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  • Help me with 2e Courts of Venice

    So I've been looking at the fanmade Venice Unmasked Setting (check it out here), and I'm really interested in using it as a setting for my game. However, I'm interested in giving the Venice Freehold a 2e update.

    Luckily the Freehold already practically has a ready made story in the form of the Doge, an anonymous ruler that commands the Court of Carnival and the freehold as a whole. Extending on that I've been considering a bulwark taking the form of a grand ball during the final week of Carnival. During these nights the doors are opened wide for all manner of Hobgoblins, Huntsmen, and True Fae to attend. However, during this time, all changelings are protected by the mantle of the Carnival. All changelings are essentially anonymous under the mantle's mask, unable to have their identity detected through any magical means, nor can they be unmasked by force. However, if over the course of the ball, a true fae or huntsmen can uncover the identity of a freehold member by mundane guile, than the bulwark is broken.

    One thing that I'm considering however is a full revamp of the courts present in Venice. I'm a big fan of the "build-a-court" system, and it makes sense to me that the Changelings of Venice would be independent enough to consider something different from the roman-rooted seasonal courts. Additionally, the Court of Carnival itself always felt like it pushed the other courts to the periphery. In the 2e system I thought it might be more fitting that the mantle of Carnival was more specifically linked to the Doge, who would extend that mantle as an overarching force upon the freehold as a whole. (Particularly strongly during the season of Carnival.) In that sense, only the Doge and his close underlings bear a true mantle of Carnival through their masks, but anyone within the freehold can gain access to some of its effects through court goodwill with the Doge himself (though this might be linked more to a persona that was created within the Doge's court than with the Changeling themselves.) During Carnival, this goodwill pays off even more, allowing those favored changelings to gain temporary access to high mantle effects through their goodwill, though all are protected with the same anonymity during the week when the bulwark is renewed. Likewise, in order to preserve their anonymity, the Doge and their underlings would be nominal members of the other courts (though not powerful ones as they technically would only have goodwill in their adopted court, Carnival's mantle providing all the necessary elements to keep up appearances.

    That said, while I've figured all this out, my biggest issue is coming up with something to take the place of the seasonal courts within Venice. The only thing I'm really sure of is that I'm interested in a successor to the court of water described in the book, who would occupy themselves with many of the matters concerning the waters and canals around Venice. Another one is a court based on Venice's role as the furthest Western end of the Silk Road, revolving around the exoticism and wonder of the Orient, but I'm not completely married to it. Other than that though I'm drawing up something of a blank for a suitably Venetian theme to link them around in an organic feeling manner.

    The one idea I've considered is the tarot suits, given that the tarot deck has roots in Italy, but I worry that I'd get too involved with their occult meanings, which might be out of place given that they're just seen as playing cards in Italy, and only gained occult significance after the French and English got their hands on them.

    Any ideas?

  • #2
    Hmm. Seeing as the Courts of the Toronto Freehold were drawn together by the preservation of their respective cultures through stories, why not build the freehold around the story of Venice itself. Each Court ties itself to a facet of the city's history, with the Doge holding a level of prominence along the lines of Honshu's Moon Princess and Toronto's Scheherazade.

    I am interested in developing more on the Court of Water in a modern form. Perhaps they were reformed under a new pledge made with the sea? One that called for a vigil over the ghosts of those who died in its embrace? Admittedly, it opens up crossover potential with Sin-Eaters (and, on a lesser note, with the Arisen and the Kindred), but still.
    Last edited by Deionscribe; 11-12-2016, 08:49 AM.


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    • #3
      I think the answer here is clearly to base your courts on the different types of standardized masks/characters in the Commedia dell'Arte.

      The Groups of stock rolls for a three court system: servants/zanni, masters or elders/ vecchi, and lovers/innamorati.

