The Man Behind the Iron Mask

The Man Behind the Mask is a long quest-like adventure which may take several play-sessions. It is designed for a group of four to six beginning Flashing Blades characters. It is a good adventure for drawing characters from different backgrounds together, and it sets up a number of enemies and allies for characters, who may haunt them, or aid them, in later adventures.

 

The basic plot of The Man Behind the Mask is as follows: The party of characters is recruited by a powerful and mysterious masked nobleman, the Archduke DeMainz, to journey to the principality of Florence and recover a number of valuable objects, including a strange set of plans designed by Leonardo DaVinci. These plans are the real object of the quest, as, unbeknownst to the party, they are plans for an 'ordinator,' a very simple, primitive mechanical computer. Various other agencies are after these plans, believing them to be blueprints for a secret weapon. These agencies (who will become enemies to the party) include hirelings of Cardinal Richelieu, emissaries from the Royal Dragoons, and spies from Savoy. The roads from Paris to Florence, and back, are thus fraught with danger and adventure.

 

THE TAVERN

The adventure starts in a tavern suitable for all the Player-Characters. They need not know each other at this point. A variety of games and activities should be available to the characters, to keep them occupied and separate for a while (Tavern Brevage Noir may be used for the tavern, if the Gamemaster desires as it is well suited).

 

The tavern will be crowded with people of all sorts, dandies, rogues, merchants, gentlemen, barmaids, gamblers, and ladies of the evening. As the player characters go about their activities, however, they may spot if they roll of their Notice -2 for those who specify that they are looking) a pair of especially unusual fellows enter the tavern. One is very tall, but lean and thin, clean-shaven, and dressed as a gentleman, but somehow sinister. He never opens his mouth or speaks. The second, his companion. is a rough-looking fellow with a blue nightcap on his head and several gold earrings in his ears. He is missing several teeth and wears a large cutlass as his sword. This pair goes about the tavern, seeming to look for somebody or something and seeming to find it in the player-characters. The fellow with the cutlass then goes about to talk confidentially with the tavern owner, and with several barmaids and tavern personnel. The two strangers then quietly leave. If approached and spoken to, the tall man will remain silent and the man with the cutlass will indicate that he does not speak French, with a thick English accent.

 

After the two mysterious agents have left, each player-character will receive a sealed envelope in some strange manner. If he is gambling, it may be handed to him when the cards are dealt or with his dice; if he is drinking, it may be brought to him on a tray, under his drink, etc.

 

Each of the messages is the same. Each envelope is sealed with a stamp picturing two crossed swords, either sabres or cutlasses. Within each is a note, at the top of which is a Coat-of-Arms (that of the Archduke). Each note reads as follows:

 

'I have the pleasure of desiring your assistance It would please me for you to await my carriage at the Pont du Louvre at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning I anticipate in advance the pleasure of our meeting Destroy this note after you have read it By my own hand,

 

                                                                             Archduke DeMainz D'Einartzhausen'

Any character that succeeds with a Smarts -2 roll will recall information about the Archduke DeMainz. DeMainz, apparently a German by birth, rose to be Archduke sometime near the end of the rule of Henry IV. His early history is not known, but it is rumored to have been quite bloody. Some say he was a mercenary Captain in the French Army who performed some great service for the King. Others claim he was a seaman. It is known that he is quite wealthy, however, and influential. For reasons unknown, perhaps because of scars or burns, the Archduke perpetually wears a thin, beautiful mask of gold. This also makes it difficult to ascertain his age. He is Social Rank 16.

 

THE INTERVIEW

The next morning, at precisely 10 o'clock, a fancy carriage bearing the Archduke's Coat-of-Arms, and his curious crossed swords device, stops at the Pont du Louvre, and will wait as long as ten minutes for stragglers before leaving. The carriage is driven by the tall silent man and guarded, inside, by the man with the cutlass. The cutlass armed man introduces himself now, in accented, but passable French, as Johnny Coppers, and Englishman in the special service of the Archduke. On close inspection, it may be noticed that Coppers is nearly fifty years old. If asked about his companion, the silent driver, he will laugh and explain that his friend Pendu is silent as he had his tongue cut out by the Turks.

