Saturday, 4 June 2016

Also, they venerate an iron boar

More Norman Davies goodness, this time on the subject of Florence and Tuscany in the brief period, between 1801 and 1807, it existed at Napoleon's insistence as a weird entity called the Kingdom of Etruria. This is of course not at all what Florence is famous for – that would be the Renaissance and Dante, creator of history's most boringly schematic dungeon in the Inferno – but Davies points out that the early 19th century was quite a time to be a Florentine:

Small groups of Jacobin sympathizes and Freemasons existed in the cities, and tended to look to the French for radical measures. Conservative, anti-revolutionary circles were more numerous, especially in the countryside, often enjoying the support of the clergy. The middle ground was held by the so-called Patriotic Party...the University was said to be its powerhouse...

Etruria was surrounded by a patchwork of petty principalities [ultimately either administered by the revolutionary French or by the Papacy]....The arrival of the royal couple [total strangers imposed by Napoleon on the city] was less than auspicious. Their predecessor had stripped the palace of everything he could carry.

A Florentine with a classic case of NPC-face (wrong period, tho)
To recap, we have a tiny, essentially artificial nation squeezed between the world's most powerful, most ruthless, most autocratic, most remorselessly rational state and an ancient, decrepid but still fabulously wealthy theocracy whose ruler is also, theoretically, the master of the soul of almost everybody else involved. In this artificial nation is a city legendary already around the world for a flowering of culture now 300 years past, a decaying, self-absorbed place of echoing palaces and monumental cathedrals, filled with priceless masterpieces of art and the venerated bones of saints: a place where ossifying aristocracies and phalanxes of priests, representatives of an ancient and irredeemably corrupt god-king, are fighting a shadow war against secret societies that deify rationalism, fetishise ceremony and glorify a regime whose leaders casually appoint kings and queens and like to observe that 'liberty is a bitch who we bed on a mattress of corpses'. All around are a number of satellite states in equally precarious and tense positions, jostling with each other, and a handy small archipelago  which you can fill with hydras, monasteries, necropolises (Tuscan necropolises I am saving for another post, but, yeah) and isolated observatories a la Yoon Suin.

Also, this city is so well-documented that you don't really need to do any mapping or any making up of any of the locations; this is the palace, in all its hideous, oppressive, dungeon-like glory and this is the way it works inside. Here's another one, half a mile away – like any good dungeon it has numerous backstairs and not one nor two but three multi-level central courtyards (guys with crossbows on the upper levels, until the party monk charges up the walls and snaps their necks). Go looking and you will find that historical Florence has been mapped in more careful detail than all but a handful of cities ever to have existed. Just replace every bishop with a lich and go nuts. The Medici have left town by this point but you're welcome to keep including them, since they're obviously one of history's more prominent vampire families.

You could reskin the whole thing, of course: it wouldn't take long. Or you could do it the way LOTFP does France and just sprinkle a little of the supernatural through the city. The question really is why you haven't yet done either or both of these things.