Welcome back to the Card Catalog series on Castle Falkenstein! If you have not read the round up of both the system and the setting herre on Seize the GM, please take a look here! This post is coming up late, and so my apologies. I got trapped in a temporal distortion in one of the Three Roman Time Zones, which I’ll mention more about below but I should be back on track for the next few series. To finish our the look at Castle Falkenstein, I am making a Mastermind! This is the archetype I would most likely play myself given the opportunity as you get all of the SCIENCE! Of a Mad Scientist with the desire to put something into play to actually make your plan have a real world impact! It is noted that Otto von Bismark is considered a Mastermind because his infernal invention or device is the plan to take control of New Europa so this this is everything from Captain Nemo to Moriarty.
I am also going to expand the world a little beyond the written work here. With the limited number of supplements, Castle Falkenstein has not yet described the entire world. So with a little historical flair, I am going to also work in some of the alternate Italian history and what is going on because the Castle Falkenstein book notes that by 1870, the Papal States were not unified and the Northern half of Italy was still part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so Giuseppi Garibaldi has a different career arc in my head. Pardon the slight world building diversion but sometimes, you’ve got to world build when it strikes you.
I’ll do my best to work through the character creation in the design notes but as a reminder, there are very few “crunchy” choices to make regarding character design, so the Design Notes will be more narrative and the Character Notes will be treated as excerpts from the Dramatic Persona Diary in proper Falkenstein form!
Somebody needs to be the brains of the operation, and while Anatole is sharp, he is much more of a reactive type while we want a proactive genius with a plan, a Mastermind, to round out this crew. Enter Louise. She is the least connected to any particular power structure which means that her general desire to see one or more of them fall apart is quite understandable. As with other Dramatic Personas, you start with a single Great ability, Education for Louise, and four Good Abilities – Tinkerer so she can build her CASH mechs, Perception for the general sharpness, Courage because she is icy and rationale, and Social Graces so she can slip in and out of societal expectations. For her Poor talent, I choose Fencing as she doesn’t quite get how to make the pointy end go in the other person. I really want to make her a bit more Mastermind, Evil Genius style, though. Looking at the options from the main Castle Falkenstein book, I can increase her Education to Excellent from Good for only two additional Poor traits. If my math serves me correctly, I can get to an Excellent, a Great, and 4 Good with 3 Poor traits. Education becomes Excellent which has a large repository of knowledge that comes along and Tinkering becomes Great. To add to her Poor Abilities, I will have her be rather lacking in Stealth and Exchequer. The latter especially is because she keeps spending all her coin on her creations and prototypes.
For her personality, Louise is most assuredly acerbic in a biting way being an intelligent but discontent woman in Steampunk Paris. This sharp tongued nature is tolerated because of her sharp mind so her insightfulness is paired here so when she speaks it is with little frippery or small talk.
In creating a Dramatic Persona, you are also asked to think about a Virtue and Vice to help anchor your character. As we discuss in our World Building excursion below, our favorite Mastermind is definitely a rather radical and ambitious woman so it will come easily when we look to her Virtue and Vice. The Virtue of Iconoclasm is her strength where she can frequently look at situations for novel solutions. She “thinks outside the box” as the term has become overused in modern parlance. Her Vice, as may not be too shocking, is a deep seated harboring of Resentment – she does not forget a wrong and holds many accountable for their transgressions against her or against her own kind.
Dramatic Personas are centered around what they value and who they are aligned with once firmly set in our mind is the basic character of our Hero. The designs for her CASH are an obvious item she would hold fast too, but even above that she values her diploma – the recognition of being accepted and excelling in academia means the most to her. The most important person to Louise is her still living, and not above poking her nose where it shan’t belong, mother. While her father sadly passed away in a regrettable failed rebellion, Louise mother Margaret lives yet in Paris and the two of them spend a day, once every fortnight or so, catching up on life and the goings on of iconoclastic women. Finally, she values Equity – her belief in the freeing of the indentured servitude of labor is because she rapaciously seeks for humanity to see itself on equal footing; it need not be that everyone is treated equally but that everyone has the same opportunity.
