Friday, July 14, 2017

Adventure Seeds: The Court of Miracles - Part One

Often gamers have heard the term, Thieves Quarter, a dark and dangerous part of town that should be avoided by anyone with even a bit of common sense. Which as we all know, means that the players will make a bee line that way as fast as their little legs will carry them. But are there really such thing as a thieves quarter, and are they really all that common? The answers to these questions are, yes and yes.

Most every city, from ancient to modern times, has had bad parts of town. A section, or even sections, of town where the poor and the indigent live. Crime, filth, and hunger are constants in these quarters. Often the city watch will avoid these sections for fear of gang violence and other various threats, only venturing in under numbers, when local officials feel the need to make a show of force.

Many are the adventures and tales that take place within these slums, dens, and warrens of civilized cities. Often the refuge of the destitute and criminal alike, these "thieves quarters" have many names, one of the most famous being, "The Court of Miracles", in the city of Paris. So called, for during the day, many beggars would feign being blind or even crippled, but come nightfall they would miraculously regain their sight and the use of their legs.

Trips into these bad parts of town are not without peril, nor should they be attempted by the unprepared. These filthy streets and cramped alleyways are the domain of thieves, cut throats, and violent gangs. Only the very poor, the displaced, and the unwanted make their homes here. Those with valuable skills, personal connections, providing services, or those paying for "protection", are afforded any measure of safety within these precincts. they are a place of danger for the outsider, and intrigue for those with socially unacceptable interests. So be wary, keep your head on a swivel, and your hand not far from your blade.

The Court of Miracles
Illustration by Jacques, from Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), by Victor Hugo, Paris, 1844.

The city watch does not maintain a presence within these quarters, nor do tax collectors, or other public officials venture within.. unless on questionable business. Only those unfortunate enough to live there, those with unsavory business, and those seeking thrills both debouched and profane, make their way here.

The streets are not entirely without governance however. Strong gang leaders and faction heads maintain a balance of power, ensuring some semblance of peace. While territorial fights, and gang skirmishes are not uncommon, they are kept to a minimum to avoid stirring up official trouble that the city's rulers may feel the need to quell with an iron fist.

By Gustave Doré - illustration to Notre Dame de Paris

The residents of the poorer sections of town, often make their own entertainments and observances of the holidays. Street shows, bonfires, beggar's fairs, sometimes even with official support, are put on to help keep the population docile. Local churches and nobles making gifts of free bread, clothing, and other needed items, to fulfill religious and charitable obligations, though often of the poorest quality. Often such events are an excuse for drunken debauchery and lascivious behavior, which attract certain individuals from other parts of town to come "slumming" that they may engage in activities forbidden in better social circles

Part 2 of this article will give examples of NPCs, organizations, and other adventure seeds.

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