Rogues and the whole spectrum of “street folk” with whom they consort represent the opposite end of the social continuum from the Courtier and Courtesan, running the social networks of the street, in the inns, taverns and alehouses (pub’s) that often double as illegal brothels and harbor the worst elements. Despite its scorn for the fastidiousness of the upper class behavior, the seedy underside of society has just as many rules and intricacies as does the world of the Courtier, but the standards would appall such fine folk. Braggarts, bullies and boors set the standards of behavior for the society of Rogues, BUT they can be magnetic, engaging, irreverently entertaining and highly social creatures, but with little concern for the niceties of upper class society, or even middle class society for that matter, fitting in best with the society of wandering Players and entertainers, and those of other classes only insofar as they do not take themselves and their social status and rank too seriously. The usual approach among these folk is a cautious respect for strangers until their measure has been taken, and privacy is much more respected than among the upper echelons.
Chivalry is a joke enjoyed by the rough folk of the night among whom might makes right. Rough and bawdy and downright sleazy behavior will rarely shock and even sometimes amuse, especially the whores licensed by the Church who love to see those of finer sensibilities outraged and often enjoy the bitter irony of their position in society, beholden to the Church for the license to make their living and yet disowned by the Church at the same time. But they are also used to far more candor and frankness in worldly matters, and that includes sex. Few in this segment of society over the age of 7 (the “age of reason”) can still blush, and those that can are a source of amusement. In the underworld of society, sexuality is dealt with frankly, and the abhorrence by the Church of women who encroach on the roles of men simply do not apply, especially considering that the Church is renowned for disowning and marginalizing this segment of the population in the first place. Women tough enough to walk the walk have no fear to wear the garb of men in ‘street society’. In the gutters, there is no question of equality for those women tough enough to face the bullies down.
The Rogues are the social directors of their segment of society, running the various nefarious “guilds” in their society which are open to all. They provide the social matrix within which one can find Knaves of all stripes, wolves’ heads and outlaws, brigands and highwaymen (mercenary Warriors), pirates (Mariner-Warriors); served by Merchant- Rogues (Fences); welcoming also those of the margins, fringes, the “underworld” of society; those who live on the streets and/or gather in the dark; including many of the wandering hawkers and hucksters; the whores and those who pander for them, adulterers; in addition to itinerant Players; Acrobats; bear-leaders and other animal act entertainers (Husbandman Beastmaster-Rogues); musicians (wandering Minstrels or even Troubadors and Jongleurs who do not care about putting their reputation at risk); and all of the rest of the rootless entertainers and outcasts of society, landless and lordless and disowned by the Church – even those who allow it to be known that they are Assassins.
Without the specter of religion hanging over them, most Rogues as well as their associates the Knaves feel a freedom to adopt the morality that best suits the moment and the situation, BUT is not to say that the ramifications of Virtue and Vice do not touch them. Indeed, in many cases it makes them even more sensitive to it. The moral lines that they will or will not cross become more strictly defined and observed. While there are those who still profess to follow the Light and maintain a certain moral code, most do not, or bother with no more than one or two Virtues and try to restrict the degree to which they indulge Vice, perhaps keeping one sainted spirit above any others. Those who want their word valued often only allow that morality to bind them in certain circumstances.
Where the Courtier lives on the kindness of others, the Rogues who do resort to begging makes no bones about doing so for their daily bread, regardless of how the Crown and Church abhor and revile and punish the begging of otherwise able-bodied folk. Indeed, if there is a job the Rogue can be said to have, it is begging. The Tricksters among them are very creative in the scams they run, as is shown to follow, and many are able to glean a decent living. While Rogues may beg for their bread primarily, or perhaps to supplement other endeavors when they do not produce as expected, BUT not all Rogues will be beggars. Indeed, the social aspects and resources the Rogue trade represents can be of great value to other trades.
A Rogue’s wealth and stock-in-trade are his social contacts, the primary wealth provided the character equipped with this trade. With his knowledge he may be able to obtain or at least find just about anything at need. They know who is doing what to whom, and as far as crimes being committed they can usually find out what, and where, and who will do the job, if they don’t already know. They know all the major players in the seedy underside of society, at least by name if not by face, and are well aware who have the protection of patrons that can make the rough members of these trades truly dangerous, in the same manner as Knaves and mercenaries.
Gathering information is at least as critical to a Rogue as it is vital for a Courtier or Courtesan and noble patron, and his Knave compatriots besides, and requiring subterfuge far more consistently. With a savvy eye and ear for gathering information, the Rogue often finds himself the confidante of felons, and an ability to keep his own tongue from wagging becomes a necessity just to continue to survive from one day to the next.
