to command and preventing them from remembering afterward what they have done. He gives it to the Somma brothers in their wine before sending them on their missions.

This has the advantage that, at most, the characters will capture a limited quantity of the 'waters' as a potion. To make more, they would need Branko's alchemical knowledge, apparatus, and time--and of course his recipe for the 'waters.' Presumably this would be his own secret, or at least not a well-known product. This actually fits fairly well with what many people practicing alchemy in the 1500s did--rather than focusing exclusively on transmutation of elements, they sought more limited and attainable products, like better dyes, medicines, metallurgical techniques, etc.
 
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I like the idea of Branko as Danny Devito.

As to his powers, how about making him an alchemist? According to Galenic medicine, memory loss could be the result of an excess of 'cold' in the brain, which would keep the memories from forming (Galen thought memory formation required soft, malleable nervous tissue to take up the impressions from the senses). Memory loss could also be associated with deficits in or disorders of the reasoning faculty--which would fit with making people very suggestible.

So, Branko could be an alchemist who has perfected an elixir we might call 'waters of Lethe.' This is a distillate of substances that have a 'cold effect' on the body--like mandrake, opium, or 'sleeping nightshade' (dwale)--that has the dual effect of rendering those who drink it very easy to command and preventing them from remembering afterward what they have done. He gives it to the Somma brothers in their wine before sending them on their missions.

This has the advantage that, at most, the characters will capture a limited quantity of the 'waters' as a potion. To make more, they would need Branko's alchemical knowledge, apparatus, and time--and of course his recipe for the 'waters.' Presumably this would be his own secret, or at least not a well-known product. This actually fits fairly well with what many people practicing alchemy in the 1500s did--rather than focusing exclusively on transmutation of elements, they sought more limited and attainable products, like better dyes, medicines, metallurgical techniques, etc.
I like this idea. It fits well, and I had already planned on him dulling the brothers with wine before controlling them anyway. And yeah, alchemy did lead to chemistry eventually, through al the lesser techniques that actually worked, rather than the higher alchemy of purifying elements into gold and attaining immortality (although those may also be workable in this game world).
 

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The adventure continues, in a fairly short session (we started slightly after twelve, it's a quarter to five now and I've had time to get home).

The PCs decided to go hunting for the Somma brothers, at the abandoned vineyard they'd been told was their hideout. They got there and saw a large, two story brick building with some boarded up windows and a staircase leading up to a door on the second floor that had burned down. One of the group, the witch, approached the building but the brothers inside were warned by the barking of a pack of dogs on the ground floor. She was rudely told to leave and did so. The PCs then put in motion a plan to lure the brothers out. The witch went around to the other side of the vineyard and set a fire using wood from broken trellises. Then she returned to the others and they waited until they heard the dogs barking and the brothers leaving to put out the fire. They then approached the building, only to find both the doors on the side not visible to the fire fighting brothers locked. The witch therefore disrobed and then summoned her cloak of ectoplasm, melting the lock and walking straight through the oak door, leaving a roughly woman shaped hole in it. Once inside they were immediately beset by the four dogs. After a brief fight, all of the dogs were dead, but one of the specialists was badly wounded (down to 0 HP). She retreated to the group's mule that they had brought with them. The rest of them searched the place but didn't find the jeweler's daughter or any sign of her.

The three remaining PCs then decided to set an ambush for the brothers. They piled wine tuns in front of two of the doors, then stacked up in front of the door the brothers had left through (they knew this because it was the only unlocked one). The original plan was to hold them at gunpoint and trey to get them to talk, but this plan morphed into firing on them as soon as they opened the door. Which they did, only for the gun to misfire and the spear attack to miss. Two of the brothers therefore charged, while the remaining three ran around to try to flank through one of the other doors. The PC fighter, Pagolo, stood in the first line while the doctor, Domenico, held the second rank with a spear. They managed to eventually subdue the two Somma brothers fighting them although they managed to fight after taking incapacitating wounds and had a strange, yellow-green tint to their skin, like a bruise. The PCs decided to flank the remaining brothers who were trying to bust down one of the doors with barrels stacked against it. One of them had set off for the wounded PC and the donkey though. Anyway, after a fairly brutal fight in which the witch once again surrounded her body with acid (and managed to avoid a magical mishap) the only one left standing was the witch. Pagolo the fighter succumbed to his wounds after being given some wine, while the good doctor managed to save three of the brothers but was himself castrated in the fight. Two of the surviving brothers, Augusto and Claudio, were also in really bad shape, while Giulio had just been knocked out and had a concussion. Domenico tried to question the brothers but got nothing but confusion from Augusto and a promise that he would tell him whatever he wanted to know if he saved his life from Giulio.

