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Thursday, 14 March 2013

H+I: France 1625 Act 1 Session 1: Uneasy marriages

Finally, at long last, we started our H+I campaign. The delay was due to the GM having family issues, which is fully understandable. Besides, that's her first time GMing a game. (She gets rather nervous because each of the players has more experience GMing and playing than her. We're actually playing mostly separate scenes, with each player that's not present with a PC slipping her advice when she seems lost).
Jean-Pierre is a priest slash don Juan slash duelist slash spy with the "Lust" motivation. Add to that that he's got the double life of also being a Richelieu agent, has an enemy (the Horned Noble, as we call him, parce que notre MdJ a pensé à tout sauf le nom), and is prone to falling in love with the wrong person... Yeah. If you can say "abusing clerical powers", he's in there somewhere (well, he sticks /it/ to women of acceptable age only). Well, at least you can say he's a learned guy: he did pay attention in that seminary! The emphasis the French style puts on footwork serves him well for when he runs away, and his natural grace is a natural match for it.
Baronesse Catherine de Saint Michel is driven by ambition, hampered by her lustful disadvantage, but she mostly manages to turn it to her advantage with attractiveness, good looks, and manipulation. And when it fails, she's deadly with a knife, being trained in the Italian style! Due to it, she's also stronger than the average man... such is life.
And did I mention she's a spy for Richelieu? Yeah. The group might well cross arms with D'Artagnan at some point.
We're also expecting XX, an unidentified female character, to join us at some point, and XY, a knighted Portuguese, to join. But that's not in this session, and swashbuckling is about small groups anyway. YMMV.
So...
Jean-Pierre's first scene was a tad earlier. He was running away from the stick-wielding servants of Isabelle de Levine's husband. Said husband was puffing behind, and JP was entertaining the thought of running on a downward street so we could see the horn-bearer tumbling nearby. His shape was better suited for tumbling than for running, anyway.
However, the downward street lead to a more crowded street, and lacking pants at the moment - he was carrying them, at least - he didn't want to scandalise people. Sure, he had a cloak, but for a priest to show his private parts? Unthinkable, he decided!
So, he ran in a narrow street instead, and let his cloak dangling on the ground, waiting for an attack. Which didn't take long. However, he kept them at bay with his rapier, and pulled the cloak after noticing one of them had stepped on it...
The guy was too heavy, and didn't lose his balance as much as JP wanted. However, his reach advantage provided him the defence he needed again, and he stabbed one of them in the shoulder.
The third one decided to withdraw (GM call, not a continued Bladework against pawns- was he squeamish about blood or what? I forgot asking), so JP took initiative and scratched his initial on the chest of the last guy, cutting the shirt and just a drop of blood. The guy looked in amazement and realized the smart thing to do wasn't to wield a stick.
Meanwhile, the husband had reached there, but was too out of breath. JP, already pant-ful, gave him some advice on getting a better dress in order to become more attractive to ladies, then turned to leave.
Le cocu had no better ideas than to try and pull his gun from his belt. Alas, he fumbled that, being - yes, you guessed it - too fat. And so JP turned, and with the tip of his rapier which he put in the trigger's circle, drew it for him.
Then he handed it to the unhappy fatty.
"Your weapon, monsieur!"
The man grasped it by the barrel and looked at it in amazement. JP turned and left, only putting his weapon in its sheet after turning behind a corner. The guy didn't even try to shoot him. He had probably had enough.
The next morning, he was sorry for stabbing the guy in the shoulder, and went to have breakfast. Luckily, there was a doctor drinking in the corner. I approached him and paid him to go to De Levine's estate, and take care of the guy. Hey, I didn't want this sin on my conscience! Oh, and btw, if you see either the husband or Isabelle de Levine? Send them my congratulations. They would know.
The doctor, however, kept drinking and only promised to do that after he gets in shape. I looked at him and remembered being young and inexperienced, than sat back.
"I know why a man drinks alone. What's her name?"
