Thursday, 5 October 2017

Brunnen 1795 Appendix - The Characters

As a GM I always love the character creation part of the RPG process, despite the fact that I, as a player, am rather lazy in this respect.  Over the last 25 years or so (I've resurrected one character from back in the day at least twice and another multiple times, including appearances in the background as an NPC (see Das Englander).  This has never posed a problem as Loz (our other regular GM) and I are Moorcock nerds so we both embrace the lazy concept of our characters essentially being avatars of The Eternal Buffoon.

This trait has, rather adorably, rubbed off on one of our younger players whom has taken to playing variants of the same character in everything, whatever the genre, the mighty (or otherwise) Glen Smith.

On this occasion the players really rose to the occasion and provided detailed and well reasoned backgrounds, even finding ace pics from t'interwebs that then led me to have to explain why photographs existed in 1795. Read on to find out...


Magda Jurgenstein, artist, previously of the underground nihilist group Düsternkinder, who painted solely in shades of grey and brown. Upon completion of each work, it was set on fire and destroyed, without ceremony. As this was done by the artist themselves, some doubted any paintings ever existed. Magda copes with the lack of artistic expression, and the horror of the mundane, with a raging laudanum habit. She is currently employed in a meat processing factory - initially denied employment due to her sexuality (and penchant for wearing skulls on her head), she was granted leave to work in the filleting section after her knife skills were described by the manager as 'sublime, like a razor edged spider weaving a delicate web of muscle destruction.' She works alone, at night.

The manager, one Viktor Unstahl, was reported for uttering such prose - he is currently languishing in a Schloss dungeon, awaiting trial for possession of undeclared poetic tomes.

Kapitän Johann Wilhelm von Archenholz, aka Das Kapitän

German painter, sculptor, alchemist and chef. Between 1775 and 1776 he travelled in France and Italy, making numerous drawings of courtesans, which provided the subjects for many paintings finished on his return to Brunnen. Archenkolz fell into disrepute in Venice, when commissioned by Doge Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo for a religious sculpture. Archenkolz delivered a controversial interpretation of the martyrdom of St Jermome and was imprisoned on charges of blasphemy and witchcraft. He escaped, albeit after losing an eye during a duel, and fled across Europe.

Agnes Kohl (Stage name: Dove Drinkwater)

Scared of the dark and plagued by nightmares of an eternal night since childhood, Agnes was kept hidden away from society by her frightened, well-meaning but inept parents. Her only companions were her sister Irma, cousin Ruben and the family maid, Griselda, a great teller of tales. Though often kept inside, with Griselda's help Agnes was able to see the world through stories.

Her parents and Irma were two weeks into a three week journey to visit distant family the night that the star fell. Agnes was reading a book about witchcraft by Eloisa Di Pietro when she found herself seized by an overwhelming sense of dread. She ran to Griselda's room only to find her old friend dead, having passed quietly in her sleep. Agnes ran to her cousin's house nearby but he was not home. Hopeless, she tried to decide what to do next; then she made the mistake of looking to the sky.

She ran aimlessly, the story of The Order of the Silent Sisters of St Ekaterina in her mind, the last tale that Griselda had shared with her. She decided she would run to them, throw herself at their feet, rip the tongue from her mouth, do whatever it would take to hide with them. Agnes was too frantic to consider the fact that she had no idea how to find them.

After a few minutes of running she came across a well-lit building. She crept to a window almost entirely hidden by branches and looked inside. It was, she would soon discover, the Moon and Pfennig. She watched the second half of the 'The Boatman and the King' and listened to a lot of poetry (some of quite questionable quality) from her hiding spot. The world inside that room, a room of warm laughter and candles and fire, carried on indiscriminately as the world outside raged.

