Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas
Many people are familiar with the first book, but fewer read the entire saga. It is an epic of love and heartbreak, adventure and disaster, trust and betrayal.
Under the Red Robe, by Stanley J Weyman
The duelist and rake Gil de Berault is called upon by Cardinal Richelieu to find a Huguenot nobleman who’s fled across the border to Spain. Set immediately prior to the Day of the Dupes, it introduces de Berault, known as “The Black Death” for his deadly swordplay.
The Laughing Cavalier and The First Sir Percy, by Baroness Emma Orczy
Buoyed by the success of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the baroness reached back to the 17th century to chronicle the life of one of Percy Blakes’s eponymous ancestor, an Anglo-Dutch mercenary known by the nom-de-guerre “Diogenes.” The stories take place in Holland simultaneous with the events of The Three Musketeers in France. Diogenes is a good-hearted scoundrel, and the stories are classic swashbuckling tales.
The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and Bardelys the Magnificent, by Rafael Sabatini
The first two are pirate tales, set among the corsairs of the Barbary Coast and the buccaneers of the Spanish Main, respectively. The third tells the story of a courtier engaging in a complicated courtship at the time of Montmorency’s rebellion in 1631.
Captain Alatriste, Purity of Blood, The Sun over Breda, The King’s Gold, The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet, and Pirates of the Levant, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
The saga of the Spanish soldier and swordsman Diego Alatriste, a contemporary of D’Artagnan and Diogenes. Like the Dumas stories, the Alatriste tales present a darker, grittier view of the golden age of swashbucklers than is often portrayed in film. The latest book in the series published in English, Pirates of the Levant, includes many elements which are likely to appear in Le Ballet de l’Acier.
The Grey Cloak, by Howard MacGrath
Mistaken identity and a flight from justice bring together the two Frances, old and new, in this tale set following the events of the Fronde.
Lord of Samarcand and Other Adventure Tales of the Old Orient, by Robert E. Howard
Not strictly tales of swashbucklers, nonetheless these stories, in particular “The Shadow of the Vulture,” inspired me run a Flashing Blades campaign. These are tales of crusaders and others adventuring among the cultures of the “Orient,” from the palaces of China and passes of The Roof of the World to the souks of Egypt and the walls of Vienna. The feel of Howard’s stories infuse my planning for the campaign.
“Capitan” comic series, by Fred and Liliane Funcken
The Capitan is a Gascon soldier in Paris in the time of Louis XIII, engaging in various adventures including one with d’Artagnan. The Belgian couple’s comic provides not only great adventures but some of the best illustrations of early 17th century Paris – both would go on to great fame as illustrators of militaria books.
The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, directed by Richard Lester (1973 and 1974, respectively)
There have been numerous film adaptations of the the Three Musketeers over the decades, but this remains my favorite, and it is closest in feel to our campaign.
Le Bossu (“The Hunchback,” released in the United States as On Guard), directed by Phillipe de Broca (1997)
Set at the end of the 17th century, this movie is essential viewing for any fan of the genre. The story of a sword-for-hire who finds himself tasked with an unexpected responsibility, the movie includes great duels, humor, and romance. Subtitled.
Vatel, directed by Roland Joffé (2000)
The legend of François Vatel is at the heart of this costume drama set during the reign of Louis XIV; it provides an excellent presentation of court life and intrigue in 17th century France.
Molière, directed by Laurent Tirard (2007)
France’s answer to Shakespeare in Love, this comedy presents the “lost years” of the French playwright and actor Molière as providing the real-life experiences that would become Tartuffe. The movie illustrates the relationship between the ambitious bourgeoisie and the proud nobility. Subtitled.
Bardelys the Magnificent, directed by King Vidor (1926)
An adaptation of the story by Rafael Sabatini, this silent swashbuckler was thought lost for decades. Fortunately a print (minus one reel) was found and restored in recent years. The highlight of the film is an escape from the gallows, with stunts which would be right at home in a modern Hong Kong actioner.
Romeo and Juliet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968)
This classic story of star-crossed lovers is also a primer on vendetta and features an excellent dueling sequence, first between Tybalt and Mercutio, then between Romeo and Tybalt.
The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner (1987)
For goofy fun and great one-liners, The Princess Bride is hard to beat.