Passion & Steel

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Welcome to the fabulous world of The King’s Musketeers - a world of dashing swordsmen (and some swordswomen), flirtatious coquettes, foppish royalty and scheming ladies who control the true reins of power. Set in Paris in 1628, The King’s Musketeers is true much more to the spirit of Alexander Dumas than to mere history.

This classic game originally written by Cruel Hoax Productions (Tom Jewell, Yvonne Kaplan, Doug Kaufman, Sandy Petersen, Al Roireau, and Lawrence Schick) will be updated and expanded for February 2013. This production of The King’s Musketeers is a UK Freeforms event, who gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Cruel Hoax Productions in bringing the game to the UK.

Passion & Steel

The King’s Musketeers is set in a specific historical time and place, and many of its plots and characters have a historical basis, but it is not a recreation of history. All of these historical details are merely a background, a setting for playing out stories of love and swordplay in the swashbuckling genre. In swashbucklers, Emotion is King, and everything is done for effect, whether dramatic or humorous. To get in tune with swashbuckling, forget about careful consideration of your actions, and just act. Be reckless! Overreact to everything! When you join a cause (even temporarily), commit yourself wholeheartedly! Hyperbole should be your watchword. Keep in mind:

• Friends are loyal unto death, and leap instantly to defend one another.
• Lovers are bound by ties stronger than life itself, and alternate between blissful passion and direst tragedy.
• Enemies are despicable dogs whose crimes cry out for vengeance!
• Success is a cause for celebration, grand gestures, and loud boasting.
• Failure engenders rage, bitter recriminations, and plans for terrible revenge.

One of the genre conventions we have imposed is the “Final Chapter Effect,” whereby (under normal conditions) no player character may duel another player character to the death until Sunday. Platoons of guards may be killed, but you know the hero and his nemesis never square off for a final duel until the climax of the story. In The King’s Musketeers you make up the story, but it’s best for everyone if you stay within genre bounds.

But those bounds give you a lot of latitude, especially if you remember to do everything with gusto!

Paris, 1628
While Spain declines into stagnation and the Germanies tear themselves to pieces, France enjoys an economic boom and a burgeoning population. The ancient city of Paris, swollen with over a quarter-million inhabitants, has burst it bounds and is spreading over the countryside. Its streets teem with craftsmen and traders, beggars and lackeys, soldiers, merchants, and priests. Thousands file into the great Cathedral of Nôtre Dame for mass, and thousands more throng the Place de La Grève for the regular public executions. A dozen bridges span the Seine, each crowded with food-sellers, street merchants, toothdrawers, pimps, charlatans and quacks, thieves and cutpurses. Occasionally the throng parts to allow a noble’s carriage to pass, the citizens watching with admiration, envy, or hatred, according to their natures. The carriage passes on to the gates of the Louvre, where it is stopped by the guards. Several beggars shuffle forward and cry plaintively, but the guards thrust them back. One guard steps up to the carriage; there is a silvery laugh from within, a slender hand briefly shows the guard a ring, and the carriage is waved on through.

The Nobility
At base the nobility are a warring class, only a very few generations from medieval feudalism. Richelieu characterizes the nobility as “useless and burdensome to the state” — except in time of war, which is always, in this period. Every man of noble birth can be called upon to serve in time of war. They are expected to provide their own equipment and support troops, but only nobles can and must be conscripted in wartime.

“No land without a lord”: theoretically, every piece of real estate in France ultimately belongs to a noble by right of heredity or royal appointment. Nobles’ income must come from rents or from the fees associated with holding a royal office. Other than gambling and wartime loot, those are the only possible sources of wealth for the nobility. They are forbidden to engage in trade or professions on pain of losing their noble station. Landed nobles are exempt from the taille, the royal head-tax.

The privileges of the nobility are generally upheld by the commons because everyone aspires to join the nobility! Members of the professional and trading classes can join the nobility tacitly by receiving appointments to high office, or explicitly by receiving “Letters Patent” from the King, which ennoble one to the Rank specified. (Letters Patent can also improve the station of one already noble, turning a marquis into a duke, for example.)

The problem of the nobles is that they are trapped in feudal economics in an age of mercantilism. Rents stay the same, but prices rise, so the nobles quarrel over royal offices, demand higher fees from the King, and are always conniving to get control of new tracts of land. The more land a noble controls, the more dependants he can support, and the more dependants he has, the stronger he is.

[Note that the King, at the peak of the pyramid of nobility, has all of their problems in spades. He is supposed to run the entire national government from his rents and taxes, plus pay fees to all the royal officeholders. In consequence he has no choice but to sell his appointments to those who can best afford them. In return, it is perfectly legal for all but the highest office-holders to sell their offices to others, or pass them on to their heirs.]

Passion & Steel

The King's Musketeers has a romanticised seventeenth century background, with no supernatural or steampunk stuff. The game is set entirely in Paris, with the occasional side adventure outside it.

Passion & Steel

If you want some recommended reading or viewing to get you into the right mood:



The Three Musketeers (pick a version - but the popular ones are the 1973 Richard Lester and the 1993 Disney one)

The Four Musketeers

Dangerous Liasions

The Man in the Iron Mask

The Count of Monte Cristo


Le Bossu (a great movie, but with a very French ending)

D'Artagnan's Daughter

Cyrano de Bergerac

The Three Musketeers

Twenty Years After

The Count of Monte Cristo



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