Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Campaign

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Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Campaign

Postby alex_greene » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:06 pm

Has anyone run a Legend game based on the above themes?

A long time ago, a certain game company whose name begins with "W" and ends with "hite Wolf" released a book for a game called Mage: the Sorcerer's Crusade, called The Swashbuckler's Handbook. The aim of the sourcebook was to present scenarios and campaigns based solely on courtly intrigue, passions, seduction, backstabbing - literal and figurative - and the heady whirl of social combat in the era considered the heyday of social combat.

That book, together with Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction, occupy a favoured position on my bookshelves to this day. The potential for such games as Shakespeare would declaim "I can grok this!" has always intrigued and fascinated me.

So, who's run such a game? And who's planning to run one?
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Matt_H » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:03 pm

Sir, you display an erudite elegance in your choice of Greene's works. If your sword arm were half as accomplished as your mind I would have no wish to cross either.
I trust the shared moniker is but coincidence?
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby alex_greene » Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:19 pm

Matt_H wrote:I trust the shared moniker is but coincidence?
You presume correctly. He is no relation. Though clearly he is a kindred spirit.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby rust » Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:50 pm

alex_greene wrote: So, who's run such a game?
Not really, although intrigue etc. is usually one of the various
parallel strings of events of one of my sandbox campaigns - I
prefer to provide a mix of different themes in order to avoid a
one dimensional feel of a campaign.

For example, the campaign I am currently working on has ex-
ploration as its main theme, but there is also a jewelers' guild
which attempts to have the player characters' patron accused
of heresy, condemned by the duke's court and burned at the
stake.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Dan True » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:26 pm

I would love to mix more intrigue into my games, but so far it hasn't turned out well. Not all my players would respond well to it in practice, and I have a tendency to make plots / schemes too convoluted, and not let the bad guys make enough mistakes the PCs can pick up on...

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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Da Boss » Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:53 pm

We tend to have at least some aspects in pretty much all of our games in all genres - so politics, intrigue and romance all play their part.........
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Mixster » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:29 pm

It's a good idea, but I'd reckon it takes a hell of a preparation. If you need to stat up 20+ (to make a proper court) NPCs, each with their own agenda, allies and opposition. You'd be in a lot of work, and a lot of it is not even sure to be used unless you try to railroad the players into having every NPCs storyline described.

So I guess such a game would be awesome, there'd just be a lot of work for a relatively small playtime. While the simple, robbers kidnap the mayors daughter + twist, plot can be done in less than 30 minutes and give upwards of 3 hours of playtime. You'd be looking at the reverse for properly done intrigue.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Simulacrum » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:16 pm

I think the trick is to let plots complicate themselves...

What I mean is, describe an NPC, or a group or faction. Start with MOTIVATION. this can be simple, or it can be quirky, but if you start here you can introduce irrationality into the plot. Then give them either a narrow OBJECTIVE (which is not the same thing as motivation, but will satisfy it), or give them a big objective with a narrow strategy for achieving it. The holes in their plan then write themselves, and the NPC, not the PCs have tram lines they have to run down (and easier for the GM). If you give them a grand plan, and many minions and the power to pull whatever strings they want to, its a narative dead end, as bad guys are always ahead of the players, and can find yourself engineering 'silly mistakes' (which is OK, these things happen, but you can tie yourself up in knots rather than let your NPCs or the players do that for themselves).

So not:

I want absolute power, my many demonic minions, and the cults and thieves guilds under my power will be sent out to achieve it for me!

But:

I want to bring my poor dear mother back from the grave, and achieving absolute power in the city is the only way I can get access to the artefact that makes that possible. My many demonic minions can be useful, but my mother would be horrified if she found out how I had achieved my plans, and I do anyware care about my public image...so I'm left with having to rig an election, maybe I can use my demonic minions in limited ways to help me do that...but then what if anyone finds out I'm a necromancer?...etc.

Secondly, introduce another intrigue that intersects with this plot, but in an unexpected or tangential way - perhaps by complete coincidence.

e.g.: Actually my chance of winning that election this year is tiny, because this hero just came back from an adventure with the head of a dragon, and although he doesn't want to hold political office he's immensely popular and one of my rivals is pushing him to do stand...

Add further complications as you think through some of the practical measures that are taken.

I set my plots for AoT out as:

Chief Plotter: The character who is the guiding hand of the plot

Hotbed of Intrigue: Where the treason has its genesis

Treasonous Thoughts: The essential ambition and objective of the conspirators

Personal Motives: What drives the plotters towards their ambition - whether it is greed, personal enmity or simply a romantic ideal. The zeal with which a plot is pursued may be driven by a character trait referred to as a Passion.

Cunning Plans: The plan of action that the plotters are pursuing to accomplish their goals; this is the most likely point at which Adventurers encounter the conspiracy, as they are caught up in events as actors or victims that they may hardly know the true purpose of.

