Copyright © 1995 by Luiz Cláudio Duarte
This is a GURPS Imperial Rome adventure, set at the time of the Cimbri and Teutones migration into Gaul (106 BC). It is intended for four to six 100-point characters. The PCs should all live in Rome, although not necessarily be Roman citizens. At least one of the PCs must be a client of Lucius Flavius Rufinus (see sidebar).
Players should stop reading here.
Please send any comments using the contact page.
This adventure was inspired in a passage of Colleen McCullough's "The First Man in Rome", which she based on a historical fact. I did not follow her storyline, though; I researched some period and modern sources (most notably Strabo's "Geography") and created my own plot. It is presented as a short adventure, but it could conceivably be extended to a full campaign; I will gladly discuss it by e-mail -- or, if I ever find the time, maybe I will revise it and post it here.
Rome, as usual, is facing several threats: the Jugurthine war in Africa, the German invasions in Gaul, barbarian raids in Spain and Macedon, servile unrest in Italy and Sicily, and the first conquests of Mithridates in Asia.
In the political arena, the struggle between the popular party and the conservative party is again in the forefront due to Marius' successes against Jugurtha. Caepio, the senior consul, is determined to vanquish the Germans and outshine Marius.
This adventure is based on historical facts, although the circumstances are fictitious. It derives mainly from Strabo's Geography (Book IV, 188), written at the end of the 1st century BC. Almost all characters are fictitious, except for Caepio and Saturninus. Regino is mentioned in one of my sources, but I couldn't find nothing about his character, so he must also be considered a fictitious character.
Rules and statistics in this adventure are specifically for
Basic Set, Third Edition. Any page reference that begins with a B
refers to a page in the Basic Set - e.g., p. B102 means page 102 of the Basic
Set, Third Edition. Page references beginning with IR refer to GURPS
Rufinus is one of the tribuni aerarii - Rome's treasurers. At 40, he isn't one of the leading senators (yet), but his job is an influent one. In the murky waters of Roman politics, he usually sides with the popular party against the conservatives.
He is a 10-point Patron, with a frequency of appearance of 9 or less (he has many clients, thanks to his position). He is acting without the knowledge of the other tribuni aerarii, since he intends to use whatever evidence the PCs find as a political lever.
Quintus Servilius Caepio
Caepio is a patrician through and through: he would rather lose an army than lose face. He is determined to beat the Germans and prove that he is a better general than "that upstart nobody Gaius Marius". It is said of him that only his greed is greater than his conceit.
The Legend of the Gold of Tolosa
Tolosa was located in Southern Gaul, at the region known as Narbonensis. It was the home of the Volcae Tectosages, a Celt tribe that had participated in the great Celt migration of the third century BC. In this migration, a large Celt horde went to Greece, sacking some of the richest cities of Antiquity, Delphi among them. After the death of their leader, the second Brennus, and repelled by a renewed Greek resistance, the Celts divided. Part went onward to Asia, where they settled (later being called Galats); the remainder returned to Gaul. It was said that the Tectosages brought home all the gold and silver pillaged from the Greek temples, and consecrated it to Apollo, who hid it.
The story of the Gold of Tolosa was well known in southern Gaul and Spain. Besides that, the lands of the Tectosages were rich in gold, although they did not mine it extensively.
Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Saturninus is trying to build his political career as a demagogue, rather than by the regular magistratures. He is a consummate rabble-rouser, and rumor has that he isn't above using any means to further his ends.
ST 12, DX 12, IQ 9, HT 11
28, black hair, long tresses.
ST 10, DX 12, IQ 10, HT 12
30, brown hair, short beard.
ST 9, DX 11, IQ 12, HT 10
Basic Speed 5.25, Move 5
A Latin slave-dealer from Capua; actually, an agent for Regino. After
arranging the meeting for the PCs, he will make himself scarce; the PCs
will not be able to find where he went.
41, brown balding hair, brown eyes.
ST 11, DX 12, IQ 14, HT 12.
Basic Speed 6, Move 6.
Regino is Caepio's right-hand man. Utterly loyal, he is trusted by Caepio with all sensitive tasks. He will escort the gold to the banks in Smyrna, where Caepio arranged it to be deposited under false names.
According to Strabo, the Turdetanians from southwestern Spain were the wisest of the Spaniards. They are rather sophisticated by Roman standards, having been early influenced by Greeks and Carthaginians. The GM must not represent them as howling barbarians, but as a civilized people.
