Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils.   Posted by The Powers That Be.Group: 0
The Powers That Be
 GM, 3 posts
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 11:55
Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Here we will decide what kind of story we want to tell in this game. We have this snippet of setting, but what interests you in it and what types of characters would you want to play in it?

Also, let us know what your lines and veils are.


We all have our limits and boundaries. Lines and veils are different ways to handle those boundaries in play.

A line is, well, a line ó a hard limit, something we do not want to cross. Lines represent places we don't want to go in roleplaying.

"There is no torture in the events in our game. We don't do it, NPCs don't do it to us or to each other. Whether it happens elsewhere in the setting is not an issue in terms of enjoying play."

A veil is a "pan away" or "fade to black" moment. When we veil something, we're making it a part of the story, but keeping it out of the spotlight. Think of it as a way to still deal with certain themes while avoiding having to describe them in graphic detail.

"Torture does happen in the game world and may happen in our game in some way or another. But if and when it does, we do not role-play it directly or depict it verbally. Everyone is trusted to play their characters as reacting to it appropriately without us having to experience it vicariously."



For example: I don't immediately think I have any hard lines at the moment (but I might encounter some later and add it) but my veils are graphic violence/gore and graphic erotic scenes. They can happen 'off screen' or implied, but not 'visible' so to say. I don't want descriptions of graphic gore or graphic sex-scenes.

This message was last edited by the GM at 11:59, Mon 12 July 2021.

Player 1
 player, 1 post
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 13:55
Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
In terms of the story, I think it depends a bit on what everyone else is looking for, especially in terms of the balance between the different aspects of any given game.

What I'm really looking for is everyone to be on the same page about the kind of game we're running and what we're looking to get out of it - I hate it when you have one player with a bunch of backstory who wants to focus on character development, and another who is mainly interested in combat and action, because both have entirely legitimate desires but will absolutely get in each other's way and frustrate each other equally.

My personal preference would be a character driven narrative with realistic portrayals of people from the time, where the players are responsible for building their narrative arcs over the various quests that the GM sets for us. I tend to prefer keeping fantasy as low and realistic as possible, and look for historical verisimilitude and realistic, flawed characters as much as possible.

That being said, if other people want other things, I'm happy to adapt, but I just need to be absolutely clear as to what I'm adapting to, otherwise I will spend a long time banging my head against a metaphorical wall in frustration.


In terms of Lines and Veils, I'd probably firstly note that the two things already cited for Veils (graphic sex and graphic violence) would have to occur off screen anyway if this is to be a Mature rated game rather than an Adult one.

Unless there's a massive clamour to move up to Adult by the other players, I'm happy to keep it as Mature at the moment.

In terms of personal Lines, I'm relatively open to period appropriate things using the Artistic Merit caveat - 1460s France was a very different time to now, and if the game setting is intended to be a more realistic and grounded take on a fantasy setting, then one could anticipate encountering prejudice, intolerence, crime, murder, torture etc, and if taken seriously then it would serve as a good way of serving the overall thrust of the game.

That being said, we are in a Mature setting, and even if we were to move up to Adult, I also would feel uncomfortable playing as or alongside protagonists who are virulently racist, mysogynist, gratuitously criminal, murderous or enthusiastic towards torture. As such, I'd probably put some of those more extreme examples under Veils.
Player 2
 player, 1 post
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 21:05
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Player 1:
My personal preference would be a character driven narrative with realistic portrayals of people from the time, where the players are responsible for building their narrative arcs over the various quests that the GM sets for us. I tend to prefer keeping fantasy as low and realistic as possible, and look for historical verisimilitude and realistic, flawed characters as much as possible.


I feel this is a great quote to frame my own goals as well.  It aligns very closely with my own thoughts, and as such please forgive me if I borrow it.

With the benefit of somewhat familiar locations, cultures, timelines, histories, etc, I feel that there is great value in retaining most of the material, within reason, while keeping realism at the fore and the fantasy "low". Low in that I would prefer it be be mysterious, believable, potentially terrifying. Something that would have suitable impact to the 15th century European mind.

In regards to Lines and Veils, the RPoL Terms of Service align well with my preferences. I am not one to shy away from the sometimes ugly reality of human nature or our shared past, but I am also not one to desire a spotlight on them either.

