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The Last Days Of Constantinople: Role-Playing Adventure In The Byzantine Empire
by Mike Bennighof (Avalanche Press)
"Rome's last stand! April 1453. For a thousand years, the Byzantine Empire has been civilization's guardian, carrying on Rome's legacy. Now 100,000 battle-hardened Turkish warriors have surrounded the great city & are making ready to storm its mighty walls.
"Find the young empress - if she even exists. Stand alongside the last Roman emperor in a climactic fight to the death. Fight Vlad the Impaler, nastiest of the Sultan's allies. Meet the eastern world's most exotic temptress. Wield new weapons: Greek Fire, arquebuses & the Great Cannon. And as the Turks pour into the breaches, opportunities to hack abound. A stand-alone adventure, or use its detailed background as source material for your own campaign."
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I ran this adventure for my friends up in Portland on December 28, 2004. Since I was running Constantinople as "90% true" to history I didn't use the D20 D&D rules embedded in the module. For greater realism, I used the GDW House Rules found in Twilight: 2000, version 2.2. and Traveller: The New Era. I've made some modifications, mostly simplifying for the sake of ease and to reflect the more primitive background. My source material for this was from my earlier work on La Conquista.
The author, Dr. Mike Bennighof, has done an oustanding job of the careful balancing act required in crafting an exciting historical adventure. Several of the NPCs are real people of the time, including the emperor himself. Detail is only added as it moves the story along. Though I didn't use them, more magic-rich backgrounds are offered. Optional adventure 'plug-ins' -- like the Trench Raid -- make it easy for the referee to control the pacing of the module. And finally, the main plot has three alternative goal scenarios to suit the referee, particularly useful if players have already read the book.
In preparation for this tournament with 8 players I created handouts and adventure art. A new idea I had was plastic stands with character portraits (borrowed from Osprey military books) and listing important notes about their background and abilities. I had the players choose their characters based on these stands, rather than the more detailed character sheets. The stands also helped as "name tags" for the other players during play.
Also new was giving each character a secret to keep, which would sometimes put players at cross-purposes. This was very successful, leading to many raised eyebrows and a few laughs. Less successful was the honor point system I adapted from the module rules, which was regarded with some apathy by the players.
In the end, we all had a great time. Play time was about 4 hours, my limit because it was a weeknight. It was a challenge keeping play under that time -- especially as any ref knows -- with 8 players. I basically dumped the optional plug-ins, and the players helped by being extra clever and efficient, which enabled them to leave with their mission objective before Constantinople fell.
Memorable moments include running the Turkish blockade, when the archers and arquebusiers of the party poured murderous fire on the Turkish corsair pursuing them. The enemy ship was left in their wake, sails on fire and its captain dead. Gina's House of Joy provided some laughs, when one party member decided to privately question a male prostitute, merely because he called himself "The Baron."
In all, a very satisfying adventure. I'm not surprised it was an Origins Award Nominee for Best RPG Adventure, 2001.
[Players & their characters: Jason (Thorsten of Danzig - German Teutonic Knight), Kelley (Bertrand De La Salle - French arquebusier), Sky (Daniil of Korela - Russian mercenary), Ross (Diego de Alvarado - Spanish Knight Hospitaller), Liz (Francesco di Vaccio - Genoese arquebusier), Cindy (Giovanni da Isola - Venetian archer), Victoria (Romina Sidi - Turkish-Italian merchant), Chris (ZoŽ Vatatzes - Byzantine actress)]
Some books indispensible for art and background:
Constantinople 1453: The End of Byzantium The Osprey book about the fall of Constantinople. Extremely Useful.
Byzantine Armies Ad 1118-1461. Osprey Men-at-Arms Series #287.
Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1774. Osprey Men at Arms Series #140.
Character portraits and background: The female character portraits were borrowed from the Larry Elmore art gallery. The rest came from several books in the Osprey Men-At-Arms Series, some of which boast the art of Angus McBride.
El Cid & The Reconquista, 1050-1492. #200.
German Medieval Armies, 1300-1500. #166.
Medieval European Armies. #50.
Medieval Russian Armies, 1250-1500. #367.
Italian Medieval Armies, 1300-1500. #136.
Two further adventures that can be used after Last Days of Constantinople:
Greenland Saga: The Lost Norse Colony
"Spring, 1454. Almost five hundred years ago, Viking colonists came to Greenland. For centuries, their colony thrived on the very edge of the known world. Then they disappeared.
"In this d20 sourcebook in the spirit of Last Days Of Constantinople, a small party of 2nd through 4th leve characters investigates the decline of Europe's most distant outpost. Face the bloodthirsty Uniped, mythical foe of explorer's. Meet the mysterious angakoks, Eskimo magic-users. And find out what has happened to the deluded, degenerate remnants of a once-great warrior people."
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Vlad The Impaler: Blood Prince Of Wallachia
"Evil in Human Form. For over 500 years, people have spoken his name in whispers: Vlad the Impaler. Prince of Wallachia. Dracula. The books and movies paint him as a monster, a madman, a destroyer of souls. The reality is worse. This d20 system sourcebook tells the real story of Wallachia's blood prince, with the real Romanian folklore that inspired Bram Stoker. Add new monsters and prestige classes from the Wallachian setting, plus an adventure featuring Vlad that is compatible with LAST DAYS OF CONSTANTINOPLE. And it all really happened."
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(See Also: Bram Stoker's Dracula RPG)
Below is the link to download my Constantinople 1453 characters & rules modifications. Files are in MS Word & Excel, pics are JPEG.
Click here to download