Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Borgias: Season Three


Damn you Showtime! I finally catch up on everything and discover that this was meant to be a four season series that was cut short by a whole season? Curse your financials that prevent this from coming out!

Yeah, I enjoyed it in case you can't tell. The tensions between family members come to a head in a big way between father and son, and between sister and brother and not everything works out in such a happy campy charming way that leaves me wondering where Showtime was going to take it.

Yeah, I saw that they came out with a $9.99 e-book but the reviews on that one are all over the place and let's be honest, I'm not paying $10 for a e-book for a show I watched on Netflix. Pass!

Jeremy Irons continues to knock it out of the park and his son, Francois Arnaud aka Cesare Borgia, have some great scenes that will be heart felt to anyone whose ever had issues with their own father in terms of trust and living up to what they wanted to be while trying to make that parent happy at the same time.

The Borgias season three is available on blu ray for $30.35 from Amazon but is streaming free on Netflix now. I was so interested in the time period and other bits going on I decided to check out another series based on the Borgias and it's been very interesting thus far with a lot of similarities but a ton of differences so will make for some interesting compare and contrast bits later.

So in terms of role playing fodder though, where to start...

1. Minor Characters: Throughout the whole of the series, Cesare has had a henchman, Micheletto Corella, who acted as his assassin and his right hand in many things. The character arcs Micheletto go through take him out of Cesare's orbit. Real life can be a PIA. Work, sickness, birth, death, vacations and other things can take players in and out of the game. Having reasons why the player's character retries as opposed to die are handy to have and having one suffer from emotional distress provides a quick way of allowing a player to bring a favorite back as opposed to having a character die and then come back for some odd ball reason.

2. Traps: Learning that pilgrims are skipping out on Rome to see another holy site, Cesare investigates knowing full well that it may be a trap. Turns out it is. Some traps have to be investigated head on while others do not. In this case the relic was a shroud of the bleeding Christ that tears were of blood. The trap? Blowing the entire cave up while Cesare was in it. Anyone whose seen the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will also be familiar with a character walking into a trap as Gandalf, knowing full well that something is waiting for him, goes into the ruins of the Necromancer in order to expose him.

3. Poison: Season two ended with the Pope being poisoned but he is quickly saved by the knowledge that Lucrezia has of poisons. While in his weakened state, the pope learns more about who his friends and allies are, and who his enemies are. It allows him to navigate plans within plans while waiting to recover. Poison in most role playing games is often a "make a save or die" but while there are many such poisons in the world, there are also those that may incapacitate the poisoned for a while.

4. Factions: The one who poisoned the pope is captured but quickly escapes. When there are multiple factions involved in a situation, especially one as large as poisoning a pope, there may be those who seek to gain from that event even as there are those who seek to punish for it. Have plans for various events and how different factions will react to those situations. "If X happens, group Y will do the following while group Z will do the opposite." Having these things out ahead of time will prevent you as the Game Master from having to scrabble as opposed to having the NPCs having to scramble.

5. Innovative Siege Tactics: One of the interesting things that happens in the series, not based in real world history mind you, is that the castle of Caterina Sforza is taken when Cesare uses cannons to destroy the ground under a second of wall build atop an old mine. The cannon fire breaks the supports of the mine and gravity takes down the wall allowing the siege to be mopped up quickly. Allowing the players to have unique tactics that should work should be encouraged. In some instances, the Game Master should build should things deliberately into the setting so that there is a way to victory that doesn't necessarily involve 'the hard way'. Another example of this is seen in the anime/manga series Berserk where Griffith lays siege to a caste but that is only a rouse while his forces take the castle under cover of sand storm and open the gates to them.

Such tactics don't necessarily stop with siege warfare though. When Jews coming to Rome, the pope initially wants to tax them for a 'great crusade' against the Turk. The Jews counter offer though with a plan that burns the fleet of ships of the Turks to the oceanline. The careful use of the various Jewish merchants throughout the port cities, supplied with oil allows them access and means to do so.

6. Mercenaries: Second sons and bastard sons have a bit of a problem in a feudal or semi-feudal system. The inheritance can only go to one, and usually that's the eldest. So what is a second or third or even bastard son to do? Mercenary work is a good way of advancement. But as some historians note, mercenaries are not necessarily going to fight on a losing side just because they're initially agreed to it, especially if a better offer comes along. Having some sort of system to track a mercenaries 'honor' or 'valor' might be useful for players who want to hire some hirelings from time to time or even full fledged armies. Knowing who to trust though is even better.

 7. Unique Supplies: In the dreaded 'real' world, supplies are vital to all sorts of things. When certain parts of the modern world flood for example, some computer components may go up in price because they are outsourced there. In a darker time, when cannons need sulfur, controlling the supply of sulfur allows one to control the flow of war. One cannot make 'easy' war or 'modern' war without cannons and without sulfur, the canons are useless. In your own settings, are there any resources which control of is vital? Which control of may not even be seen as vital because they are from an outside source, but one that might be taken over or outright bought by a single source?

8. Financial Record Keeping: One of the cardinals accused of conspiring against the pope decides, ah what the hell, steals a bunch of land rights and titles, and burns the remaining information on the various wealth and coffers of the Church. Specialists have to be called in whose sole job is to discover the wealth that the Church has access to. Anyone whose read anything about the United States Government knows that often times there are resources unearthed decades after they were needed. If the players ever find themselves working for a government branch, don't be afraid to allow them access to resources that the government didn't even know it had.

For those who've watched other series, like the Tudors, did you find yourself stealing any particular ideas or bits for your own campaigns? For those who've watched the older version of the series, did you find yourself enjoying that one more or less?

For those running historical games, do you tend to stick with the 'real world' history as much as possible or play it fast and lose? One of the things I enjoyed about Mage's Renaissance setting was how open it appeared to be to having various cool things happen in a semi-historical period.