[This play report describes a game session using the rules for Helvéczia, my forthcoming picaresque fantasy RPG. It is a short, simple illustration of the game’s tone and purpose – although without its spellcasting classes and fantastic elements. Unlike the default game, this campaign takes place in an alternate Catalonia, in the year 1697. The Catalonian Republic is now a distant memory, but ruins from the time of its suppression dot the countryside. Prince Franco’s forces, dispatched by the court in Madrid, rule the coastal cities with an iron hand, while the Saint Hernandad Society and the Inquisition scour the land looking for rebels and heretics. Off the main roads, however, the law is weak, and the grip of power very tenuous. Bandits, monsters, revolutionaries, hermits and much stranger beings prowl the forests and mountains, and only good steel and a brace of pistols can guarantee survival…]
It was Holy Saturday in the town of San Escobar, and the great fire that had almost consumed the town’s northern quarters and the church of Saint Vincent had been put out. Our protagonists, Jean-Fado Garros de Béziers (5th level Vagabond, an Occitan, played by Alister) and Little Juan (3rd level Vagabond / 2nd level Soldier, Catalan, played by Yours Truly), had been instrumental in rallying the townspeople and stopping the spread of the flames, but they had cause to be very quiet about the reasons for its outbreak. The conflagration which had consumed the makeshift headquarters of the Holy Inquisition and many of the dead inquisitors (including their leader, the fanatical Father Silvestre) was set by their companion, Álvar Diaz Garcia Vega de Valencia y Vivar (5th level Weapon Mastr, Andalusian), during a successful breakout attempt involving thirteen innocents the inquisitors were planning to burn at a cheerful Good Friday auto-da-fé. Perhaps it would be a good thing to leave town and breath some clan air for a day or two, Little Juan suggested – mindful that while he was now an adventurer and town hero, his family still owned the Golden Ass, the city’s richest tavern; and it would be a bad idea if the events of the last days were traced back to him.
Thus, as their companions were still recovering (and their players were busy elsewhere), Little Juan and Jean-Fado decided to go hunting in the eastern forests. After an audience with the bishop, Diego Carrera, and trying to pin the blame on Father Silvestre’s single-mindedness, and the diabolical schemes of the sinister occultist Don José Emilio Belmonte de Gálvez y Rivera (my other character, who had no hand at all in the preceding events), they mounted their horses, and left San Escobar on the eastward road, trailed by Álvar Diaz (who would join later) and El Hombre, their companion and a reformed robber knight looking for repentance. Crossing the Río Negro and leaving behind the town calvary, they rode until they reached a path leading into the forests. They had previously seen the route by, but never explored it; it was time for a new adventure!
Little Juan and Jean-Fado followed the road northwards in peace and quiet, finding no game. However, the old, dirt road was not undisturbed: the tracks of several horses and a cart were visible in the mud. At noon, they saw overgrown ploughland and a cluster of ruined buildings. The place had been a monastery, and judging by the age of the ruins, it had probably been destroyed in the wars surrounding the Catalonian Republic. Only a few walls and a tower stood among the rubble. Looking around, they noted a set of stairs leading down into the darkness, but also that an enormous, currently unoccupied nest sat on the decrepit spire. As the cart had gone east, and the nest’s inhabitants were not to be seen, they decided to follow the tracks and leave this ominous place.
Not an hour had passed when Jean-Fado heard noises ahead – the laughter of women! They noted eight brightly and very loosely dressed dames beckoning to them. The strange travellers were suspiciously flirty, and certainly had impure intentions; sensing a trick, the company broke into a gallop and soon left the indignant women in a cloud of dust.
It did not take much longer to find the end of the trail: the trees parted to reveal a meadow, and the ruins of a stately manor house; perhaps a noble retreat from before the wars. Music, merry singing and laughter could be heard from inside, and before it stood not a cart, but a splendid noble carriage with a dozing gunman sitting at the bridle. The horses were off to the side, in a stable. Juan and Jean-Fado withdrew and quickly conferred with Álvar Diaz and El Hombre. This was a large, armed company, and who knows what they were doing here: a confrontation would be inadvisable. They decided to split the group; Juan and Jan-Fado would advance and introduce themselves, while the other two would hide among the trees and help if there was trouble.
