SDMB RPG First Adventure: Panic in Genoa!

Welcome to the SDMB Pathfinder Game! This is the game thread, for in-character posts, direct statements about what actions your character will take, and short out-of-character questions to myself and other players that are directly about the game, like planning your actions and decisions. The setup thread is for lengthy out-of-character questions, comments, and long-term plans, as well as off-topic items as they come up. I’m going to use the same color conventions that we’ve used in similar games in the past: Green Text is out-of-character, and Blue Text for magic and magic items. You don’t have to follow those conventions, but it does help keep things clear.
This game is loosely set in a Europe of the Middle Ages. Any events, people, cultures, wars, and places between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453 are fair game. Anachronisms will run rampant, and I’m perfectly OK with that. In addition, this is a world filled with magic, magical creatures, and semi-human races like dwarves, elves, hobbits, and orcs are likewise common. Dwarves dwell mainly within hills and mountains, though some few live in Dwarven neighborhoods in human cities where they sell the excellent creations of their mountain workshops, and occasionally work on commission for those few who can afford it. Elves seem to have no particular homeland; they travel the seas and land trade routes both as independent traders and as part of the vast Elvish trading companies. Hobbits live mixed in with humans nearly everywhere, from the smallest hamlets to the largest cities, though they have a reputation as petty thieves, and orcs usually exist only on the fringes of human societies, as they have a fearsome reputation as raiders, pirates, and brigands.

This game starts in Genoa, Italy, on a hot summer afternoon. Genoa of this era is a republic, governed by a Doge selected for life (though frequently deposed before the end of their lives) from among the leading families in a thoroughly corrupt election, and is among the richest and most influential cities in Italy. Genoese merchants and trading companies compete with other Italian traders across the Mediterranean, punctuated with short, brutal wars with its wealthy neighbors like Florence and Pisa. All the while, powerful families vie for control of not only the city but the Papal See itself. The present Doge of Genoa, Giacomo Valente, has held that office for seven years, and his Valente clan is a perennial powerhouse in the city’s political infighting.

Genoese politics are the furthest thing from everyone’s minds today, though, as today is the height of the Summer Fair, an annual event where merchants from across the world gather to trade valuable cloth, priceless spices, and precious metals and gems, along with more mundane fare. Dozens of languages can be heard, from the common Italian of the locals to the Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and German of foreign traders, while the elegant Elvish of the trading families mixes with the guttural Dwarven tongue. Merchants’ shops, stalls, stands, and tables run the entire length of the docks and all the way up through the Piazza de Ferrari, the city square, overlooked by the Doge’s Palace, and thousands of fair-goers mingle with the merchants, from elegantly dressed nobles to the most ragged of the peasants. Children (and hobbits) dart through the crowd, deftly avoiding contact with larger folk.

Quite a crowd has gathered in the Piazza de Ferrari around the creaking wooden cart of one Zachary Hawkins (Malacandra), alchemist, late of England, whose lightning-fast patter is serving him well today, while his compatriot, a tattooed giant who Hawkins refers to as “Aji the Brute” (Miller), stripped to the waist and studded with metal piercings, moves heavy wooden crates and rugged woolen sacks with seeming ease. At the rear of the crowd, enjoying the show, are Solsken (John DiFool), a tattooed and half-shaven Norsemen with a falcon perched on his fist, and his companion Harald Ragnarsson (Kobal2), a hulking giant from the North with a giant axe in one hand and a skin of cheap wine in the other. At the front of the crowd, conspicuous in flowing robes and red jewelry, is a young black man, Taye (G0sp3l), carefully studying Hawkins’ collection of ingredients while paying no attention whatsoever to the alchemist’s patter. A slender young man (Joseph Beneviste, Johnny Bravo) in fashionable silks stands nearby, smiling at the comic patter of the alchemist, though his hand just barely brushing the hilt of his long sword. And leaning inconspicuously in the shade of a tree, out of the hustle and bustle of the main street, is Giacomo Martinus (Larry Borgia), pickpocket and cutpurse, who seems to be observing the crowd more than the alchemist that the crowd has gathered to watch.

As the hot afternoon wears on, the crowd only thickens, with foreigners and locals alike enjoying the excitement. The crowd around Zachary’s cart ebbs and flows as customers make their purchases and leave to make room for further patrons. The air over the roofs of the palazzos of the great Genoese families ripples in the heat, but the day otherwise seems perfectly still.
Link to Setup thread.

