Some Swashbuckling Adventure Seeds

By Thomas Devine (

  1. The Devil's Lawcase: In the early 17th century, the period for Richelieu et al, the French were terrifingly litigious. And as scary as the claiments were, the courts were worse. Because in the later middle-ages, High Courts were very profitable, there were a lot of High courts. One High Court in Paris had a jurisdiction covering eight streets only, and that wasn't thought odd. Jurisdiction of a case could come the Plaintiff, or the defendent, residing in the Jurisdiction, or from either owning property or having rights in a jurisdiction, or doing business there, or the actions in dispute happening in or being involved with the jurisdiction. The rules of jurisdiction were tricky because in Northern France all of the Law was customary law. Germany was moving toward useing only Civil Law (Roman Law), England had a national code of customary law (our Common Law of the Anglo-American tradition), France had a patchwork quilt of customary laws, and odd rights regarding them. Thus a Plaintiff living in Paris, might file a brief in a Norman court (because he owns property in Normandy), under Burgundian Law (because his father came from there), the suit filed against a man from Lyon for business done in Brittany. You can see why the French hate lawyers too.

    Your P.C.s could be called in as witnesses, process servers, bail bondsmen, whatever. Intrigue is the whole point, several different groups of powerful nobles might commonly use a legal case as a proxy fight. The P.C.s might find themselves attacks by swords one minuet and supenas the next. Savoir-Faire was at least as important as law in most court rooms of the period and forensic arguement was normally a mish-mosh of Fast-Talk, Diplomacy, Bardic Lore [French History and Geneology], and Bard [witty banter], with some Bardic Lore [French Law]. Note some of the witty banter had better be in good Latin.

    Much of the fight will take place outside of the courtroom to decide who gets to show-up and where. Warning, "Stays bought" was not a common quirk amoung period judges.

  2. Culture Shock: From the time of Francis I on, the French have tried to maintain diplomatic ties with the Turks as a way to keep Austria nervous and distracted. Paris would be one of the few European Christian cities to have embassies from the Ottoman Empire. Cross comparing the reactions of the French and the Turks to each other is a fascinating case study in total misunderstanding. Misunderstandings in a society focused on honor lead to Intrigues and adventure. I suggest useing the Ladies here. French Noblewomen had different freedoms and restrictions from Turkish women, it would have been very easy for a young Pasha to mistake a "Lady of the Court" for a "Lady of the Evening." One such mistake unavenged could destroy a woman's marrige prospects. Brothers and sweethearts would rush to avenge because they seriously seek to protect the woman's rights, this was life and death stuff. Richelieu, who seemed to see the French nobles as dangerous overgrown children (which is only a little unfair) would want any duels prevented and the mess covered up before diplomatic relations were harmed. The young Turk might want to alpologise or he might be bitter furious that anyone suggested that he had misbehaved. However you slice it, it a mess.

  3. " Conscience Free": Even a generation after the wars of religion, many French people would have prefered to return France to Civil War in order to make France a single confession state. Richelieu had no bigotries against the Huguenots, he broke their power, but only to centralize power in France. Another war of religion would have been intolerable to him. Plotters seeking to start riots and maybe force the hand of the church would be exactly the sort of people that the Cardinal would blackmail Royal Musketeers into eliminating for him. After all he is a "good" Catholic, so he can't kill them himself.

  4. The Paths of the Sea: The log books of Pilots are the most treasured secret documents of the early 17th century. Navigation is still much more art than science in this period. Logbooks are the true treasure maps of the period. Afterall, a chest of jewels may outfit one army, the route to the diamond mines can lead to the wealth to outfit armies at need. The Spanish, the Dutch, the Protugese, they have the secrets, they mean to keep them. The Cardinal has sent the P.C.s (expendable Royal Muskateers) to get a certain logbook, the one with the route to the speceries themselves, the greatest treasure of the age. You can bet it is well guarded.

  5. Inheritance Powder: This was a common name for poison in the period. The famous "Affair of the Poisons" takes place about fourty years after this period, but the facination with poisons began well before. Murder by poison was the most distrubing/facinating "urban legend" to this age. Those who made poisons were seen as interchageable with witches and sorcerers. Acusations of sorcery could still send people to the stake in this period, even inconvienent P.C.s. If a sudden death is suspected of being poison, and the P.C.s have to investigate, you can send them through the Occult Underworld of 17th century Paris, read "The Affair of the Poisons" for the disturbing details. This can also get the P.C.s neck deep in insane conspiraces and webs of petty vengence gone psycho.