Late 50s, white hair, black eyes.
ST 9, DX 11, IQ 13, HT 12.
Basic Speed 5.75, Move 5.
Arucos is the chief of the Turdetanians. When Caepio was governor in Further Spain, and defeated the Lusitanians, long-time enemies of the Turdetanians, the grateful Arucos pledged himself and his tribe as clients of Caepio.
ST 13, DX 12, IQ 10, HT 12
Basic Speed 6, Move 6
Arucos' Personal Guard
Ten warriors as above, except that, instead of Spear and Shield skills, they have the skill Bow-18 (Short Bow: 1d impaling; Acc = 1, SS = 12, 1/2 damage at 130 yds., Max = 195 yds.).
The Ilergetes are one of the fiercest Spanish tribes. They are rather angry with the Turdetanians for trespassing their lands, but they don't have enough warriors to fight them out.
ST 12, DX 13, IQ 10, HT 11
Basic Speed 6, Move 6
The Gold of Tolosa was never found. One year later, Caepio was one of the commanders in Arausio, when the Germans annihilated a Roman army of eighty thousand men. In 103 BC, helped by Regino, he fled Rome to Smyrna, where he died some years later, or died while awaiting trial, according to some sources. Some authors of the period, as Strabo, attribute his trial and exile to his sacrilege in robbing the treasure of the Celtic Apollo.
Lucius Flavius Rufinus' clients are, as usual, attending their patron's house at dawn. The tribunus aerarius is a busy man, but he always spares some time to see all of his clients that come calling in the morning, and he never lets a client go without a small gift.
The PCs are halfway down the line, but Rufinus' steward asks them to wait until the master has seen the other clients. This is remarkable; usually, only the most important clients are seen last. It seems that Rufinus has something to ask from the PCs. When the last client leaves, the steward takes the PCs to Rufinus' study. He greets affably the PCs and, after setting them in a couch, closes the door.
"First, my friends, I thank you for waiting; but I believe what I have to offer will be of great interest to you. If you accept my proposal, I guarantee you won't regret it."
"As you may know, our esteemed consul Quintus Servilius Caepio went to Gaul with an army to battle the Germans earlier this year. Our last report said that the Germans were allied to a Gaul tribe, the Volcae Tectosages. The consul led the army to our Province, but, since he could not find the Germans, he decided to take Tolosa, the capital of the Tectosages, and make an object lesson of it."
"The city was taken with the connivance of a Greek merchant inside. The chief of the Tectosages, Copillus, fled with some warriors. After securing the city, Caepio ordered the engineers to look for a great treasure that was rumored to be hidden there."
"The treasure was found, and it surpassed any expectation. In all, there were 12,000 talents [250 tons -- $500,000,000] of silver and 15,000 talents [370 tons -- $14,800,000,000] of gold -- more than all treasure in Rome! Caepio decided to send the treasure back to Rome by ship, and sent the silver to Massilia. The wagons then returned to Tolosa for the gold. However, two months ago, the convoy was attacked near Narbo; the escort and the teamsters were all killed, and the gold disappeared."
"Caepio's report says that there were no clues of the raiders. This isn't satisfactory. Rome can't let by such an enormous loss -- this gold must be found! Caepio says he can't give all his time to the investigation, for his main concern is the Germans. Since this directly affects the Treasure, the tribuni aerarii decided to send a party of agents to investigate and find the gold. I was comissioned to find reliable people for this mission, and that's why I called you."
"There is a chance that Roman citizens are involved in the robbery. Since we do not know this for sure, we decided that the investigation must be a covert one. You will not be provided with legal powers; we will not aid you directly, and, if necessary, we will deny any knowledege of your mission."
"If you find solid evidence of where the gold is and who were the robbers, each of you will be paid twenty thousand sesterces [$5,000]."
"Do you accept?"
Investigating in Rome
The PCs can dig several interesting pieces of information in Rome, beyond what Rufinus told them.
Rumor of the finding of a great treasure in Tolosa has been circulating in the streets for some time. A History-2 roll, or an Area Knowledge (Gaul)-2 or Area Knowledge (Spain)-2 roll will reveal the legend of the Gold of Tolosa (see sidebar); alternatively, a Streetwise roll can be used to find a Narbonese Latin merchant that knows the legend.
Any character with Status greater than 0 or with Politics skill will know that Caepio is one of the leading conservative senators. He is now commanding an army in Gaul, determined to defeat the Germans and prove himself a brilliant general. A Politics roll will reveal that Caepio governed Further Spain two years ago, and defeated a Lusitanian uprising.