 

The carriage rides out of Paris and on to the nearby country estate of the Archduke. The ride takes nearly half an hour and should give the player-characters a chance to introduce themselves to each other. The players should be given a chance to have a short conversation about the mysterious situation in which they find their characters.

 

The Archduke's estate near Paris, his hunting lodge, is centered around a massive stone villa. The party is shown in by Johnny Coppers, led through a series of dazzling and luxurious rooms, and finally to a rather Spartan study. Coppers then takes his leave and the characters are left alone.

 

In the study are three items of interest: the desk, a large chess set, and a bookcase. The desk is barren, and the drawers are locked (it would not be advisable to break or pick them). The chess set, sitting on a marble tabletop, was apparently hand carved from wood. The white pieces are in the form of European soldiery and the black pieces are detailed like Moors or Turks. There appears to be a game in progress and both players are apparently quite good. The bookcase is filled with volumes on every imaginable subject, including texts on military and naval strategy, theology, law, fencing, and history. The most interesting of all the books is on a pedestal next to the bookcase. The pages are quite old and yellowed, but the binding appears new. It is filled with fantastic diagrams and pictures in an early Italian style. Any character that speaks Italian that succeeds with a Smarts -2 roll will recognize the book as being made up of documents by Leonardo DaVinci. the great Italian artist, sculptor, and inventor. The text cannot be easily read as it is in old Italian and is written backwards (as was DaVinci's habit). If a mirror is procured, and a successful roll on Wit and Luck made by any character who can read and understand Italian, it will be discovered that the book holds designs for numerous wild and incredible inventions, including an air ship and a submarine vessel (both preposterous, of course).

The Archduke will enter after fifteen minutes. He is dressed in contrasting garments of white and black, surmounted by his emotionless golden face-mask. He will courteously greet the characters and thank them for coming. He will ask them for their assistance in a problem

of his. Politely, he will request that the party do him a service, for which he feels they are well prepared due to the diversity of talents found among its members. His politeness is, however, under laid by a subtle hint of threat in his voice.

 

If the characters accept, the Archduke will give them an envelope, containing full instructions, to be taken to Marseilles (in the south of France) and opened there. He will lend the characters his carriage, a team of four good horses, the services of his best man (Pendu) who will accompany them, 50 L each for travelling expenses, and up to 300 L worth of any equipment they feel they may need. Those who fail to accept his service will first be threatened, and then jailed until they agree to serve him (the Archduke has this privilege as the Constable General is his close friend).

 

Pendu is sent along as much as a watchdog as a guard. He communicates quite easily in a system of complex hand signals. His statistics are listed below:

 

Pendu


Agility d10, Smarts d10 Strength d8, Spirit d6, Vigor d6, Parry 8, Toughness 6 (1)

Hindrances: Mute, Obligations, Loyal

Edges: Dirty Fighter, Really Dirty Fighter

Skills: Fighting d10, Shooting d8, Gambling d6, Riding d10, Stealth d10, Streetwise d8, Tracking d8, Tricks d10


Weapons: Rapier, Flintlock Pistol

Armor: Leather

 

The Archduke's carriage is fancy, but well-made and reinforced with bands of steel to make it fairly bullet-proof. It contains three secret compartments, one under each of the two rows of seats and one behind a panel at the back of the passenger section. There is room for two people on the driver's bench, one behind, and six inside the coach.

 

THE TRIP TO MARSEILLES

The journey from Paris to Marseilles is one of about four hundred miles, or about four days' carriage ride at a swift pace. Each day, the party must organize shifts to drive the carriage and watch for bandits. Each night they must find a convenient inn and pay 2 L each for their

accommodations. All will go normally, except for the two special events listed below:

 

The party will notice on the first day, a red carriage, drawn by eight horses, just a little behind them, as if following. On the second night, when entering an inn, they will be informed that two people a Lord and Lady from Paris, arrived several hours before, asked about the Archduke's carriage, and then left.

 

On the evening of the third day, the party will stop at an inn near the town of Valence. This inn is run by thieves, and while the characters are eating supper, they will ransack the carriage (anything hidden in the compartments will be found and stolen). If they find nothing, or if the characters catch them, there will be a fight. Assume that there are as many thieves as Player-Characters, and that each has a club and a leather jerkin (Stats of d6, Fighting d8). One, the leader, has a matchlock pistol (Shooting d6). If the thieves are outnumbered, due to losses, by more than 2, they will run. The characters may be able to escape in the carriage (the horses are not yet unbridled), but will have to fight their way out of the stables.

