Avignon #3: The Napolis Connection

If you are new to this series, read this first. Play date: October 23 2010.

Lito looks at the graves in the crypt once more. Three virtually empty chests. Robbed quite recently by someone with a taste for holy bones. And a fourth chest with the body of St. Agneta. Agneta whose spirit is speaking to him. Lito decides to take the bones, and keep them safe. He collects them in his robe and leaves. Before someone else takes them.

Meanwhile Hieronimus and Colonel Eline hear how Peters from the secret service appear in the church above. They call down, to ask what they're doing there. “Will you come up, or do we go down to arrest you?” they shout. “Er, I was just helping out my client. He has kinky wishes, you see!” The Peters seem at a loss for words for a moment, but then they come down anyway. So, our three grave robbing heroes Lito, Eline and Hieronimus flee into the maze of catacombs for another way out. The Peters follow closely.

Not far from there, Schwartzburg and the Pope have another secret conversation. They talk about the problem of compound interest, and how compound interest now grows much faster than the real economy can grow. Which means that more and more people will drown in debt. Which may lead to war. The Pope actually listens. But also explains that the former Pope has borrowed a huge sum of money to build the Cathedral St.Peter, and that he cannot escape the interest on that loan without risking war with the Bishop of Mecklenburg and friends, who lent him the money. A tough situation.

You may find it strange that I run adventures with such diplomatic, economic talks. Sometimes my players wonder too. But the talks actually work. At least some of the players enjoy playing them – and are as intrigued as I am. Intrigued, because these are – simplified – real world situations. Real world now, and historic real world. The real life pope that built the Saint Peter actually did borrow money at interest, and he tried to raise it back by levying indulgences. Worse, he let real banker Fugger do the levying, at a 100% interest rate. While at the same time it was forbidden for Christians to ask interest. That's what real Martin Luther got so angry about.

Hieronimus falls down a shaft, and lands in the mud. And a dead body. It looks like a nun, with quite some money, and a ring of the Order of the Silver Dragon. Wasn't this order killed by the Witchmasters many years ago? This nun looks like she was alive a few days ago. The Peters close in and Hieronimus, Eline annd Lito have to leave. But they'll come back. Eventually they find a way out of the catacombs. Through the same church of Saint Mark where they freed Aster hours ago [see last episode].

So it looks like some Peters of Nicolas' secret service robbed the tomb of Saint Agneta and her friends – and killed a Silver Dragon nun in the process. The question is, whether Nicolas ordered this, or whether the Peters work for someone else on the side.

Our heroes hide from the Peters all night – and finally meet up the next day with a new contact. Notary Fritz Leiter. Right under the unsuspecting noses of the Peters, Schwartzburg, Eline, Hieronimus and Lito try to figure out with Leiter who is the real enemy. They decide to do three things.

The first is to try and smoke out the enemy. Hieronimus former contact James mysteriously died, so they'll have a look who is going to contact Hieronimus now. That might be the wrongdoer. A short comedy of errors follows, and Hieronimus is told he should contact agent Peter XIII. Suspect number one...

The second is that Schwartzburg is going for a long prayer. His patron saint Anthony may provide some knowledge. Schwartzburg has a vision of two candles leaning against eachother. The big candle is Nicolas, who is told things by the smaller one, who has something to do with Saint Francis. [As a game master you have to give visions a bit of colour, and a bit of mysticism.]

And the third – and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the courage of Hieronimus' player – is that they would contact and confront Nicolas directly. They'd go and tell exactly what happened. How Hieronimus accidentally killed a fellow secret agent (a Peter), how they freed Aster, and that the Peters seemed to be robbing holy bones from a hidden tomb under the city. Holy bones one can use against Doomstone infections. Holy bones that are being stolen a whole campaign long.

So what has Nicolas to say for himself? Or for his Peters? Naturally I made it slightly hard on the players too, playing an annoyed Nicolas with a letter opener shaped as a dagger – for effect. But the players did very well. They actually made a case to Nicolas that his secret service was compromised, and that Cardinal Francisco Montecci – from Napolis – and Peter XIII might be running a private operation within the service. Nicolas will help them, for the time being, and run an internal affairs investigation on his own men.

To me, this kind of play is a quantum leap from the typical game. In a typical party the players would have run away by now, hiding from both the secret police and the criminals. Shooting both orcs and police on sight. Admittedly, in a typical game up to a few years ago, I wouldn't have done my best to embed the player characters in the society. Now I do. Hieronimus is a Papal secret agent – Nicolas is his ultimate chief. Lito is a Paladyn, so the Order of Paladyns would help him. Schwartzburg is the special envoy of the Bishop of Lorrach. Eline owns one of the few Doomstone mines. All players have their social stakes in the game, not just physical hit points or gold pieces to look out for. That makes a difference.

But I'm still very pleasantly surprised. Thanks Hieronimus!


  1. I would like to clarify that any references to carnal services performed on or with Hieronimus were part of a ruse; No actual physical contact was involved bar the absolute necessary amount needed to avoid falling to death later on :-)

    And you're welcome Jake. Can't say playing this stuck-up so-and-so is getting much easier but you really do seem to hit right note these last sessions to get the best out of the players. Kuddos to you.

  2. Yeah Lomedae, I keep telling *my* group the same thing re. the carnal issue. But for some reason they never believe me! ;-)

    Meanwhile, look at the GM sitting there innocently, being all mega-plotty and "above such base concerns." /Snort.