It was the daughter of a banker. He wanted to marry her; the banker wanted to marry her off to someone with a title. I wished him good luck, and went away.
I had an appointment with a banker. He didn't know it yet, but he was going to learn.
Meanwhile, Catherine had managed to attract the attention of a marquise, who was kinda like her older version. Both loved intrigues, too - so they were having brunch at th ungodly early hour of 10-11 a.m.
The marquise explained having a relative who stands to get a large inheritance, and was very much into a court lady. The problem? Currently, he was just a country bumpkin who had yet to receive his inheritance. Ergo, she wasn't much into him. Couldn't you help the boy, dear?
Of course Catherine would. They planned to have him introduced to her on a hunt the afternoon, so she went to change in more appropriate clothes. Well, outdoor activities weren't exactly her prime - quite the opposite, indeed - but she wasn't going to be there for the hunt anyway.
Changing took a couple hours, of course. And this was when I arrived. Mme la marquise needed to make her confessions as well, from time to time, so we knew each other, Biblically.
...Earlier, I had already visited the banker. He slipped when I told him I'm there to talk about the sacraments, mentioning something about giving money to the church. I gave him a lecture on the sacraments, of course, reminding him - without saying so - what "Tier Etat" really means, and that we're not on equal footing there.
"So, let's talk about the sacrament of marriage...I hear your daughter, Josephine, is of age, and I hear there's a candidate for her hand. A very good young man."
"Very good indeed", he admitted.
"And such a talented doctor..."
"Doctor?"
Seemed like some small and impoverished noble had made an offer as well. I explained to the guy why that wouldn't be the wise choice. That a doctor is the person who takes care of you when you're sick, or injured.
"I can hire as many doctors as I can!"
"But sometimes, monsieur", I leaned forward so he could see the rapier, "Minutes are all you've got. What good are titles and money? Think of your soul, and how easily it can leave the body in these troubled days! It would be a tragedy to die without receiving the last sacrament!"
He got the hint - hah, hint - and we summoned the daughter. She expressed a strong desire to become Ms. Doctor's Wife. I looked at the banker.
"So, it's settled?"
Indeed it was. And Josephine was such a nice girl! Since beauty leads to sin, she surely had some sins she needed to confess, too... and I knew who could help with that.
And that's how I went to see my favourite marquise to obtain an invitation to a party I had heard about. She was in the company of Catherine, and the two of them were just lovely.
I took it on my shoulders to provide some entertainment, describing the puffing, almost tumbling fatty in as comical light as I could. At the end, they were both chickling. After I explained he's so fat he can't pull a gun from his belt, Catherine attested it wasn't the only thing he can't find in his belt. We trusted her information.
Then I explained that I'd like to meet him in public and inquire about the health of his servant - adding that I had provided a medical practitioner. Mme la Marquise not only invited me...she also invited him! Seems like it was above his station as well. But she liked the idea of some entertainment. And she had a confession to make, as soon as Catherine departed for some hunt.
Can't tell if she had less sins when I left, but she seemed more relaxed.
I just passed to see the doctor - he actually assured me the servant was going to be fine, but I decided to ask the fatty anyway - and he was having a party all his own, having just received a letter. I told him that God has helped him, and he had made a fine choice. After he realised it was me he had to thank for his happiness, he hugged me and tried to get me drunk.
No way, I had a fat cocu to tease! But I wished him a good time...
With that, I went on the party.
Meanwhile, Catherine managed to get the guy talking. It was easy - smile, pretend to be scared of falcons, and ask for help. Give a cold shoulder to the local jerk who showers you with compliments, while accepting them graciously, as something that's only to be expected. She even got him to admit his infatuation for the court lady - at which she rolled her eyes inwardly, and promised him help, as long as he obeys. The guy promised that.
All in an afternoon's work for her.
So, we met at the party. After kissing Mme la marquise's hand, JP went to check on his prey.