Plot Thickeners: Complications, elaborations and vulnerabilities inherent in the plot. This provides scope for setting up adventures, side plots and sub-quests as the conspirators attempt to clear their path to success and their enemies attempt to foil them.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby havercake lad » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:37 pm

Years ago when I decided to run an Amber campaign (and I had lots of spare time) I decided to run solo sessions for players so I could build up a complicated back story and leave them with lots of goals, mysteries, allies and enemies. I then introduced them to other players in sessions that only included two players. By the time they were all together as a gaming group for shared evenings they were co-operating togerther out of necessity but all had their their own prejudices and agendas to pursue.

Once players are assembled though you will find that a lot of timeout occurs for players when a GM has to take a player to one side so his intrigues and actions occur in secret or players must be able to roleplay their characters well enough to ensure that they are not acting on the strength of anything that their characters would not know.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Redcrow » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:45 am

The best games of intrigue I've run were those in which the PCs had their own motivations. Instead of just dealing with the machinations of others they were neck deep in it for themselves.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby alex_greene » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:12 am

The initial motivation is what matters.

Let's say we have a party of three characters.

The first one saw his mother taken out of his home and beaten by troops sent by Lord Muthermere when he was eight. Ten years on, a callow youth, he hears of a ball being held at Lord Muthermere's palatial mansion. He doesn't care initially about intrigues. He only wants to get in close enough to stick a knife in Lord Muthermere's back.

The second one is a bit of a Kate (from Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew.") Bold, brassy, she's disgusted by her parents' wishes to marry her off to some old, ugly, fat dude. She is young, smart, pretty and to Hell with any man who tells her to know her place - she is going to live her life to the full and vows never to marry anybody!

The third man, slightly older than the other two by two years - he is twenty - is a bit of an Adventurer. A fourth son, he stood to inherit nothing - but through some finagling, he has managed to blag an invitation into Lord Muthermere's ball because he has heard of a prominent explorer, Lord Muthermere's cousin Sir Peter Agroyde, who himself is seeking patronage and funding for his next expedition. If the character can secure patronage for Sir Peter from Lord Muthermere or one of the other rich would-be patrons who will be at the ball, he could convince Sir Peter to give him a ride on his boat.

Unless Sir Peter entirely misinterprets the character's words and thinks he means something completely different, because Sir Peter is just fine with that, too ...

So. One man who wants a Shakesperean tragedy; one woman who is begging for a Shakesperean comedy to be written about her; and a third person, who had better talk fast or he'll SUFFER EXCRUCIATING HOT SEARING PAIN ON HIS FACE AND UPPER BODY IN LORD MUTHERMERE'S DUNGEON TORTURE ROOM OF DOOM ... WITH KNIVES. (edited because the previous post was distasteful to someone).

Throw in a cast list of NPCs - you don't have to stat them all, all at once: just list a name, a title, two interesting random facts about them ("high DEX, master swordsman" or "charismatic, looking for a young male rake to amuse her in the boudoir tonight") ... And you have your intrigues just waiting to start.

Then throw in the Golden Apple of Eris Discordia (aka "GM dice") and let things rip.
Last edited by alex_greene on Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby rust » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:35 am

alex_greene wrote:
Then throw in the Golden Apple of Eris Discordia (aka "GM dice") and let things rip.
I suspect that you will actually need a little more background
informations for this, like for example about Lord Muthermere
(and his guards, since one of the characters wants to murder
him), about Sir Peter, about Sir Peter's potential patrons, and
of course about the location where all is to take place.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Old timer » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:37 am

who had better talk fast or he'll never be able to sit comfortably again.
Really, from you Alex green, i would expect better, that is offensive. I will assume it is out of ignorance, or silly school boy humour, not malice.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby alex_greene » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:14 am

who had better talk fast or
Actually, scratch the whole thing. Courtly intrigues often require a taste for light hearted humour, innuendo, puns, banter, wit and badinage that occasionally veers near the knuckle - people not saying what they mean and meaning other than what they say. Clearly wit, particularly of the kind which may veer toward the bawdy at times, is a lost art.

Nope, forget I asked the whole question. Don't worry about intrigues in Legend. They don't exist for you.

There. Edited to be more tasteful.
Last edited by alex_greene on Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby alex_greene » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:18 am

I think I'll take a long holiday from Legend. Go back to the World of Darkness. Clearly there's nothing working. No room to stretch.