When the music started she entered, and it was not long until she taken under a thespian's wing.  Though she has lost her fear of darkness since the star fell (having realised that it was not the night that haunted her, but the dread of its inevitable approach), she rents a room at the highest point of the Moon and Pfennig, as Agnes has discovered she is happiest living in a place that is unrelentingly busy and bustling. She longs to forever be surrounded by people, noise and artificial light.

Glën Schmitt

Born 1750. His mother (Lilliana) married well but died in child birth. His father (Mutschek) was a successful playwright who penned such classics as ‘The Moon Under Oakfell’, ‘Silent Wood’ and ‘Joseph Ullage: A Tale of Sorrow’. His father also wrote propaganda pieces for the Holy Roman Empire. The combination of his father’s wealth, social status and crushing depression (due to Lilliana’s untimely death) made for a strange upbringing for Glën. His father would invite illustrious people of great fame over for banquets and Glën would spend many evenings watching through door cracks as his father engaged in wild sex parties with prostitutes from the brothel of Rosenstrasse.

Though a broken man, Mutschek treat Glën well. The finest silk clothing and the best food one could eat, meant that he soon became fattened and perpetually sick. By his late teens, he spent most of his time in a permanent state of drunkenness (ale and absinthe are his favoured tipples) and did little more than sleep with prostitutes and eat, ‘forcibly fattened goose pie’. One day Mutschek came home in a particularly drunken stupor after a fight with group of local peasants who were angered by his most recent play, ‘Holy Roman Order’, which depicted poor people as being a sort of pond-scum underclass. Upon arriving home, a scuffle broke out and he struck Glën down with his longsword cutting off his left ear and leaving a 4-inch-long scar across his face that stretches from his left eyebrow to the top right corner of his upper lip. Glën fought his father off and put him to bed.

The debacle shook Glën. He realised he had never been a fight before and that he was fat, weak and now also permanently disfigured. So, he spent his early 20’s training hard to lose weight & bulk up, learn to fight and even got a job at the local engineers learning to operate heavy machinery. Along with his physical training he also set out on a quest to improve his emotional and spiritual self. As part of this journey, he joined his father’s local parish in central Brunnen and quickly became one of their largest donators and service attendees. It was during this time that he became friends with the youngest and newest Bishop, Josef Furcht.
Living in the shadow of his father, Glën always felt small and insignificant. So, in his mid-30’s he decided to pursue a career as a playwright. After all, his father had paid so much for his education it would seem wasted to not use it in a productive way. It also provided ample opportunity to prove to his father that he was worthy of the family fortune when the time came.

Sadly, when time came to put on his first play for public performance, it was met with great protest as the locals had become aware of Glën‘s heritage. Instead of arguing with the peasants, he took to organising a meeting in the local parish to calm the local’s anger and stitch the tear in the figurative fabric that held the community and the church together. The event did not go well. A great fight broke out almost immediately after Glën began his opening speech. To this day, the fight is known as ‘The Brawl of Brunnen’ and is arguably considered to be the event that kick-started the 1787 uprising.

In 1790, 3 years following ‘The Brawl’ (as it is un-affectionately known), Glën met a peasant lady named Mongsida and fell in love. He became quickly fond of her family and, during many a drunken evening with her brothers and father, heard the peasant’s side of the argument regarding the church and wealthy families like his own. In July of 1790 Glën proposed marriage to Mongsida and took her to meet his father for the first time.

Mutschek however, took a strong and loud dislike to the idea that Glën was to marry a peasant and that evening, whilst Glën and her were sleeping, he took the same longsword he used to disfigure Glën with and drove it through the heart of Mongsida. He awoke to the scene of his dead fiancé and broke out into such an extravagant rage that he murdered 3 guards whilst in pursuit of his father who had fled.

Since the falling of the star in 1792, Glën has become a prominent face of the uprising. He is famous for his plays which are set in spring and (mostly) tell tales of the poor rising to defeat the rich and powerful. Oft times his works are performed live with accompaniment from Klaus Engel's Progressive Oompah Collective. Examples of his work include ‘The Unholy Roman Empire’, ‘Mongsida and I’ and ‘The Second Children’s Crusade’ (based on a painting found in the Moon and Pfennig).

