Ideas needed for Constantinople

My players are about to visit Constantinople. They are visiting in 1200 AD, before the city fell. A Companion is there to negotiate the marriage of one of Alexios' (or Isaac's) daughters to Roman Mstislavich of Galicia-Volhynia, and two of the magi are riding along to do some Hermetic butt-sniffing with Thermakopolis/Xylinites/Moero's Garden (trade books, etc).

I have some ideas for what will happen on the trip there and on the trip back, and I have both the Hermetic and non-Hermetic negotiations mapped out. What I'd like to add is a side event or two that showcases the fact that it IS the Queen of Cities they are visiting.

How would YOU handle a visit to Constantinople in its glory days?

Forgot to mention -- the other Companion who is tagging along is a rogue/assassin type, so ideally I would want to give him a bit of a chance to shine as well.

Constantinople is an ideal spot for a Seeker to find ancient knowledge as it never fell like Rome, so who knows what hidden information/secrets are lurking beneath the civilised veneer on the surface; the sneaky companion could be employed for some "second storey work" or outright murder (of mundanes, of course... cough). Triamona was a Greek maga, from Thessalay, so story hooks could introduce a political Bonisagus into any number of historical episodes. Don't forget that with the presence of the Hagia Sofia and other churches this will be an interesting place for anyone attempting anything magical as the Dominion holds sway as much as it does in Rome. Perhaps in your saga the Orthodox Church has less of an issue with magi; this could be an interesting twist for those who come from a Roman Catholic background.


The collection of relics in the base of this column should have something for every group and campaign.


For Constantinople, you should make this site your best friend:
It is a reconstruction in 3D of Constantinople in 1200, with many of its iconic buildings modeled in 3D also.
Seeing this will inspire you for many stories I'm sure, and really help immerse your players in this wonderful city.

Some ideas for stories:

Court protocol is very intricate in Constantinople. Maybe the player will need the help of an established courtier, who can give them a few tasks:

  • Eliminate discreetly someone from a rival family, to gain a better position at court;
  • "Convince" a Jewish moneylender to conviently "forget" the money owned by the courtier;
  • Get his money back from a double-dealing italian merchant (or maybe the merchant was honest after all...);
  • Get a loved one out of a monastery, or the reverse, to get rid of that mother-in-law he hates so...

There is a large number of churches and basillicas, and some monasteries inside the walls too. Some of them are up to 700 years old, filled with relics, books and wonders. An enterprising thief might find many things of interests there, and a lot of profit for the greedy. Beware of Angels and Saints though, Constantinople at that time is probably the holiest city in the christian world!

As Constantinople is a major crossroad, you have people from the north and the south, from the east and the west. Players could virtually meet people from any part of the world. You want to introduce a Sahir from the east? There are more than one probably. With the Varangian Guard, you have a couple of thousands of Anglo-Saxon and Danes guarding the Emperor, who might have brought with them strange magic and items of power. And obviously, Constantinople markets are renowned throughout the medieval world for their exotic products found nowhere else.

And don't forget the underbelly of this great city. Constantinople had an impressive sewer system, and maybe up to 100 cisterns for the water supply, like this one: Who knows what might be lurking there?

Hope that helps!

Hah! My current companion is Eirene Angelina, born to Alexios III Angelos the Emperor of Constantinople and the Roman Empire and the empire's true ruler, her mother, Euphrosyne Kamatera.

During Alexios' reign he was thoroughly pillaging the coffers of the city, as well as selling and sending off relics of magnificent power and value. I fine happenstance story could involve the exposure of the robbery of the city by it's Emperor, or you could have the assassin companion be sent into the city to murder a agent that is selling such relics, bought and paid by a bishop in Nicaea.

There is also the intrigue of the magi being taken for Latins coming in to "spy" on the Roman Empire! Then of course there is the mundane stories involving the dark underbelly of Constantinople.

As for show casing the city, two ideas I have had:

First have a massive army show up outside the cities walls. This army is lead by some disposed general or such, then watch as the city officials deal in the Byzantine way with the problem. Normally buying off the invaders... IE maybe the magi get wrapped up somehow in having to take the treasure in gold and silver out to pay the ransom the army demands. ((during this time there were often times armies fighting each other just for the chance to go to the city to ransom their leaving the city un-harmed... and the Byzantines simply bought them off or payed a second army to attack the first preemptively))

OR have the magi deal with vast numbers and levels of regios, have them scattered and maddening for those with the Gift. Having Divine and Magic and Infernal and Fey hiding in different corners and alleys of the city, perhaps some grog or companion becoming embroiled in a story that requires the magi transversing the many levels and types. This may not be accurate and by the book of Ars, but you could have fun with it if you don't feel as bound by rules as some.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. I've got quite a few ideas from the discussion. :slight_smile: Probably going to send them to play in the sewers/water cisterns (there's got to be SOME significance to the Medusa column bases in the Basilica cistern), have the Rogue companion get involved in fixing a chariot race (the Greens/Blues are historically mostly defunct by this point, but I can change that for the sake of a good story)... lots of things to be done. :slight_smile:

I highly recommend to anyone interested in running a game in the Theban Tribunal to read the three-volume history of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich; the man makes the City and Empire come to life in vivid detail, and will give you literally dozens of future plot hooks. His history of the Mediterranean is also very good.

Norwich is just amazing. I read his history of venice and was plotting a Roman saga for months after that. There was a story hook and a NPC (or PC!) in each paragraph!