I could list all the minutiae, but I think everyone present knows the sorts of things I am referring to. I am comfortable with them being included, indeed in some ways I think that it is important that they are not omitted. But I would prefer we keep it tasteful if or when they are.

To circle back to the original quote, I am most interested in telling the story, and in watching the characters grow, change, adapt and "live" in the setting while reacting organically and believably to whatever befalls them. I abhor the "Mary Sue".

I enjoy the inclusion of normal human motivations, belonging, fear, anxiety, comfort, jealousy, pride, love, infatuation, curiosity, joy, faith, loyalty, etc.
The Powers That Be
 GM, 8 posts
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 21:37
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
I like the idea of low fantasy. Inexplicable things happen, and they are just that. Inexplicable. Some might see a curse, or pixies or demons or divine judgement. Others might think itís just illness or bad luck. Or things are unlikely yet explainable.

ďThe old lady was mad at you for taking her cow away as taxes. She yelled something at me in her strange farmer dialect, and now I canít be away from the toilet for more than an hour before having to go again!Ē

Iíd say letís define magic, but that might be just it. It might not be definable. What we could say is that, if it exists, itís not something the players can do. At least not from the start. What do you think?
Player 2
 player, 2 posts
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 21:49
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Personally I like the idea of each magical "experience" being a unique story in itself.

The farmer that realizes that he has the ability to control the weather. He tells no one, and convinces himself that each time he calls upon the weather to change that he must make a fitting sacrifice in turn, killing a sheep, tossing a coin into the river, etc.

The minor noblewoman who has convinced herself that she is a witch, but who actually possesses no power what so ever. Unfortunately her cook does actually consort with a familiar spirit and is terrified of getting caught up in her ladies drama.

The merchant who purchased a collection of souvenirs while on pilgrimage, including a transcript in Aramaic on crumbling parchment that guarantees interesting and reoccurring dreams when read before evening prayers. Dreams in which he has half remembered conversations lingering on his mind come morning.

All three are "magic", all three might react in different ways. One of them might  find real benefit and power in trying to find out more, another might be so ashamed and scared that they try to forget about it all together.

But each of their stories in personal and shapes their world view.
Player 1
 player, 2 posts
Mon 12 Jul 2021
at 22:14
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Player 2:
Player 1:
My personal preference would be a character driven narrative with realistic portrayals of people from the time, where the players are responsible for building their narrative arcs over the various quests that the GM sets for us. I tend to prefer keeping fantasy as low and realistic as possible, and look for historical verisimilitude and realistic, flawed characters as much as possible.


I feel this is a great quote to frame my own goals as well.  It aligns very closely with my own thoughts, and as such please forgive me if I borrow it.


Feel free to pinch as much as you want! I think there's a good Tom Lehrer song on the subject, but I'm glad I can do something useful!

In terms of magic, I think we're generally on the right track with our current discussions. I think I'd make the following limitations on our portrayal of magic, but I'm happy to discuss them:

A) Magic is rarely 'vulgar' - nothing is so obviously supernatural that it couldn't be explained away circumstantially as luck, fortune, old wives tales etc. As such, the existence of magic is easily denied by the majority of the population/authorities after the fact, and there's a general lack of surity about whether it exists in the slightest.

B) Magic and magical beings are rarely if ever strong enough to afford their users sufficient power to effectively brute force overthrow an existing order - magic can't grant immortality or complete invulnerability, nor strength to the point where someone could tear down a castle wall - the same goes for individual magic creatures. That doesn't mean you can't achieve the same effect by more subtle application, but you shouldn't be in a situation where you can treat the local military force with impunity.

C) Use of magic by humans (and indeed others) should be rare, taboo, require a sacrifice to use, and should not be anything you could exclusively rely upon - it shouldn't be a superpower, it should be dangerous and unreliable to use, and it should be something where you sacrifice something (preferably poetic) to be able to use it, if you can at all.