OK! The game thread is officially open. Now is a great opportunity to introduce your characters a little, have them interact with each other, and try to make any last-second purchases before the main action of the adventure begins.

Harald, leaning on his axe as if it were a mere walking stick, furrows his brow. His lips occasionally move as he slowly repeats some of Zachary’s patter to himself under his breath.

In the heat of the Ligurian summer, the man - tall and heavy set, blond as Scandinavian men get when they’re really set to push the envelope but not quite making it into pure white, with a high bowl cut that leaves an odd-looking space of near-shaven scalp between the hair proper and the beginnings of a long albeit well groomed beard - sweats profusely under his grey woollen travel garments, but appears not to notice the rivulets that trace a complex map of meandering rivers and deltas in the road dust and grime still clinging to his skin. He occasionally pulls pensive swigs of the vinegar that passes for wine around these parts.

After a while at this, he suddenly turns to his companion, which causes the heavy spectacled helmet (note absence of horns :wink: ) hanging by its straps from his wide belt to hit an innocent bystander in the stomach, who looks for a second as if he’s about to protest before thinking better of it.

  • Faen ! I give up, Solsken. I can’t make heads of tails of this devil lingo, and that blighter speaks much too fast for my understanding. I got no notion whether that vagrant’s selling liquor, rat poison or his sister’s arse. You understand this Southern blather better than I, what in the hells is he going on about now ?

Zachary is keeping more than half an eye on the crowd as he is no stranger to having to pack up and depart in a hurry, and besides his sales patter is so well-rehearsed he could almost sleep standing up while delivering it. Today he is peddling a steady supply of small white pillboxes whose contents, though an insipid-seeming white powder*, offer a cure from all the minor woes that plague the honest working man - dizzy spells, spots before the eyes, the shakes, the sniffles, and many more besides - and which, while worth an English guinea a box, are today being marketed for but a piece of silver, for Zachary is bound for foreign shores within the week to restock his Egyptian face-powder** (of which he also has a small stock remaining), his effervescent humor-balancing salts***, his Gentle Cleanser**** and many more besides.

Anyone hearing him talk could be forgiven for thinking that his mighty painted manservant was a scrawny weakling before being rescued from the gutter and nursed to health on a daily spoonful of Hawkins’ Revitaliser*****.

  • Powdered chalk
    ** The same - to be sold as face-powder in those locations which are hot against patent-medicine sellers
    *** Bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar with a dash of peppermint oil
    **** Epsom salts (hydrated magnesium sulfate)
    ***** Treacle with a little sulfur

[Note: unless otherwise stated my bird will NOT be perched on my arm, but will be somewhere nearby on some tall object, such as a church spire or such]

Harald’ pale companion stares expressionessly at the conjuror as he fiddles with his reagents. Solsken is half-Elvish by the look of him (replete with smallish pointed ears), thin but with a wiry build. He has a black tattoo in the shape of a falcon across his eyes, the front part of his skull is bald, with his remaining blue hair pulled back into a shoulder-length ponytail. He bears an animal hide for his armor, a small wooden buckler on his shoulder, and carries a long ornately-carved spear, with a long wavy blade, across his back. A golden amulet in the shape of a bird of prey hangs from his neck.

“I’d wager, my friend, that his patter and blather seem full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But I stand to be proven wrong.”

The Brute stands behind Zachary, stripped to the waist, his arms crossed over his substantial stomach, starring with cow-like placidity over the crowd, who give the painted giant a wide berth. This gives a nice spot of clear land for Zach to use as a stage, and keeps a protective perimeter between the pressing throng and the cash box, which is between the Brute’s feet.

appleciders, do you mind if I add a link to your OP to the setup thread, and vice-versa? It’ll make it easier to jump from one thread to the other without having to hunt for it in the forum.

After watching the show for some time, Joseph pushes through the crowds and begins meandering towards Zachary’s stall. His gear is both well made and well tailored. He is every bit the traveling adventurer; his gear road worn but not dirty, his weapons and armor apparent but not obtrusive, his clothing fine but not opulent. Taken altogether, his bearing is the sort to put men at ease no matter their walk of life. It may be a stretch to say that he is all things to all people, but it is certainly true that a man like this could gracefully stroll past the lines that divide soldiers, adventurers, and nobles. After a few visits at nearby vendors, he finally makes his way to the alchemist.

