Swords of the Serpentine always had the Ancient Nobility.
The original idea notes had the Ancient Nobility in all their decaying splendor. Old families with old names who paint genealogical trees on the dining room wall so they can admire their ancestors while they eat. Resplendent in their 300-year-old decaying silks, they cling with both hands to the “old ways” — as if a city that constantly renews itself has old ways to cling to. Old creaky sinking homes full of people who smell of dust and mold, living in darkened rooms full of lace, eating porridge off exquisite plates with golden forks.
They’re cool. I imagine the Ancient Nobility runs ancient cults, or worship demons, or keep Uncle Alex the Undying Lich in their Underbasement. They’re horrible snobs who stare down their noses at anyone who doesn’t have their bloodline written on a certificate.
Then there’s the Mercanti — my favorite villains. They don’t have to be villains, of course. Surely one of their number gives to charity, or supports an orphanage, or donates their clothes to the poor. There’s always that one do-gooder, that one guy. But let’s face it, it’s an entire faction whose roots come from its author’s — me — obsession with Robert Clive and the East India Company. (Robert Clive is one of history’s great sociopaths.)
There isn’t tons about them in the core book, but they’re Eversink’s capitalists, the merchants, the nouveau riche. And they’re cut completely free. The Triskedane aren’t all that involved in, say, financial regulation or trade policy. It’s like the wild 17th and 18th century.
The Mercanti are all about one thing — making a profit. In fact, Mercanti plots don’t even need sorcerers, cuts, swamp things, or face-hugging fungus. The Mercanti can be terrible all by themselves!
I imagined using them like this:
- Straight up villainy. Someone is funding crime/drug imports/something horrible and some Mercanti is behind the scheme.
- More straight-up villainy. The Rise of the Evil Rooftop Developer! The Mercanti has Ancient Nobility targets in Alderhall and he is out to bilk those people out of their rooftops! If only he could convince the adventurers the Ancient Noble families are evil (they likely are) and cripple them financially so the Mercanti Developer can buy their newly-developed rooftop right out from underneath them!
- Even more straight-up villainy! Harbor Approach is undeveloped land! Sure it has warehouses and dockworkers, but that land is better off used for more Mercanti homes. It’s time to get those people off their land so the Mercanti can build some new homes to sell at high market prices!
- Guild on Guild warfare — just like nasty mob warfare, except there’s a nice house to live in, and the City Watch is 100% paid off. The Adventurers, belonging to one guild, get all tied up in undermining the work of another guild(s) to the point of actual stabbing and leaving bodies in the canals.
- Fleecing the poor in some horrible way — destroying their water supply, depriving them of food or jacking up food prices, forcing them out of their homes, offering payday loans, getting into the betting business, etc.
- Fleecing neighboring kingdoms in some horrible way — selling them poorly-constructed Mercanti-made items, making terrible undermining deals, getting involved in their wars, selling arms to their enemies, invading them with small armies, growing things and raping the land. Hell, rip off the entire history of United Fruit wholescale.
- Fleecing distant kingdoms and bringing something awful back in some horrible way — so many ideas.
Hell, Mercanti could be the central bad guys from a Swords of the Serpentine: Goonies remake. (I know, I know, I know. “The Goonies?”) Go look it up.
If you want to read an entirely bonkers thing that really happened and could be stolen wholesale for use as a whole multi-part adventure in Eversink and use one of the neighboring kingdoms, then read the history of United Fruit and Operation PBSUCCESS. If I was going to run a huge Eversink campaign, that’s where I would go for inspiration, because it’s so insane.
As a rule of thumb, we can lean on themes out of books and movies where the capitalist financier/developer is always evil. While there are many sub-themes, the core theme when the villain is a capitalist is this: the Capitalist (Mercanti in this case) purses monetary return at the expense of human life. Only when the adventurers or the Capitalist embrace humanity is anyone redeemed.
In all these scenarios (and so many more, this was 5 minutes worth of thinkin’), we’d want to lean into some way the adventurers could bankrupt the Mercanti or get some other kind of financial comeuppance. The bad guy might not necessarily dead in the end, but broke is the right ending for Mercanti villains.
I’m a big fan of anything that injects a little gonzo.
- 26,566,553 tests.
- 2,279,894 cases found
- 121,551 deaths
According to every metric there is, the number of infected people is skyrocketing right now, but the death rate is dropping. That’s because covid is finally leaking into the general population at large and a wider spectrum of people are getting it. Before, it was getting into nursing homes and killing everyone there in clusters. Now it’s working its way through the entire US population. Eventually, everyone will have had COVID-19.
It’s also a myth that cases are going up because testing has finally crossed a 500K/day testing threshold. Cases are going up because more people are getting COVID-19. The % weekly positive is back up to 11% of all tests. Hospitalizations are hockey sticks. So while daily deaths are down to 600/day (and that’s still 600 people a day!) it will start to march back up as these people in ICUs start to die.
And this will march on until we have tracing. But since Trump doesn’t even want testing, tracing is probably “never.”