The Fencing Master

 

INTRODUCTION

'The Fencing Master' is a short mystery-like adventure the basic plot revolves around the kidnapping and imprisonment of Maitre (Master) St. Pierre, head of Fraternity Sainte-Didier, by his arch-rival Signor Sapristi, chief of Fraternity di Giganti. The party (some or all of whom should be students of M. St. Pierrre) will have to face several puzzles and dangers to rescue him. An opportunity is provided in this adventure for the Gamemaster to have some old enemies (from previous adventures) return to haunt the player-characters. Any such enemies, who have escaped the characters in the past, may reappear in this adventure, as students of Signor Sapristi. Signor Sapristi himself, as he will almost surely survive the adventure, may become a regular enemy in later adventures.

 

INTRODUCING M. ST. PIERRE

M. St. Pierre, head of Fraternity Sainte-Didier and fencing Master to several of the player characters, should be introduced before the adventure starts (the Gamemaster may wish to introduce him briefly in a previous adventure, to give the players the illusion of having known him for a while). He is a sparkling and witty fellow, quick to criticize and slow to praise. These are positive characteristics in a fencing master. M. St. Pierre is reserved in private, observant and intense when giving lessons. Although he trains several wealthy noblemen, including the Viscount de Bouvard, he gives lessons equally to all of his students.

This practice tends to keep him at his Salle d'Armes (Fencing Hall) most afternoons and evenings giving private lessons, M. St. Pierre's full statistics are listed below:

 

M. St. Pierre (Age: 52)

Agility d12+1, Smarts d12, Spirit d12, Strength d10, Vigor d12, Parry 13, Tough 9(1)

Skills: Fighting d12+1, Intimidation d10, Knowledge: Battle d12, Lockpicking d10, Notice d8, Persuasion d10, Riding d10, Shooting d6, Stealth d8, Streetwise d8

 

Languages: French native, Italian d10

 

Edges: Acrobat, Block, Improved Block, Command, First Strike, Florentine, Great Luck, Level Headed, Nerves of Steel, Professional Expert, Quick Draw, Sweep, Improved Sweep, Weapon Master, Master of Arms

Armor: Leather

 

THE VISCOUNT'S DEMONSTRATION

A little while after the player-characters have first been introduced to M. St. Pierre, the news will travel around among his students that he, and several of his assistants and top fencers, are invited to perform a fencing demonstration at a garden party to be hold by the Viscount de Bouvard (one of his pupils). The assistants and fencers have not yet been chosen by M. St. Pierre, and he has made it understood that there is to be a tournament within his Salle to determine who will go. Another piece of related news will also make its way through the grapevine: Signor Sapristi, head of Fraternity di Giganti, and rival of

M. St. Pierre, petitioned to be the Viscount's fencing master, and volunteered to perform a demonstration to rival M. St. Pierre's. He was refused by the Viscount, and suffered a loss of face.

 

Player-Characters who wish to perform at the demonstration will have to compete in the tournament at Fraternity Ste.-Didier. Each Player-Character must defeat one opponent in a fencing match to attend the party. Fencers may fight with their preferred weapons (foil, rapier, longsword or sabre). The weapons are blunted, and the fencers wear sufficient padding to avoid normal damage, unless a fencer hits with a fumble, in which case his opponent suffers STR+1d6 damage. Fencing matches continue until one fencer scores five hits on his opponent. Left-hand weapons are allowed for parrying purposes, but all special, dirty fighting, and unarmed attacks are not allowed.

 

Characters who win their matches at the Fraternity may accompany M. St. Pierre to the demonstration, and participate in the exercises. Player characters may each take one other character with them, to help with their equipment. Thus, all player characters should be allowed to attend in some capacity.

 

At the Viscount's garden party, each player-character participating in the demonstration should make rolls against his Fighting (with his favorite dueling weapon), Smarts (+2 for Knowledge: Battle), and Agility (+2 for the Acrobat Edgel). If a character makes all three of these rolls, he will be praised by M. St. Pierre and noticed by the Viscount. If he can then make a successful Persuasion roll, he will be introduced to the Viscount. They will get to talking, and perhaps become friends. If the character is not Rich or Very Rich, the Viscount will give him a purse of 50 L as a gift. The Viscount may prove to be a valuable friend and ally, in this adventure, and in later ones.

