Friday, July 31, 2015

Adventure 04: On Guard, Chapter VII

Chapter VII: Duel to the Death

After the brawl on Candlemas Eve, Gaston calls César de Mala Cassanha, the Sapristi Italian Fencing Master who struck his father in the face, a coward and challenges him to a duel. He asks Guy to act as his second and arrange the duel with Cassanha whose second is Isidore Lafontaine Sieur Le Roulle; Lafontaine is another student of Maestro Sapristi. On February 4th Guy and Lafontaine meet and make the arrangements. The duel is scheduled for Monday February 6th at 10:00 AM behind the Hotel de Luxemburg. Since Lafontaine also wants satisfaction from Guy for striking him with a wine bottle during the brawl, Guy and Lafontaine agree to a separate duel to the First Blood to occur at the same time as that between Gaston and Cassanha, who will fight their duel – “to the death!”

The duel provokes a lot of speculation within and between the schools and the outcome of the duel will be taken by the students of the winning side as a validation of their school over that of their rivals.

Recovered from his wound, Lucien returns to guard duty; in this he is accompanied by his new pageboy Bertin. Meanwhile, Guy continues his attendance at the talks in the guise of a clerk. While there, he spots a very large, muscular nobleman with a hawk-like nose and a graying full beard of the sort that has been out of fashion for twenty years – the same nobleman who wounded Pendu and stole the DaVinci codex – the same nobleman that Guy later left disarmed and tied to a tree outside of Auxerre. Guy pulls his hat brim down to shade his face as he thinks, Now that is interesting…and who might you be working for my large and bearded friend?

By discretely asking around Guy learns that the nobleman is the Baron Simon d’Ile-de-Batz.

February 6th, the day of the duel, is cold and windy; the bare branches of the trees behind the Hotel de Luxemburg whip back and forth like skeletal fingers as the wind tugs at the cloaks of the figures huddled there. As the clocks of the surrounding churches strike ten, two pairs of combatants shed their cloaks and begin their duels. Guy is armed with a rapier; Lafontaine is armed in the Italian style with rapier and main gauche. The two circle for a few moments testing each other’s defenses. Guy attempts to use his lighting speed and the same quick cut that won his duel against Villemorin; Lafontaine accepts a slight wound from Guy as he simultaneously strikes a nearly fatal blow using the deadly stop-thrust favored by the Italian style. While the duel is technically a draw that is small consolation to Guy who can barely stand while Lafontaine has endured little more than a scratch.

Meanwhile, Gaston and Cassanha, both masters of the Italian style, face each other similarly armed with rapier and main gauche. Cassanha is faster, but his rapid thrusts are repeatedly parried by Gaston who uses a combination of ripostes and thrusts to drive his foe back and then back again. Gaston parries then counters with his vizcaina in a deadly throat slash. Blood spurting from his throat, Cassanha counters with a stop-thrust wounding Gaston in the leg, but the stop-thrust draws Cassanha’s rapier out of position and Gaston delivers a fatal lunge to his opponent’s heart. Cassanha falls dead.[i]

The duel done and his wound bandaged, Gaston returns to the Dancing Bear Inn. Now that he has a commission with the Picardy Regiment he must spend some of his time performing his regimental duties. Major Gerald Larocque, who is in charge of the junior officers, assigns Gaston and the other new officers the task of assessing the new recruits. The Major makes it known that how well the lieutenants do this job may help decide which lieutenant is given temporary command of a company – the company is short of company captains so one or more lieutenants will need to be given a brevet command. Success training the recruits will impress the Major; failure the opposite.

Gaston spends Tuesday and Wednesday the 7th and 8th of February working with the new recruits. He identifies several veterans and assigns them to drill the green recruits in how to march – a key aspect of soldiering. Gaston succeeds, though not more so than his peers. His greater military experience being offset by his lack of noble birth and his less charismatic style of leadership. Biscarrat on the other hand is thought to be a natural leader. Lieutenant Colonel Boisson is most impressed with Daumier and Biscarrat. It looks like Biscarrat may not have to remain an ensign for very long and for now Daumier has the inside track on a brevet captaincy.

