New Year’s News: Alfheim Hiatus, Revolutionary Reading and MYFAROG

Today may be the last day for the next few months to snag a free ebook of City at the Top of the World.

I spent too much of a busy weekend finishing up collecting Riddler trophies in Arkham City. Considering that he feels like the big bad of the game, I really wish there was more that happens once you get all his stupid trophies and kick his ass. I feel like you almost deserve a second special credits roll or something. I screwed around a bit with some of the challenges, but, like with Asylum, I think I’m not going to bother with doing them with any level of thoroughness. Probably after I finish Harley’s Revenge, I’ll be taking a break for a bit. I need to get more reading done and (maybe) work on Alfheim, which will be on hold until after a few sessions of Pockets (unless people revolt and demand we finish my game, which I hope doesn’t happen, as it could split up our group).

I’m a little over halfway through the bio of Talleyrand I’ve been reading; it’s interesting given how little attention was paid to Talleyrand’s role in the Revolution in the history by Abbott (presumably because of his Napoleonophilic tendencies) to now read a very detailed account of his involvement with both the Revolution and the Empire, in which he is portrayed, while incredibly corrupt and inscrupulous, as the only sane man in Napoleon’s otherwise useless political machine. All in all, it’s made me really want to revisit my childhood and play L’Empereur. Maybe I can find an emulated dosbox version somewhere.

Reading about the Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary period shoots some holes in the meme of women’s role in history or their absence from it. While the role they played was certainly different, it was incredibly significant nonetheless. It was through the various influential society ladies that the key players networked and it was in their parlors that they planned and schemed, and when caught by the opposition, women joined their husbands and lovers on the gallows of the Revolution. Much of what we know about the Revolutionary period and the political intrigue at home during the Napoleonic Wars comes from the writings and correspondence of these great ladies who put pen to paper their thoughts on the events of the day and the men who played their parts as the ladies played theirs. It’s made me consider coming up with some sort of variant on Coup or Resistance in which all of the players represent aristocratic women in Paris in whose salons the the acts of treason for and against the Bourbons are planned and betrayed.

While I’ve been slower than I’d like in reading MYFAROG, I’ve been coming up with a few ideas which will hopefully be useful to players. When I get around to it, I plan on making print & play Role cards for the various roles in MYFAROG for use with MYFAROG as quick reference or for adapting MYFAROG roles into a role-based pocket system such as Altars & Archetypes. I’ve run this idea by one of the players in my group and they sound interested.

More French Rev Stuff

I’m not usually into more modern settings for Role Playing Games (and have a particular dislike of Steampunk because everything ‘steampunk’ that is not Thief: the Dark Project is just so disappointing in comparison), but my French Revolution reading has piqued my interest in the idea of a game set in the maelstrom of the French Revolution.

There is so much going on, so many factions, so many possible classes and opportunity for adventure and intrigue.

Rather than “race”, one would fall into one of the political alignments of the day. Ironically “Noble” would not be one of these catagories, because, while by and large members of the 1st estate were royalists, there were members who fell across the political spectrum. Same with the 2nd estate. Higher ranking clergymen tended to be royalists, while the local curates, who were often poor, sympathized with the people.

A character would therefore choose one alignment; these could change throughout the course of the game as events progress, but players would need to be wary that any shift in political alignment could instantly put their character in mortal danger.

Royalists support the Ancient Regime. They are members of the court, nobles, ranking ecclesiastics, officers in the army, or simply loyal subjects. They hate any and all republican factions and will do anything in their power to thwart them. They also hate the constitutional monarchists, but will work with monarchists who are sympathetic to or loyal to the King if it suits their needs or is necessary for their safety or safety of the Royal Family. Royalists may either remain with the court, be in the provinces, or be part of the emigrant army waiting to liberate the Bourbons.

Constitutional Monarchists
The Constitutional Monarchists wish to do away with the worst oppression of old feudalism, but love the king and feel that a benevolent monarchy is far preferable to vulnerable republicanism or violent and anarchic democracy. For these people, the rule of law, maintenance of peace, and preservation of the kingdom of France are important above all else. These will typically be enlightened nobles, intellectual middle class, and non-noble members of the clergy. The would work with the Royalists if the Royalists did not insist on thwarting their cause. They desire to see the King and his family preserved, despite being hated by the Royals and the Court. They disagree with the Girondists, but fear the violence of the Jacobins more.

Civil Republicans, the Girondists have had it with Feudalism, had it with nobles, had it with the intrigues the court has instigated against the people of the nation and are ready to be done with Kings. They do not, however, advocate public disorder and acts of mob violence, nor do they wish to see the heads of their enemies on pikes. The Jacobins are as much their enemy as the aristocracy, for they threaten the peace and stability of revolutionary government.