 

lNSULT AND INJURY

After the Viscount's garden party, the rivalry between Fraternity Ste. -Didier and Fraternity di Giganti will turn to open hostility. Signor Sapristi's students, famous for their black surcoats and bad manners, will start to harass the pupils of M. St. Pierre (particularly those who are beginners). A few duels will result, involving the deaths of two of the members of Fraternity Ste. -Didier, and the injury of three more. Some player-characters may be followed by men in black surcoats (members of Fraternity di Giganti) but they will not be openly challenged or accosted. If pressed, their pursuers will turn and run.

 

In response to the violence caused by Fraternity di Giganti, M. St. Pierre will fly into a rage. Attempting to provoke Signor Sapristi into a duel, he will denounce him in public as a 'cowardly foreign dog'. No challenge from Sapristi will be forthcoming, however.

 

THE DISAPPEARANCE

Several days after M. St. Pierre's insult of Signor Sapristi, one of the player-characters will have a private lesson scheduled with M. St. Pierre in the early afternoon. The other player-characters should be encouraged to go with him, to practice and exercise in the main fencing hall, while he receives his lesson.

 

Upon arriving at the Salle d'Armes Sainte-Didier, the party will find the Fraternity quiet and deserted - not a rare occurrence in the early afternoon, when usually only M. St. Pierre is present for private lessons.

 

At this point, the Gamemaster should refer to the map of the Salle, and describe it to the party. The Salle is entered through an archway and alcove (A). The doors are left unlocked during the day and early evening to allow members to come in and practice in the main hall. Often, one of M. St. Pierre's assistants watches the door, to take coats and keep out the riff-raff. As it is still early this afternoon, no assistant is present yet.

 

The entrance alcove leads to the fencing hall, the large chamber used for practice, group exercises and tournaments. The walls are lined with carefully spaced racks of masks (at 6) and assorted blunt weapons (chiefly foils and light rapiers, at C). The wall opposite the entrance is covered entirely by mirrored glass, to allow students to observe their own form (this is a rare luxury as mirrored glass was very expensive and delicate in the 17th Century). To one side of the hall stand two clever mannequins (D). These are fencing dummies designed to spin and jab a foil at an opponent, when struck (this exercise is used to quicken parry reactions). On the floor in the center of the hall (at E) is an elaborate circle diagram in the Spanish style, to teach students footwork and distance. A stairway near the entrance (at F) leads to the top floor.

 

On the top floor, the player-characters will pass through an elaborate hallway (G), decorated with crossed swords on the walls. A door on the side of the hallway gives access to the dressing room (HI, where gentlemen may change from their normal clothes into various protective jackets, vests, and plastrons for their lessons, or for practice with each other. A side room (I) provides hangers and hooks for cloaks and coats. In another side room (J) various fencing equipment and gear is stored.

 

The upstairs hall leads to a small annex (K) and a waiting parlor (L), where students may prepare for their lessons by reading from a wide variety of fencing books and documents in Spanish, Italian and French, collected by M. St. Pierre. This library includes a full collection of the works of the famous master, Sainte-Didier, for whom the Fraternity is named.

 

The player-character who is to have a lesson with M. St. Pierre will probably dress for his lesson, and then sit in the waiting parlor. His friends will probably dress and then go downstairs to practice. The character waiting will find that the master does not call him in for his lesson. Sooner or later, he will grow curious or irate, and will venture to the doors of the private lesson chamber. The doors are locked, and there is no sound from within. There will be no answer to the character's pounding on the door.

 

Eventually the character (or the whole party, if the others are called by the first) will elect to break in the doors, or pick the lock. The lock may be picked with a Lockpicking roll (-2 modifier). There is a key in the door on the other side. A smart player may look in the keyhole first, and finding it blocked, may put a sheet of paper or parchment under the door, and knock the key out of the other side with some instrument. This tactic would allow the party to get the key and unlock the door from its side (any character that thinks up this plan should get a Benny).

 

Inside, the party will find the private lesson chamber (M) empty. It is a simple room, decorated with wood paneling, and with a large segmented mirror (similar to the one downstairs) on the west wall. There is only one apparent door, besides the entrance. This door leads to M. St. Pierre's office (at N). It has been locked with the same key as the door from the annex. Inside the office is a modest desk and the records for the Fraternity (there is nothing important among them).