A Politics roll or a Savoir-Faire roll will tell that Rufinus is involved with the popular party. A critical success in either roll will reveal that Rufinus is probably a client of Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, a demagogue on the rise (see sidebar). Another Politics roll will tell that the popular party would welcome any scrap of evidence that could put Caepio in a bad light.
If the PCs decide to try any kind of double-cross -- talking directly to Saturninus, or spilling the story to a member of the conservative faction -- a Common Sense or Intuition roll will tell them that this is a very dangerous course of action. If they insist, the very least that will happen will be a chat with some sicarii (see p. IR11). The GM can then plot a web of intrigue and deceit in the world of low Roman political maneuvering.
On the Road
Rufinus will provide five thousand sesterces [$1,250] for the trip of the PCs. They can go to Massilia by land or by sea.
By road, the distance from Rome to Massilia is a little under 1,000 miles. The PCs can buy their own transportation, or they can rent a carriage -- a deposit of two thousand sesterces [$500] and one hundred sesterces [$25] per day, and the carriage can be delivered to an agent in Massilia, who will return the deposit. The PCs can easily average 40 miles a day with a carriage.
By sea, there are numerous ships plying the route from Ostia (Rome's port) to Massilia. The average duration of the trip is five days. Passenger's fare is five hundred sesterces [$125].
The GM is free to improvise some encounters during the trip of the PCs. In the Alps, there are Celt brigands; on the sea, Sardinia and Corsega are notorious pirates' dens. The brigands or pirates will only be interested in money, but if one of the PCs is prosperous-looking, they may try to hold him for a ransom.
Massilia is a Greek city, allied to Rome -- it is not part of the Roman Province. Since it is one of the busiest ports on the Mediterranean, the city watch will ignore brawlings and the such, but the authorities are stern when a fight turns bloody. Open display of armor and weapons is frowned upon, but it is not illegal.
The city is still buzzing with the news of the raid on the gold convoy. The silver is still in Massilia, waiting for a naval escort from Rome. After the theft, the guard of the treasure was increased; now, the silver is in a temple, guarded by Roman auxiliary troops.
The PCs may easily get more information in the city, although not of the useful sort. Almost everyone has a pet theory about the theft. Some will say that it was the Germans, some that it was Copillus (who is still missing). Many think that it was a punishment from Apollo, because the gold had been consecrated to him.
A successful Streetwise-2 roll will acquaint the PCs with Carodorus, a Gaul scout from Narbo who was one of the first in the scene of the robbery. Paying him a few drinks will loose his tongue; he can describe the site with precision. It is about one day's ride from Narbo, at a long downhill slope. The Roman road winds through a great forest. The gold convoy was drawn out over almost two miles; the four-maniple escort was divided, half at the head of the convoy, and the remainder bringing up the rear.
The raiders were hidden in the forest, and attacked the convoy quite easily; first by a shower of arrows, and then in hand-to-hand combat. All legionaries and teamsters were killed. The raiders drove the wagons for a few miles down the road, and, at the spot where the forest ends, abandoned the road and went south.
The corpses were discovered by a relief party from Carcasso, a Roman fortress. They did not press the pursuit, since they feared to be outnumbered. Carodorus thinks that the raiders were Germans, and he estimates their numbers at two thousand.
If Carodorus really likes the PCs (a Very Good result or better on a Reaction roll), he will tell them in conspiratorial tones that the whole story is a little fishy. First, the escort was far too small -- only four maniples (480 men), when the smaller silver convoy was escorted by ten maniples. Then, there were no superior Roman officers among the dead -- only centurions. And, finally, no centurion in his right mind would enter a forest without sending some scouts ahead. However, Carodorus will refuse to say or agree with the logical conclusion -- that there was foul play in Tolosa.
Narbo and the Ambush Site
After Massilia, the next logical step for the PCs is going to Narbo. The easiest way to go is by land; they can rent another carriage, as above, but it must be returned to Massilia.
Narbo is a new city, a Latin colony founded some decades ago to help pacify the western region of the Roman Province. As in Massilia, the main topic of conversation in the city is still the raid. The same theories about the robbers can be found here. Some people have reached the same conclusions as Carodorus, but they don't speak it openly.
The ambush site is halfway from Narbo to Carcasso. The remnants of a large pyre, where the legionnaires and teamsters were cremated, can still be seen.
