Five Days in Milan

Looking at the RPG Bloggers feed, it seems like pretty much everybody spent last weekend in Indianapolis. I wish I could’ve gone, too. Instead, I had to spend five days carrying my mother’s bags in Milan, Italy.

Milan in August is a horrible holiday destination. It turns out that the Italians have a habit of taking some vacation time themselves around this time of the year, which resulted in half the city being closed for the summer. However, this is a game blog and I will take the full rant elsewhere. Instead, I will focus on the gaming stuff.

The Friendly Local Game Store

Tracking down the local game store was a bit of an ordeal. The first address I managed to find, for a store called Avalon, was from 2008 and the shop had since closed down. Another, Fantamagus, was closed for the summer, and a third address led to an apartment block. Finally, I found one called Joker, on Via della palla, which was not only open but staffed by a friendly guy who spoke pretty good English. Unfortunately, the store only sold Italian translations of American  roleplaying games, most of which were D&D 4E and had no Italian originals at all. So, no additions to my collection this time. However, they had three crates of miscellaneous stuff on 50% discount, which contained some nifty finds. I picked up Hunter Book: Wayward for the old Hunter: The Reckoning and a Scarred Lands module, The Serpent Citadel. I have no idea if it’s any good, but I’m a bit of a fan of the setting and have been picking up the books when I’ve found them for cheap. I also purchased twelve blister packs of Black Scorpion Miniatures’ pirate miniatures, which are beautiful, beautiful pieces of work, and I felt like I was ripping off the store for taking them home for so cheap.

It is mildly bothersome to me that I could not find an Italian original roleplaying game in the most populous and richest city in the country, with something like twelve different universities. I have no idea what the gaming scene is like in Italy, but from my admittedly narrow point of view it looked like it’s localizations of American stuff all the way. I also don’t actually know of any Italian RPGs. I can name original roleplaying games from Poland (Wiedźmin), Spain (Aguelarre, Capitán Alatriste) and France (Cadwallon), but none from Italy. I hope I’m just wrong with this, though. John H. Kim’s listing of Italian games seems to be sorta up to date up to 2008, the newest game is a translation of an English-language game and going by that, it looks like the scene has mostly lain fallow for the last ten years or so. The Italian RPG section of isn’t encouraging, either. I can’t seem to find anything that isn’t a comic book or a translation, and they have a couple of hundred titles. I don’t actually understand Italian, though, so again, I might be wrong.

Anybody have more solid knowledge on this?

Sharp Metal Implements, Big Churches

Until Sunday, I was prepared to write a long post about St. Ambrose’s Pusterla Museum, which is a museum of medieval weaponry and criminology in Milan. However, when we got to the door, a bit before noon, it was locked. This was over an hour before the siesta was to begin and according to the website, it should’ve been open. So, I can’t tell you what it was like. However, it has come to my attention recently that many of the horrible torture devices used in the Middle Ages by the Spanish Inquisition and other law enforcement agencies are actually hoaxes, such as the iron maiden or, presumably, the choke pear. The breaking wheel is real, though. While this stuff does have a place in fantasy roleplaying games and the Hellknights of Chelaxia can have all the iron maidens they want, it’s interesting (and somewhat comforting) to know that this stuff wasn’t actually regularly used on heretics at any point in history. Real torture implements, if nothing else, are a lot less creative.

Next to St. Ambrose’s Pusterla Museum is the Basilica of St. Ambrose. This is notable mostly for containing the remains of Ambrose himself, on display (and being a bigass and really old church, but it’s kinda overshadowed by the Duomo, which is the third-biggest cathedral in the world, a couple of miles away).

Personally, I think putting corpses up for display as an act of reverence is mildly disturbing and more than a bit macabre. Therefore, it is excellent fodder for roleplaying games. I don’t really have the time to dig up interesting sources for this thing the Catholic Church has about saints, but there’s a lot of food for thought there. Another thing about saints that I actually knew but couldn’t help but notice when we were going through the art galleries was that each saint tends to be depicted in a certain way, and only in that way, to the degree that after a while, I could walk to the door of a room, glance about, and go “That’s Saint Sebastian, that’s Jerome, that’s Peter, that head on a plate is Saint John the Baptist and the bloke in armour is Saint George“.

The concept of saints in general has been usually overlooked in fantasy roleplaying games, which I think is a pity, because I think applying the concept to a fantasy world would be interesting. What constitutes a miracle when it’s a default assumption that priests wield powers beyond mortal ken? What sort of saints would different deities have? The god of war? The god of love? The god of death?

In general, I think religion in roleplaying games is too often handwaved as lists of spells and powers that priests get, and in some unfortunate cases, the combat stats of the gods themselves. I’ve written about this before, actually. I know that the topic of saints has also been addressed before, but the very fact that I can’t remember any examples off the top of my head tells me that it hasn’t been covered nearly enough.

And that’s all for Milan.

1 thought on “Five Days in Milan

  1. I’m italian (and working in Milan in this very moment), and I can tell you that august 15 is coming, which is a paid holiday here, so we’re used to go on holiday trips around that date. Most offices close up too (and force employees to stay home on their own vacation time), so no wonder you found everything closed up!

    I really have to admit i had no idea you could find so many active communities in other european countries. That’s because all my knowledge of what you call “roleplaying scene” is confined to games with friends, and when we searched for someone else to play with the only thing we could find was d&d forums and all the like. So not enough to think there is a scene really going on, and i’d have myself a hard time thinking about italian-made rpgs as well.

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