She has indeed made a few enemies, not the least of which is the Austrian-Hungarian Special Service. They are even more concerned of late because their watch over Lord Ladoni has now overlapped with their watch over her. Additionally, in her time rallying the people and the workers, she has offended several business magnates but none so personally as Sir William Gordon-Smyth of Wellington Steel & Fabrication – one of the so-called Steam Lords of England. The other side of her work and activism are her collection of supporters and indeed allies such as Giuseppe Garibaldi. He may be an aging idealist railing against the wealth and power of the world, but he has a softness for the young and brash Louise who carries on the torch. Her work has also left her in good stead with the World Anarchist Brotherhood, even if she does not always agree with the vitriol, and exothermic, nature of their protests. Her goal for the CASH is to free the workers from their own toil and see the value of their selves be rated above the value of their labor – this separates the means of production from the human element and Karl Marx is quite pleased to have her slowly coming further into the Brotherhood’s deeper fold.
Her goals are all that are left to determine. Her social and professional goals are somewhat interrelated – Professionally she is seeking to have the CASH program into full production so that her automatons may reach widespread use while Socially, this would mean she helps to birth a new age where labor is not required of the working classes. Despite her somewhat prickly demeanor, she does Romantically seek a deeper connection with love but she does not have a particular object of her affections. A mastermind to match her own intellect must be out there and she has not yet decided to abandon that goal.
While some of this is certainly written in a good narrative style, check below for the abridged diary version, and click the link for the PDF of the full diary sheet. Anatole will provide a look at a more classic Castle Falkenstein Diary beginning, not unlike the one found in the original book as an example.
World Building Notes
The Core Rule Book for Falkenstein has a brief throwaway mention for Italy as “The North controlled by Austria, the South feuding Papal States” in a sidebar. If you are a European History buff, you know that by 1870, Italy had finished its unification fights when France was in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war. In the absence of the Kingdom of Sardinia making its strong push for unification earlier, I am going to make some modifications to Italy, and to Giuseppe Garibaldi in particular. The Northern half of what we recognize as Italy is still under the control of the Austrian-HUngarian Empire, so regions like Tuscany, Liguria, and Emilia-Romagna are all outreaches of the Hapsberg’s power but also hotbeds of rebellion. The southern portions of Italy are the Papal States, which has a loose collection of different kingdoms all having sworn some form of allegiance to Rome. What does this mean in our Steampunk universe?
First, I have this odd love of the idea of the Three Romes. Three different Romes are all sharing the same space and place, with the Vatican being the one location that coexists between them all. Human sorcery and hubris is likely the reason but it is just an accepted part of New Europa these days. I expect that the Strega tradition of Sorcery may also become involved in a conflict with the Papacy.
Second, in the absence of successful unification, Italy sees numerous rebellious uprisings. Giuseppe Garibaldi was known for his martial tendencies especially based on insurgent tactics, and in the absence of unification he has advanced to more radical positions that he held later in life. When the Third War for Italian Independence had Italian forces of King Victor fighting against Austria, it allowed the Veneto to be annexed into the burgeoning Kingdom as a gift from France …. Since the Bayerne Aeronavy appeared here in Falkenstein, Giuseppe Garibaldi’s capture was for naught since the Venato was not ceded to France. Instead, the Kingdom of Sardinia is trapped between an attempt to grow in power and unify Italy but with the Papal States controlling Rome and the environs with the the Austro-Hungarian Empire still at least solidly, perhaps not firmly, embedded in the North. The Kingdom could well have fallen apart after allying with Prussia and Otto von Bismark in this failed endeavor leading to the papal states increased size and conflict which can tie into the Three Romes theory. The Strega may well have contributed to this dissolution of Sardinia.
Third, the only reason that the Papal States are not the focus of a more intense attempt at conquest is the annual Convocation of the Dragons every November in Rome, mentioned in Comme il Faute. The Three Romes theory helps explain why Dragons would like to meet in Rome, allowing both intimacy and distance between members of their kind. It also buoys the background of the Ladoni I worked on with Lord Kaornik earlier.