Dottore! Buongiorno!*” he exclaims in unaccented Italian, smiling behind his mustache and winking once. His voice carries easily through the crowd. “How long has it been? I have run out of the miracle that you sold me when last we met. Pray, do you have any left, for the sake of my humours? I will take double… no, -thrice- what I purchased last!”

*or whatever Zachary prefers to be called - Joseph has seen the act several times before.

Taye Cinzio, standing tall in his imaculate silks, searched the displayed items distractedly. A dark-skinned youth he stood about 6’3" despite his height he was not a large man, lean or wiry best described him. His dark hair was braided and pulled back, tied with an embossed strip of black leather. A thin beard followed his jaw-line and an even thinner mustache were the only adornments to his smooth face.

His red jewels, set in dark brass, almost appeared to burn at times. A keen observer might notice the robes carefully cut to allow quick access to the morningstar concealed at his waist.

In a smirking, jovial voice. “My pardon, peddler, but I knew a fellow down near Matera whose wagon seemed a bit better stocked than yours. You ever travel that way?” “Lots of silver down there.”

“And fewer priests” [COLOR=Green]muttered softly under his breath

“If you have any hereabouts, I’d be interested in purchasing [/COLOR][COLOR=Black]a bit of Magnesia alba.”


That would be great! Thanks!

Giacomo surveys the crowd. He is unsure about the alchemist. He thinks the man–some uncouth english name–is a fraud, but there is something about him…

He was told he might be able to contact the Brothers of the Night here to begin training, but has no idea how to start looking. Perhaps his old friend Luigi Marioni might help, but Giacomo does not want to make too many open inquiries about an assassin’s guild. Still it would be good to see Luigi, and complain about our so-called betters while we drink his wine.

To distract himself from his worries he looks about the crowd. Mostly ordinary citizens with few possessions. To steal from someone who has so little makes Giacomo’s heart sick, black as it is. Still there are a few interesting persons here. A couple of uncouth norsemen, a mage of some sort. That swordsman looks like an interesting target: well dressed and armed, so probably a fat purse. But he also looks like he can handle himself. Maybe it is not the time to pick such a risky target, it’s been a long while since Giacomo has been in Genoa. He keeps his eyes open for a softer target. Perhaps the alchemist? He seems wealthy and a scoundrel. Do not the Clerics say that many posessions are a burden on the soul? Well, Giacomo will be happy to shoulder some of that burden. He’s practically a saint, he is. He strolls nonchalantly to the Alchemists wagon. That brute is worrisome. Let’s get a closer look.

Giacomo would like to do a sense motive check on Zachary, to see if he can suss out whether or not he’s a fraud, and a perception check on the crowd, to see if there’s anything easy to steal

Giacomo gets no particular feeling about Zachary. That means that either Zachary is very good at hiding his deception, or that he’s trustworthy, or maybe that Zachary sometimes flim-flams the rubes, but really does have quality merchandise for the discerning buyer.

Giacomo sees no particularly easy-to-steal items in the crowd. However, he does spot the son of the Doge, Marco Valente, among the onlookers. Marco seems to be slumming today; his clothes are only those of a merchant, and a little tattered at that, though he does move a little stiffly.

"Hey, I caught that bit I think. He’s saying this aqua carbonata of his can restore a man’s… humanity ? What, does it make people nice or some… oh no, wait, that’s not humanity, that’s manhood, right ? Restore a man’s manhood. Heh. Won’t be needin’ any of that, will we ?