      Alternatively have a larger court system by cherry picking the more popular roles like Pantalone with the associated hook nosed old man style of mask. Going this route you can choose as many courts as you like pretty much, and have a some rolls left over that, with political pressure, might form into court s of their own.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by LLegume View Post
        I think the answer here is clearly to base your courts on the different types of standardized masks/characters in the Commedia dell'Arte.

        The Groups of stock rolls for a three court system: servants/zanni, masters or elders/ vecchi, and lovers/innamorati.

        Alternatively have a larger court system by cherry picking the more popular roles like Pantalone with the associated hook nosed old man style of mask. Going this route you can choose as many courts as you like pretty much, and have a some rolls left over that, with political pressure, might form into court s of their own.

        This sounds perfect.

        Now the biggest thematic question would be the emotions. Innamorati already represent love, so that's easy. The Vecchi would probably work best with Pride (greed or ambition are also possibilities, but Pride seems the bigger emotion at play in their characters. They may be at the top of society, but it's rarely about expanding their own power, more protecting it from those that would challenge it.)

        The big question is the Zanni. In the plays they are the clowns, a bit of a comedic take on the common people, but they're also the ones that get things done, since the Innamorati are too love-lorn to do anything and the Vecchi are the prideful antagonists that must be resisted. I'm trying to think of an emotion that would encompass that kind of role. Perhaps Surprise? Not necessarily them that are surprised all the time, more that they're the ones that are inclined to stir the pot to get a reaction out of people. They're tricksters, but also a helpful bunch, just never in the way you might expect. If you go to a Zanni for help, they'll be eager, but also will typically make a mess of things along the way to the point where you might have regretted involving them in the first place. But in the end of it all, they'll be the ones that make things work out somehow, just to see the look on your face at the result.

        It would make for an interesting bit of dichotomy in their interactions. As the Vecchi see it, their the only ones that take running the freehold seriously, having the endure the naivete idealism of the Innamorati and the chaotic meddling of the Zanni. As the Innamorati see it, they're the dreamers that want what's best for the freehold, but have to deal with the bullheadedness of the Vecchi and the lackadaisical buffoonery of the Zaani. Finally the Zaani just see the other two as bickerers that argue and take everything too seriously for anything to actually get done around here, but just accept it with a wry grin as they poke fun of both as they go about their duties.

        Meanwhile within this system, the Doge and his agents take a deliberately light touch on everything, only taking charge for matters of true importance, and facilitating the mask of anonymity that surrounds the changelings in his audiences, allowing them to freely speak their mind in any and all regards. I've also been considering how a Doge is chosen in the absence of a court of Carnival. My general idea so far is that when a Doge retires (and loses their memory of being Doge) or is killed, their mask fades into dream. The next night the freehold has dreams in which they are confronted by the mask itself and asked to choose changelings of the freehold, in a manner similar to the purposefully obtuse system by which the actual Doge of the Republic of Venice was selected. The next day the changeling whom is ultimately selected through this process wakes up with the mask in their possession, their original court's mantle gradually replaced with the mantle of Carnival as they step into the role of Doge. The purpose is to allow the Changelings of the freehold some degree of say in whom they might trust to be their Doge, while at the same time preventing the precise identity of the Doge to be known and to prevent anyone from gaming the system. (As the dreams themselves are incredibly resilient to manipulation and it is virtually impossible to understand at what point in the selection process one is in at the time.)

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        • #5
          How about making Confusion be the Zanni's emotion? Being the tricksters that they are, I can see them confounding other changelings with their actions every step of the way, and not just at the end of whatever favor they were asked to do.

          The selection process of the Doge is interesting, though I wonder.... what would happen if the chosen individual decided not to accept the title? Of that os the case, does the Mask go on to the next viable candidate?

          And as for the Court of Carnival itself, does it refer to the freehold itself? Or would it coexist alongside those three Courts, assuming you are going with them?


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          • #6
            Confusion does sound more appropriate now that you mention it.