It is the Rogue’s trade to gather information and keep in his head a picture of the society in which he lives, the “big picture” as it were, to decipher the puzzle of relationships both personal by blood and professional associations. He will have a nodding acquaintance with all the local figures in his home “country”, his native shire, who are their men, the major members of their factions, their general interests, prerogatives, and goals, their relationships with the courts and especially local representatives of the law, any patron lords, and who their rivals or enemies are. On the more social side, the Rogue has access to all the public talk, so can determine reputation readily : who is the most successful and who the least in each of the various venues of nefarious activities; who has been crossed by whom and over what; who is the greatest threat in a fight and who the least; who has the best connections and strongest allies and who is the most vulnerable, who is the biggest braggart, the worst boor, and who knows how best to hold his tongue; whose allegiance is for sale for the lowest price and who cannot be bought; who is best for a tumble and the worst, and so on.
The character will have this information not only for the Rogues, Knaves and street folk of his native country (shire), but for the shires surrounding. This will extend as well to the station to which he was born, if he is not of the lower end of the free class or of the landbound class, to the social circle of which his parents are a part, His knowledge of the rest of the kingdom can be filled in as he travels about his business, as desired. His skills are aimed at providing a means of easing his way into the underside of society no matter the corner of the kingdom he finds himself. With a judicious application of some quiet interest and a willingness to mind his own and protect himself (on which points he may well be tested), the Rogue can quickly get a run down on all the local gossip and, from there, trade news and cultivate contacts to fill in any gaps in his knowledge of the locals, who to speak to in order to get any information he desires.
In game terms, the character will have social circle in which he was raised, of which his parents are a part, and one also for this trade, as well as a network of associates, factors, acquaintances and even friends he has cultivated in various positions and households, respected colleagues, couriers and knights of the shires working for the courts, the best of beggars, the fences, the innkeeps and taverners who entertain his people, those who cater to or entertain the society of the lawless. direct subordinates and servants of those he wishes to be able to approach are most commonly cultivated as go-betweens.
Each of these social circles and the network of informers may consist of up to (CHM) + (BTY att. mod.) + TR members.
The exact position in society of a contact can be determined the same as randomly creating any NPC, but it is recommended that the GM ask the player of the Rogue character to make a list of half the number of contacts he is allowed to suggest the sorts of people he is interested in having as contacts. He should keep in mind the very nature of the trade and the strata of society it represents, which is rather narrower than that which the Courtier provides access. No Rogue contact should have a contact or member of his Rogue trade social circle higher in station than an average craftsman or farmer among freemen, which may include a servant in a greater house, especially if employed by a judge or barrister in the courts. The society of Rogues and those they depend on and commonly associate with should be the main rule of thumb. Taking those as his leads, the GM can fill in the rest. Overlapping social circles or networks of contacts are a great way to give PC’s in the same party common ground. They may be directly associated through these networks before active play begins.
To maintain his network of contacts, whether their services are needed or not, the character must contact every one of these one way or another no less than once every season, around the major holidays of the seasons (spring sowing, midsummer, harvest, midwinter) will be expected. The longer the character neglects of the people in his circle. the more they will come to believe they have been dispensed with or forgotten and require the relationship to be reestablished with conciliatory words and gifts. Otherwise the character will need to seek a replacement. The procedure for winning new friends and bringing new contacts onboard for his network is covered under the Presence skill bundle (see the “Presence” skill in Appendix C.2).
Through his own social circle and his agents and their social circles, the character can pick up rumors and gossip as they circulate, send out requests for specific pieces of information or send messages anywhere within town or its immediate environs. So long as he maintains a connection, by correspondence or otherwise, with his agents at home and has established a means of verification so both ends will be assured of the provenance, the character can keep abreast of events at home and receive continued intelligence while exploring other areas, no matter the distance. If unable to secure a means of reliable communication, if he is gone more than a full season (three months), the character will have to take the time to re-acclimate to his surroundings when he returns (GM’s discretion).
How long it will take to get the character re-acclimated will be determined by how long it takes him to reach each of the people in his circles and network reestablish friendly footing. If the character left town precipitously or without notifying those to whom he has debts of honor or coin outstanding, he is either going to need to appear bearing gifts or offer apologies and explanations with gifts, depending on their rank and importance to him.
Societies of Rogues and Knaves are commonly marked by a certain jargon and other signs by which they recognize one another and which they use to protect themselves from being discovered should they be overheard in making their plans or conducting their business. The jargon is typically described as a patois commonly referred to as Thieves’ Cant. Of the ‘other signs’ no doubt they are comprised of a/some certain accessory(-ies) of clothing perhaps of a particular color, worn in a particular style, and perhaps a certain mode of address when meeting socially, accompanied perhaps with a subtle physical or manual signal. Theirs is a language comprised of slang, and as such is constantly, if slowly, changing, including words from other cultures, especially the Gitanos, or Gypsies. The word for bread might be changed in form to that of “mouth” which it feeds, arms referred to as “binders”, a rich man as “silver” and the word for a “lady’s shift” corrupted to refer to a chambermaid.