D) Magic should be mysterious, unclassifiable, and largely uncontrollable - linking to my previous point a little, magic should be something which is utterly alien and almost entirely unknowable, and any attempt to classify or put it into neat boxes should be avoided. It's weird, utterly incomprehensible, and the best most humans can likely do is realise that X type of wood might repel Z type of spook, and even that might only work when the Moon is full.


I think that would naturally encapsulate most of the comments made already, and nicely set upa good couple of rules for how we might play. Also, as an effective E, I might also suggest that healing magic is very limited and clunky, because I hate the comparative impunity that 'I've got healing potions' can bring to play.

Anyhow, happy to discuss these further!
Player 3
 player, 2 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 01:23
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Hey everyone!

I feel like a lot of the ideas that I would have had are here as well. However, I personally feel more comfortable playing a gay character, and wasn't sure how you'd want people to handle it in the setting - I would be okay if you all wanted to have it be frowned upon in the setting, but I'd prefer it not be (had to deal with that from extended family, which sucks, but oh well).
Player 2
 player, 4 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 01:38
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Hey there Player 3.

Sexuality is a tricky subject in a period piece, but I think it is also fertile story writing material.

In my humble opinion, most of the material I have come across would prohibit open homosexuality in this part of the world at this time. That is just the way it was unfortunately.

However I think it could be easily argued that homosexual inclinations were as prevalent then as they are now, and that many people found ways to "get around" persecution in the public eye.

So long as the character is well played and interesting, having his sexuality as a story element only adds to the richness of the game in my mind.

Is he the sort to maintain a family for the sake of legitimacy? Is he attracted to the notion of religious orders to justify a "single" lifestyle?

Has he been intrigued by the rumors of tolerance among the populations along the Mediterranean? Or in the "East" spread by traveller's to those parts?

Etc.

And of course, at the end of the day, I am but another player. This is all up to our generous GM for taking the time to run this for us.
Player 3
 player, 4 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 01:57
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
In reply to Player 2 (msg # 8):

I understand that, just wasn't sure what the rest of the group would want. As far as my guy goes, I feel like he might actually harbor feelings for his liege lord (since i pictured the two as being close since they were boys) which obviously adds another layer to the whole thing.
The Powers That Be
 GM, 12 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 06:48
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
These belong here:

Player 2:
The Powers That Be:
I think we can start brainstorming the story we want to tell. I think for the kind of story we want to tell, a small cast of player characters (protagonists) might be good.


I completely agree that a small, manageable cast of characters is preferable in this case.

Say maybe a maximum of four to start? And we can adjust from there?

As far as the sort of story we want to tell. Here are a few broad strokes I will throw out for the sake of discussion.

- Knighthood

Classic adventure material. The characters are all arms bearing men  of some sort.

Perhaps they are, or were, all squired to the same Knight?

Perhaps they have aspirations of joining the Order of the Golden Fleece?

Perhaps they are what is left after saber rattling or military posturing has drawn off the bulk of the local forces?

This story may involve concepts of chivalry vs practicality, the role of armed enforcers in the feudal system, or the "disconnect" between the orders or whims of the nobility and the situation on the ground.

Despite all being somehow involved in an arms bearing trade, their personal experience, campaigns, backgrounds, superiors or cultures could provide enough diversity to prevent gross duplication.

- Courtiers

Knee deep in machiavellian intrigues, the characters are based in Bruges, and have responsibilities to their patrons, their families and the Court.

Perhaps they are trusted advisors? Related to a key figure in the ongoing situation? Or party to a dangerous shared secret after.

This sort of story would involve a lot of talking, a lot of NPC's and more of a "slow burn" atmosphere. That's not to say there could not be some foot chases, some illicit meetings, maybe a knife in the dark, but this is more of a cerebral story.

Exploring the burden of privilege, the ties that bind the characters to their families, and the life of the nobility might all be themes here. As would faith, the barrier between the Church and the state, and witnessing how government "really" works. The sausage being made...so to speak.

- Barony

"Small scale" action with limited resources.

There may be big things going on in the Capitol, but they are far removed from your daily concerns. The characters are all capable subjects of the local Baron, brought together to handle affairs in the Manor and the local countryside.

This is the sort of story where every significant NPC in the Manor could be known by name, as could the significant tradesman in the community. The sort of story where a local map could be made and utilized for the vast majority of the story.