The group thus headed back into Piacenza with a heapload of wounded. They bribed the guards to let them pass in again with the two Somma brothers and made their way to their inn, the Moon Under Water, to recuperate. The witch fetched a doctor, but during the night Claudio died from his wounds (his left hand had been melted off by acid), leaving only two of the brothers alive.

Here we ended the session, with Pagolo's player rolling up a new character (with amazing stats and 12 HP) and everyone else getting some HP back from a full day of rest. So, much more violent and action packed than the last one. The PCs totally floundered once they realized the girl was not in the winery as they had suspected, and their next move was one of confused desperation. Luckily for them, they did manage to keep two of the brothers alive and might be able to get them to talk.

The whole "turning the color of a bruise and continuing to fight after reaching zero HP" was originally just from them being berserkers, but I'm thinking that it might be a side effect of one of Branko's potions now. The players seemed rather unnerved by it.
 

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If anyone other than me and Lofgeornost Lofgeornost is reading this thread, I’d appreciate your input, by the way. Lofgeornost Lofgeornost has some amazingly cool sources and ideas, and I have read a bit myself, but please don’t feel deterred if you don’t happen to have fantastic ideas connected to the 16th century. Any feedback, comments etc are welcome.
 

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Alright, so after one called off session and one delayed one, the group finally got back into action. They spent a week resting up, questioning Augusto and Giulio and buying more equipment. Also, it turned out that a friend of the family, the new PC Joshua, had shown up and been dispatched by Miriam's father to help the group in recovering his daughter. From Giulio they got that the person they was looking for was a short drinking buddy of the Somma brothers. They found out he drank with them at the Silver Pig, where the barkeep Luigi Mario informed them, after a bribe, that the man they were looking for was Branko Golubic, a wealthy Dalmatian (from Dalmatia, not the dog breed). The PCs found his house on Boot street, and Domenico and Ysabel paid him a visit (Domenico being a doctor has the credentials to be received by most middle class people) Branko vehemently denied meeting the Somma brothers or even visiting the Silver Pig, so the PCs knew right away that he was up to something. While Domenico distracted Branko by letting him talk all about himself and his house (which had a magnificent 25 foot wide fish tank on one wall), Ysabel talked to the man's butler. He mentioned in passing that the staff weren't allowed on the second floor. Thus, later that night, the PCs threw a grappling hook up on the roof of another house on the block, then Elmo Morelli jumped the narrow gaps between the buildings, lowered the rope from the roof of Branko's house and let everybody up. The house was flat and had a large number of beehives at the top. Also there was a trap door. The new guy, Joshua, jiggered the latch open by inserting a narrow blade in between the gap and then climbed down, dressed in breastplate and helmet.
 

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Once the hatch was open the group found a ladder leading down to the second floor. Joshua went first, carrying a candle lantern. Then came the rest of them. They found themselves in a large upstairs landing, with three doors leading to rooms and a narrow staircase leading down. Domenico realized that the distance between the inner wall and outer wall was too great for a normal wall. Either the walls were incredibly thick, or there was something inside them. The PCs chose to investigate the rooms first however, picking the closest door. This turned out to be locked, but Elmo made quick work of the lock with his picks (this and the latched trap door on the roof was the first team any thieving skills were used in the campaign). Beyond the locked door lay a long, narrow room with a single barred window high up on the wall at the far end, and a small cot the only furniture. Ysabel and Joshua moved forward, and Joshua recognized Miriam, although it had been years since he had seen her.

After waking the girl and reassuring her that they were there to rescue her (made easier by the presence of Joshua), the PCs prepared to leave the way they came. Domenico stepped out first and was immediately attacked by Branko Golubic, but evaded the blow. Then followed a short fight in which Domenico and Elmo both hit Branko with their rapiers, doing a total of 14 damage. However, Branko was a combat beast with 4 hit dice and 18 HP. Dealing so much damage to him without killing him unnerved the PCs, and when Branko disappeared through one of the many secret doors in to his secret passages inside the walls. Then he started activating his booby traps. A net fell from the ceiling and trapped Elmo, army ants swarmed over the ladder and hindered Joshua from escaping up it with Miriam (then started doing 1 HP of damage each round until a round was spent brushing them off) and when the PCs descended to the first floor a smoke bomb exploded. This gave Branko the opportunity to return and attack Domenico once more. Neither of them could see anything, but despite all the penalties to hit I still managed to roll high enough to take Domenico down (him and Elmo both only have 3 HP and are very fragile).
 