The Rogue’s life on the streets gives him a feel for crowds, their moods and movements, like no other. He understands that at heart humanoid folk are herd beasts, and can feel the movements of the “herd” when gathered. This enables him to feel and spot the openings and lulls in crowded rooms, halls, and streets, know just when to step aside, to enable him to move more easily, even compensating for wandering dogs, cats, and pigs, or uneven paving, ruts and potholes, or just muck and garbage.
In play, so long as the Rogue is leading, he will decrease the total of any penalties to speed of movement due to crowd or road conditions in cities and towns by [10% x (1 per 4 TR’s)], due to his sharp eyes and ingrained ability to sense anticipate crowd movements and choose the easiest path.
The Rogue may extend his skill to aiding the movement of others he is accompanying, but the size of the party my hinder the amount by which he can aid them.
For every point by which [(STA of the largest in the party is greater than the Rogue character’s) – (STA by which the smallest is less than the Rogue character’s)] + (number in the party led) is greater that the character’s (STA + TR), the character’s effective TR for determining how much he will be able to reduce movement penalties will be lowered by one (1).
Of course, if the other PC’s don’t want to deal with the crowded maze of streets, the Rogue can always act as their agent alone, or go-fers can be hired, neighborhood children (street “urchins”) or servants.
Much at home on the streets, all Beggars and Rogues will know well the basics of how to choose a ruined hovel, alley or other den or site to make a campsite, whether temporary or semi-permanent, where and what to gather for the most comfortable sites to bed down, safest fire-pit sites, best drainage, best view of surrounding neighborhood and/or cover from sight, even for tactical advantage. They will be assumed to know how to pull their “home base” together, to choose the best disposal sites for waste and latrines if formal ones are not nearby, according to the prevailing winds and natural drainage. The character will also be able to steal or strike a fire with either flint and steel and maintain it, bank it to preserve it, lay the best fire for light or cooking.
The character’s knowledge of the neighborhoods, the wards, and the places in which rubbish and garbage are commonly discarded. The chemical break-down of piles of refuse is a free and handy source of heat to help the Rogue (etc.) trade character to survive the winter’s cold, if the stench can be tolerated. This is commonly the line of demarcation between Rogues and Beggars. The Rogues generally have higher standards and less tolerance, while the Beggars are alert to every opportunity and potential resource, no matter how mean or low. Rogues share this knowledge with the Beggars, but for them it is insurance, something to fall back on only in the bleakest of circumstances. They love their creature comforts far too well, in general, to deprive themselves of them very often, and will seek out whatever income they can find to restore to them those comforts to which the Beggars never really aspire, although they might dream of them, perhaps even saving for a more comfy old age, purchasing a corrody at some religious house in town.
The Forage skill provided for the Rogue (etc.) trades is restricted to the precincts of towns and cities, even villages of 50 households or greater.
With their Forage skill, they will know how to forage for and gather abandoned detritus, scraps of tumbled-down buildings, abandoned or discarded crates, barrels and rags to string up as cover for maximum protection from the elements (no substitute for a pavilion or tent, but the character can make himself comfortable enough (in a pinch), gather and dry wood as needed, even cobble together little bits of make-shift furnishings out of cast-offs, BUT for this activity the basis of the character’s AV will be only (1 per 4 TR’s) and the results will be very rough and will stand only so long as the character inhabits them, they will begin to fall apart immediately upon being vacated, unless the character has knowledge of the Craftsman-Builder and especially Carpenter trade (GM’s discretion). In this case, the Craftsman TR will form the basis for the AV, and a bonus based on the character’s Rogue (etc.) TR will be added to it for this purpose.
This will also enable them to forage for and prepare the proper materials for twisting or braiding various lengths of rope and cordage that they may need domestically. In addition, the character will have the knowledge necessary for the gathering of patching and weaving various types of material scraps, bits of leather, discarded rags and the like into various baskets, sacks, blankets, crude cloth to make clothing, sandals, leggings, and the like, BUT for this activity the basis of the character’s AV will be only (1 per 4 TR’s) and the results will be very rough unless the character has knowledge of the Craftsman-Tailor trade. In this case, the Craftsman TR will form the basis for the AV, and a bonus based on the character’s Rogue (etc.) TR will be added to it for this purpose.
Afterwards, the character will be able to strike his camp or den and pack it away, even attempt to disguise the fact that it had ever been there, if he has the Conceal Stealth skill.