[i]     Gaston’s Riposte with his vizcaina did -8 Lifeblood and his Lunge did -11 Lifeblood. This would have left Cassanha  dead at a net -9 Lifeblood. However, Cassanha is a villain and as he had not used any of his Fortune Points, he used them to survive the apparently fatal blow. He will recover somehow, however he is left with a horrible scar to his throat that reduces his voice to a Christopher Lambert like whisper. He gains the Flaw: Obsession (Defeat Gaston). He is obsessed with proving himself by defeating Gaston in a one on one duel. However he no longer has faith in the teachings of his master. He abandons the Italian Style that he learned from Sapristi. Once he recovers enough to travel, he will go on a quest for a new style or an ultimate, unstoppable move that will let him defeat Gaston and finally Prove Himself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Weather -- Part 1: The Seasons

Our modern Western lifestyle insulates us from the effects of the seasons in many ways. Do to a global food supply chain I can drive to my local supermarket and get blueberries in December and most vegetables, many fruits, and fresh meat and fish 365 days a year. Lately the temperature has been 95-97 degrees-F (35-36 degrees-C) with 50-90% humidity, yet my air conditioned house is quite comfortable and the ground floor is kind of cold. And in winter my house is warm enough not to need to wear a warm coat or cloak. I'm not a farmer or a gardener so I neither sow nor do I reap.

None of these things are true for most humans throughout most of history. People in the past were very in touch with the seasons in a way few westerners are today.

An RPG set in a historical setting or a fantasy setting that emulates aspects of history should include seasonal variation that is visible and meaningful to the player characters. Well to all the characters, but as a GM I am most concerned with what impacts the PCs and their players.

I saw an interesting implementation of seasonal variation on the Hari Ragat Games blog. The campaign is set in what seems to be a mix of SE Asia with Micronesia and it features a lot of sea travel and raiding. Like that part of the world there are two main seasons, wet and dry, that are then divided based on prevailing winds. Each season has entries for Winds, Weather, and typical local Activities. It's an elegant, yet simple approach which seems well suited for a nautical campaign.

I'll have to do some reading, but something like that could work nicely for the Atlantic and Mediterranean sailing seasons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I use a lot of history in my H+I campaign and some of the fictional characters and events will still be related or otherwise tied to real historical figures and events. From my reading, English history focuses on the Elizabethan and the English Civil War and Reformation periods and kind of skips over the 1620s. Similarly, French history for English speakers focuses on the religious wars of the 16th century, Henri IV, and Louis XIV. Not much about Louis XIII is covered, despite the popularity of Dumas' Three Musketeers. Spanish history spends a lot of time on this period as part of the Golden Age and the Eighty Years War with the Dutch, but not so much of that is translated into English. Therefore I've had to do a lot of searching to find information about this period. As an English speaker, this is harder for history of the continent, but fortunately online translation programs like Bing and Google help to decipher the overall meaning of foreign language articles. Usually I use Bing, but for short passages when I am trying to really get a better reading I'll use both Bing and Google. Also Bing doesn't do Latin, so I use Google for that.

Note that you can translate in either direction so if you want to add in some foreign sentences you can translate from your native language to all sorts of other languages. As long as your players aren't fluent in the language in question they probably won't notice the occasionally silly translations that the programs provide -- and if they are fluent, well then they can have a good laugh.

This is likely less of an issue for European gamers, but I'm an essentially monolingual American (and no Fortran, Cobol, Basic, and Pascal don't count even if they did satisfy a university requirement) and I don't live in Europe anymore so I'm this post is mostly for the vast American gaming public. But hey even if you are multilingual you won't speak or read all the languages that Bing and Google can translate. So maybe this will still be helpful at some point.

One tip for finding additional articles with an Internet search is to use the native language of the country involved. So if I want to find sources in French, Spanish, Dutch, or German I will use the person, location, thing, or idea written in that language. This has allowed me to find quite a few minor historical figures that don't turn up in the first two or three pages of a search done in English as well as a few concepts and locations.

