Robbing the Noble, revisited

A few months ago, I posted regarding a story idea I was developing. Then my saga went on hiatus. Now we're back, and I'm ready to develop the story again. Here's what I have so far:

It's a solo adventure for a mage-thief named Garret (yes, THAT Garret, for fans of the the "Theif" video game....)

Out of spite, Garret wants to loot a minor noble's coastal retreat. Just to bring the guy down a few pegs.

The character has spells and magic items that should render robbing a mundane lord's manor very easy: spells to put guards to sleep, snuff out torches, move silently, etc.

I have 2 questions:

A) any thoughts as to what loot he might find?
In addition to ornate tableware, some coin, a nice saddle, etc., I've made the ancestor an officer in the Spanish Marches, and his battle standard is proudly displayed. This offers a supernatural morale boost to those that rally to it. I don't feel like giving him anything else supernatural, because the house is such an easy target. But I would like to get the valuable items right. What would be in the manor? He's mildly wealthy, is connected to a network of trading ships and has land that produces quality wool. This is his main residence, north of Barcelona, on the coast. I'm looking for loot that would add flavor.

B) Can you think of any obstacles that I could throw in his way?
The best I"ve got so far are dogs. I don't think he has any spells against them. Anything else?

The majority of the story will involve the following:
At some point, either while he's casing the joint, or during the actual robbery (depending on the pacing of the game), several shadowy guests will arrive for a secret meeting. The player will hopefully choose to sneak up and overhear the meeting, which involves some political machinations, and then decide what to do about it.

The "political machinations" that the player will overhear are something like this:

The noble's servants hate his guts. They were on the losing end of a blood feud years ago, and now one family serves the other. So, when one of the servants hears the noble speaking about "a most valuable cargo" that he'll transport from Barcelona to Marseilles, which will significantly raise his status in court, they feel that they can mess with him without much risk to themselves. The servants contact a cousin, a sailor, and they agree to sell the information on the ship to some pirates.

The "cargo" is the Bishop of Osma, and his attendant, the future St. Dominic. My saga is currently in 1204, the year that these two men journey from Castille to Denmark, through southern France, to gain a bride for the Prince of Castille. On this journey, Dominic first started learning about and preaching against Catharism, and eventually founded his order of Dominicans based on their methods, but not their ideology.

I figure the men will be travelling with an entourage, plus some valuable gifts to the King of Denmark. So there will be some actual loot on the ship.

I'm guessing the player will try to get involved somehow in this plot. There are several ways I can see him working it to his betterment. (foiling the plot, engaging in it, hiring his own pirates, etc.) In the end, should it come down to a pirate raid on the ship, there will be divine intervention, because Dominic must get through. (Dominic's writings were said to resist fire, because they were the True Word, so I figure an angel could tell him to throw his ledger overboard and use it to float to safety or something equally dramatic.)

C) I haven't decided yet if the player spies on the meeting between the servants and their cousin, or between them and the pirate rep. Any thoughts on this? The cousin might be good, because it's a little more realistic (why would a pirate travel to a private residence?). On the other hand, it's nice and dramatic for the ship to actually sail near the coast one night, and the mage watches a boat come ashore with an entourage of nefarious folk. Hmmmm.... This could lead to future stories too, since the character would be able to identify the pirate ship and it's captain. On the other, I don't want to have to play out the ENTIRE scene between the various parties all by myself. I want the meeting that he spies on to be short and sweet.

Any thoughts you have on any of this are, as always, most welcome.


ps. The original thread can be found here:

I would be inclined to have a litle 'fun' with the player, maybe have an infernally tainted item? Have a lot of the loot be far too large to easily take away. Exotic Furniture from the holy land, a 20 foot long tapestry, an ancient statue.

A) Spices are extremely rare and valuable in the period. If you character really wants to piss off the noble, he should make a point of raiding the pantry and stealing the few grains of black pepper the noble was saving for a great occasion ! Or that single nutmeg !
Also, a cut glass goblet is more valuable than a gold chalice in the period, your noble might have one.

B) Medieval castles were crowded, so do not assume that any room your thief enters is empty: scullery maid sleep in the kitchen, maids in the laundry room, a personal valet in the lord's room or in the anteroom... admittedly, not a problem for a mage ready to deal with awake guards.

C) Definitely a pirate would not be invited into a noble's residence, the noble would arrange a meeting somewhere else. Unless just maybe there is a secret passage leading outside the castle, by which the pirate might be brought without every servant in the castle knowing about him.

Just about any kind of jewelry you want that isnt TOO expensive. Expensive clothing is another sure find(and dont forget, even casual or poor clothes are expensive in medieval time). If he has any need to appear at official occasions and you nick his pretty clothes, that could cause a huge amount of trouble and humiliation for him(if he has time enough he will probably be able to borrow clothes from a friend, but that puts him in debt for a favour).

Simon´s suggestions are also excellent and quite likely:
Exotic Furniture from the holy land, a 20 foot long tapestry, an ancient statue.