            For Doge selection, the Doge is allowed to resign at any time, they merely forget everything relating to their experience as Doge when they do so. This can mean that the Doge selection process may take place over a longer period of time until someone more willing is selected, but it's encouraged for the recipient to give it a college try at the role, as despite the convolution of the selection process, being selected does typically mean that some among the freehold consider you worthy of such responsibility. Of course the biggest issue is that a Doge is required to preside over Carnival. Without the Doge, the bulwark is incomplete as the Doge is required to open the gates, along with a few other ritual functions..

            As for the Courts of Carnival, it's used interchangeably to refer to the Freehold as a whole, as well as the institution of the Doge's personal court. The Court of Carnival has its own mantle distinct from that of the other courts within the city (representing the emotion of Ecstasy, in which it encourages all to lose themselves within the revelry of the Carnival). However, while technically speaking every member of the freehold is a member of the Courts of Carnival, only a scant few actually have the mantle it bears. This would include the Doge themselves, as well as a few other changelings that serve various functions for the the Doge. All of their identities are unknown, but only the Doge's anonymity is necessary for the Bulwark, if anyone else reveals their position, they are merely stripped of that office. (It is essentially impossible for one to bear the mantle of Carnival while their identity is known by anyone but the Doge themselves.) In effect, the Court of Carnival functions more appropriately like an Entitlement where the primary requirement is selection by the Doge. However it has the distinction that due to its centrality within Changeling Venetian society, non-members can still gain Court Goodwill with them to gain access to some of the smaller effects. (Though even these aren't awarded directly to the changeling but to the persona they create within the Doge's presence.

            (if you're not familiar with some of the description in the Venice Unmasked book, one of the effects of the Doge's mask is that all that enter their presence bear a mask, similar to that which is present during the Carnival bulwark ball itself. The changeling can shape their own appearance as they wish, allowing them to build a distinct persona they want before the Doge, or observe with perfect anonymity as they wish.)

            On that note, it might be more appropriate for the Water Court successor to act as another Entitlement in this system. Without the bulwark depending upon the freehold observing the rituals and offerings to the waters of Venice anymore, the Court became a more exclusive entity. They still maintain all the appropriate rituals to honor the waters, but this is more for their own benefit than the freeholds, and they generally take on something of a secret society bent to their work. (which does include dealing with the ghosts of the drowned, as these are considered very displeasing to the waters, particularly those ghosts of children, which was actually responsible for the shattering of the Water Court's bulwark in the first place.) These Water Court successors aren't a fallen court like the Ruby court in Toronto might be considered, as they still recognize the new bulwark and join other courts in the meantime, but they recognize that Venice should give thanks to the waters that protected them for so long, and pay the waters the necessary tribute in the Freehold's stead.

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            • #7
              Interesting. What about the Seasonal Courts? Would they still exist as described in the pdf? And if so, how would the Houses interact with the Innamorati, Vecchi, and Zanni?

              As for the Doge's benefit, I am wondering if some mechanics should be developed to handle how a character presents himself before them.

              What sort of name would the Water Court's succesor have, then, if it were to be designed as an Entitlement?


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              • #8
                For the seasonal courts I had originally thought that they might have been subplanted completely by the Commedia courts. But another idea occurs to me. In Venice unmasked the Seasonal courts are already described more in line with noble houses. Perhaps they remain, but as a far more exclusive bunch in Venice society.

                Effectively, the Seasonal courts act more like large motley that maintain their own mantle, but act more like the aristocracy of Venetian society, in contrast to the middle class of the Vecchi and Innamorati, and the Working class of the Zanni. They have a lot of old privileges, and maintain an explicit voice in some matters. But they don't really invite new changelings in, and most of the Changelings of Venice tend to move towards the Commedia courts instead. As such they don't actually wield nearly as much power as they like to imply.

                In essence, the Seasonal houses are something like a freehold within the freehold. They only really wield power when they act together as a force, but their interests are so often divided, and they have so many old grudges that they spend more time bickering and feuding than trying to exercise that power. Still, they can often do some work with the other courts on occasion. All have some cause to work with the Vecchi, as they do the most to organize things within the city. The Spring house has enough in common with the Innamorati to work with them, and Autumn may not always agree with the Zanni, but can see the relationship between fear and confusion. Similarly most of the houses may have still have grudges against the Dodge, but most of them can find something to enjoy about the wide range of emotions cultivated by Carnival.

