Final session (quelle tristesse)
The pack of ne’er-do-wells returned to the Inn of the Two Lanterns in Drancy and retrieved their contract. However, Intendant Marcel was waiting for them there with Regnard. He wanted to meet these new tax bravos and judge their character before he notarized the new contract.
Fortunately, Martin managed to charm Marcel and he signed off.
Run a bit ragged, the group decided to rest at Rotrou’s house to recover their wits before their next caper. However, Paracelsus had some unfinished business in the cellar. There he dismembered poor Antoine’s corpse. The group then hauled it down to the river that night and tossed it away. A lone bargeman, punting down the river, watched impassively as they relieved themselves of their odious burdens (as the result of a failed Sneak test).
The next day they arrived at Argouges’ residence at dawn. They informed their former friend that they were now tax farmers under Regnard and were there to collect a sol per bottle in his warehouses and cellars. A most vile tax.
M. Argouges offered them a flat price of 10,000 livres while Mdm Argouges attempted to get the attention of M. Paracelsus. Neither attempt succeeded.
However, meanwhile, Laura had stolen into the garden, climbed a drain pipe, smashed in a window pane and gained entry to Argouges’ study. Within, she purloined Argouges’ ledger and a purse full of coin from his desk.
The group then retired to Rotrou’s to examine their findings. The money they gave to the Brunet brothers. Laura, using her brief training in Finance, ran through Argouges’ accounts to find his actual tax burden. She missed and underestimated him at 15,000 livres.
Her reading of the account took days. And it didn’t take long for Argouges to come knocking with the Intendant, his archers and some armed gentlemen. They searched Rotrou’s place, so Laura made a quick dash out the window at the back of the house, hiding down by the river.
Argouges and company found nothing, but they did note the stench of death in the cellar (and the blood stains). Argouges left dissatisfied. The intendant apologized to his new subcontractors for the disturbance.
Meanwhile, Laura, in her hiding place, saw two children standing on a fallen branch arching out into the river. They were poking at wet, rotten sack with a stick, tangled in the branch. Laura broke cover and screamed at them to be gone as the young girl thrust her make-shift spear home and the sack burst, revealing the worm-eaten face of Antoine Regnard. The children screamed and ran.
Martin was determined to break Argouges’ will. The presbyter’s pretensions of holiness fell away as he became possessed by a mechanistic impulse for revenge. He demanded the group return the next morning at dawn. And when Argouges refused to pay that morning, he returned the next day. And the day after.
I told the crew that each day of delay would trigger a roll of the die of fate to see when the traumatized children would tell their parents what they saw.
They realized they had to act and returned the next morning ready to business. However, it was not M. Argouges who greeted them, but the madame. She deftly maneuvered Paracelsus into the drawing room alone, while shutting out Laura and Martin.
Paracelsus inquired after her health and if she had filled his prescription with the local apothecary. She responded that she had and, “Doctor, my pulse beats quick, my cheeks are flushed and my heart pounds. My thoughts are not my own.”
Dro, in a stroke of roleplaying genius, responded without hesitation, “It’s love, Madame!”
(We all nearly lost it laughing. It was the perfect response).
Unperturbed, he continued, “Does not this alleviate your ailment?”
“I’m afraid the current situation does not satisfy my condition, no.” She moved closer to him and let her knee touch his.
Dro then turned to us—the audience—and said, “She’s sees that I am beautiful, but does not know how cruel I am!” Referring of course to Paracelsus’s virtue and flaw.
At that point, M. Argouges came downstairs and grumbled at his servants for not having announced his good friends. He conducted Laura and Martin into the drawing room while the madame made a quick exit through another door.
Negotiations commenced. A quick series of parley checks had both parties agree to 17,000 livres for the tax bill (though Martin silently vowed he would be back next year for more). However, Paracelsus wasn’t satisfied. “What about the bodies?” he asked.
To negotiate payment for the crimes required a duel of wits. Argouges refused to take any responsibility. In the exchange, he managed to knock Martin right out but found Laura and Paracelsus tougher customers than he anticipated. In the end, he agreed to pay an additional 2500 livres for the matter to be settled once and for all (including signing a contract saying that he owed them nothing more).
Victorious but unsatisfied, the group retired to Rotrou’s and divided their truly ill-gotten gains. This wealth, for each of them, represented a major improvement of their lot—if only they could hold onto it.
Sadly, we had to end the playtest there due to my own scheduling conflicts. But before we parted ways, we tallied exertion and rolled for Mortal Coil.
Martin (8 ex) strained himself beyond endurance and was forced to convalesce for many months.
Paracelsus (5 ex) was diminished and induced to retire for months.
And poor Laura (10 ex), after all of her exertions, fell suddenly ill and quickly died before even Paracelsus realized his help was needed.
It was a great playtest. The game worked reasonably well over all, but a few issues arose:
Moment vs Motif
After this run, I am better equipped to separate the moment in which you’re playing from the motif. The moment is a problem you must live in, whereas the motif is something that binds you together and sees you through the difficulties of the age.
I have a better sense of the pacing of the game—slower and more deliberate than your standard action game—but I’m struggling with a way to impart that into the system. The group verged on a few Scooby Doo moments where they just kept forcing the issue and pushing deeper and deeper into danger, rather than backing off and acting like someone whose life was at risk and had tomorrow to live for.
Politeness and Propriety
It’s vital that everyone wear a veneer of politeness and adhere to tradition and proper behavior. To fail to is to insult someone, and to insult someone is to invite them to remedy the slight.
Self Interest vs Revenge vs Forgiveness
I need to work on how to better evoke the underlying character of the age. Self-interest is a major motivating factor. Only the most heroic, most epic characters act in a selfless manner. Everyone else is looking for personal advantage and gain in every single situation.
When you do cross the line with someone, they never forget. And they will work for the rest of their natural days to gain their revenge, no matter how small or petty.
However, once slights are remedied or apologies made, all is forgiven. Lasting alliances of self-interest are often made in these moments.