Related Posts: Songs from the Period

Monday, July 27, 2015

Adventure 04: On Guard, Chapter VI

Chapter VI: A Thibeault Family Dinner

Gaston invites his friends Lucien and Guy to a delayed homecoming celebration. The occasion is the eve and day of Candlemas, February 1st and 2nd, at the home of Gaston’s sister Marie and her husband Claude de Fleury. Candlemas occurs on February 2nd – 40 days after Christmas. The festivities start on Candlemas Eve when the family takes down the Christmas decorations and greenery.

In addition to Guy and Lucien the celebration includes Gaston, referred to as Uncle Tonton by his young niece Margeurite, Gaston’s Father, Hubert Thibeault – granpere to the girls, Gaston’s sister Marie and her husband Claude de Fleury and their two girls Jeannette: age 11 and Marguerite: age 8. Gaston’s brother-in-law Claude is studying to be a lawyer. Marie is both proud and worried to have a Musketeer and a noble to her home for dinner. Claude is especially pleased to meet Guy de Bourges. At the first opportunity he takes the noble Guy aside to discuss a “very interesting investment opportunity and a sure-fire scheme. Seriously, my lord, it cannot fail.” The opportunity is a gambling syndicate that Claude is pulling together. Guy would provide the face and capital, while Claude would provide the organization and the gambling expertise. “My lord, with your assistance we can access the lucrative market of the nobility and royal courtiers. Of course all profits are to be shared 50-50.” Guy declines the offer. Jeannette, the older girl, is also pleased to meet Guy, asking him many questions about the court, his position therein, and of course his family situation. Learning that Guy is the only child and is unmarried only brightens her interest in the stylish young courtier. Marguerite seems more interested in the dashing Lucien and eagerly asks for stories about war and battles –especially battles involving ‘Tonton.’ She seems particularly interested in counting up the number of foemen killed.

After a time, Marie de Fleury shoos the girls away from the guests and tells her father, husband, and brother that it is time to remove the old decorations. Little Marguerite relates with ghoulish relish the old superstition that any traces of berries, holly, and so forth will bring a death to the inhabitants of the home before another year is out.

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall.

After the old decorations are removed, the men leave the house – usually to a tavern – while the women of the house finish cleaning up and begin preparing food for the next day’s feast. To help them, the men are supposed to return with something for that night’s dinner – usually some kind of cold supper.

The neighborhood tavern is one that Claude and Hubert sometimes frequent; they encounter gang of men in black tabards – the garb of the students of a rival school, the Fratellanza di Giganti. Gaston does not want to start a battle or kill someone in front of his disapproving father so he tries to avoid trouble. However the Gigantis are not interested in peace. They try to bully the group and one of them even strikes Gaston’s elderly father in the face, a brief brawl ensues resulting in the ejection of the Black Tabards from the tavern. Gaston determines to settle with Cassanha, the man who struck his father, at a later date. Satisfied that they have done the manly thing by brawling and fortified by additional drinks, the men return to the house with sausages, bread, cheese, and more wine.

The next morning, everyone goes to Mass together to get the New Year’s candles blessed. Then they return home for a big feast after Mass at which they use the blessed wax candles. The family stays together playing games and telling stories until evening when Candlemas (French: La Chandeleur) is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year. Everyone is encouraged and teased into trying to flip a crêpe. Lucien is the champion crêpe flipper. Marie says that means he will have good fortune for the rest of the year. The tradition is for adults to give the girls the coin that they hold. Gaston has one gold pistole for Jeannette and Marguerite. Elsewhere that night around Paris young people light bonfires over which people jump or between which they drive their flocks, in a continuation of Imbolc, the ancient pagan fertility right.

