Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Four for One: a Campaign

One of the problems with All For One: Régime Diabolique, the RPG of swashbuckling action, manners, magic, and monsters in seventeenth century France is a lack of support for it. Or rather, one format of support for it. For the truth is, the publisher has released some thirty adventures and supplements for it since the RPG’s release in 2010, but the majority of them appear only in PDF format. Fortunately the publisher, Triple Ace Games, has released two titles for the game that can be found on the shelves of your local gaming shop, All For One: Richelieu’s Guide Compendium Une and Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré. Both titles are also available as PDFs and both actually collect individual titles that are available separately. Where All For One: Richelieu’s Guide Compendium Une collates supplementary information that further details the setting, Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré brings together a quartet of scenarios that make up the basis of a mini campaign. It is this latter title that is being reviewed here.

Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré is designed for beginning characters who are members of the King’s Musketeers. Whilst working for Lieutenant Jean-Marc de Guerre, the player character Musketeers will find themselves sent on missions that will take them back and forth across France, from the heart of Paris and France’s borders with the Spanish Netherlands during a Habsburg invasion to her coasts in the fogbound North West and then the disgruntled South West. There is room in the campaign for slightly experienced characters, but it is really intended for use as a starting campaign. There is also room between the four parts of the campaign that takes place over the course of a year or so, for a GM to add his own adventures so that the campaign’s story can be extended and leavened out.

As the campaign’s title, Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré suggests, the plot behind the campaign revolves around a dishonoured King’s Musketeer. He is not known to the characters, although he is connected to one of them, and his search for revenge will draw them into his plans.

Subtitled “Revenge is a dish best served cold!”, Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré opens with “Désir Mortel.” The player characters are assigned the task of investigating the deaths of Sergeant Roger Dupin, Paul de Chamest, and de Chamest’s manservant near the village of Champs-Saint-Denis. Seigneur Dupin had offered to sponsor de Chamest , a young noble from Champagne for induction into the King’s Musketeers. The scenario, a mix of investigation, combat, and interaction, feels quite traditional in terms of storytelling, coming with it as it does with more victims, obstructive authorities, and a certain sense of misdirection. That said, the adventure contains lots of period detail and plenty of room swashbuckling action. One nice touch is that the adventure opens with a set of opening scenes that are tailored to the player characters’ Flaws. So for example, a character with the Flaw of Lustful can play through an opening scene that finds him awakening in the bed of his latest conquest only to find that her husband is home early! These are lovely inclusions and not only help to get the scenario and the campaign off to a colourful start, they also give each player a chance to shine.

The plot underpinning the campaign gets underway properly with the second scenario, “Le Baiser de la Mort.” As the Habsburg invasion of North East France continues, the player characters are once again tasked to investigate the death of a former musketeer, this time one Francois Joubert. Joubert had been tasked with delivering payment to a mysterious agent, Le Faucon. It is known that payment was made, but no information was forthcoming from Le Faucon, and now Joubert is dead. The trail takes the characters to mysterious and fabled island of Mont Saint-Michel, the waters around it increasingly fog bound, the monks that serve at its famous abbey, acting increasingly oddly, and Cardinal Richelieu’s having taken an interest in the Musketeers’ mission. This is a much more complex affair with a lot more going on, with multiple plot lines and numerous antagonists. That said, the setting itself nicely corrals them and keeps everything from sprawling out of control.

By the end of “Le Baiser de la Mort,” the player characters should be aware that a mysterious man known as “Delmar” is plotting against both them and the King’s Musketeers. Not only is this “Delmar” someone that is known to those who once dealt with the same outré threats to the King and to France that the player characters deal with now, but he also happens to be an ex-Musketeer! As “Rançon de Sang,” the third part of the campaign opens, the player characters will be able to gain further information about their antagonist from a very famous ex-Musketeer as well as an inmate of the Bastille. Visiting what is perhaps the most famous prison in France proves to be disturbingly genteel, although it does bring the characters to the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, again… Further information comes from an old contact that not only is another of “Delmar’s” ex-colleagues still alive, but also that his daughter, Jeannette d’Aronde, has been kidnapped! Duty-bound to rescue her, the player characters must travel to Bordeaux where all evidence points to a famous pirate as being the kidnapper!

Given the intrigue of the first two parts of Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré, “Le Baiser de la Mort” initially feels a little slow with little to punctuate its opening series of roleplaying encounters. Fortunately, once the player characters are out of Paris and reach Bordeaux events pick up a pace with plenty of opportunity to swashbuckle!

The campaign comes to a close and a finale with “Le Mousquetaire Final.” With no more leads as to the whereabouts of “Delmar,” the player characters are initially caught up with preparations for war with the Habsburgs, but their attention is fully piqued when Delmar first strikes from afar using magic and then forces them to act when he kidnaps their superior, Lieutenant Jean-Marie de Guerre. Of course, he is laying a trap for them, but what choice do the player characters have? Worse the trail forces the characters to confront the worst excesses of a French army on the march and leads them into the notorious Gévaudan region…

Physically, Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré is well written and well presented. It could do with an edit here and there, and is a bit lacking in certain places. The fact that the book contains black and white art instead of the colour art of the PDFs is understandable, but it would have been nice if the NPCs had been illustrated and some maps had been included. Neither is wholly necessary to run the campaign though. In terms of writing, the conclusions to each scenario and to the campaign itself feel underwritten and abbreviated, but with a little roleplaying upon the part of the GM should get around this.

There is nothing to stop a GM from running one part of Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré after another, but the campaign works better the more adventures that a GM runs between its parts. The adventures themselves present an excellent mix of intrigue and interaction, action and adventure, swordsplay and swashbuckling, making Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré an excellent way to get your All For One: Régime Diabolique campaign off to an entertaining start.