Traps would be highly likely if the owner is even slightly suspicious or careful. Nothing really fancy (those just happen in movies(well mostly, there have been a few known cases in reality of very elaborate setups of traps)) but perhaps a simple springblade trap(causing a light or maybe medium wound) on his moneychest or on the door to where he keeps his valuables(unless of course he is vain enough to always keep them on display). Dont add poison into it though, it was a very rare thing simply because it was too dangerous to handle(of course, some used it anyway so its not that you must not use it, it would just mean that the owner is either very arrogant and reckless(and rich enough to buy the knowledge without getting "outed") or skilled with something rare).
A simple pit trap(very much nonlethal normally, usually less designed to hurt or truly keep a victim there but rather to alert of the intruder and shock the thief) which is covered during the daytime is another possible.

Also, nightingale floors were not unknown(just not the same or as common as in east Asia). Could be a devastating thing if its the first thing he steps on inside the house, waking people up and setting the guards on him.

Thats easy because the simple answer is that the pirate would almost certainly NOT travel to a private residence like this. If it wasnt the house of the person they´re aiming at, then either could be fine.

Oh but you could let that be seen anyway, especially if it is the result of listening in on the earlier conversation in the house and finding out that there is going to be a meeting.

Thanks guys.

Session went well, although I blew it a little bit with the loot. I spent so much time figuring out the St. Dominic story that I didn't write down specifics of what loot was where. In the heat of the game, and after the caffeine wore off, my descriptions of the loot were a little vague, and I think I gave him too much coin for period. I don't really care about wealth in Ars Magica -- it can all be created magically anyway. But the player wants to have fun with getting rich, and I think I made it too easy for him. I think there needs to be a bandit ambush soon, to bring him back down to size...

And while the thief did overhear the conversation regarding the pirate raid, he didn't want to get involved. He figured he'd let the servants dig their own grave agains the noble. Ah well, it was fun to create the St. Dominic story anyway....

There will be other robberies in Garret's future, so these suggestions are still most valid! Thanks again!!


RoP: The Infernal , page 87 , Tainted Treasure (Minor , General , Tainted).
Have him discover that some or part of his loot is Tainted Treasure.
If Garret had left it where it was , it would have affected the noble , who is now free of the affliction.
The only option is , to break-in , again , and return that part of the stolen loot.
Have the bandit ambush happen after Garret is seen leaving the castle , thinking there was ill-gotten booty to be had.
Or they were hired by the noble to catch any tea leaves that happen by.

Perhaps instead of physical cash in the future, rely on promissory notes that can only be redeemed by specific people/institutions such as the Bishop of Milan or a specific lodge of the Knights Templar. Such people might also be informed of the theft before the player gets to cash them in.

This could lead to interesting trials, jailbreaks, inquisitorial torture etc etc.

Nah thats not very nice! Figure something out that he would really REALLY want to get hold of, then have someone offer it for sale somewhere, VERY expensively in mundane prices.

Bummer! Just make sure you keep the story around, perhaps use it as a template for a similar story that he walks in on later(obviously not via the same "overhearing a meeting" trigger), maybe change the servants to rivals or something.

Very valuable loot:
A Signet Ring representing station.
A piece of jewelry, not too expensive but easily Identifiable. Like a necklace that has been in the rival family for generations, which represents the subjugation of one family to another. This could be used to gain favors from someone desiring it back in their family or could be used to insult another family, "oh why this trivial thing, it was given to me by so and so as a trinket, oh it was in your family for generations, well..."
License for Market, allows the noble family(or a parish/priory) to hold a market, without this physical item rivals can shut down the primary source of income for whom ever it belongs to.
Black mail documents, letters, etc. said noble has over other nobles and a neighboring prior... or which vindicates the subjugated family on some disgraceful event.

I hate to spoil the fun, but if its a summer retreat rather than the primary residence, i.e., its a hunting lodge, the likely answer to "what wealth will be there" is "not as much as you'd think."

Despite what one sees in computer games, people didn't just leave coins lying around. The main treasures of a nobleman would follow him to wherever he was making his primary residence, and litterally be in a chest in his chamber. Clothing was insanely expensive. One didn't just leave one's fine cloth wherever. It, too, would travel with its owner.

Likewise, the retreat would likely have minimal staff, especially if the target is only "relatively wealthy." The main staff would follow the nobleman. There would likely only be a few guards at the place.

There would likely be payroll there, but that would be it for cash.

Other places to look:

a.) As above, the pantry. Also, look for decent wines.
b.) The chapel, if any, would be the most lavishly decorated room in the building. However, stealing a chalice etc. might be, erm, frowned upon by the Dominion. Anything that could reasonably be taken, would be. There could be valuable frescos, precious services, perhaps a decorated reliquary or triptych. Fencing things clearly stolen from a church, though....
c.) Hangings and Tapestries would likely stay. A simple ReAn spell migh allow your theif to move them out.

Keep in mind, too, that this is the middle ages, not the Baroque era. Furnishings in a minor retreat would not necessarily be over extravagant. There would be maybe two or three beds in the place, with others on straw.

The overarching problem is this: if its valuable, and it can be carried, the owner takes it with him/keeps it at the primary residence for that time of year.

Bit of a problem for a smash and grab thief.

The exception would be if this place were the primary noble seat, and the nobleman simply spent a great deal of time in the main local city/town (the Dominante in Italy, for example.) Then family valuables would be kept there.

The only real bet would be to rob the place while the owner was there. Then, add a substantial collection of coin, either in a strongbox or hidden away somewhere, likely in chambers, plus substantial coin for visitors or their main servant, and the jewlery of women visitors (though this would likely be worn during the day.)

Perhaps he could also pull a horse-theft, and raid the stables?