“Buenos Días!”, Jean-Fado greeted the coachman, who quickly sprang to life and pointed the muzzle of a blunderbuss at him. After convincing him that they were hunters who had meant no harm, but came to investigate the merriment, the man, whose name was Jésus, lowered his weapon. He told the adventurers that this was the estate of the Capuchin, who has come here to celebrate his wedding. Jean-Fado, well versed in local legends well, had heard of the man: he was one of the notorious brigands in Catalonia, although one who was better known far to the east, beyond Acuerona and even the provincial seat, Barcino. The Capuchin was rumoured to be a defrocked clergyman from Vaguada, but he was now better known as a killer and reprobate. After sizing up the newcomers, Jésus pointed to the manor house – the Capuchin would decide what to do with the unbidden guests!
Jean-Fado, followed by Little Juan, entered a large room, where about a dozen rough characters made merry in the company of as many immoral women. At the end of the table sat the Capuchin, a large, heavy-set man with greying hair, neatly dressed in blacks and noble purples. The brigand chief greeted the guests, and once they told their story (introducing themselves under the aliases Pedro and Sancho), jovially bade them to sit around the table. He snapped his fingers, and two harlots came to entertain them with their charms. Little Juan, who had lead a mostly virtuous life (and benefitting from the saving throw bonus from high Virtue) made his Temptation saving throw, while Jean-Fado failed his, and was completely enraptured by his feisty Juanita, soon sneaking off to find a quiet place for further introductions.
beautiful Rosa! Let us drink to the lovely Rosalinda!”, one of the scoundrels roared, joined by a hearty “Vivat!” As
Little Juan learned, Rosalinda was not present, and was waiting in her chambers
for the wedding night. The drunken evildoers explained further: the Capuchin
had long grown weary of women of loose morals, and restricted himself to
innocent and wealthy virgins, whom he kidnapped during his exploits. Rosalinda
was just the newest of his many conquests, after they attacked her carriage and
put her guard and chaperone to the sword. Little Juan, who had previously taken
the strange fête lightly, pricked his ears. This was not to his liking!
Considering his options carefully, and hatching an impromptu plan, he laughed
and joined the feast in earnest. Deliberately losing his silvers at dice, he
drank, using the tricks learned as an apprentice barkeeper to get the bandits sodden
drunk. However, the Capuchin’s men were no fools – they drank and feasted, but
To the lovely Rosalinda!
Soon, the party grew even livelier with the arrival of the eight women the company had met on the road. The tramps were decidedly not happy when they saw Juan, and one of them called, “Where are your companions? There were four of you when we met!”
Not to be unmasked so simply, Little Juan laughed. “They had gone off after a stag and into the woods. Too bad, they will be missing out on the wedding.” The bandits seemed to be satisfied with the response, and returned to their revels.
Jean-Fado, bidding Juanita a temporary adieu, spoke a few words with Juan, and they decided to call for outside help. Jean-Fado, taking a wineskin, sauntered outside and approached Jésus, again dozing on the carriage. “Here, the Capuchin says you should not thirst. He sends some food, too – let’s share a bite.”
Thankful for food, drink and company, Jésus ate eagerly, and as Jean-Fado gave a signal to the bushes, he was at once ambushed by Álvar Diaz and El Hombre. Alas, the guard was quicker and more alert than expected, and fired his blunderbuss on the advancing gallants before he could be clubbed and subdued. Worse, through the song and music, the Capuchin at once heard the shot. “Quiet! Out there–“
Jean-Fado’s cheerful yell came from the direction of the carriage, “Ha! I bet I can hit that squirrel if you cannot! Watch!”
Unfortunately, the trick did not work this time. A bandit, looking outside through one of the empty windowframes, exclaimed, “That’s not Jésus on the carriage!”