As stated, Rogues and Beggars are well-versed in the ways and resources available on the streets, BUT Beggars by far the most completely, as they lack the sensibilities of the Rogues. The Beggar trade also encompasses a number of survival skills, including the ability to find edible insect life and especially the not-too-unsavory bits of garbage which are commonly thrown out daily in households of all levels of society from commoner up, for which he will have the same (1 per 4 TR’s) basis for AV, unless he has the Forager skill, in which case that will again become the basis for the AV and the bonus based on TR again will be allowed.
He may hunt, besides, but in this case he will be limited to the rats which are ubiquitous to town life, cats, dogs, and the pigs which often get loose in the streets which are considered such a nuisance that killing one is not considered a crime, but rather a public service, as well as any other sorts of animals which may find their way into the precincts of the town, whether in from the wilds or escaped from a residence where the may be maintained as part of a menagerie or as a pet.
IF he wishes to hunt (and/or fish in areas where it is practical), the Beggar’s knowledge will include the knowledge of preparing dried/jerked meat (when cut into strips, this can take from 1-2 days, regardless of the type of meat), but for this activity the basis of the character’s AV will be only (1 per 4 TR’s), unless the character has the Cook (Chef) Petty Skill, in which case that SL will form the basis for the AV, and a bonus based on the character’s TR will be added to it for this purpose.
With the hides of the animals that they dry, those who decide to hunt will be able to make rawhide (a 2 or 3 day process) or tanned leather (with or without natural fur, depending upon the type of skin or pelt, generally a 4 to 5 day process), for which he will have the same (1 per 4 TR’s) basis for AV, unless he has some aspect of the Leatherworker/Tanner/Tawyer-Craftsman trade, in which case that will again become the basis for the AV and the bonus based on Huntsman or Woodsman TR will again be allowed.
Like most Knaves who try to maintain a presence in society at large, many Rogues also lead double lives to elude the law, in particular taverners and innkeeps who lead lawful lives during the day and secretly open their doors to the outcasts and outlaws after dark, merchant-fences receiving stolen goods after the sun has set – taverners and innkeeps also often receiving ill-gotten goods themselves to work as middlemen fences in addition to using their facilities as illegal whore houses under cover of night (innkeeps often work as merchants already, as they are the ones who host the alien merchants who may be visiting to conduct their business, and as such handle introductions and participate in their business). There is no violence they would not forego, in person or by proxy, to protect their double lives.
A dissolute lifestyle is as common among Rogues, Beggars, Players, and all these ilk as it is among Knaves. For most, as long as the money holds, there is nothing to do but eat and drink, gamble and debauch himself. Many of the folk of these social circles can be found in the company of their fellows only when they have wealth to burn, showing the largesse so touted by the nobility and living just as high. When the money runs out, they disappear for a week or a month only to return, perhaps even on horseback, richly harnessed and caparisoned to start their debaucheries again with their ill-gotten gains.
Always on the look-out for the next opportunity, the Rogue has a sharp eye for the benchmarks that say “quality”. The Rogue’s intimate knowledge of people and the rules of society will allow him to develop an uncanny sense for assessing the class and station and probable wealth of any he meets by their body language, disposition, manner and mannerism, patterns of speech, and the like, beyond the common ability of the people of the period generally by the more obvious signs.
The character’s AV for this ability will be equal to his TR, with an att. mod. based on the character’s AWA score.
Rogue society keeps Recommenders of its own employed – in the same manner as those associated with Courtiers and the upper crust of society and the nobility, but these serve the margins of society, and the division between the circles of men and women are mostly blurred and in some places downright nonexistent, and the work generally being of a much more questionable nature (generally dangerous and illegal). A Rogue-Recommender may recommend men or women to the needs of masters or mistresses, as the client wishes, but their services are strictly confined to the needs of the lowest ranks of society, serving the uses of those who live by their wits on the streets. Any whom the Recommender is assured will not ask too many questions on being offered a job may be served – in accordance with his record of work and the recommendations of previous employers, of course. Ironically enough, the Rogue-Recommender himself must have just as strong and well-established a reputation as a good judge of character and personally having great integrity as any respectable Recommender or Recommendress to the wealthy and noble. On the other hand, they have little patience for those who are too fastidious over the sort of master or mistress they will serve or the sort of work to which they will turn their hands.
Players are generally on top among the “riff-raff” represented by this group of trades, best able to blend in socially at least with the commoners, the (as yet un-realized) “middle class”, working at being entertainers for their daily bread. This is because they are able to emulate any other craft or trade, able to impersonate any one with the proper application of “character” voice skills, Masquerade skill and knowledge of Social Graces, and especially by learning foreign Languages – and most willing to use those skills just to get along. Players can be VERY proud and skilled professionals practicing the traditional skills of the Mummer, skilled at the “dumb-show” or pantomime. It is a pursuit steeped in tradition and highly valued, BUT their greatest skill, that which they try hardest to perfect, is to portray emotions in a dramatic context (on stage) so convincingly the audience is drawn into the story being played and to believe in its reality for the length of the show. Knowledge of make-up and props to reinforce the nature of the character so portrayed, embodied in the Masquer skill is another strong and closely tradition of the Player, but not all choose to learn it.
