If ever you play a character that uses poison, there is one person in history you must know: Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de’ Medici.
This little Italian girl became the Queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici, and ruled for nearly 30 years. Her sons may have reigned, yes, but there were few times during that period when Catherine was not in control of the monarchy.
Anything you read about her should be interpreted with severe skepticism; she was a powerful woman in a tumultuous time, which means she was written about largely by people who didn’t like her. That doesn’t mean necessarily that those people are wrong, or what they are reporting is inaccurate… but they might be. However, they are accurately reporting their own opinions about poisoners, and people who get power the “wrong” way, and they are recording a whole pile of poisoning ideas!
For example, she was portrayed as using diamond dust as a poison, delivering poison via apples, fish sauce, gloves, or the pages of a book, and experimenting with poisons on the poor under the guise of giving out free health care.
A poisoner is a tricky character to play, especially in the more combat oriented larps; dungeon crawling is hardly a strong suit. Another issue is that NPCs don’t always persist, and a poisoning is something that often needs a lot of research and thought. For combat, my favorite route is a stealthy character with a reliable means to transmit the poison and the ability to get the hell out of dodge if it doesn’t work.
However, a poisoner might well be a fascinating NPC, especially as a long-running antagonist to the players. MacGuffins are a fantastic method of poison delivery, and pitting combat players against an enemy that cannot be defeated via combat is a clever way to deal with things like power creep. If you can employ half the creativity attributed to Catherine, your players will have more story and conflict than they know what to do with. Just make certain there is a way out for them… unless its a horror larp. In which case, the fact that their very environment seems to be turning against them is perfect for inducing paranoia.
Aren’t you happy it’s impossible to relay poisons via blog, now?
Image: Scene from La Reine Margot, the story of Catherine de’ Medici’s daughter, and wife of the target of that poisoned book.
Mortal Kombat taught me that folding fans can be a weapon; some judicious research confirmed the existence of both Japanese and Korean war fans. Even more tantalizingly, fans as an accessory have been in use in Asia since 2000 BCE; in the Mediterranean since at least 300 BCE; and in Europe since at least the 500s CE.
This little accessory seems perfect for classes that require touch-based attacks, especially if your game rules are designed to allow PCs to avoid being directly touched by other people’s hands. It might take a little bit of modification for combat, though, as most of the readily available fans are made from plastic or wood so splintering or overly painful blows might be an issue; depends on how your group plays.
The other perfect thing about this accessory is how diverse it is; the technology is so common and so old that any character might have it, or have come across it in their travels. And while not all fans in history were specifically for combat, it is easily converted by the creative weaponsmith using materials available in nearly any game setting.
Maybe your Ogre took that cherry blossom confection off a Samurai. What? It is red, like blood, and keeps Ogre cool in summer! Or perhaps your crafting character will start selling them in game during the warmer months, at a tidy profit, and poisoning their chief rival besides. Something this old and this common can be quite the roleplay tool.