                As for the Water Court successors, I've been thinking perhaps relating them to the gondoliers of the city. Maintaining the idea of them operating like a secret society, perhaps something like the Great Order of the Gondolieri, or something similar. In essence this is the front they maintain, a group of Changelings that dedicate themselves to navigating the canals and waterways of the lagoon. They'd probably have a reputation as hedge guides, as the Venetian hedge is essentially a great many trod islands within an absolute mess of nearly unnavigable waters, vines and mists all through the lagoon. The Gondolieri have a reputation for being able to help others navigate the hedge, which acts as an effective cover while they go about their business maintaining their pledges with the waters of the lagoon.

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                • #9
                  That actually works. Hmm. But what about the Seasonal Bulwark? Do they maintain it alongside the Court of Carnival's? I get the feeling that they would out of a real fear that the Doge's Bulwark is unpredictable and leads to a great deal of disaster if/when it falls.

                  And if you go with that name for the Entitlement, I'd make it fully Italian - "Il Ordine Grande di Gondolieri".


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                  • #10
                    I haven't fully worked out all the specifics of the Freehold's government, but it's likely that the houses of the seasons trade off on whom would serve as their chief representative in the Doge's court. It's essentially the closest they can get to a unified leader, given their freehold's status as more of a vassal of the Doge.

                    Good catch on the Godolieri's name as well.

                    Was thinking a bit on how to model the anonymous presentation within the Doge's court, and one thought would be that the 1st dot of the Carnival mantle would grant a one-dot alternate identity representing one's court persona. This would work for all the official members to have an established persona within court, and also is within reach of any freehold member that managed to garner some degree of sympathy within the Doge's court. Of course, anyone decent at acting can put up a reasonable facade within court and pretend to be however they wish, but the alternate identity represents someone who's adopted a persona to a strong enough degree that they usually don't have to work to present themselves in that persona. 1st dot is also all that's necessary since the persona is only acknowledged within the Freehold. (To anyone else, they're just some weirdo in a carnival mask) Similarly the Court of Carnival would probably have a cheap court contract that would allow one to conjure a mask similar to that which appears in the Doge's presence, though it would be more limited in its ability to protect your identity magically, as it would be dependent on your own wyrd, rather than the Doge and their Mask.

                    In that context the Court of Carnival's Mantle would probably look something like
                    * Alternate Identity (*) based upon your primary courtly persona
                    ** Goblin Vow (Ecstasy)
                    *** Barfly Merit (to represent the courtier's ability to lose themselves within the revelry around them, also helps them blend into social situations anonymously)
                    **** Personal Approach
                    ***** A Hedgespun Mask of the Carnvial (a lesser clone of the Doge's mask that functions as a exceptional disguise Raiment. Essentially speaking it makes subtle shifts in the individual's mask appearance, or more dramatic ones in their mien, allowing the changeling to blend into nearly any situation. It serves as the "badge of office" for the Doge's highest ranking underlings.)

                    I'm not entirely married to it as I worry that barfly plus the mask makes it somewhat one note focused on blending into social situations. On the other hand that is something of the court's focus, on losing oneself in revelry.

                    What do you think, it's my first serious attempt at a court mantle in the new system.

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                    • #11
                      I dont have much to offer on the Contract itself, but perhaps it could have Seeming clauses for Darklings and Wizened? Maybe even one for Grimms as well?

                      The writeup for the Court's Mantle looks promising. And I don't think it's a problem that it's focused on social situations, especially if it determines their niche in the Venetian Freehold as stewards of Carnival.

                      For a Court Approach, I was thinking that it would be something that involves flushing out a courtier's identity. Alternatively, attacks against the Court must be made under disguises and false identities.


