Excerpts from GURPS Who's Who 1
Elements of the supernatural and the uncanny followed Alexander all his life, from his mother's snake-worship rituals to his death in the month of Tammuz the Dying God, ringed around with omens from Chaldean sorcerers and Greek seers. Later romance held that Alexander had harnessed gryphons to his chariot, penned up the evil giants Gog and Magog behind a mighty brazen wall, and sought the Fountain of Youth. More prosaically, there is good reason to suspect that Alexander was poisoned by a conspiracy headed by his childhood tutor Aristotle. Whether Aristotle was a patsy for the Nine Unknown Masters fearful of Alexander's intentions against their Indian stronghold, or whether he served some other power, is up to the GM.
Caesar is the quintessential power-hungry politician. He always keeps his eye on the main chance, often making powerful enemies or seemingly unsupportable choices. His decisions are always aimed at advancing himself and Rome. While exceptionally cruel to non-Romans, Caesar is merciful to Roman enemies. He is not superstitious; faced with the unusual, he would probably be pragmatic. He adapts well to circumstances, so weird powers should not leave him off-balance for long.
Almost no reliable records of Chaucer have been found for 1361-66; even the report of his punishment for assault is second-hand. He then turns up on a secret diplomatic mission to Navarre (on the Spanish/French border) with three unnamed companions. Was he being trained in more than law by the Cathars or the Prieuré de Sion, who both had bases in Southern France? Chaucer the writer had the ear of three successive kings of England; Chaucer the diplomat went to the continent many times. He would have been a very useful tool.
This might explain one puzzling aspect of the Florentine mission: how he persuaded the Bardi to lend Edward III such vast sums, when the king had previously defaulted on a loans worth £230,000, helping to bankrupt them. It was this which brought Chaucer close to the king; arranging it may have been a good investment.
Finally, during the Peasants' Revolt, Chaucer was living in a house above one of London's main gates, the Aldgate – which was opened to let in the rioters. One William Tonge was blamed, but maybe Chaucer actually did the deed under orders from the Secret Masters.
Vlad Tepes in History
Vlad was the basis for Bram Stoker's classic horror novel "Dracula," but the real Vlad was much more terrifying than the fictitious vampire. He governed Wallachia by terror, killing a significant percentage of its total population in response to various offenses. Among these deaths were many of the old boyars, whom he replaced with newly ennobled peasants. Despite this, or because of it, he is admired in Rumania as a national hero, a leader of the war against the Turks, rather as Stalin is still admired in Georgia. Among his other deeds, he built the first fortification in Bucharest and thus set it on the path toward becoming Rumania's capital.
Meeting Vlad is an experience best avoided, if possible. Any hint of disrespect or criticism will bring a swift threat of an ugly death. A player character who can speak cleverly, and above all one who shows no fear, may gain Vlad's respect and escape with his life. Even so, Vlad will be glad to tell him what fate he so narrowly escaped.
At the height of the Renaissance stand a handful of men who were part of both the medieval world of magic and the emerging world of reason. They were magicians and scientists, mystics and engineers. John Dee was perhaps the greatest, a man with a continent-spanning reputation during his own lifetime. History sees him as a gullible enthusiast for mystical nonsense, or a conman. Perhaps he was all of these things.
Roberts dresses like a gentleman, with fine clothes, and drinks tea, as a gentleman would. He has been described as slight and a dandy, but at the same time his personal magnetism and bravery are emphatic. He is the antithesis of the hard-drinking, devil-may-care pirate (e.g. Blackbeard). He is also vindictive, and retaliates violently against anyone or anything that stands in his way.
He is quick to anger if insulted or threatened, but just as quick to take advantage of circumstances. It's likely that he would analyze the value or threat of any strange powers or problems. Once he makes his decision, he will quickly either take advantage of or act to eliminate them. GMs should remember the loyalty he inspires in his crew; most were willing to die for him, or suffer extreme hardship without a hint of mutiny. They would back him in even in the face of crushing odds.
Clive's contribution to history was to lay the foundations for the British Empire in India. When he arrived, the British possessions were only a handful of wealthy but vulnerable trading colonies. When he left, Britain, rather than France or the Marathas, was the major power, set to inherit India from the Moghuls.
He was able to achieve so much because of his fearsome determination. When he was inspired, nothing could withstand him. His success on the battlefield demonstrated his character. So, unfortunately, did his frequent depressions – so intense was his energy that he suffered when it wasn't provided an outlet of suitable proportions.
Sir Richard Francis Burton is one of history's most dashing adventurers (so much so that many have cast doubts on his story). Born in 1821 to an English ex-soldier's family, Burton relocated frequently between France, Italy and England as a child, leaving him with an intense wanderlust. There was a rumor that his family had Gypsy blood, as evidenced by his dark features and "Gypsy stare"; coincidentally, he was one of the first to note the resemblance of the Romany to the Indian races.
Attending Oxford at the age of 19, Burton worked overtime to be expelled by the end of his second year, finding academia dull. Shortly thereafter, he joined the East India Company as a soldier, rising quickly in the ranks. It's a sign of his abilities that the British continued to trust him with assignments despite his outspokenness over the treatment of natives and of women at home. Burton was involved with the British invasion of Afghanistan and the aborted invasion of Iran.