This would also allow for a more diverse skill set in the characters in exchange for a smaller locality. They are literally just a collection of capable individuals that the Baron trusts to handle things on his behalf.

Manor house drama instead of court intrigue.

This sort of story would allow the more "common" sorts to shine, and to perhaps even advance in station depending on how they play their cards.

But it is also a "down in the mud" sort of view. You are dealing with the peasantry directly, the front line, so to speak.




As I said, broad strokes, and just an example of how we might go about narrowing down the story to a common theme instead of having a bunch of disparate characters pursuing their own goals.

Conversation material.


Player 1:
They are certainly interesting takes - my one concern would be that we'd potentially end up with a lot of characters with arcs which potentially end up fighting for space in the same area if we limit ourselves to one specific archetype of characters. Of the three, I'm more inclined to the Barony than the Knight idea, mainly because there's a relatively limited success criteria for the path to knighthood!

My suggested approach would be to start with a relatively traditional approach of 'local bigwig assembles a diverse group of individuals who are entrusted with a singular goal in the short term', which then leads to the granting of some property (such as a small run down manor) which the group then use as a base and something which ties them together in the medium term.

Especially if we design the party well, you'd potentially have a situation where everyone had a degree of an interest in working together and facing challenges that emerged (given they've got a home and potential livelihood attached which is threatened), but also can contribute something important which the others can't (so the knight might be the lord in name, but be utterly skint so requires the support of the merchant, who in turn needs the mercenary to guard his wares, who needs the witch to bind his wounds, who in turn needs the protection of the lord to keep her from being persecuted).

At the same time, everyone has space to develop their own agendas and potentially form sub-factions within the group dependent on their personal tastes, and there's further room for inter-player conflict because each individual will want to do certain things with the resources available and have different priorities and philosophies in life.

The game would then progress with a combination of organic collaborative player interactions, with the GM either piloting NPCs or throwing in the occasion quest (either top down from a quest giver like said bigwig, or bottom up by presenting a local threat that the group deal with), and the manor and its running offer enough space and impetus for downtime and investment in a common goal, as well as a strong grounding in the setting.

That being said, happy to comprimise as always - this is, after all, collaborative!

The Powers That Be
 GM, 13 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 07:22
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Player 3:
Hey everyone!

I feel like a lot of the ideas that I would have had are here as well. However, I personally feel more comfortable playing a gay character, and wasn't sure how you'd want people to handle it in the setting - I would be okay if you all wanted to have it be frowned upon in the setting, but I'd prefer it not be (had to deal with that from extended family, which sucks, but oh well).

Player 2:
Hey there Player 3.

Sexuality is a tricky subject in a period piece, but I think it is also fertile story writing material.

In my humble opinion, most of the material I have come across would prohibit open homosexuality in this part of the world at this time. That is just the way it was unfortunately.

However I think it could be easily argued that homosexual inclinations were as prevalent then as they are now, and that many people found ways to "get around" persecution in the public eye.

So long as the character is well played and interesting, having his sexuality as a story element only adds to the richness of the game in my mind.

Is he the sort to maintain a family for the sake of legitimacy? Is he attracted to the notion of religious orders to justify a "single" lifestyle?

Has he been intrigued by the rumors of tolerance among the populations along the Mediterranean? Or in the "East" spread by traveller's to those parts?

Etc.

And of course, at the end of the day, I am but another player. This is all up to our generous GM for taking the time to run this for us.


Player 3:
In reply to Player 2 (msg # 8):

I understand that, just wasn't sure what the rest of the group would want. As far as my guy goes, I feel like he might actually harbor feelings for his liege lord (since i pictured the two as being close since they were boys) which obviously adds another layer to the whole thing.


Okay, my take on same-sex relations is that they have always existed, but that because of the Catholic Church in this part of the world it was kept secret. This in itself is a story seed that helps create story, but that is only valuable to us if that's a story we want to tell. If it's too traumatic or brings up bad memories than we can 'put a veil on it' so to speak. We just have to have the condemnation be off-screen.

