Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tartuffe

Saturday night my wife took me to see Tartuffe at Cypress College for my birthday.

I've read Tartuffe, but I'd never seen it performed, and I really enjoyed it - the actors did a very good job at capturing the absurdity of the characters and their situation, and I'm always fascinated by the blocking of a performance in-the-round.

Molière may seem an unusual source of inspiration for cape-and-sword gaming, but I pulled a number of aspects from the play for my Flashing Blades campaign. The servants, Dorine and Laurent, play an active role in the affairs of their respective masters - Dorine outspokenly points out Tartuffe's hypocrisy to Orgon, and Laurent is every bit Tartuffe's co-conspirator throughout his deception. Servants in the 17th century enjoyed a close relationship with the families they served, and even though this is exaggerated for the sake of farce in Tartuffe, it does give clues about roleplaying lackeys and maids as non-player characters in cape-and-sword campaigns.

Tartuffe's ability to turn every challenge to his own advantage is an interesting character trait to roleplay. He is a master of language, of deflecting blame, even when he is caught red-handed in his schemes. His success is dependent on his complete deception of Orgon, of course. It almost strains credulity that Orgon could be fooled so thoroughly by someone like Tartuffe, yet I imagine most of us have seen, or even been part of, relationships in which trust is manipulated to selfish ends. Introducing relationships like this into a campaign may offer the adventurers a challenge that must be met with wit and guile rather than swords.

Last, no cape-and-sword campaign should skim on the person hiding behind the curtain, or under the table - the characters in Tartuffe repeatedly go to great lengths to insure than they are alone, and yet they are frequently spied upon nonetheless.

Farce is in many ways integral to cape-and-sword romances, and it's hard to go wrong drawing inspiration from one of the master farceurs of his generation.

Oh, and remember, support your local theatre.


  1. Moliére is an excellent playwright, on par with any of the English greats. While Tartuffe may be his most performed English play, it remains a great one.

    I can see lots of opportunities for pulling if not exact scenarios than at least little historical details from his corpus to make a sword and cape game feel more alive.

    1. Plays are little windows on the period - invaluable for running a roleplaying game.

  2. I love Moliere and Tartuffe is a masterpiece. Do you have any idea whose English text they were using?

    1. I know it was in the program, but I can't find where my wife put it. I wanna say it was someone named Hicks. It kept the rhyming couplets, and sounded very contemporary, in terms of slang.


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