This ability to counterfeit emotion has GREAT use outside the theater, however, and many Players often dabble in scams and schemes by use of their theatrical skills. Not all Players are dedicated professionals proudly honing their craft through their work in the theater. The skills or talent of the Player is directly derived from one’s CHM, and is thus an Open skill, available to be cultivated by any character, but highly valued by those who live by Trickery.
The Trickster trade is inherent in that of the Player, BUT not all Players will use their talents as Tricksters, as noted above. Tricksters can run the social gamut from low to high, working their cons using any other trade(s) in which they are trained to hatch further mischief. A Courtier-Trickster (Player) may circulate under an assumed name as visiting nobility, or act as a spy either for against the realm to which he was born – or perhaps to both! Nearly ALL of the trades of this forsaken segment of the medieval population indulge in Trickery of one sort or another (although they do not have to), or include those skills in their portfolio as a valid option to be indulged as their circumstances and resources permit.
Like the “legitimate” social fraternities and guilds of craftsmen and merchants, the Rogues, Players and Tricksters find comfort in numbers as well, forming equivalent associations or fraternities just as common. Especially in the wilder countryside, these tend to be family-based gangs like the Coterels of the Midlands mentioned in the Knave trade description, normally including a few trusted adherents, with a patron lord, in the same manner that Sir Robert Tuchet was for the Coterels and the Folvilles. Due to the manner in which they rely on one another both to find associates for making a living and also in liquidating ill-gotten goods to pay for their comforts, any who threaten one with exposure, are seen to threaten the whole fraternity. Such threats are taken very seriously and will be responded to by the whole of the fraternity, if necessary, depending on the extent of the perceived threat.
Much like the Coquillards discussed in the Knaves description, but not to be confused with them, was a society of Rogue-(Trickster)-Beggars in France, run just like a craft guild, presided over by the “Grand Coesre”, King of the Beggars, said to hold court in the ‘Cours des Miracles’ in Paris itself. All the subjects of the Grand Coesre paid him an annual tax.
Under the King were his ministers whom he appointed to see to his interests in the outlying provinces, called the “Cagoux”. The Cagoux collected the monies due the Grand Coesre and made sure the freelancers in their bailiwick recognized the authority of the Grand Coesre, taking a share of any robberies they committed, and were free of the Beggar King’s annual tax.
The appointed masters of apprentices to the Rogues’ “guild” were responsible for training new recruits in the different methods and approaches to begging, the various confidence schemes and Tricksters’ skills, were the “Archisuppots”. The Archisuppots had the freedom to beg where and as they liked, in the same manner as the Cagoux, and exempt from the annual tax as well. Like the craft trades these apprentices would even be required to perform a masterwork to prove their skill before being allowed to go to work. In general, the Beggar King’s beggar subjects were called Argotiers. Tricksters all, they begged for their daily bread. These were divided according to the type of scheme they applied to their begging, as follows.
Mercandiers pretended to be merchants having been robbed or ruined by wars, were charged 1 ecú/year.
Francs-Mitoux specialized in falling down in public places in fainting fits were only taxed 5 sous.
Malingreux Masqueraded as if they were suffering from dreadful swollen sores.
Pietres Masqueraded as cripples on crutches or sticks.
Sabouleux Masqueraded as frothing lunatics, sucking and blowing on pieces of soap, having daubed themselves with blood.
Poulissons went about all but naked begging for clothing.
Courtuads de Boutanche carried the tools of some craft and Masqueraded as poor craftsmen unable to find work.
Hubins Masqueraded as pilgrims, carrying forged certificates attesting to their having been bitten by mad dogs, and either on their way to or returning from a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Hubert for a miraculous cure.
Each member was expected to stick to his own particular specialty, and the Argotiers were policed by their officers to make sure of this. This association was specifically for the benefit of Rogue beggars, the Argotiers, but in the areas where they governed they controlled the activities of any Knavery, too, and took their cut through the Cagoux.
After the tradition of the subjects of the Grand Coesre, John Ward of Yorkshire and Richard Lynham of Somerset posed as merchants who had been robbed and their tongues torn out with iron hook and pincers, which instruments they showed, roaring and making strange rattling sounds in their throats, in order to fraudulently beg for alms. They were arrested for running that scam in London in 1380.
In Italy, the Affrati Masqueraded as poor monks or priests. Their brothers, the Allacrimanti, would burst into floods of tears to try and reach the hearts of the public with their abject misery in poverty.
