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It could have been so different. Who knows, if Niccolo Machiavelli, military commissioner of the Republic of Florence, had not truly understood the scale of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius, he might simply have wasted his time painting portraits of women and doodling. Instead, Florence’s screwcopters, gun-turtles and organ-guns make it secure against the armies of the Pope, Milan and the French, and a haven for radical thinkers, artists and other inventors inspired by his example. Of course, though, success breeds jealousy amongst the city states of Renaissance Italy and beyond. The city’s winding alleys and cobbled squares swarm with sinister Venetian spies, sour-faced priests bearing secret Papal instructions, Milanese mercenaries hoping to earn the king’s ransom the Sforzas have promised for da Vinci’s secrets and even emissaries from France, England and the Ottoman Empire… Exciting times, but dangerous ones, too.
What if all da Vinci’s inventions worked as he had hoped? What if they had been enthusiastically adopted and that their successes had sparked a different kind of industrial revolution? Think of Gibson and Sterling’s ‘The Difference Engine,’ but amidst the sunlit artistic ferment of the Italian Renaissance instead of the smogs and fogs of Victorian England; think of primitive computers running on water clocks and embellished with cupids; think of swashbuckling swordplay as an army of robot knights marches past on their way to the Vatican; think of crossing wits with Machiavelli, avoiding the dangerous charms of Lucretia Borgia, hearing Christopher Columbus tell you about the new world he has discovered…
I am toying with a setting for the Wordplay roleplaying game system, one set in a version of the Italian Renaissance being transformed by weird and wonderful clockpunk technologies sparked by Leonardo da Vinci's genius. This blog is essentially a design journal, in which I'll note down random thoughts, plothooks, links to interesting images and websites, notes on play sessions and anything else which comes to mind...
Who am I?Mark Galeotti, who'd love to be a Renaissance man. You can also find my Mythic Russia game blog @ http://mythicrussia.wordpress.com/
What is Wordplay?An excellent, simple and intuitive d6-based roleplaying game system - you can find out more about the system and other settings @ http://www.wordplaygames.co.uk/wordplay.html and http://d101games.co.uk/books/wordplay/
Category Archives: Renaissance History
Nine years later than the 1510 setting, admittedly, and a few hundred miles to the north, but this intriguing — in ever sense — account from Atlas Obscura of how the German Fugger banking family tried to buy the Holy … Continue reading
Just a quick note of this forthcoming 3D History channel film, with Peter Capaldi as Leonardo da Vinci, that explores his ideas, experiences and travails with his own words and with what looks like some very nifty animation, too. This … Continue reading
Control of the Mediterranean and its rich trade routes is a key concern of the age, and the struggles between the Ottoman Empire and Christendom — and especially the Venetian naval superpower — will be crucial. Just think how useful … Continue reading
I just wanted to let people know that a slender and speculative historical essay of mine considering the early forms of organized crime in Renaissance Italy has just been published. Paths of Wickedness and Crime: the underworlds of the Renaissance … Continue reading
Renaissance cities were generally small by our standards, but large enough that it was possible to hide in them after committing a crime – but if the authorities really wanted to find you then eventually they would. After all, too … Continue reading
If anyone ever wondered “Why Venetian nunneries were once hotbeds of passion” then wonder no longer, as Tony Perrottet’s Sex and the Renaissance Nun discusses how “Venetian nunneries were the most liberated in Europe. In the 1400s, the skyrocketing cost of dowries … Continue reading
If you’re a subscriber to the excellent History Today (and why wouldn’t you be?), then you can read this interesting article by Alexander Lee here. The opening is: Italian Communes: Attractions of Autocracy Alexander Lee, History Today Volume: 61 Issue: 7 2011 The Italian … Continue reading