 

If the thieves do not start an open fight, they will wait till nightfall and attack the Player-Characters in their rooms. After supper, however, a pretty barmaid, who takes a liking to the character with the highest Charm, will give the party a note with their wine, warning them about the thieves.

 

The authorities (City Guards) of Valence may be reached by a mounted character in half an hour, and will come to the rescue in another hour (or half hour if the messenger character has Magistracy skill).

 

THE KING OF THIEVES

When the characters get to Marseilles, they may open the sealed envelope for further instructions. Inside is a gold coin, stamped on both sides with the Archduke's crossed swords insignia. An enclosed note reads as follows:

 

'Take this coin to the Nng of Thieves You may find him at the Tavern Trencavel on Rue Ste Marie You will receive further instructions from him.

                                                                                        - DeMainz'

 

The party may easily find the Tavern Trencavel; it has the worst reputation of any place in the city. The characters may be warned several times, as they ask directions that it is not a safe place for a gentlemen to go and that even the City Guards are afraid of it.

 

When the characters arrive, they will find it to be a large but dirty and unlit place. The sign above the tavern bears the symbol of a skull, wearing a crown, above a pair of crossed bones. Inside is the largest assortment of rogues, pirates, smugglers, thieves, beggars, bandits, and cutthroats ever assembled. They will all be silent as the party enters, and will stand menacingly. The biggest three, one with a hook instead of a left hand, will approach the characters slowly.

 

If the characters say they wish to see the King of Thieves, the cutthroats will laugh raucously. This may turn into good natured slapping around and, finally, into physical violence. There are far too many thieves for the party to fight their way out, but if the Archduke's coin is shown, they will back off in fear. The bartender will motion the characters to follow him down a hidden flight of steps behind the bar, and everyone will give the party a wide berth.

 

In the cellar is a huge chamber, decorated as a royal courtroom, and dominated by a large table, at which sit more than 100 motley rogues and villains. At the head of the table, sitting on a throne, with a crown on his head, is the King of Thieves, an obese giant of a man with an eye-patch. Entertainment here in this 'royal court' consists mainly of boxing matches on the tabletop and knife-throwing at various targets on the walls. There are also numerous dice and card games going on, and a few dirty brawls. On the floor, by the foot of

the stairs, lies a dead man. All around, also, are rats, ravens, and a couple of parrots.

 

The bartender will lead the characters up to the throne and whisper into the King's ear. He then goes back upstairs. The 'King' will welcome the characters with all of the royal grace he can muster and invite them to sit at his table. When given the gold coin, he will smile and hand them another sealed envelope. He will then invite them to stay at his court for a few days and join his royal festivities. Any character may, if he wishes, join in the various rough games and sports at the table, at his own risk. Any character who does well at these games and stays for several days may become a good friend of the 'King'. The King of Thieves could be a very useful contact for any character.

 

When the characters leave the 'court,' they may spot with a Notice -2 roll a peculiar man with a tattoo on his arm of the Archduke's insignia (the crossed swords). If questioned, he will be found to be a Spaniard who knows no French. It is apparent, however, that he

recognizes the name 'DeMainz' and fears it.

 

The new envelope, sealed with the same crossed swords emblem, contains another gold coin, bearing the Archduke's insignia, and another note, which reads:

 

'Travel to the city of Florence, and present this coin to Count Del Ferro, of the Court of the Medicis Take the items he will give you, and hide them in the carriage, then return as quickly as possible to Paris

                                                                                        - DeMainz'

THE JOURNEY TO FLORENCE

The trip from Marseilles to Florence is one of about three hundred miles and will take the characters through the Principalities of Savoy, Milan, and Genoa. When entering each city-state there will be a wait, while the party's papers are thoroughly checked by local officials. It will normally take six days to get to Florence, -1 if any character in the party speaks Italian, and -1 if any character in the party has Knowledge: Bureaucracy.