Why did I abuse this buffoon? Because he had a nice wife he didn't deserve? Because he had a station far above his abilities? Because I simply had nothing but scorn for him? Because showing off on him was an easy way to become more popular, at the cost of making him a life-long enemy...which he already was?
Pick at least one. You're unlikely to be wrong.

So, I went to see him, and it seems he went red just by seeing me. He decided to try and play the station card, refusing to talk with someone not of noble blood. I countered with the Church card, asking him whether he believes himself above all men of cloth, and trumped this. So, I inquired about his servant's health - and for that matter, hope your wife doesn't feel too bored?
He threw his wine in my face.
"Let God forgive you, because it's not in my nature", I answered. "You owe me satisfaction, monsieur!"
I found a second - someone I had practiced the sword with - and we went outside to settle it right now. Yes, duels are forbidden. So what?
Besides, half the party-goers came to see - I felt the hand of Mme La Marquise behind it, but maybe I was wrong - and so, we had multiple noble witnesses.
Before the fight, Isabelle came to ask me to spare the buffoon's life. I explained that I didn't mean killing him, and she seemed happy. I even struck myself an appointment for later tonight, because she had some confessing to do.
Back in the circle. I let him rush me, and he failed. As a counter, I cut off a button off his shirt.
He went even redder, which was funny.
Then he attacked clumsily enough that he tripped and almost fell. I used this moment to disarm him.
Then I slipped my blade in the basket hilt of his rapier, and handed it to him again.
"And here I thought I'd only have to hand you guns... your sword, monsieur!"
At this point, everybody was laughing their asses off - well, hidden behind hands, handkerchiefs, or whatever - so he tried to body-tackle me. Though my sword was between us.
I actually had to remove it, so he didn't impale himself, and jump back. Then I handed the sword again.
"This might help you, monsieur!"
He took it, swung it, and fell, almost impaling himself again - what was with this guy?
I jumped out of his range, than lunged back, and used my rapier on the most convenient target.
His ass was sticking up as a pinchsion, so I pinned it lightly, drawing a drop of blood.
"Ha! Blood! I guess I've received my satisfaction, monsieur!"
People were cheering me at this point. His second grabbed him by the collar, and dragged him away.
Well, I expected him to try something. But at this point? I was basking in my popularity!
At this point, I made a tour of the room. I was accepted unexpectedly well - or expectedly well, given that most people were talking about my duel. Isabelle, of all people, was hanging at my arm, since I haven't actually hurt her husband. She was just a grateful wife, quoi!
Yeah, sure, nobody doubts that...well, nobody doubts that within my hearing distance. Good enough. And I managed to talk her into visiting my confessional room later. Before, after, or together with Mme La Marquise, their choice (I think they actually chose "together", but it's yet to happen in-game).

I even managed to have a talk with a colonel of the Cardinal's Guards. He was young, I had managed to gather he has bought his place with connections, and he was impressed enough with my performance that he seemed ready to offer me a place with the guards.
At the same time, both me and Catherine received letters. There was a Spanish spy at the party. We were to follow him, and take note who he's talking with.
(That wasn't in the GM's notes. We decided two spies at a party should get to do some spying in their first party in the game. Besides, the GM seemed stuck for plot hooks, so we spent some Hero points and gave her some).
He was talking with the second of my former opponent. Quickly interrogating Isabelle, I realised he was a self-imposed outcast, and people said he was into alchemy and the occult.
So I went to him, had Isabelle introducing us, and struck a conversation about the occult. He mentioned staying within what the Church allows, and I calmed him.
"If you know how to ask, the Church can actually allow almost anything. Never got anything refused, at least".
At this point, I think I began making a friend.
Meanwhile, the Spanish, Alfredo (or Amando, need to check my notes again) kept giving us elusive answers. Catherine tried to chat him up about his country, and to get him to describe it better - and of course, just to get him to drink.
And I suspect she's planning to use some sleeping powder on his drinks...However, at this point, the GM had to leave. We'll know more after the next session, when we expect at least XY to join us. Maybe he's got an invitation as well?