I am also not sure how much people in the middle-ages really cared. Lords kind of were mostly concerned about receiving their taxes from their serfs, whatever they did in their free time was not really of any concern (unless it means a sudden drop in kids being born, thinning the workforce, I guess.) It's basically the same with witchcraft/pagan practices. They are mainly only a problem when other things become a problem because of it. Serfs and peasants generally could get away with it. There would be talk of course, but there would also be talk about other things. People like to gossip.

On the other hand, as a noble it could cause problems, because the Church is watching you more. But bribes were a form of absolution (I mean, I know I'm a protestant, but that's basically how indulgences work, right? You sin, and then you buy an indulgence. The Pope is happy he can build his cathedrals, etc. There were kings who built monasteries so that monks could pray on their behalf just so that the King could shed blood in the wars they liked so much. There are ways around, and in the Middle Ages, money and power were often more a god than YHWH was.) The more powerful you are as a noble, the more you can get away with.

Knightly Knights and their comradely would also have the potential for exploring same-sex attraction in a way that was allowed to them at that point. So I could see that as a possible avenue. Often brothers at arms loved each other more deeply than they loved any woman. It is said that it's not in a romantic or erotic way, but some people claim otherwise as well. You never know what happens behind the doors of the knightly orders. The Knights Templar have strange stories told about them.

Also, the knights were quickly becoming obsolete due to the crossbows, the English longbows and gunpowder weaponry (like canons). Knighthood was a nostalgic thing of men trying to feel extra manly. So there's that. A social club with extra testosterone. I feel like checking out each other's muscles and scars might be an activity they did in these orders. I feel like there were emotions involved in this.

And then there's the clergy, where some would go to try and escape their taboo feelings and choose abstinence over sin, only to be confronted with others who made the same choice. And Catholicism's way of doing penance and buying indulgences makes sure that you can sin a little, as long as you do penence for it later.

I've been using the word sin a lot as that's how the church viewed it back then (and at some places still today) but we could play it more as a commentary on the church. Rather than emphasizing the 'sin' of same-sex attraction, we could emphasize the sin of the church taking bribes or not showing enough love/grace to its members. This is a time that the church was loosing its position of power slightly. There was a lot of criticism of the church rising up in this time. The nepotism, the bribes, the open sin of the clergy at times. Popes with secret wives, etc.

We can take the route of the out of the way province (which is why I chose Rethel), where the ruler disappeared and a Castellan (a minor noble) has to move in with his staff to manage the estate. There are precedents of Castellan's being Lady's as well. I'd have to look up who in the Burgundian family line it was, but there was a lady that knew how to fight and ride horses etc, and she would defend her keep and manage the estate.

Anyway, I've been writing a lot. I'll stop at this and pick things up as we talk about it.
Player 1
 player, 5 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 09:19
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Historically, there's less consistency about how much the Church prioritised their homophobia (or at least had the power to affect it) than one might think. It was always company policy, so to speak, and tended to give good copy to those ranting about sin, but outside of times of Inquistion, it's not massively clear how much it was nodded at rather than actually pursued,

There were several gay kings of England who the Church had absolutely no problem working with, and as long as you were a good Catholic who didn't murder the Pope, steal Church lands and generally agreed to dislike non Christians, you were probably just ignored or told to do penance. I suspect part of the concern was more that, at least in noble terms, you were less likely to produce heirs, which tended to muck up family alliances.

Also, it's problematic to view the Church in the period as either monolithic or indeed all powerful - while individual bishops may have been hugely influential, the extent of Church influence in any given region varied dramatically, as indeed their willingness or interest in prosecuting certain aspects of Church and canon law.  Most were more interested in getting rich.

Short answer to more closely address P3's point, I've certainly got no problem in you playing an LGBT+ character if you want, and I think there's no issue with all of the party being absolutely fine with it. I think we can equally well portray a relatively tolerant Burgundy or a more intolerant one depending on what P3 wants for the game. It's not a completely accurate game (given magic) so we can play around with levers a bit.
Player 2
 player, 5 posts
Tue 13 Jul 2021
at 09:38
Re: Session 0: Goals, Characters, Lines and Veils
Player 1:
I've certainly got no problem in you playing an LGBT+ character if you want, and I think there's no issue with all of the party being absolutely fine with it.


Agreed.