 

In Genoa, the party will be stopped and told that their papers are not in order. Any character roll against Persuade while offering a bribe of 50 to 100 L, and if successful, the carriage will be allowed to pass on to Florence, If no bribe is offered, or if it is unsuccessful, the characters will be imprisoned as spies. The jail-keeper may be bribed for 100 L by a character with a successful Persuade roll, or for 300 L on a fail to release the party, and return its possessions. Otherwise, the party must attempt to escape, A character with Knowledge: Forgery skill and Italian may make false release documents, accurate enough to fool the jail-keeper for long enough to draw him near. A character with Lockpicking skill may pick the lock of the cell with a -3 modifier. When escaping, the party will have to fight its way, unarmed, through two guards armed with rapiers and flintlock pistols (stats d6, Fighting and Shooting d8). If the fight takes more than four combat turns, the alarm will be raised and more guards (1D6) will arrive every turn thereafter. Characters who do not escape will be held in their Genoese prison indefinitely, until rescued or ransomed by a friend in France for 300 L.

 

COUNT DEL FERRO

When the characters arrive in Florence, they will have no trouble finding the red-tiled villa of Count Del Ferro. When they present themselves at his door, they will be shown in by a French speaking servant who seems to have expected them. He will lead them to an inner

courtyard with a fountain, where the Count is sitting on a comfortable couch, He will invite the characters to join him for wine. When given the coin, he will call several servants to bring in the items for the Archduke, adding 'you realize, these objects have not been taken

legally, and any mention of my name in this business would be embarrassing...'

 

The items include: a marble bust of some mythical character, by Michelangelo, a group of historic documents from old Florence, three small portraits by an unknown artist, and an untitled scrolled document. This last item, if unsealed and inspected, will be found to be

another manuscript by Da Vinci (any character who inspected the text in the Archduke's study will recognize it). If it is inspected closely by anyone who can read Italian, with a mirror, and if a successful roll on Wit is made, the text may be read. The papers are plans for Da Vinci's greatest invention, and 'ordinator,' or giant mechanical device designed

to calculate and perform all mathematical functions. The inside is planned as a great interlocking series of watch-gears, each representing a small piece of information. The outside bears turning numeral gears and a vast array of buttons and levers. In effect, they are plans for a simple, crude, mechanical computer. The possible uses of such a device,

even in the 17th Century, are astounding. Any character who discovers the true nature of this document will realize that it is the main object of the Archduke's quest.

 

When the characters leave, they may hide the items wherever they like in the carriage.

 

HEADING BACK TO FRANCE

The Journey back to the French border will be quicker than the journey from Marseilles to Florence, only about three days long. However, danger awaits at every step.

 

On departure, characters that roll Notice will detect that their carriage is closely tailed by a large gilded carriage driven by a six horse team. As they cross into Milan, this carriage will pull close to them and they will observe that there are a number of well armed men inside. One, apparently an Italian gentlemen of high rank, will lean out and request a conference with the party. If threatened, he and his six men-at-arms will immediately attack.

 

The conference may take place in either carriage. The man will introduce himself as Nicolo Brandi, ambassador from Savoy to Florence, He believes the Da Vinci manuscript to be plans for a secret weapon and will, at first, offer the party 1000 L for the document. The

characters dare not risk the Archduke's wrath, however, If refused, he will draw his pistol (a double-barreled, finely-made wheellock dueling pistol) and threaten to call his guards down upon the party. A shootout may now occur (each guard, and Brandi has stats d8, Fighting and Shooting d8 with muskets and pistols, each wearing Leather, and is armed with a longsword and a flintlock musket). The most intelligent thing for the character to do is to grab Brandi and hold him hostage. His men (who are not too loyal) will quickly give up


their weapons and surrender. Each has the equipment listed above, and the equivalent of 10 L in spare change. Brandi's Fancy Carriage is quite a prize and the party may wish to grab it too, as booty, Inside, in a secret compartment (detected only with a Notice -2 roll and only if someone specifically states they are searching) are 3 grenades and a crossbow. If captured, Nicolo Brandi may be ransomed for 500 L by his government. He is carrying 1200 L with him, to pay for the document and travel expenses. His murder or capture will make the party some permanent enemies among the officials of Savoy.

