The next few posts will feature examples of prominent NPCs that players may encounter in the course of a caper or campaign. While it is rather improbable that your gang of brilliantined swindlers and back-alley toughs will make the regular acquaintance of the worthies listed below, any gallery opening, public ceremony, or fashionable soiree' (such as attract the wealthy and fleece-able) is guaranteed to have at least one of these in attendance, with any luck diverting attention as you go about your larceny.
Grand Duke Orsino IX
Jolly but irresponsible “merrie monarch.” Steadily bankrupting the country with his many extravagances and caprices. Orsino is, in no particular order, a gambler, womanizer, gourmand, sportsman, and cinephile. He is also something of an amateur stage conjurer. Friends, relatives, servants and random subjects (especially the more pulchritudinous of these) are often pressed into service as volunteers for the Grand Duke’s latest illusions, card tricks, etc.
Solemn, university-educated, progressively inclined, though still a monarchist at heart. He has rebuffed the overtures of at least two conspiracies to usurp his elder brother but his resolve is weakening. He is a current Fencing Champion of all Illyria, a breeder of prize-winning thoroughbreds, and an amateur civil engineer.
The wealthiest widow in Illyria, and its leading patroness of the Arts. Speculation is rife as to whether her total obliviousness to all forms of wordplay, innuendo, and double-entendre is a ruse designed to confound suitors or the result of a strict convent upbringing and/or a persistent innocence in matters of the flesh. In any case, her brief marriage to a notoriously debauched sugar magnate yielded no fruit before his untimely demise, and Lady Désirée passes her remaining years in a series of salons, gala luncheons, and candlelight suppers.
Variously described as "a mockery of her sex," "pert beyond all endurance" and "that vicious little hoyden," the youngest member of the Grand Ducal family is the despair of her elders, the vexation of her suitors, and the darling of the international press (Illyrian newspapermen being firmly under the censor's thumb). She is most often encountered on horseback, sabre swinging from her hip, or behind the wheel of an experimental automobile, and nearly always in one precisely tailored regimental uniform or another. Her one notable departure from this caused a minor scandal at last year's Masquerade as she appeared as Artemis of the Hunt in a diaphanous chiton of alarming brevity, bearing a (functional) Tatar bow and flanked by two enormous Irish wolfhounds.
And then there's this. I think that one will end up confirming all my elementary/middle school teachers' worst suspicions about my character when they saw the comics I'd made.
I have a neglected pile of half-written posts about Galbaruc and Oriax, but before dusting those off and putting 'em up there's a little side project I've been working on. In the interests of finally finishing the thing, I thought I'd keep my interest and momentum going by posting some "teaser" excerpts from the document as I'm putting it together. Eventually, I'd like to put out a nice printed edition of this thing with maps, floor plans, and copyright free (and some original) illustrations, but for right now my goal is to knock out a 15-page or so pdf.
So a while back, Trey Causey did a couple of posts (1 & 2) outlining the basics of a "Ruritanian Rogues" campaign, which happened to coincide with me recently catching a performance of Twelfth Night and watching a bunch of pre-Code movies, mostly directed by Ernst Lubitsch. This is what emerged, and right now I'm working it into a sort of "playset"for Over the Edge / WaRP as that's the system I can most easily run off the top of my head (with the possible exception of WFRP 2nd ed.) With very minimal tweaking, it could work well for Risus, too.
So here's a brief intro:
The Year is 1912. You are a motley ad hoc association of swindlers, pickpockets, gigolos, demimondaines, legbreakers and second-story men. Your playground and prison is the obscure Balkan microstate of Illyria. With nothing but brains, charm, muscle, and an assortment of random odds and ends, you and your associates will attempt a series of increasingly improbable heists, swindles, and outrages of public decency while staying on step ahead of the police, rival gangs, grey-suited bureaucrats, the secret police, student revolutionaries, formidable dowagers, occultists, aristocrats, ponderous academics, street urchins, monocled sadists with Heidelberg dueling scars, femmes fatales, and your own tragic shortcomings.
Illyria totters drunkenly between picturesque feudalism and modernity. In the Capital there are telephones, cinemas, electric lights and even automobiles, but a traveler venturing beyond its turreted walls may be forgiven for thinking they've somehow stepped back into the 18th Century.
The National Language is Illyrian (an Indo-European language in a tiny branch by itself) which is spoken and understood by all commoners. The business of the Archducal court is largely conducted in French.
The Illyrian Orthodox Church serves as the State Religion, though there are sizable pockets of Roman Catholics, Jews, and, to a lesser extent, Muslims (largely an artifact of the nation’s brief period of occupation under the Ottomans). There is also rumored to be a small commune of Swedenborgians somewhere in the north of the Great Forest.
The standard unit of currency is the Kopin. You have very few of these at present, and the world is teeming with people who have more than they can be trusted to use responsibly.
Here's some recommended viewing to get you in the right mood:
Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Trial (1962)
The Great Train Robbery (1978)
The Assassination Bureau (1969)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Royal Flash (1975)
Shadows and Fog (1992)
The Illusionist (2006)
Duck Soup (1933)
The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
The Threepenny Opera (1931)
The Ladykillers (1955)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
Kind Hearts & Coronets (1949)
The Great Race (1965)
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Jewel Robbery (1932)
Next post, I'll put up some NPCs that can serve as marks, foils,or allies of convenience for your gang of Graustarkian ganefs.