 

Any character who searches the mirror in the private lesson chamber and successfully rolls Notice, will discover a scrap of black cloth (Le. of the same sort as the surcoats worn by the students of Fraternity di Giganti) caught between two panels of the glass (at 0). This of course suggests a secret door of some sort. Upon close inspection of the panel, any character who can make a successful Smarts roll will discover the opening device. By pushing one of the other panels, a secret door opens upon a small staircase leading down. The doors stays open for only a moment before whooshing shut again, and any character who stands in the opening for more than a few seconds is in danger of it closing on him (Agility roll to avoid this, 2d6 points of general damage if caught). This is how the scrap of cloth was caught when someone passed through. The party would be wise to leave one member behind to open the door again, if necessary.

 

Behind the secret door, the staircase leads to a narrow, dusty, secret passageway (P). Signs of a scuffle and fight are apparent on the floor here. In the middle of the passage is a small pool of blood, and a broken sword. The sword is a blunt fencing foil, of a sort used by M. St. Pierre in his lessons. It was apparently broken on purpose to provide a sharp weapon, and there are traces of blood on the tip. Any character with Tracking skill may make a roll to reconstruct what happened. The man with the foil was pursued through the secret door, and down the staircase. In the middle of the hall, he broke the tip off his weapon, and tried to make a fight of it. He seriously wounded one opponent but was overpowered by three others.

 

He was hit on the back of the head and fell on his face on the ground, he was dragged away through a door at the end of the passage. The door at the end of the passage (evidently meant as a secret escape route) opens onto an alley by the side of the Salle d'Armes, near the entrance to a small chapel.

 

 

CLUES

Once the party discovers M. St. Pierre's kidnapping, it has a number of options. The most logical of these are dealt with below:

 

1. Reporting the incident to the authorities - this action will achieve nothing. Signor Sapristi (the obvious suspect) has many powerful friends at court. He will not be arrested without concrete evidence (Le. M. St. Pierre's body or testimony) unless some character in the party holds or has influence over a position capable of jailing enemies on false pretexts (a Magistrate in Paris, the Constable General, or Minister of Justice, for example). The formal investigation will turn up no more evidence than the party has already discovered.

 

2. Reporting the incident to the Viscount de Bouvard - this is a good course of action, especially if one or more of the player characters was noticed at the Viscount's demonstration. The Viscount will be distressed to hear of M. St. Pierre's disappearance, and will offer to help. He is quite wealthy, and capable of funding the party for a rescue operation (he will cover expenses up to 800 L). He also has many contacts and spies who may be able to help the party locate the fencing master. The Gamemaster may wish to have the Viscount contact the party if they don't contact him. If the party cannot figure out where M. St. Pierre has been taken, the Gamemaster may elect to have the Viscount's spies overhear the conversation mentioned in (6) below, and tell the party.

 

3. Looking for witnesses - there were no direct witnesses to the kidnapping of M. St. Pierre, but there was a man on the steps of the nearby chapel who saw the wounded man taken to a surgeon. When the party looks for witnesses, each must attempt a roll against Streetwise to find this man. He is a mendicant seller of holy water on the steps of the chapel. If given 5 or 10 L for his trouble, he will tell the player characters that he saw, around noon on the day of the kidnapping, two men in black surcoats (students of Signor Sapristi) came from the direction of the alley beside the Salle d'Armes. One of them was badly wounded in the chest, and the other was helping him. They asked the seller of holy water where they might find a surgeon, and he directed them to a nearby physician. A coach then arrived, driven by another man in a black surcoat. The wounded man and his comrade got in, and the coach headed in the direction of the surgeon's house. The seller of holy water noticed a coat-of-arms on the side of the coach, and he will draw a facsimile if provided with paper and pen, and given another 5 L for encouragement. Any Soldier or character with Knowledge: Heraldry who makes a successful Smarts roll will recognize the 'coat-of-arms' as the insignia of the Italian Regiment.

