[Before anyone starts questioning by old-school cred, I was a player when my friends and I ran X2 Castle Amber and we never got to Averoigne during the campaign. Thus, I never had occasion to see the bibliography that Moldvay provided.]
Smith's The Beast of Averoigne caught me by complete surprise. There are stories that really excite and entertain. There are those that inspire. This one sent explosions of creativity bursting through my brain.
First of all, I love the groundedness of the story. I felt comfortable in the world — as if I were somehow familiar with it despite the fact I had never before read anything about it.
Secondly, I love the implication that the Beast itself is extraterrestrial. This leaves all kinds of room for whatever monstrosities one wants to inflict upon a campaign world (gonzo or no).
Finally, as someone who has not only spent quite a bit of time with Holmes, but extrapolating an assumed world from those rules, I have to ask: Is there a better example of a literary world for playing Holmes in than Smith's Averoigne? Personally, I can't think of any.
It hits so many of the notes I have found coming out of the Holmes edition:
- It implies a Christian civilization at the edge of the wilderness.
- Although tolerated, arcane magic is frowned upon as being pagan and corrupting.
- There are Inquisitors that monitor and arrest wizards who do not use their magic to benefit the citizens of Averoigne.
- The corruption of arcane magic dates to before the advent of Christianity, and runs deep.
- There are powerful magic items which date from these ancient times.
- There are plenty of ruins and abandoned chateaus (and therefore, potential dungeons) available for exploring.
- I could go on…
From a purely (and geeky) historical point of view, the southern part of France (which is approximately where Averoigne would be) is a fascinating model for any campaign — especially if one chooses A.D. 1100-1350 or so. Pope Clement V refused to move to Rome. As a result, the papal court moved to France. A total of seven popes reigned from the Papal palace in Avignon. In addition, two antipopes used Avignon as their headquarters. This juicy history is chuck full of possibilities for all kinds of campaigns.
I also have in my possession an hagiography written by St. Gregory of Tours. In it he details the lives of several Gaulic saints from the 5th-6th centuries. Though this is well outside the time frame of an Averoigne-based campaign, it does lay the foundation for the beginnings of Christianity in the campaign world. These saints can be the background noise that defines the Christian civilization.
Finally, with the campaign world being so firmly grounded in a real-world location and time-frame, the clothes, armor, weapons, names, etc of characters can be clearly delineated. There are plenty of books available that can help define what it is a character can expect to be able to own and what they might look like.
I love it when a story starts me down a path like this…I just hope these seeds can someday come to fruition.