 


 

After eluding, capturing, or killing Signor Brandi, the journey will go without trouble until the party comes to inspection on the border of Savoy and France. The inspection point will be a small village on a hill, with a medium sized tower overlooking the border. Behind the tower, hidden from the party view, will hide a carriage filled with 6 soldiers, and 6 light cavalrymen, armed with sabres and flintlock carbines. These are Savoyan soldiers waiting to attack the party before they reach France. The inspection officials will attempt to stall the characters with numerous minor fines and declarations. Any character that rolls Smarts will know that it is a purposeful stall routine and may warn his comrades. As the party rides out of this town, the carriage and horsemen will bear down on them, from behind. The party will have to ride, under fire, for 20 combat turns, until they reach the French border and are safe. Any character who makes a Smarts roll and has the cache of grenades from Signor Brandi's coach may think of lighting them and dropping them behind to stop or delay


the pursuers. Using this strategy, the grenades may be dropped or thrown with a bonus of +2 to hit. For this carriage chase, assume that all carriages have Toughness 10, except for the Archduke's, which has 18, due to its superior construction.


 

If the party returns to France safely, they will most likely go to Nice, or return to Marseilles to rest. The King of Thieves may be useful if they wish to ransom Signor Brandi.

 

THE RETURN TO PARIS

At Nice or Marseilles, whichever the characters choose to stay at, they will receive a messenger on the day after their arrival from the City Mayor, requesting their audience. It they grant it, they will be shown to the mayorie (town hall) and into a large, finely decorated drawing room. Their audience will turn out to be with Monsieur Le Colonel St. Giron, the regimental commander of the Royal Dragoons. He, too, believes the Da Vinci papers to be plans for a secret weapon and privately believes them to be just the thing to help him get promoted to Brigadier. He will offer each member of the party 150 L and

a Captaincy in the Dragoons for the document. If the characters agree, they will have a permanent contact in the Colonel, but will have to live in perpetual fear of DeMainz (at the very least, they may each expect several attempts on their lives). If refused, St. Giron may be heard to comment that the party's return to Paris may be very perilous indeed...

 

The carriage ride back will take four days. On the first day, the Colonel will attempt revenge (if he was refused the plans). The characters will be travelling along through the open countryside, quite near the ruins of an old chateau, a little bit north of Grenoble. They will

notice behind them a large cloud of dust, rapidly approaching. A look through the spy-glass will reveal that they are pursued by twelve ,mounted men (light dragoons of the Royal Dragoons regiment). The party will have just enough time to get within the old chateau for defense before the horsemen are close upon them (there is no chance of outrunning light dragoons in a carriage).

 

Within the chateau, several possible defenses may be chosen. Characters may climb the walls and shoot down at their enemies, in which case they have two turns to shoot at each range (Long, Medium, and Short) before the Cavalrymen enter the fortress (remember

to take time out to reload). Of course, an intelligent strategy would be to let the best marksmen continue shooting, while the others reload their weapons. Characters may also climb out on a dangerous ledge above the gate, and drop loose pieces of stone and mortar upon the riders when they enter. Roll to hit against Agility +1 Such an attack may only be used twice, but it disables one or two horses and riders each time it hits. Some characters may wish to take the valuable items out of the coach and hide them in the cellars of the chateau. This may lead to a siege-type situation, which could continue for days.

 

The dragoons have stats, Fighting, Shooting at d6 and are armed with Pistol and Sabre. They wear normal Dragoons armor, without the helmet, and each carries a sabre and a flintlock pistol (note that when approaching the chateau, each dragoon may only fire once as they will not take time out to reload). The dragoons will ride to the chateau at a breakneck speed, so as to avoid being fired upon from above as much as possible. This carries the disadvantage of risking greater injury to themselves and their mounts if hit. If a dragoon is hit while riding towards the chateau, he will fall violently from his horse (taking an additional 2D6 + 2 damage) if the attacker obtains and Ace, a horse will also fall and throw its rider. If the dragoons are reduced to half their number (i.e. six or less), they will flee. The leader of the dragoons carries orders from his Colonel to kill the characters and bring back their carriage and all of their possessions to St. Giron.

 

After the incident with the dragoons, all will go well with the journey, until the third day, when the characters stop in the afternoon at an inn near Auxerre. Here will wait some agents of the Cardinal Richelieu: the Baron D'lle-de-Batz (with two henchmen) and his girlfriend, Lady Malfleur (with two henchwomen), a formidable pair. They have heard of the Archduke's mission, and have been sent by the Cardinal to bring him the Da Vinci document.