At once, all
Hell broke loose. Several of the bandits rushed outside to cut down Jean-Fado; one
grabbed and held Little Juan, while the Capuchin still sat and stared
dumbfounded. A furious mêlée developed between the never-do-wells, Jean-Fado,
Álvar Diaz and El Hobre. Meanwhile, Little Juan slipped from the man’s grip,
and using him as a human shield, fired one of his pistols at the Capuchin – and
missed due to his heavy breastplate! Bellowing in rage, the massive man pointed
his blunderbuss and fired. The bandit before Juan was riddled with shot, Juan
was wounded in his shoulder, and the whores around the table fled screaming. The
Capuchin pulled out his hand weapon, a Lucerne hammer, advancing ominously. Not
too eager to confront him in hand-to-hand combat, Little Juan released the dead
guard, and bolted by the brigand chief, rushing up the spiral stairs to Rosalinda’s
Come out, come out, wherever you are!
“I will get you!” the Capuchin climbed the stairs, livid with rage. Little Juan, hunched behind the stairs in a concealed spot, pulled his second pistol and fired, hitting him in a most sensitive spot for 15 Hp of damage due to the combination of a lucky damage roll and the ambush. Failing his morale, the Capuchin turned and fled, swearing a terrible revenge “You will pay for this, Sancho!”
“The name’s Little Juan! Remember me every time you take a piss!” the youth mocked him.
The man jumped out through a side window and fled through the woods, still cursing.
Meanwhile, Jean-Fado and his company had slain three quarters of the bandits, and the remaining four, seeing their situation as helpless, surrendered their weapons and belongings. Jean-Fado, who was skilled at opening locks (something Little Juan barely understood), sprang the door to Rosalinda’s quarters.
“Buenas noches, señorita! The wedding has been cancelled.” They found a beautiful girl, scared out of her mind, but at last she was calmed down with news of her freedom. Introducing herself as Rosalinda Vidal, she cried as she recalled her travails after the ambush. While she was a native of Migalloc, that city was too far for now – the company could only bring her home to San Escobar, where one of her father’s friends, the wealthy Don Diego Luna maintained an expensive residence.
The Capuchin’s quarters yielded a generous bounty (a “type VII treasure”). The adventurers collected 160 silver reals, supplemented by a further 55 from the slain and captured brigands. Furthermore, 15 golden escudos were discovered, a generous bounty – the price of a heavy war horse or a full cuirass. Some odds and ends were also present: a miraculous crystal globe with a tiny red heart suspended therein (unknown to the company, the component for the powerful Borbala No-Name’s Requiescent Afternoon spell), a fancy ostrich feather duster, the statuette of a Saracen, a bug collection, perfumes, and a book titled Pope Alexander’s Admonitions to his Son, Cardinal Cesare. The company also captured a noble carriage and its horses, but it was quickly agreed to return them to Don Diego Luna.
The next day, Little Juan untied and released the captured bandits, instructing them to steer clear of San Escobar. “I would not like to see fellows I have made merry with hanging from the gallows. Go where you will, and bother us no more.” There was also the question of the women, who were now afraid to stay in a potentially dangerous forest. While Little Juan had it in his mind to send them to the town of Monticulo (where the company had unpleasant memories), Jean-Fado’s advice prevailed – they would be brought back safely to San Escobar on top of the carriage, and there told to travel up the Rio Negro and go bother the people of El Paso, a desert town best known for its gambling and many vices. Jean-Fado also called aside Juanita, and instructed her to care for Rosalinda Vidal. She could mend her ways, and with his recommendations, become the girl’s chaperone and maid, a better life than harlotry.
Travelling back through the forest, the group left behind the Capuchin’s now deserted manor house, and returned to the monastery ruin. Great black shapes watched from the enormous nest on the tower, and sharp beaks the size of longswords could be seen. However, the giant ravens did not dare attack such a large and obviously well-defended company, and the adventurers, having to care for the women, were in no mind to pick a fight either. As the ruins disappeared from view, Jean-Fado spotted something glint in a massive beak.
“That will be worth investigating”, he noted as they rode back to the coastal road, and towards the gates of San Escobar, where all were now preparing for the celebration of Easter and Holy Mass.