Thursday, 14 June 2012

Tobacco Consumption

Tobacco is an exotic import from the New World. It is smoked through a variety of pipes, cigarettes having not yet been invented. Its first attested use in the Old World was in the Empire of the Crescent Moon in the late 16th century. It is still extremely popular there and in the lands under its influence (including large areas of the Fair Kingdom).

In other areas of the Old World, tobacco is mostly popular in those countries that conduct a brisk Atlantic trade with the New World, with the exception of Albion, whose king has famously forbidden its consumption:

[Smoking is a] custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.

At the time of the Lamentations of the Blood Countess, tobacco consumption is fashionable in much of Continental Europe. Pipe smokers can be seen carrying hand-carved tobacco rammers, used to press the shredded leaf into the pipe bowl, and ember tongs, used to hold the burning embers of juniper wood used to light their pipes.

In 1610 Sir Francis Bacon noted that trying to quit the 'bad habit' was really hard, so the GM may want to introduce some addiction rules for PCs who indulge in this habit.

Friday, 8 June 2012

A Fortress Within

A large swath of the Fair Kingdom is either occupied by the Empire of the Crescent Moon, or under the suzerainty of native nobles sympathetic to the Empire of the Crescent Moon— which can be quite generous in terms of the autonomy it leaves to the local aristocrats as long as they support the Empire.

As a result, those nobles who are either sympathetic to the Empire of the One Faith or try to stay neutral between the two opposing and powerful empires have to strengthen the borders of their holdings and demesnes lest the Crescent Moon takes advantage of their weakness. As a result, a whole chain of small border fortresses has sprung up within the Fair Kingdom rather than at its borders as used to be the case in the past.

A typical fortress within the kingdom


Schemnitz is an industrious mountain city in the north of the Fair Kingdom. It is situated in the middle of an immense caldera created by the collapse of an ancient volcano.

Who knows what lies in the depths of the caldera, below the tranquil city of Schemnitz...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Kaschau, in the north east of the Fair Kingdom, is the ever rival city to its southern neighbour Clausenburg. Kaschau is just as busy and independently-minded as Clausenburg, and its burghers spend huge sums of money to build more beautiful and larger buildings than those of Clausenburg. The cathedral of Kaschau is the largest church in the Fair Kingdom.

One big difference, however, between the two rival cities is that the population of Kaschau is almost evenly split between Old Wayers and New Wayers. As a result, sectarian violence is a big problem in Kaschau and constantly hinders its catching up with arch-rival Clausenburg.


Clausenburg is the largest city in the mountainous eastern half of the Fair Kingdom. It is a hotbed of the New Way, and a busy trading city known for the entrepreneurial spirit of its burghers.


The Clausenburg nobles are known for being independently-minded, and for supporting neither of the two competing empires.


View of Gran

Gran is a large city in the north of the Fair Kingdom, situated between Pressburg, the current capital city, and Plintenburg, the residence of the Palatine. It is the seat of the Primate of the Church of True Faith in the Fair Kingdom, and is hence dubbed 'the capital city of the Old Wayers'.
The diocese of Gran is the largest and richest in the whole kingdom. Paradoxically enough, Gran marks the unofficial limit between the Old Way and the New Way of True Faith within the kingdom: to the west of Gran, most people follow the Old Way; to the east, the New Way.

Gran has been unsuccessfully besieged by the Empire of the Crescent Moon.

Siege of Gran

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Social Classes in the Early Modern Period

Social classes are called Estates in the Fair Kingdom.

Estates are closed social groups that have originated in the mediaeval period. Members of each estate enjoy certain rights or privileges and fulfil various duties towards the sovereign and other members of their estate. The estates differ in social function and economic status; they are basically legally defined entities. Each estate is an autonomous group, with its own courts and administration and its own representation at the level of state government. Membership in a given estate is hereditary, and mobility from one estate to another is difficult, although not impossible. Even the admission to the clerical estate somehow reflects one's previous estate, with nobles becoming prelates and priests of lower extraction staying in their parish. The principal estates are the aristocracy (nobility), the petty gentry, the burghers, and the free peasantry. Beyond the estate system there are various categories of semifree peasants and slaves. This is reflected in the composition of the Diet, which convenes the representatives of 4 classes: 1. the prelates of the Old Way; 2. the magnates or superior nobles; 3. the representatives of the inferior nobles; and 4. the representatives of the royal free towns.

Despite the great upheavals borne upon the land by the war between the mighty neighbouring empires, by religious strife, and by the emergence of a wealthy urban middle-class, the sytem of the estates is still firmly in place: the different classes in the nation enjoy different privileges. The noble as citizen of the state may possess land in any part of the Fair Kingdom, but the burgher, as citizen of a town, can only acquire real property within its jurisdiction. The nobles cannot be arrested without the warrant of a judge, and then only for capital crimes. They are exempt from every ordinary contribution, and are the only class in the kingdom eligible to every office in the state.