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                      • #12
                        Possible privilege for the Gondolieri? Not sure if it's too much to give them Goblin Pledges, but I imagined it as being a vestige of the Court of Water's Mantle.

                        -=-

                        Privilege: A Gondolieri has a +3 bonus on all rolls made to navigate a given body of water. He also takes three dots in Goblin Vow (Water), and can spend Glamour in place of Willpower to invoke his chosen purviews.


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                        • #13
                          The flushing out a courtier's identity sounds best. In essence, the Courtiers of Carnival focus a great deal on their anonymity, which leaves them relatively defenseless when you strip them of it. Also the alternate is kind of problematic given that one of the primary abilities of Huntsmen is their ability to appear in nearly any form. Logically, any attack they made with even the slightest degree of subtlety would count as fulfilling the Court's approach.

                          I like the Gondolieri privilege, but I wonder if the Goblin Vow might be a little too powerful. If anything else it certainly bumps up the cost of entry. (if we count it as equivalent of a three dot contract) As an alternative, perhaps the Gondolieri have access to part of the Waterborn kith blessing, giving them the psychometry merit for bodies of water. It's not as powerful as a goblin vow, but it's more subtle, and it gives them a more investigative aspect. (Also quite useful when dealing with Ghosts of the Drowned)


                          Perhaps for the Entry requirements:
                          Wyrd 3, Survival 3 (Hedge) (3 assuming the specialty counts as a one point cost, otherwise survival 4)

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                          • #14
                            All good points, regarding the Court Approach and the Gondolieri. So for the latter, would it be something like this?

                            (I also included a writeup for their Approach.)

                            -=-

                            Ordine Grande di Gondolieri

                            Prerequisites: Wyrd 3, Survival 3 w/ Hedge Specialty or Survival 4, Drive 2

                            Approach: Ever since the Court of Water's Bulwark was destroyed, the Gondolieri have sworn to guard the lagoon from those who would defile it once more. Huntsmen who abide by their Approach seek to exploit the pledge to their advantage. Some lure their prey by killing innocents in the waters around Venice, while others call upon the ghosts of the drowned to plague the changeling.

                            Privileges: A Gondolieri has a +3 bonus on all rolls made to navigate a body of water, and can spend Glamour to use the Psychometry Merit as a Waterborn. If the changeling is a Waterborn, he instead gains the 8-Again quality to all rolls made to use Psychometry.

                            -=-

                            I also have an idea for what the Vecchi Court Approach is. Perhaps Huntsmen who abide by it must work to erode the courtier's support among his peers, thus endangering their positions in the freehold by fostering mistrust against them?
                            Last edited by Deionscribe; 11-17-2016, 10:06 AM. Reason: Added the Drive Specialty.


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                            • #15
                              Gondolieri are looking good. Just realized that they probably should have a drive requirement so they can pilot a boat, probably not their highest trait though, so it shouldn't up the cost, maybe set it at two dots?

                              Vecchi's approach works well, all of the Commedia courts approaches would likely key off of their roles within the plays. So while Vecchi see their respect and their work worn away (a direct attack on their pride), the Innamorati would probably best be approached by directly attacking the objects of the Changeling's affection (and thus their love) This wouldn't just be loved ones either. As long as the huntsmen knows something the Innamorati loves and cares about (a person, a pet, a art form, an ideal) they have a way in to their target's heart.

                              (This also has the purpose of ensuring that the Innamorati aren't just a bunch of Cassanova's. They're the passionate artists, idealists and philosophers of the Freehold. If there's something to be fought for, odds are there's an innamorati leading the charge (and just as likely that there's a Vecchi resisting the change, which leads to another drawn-out fight between the courts, until the Zanni resolve it in some way))

                              Zanni is trickier, as their roles aren't really defined by a conflict of their own, but by getting involved in the conflicts of others. Perhaps their approach is when they have their own schemes interfered with? Tricksters against tricksters, redirecting the sense of confusion back onto the Zanni.

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