 

4. Looking for a surgeon - a smart player may immediately think of looking for the nearest surgeon, as the chances are good that the wounded man would be taken to one (this is the case). This course of action may also be suggested by the conversation with the seller of holy water in (3) above. There is only one physician near the Salle (the one indicated by the water seller). If the party arrives at his house on the day of the crime, they will find the wounded man still there (although his companions continued on without him, to deliver M. St. Pierre to their master). The wounded man is, indeed, a minor student of Signor Sapristi. He was wounded badly in the chest by M. St. Pierre in the struggle. The surgeon who helped the man did so under duress (at sword point) and would thus be more than happy to turn him over to the party. A 20 L bribe is sufficient to insure his silence. If tortured, the wounded man will tell the whole story, but he is too frightened of Signor Sapristi to accept bribes. The four students of Sapristi surprised M. St. Pierre alone in his Salle, and chased him through the secret door to the passage, where they overpowered him. After dropping the wounded man off at the physician's, the other kidnapper's continued on to the barracks of the 2nd Company of the Italian Regiment, outside of Paris. Signor Sapristi, he says, saved the life of the Captain of the 2nd Company years ago, and is calling in the debt. The plan is to take M. St. Pierre somewhere else, and to guard him with soldiers from the Italian Regt. The wounded man does not know where M. St. Pierre is to be taken after the barracks. If turned over to the authorities, the wounded man will be assassinated in jail by a guard in Signor Sapristi's pay.

 

5. Surveillance - watching Signor Sapristi's Salle d'Armes or townhouse is a fairly good tactic, if used early after the crime. On the day after the crime, he will go in his carriage to the barracks of the 2nd Company of the Italian Regiment, just outside of Paris. He will stay there for only ten minutes, and then return (this is to give orders as to where the M. St. Pierre is to be taken).

 

6. Tailing Signor Sapristi's students - these are, of course, easy to spot, as they wear their characteristic black surcoats when going to, or returning from lessons or practice at Fraternity di Giganti. If a Player-Character discreetly follows some of them from their Salle anytime more than a day after the kidnapping, he will notice them go into a rough-looking tavern (Tavern Brevage Noir may be used for this if the Gamemaster desires). Provided Sapristi's students don't recognize the character (Gamemaster's option, depending upon how public the character is), the Player-Character may find a seat at a table near them and listen in on their over-loud conversation. They continue to joke about a certain 'baggage' that is in the hands of 'the Italians' and is 'on its way South.' The party may make what it likes of this information.

 

FOLLOWING THE TRAIL

The day after the kidnapping of M. St. Pierre, the carriage in which he is held prisoner will start on its trip from the barracks of the Second Company of the Italian Regiment to the monastery of Saint Martindes-Champs in Dauphine, near the Italian border. There, Sapristi's men intend to keep him imprisoned indefinitely. The carriage is escorted by twenty horsemen from the Second Company, who will also act as guards at the monastery. A direct attack on the carriage en route is therefore rather suicidal. The most logical course of action for the party would be to follow the carriage to its destination and rescue M. St. Pierre there.

 

The journey is one of about three hundred miles, or about three days' ride on horseback or in a carriage. It is not difficult to follow the carriage at a distance, as the six horses pulling it and the twenty horses of the guards stir up a lot of dust. Even if the party follows up to a week after the carriage has passed, it will not be difficult to find the trail. All local Inns along the way which had to feed the twenty soldiers will remember them well. After a week has passed, the party may still pick up the trail if any character in the party can make a Smarts roll. After a week has passed, however, the journey requires 1 D6 extra days, due to false leads, inquiries at roadside inns, etc., and will cost an extra 1 D6 x 10 L for information along the way. The Gamemaster should roll for encounters on the roads normally as the party heads south. Inns along the way will cost 1 L per character or horse, per night. If the party loses the trail or is sidetracked for some reason, it may always return to Paris, and start again.

 

ST. MARTIN-DES-CHAMPS

At the end of the three day journey from Paris, the party will arrive at the monastery of St. Martin-des-Champs, a small complex of brick buildings on top of a short hill. This is where Signor Sapristi has hidden M. St. Pierre. The monastery is guarded inhabited by the following groups.