The clever Accosti Masqueraded as those recently escaped from slavery in the East, begging for money to ransom friends or loved ones still in the hands of the infidel Turks or Saracens.
The GM will have the particulars on the amount of money the beggar can glean through his efforts, in the same manner as a Courtesan, Troubador or Minstrel through performing the offices of their trades.
Not all Tricksters will be Beggars, however, in the same manner as they will not all be Players, nor even necessarily Rogues.
In fact, one of the primary venues sought out by the Trickster is the marketplace. When dealing with someone who strikes him as a country bumpkin barely able to count (if at all), the Trickster who is a Merchant might short-change him, or pass him false coin. He might well clean up and refurbish used goods and sell them as new, or worse, deliver stolen goods instead of the legitimately obtained samples shown.
Used clothing in many cases can be refurbished this way, cleverly mended, cleaned and pressed, and sold as new, despite the law requiring that they remain soiled and un-pressed so their status as used is evident. Worm-eaten rotten wood furnishings can be plastered over, covered in canvas, gessoed and painted then sold as new.
The victualing traders are cordially believed by the populace in general to be thoroughly crooked : millers, bakers, brewers, etc. The Assizes of Bread and Beer were issued repeatedly to set the weights of the various types of bread loaves according to the prevailing price of grain in a given year, and regularly broken. Victualers are constantly being hauled before the law and amerced (fined) for their failure to provide according to the Assize, and for using short measures.
“What is the boldest thing?”
“The shirt of a miller”
“Because it holds a thief by the throat daily!”
They always raise their prices when supply is scarce, when their goods are most needed and such a move least popular – making profit from the misfortune of others. So the guilds legislated against their own membership, according to the ordinance of Chester, the town must ensure the sale of “good and wholesome victual at reasonable prices”.
Food was commonly doctored by the unscrupulous so it could be more easily sold; old fish being reddened with pig’s blood to look more fresh; flour cut with sawdust; milk, wine, or beer watered; cuts of meat “blown out” or stuffed to make them appear larger, especially organ meats, which also increased the weights; cheeses could be soaked in beef broth to make them look older and richer, so commanding a higher price; expensive peppercorns can be counterfeited from mustard-seed and other hot native spices mixed with a clay binder and rolled out by hand, well worth the investment in time. Bolts of fabric might be left out in the open air over night so they absorb moisture and weigh heavier, commanding a higher price, or folded to conceal defects, or stretched to the utmost so it measures longer.
All of the sharp practices just discussed that might be played on the unsuspecting public can be a two-edged sword, along with any variations the players might come up with on their own. Every guild will have its searchers and approvers to test the quality of goods being sold, who will check any goods to be exported to another market (which must always be first quality for the reputation of the town). In the event the Merchant should get caught and the ruse traced back to him, he can be heavily fined and publicly humiliated. If he does such a thing in a foreign town, it will not matter whether the locals are able to pin it on him specifically or not, they will punish all of his colleagues equally and it is likely they will all be barred from doing business in that market further, unless perhaps they willingly surrender the offender to the law. In any event, if his colleagues discover his scandalous tricks, they are likely to him to the same treatment as the merchant who undersold his wares – the best he may get is a sound beating before they throw him to the locals to prosecute.
The success of any attempts to defraud the clients by use of any of the Trickster cons will be governed by the application of the Game Face, Player and Silver Tongue skills. If the ruse is pierced, the victim will raise the Hue and Cry against the character who will have to face the law or try his best to beat a hasty retreat.
The Mountebank is a Player-Trickster of sorts, but there is more to him than that. The Mountebank is a wanderer by nature like any Player, but he uses his ability to dazzle and entertain as a means to deceive and part the people from their money. The arts of Legerdemain (sleight-of-hand) and stage-illusion are the stock-in-trade of the Mountebank. He provides the physical illusion of magick, rather than the substance. It is his art to fool the gullible, but his goal is to be skillful enough even to fool the skeptic. All visual illusions and stage magick skills and abilities, from sawing a woman in half, card tricks, and palming small objects to make them disappear and reappear through the use of their specific style of concealing skills to sword swallowing (illusory or real), or breathing fire are his forte, even to the great escapes of Harry Houdini. Associating with other performers such as Players, Acrobats and animal trainers (Beastmaster Husbandman – bear-leaders, monkey- and dog-trainers, etc.), those skills are also readily available to them, if desired.
Training in the arts of the Mountebank will also provide the character with the opportunity to learn the skills of the Ventriloquist. Another of the entertainer’s skills open to the Mountebank is that of the Juggler. In any work of sleight-of-hand, the Palm/Hide skill will be pivotal, and anyone’s belongings will serve equally well for the most part.