Ah, but if he were there, I would have bought some for my mate Einar. I ever tell you about Einar ? Oh, I must have. Half-cocked Einar ? No ? Well, he was a character, let me tell you ! Looked like a starved dormouse, tiny guy but fast, you know ? Good man in a scrap. But we always teased him about his size. So he says he’s gonna show us, right, that next time we camp out in the woods he’s going to spear him a wild boar, all by himself ! And he did it too, but the boar didn’t die quickly enough and… anyway, that’s how he got the surname. I swear on the Cross, I never stared in the face of human anguish so dire as when the healer said he’d have to fire the wound !
But Einar, you just couldn’t keep him down, you know. He got used to it. Said getting half his kit torn off was the best thing that ever happened to him, on account of every tavern wench wanted to know about the name, right ? So he’d say he’d show 'em in private, and one thing always led to another !"
Harald erupts in laughter that eventually trails off, his stare going somewhere miles away. Quieter now :
[COLOR=Black]“S’the plague got him in the end. Could dodge away from anyone, quick as you like, but couldn’t outrun the plague… fucking sieges. Well, here’s to Half-cocked Einar… [COLOR=Green]shakes the wineskin Faen, now the wine’s gone too.”
Much louder, trying to get heard above the din of the crowd and Zachary’s seemingly endless patter** : OI ! **YOU ON THE… CARAVEL ? CARRIOT ? CART ! YES, YOU ON THE CART ! GOT ANYTHING TO DRINK IN THOSE PISS POTS OF YOURS ? ANYTHING WITH A KICK ?

Zachary cheerfully and loudly serves Joseph what he asks for, charging him for two boxes but giving him three: “for a valued customer, I am happy to take a smaller profit!”, and to Taye, “A few minutes, if you please, and I shall make some up for you - nothing is too much trouble for the educated man who knows what he wants!”…

then mutters, with a wink “But the hydragyrum fulminans is not for sale!”. :smiley: “How is business?”

And finally to Harald, “I do have some distilled spirits, good sir, but I am no wine-vendor. If you have a piece of gold and a sense of adventure, you may try a small bottle, but I say naught for the taste.” :smiley:

Well, it shan’t be said I’m not imbued with a sense of adventure. Give it here and damn the taste, toasts are serious business.

Harald tries to deftly flick a gold coin at the waiting hands of Zachary like some cool guy, but misses and hits Aji in the shoulder instead. Deduct 1gp from own hoard, add 1 to that of The Alchemocrats.

Ah, hum, sorry 'bout that, sorry 'bout that. Well, you gotta laugh, eh ?

Zachary hands over a small glass bottle brimming with a clear liquid that has almost no smell but leaves a palpable haze in the air when Harald uncaps it. It could quite possibly be the worst *akvavit *that Harald has ever encountered, but it promises to kick like a stallion after a botched castration.

Let’s just say it doesn’t so much have a “proof” as an “octane rating”. But being an ethical quack doctor, Zachary is prepared to guarantee that it will not kill a healthy man and has tested it on himself… in much smaller quantity. :smiley:

The Brute quietly leans down and picks up the gold coin, then deposits it in the slot at the top of the cash box.

Well, here goes nothing. To Einar, *sk**ål ! *Seven hells, buddy, that swill’ll put bristles on your chest and derust yer armour. cough cough You’re all right ! Here, gold coin flick, more accurate this time have some on me and toast my good health, physician, for I might need it soon !

Harald moves back into the crowd a little more unsteadily than before.

Molto bene, Dottore!” Joseph exclaims, still smiling happily. He accepts the treasures gravely and says in a stage whisper that still manages to carry perfectly to the ears of passers-by, “Ah, and I have been asked by il Doge di Amalfi to convey his thanks for your services, but that is between you and I, si?”

I had intended to keep this thought hidden, for roleplaying reasons, but I don’t think it will work properly if the group isn’t aware of it. Your PC shouldn’t be though. Taye Cinzio has never killed anyone despite what he says. Mostly.

“How is business? What business would that be? I barely escaped Matera in one piece. They doused me with water! Water! Have you any idea what water does to silk? I have told you, I am through traipsing across the lands with my belongings on my back! After three days afoot I was constrained to take service with a merchant. As a magician (said with cold scorn) of all things.”
“The man was traveling with a priest. I had to endure his incessant, pious bleating the entire journey! The fool thought me charlatan, thanks be to Shango, otherwise I am certain he would have denounced me. You are in my debt, Zachary Hawkins!”

I’d like a perception roll on the crowd in general, just from an awareness standpoint, to see if there’s anything I should take note of.

(To Joseph) “Tell him when you see him,” stage-whispers Zachary in tones that can be heard halfway to Venice, “that the privilege was entirely mine, and that I bless the day His Imperial Highness mentioned my name to him!”

He notes with some amusement and no small respect that the Viking is still upright and conscious.