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When Domenico went down, Elmo tried in vain to hit Branko, but the smoke made it almost impossible to see anything. His player then got it in her head that she had to destroy Branko's giant fish tank and charged out into the living room to do that. As the fish tank was enormous (about five feet wide and twenty feet long) this caused a minor flood when she broke the glass. Joshua brushed the army ants off himself and Miriam, then enlisted the maid who came running out of her room to help him move Domenico out of the house. The cook also appeared but simply ran for it. Ysabel decided that she had had enough and summoned her acidic cloak of ectoplasm (her most used spell). She then ran into the kitchen, heard movement in the wall and melted her way through it. She then chased Branko up a ladder bolted on to the side of a fireplace, out on to the upstairs landing. Branko was escaping up the ladder to the roof and trying to drink his potion of speed at the same time. Ysabel got the drop on him and simply grabbed his ankles. This melted through both of them and Branko fell off the ladder, with his feet falling separately from the rest of him.

Outside, it was pretty clear that the doctor was going to die within ten minutes if nothing was done. Ysabel turned off her acid and started going through the two remaining rooms on the upper floor. She wrapped herself in the bed sheets of Branko's large four poster bed (as the acid unfortunately eats through all you are carrying when the spell is cast), then moved on to the alchemy lab. There she found a large amount of glassware, various ingredients, a book of recipes and a large bottle containing waters of Lethe, as well as five other potions. These were rolled randomly by me on the AD&D 2nd e potion treasure table prior to the session and I ended up rolling one potion of fire breath, one potion of ventriloquism, one elixir of youth, one oil of disenchantment and, luckily for the players, one potion of extra healing (this has three doses that each heal 1D8 HP, or can be drunk all at once to heal 3D8+3 HP). Of course these weren't labelled and Ysabel spent some time reading through Branko's bad latin in his notes to figure out that one was "to restore the body" and a description of the potion. She decided to test it on Branko first, thinking this might be what had made the Somma brothers greenish and able to fight on after they should have dropped. Branko looked slightly better after a sip so she ran out and poured two thirds of the content down Domenico's throat (he rolled a 1 on the first D8 which wasn't enough to get him to 0 HP). She then re-entered the house, hid Branko's body in his crawlspace in the wall, went up on the roof and got the grappling hook and the rope and hid herself there too. She did not feel like walking through the streets at night dressed only in bed sheets and the player wanted to explore the house properly. The rest of the group left for Miriam's father, carrying poor Domenico.
 

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Ysabel got the drop on him and simply grabbed his ankles. This melted through both of them and Branko fell off the ladder, with his feet falling separately from the rest of him.

That's an image that will stay with me for a while. Sounds like a great session.

A glass fish-tank of that magnitude, though, should mark Branko as a time-traveler or extraordinarily successful natural magician.
 
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raniE

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That's an image that will stay with me for a while. Sounds like a great session.

A glass fish-tank of that magnitude, though, should mark Branko as a time-traveler or extraordinarily successful natural magician.
Well he is an alchemist. I figured he made his own glass, probably infusing it with something. He managed to make an elixir of youth, one of the big goals of alchemy, so he was clearly very good at what he did.

And yeah, it was a fun session. It ended around there, then the next one mostly dealt with admin, finishing everything up, Ysabel stealing a bunch of stuff from Branko’s house, Branko dying in his crawl space, the players missing out on Branko’s stash hidden in one of his rooftop beehives and finally the PCs being lauded as heroes as Branko was behind a lot of thefts of items from the wealthy of the city, something discovered when the duke’s guards showed up to investigate. Oh, and the PCs finally hired some help, including Branko’s former maid (who helped them carry Domenico out).

Next session I want to have a local noble invite them out to his hunting lodge. Unfortunately none of Duke Farnese’s close family really fits the bill. I’ve been looking at the town of Rivergaro, which apparently was transferred to the Anguissola-Scotti family in 1548 after being fought over by the Guelphs and Ghibellines during the Middle Ages. Any ideas there? Just run with a fictional Anguisdola-Scotti noble, or is there some interesting real noble who could have a hunting lodge in the mountains present in Piacenza at the time?
 

raniE

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Also unfortunately, next session won't happen until the 21st of November, due to various convention commitments.
 

Venger Satanis

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Sounds cool. I hope it goes well for you. After seeing your avatar image, I was thinking Lamentations of the Flame Princess meets Dune. If you ever want to get involved in that kind of campaign, come talk to me.