He found additional underground fame when he masterminded the smuggling of 260 peasants out of central Brunnen during a Holy Roman Empire led mass execution in 1796. He can often be found in the Moon and Pfennig meeting with other artists and playwrights developing new pro-uprising propaganda. He is still yet to seek out his coward father and holds a burning rage for anybody associated with the church or the Holy Roman Empire. He will not rest until Mongsida is avenged.

Frederick von Gabler

Name - Gabler:

Meaning & History: Occupational name for someone who made or sold forks, from German gabel "fork".

Born in 1774 in the city of Eisenach, north of Frankfurt, Freddie has wondered around aimlessly since finishing his education. He played instruments since a young age and left home to join a travelling band. They parted ways after a year, due to artistic differences (and Hans wanting to roger him, frequently).

He moved from village to village, acquainting with the local frauleins, busking for money for food, drink, and a roof over my head. Often the "ladies" would put him up, but he moved on when he got bored, when they stopped giving him money or when he was frequently run out of town by angry fathers and/or husbands, often with his skin barely intact.

In 1792, he joined the Prussian army as they offered more money than he was making. As the French Revolution sparked a new war between France and several of its neighbours, including Prussia and Austria, he marched on Paris with the Duke of Brunswick, an army that was smashed by the French at the battle of Valmy. On the eve of the battle the star fell in the east, and the following day the blood of the dead and the dying turned black as it mingled with the blood, churned by boots and the black rain that fell throughout the day.

It was a bloody affair but Freddie fled the field with his life, disillusioned and sickened. He tried to pick up where he left off but life had changed, he had changed. He started writing poetry, and added it to his repertoire, busking and performing, whether on stage or on the street. However, the ongoing censure of the arts ensured it became tougher than before to make enough marks for beer and food.

Manfred Krupp

A romantic artist, known for his watercolours that direct "the viewer's gaze towards metaphysical dimensions". He was in the Pomeranian town of Greifswald at the Baltic Sea, where he began his studies in art as a young man. He studied in Copenhagen until 1777, before settling in Brunnen. He reflects in his works the growing disillusionment with materialistic society that is giving rise to a new appreciation of spirituality.

As the ideals of early Romanticism passes from fashion, he comes to be viewed as an eccentric and melancholy character, out of touch with the times. His patrons have fallen away living in relative poverty and now increasingly dependent on the charity of friends. He often spends long periods of the day and night walking alone through the woods and fields, often beginning his strolls before sunrise...

Minna/ Hans

Minna was born in 1780 in the brothel on Rosenstrasse. She had no last name that she knew of. Her mother Else was a famed beauty and a favourite among those that frequent the red light district in Brunnen. Else adored her daughter and tried to be a good mother. She frequently resolved to leave the brothel and take work somewhere as a domestic.
Shunned by decent society she had no choice but to stay at the brothel. Unaware of the cruelties of the outside world Minna’s childhood was one of relative luxury. Else was showered with gifts by her wealthy patrons and they never wanted for anything. The most generous of which were the clergy members she often ‘entertained’ of an evening. Minna was loved by the women in the brothel and was at her happiest watching them at their toilette, laughing and joking with each other.

When she turned twelve everything started to go wrong.
Gossip was that Fraulein Wilhemine, the madam of the brothel, had decided that Minna was nearly ready for her debut. It was clear to see that Minna had nothing of Else’s beauty or charm. The child was awkward, clumsy and altogether too scrawny. Wilhemine was undeterred and intended to make a return on her investment. The women would take it in turns dressing her up and applying liberal amounts of powder and rouge. Minna enjoyed this newfound attention and the opportunity to play dress up until she came upon her mother weeping one day. When she asked her what was wrong she simply said ‘I couldn’t save you’ and elaborated no further. Alarmed, Minna demanded that Ingrid, one of the younger working girls, tell her exactly what her ‘debut’ would entail. Pitying her, Ingrid tried to explain what was to come as gently as possible. From this moment on, Minna resolved to run away from home.