A careful search will reveal several broken spears and the occasional rusty sword by the road. An Area Knowledge (Gaul)-2 roll will reveal that these weapons are not from southern Gaul. An Area Knowledge (Spain)-4 will reveal that these are weapons used by some tribes from Further Spain!
The PCs may follow the trail of the raiders or they may go to Tolosa. A Common Sense or Intuition roll will suggest that the best course of action is to go to Tolosa first; the trail is already cold, and a few days more will not make any difference. If the PCs insist on following the trail, skip the next two sections.
Tolosa is situated at a wide curve of the Garumna river, at the right bank. Many isles dot the river here. North of the city, artificial sacred lakes adorned the precinct of the temple of the Celtic Apollo, until the Roman engineers drained them -- the treasure was hidden at the bottom of the lakes. The acropolis is near the temple of Apollo.
The Tectosage warriors that were not killed in the Roman attack have fled north to Burdigala. The city is still occupied by Caepio's army, which is waiting for news of the German horde. Unlike later Roman armies, Caepio's army isn't using the free time with engineering projects or drills; the legions are idle, passing time with gambling, brawls, women, and wine.
There are no inns at Tolosa; the PCs will have to fend for themselves. The weather is rainy, but there are many empty houses in the city. Wine and women are plentiful and cheap, but there is a dearth of food, since all supplies were confiscated by the legions.
The legions are encamped right by the city. Caepio requisitioned the acropolis for himself and his tribunes.
As in Narbo and Massilia, the robbery is one of the main topics of conversation here. The legionnaires are glum over the fact, since they were hoping for a share in the treasure. Caepio himself has not been seen outside the acropolis since the robbery, and those who went there have reported that he is depressed.
Aside from the same facts and theories gathered in Narbo and Massilia, the PCs can easily discover some useful information about the ill-fated convoy. The escort was formed with some of the poorest legionnaires and centurions in the army; Caepio apparently had decided that the Germans were near, and announced his resolve to purge his army of its weakest elements. Since the silver convoy had not faced any attacks, it wasn't deemed necessary to send a large escort.
A Leadership or Strategy roll will reveal that these are very strange reasons indeed; if the Germans were reported to be near, either Caepio would not send the gold away, or he would send a heavy escort with it. He would not send a weak escort, especially one composed by the poorest elements of his army!
If the PCs investigate further, a Streetwise roll will reveal that Caepio's right-hand man, Gnaeus Antistius Regino (see sidebar), is missing since some days before the departure of the convoy, but no one knows where he went.
During the investigations, the PCs will be approached by Gotelius, a Latin slave-dealer. He will first try to find out who the PCs are and who they are working for. After a few minutes, he will tell the PCs in conspiratorial tones that one of Caepio's staff officers (he will not tell which one) told him that there were mysterious circumstances in the robbery. He will claim to know nothing of this, but will offer to arrange a meeting of the PCs with the officer. If any of the PCs follow him when he leaves, they will see Gotelius head to a house in the city, where he established his office. Some hours later, Gotelius will meet the PCs and confirm the meeting, saying that the officer will meet them in one of the isles of the river, at the second night hour [about 10:00 pm].
Actually, Gotellius is an agent from Regino. He was ordered to be on the lookout for any people that formulated too many questions about the robbery, and, if necessary, to ensure their silence.
The PCs will have to go to the isle by boat. The isle is a large forested one, down the river from the city. There are plenty of boats at the city's wharfs; the PCs can easily comandeer one. Make Boating-2 rolls for the PC handling the boat (the night is dark, and the waters are swift).
There are twelve Turdetanian warriors ambushed at the forest, waiting for the PCs. One of them is a member of Arucos' guard (see sidebar). If the PCs decide to check the meeting-place, make a Quick Contest of Skills between the PC's stealth and the warrior's IQ-2. If the PCs are spotted, the Turdetanians will attack. If the PCs are carrying torches or other light source, they will be spotted automatically.
If the PCs were not detected by the Turdetanians, make a Quick Contest of Skills between the PCs Vision-2 or Hearing and the Turdetanians Stealth skill. If the PCs spot the warriors, they may try to ambush them themselves. The Spaniards are about five yards apart.
If the PCs are attacked, the Turdetanians will try to kill them. The Turdetanian guard will refrain from the fighting, keeping to the shadows, and will only use his bow if sorely needed. If four warriors are slain, the rest will retreat (they have one boat at the other side of the island), bringing the dead if at all possible. The Turdetanian guard will cover their retreat. The PCs will not be able to follow them, or find their trail on the shore.
