Thursday, May 19, 2011

besmirching Jeffy Plantagenet

Yesterday's outline of Geoffrey of Anjou's personality got some interesting responses. A couple people felt that my characterization was a bit of a disservice to the patriarch of the Plantagenet dynasty. Dangerous Brian notes:
While matilda was making a hash of things in England, her husband was kicking ass and taking names all over France. In fact, Matilda's son Henry probably owes his military genius, energetic enthuisiam and penchant for womanising to the teachings and example of his father.
And Don McKinney, one of the niftiest guys I've ever known, reminds us:
Henry I had heard reports of Geoffrey's talents and prowess. I suspect that would be more military that bardic... Remember that Geoffrey's father gave him Anjou because he left to marry and become King of Jerusalem (1131-1143), so Geoffrey's family isn't exactly a bunch of unknowns.
These are excellent points.  The wikipedia article on Geoffrey of Anjou also provides this interesting detail:
John of Marmoutier describes Geoffrey as handsome, red-headed, jovial, and a great warrior; however, Ralph of Diceto alleges that his charm concealed his cold and selfish character.
I don't think I've read those particular chroniclers yet, so those guys can be added to the pile of fun stuff to check into while researching for the campaign.  Anyway, all this stuff suggests that my take on this guy is a gross oversimplification at best and outright erroneous at worst. The thing is, I'm okay with that.
Dude's been dead for the better part of a millenium and frankly I feel like I don't owe him jack and/or squat. Getting Geoffrey of Anjou 'right' just isn't a priority for me.  I'm much more interested in doing something interesting with the materials available, whether the result comes out exactly in line with history or not. The research is fuel for the process, not the point of the process. The point is to end up with fun stuff for the game. 
Geoffrey of Anjou may never even show up in my campaign.  As Dangerous Brian notes he hangs back in Normandy while his wife leads an invasion of England. But as a VIP of the setting he casts a long shadow. Geoffrey as a useless dandy fits in with an overall theme for the upper crust in the campaign: these are all terrible people.  Matilda and Stephen's family spat over who gets to sit at the head of the table at Christmas dinner costs thousands of lives and pretty much wrecks up an entire country (and much of France, too)  for two friggin' decades. Under my interpretation no one at the top of the Wessex social hierarchy is going to come off as a swell guy to go have a beer with.  Incidentally, this means Empress Matilda is going to be tricky, as it would be super duper easy to just pretend "she's a bitch" counts as characterization.
But anyway, let's say we want to keep the prettyboy fancy dresser angle, but give Geoffrey a harder edge, make him a cruel bastard who can kick more than a little ass.  There's at least one superb model to go for in characterizing this version, Tim Roth's character Archibald Cunningham from the Liam Neeson flick Rob Roy. Man, I hate that guy. Neeson's Rob Roy pulling himself up by his foe's sword and just stone cold chopping Cunningham down is a great "Fuck yeah!" moment.

Mr. Roth plays an excellent Deadly Douchebag.
He was also great in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.