One night Minna was playing in the kitchen when she heard shrieks from upstairs. Fearing it to be her mother’s voice she hastened to her chambers. She stumbled upon a scene far beyond her comprehension. Her mother crying and tearing at a great beast of a man bearing down on her. She grabbed the nearest object (his latest gift- a heavy gilt hand mirror) and clubbed him over the head. The man died instantly. Else scrambled out from underneath him and held Minna for a long moment. Through tears, Else explained that this man was a very important man in the church- one of the highest ranking bishops. Minna would have to leave the brothel and never come back. Else enlisted Ingrid’s help to find an assortment of leftover men’s clothing and cut off Minna’s long brown hair. Else reasoned she would be safer as a boy in the dark streets of Brunnen, safe from Fraulein Wilhemine and hopefully, safe from the wrath of the church.

Since that fateful day Minna has been masquerading as Hans the street urchin, eventually falling in with the patrons of the Moon and Pfennig. Hans has since been known to tread the boards as of late, rather confusingly as a girl pretending to be a boy who is playing a girl. He has a usefully high voice, ideal for portraying Shakespearean heroines, unusual in a boy of fifteen.

Other People of Brunnen

Ruben Kohl

His first night working for the city guard, Ruben attended the scene of the murder of Tamás Németh and held the man as he died. Though usually unwaveringly diligent and loyal to his employers, Kohl finds he cannot resist keeping any works by Tamás that he confiscates. When he finds a new piece he hears the man's last breath in his ear again, as clearly as he would if he were truly in Kohl's arms once more.

Kohl dreams of Tamás often. His favourite work is 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'.

Connelly (Das Englander)

Connelly is a drunk and, most probably, a liar. His artistic efforts are desultory, his poetry and spoken word juvenile at best. He does show some dilettante talent with watercolours but, as he is paradoxically fond of saying, “Watercolours? Pah… wankercolours!” He is prone to fits of weeping and abject self-pity. 

Connelly's one contribution to the community at the Moon and Pfennig is the box-like contraption he calls the Talbotype, depite his never having used it to any useful effect. Even then it only came to the attention of landlord Adelfried Wurfel when Das Englander had exhausted his resources with which to pay for his room and vittels (he boarded there at the time). Adelfried, unsure of the value of his latest payment but generally impressed by the evident workmanship of the contraption, stood it in the corner by the big fire and it was some months before Connelly, once again in his cups, explained the purpose more clearly to Kapitän Johann Wilhelm von Archenholz. Das Kapitän became obsessed with the baffling image on heavy paper that Connelly presented to him that night (see below) and he bought the contraption from Adelfried and spirited it away to his lodgings. Some weeks later he made a triumphant return to the Moon and Pfennig and delighted the patronage with his bizarre claims that he could capture any likeness with the one-eyed, heavy timber box that he now dubbed the Heliobscura. Sotted on liebfraumilch and terrible cognac the revellers enjoyed the show, particularly the WHUMPHS of the flashed gunpowder that accompanied every pose and pout before the box. Days later however they were astounded to see the results and ever since the vain and artful have clamoured for further exposures, particularly the ever demonstrative Manfred Krupp with his penchant for mock-violent drama and spectacle. The results of the marvellous Heliobscura adorn the walls of Adelfried's upper salon where the artful and the pretentious hold court and admire their own images. And get really pissed.

Occasionally the provenance of the device, and the picture that fascinates Das Kapitän. become the subject of conversation amongst the patrons. It never lasts for long though, as Connelly and his works are poorly regarded and not considered in any way meritous or mysterious, and their attention and focus generally turn back to themselves in short order.

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