If there is any light source, an Area Knowledge (Spain) roll will tell that the attackers are from Spain; a critical success will identify their tribe.
If the PCs manage to capture one of the attackers, they may interrogate him. He will know many interesting things. He is a Turdetanian from Further Spain. His chief, Arucos, pledged himself and all his tribe as Caepio's clients. Some months ago, Arucos and his warriors were summoned by Caepio to Tolosa. They were met by Regino, who told them of the gold and arranged an ambush against the convoy. Regino and the Turdetanians are now hiding with the gold in Near Spain, waiting for ships that will transport the gold away. After delivering this information to the PCs, the prisoner will be struck by an arrow and fall dead. The arrow was shot by the Turdetanian guard, who will then flee to the boat.
The PCs must now decide what to do with this information. A successful Law or Politics roll will tell that the information obtained is not conclusive proof, but there is enough evidence to mount a smear campaign against Caepio.
If they decide to go back to Rome now, Rufinus will pay the promised money and thank the PCs. Their role in this affair will soon be known, and they may take Caepio or Regino as enemies.
If the PCs decide to follow the trail of the gold, read on.
After returning to the site of the raid, the PCs have no difficulty following the trail -- it is not possible to hide the tracks of some hundreds of ox-drawn wagons. The trail leads up into the Pyrenees. The raiders followed some half-hidden passes to climb the rough foothills of the mountain range.
This is not pacified country. The tribesmen are fierce, and Rome has not made itself present yet.
Two days after striking to follow the trail, when the PCs are making camp for the night, they are suddenly surrounded by a party of twenty Ilergetes warriors (see sidebar). They will demand tribute (gold or silver, not less than $1,000) for the right of passage through their land. If the PCs refuse, they will attack; if they pay, they will let the PCs on their own.
A successful Diplomacy roll will reveal that these warriors are part of a group that has followed the Turdetanians since the raid. They are angry with the Turdetanians for not asking right of passage, and they think that the PCs are in league with them.
If the PCs can convince the Ilergetes that they are enemies of the Turdetanians (a Very Good result on a Reaction Roll), the Ilergetes will offer to help the PCs. They can guide the PCs to where the Turdetanians are camped, near the Iberus river. They will also tell that there is a Roman with the Turdetanians, and that they number about two thousand.
The Turdetanians are camped near a natural landing in the Iberus river. The last crates of gold are being shipped in six cargo ships, protected by two light armed escorts. The gold is hidden among other cargoes, mainly hides, timber and ores.
Obviously, the PCs can have no hope of storming the camp. A Common Sense or Law roll will reveal that the best course of action is to capture Regino and take him back to Rome to face trial. Some bars of gold, stamped with the mark of the Celtic Apollo, would also be a good proof. Remember that a Greedy character may try to get some bars for himself; one gold 1-pound bar is worth eighty thousand sesterces [$20,000]!
If the PCs befriended the Ilergetes, a Tactics roll may suggest that the tribesmen could make a distraction to draw the attention of the Turdetanians, while the PCs try to capture Regino and some gold bars. Alternatively, the PCs could watch the camp to determine the watch routine, and try to capture Regino furtively, or try to enter the camp impersonating Turdetanian warriors.
If the PCs can capture Regino, they will have to take him to Rome. This can be a difficult proposition if they did not make friends with the Ilergetes, for the Turdetanians will try to capture them. The nearest Roman city is Tarraco, where the PCs can get a ship to Rome.
Regino will try to bribe the PCs, offering each of them one million sesterces [$250,000]. If he perceives that one of the PCs may be moved by money (remember his Empathy), he will try to talk to him in private and increase the bribe. He will go as high as necessary, since he intends to have the PCs killed.
The PCs may try to flee from the camp in one of the ships. The escorts are best suited for this role, since the cargo ships are slow and cumbersome. The crew and oarsmen are Smyrnan Greeks; they will work for whoever pays more. A bribe of $40,000 will suffice; if the PCs show a lot of money, the crew will try to kill the PCs or sell them as slaves and pocket the money. But remember that there are two escorts, and Arucos may try to follow them by ship.
If the PCs can take Regino or a gold bar to Rome, Rufinus will be very glad indeed. He will pay them double the promised reward. Regino will be tried for treason, but will exile himself to Smyrna before the end of the trial. Caepio will not be prosecuted, but his reputation will suffer mightily. Regino will make an excellent Enemy for the PCs.