The Jacobins are the voice of the mob, anarchists and democrats who have seized upon the chaos and anger of the common man to foment acts of destruction and violence in the name of the revolution. Not content to be rid of Nobles and Aristocrats, Jacobins’ class warfare extends to the rising middle class as well. The Jacobins are the mortal enemy of the Royalists, Constitutional Monarchs, as well as the more moderate republican Girondists. Jacobins’ superior numbers and use of mob violence make them most powerful and dangerous faction, though even within this group, there is a great deal of distrust.
Within these political distinctions, characters would chose roles, whether as delegates, courtiers, courier, commoner/professional, commoner/farmer, demagogue, publisher, soldier, etc. etc. and try to navigate their way through the revolutionary turmoil.  Can you survive, or even thrive, in the chaos?  Will you end up in a foreign dungeon or sent to the Guillotine?  Will you die in your bed like Mirabeau or will you be stabbed in the heart by a hot chick like Marat?

French Revolution Reading

So, I’ve been reading John S.C. Abbott’s “The French Revolution of 1789: As Viewed in the Light of Republican Institutions”.

It’s a very old work, published in 1887, written in 1858(ish, that’s when the copyright is; it’s not easy to find out much about this particular work), and while not one of the oldest scholarly or semi-scholarly accounts of the French Revolution, it is absolutely ripe with citations and quotes from these earliest accounts, many of which were written by those who were actually there and living the nightmare of Revolutionary France.  After having read this, I’d love to read Madame Campan’s memoires of her life with the Royal Family.

Now, there are a few things that are particularly interesting about the author’s views on the French Revolution.

-His heart was strongly with the people who wanted to throw off the chains of feudal despotism

-He simultaneously has great sympathy for the Royal Family, and a great respect for Marie Antoinette as a woman, wife and mother, if not a leader, and much like La Fayette, wishes that they had acquiesced to the Constitution, giving legitimacy to a constitutional monarchy rather than coordinate for its overthrow by external forces of foreign despots and emigrant aristocrats, ultimately leaving the carcass of France to be torn apart by Jacobins.

-He strongly believes that the three significant differences between the French and American Revolutions, which affected the former’s outcome for the worse were: 1) the French Population was by and large illiterate and uneducated, where the American was significantly more likely to be well read, 2) The great pre-revolutionary thinkers of France had, while espousing liberty, also embraced libertinism and sought to destroy the foundations of Christian faith, attacking the faith itself rather than the corrupt institution of the Church.  America, largely protestant, did not face the oppression by the Catholic that the average Frenchman did.  The American Revolutionary thinking was largely rooted in protestant Christian ideals upon which the founding documents relied heavily for inspiration. The First Amendment largely reflects the ideas of thinkers who wished to avoid such humanitarian tragedies as the exile and wholesale slaughter of Protestants that had occurred in France, Edict of Nantes and such.  3) The American Colonies were not surrounded by Bourbons and Despots ready to crush anyone who would challenge the privileges of nobility and espouse popular liberty.  The American Colonies, having been ruled by merchants and entrepreneurs, rather than feudal lords, did not have a well-connected wealthy class with easy access to foreign troops ready at the borders to crush the shoots of liberty.

-He totally thinks Napoleon was an awesome dude.

The disconnect between National Assembly at Versailles and Municipal government of Paris effectively established two parallel revolutionary governments vying for power.  The former was a more conservative body, who favored rule of law and establishment of a constitutional monarchy, largely hoping to avoid the sort of chaos which ensued in 1790s.  The latter, however, tended to lean more towards the demagogic.  The distance between these two bodies prevented effective meditation between the reformers and those who had been suffering under feudal abuses and wanted bloody justice rather than effective governance.  By the time that the government was consolidated in Paris, it was too late.  Those who wanted law and order were seen as traitors to the people, and the court refused to support the constitutionalists, who they believed were the primemover of the chaos that threatened their lives.  Had Louis XVI not been a vacillating and doddering fool, easily swayed by the whims and whispers of those around him, the Constitution may have been upheld and the bloody Jacobin movement silenced by rule of law and good governance.  Had the King been allowed to flee France, the Republicans and Constitutional Monarchists could have declared the king abdicated and the throne vacant, and the debate of the day would be to either enthrone the Duke of Orleans as a new and legitimate executive head of a constitutional monarchy or to establish a Republic of France; both of these options would have avoided Regicide and left the administration in Paris better equipped to prepare against the threats of allied despots of Europe.  Instead, Louis was kept as a captive, acting within his constitutional authority to thwart any attempts to prevent his rescue by foreign invaders (at the price of a great many border provinces).

All in all, it has been a fascinating read, and I can’t wait to start volume 2 tonight (1792-1799).  I highly recommend this book, and, despite its antiquity and burdensome size, it is very affordable, with the edition I have going for around $30 on the web.  Or you can get a scan off  I’d recommend the real thing or a facsimile edition, because it is filled with period prints.