As a performance skill of the Trade, the Mountebank artist with sufficient AGL to warrant the practice will be encouraged to cultivate the Contortionist/Escape Artist skill. Between this and the Palm/Hide skill, the Mountebank will be better equipped to a practice any major feats of stage magic (physical illusion), such as piercing a basket with a “living” occupant without harming him, sawing a lady in half, exchanging one animal for another in a cage, making an animal or subject disappear and reappear, and the like. His props, while indispensably necessary will not be as critical.
As a Mountebank, the character may or may not be a Rogue (player’s discretion, although neglecting this resource can be detrimental), but his trade fairly requires him to be both a Trickster and a Player – he is a performer, thus Player is indispensible, and the very essence of his trade is deceit of one form or another, thus making Trickster integral.
The darker Trickster side of the Mountebank also has him associated with nostrums, amulets, and folk magick charms, most of which are commonly useless fakes. The derisive term “snake oil” comes down through history to us as the pejorative description applied to the elixirs, phylacteries, potions and other wondrous forms of magick and medicaments peddled by Mountebanks.
Of course, he may make and/or sell perfectly legitimate charms, amulets, and the like and even nostrums and cures if he has also the skills of a Hedge-Wizard or Hearth-Witch, CunningMan or WiseWoman, or has a friend from whom to buy such objects to offer for sale. He may choose to deal only the genuine article and use the tricks of the Mountebank as window-dressing as a cover to conceal his true knowledge of the Arts, OR mix the false-seeming with the genuine Arts to keep them guessing.
For the Mountebank-Trickster, the skill of Sleight-of-Hand and especially the Palm aspect of it will likely be his skills of first resort, especially useful for conducting (cheating at) various types of dice games and/or games such as the Shell Game, the equivalent of “3-Card Monty” (and any of its variations), of which he is the inventor and master. Just like the Rogue earning his bread as a beggar often lives by the Trickster’s confidence schemes and woeful stories, the Mountebank can garner some quick coin using these games in alleys and side streets on the spur of the moment to attract the local denizens.
Generally speaking, the Mountebank-Trickster chooses the game(s) he will run in a given locale (region of villages, large town, etc. as he arrives), whether he will entertain by stage illusion, provide a floating game like dice or the Shell Game, or the like, or sell tonics, “medicines” and nostrums, “talismans” and “amulets” or the like, and allow himself to be known only in that capacity. If anywhere near a place he has visited before he will generally change his appearance and adopt another use-name and make sure he is representing a different “profession”, firmly denying any knowledge of his previous neighboring professional incarnation if any should see a likeness or try to make a connection between them.
When the Mountebank running this game he has the choice of playing straight for less money, or running a scam, Palming the marker the player’s seek, or palming coins, or changing denominations of coins and cheating the ‘marks’ so they get less than expected or lose completely, relying on the speed at which he is moving (CRD) to distract and cover the facts until they realize later they have been cheated.
Like any wandering performer, the skills of the Mountebank will be of great use when the character is running low on coin or feels the need to line his purse for a greater sense of economic security, for his performance skills will be valued and in demand, and there are few places a gaming Mountebank cannot find people to start up a game.
The halls of the wealthy, the manors, and the castles everywhere, taverns, inns and houses of call will generally welcome the skills of the entertainer to divert the residents/owners and their guests and patrons after their suppers, but these characters may also take their talents to the streets and squares, especially on market days and during faires. By passing the hat, tin cup, wooden bowl or the like during or after a song or two to prompt the generosity of passersby the character may accumulate ready coin. Gambling alongside the wealthy and noble carries its own dangers and risks, especially if the Mountebank is running a crooked game, but their retainers and common staff are almost always make good pigeons for a Mountebank to pluck, considering he will generally be moving on down the road the next morning.
The PC should be very careful when cheating the marks to make extra silver, always leaving himself a handy route for making a hasty escape, as the penalties for the marks catching on are as severe as failing in cutting a purse, and just as swift. Justice may be rough and ready in response if they can lay hands on the character, or they may raise the Hue and Cry and hold him for the constable or beadle to take him to gaol to await trial. In such a case it is likely all the character’s money and belongings will be forfeit along with his hand on conviction. If he is lucky he may get off with a simple beating and a stern warning to move along. It depends largely on the station of the crowd he is trying to cheat. If he is working in an inn at night among the lowest sorts of rabble, he is likely to suffer whatever justice the people he has cheated care to mete out, which will depend on how tough the Mountebank is and whether he has compatriots to watch his back.
A character may be a Trickster alone, or with or without the Rogue and/or the Player component(s), or may be a Rogue and/or a Player alone.
The Player, Rogue and Trickster trades are available separately, or bundled, in order to be taken as Secondary or Allied Trades to complement the Primary Trade, to add color and a deeper aspect, an element of danger.
The AV’s and DV’s for assessing station and wealth are discussed along with the balance of the AWA-checks the various trades are allowed in Chapter 1. of Part III.