While I could explore all of this a bit further, since I am already a day late, I’ll save the Falkenstein work on Italy for a later world building post.
The Journals of Louise Bergeret
February 5, 1870
While I find this practice tedious at times, it is a useful break from my work on the Clockwork Autonomous Simulacra Homunculus – my CASH project. It does take some notable endurance, mental and physical to achieve each step of success. This journal entry practice shall assist me in keeping my mind clear and my work my own
* * *
Perhaps it is best if I find a way to encapsulate who I am before I go further into the history of the oppression of the people of New Europa. I am Louise Bergemet. If you are reading this, then by now you already know my name and my fame. I am an inventor and an idealist. I am a woman learned of Science and of the people. I am here to ensure that the sweat and toil of the people of New Europa is never again needed to be wasted in service to Capital. I am assuredly well read as I have been educated at the Sorbonne [Excellent Education] and I have applied that knowledge to the mechanics and physics of the world [Great Tinkering]. I am well acquainted with what society and Society expects from a woman [Good Social Graces] but they are often at odds with what I can discern [Good Perception] and my lack of backing down [Good Courage]. I am perhaps unexpectedly rather accomplished in fisticuffs as well [Good Fighting]. Regrettably, this did not extend to learning the finer arts of the dance of the blades, save that I understand that the pointy end goes into the fleshy bits [Poor Fencing]. This carries on in my way of being forthright in the world as well as my thoughts [Poor Stealth] and I must be honest that I tend to spend every centime I can to improve my CASH rather than on myself [Poor Exchequer].
This peculiar combination leads others to see me as insightful yet acerbic. I expect that the thought of an accomplished lady scientist is not as developed amongst the population as that of the adventuress or the Demoiselle. This does provide me a strength in that the Iconoclasm my insight offers provides new ways to solve these problems and new methods to change my inventions and the world at large, but it does sometimes grow to Resentment where those who have harmed me do not leave my memory. My mind is my greatest treasure and my greatest weapon and those that have stepped against me or against the betterment of New Europa’s people have earned my enmity.
* * *
I must admit that Sir Williams-Smith of Wellington Steel has not yet stopped hounding my every move since that incident at his factory where I had the misfortune of being near. No matter, the Steam Lords take Britain, as I am more concerned my time with Garibaldi has left the Austrian-Hungarian Special Service to keep me in their sights. I know that they loathe the idea of losing the Veneto and the Northern parts of the peninsula, but the Italian State should be formed and allowed to find its way apart from the Papal State’s. At least Garibaldi’s disciples and followers still grant me some succor. While they often take actions more radical than I advocate, the World Anarchist Brotherhood, and Msr. Marx have also been a valuable ally. I would hope they see the CASH as a way of the future as well, and not merely as a tool for further polemic and trickery but I expect they wish otherwise. Their support helps to propel the acceptance and use of the CASH system [Professional Goal] and so I do continue to rely on them. SImilarly, they and Garibaldi may be the first to recognize that the future of labor is in the machines we build, especially as those Bayernese sky navy ships show the next stage. [Social Goal]. And while Mere Margaret does ask about whether I will find someone with whom to share this life, and to provide a grand baby on which she may dote, I have not yet found one who can maintain their own sense of elan and wit in my presence. [Romantic Goal].
* * *
At this point, it is perhaps best that I return to the beginning of the story and remind the gentle reader, and perhaps myself, of my own history and how I got here. While France, and Paris in particular, may seem to exude a timeless beauty and sophistication, it masks the history of rebellion and insurrection deeply engrained in the persona of our citizens. My father was one of those who strove to better the lives of all Parisians and all French. He paid the price early in my life as the Army responded with the violence that the State holds over all of our heads. My mother. Margaret, did not lose her way on her own. She proved that strength comes from within and is not so dependent on the body itself. It is no surprise that I slept soundly early in life and I took quickly to the books and solving problems. My father’s friends would come into town and help my Mother if they could between fomenting uprisings in what they hope to call Italy and Spain.
Read the entire Diary entry here for the full character
Castle Falkenstein and Cygne Dore’ Cabaret Overview Here