After Candelmas night dinner with the Thibeaults, Guy puts on a disguise to follow the Spanish Ambassador, Don Antonio de Zúñiga y Dávila, marqués de Mirabel. He sees Don Antonio meet a man in a dark cloak and hat. They exchange a few words, but Guy is too far to hear what is said. When the two separate, Guy follows the cloaked man to a rough tavern, Le Brevage Noir.[i] The flickering light of the dimly lit tavern is enough for Guy to see that the cloaked man has a scarf or mask over his face. Another man comes up to the masked man and briefly shows him a red sash beneath his cloack. The two sit talking in low voices. Guy overhears, “It will be Thursday. All is ready.” When the masked man leaves, Guy attempts to follow him and the masked man leads Guy into an dark alley – It’s a trap! Guy leaps to the side narrowly avoiding a pair of thrown daggers. From the darkness the voice of the masked man asks Guy if he is a good Catholic. Guy says, “Yes. I serve God and attend Mass regularly.”

The masked man replies, “In that case, know that I am the Left Hand of God. Prepare your soul Frenchman, for the next time we meet, one of us shall see God.”

[i]     (T3) Le Brevage Noir located on the Rue de la Babette, roughly midway between the Temple and Place Royale, the Brevage Noir (the Black Brew or Black Drink) caters to a rough clientele of rogues and ruffians interspersed with slumming gentlemen and nobles, attracted by the tavern’s reputation as a gambler’s den (cock fights, cards, and dice).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Oldest Newspapers

List of Oldest Newspapers


Avisa Relation oder Zeitung, the second oldest newspaper



Ordinari Post Tijdender, the world's oldest newspaper still published (since 1645)


    This list of the oldest newspapers sorts the newspapers of the world by the date of their first publication.


Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien
Holy Roman Empire
World's first newspaper
Avisa Relation oder Zeitung
Holy Roman Empire
Name not given in source
Swiss Confederacy
Name not given in source
Holy Roman Empire
Name not given in source
Holy Roman Empire
Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c.
Dutch Republic
Considered the world's first broadsheet because it was published in folio instead of quarto-size size. Defunct 1664
Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c.
Dutch Republic
Considered the world's first broadsheet because it was published in folio instead of quarto-size size. Defunct 1664
La Gazette
First French-language newspaper and first weekly magazine published in France. Existed between May 30, 1631 and September 30, 1915.
First Catalan-language newspaper and first periodical published in Iberian Peninsula. Only two issues were published.
Ordinari Post Tijdender
Oldest still published newspaper in the world. Online-only since 2007.
Weeckelycke Courante van Europa
Dutch Republic
The name was changed to Oprechte Haerlemsche Courant in 1664. The newspaper merged with the Haarlems Dagblad in 1942, which is still published.
La Gazeta
Kingdom of Spain
Until 2008 December, oldest print edition still published in the world, under the name "Boletín Oficial del Estado". From 2009, only online edition.
Merkuriusz Polski Ordynaryjny
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Moved to Warsaw in May 1661, last issues published 22 July 1661.
Gazzetta di Mantova
Duchy of Mantua, Holy Roman Empire
Oldest private newspaper still published in the world, and oldest continuously published in print.
Oxford Gazette
From issue 24 in 1666, the paper was printed in London and renamed London Gazette; this is still published.
Den Danske Mercurius
Daily Courant
World first daily newspaper. Last issue in 1735, when it merged with the Daily Gazetteer.
Moved to St. Petersburg in 1711, in 1728 renamed Sankt-Petersburgskie Vedomosti, in 1914 renamed Petrogradskie Vedomosti. Last issue in 1917.
Wiener Zeitung
Still published
The Review
Founded by Daniel Defoe in 1704 as A Review of the Affairs of France. The Review ran three times a week without interruption until 1713.
The Boston News-Letter
Boston, Massachusetts
Thirteen Colonies
Hildesheimer Relations-Courier
Oldest surviving newspaper in Germany, nowadays published as Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung
Mercurius Hungaricus
Oldest Hungarian newspaper, written in Latin, it had 7 issues and last printed in 1710
The Tatler
Kingdom of Great Britain
Founded by Richard Steele. Last issue in 1711.

The Worcester Post-Man
Kingdom of Great Britain
Published since 1753 as Berrow's Worcester Journal.[17] No evidence for claimed publication since 1690.[18]

The Examiner
Kingdom of Great Britain
Best known for the contributions by Jonathan Swift. Last issue in 1714.
The Spectator
Kingdom of Great Britain
Founded by Joseph Addison in 1711. Last issue in 1712.