 

 

(1) The twenty soldiers of the 2nd Company - These guards have set up camp in the middle of the monastery, and are prepared to stay there until word from Signor Sapristi arrives. They have a system of watches, with two soldiers at each guard location. For game purposes, assume that each soldier is armed with a longsword and matchlock musket (d8 with each), wears leather armor, and has d6 in all stats, Parry 6, Tough 6(1).

(2) Two trusted students of Signor Sapristi - These two were sent to guard the prisoner, keep an eye on the soldiers, and protect the monastery. As mentioned earlier, they should be old enemies of the Player-Characters, with scores to settle. If the party has no suitable enemies, assume that these two are armed with rapiers and wheellock pistols (d10 with each), are armored with a leather jerkin, gauntlets, and boots, with d6 in all stats, Parry 6, Tough 6(1).

(3) Eighteen Monks - The Abbot of this monastery is an old friend of Signor Sapristi, and has been well paid to keep the prisoner in the catacombs beneath the chapel (as detailed below). He will not allow the party (if they are so brazen as to ask) inside the monastery on the grounds that it is a hermitage. Although the monks are loosely allied with Sapristi, they are not a t all pleased with the soldiers who are stationed inside their monastery, and would like to see them gone. A monk may sound the alarm if he sees a Player-Character sneaking in, but he will do nothing to help the soldiers stop him. If fighting breaks out, the monks will hide in their dormitory until it is over.

(4) M. St. Pierre - The fencing master is held prisoner in a pit among the catacombs beneath the monastery chapel. He is fed on bread and water, and growing weaker as time goes on. For every three days of imprisonment, he will lose one point of Endurance. He will

never descend below 1 Endurance, but the longer he is left lingering away in his dungeon, the less helpful he will be in the escape. When the party attempts to rescue M. St. Pierre, the Gamemaster must refer to the map of the monastery. A description of the locations inside the monastery is as follows:

 

(A) This is the only road which approaches the monastery, and it leads to the only gate. The gate is always guarded by two soldiers. The gate may be locked with a crude bolt on the inside. It would require a battering ram to break it down.

(B) In the middle of the monastery courtyard the soldiers of the 2nd Company have set up camp. During the day, two soldiers guard the tents, and there will be four to eight soldiers inside the tents resting. At night, no guard is posted, and twelve soldiers sleep inside the tents. Also inside the tents is an assortment of equipment, armor, weaponry, and a small keg of gunpowder.

(C) This building is the bell tower of the monastery, used to call the monks to mass in the chapel or to sound the alarm. The tower rises to a height of ten meters and commands a good view of the perimeter of the monastery. Two guards are always stationed atop it.

The bottom of the tower is inhabited by two monks who serve as bell ringers, and by the two trusted students of Sapristi.

(D) These are the stables, which are, at present, crammed with the twenty-six horses and carriage of Sapristi's men. There is barely enough room.

(E) The chicken coop provides eggs and chickens for the monks to eat. Many of the chickens have been slaughtered recently to feed the soldier:. The coop is low and small, but it might be large enough to conceal 2 men, if necessary.

(F) This 'the main hall of the monastery dormitory. It is an austere and Spartan building. At night, the doors are locked with a bolt.

(G) This is the dormitory eating hall. The monks gather here to eat lunch and dinner together. The soldiers come in four at a time, at various times during the day, to take their meals.

(H) The dormitory kitchen. There is nothing to note here.

(I) The dormitory cells of sixteen of the monks. Each is small and drab, furnished with only a bed and a table. The Abbot has the cell nearest the kitchen, and has the only fireplace.

(J) These are the garden patches of the monks, used to grow assorted vegetables. During the day, several monks will be found in each of these, tending the gardens.

(K) This is a small marble chapel used by the monks for mass. There are always two soldiers guarding the entrance, and during the day, there are also two guarding behind the altar. Any character who notices this may find it strange. Players should ask themselves: 'Why are they guarding the chapel?' The answer is that behind the altar is a trapdoor leading to a secret stairwell to the catacombs below the monastery (marked by the 'x'). Any character that makes a successful Notice roll when searching behind the altar, will spot the trapdoor.

(L) Below the trapdoor is a small maze of catacombs. The monks of St. Martin-des-Champs dug these out of the living rock in the 14th Century to hide in times of war. Sometime in the 15th Century, the monks started using the catacombs to bury their dead. The walls are honeycombed with small crypts, each plastered closed. In places, the plaster has crumbled, and skeletal feet can be seen protruding limply from the walls. Sound carries strangely and echoes in the catacombs. This may be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending upon how the party uses it.