The movement penalty breaks in crowds are definitely a matter of mechanical logistics, and may be considered a great pain by some. It is included for the benefit of those who have or like to make detailed maps of their cities and towns, or those who know at least how many blocks the PC(s) need to go. Allowing a PC to blithely go on their merry way at their best movement rates, regardless of running or walking through what are generally cramped quarters and uneven footing of the average walled medieval urban maze just does the environment no justice at all. To allow it when anytime in the morning when the streets are choked with carts and hawkers, huxters and shoppers before noon when the market closes is even worse. It creates no appreciation for the setting and no respect for the concentration of population.
Otherwise, what is the point? The PC’s might as well be in some sleepy rural hamlet. The crowds bringing their goods on a market day and the shoppers coming the avail themselves of them clogging the main thoroughfares have to have some effect on the character’s ability to move about town. Faires, especially those at which a tournament are also held, are worse. They last longer while simultaneously providing a greater draw for attendees.
In town streets, the numbers of people who are out and about will determine the maximum rates that may be achieved without requiring an AGL check to avoid mishap.
Surface conditions (uneven, shifting or irregular, broken, or rocky – cobbled) discussed regarding wilderness terrain should also be applied to the street conditions within towns.
By applying the proper modifier to the character’s (maximum) movement rate, the GM can determine the maximum rate at which he may move, reducing the 1/4 rates accordingly.
The proceeds from the Rogue’s begging will depend on the area he is begging, the population, and the traffic. Towns and cities are valuable for begging due to the concentration of population and wealth, but in the countryside it can be profitable also, from various religious houses and also the houses of the nobility, though distance-wise these are far apart.
The value of the alms received from begging will be (CHM att. mod. + Player AV) in farthings. This figure should be raised by 25% (x 1.25) for every station of the neighborhood in which the character is begging above Wealthy Merchant on the Townsman Commoners stations, and from there continuing to count upwards from Knight on the noble stations table. In this way, the GM starts with +50% (x1.5) for any noble patron, from the two stations of possible freeman patrons, and counting as high as +175% (x 2.75).
For example, for the Rogue with the nerve to beg at the gates of the king’s palace, whose CHM att. mod. is +5 and whose Player AV is 38, would receive 1 shilling 6 pence and 3 farthings – several days pay to the average laborer.
To gather these alms the character will have to beg for no less than 2 hours, minus [(CHM att. mod.) + (Player AV)] minutes. If he is interrupted, the money will be proportional; half the time will yield only half the money. When begging in the streets or squares from the general public, the character may glean this amount up to (LoA) times, and only as long as heavy traffic periods endure (GM’s discretion).
After each interval the character must move on to another ward in order to keep filling his purse. Each ward in a town will have its own character and prevailing class and station which will be used to determine the modifier. IF the ward is not changed, the amount gleaned will drop by half after each passing interval, as stated.
The money to be made by the Mountebank may be gained either from gaming, or from performing his Sleight-of-Hand illusions. For Sleight-of-Hand illusions, the character will be rewarded in accordance with the procedures described the performances of the Minstrel, as follows, BUT substituting the DV of the most difficult trick successfully performed in place of that of the piece of music played.
For gaming at dice, etc., as described previously, the base will be (CHM att. mod. + CRD att. mod. + Player AV) in pence. This figure should be raised by 25% (x 1.25) for every station of those with which the character is gaming above Wealthy Merchant on the Townsman Commoners stations, and from there continuing to count upwards from Knight on the noble stations table if he is able to entice such lofty company into the game, in the same manner described above. These figures assume the character is running a crooked game in some fashion. After every interval those who continue to play will be allowed an AWA/Perception check on d100 vs. the Mountebank’s (CHM att. mod. + CRD att. mod. + Player AV) AND an Encounter Reaction.
Even if one isn’t able to catch the thief red-handed, it is likely that as they continue to lose money they will simply walk away disgusted, in the same manner described for a Minstrel’s audience slowly getting bored until their Encounter Reaction eventually turns neutral and the performer is no longer commanded to continue.
IF the Mountebank is playing “straight” with the other players, he will have to roll [(50 + Virtue score) – (Vice score)] or less on d100 in order to glean 1/2 the monies he would have otherwise had he been cheating.
|normal traffic in servants fetching water, citizens going about their daily business, & common street vendors, dogs, cats, pigs, rats||
|traffic for morning mass||
|special local social event (viewing/funeral/wake, dubbing, hand-fasting/wedding)||
|– in the specific neighborhood the event is taking place||
|market day traffic (vendor stalls + milling shoppers)||
|market day + special event (as above)||
|– in the specific neighborhood the event is taking place||
|market day + regional/national special event (faire, campaign staging, royal fête)||