 

When the characters arrive, hot and dusty, they will be shown in to the inn while their carriage is put away in the stables. Inside, they will find Lady Malfleur and her two henchwomen, all of whom are Attractive and are dressed and cloaked by the latest risqué clothes and perfumes from Paris; a welcome sight for weary travelers. They

will tell an invented story of having been robbed on the road to Paris and stranded and they will throw themselves upon the mercy of the characters for protection and transportation. No character that is Amorous' will be able to resist them. It also seems that the

only three rooms in the inn have been taken by them, but they are more than happy to share with the characters (for protection, of course).

 

 

This story and seductive scene is designed to distract the party long enough for Baron D'lle-de-Batz to search the party's carriage. One henchman will help him, another will watch the Inn door, pistol drawn. If the characters are clever enough to inspect the stables before

entering the inn, or, if the look in the stables at any later time, they will notice a red carriage there with bridles for an eight horse team (the carriage described as following them when they started their journey).

 

Events may take many possible paths at this point. The characters may catch the Baron at their carriage, or he may indeed find the document and ride away to Paris with it (in which case, the party should be given a chance to get it back). Lady Malfleur and her henchwomen

may take the characters to their rooms upstairs and try to murder them; the Baron and the Lady may be forced to make a desperate escape; etc. The Gamemaster should, in this case, roll with the punch, depending on what the characters do.

 

Lady Malfleur has stats d6 and may fight with a poisoned dagger (Fighting d12, the poison requires a Vigor roll 3 turns after it enters the system, and each turn thereafter to avoid coma for 1D6 hours). Her henchwomen have stats d6 and also fight with poisoned daggers, but have only Fighting d8. Lady Malfleur also carries a small wheellock dueling pistol (-1 to hit, due to small size) hidden in the ruffles of her fancy sleeves, with which she has Shooting d10.

 

The Baron, as he is a major opponent, has his full statistics listed below:

 


Baron D'lle-de-Batz

Agility d12, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d12, Vigor d12, Parry 9, Toughness 9 (1)

Edges: Acrobat, Block, Command, Florentine, Luck

Skills: Fighting d12, Shooting d12, Knowledge: Battle d8, Knowledge: Disguise d8, Knowledge: Etiquette d8, Lockpicking d8, Gambling d8, Stealth d10, Tracking d8, Riding d10.

Weapons: Longsword, Wheellock Dueling Pistol

Armor: Leather

 

Special:

The Baron also carries a small dud grenade. If pressed, he will light this, and leave it visible for pursuers. It appears to be functional and it has a fuse that will burn for 4 turns. When characters take cover from it, the Baron will attempt to escape.

 

The Baron's henchmen are two Troopers from the Cardinal's Guard Company. They are armed with rapiers and flintlock pistols (Fighting and Shooting d8) and wear normal Guards armor, without the epaulettes and tassets. They each have stats of d8.

 

The Baron and Lady Malfleur should be allowed to escape (preferably in some dramatic manner) if the tide turns against them. They may reappear for characters in later adventures, as sworn enemies.

 

REWARDS

If Baron Dlle-de-Batz and Lady Malfleur are overcome, the road is clear to return to the Archduke's estate and receive rewards. The Archduke will receive the party politely, as before, with a manner as if nothing has happened since the last interview. He will request

the Da Vinci document, and after it is given to him, he will look it over intently for a few moments and then, ever so casually, throw it into a roaring fireplace and say 'it is an idea whose time has not come... '

 

As a reward to the characters, he will offer each money, position, or a favor. A character who chooses money will be given 750 L as his reward. One who chooses position will automatically be promoted one rank within a Club, Regiment, the Clergy, or the Bureaucracy, or given entrance to the lowest rank of one of these hierarchies (for

which he is qualified). Finally, a character who chooses a favor will be given one of the Archduke's coins, with his insignia on both sides. This counts as a Social Rank 16 favor, but may be used only once (it is really a better reward than either money or position and should be treated so by the Gamemaster). In addition, the Archduke may become a permanent contact for all of the characters, and any character who wishes to may be accepted into the service (and protection) of De-Mainz.