(M) Near the rear of the catacombs is the pit in which M. St. Pierre is imprisoned. It is guarded night and day by two soldiers. The pit is too deep for him to climb out, but he could easily escape with the help of one man with a rope, or two without. If he is still strong enough to do so, he will aid in his own escape/rescue.

 

THE ESCAPE

The characters may attempt to rescue M. St. Pierre in a number of different ways. The Gamemaster should allow them the freedom to choose a strategy of their own. If they don't succeed, but are not wiped out, they may try a second time (with greater difficulty, as

the guards will be prepared). Some general guidelines for possible strategies are provided below:

(1) Stealth: If the characters attempt to enter the monastery by stealth, they will face several obstacles. To approach the walls of the monastery unseen requires a successful roll against Stealth (-2 during the day, +2 at night, -2 from the North or West, +2 from the East or South). The walls are five meters high, and require a successful roll against Agility to scale (+2 for characters with the Acrobat Edgel, +4 for using a rope and grapnel). If this roll is failed, the character takes 1D6 points of general damage from the fall, and he must make a roll against Agility to avoid being heard. Within the walls, a character may, perhaps hide in the stables, the chicken coop, or behind the chapel, If a character accidentally drops over the wall into one of the garden patches, his footprints will be clearly imprinted in the soft ground. If characters sneaking into the monastery are spotted, the alarm will be sounded by ringing the bells in the tower.

 

(2) Assault: This option reflects a desperate strategy, or no strategy at all. It is dangerous, considering the superior position and numbers of the soldiers in the monastery. Nonetheless, a powerful party may do well in an assault. An assault requires three turns spent to approach the walls, and two to scale them. Once inside the monastery, the party may profit by the dispersion of the soldiers on guard duty. At any rate,

the party should not be required to fight all of the defenders at once.

 

(3) Deception: The most subtle means of attacking the monastery would be by disguise or deception, It is quite possible that a character with Disguise skill could make himself and his comrades up to look like messengers from Sapristi or like Officers of the Italian Regiment (a character with Forgery skill might be able to forge false documents or orders for the soldiers as well). In addition, two monks leave the monastery each week to buy extra supplies for the soldiers at a nearby village. Smart characters might waylay these shoppers and gain entry to the monastery by wearing their robes (one monk looks like another to the soldiers). Deception is a risky but profitable tactic, and the Gamemaster should reward characters for being bold in this respect. Even if M. St. Pierre is rescued, it remains to escort him back to

Paris. Any soldiers left unwounded will pursue the party as best they can, and there may be other dangerous encounters on the roads (roll for encounters normally).

 

REWARDS

If M. St. Pierre is returned to Paris, Signor Sapristi will flee back to: 'Italy before the authorities can catch him. He will remain an implacable enemy of the Player-Characters, and may return to pester them in later adventures (especially those which take them to Italy). M. St. Pierre will be eternally grateful to the party, both for saving him, and for helping him to disgrace his rival. He will train each of the Player-Characters for free, as long as he lives, and he will give them so many private lessons that one month of practice will count as two months for experience purposes.

 

The Viscount de Bouvard will also be grateful for M. St. Pierre's safe return. To each Player-Character he will give a favor. To each character of an equal or higher status, he will give a gift of an exceptional riding horse (breeding horses is a hobby of his, along with fencing). These horses are slightly faster than normal (they roll d10 for normal movement) and are trained for Battle.


MAP KEY

1. Fraternity St.-Didier

2. Fraternity di Giganti

3. Surgeon's House

4. The Rough Tavern

5. Notre Dame

6. Pont Royal

7. Champs Elysees

8. Tuileries Gardens

9. Site of the Marksmanship Tourney

10. Grand Theatre of the Comedie Francaise

11. Ministry of Justice

12. Townhouse of Signora Cinquedea

13. Townhouse of Mademoiselle du Bois

14. Manse of Countess Savoyar

15. Les Halles (Central Market)

16. Fox &Vine

17. Madame Julliarde's Maison des Chocolats

18. Estate of the Duchess de Nozze