VS
 

Lofgeornost

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Next session I want to have a local noble invite them out to his hunting lodge. Unfortunately none of Duke Farnese’s close family really fits the bill. I’ve been looking at the town of Rivergaro, which apparently was transferred to the Anguissola-Scotti family in 1548 after being fought over by the Guelphs and Ghibellines during the Middle Ages. Any ideas there? Just run with a fictional Anguisdola-Scotti noble, or is there some interesting real noble who could have a hunting lodge in the mountains present in Piacenza at the time?
Sorry; I don't know anything about Rivergaro, except that it is near the site of Hannibal's victory at the Battle of the Trebbia River in 218 B.C. That does suggest some adventure opportunities--perhaps the party could encounter specters of either the slaughtered Roman forces or Hannibal's victorious troops, or both? Or during the hunt come upon a verdigrised bit of bronze armor that has washed out of the riverbank after centuries of being buried there? The armor bit could be the trigger that sets off the ghostly visitation.
 

Lofgeornost

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Are you planning on adapting a published module for the hunting scenario? I know you are planning to do that for many adventures.
 

raniE

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Are you planning on adapting a published module for the hunting scenario? I know you are planning to do that for many adventures.
I have something for the hunting, a short thing where they run into some fairies while out hunting who ask them to help rescue their kidnapped faerie friend, something that can be accomplished with no violence whatsoever (more whimsical than previous entries, but I like it if not everything is dark and bloodily violent). But the thing about Hannibal you posted (I hadn't even thought of the fact that they are now very near the site of the battle of Trebbia) has me thinking of doing more with that. Although Piacenza is close enough to the battle site as it is (it was fought fairly close to the settlement). Hmmm. Maybe they need to reclaim something from a mass grave near the old battle site to quiet a restless spirit.

The main reasons I'm adapting a lot of published adventures are that I feel like the lower levels of D&D and D&D-alikes are the hardest to write adventures for without accidentally killing everyone, and that my depression makes it difficult for me to actually do stuff like turn cool ideas into complete scenarios. However, once they get a few levels under their belts and reach Rome I'm planning to incorporate more of what has come up in this thread with the politics of the papacy and Carafa family.
 

raniE

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Sounds cool. I hope it goes well for you. After seeing your avatar image, I was thinking Lamentations of the Flame Princess meets Dune. If you ever want to get involved in that kind of campaign, come talk to me.

VS
Well, so far it has, so that's good. Regarding the other thing, well, we'll see. I'm not the Kwisatz Haderach, so I don't know what the future will hold.
 

Lofgeornost

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I have something for the hunting, a short thing where they run into some fairies while out hunting who ask them to help rescue their kidnapped faerie friend, something that can be accomplished with no violence whatsoever (more whimsical than previous entries, but I like it if not everything is dark and bloodily violent). But the thing about Hannibal you posted (I hadn't even thought of the fact that they are now very near the site of the battle of Trebbia) has me thinking of doing more with that. Although Piacenza is close enough to the battle site as it is (it was fought fairly close to the settlement). Hmmm. Maybe they need to reclaim something from a mass grave near the old battle site to quiet a restless spirit.

The main reasons I'm adapting a lot of published adventures are that I feel like the lower levels of D&D and D&D-alikes are the hardest to write adventures for without accidentally killing everyone, and that my depression makes it difficult for me to actually do stuff like turn cool ideas into complete scenarios. However, once they get a few levels under their belts and reach Rome I'm planning to incorporate more of what has come up in this thread with the politics of the papacy and Carafa family.
Yeah, I have nothing against the repurposing of published materials--I just knew you were interested in it from some comments you made upthread. I asked mainly because if you already had an adventure you wanted to rework, I wouldn't make any more suggestions about what could happen in the session.

One thing that has been running around my head, since I thought of the Trebbia connection, is a ghost story that shows up in the Decameron. It's details aren't important, but it involves ghosts who are doomed to re-enact the fatal events that led to their death and damnation. I wonder if that idea could be adapted for this--a Roman centurion, or some such, who betrayed his side, or in some way failed in his duty, forced to relive the experience in ghostly form.

Alternatively, I wondered about a Carthaginian item--the head of a standard, or something similar--that would fill the finder with an irresistible urge to march on (in effect, go to) Rome and 'conquer it.' After taking it, the finder could hear the following in his/her sleep each night (it's from Juvenal, Satires IX):

We have accomplished nothing
Till we have stormed the gates of Rome itself
Till our Carthaginian standard
Is set in the city's heart.

This 'haunting' could make the finder lose sleep and be debilitated. It could be dealt with by going to Rome and burying the item in an appropriate place, like the Forum.
 
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