Really, I thought the sclerosis would not have taken so soon to form, as it has with Traveller.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby alex_greene » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:49 am

rust wrote:
alex_greene wrote:
Then throw in the Golden Apple of Eris Discordia (aka "GM dice") and let things rip.
I suspect that you will actually need a little more background
informations for this, like for example about Lord Muthermere
(and his guards, since one of the characters wants to murder
him), about Sir Peter, about Sir Peter's potential patrons, and
of course about the location where all is to take place.
In episodic stories, you only need the bare basics of the characters involved at first. As stories develop and they become recurrent, then you can apply the layers - or take the layers off like opening up a Matryoshka. You choose a name, a title, give them a description and a word about their nature maybe- old boot (grouch, curmudgeon, miser); young male social dilettante who's squandering his inheritance before his father's dead (vacuous, capricious, bit entitled, posh oik); canny man with more money than God who'll want to know what's in it for him before he commits so much as a brass farthing (scheming, pusillanimous, greedy - but generous if the rewards outweigh the risks).

It'd be good not to get attached to a recurring character, either, always bearing in mind what JMS used to do: give each character a ripcord to allow them an exit from the campaign. That way, one can keep one's list of NPCs moving, keep them fresh, make sure the characters don't rely on the recurring characters too much.

Besides, don't you draw up dozens of NPCs anyway, just to fight them? If you want to pit guards against the PC with a sword, use a character whose stats you've already used in a previous adventure. Guard 3 from the Affair of the Governor's Daughter can be dusted off and used as Courtier Four, who brings the bad news to the court about a skirmish that has erupted on the border, that could lead to war, in The Affair Of The Crimson Stranger this week.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Hopeless » Fri Oct 05, 2012 12:58 pm

Okay using my current Legend game as a guide;

So...

Lord James is being manipulated by his father to complete the quest to become a Baron of Raintree however...

Lady Penelope through openly wearing a gem laden headband has been recognised by a Meercat Knight to be in line to become the Duchess of Essex which would mean Lord James would have to swear fealty to her if she's officially recognised...

The Blacksmith is trying to rescue his new girlfriend who happens to be his village witch and priestess of his Norse Cult,

The Woodsman has a rival in a outcasted former woodsman who might have been telling the truth regarding the friend he was suspected of murdering of course by now that outcast lost his right leg to a bolt from Lord James and then murdered a couple of people at the Inn in an attempt to frame Lord James and his sister...

Their enemies include some kind of creature with cloven feet that belches fire and easily slaughtered a band of nomad raiders who look like the villainous thugs from Disney's Mulan movie, they apparently have some means of air travel that roughly resembles ebony black helicopters given the meta gaming remarks of the Blacksmith's player...

The anima based on historia rodentia have an army and zeppelins at their disposal and if the PCs wait they could go off to the mountain with an armed force numbering in battalions...

Fortunately for me they aren't waiting, unfortunately for them the anima aren't all good and the war chariot has a problem with mountainous travel...

I think I'm getting off the topic maybe one of you can say where I'm going way off course!
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby hanszurcher » Sat Oct 06, 2012 7:40 am

While intrigue stands among a number of setting ingredients that appear in our games I've never had the desire to make it the focus of a campaign.

However, I was involved in a D&D game in the late 80s set in The Principalities of Glantri that developed a heavy focus on intrigues, spy games and strange conspiracy. The campaign ran for several years. Which is odd since it was intended to be a one-shot misadventure among the apprentices of the Great School of Magic.
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Re: Intriguing, Swashbuckling and Seducing: The Courtly Camp

Postby Da Boss » Sun Oct 07, 2012 11:20 am

Intrigue is usually part of the games we play so at present in our Warhammer game:

PCs
Udo - a brutal assassin with a very odd birthmark who is taking his first contracts in big city - Altdorf - and presently has tasks from a Shadowy Chaos run brothel, a underworld fence and others. One of the other PCs- knows much of this but not all.

Sabine (me) - Noble born adventurer who is trying to do the right thing but was seduced by a Vampire Genevieve (yes that Genevieve!) and so is being embroiled in plots with the Sisterhood and also to try and take possession of a tract of land the players recently fought of Skaven. She is also now jealous of Rudi who just spent the night with her patron....normally friends with Meg and Udo (she has not really seen his brutal side but is beginning to.

Rudi: Archer/Assassin and increasingly tinged with insanity, previously had a crush on Sabine but this seems to have been lost as the strange experiences added up - been seduced by a Demon and used as its pawn, then a "long dead Elf " we don't know who or what that was and most recently Genevieve who is attracted by the unpredictability of his fractured mind.

Meg - A hedge wizard / apprentice who through various adventures has been accepted into the Amethyst College and has proved an immediate hit - especially at the recent performance of Dracenfels where she spent a long time chatting to the Heads of several other orders. Usually friends with Sabine - but is very unhappy about the whole Vampire thing (dead leech was the most polite words she has used) which she has just found out about. She herself is dabling with Necromancy...which she is trying to keep secret but Rudi she witnessed and told everyone else.

NPCs include the heads of several colleges, Genevieve herself and various city notables.

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