The petty gentry are those members of the nobility who have the legal rights of that estate but who do not own serfs, and who work their relatively small landholdings by themselves. They tend to live in compact groups, in whole villages or parts of villages. The petty gentry became a distinct social class in the 14th century; it consists mainly of impoverished nobles, of retainers, and of elevated free peasants. The families of petty gentry often adopted the name of the village they resided in as their own.

Burghers are, in the broad sense of the term, urban dwellers employed in various skilled trades, industries, and commerce, as well as town and suburban residents employed in farming, gardening, fruit growing, etc. In the narrow sense, burghers are the inhabitants of royal free cities. As a result, the residents of small towns, particularly towns owned by nobles, enjoy significantly fewer rights than the residents of large towns that have full self-government.

Free peasants cultivate the ground for hire, and retain their freedom; they may quit the land of one lord ans settle on the domain of another. Many, however, have entered into contracts by which they agree to to till the ground for a stipulated sum, and it is unlawful for them to leave the land until the advances made by their proprietors have been paid, nor can they be turned out of their farms until they are indemnified for their labour.

Now to figure out how adventurers fit in all this :)

Justice in the Fair Kingdom

The administration of justice is entirely in the hands of the nobles, each of whom has his prison and his local magistrates. In petty cases, the magistrate administers summary punishment, and is provided with a machine for inflicting stripes. In the case of a robber being caught in the fact, he may be punished even severely without much delay: in doubtful cases, it is necessary to proceed with more caution; but the code of the Fair Kingdom is extremely imperfect, and the proceedings are all directed towards extorting a confession. In cases of importance, it is necessary to call a Herrenstuhl, a sort of jury, in which the provincial magistrate always takes a part. Here a fiscal or lawyer must plead the case sometimes both for and against the party accused. Appeals may be made to the courts of the county and of the circle, and lastly to the royal court of Pressburg. This complicated system of appeals, necessary perhaps in a country where the influence of the nobles is everything, and where a single person is sometimes proprietary of a whole county, renders the execution of a sentence so dilatory, that it is sometimes put off for months, and even for years: capital punishments are very rare in this country.

—from the diary of a traveller from far Caledonia

Saturday, 2 June 2012


This is a typical big city of the lowlands. "A" is the original fortified urban centre, "E" the suburbs of the city.

Temeschwar is currently occupied by the Empire of the Crescent Moon.


This is a typical frontier fortress of the Mountains People.

The fortress has been cut in the rock itself. The area marked "9" around the fortress is the royal free city of Munkatz, mostly inhabited by the free Mountains People.


The fortified castle of the Palatine.

Actually not everybody considers him as the 'true' Palatine since he's only been elected by those nobles sympathetic to the Empire of the One Faith. Neutral nobles, and those leaning towards the Empire of the Crescent Moon, did not take part in the election.


This is a typical fortified city of the Fair Kingdom.



This is Ofen, the former capital city of the Fair Kingdom. It is currently under occupation by the Empire of the Crescent Moon.

As a result, the capital city has been moved to Pressburg. However, the Palatine (regent) of the Fair Kingdom spends most of his time in his fortress at Plintenburg.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Black Death


Scenario seed: The player characters are in a walled city when there is an outbreak of bubonic plague in the surrounding area. The lord (or the council) of the city decrees that no one is allowed outside of or into the city, under pain of death, as a means to keep it safe from the Black Death. However, the PCs have some mission or quest underway and must try and illegally leave the city.

A harsher scenario seed: Now the PCs are trapped within a city where there's an outbreak of bubonic plague. However, no-one is allowed to leave the city out of fear that the epidemics is carried out to the rest of the country. The PCs must either try and illegally flee the city (as in the previous scenario seed), OR try and find a cure if they are somehow linked to the government of the city...

Europe at the Time of the Blood Countess

Europe about 1560

The Fair Kingdom is somewhere in Central Europe...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Villages with Fortified Churches

The topography of the south east of the Fair Kingdom is that of a plateau, cut by wide valleys of various small rivers that flow into larger ones. The villages follow the topography closely and try to make the best of it; thus villages situated in a valley developed around a central street and possibly some secondary ones, while those situated on a flatter spot follow a looser, radial pattern. Due to security reasons and the traditions of the Mountains inhabitants, the villages are compact.

The main element is the church, always situated in the middle of the town. Different types of fortifications can be found: a small enceinte around the church, a row of fortifications around the church or a real fortress with multiple fortification walls centred on the church. The churches have been adapted to include defensive functions; all of them are either Romanesque basilicas or single-nave churches of the late Gothic period. The churches often include many additions, ranging in age from the original period in which the churches were built (late Middle Ages) to the sixteenth century.

In almost all cases, the church is situated in an easily defendable position, generally on a hilltop. Elements of fortifications found in the main cities in the area have been adapted here, and they are a testimony of the building techniques used along the years by the Mountains People. Some fortifications have observations towers, some of them being church towers adapted to the needs of a fortress. The materials are the traditional ones, stone and red bricks, with a red clay tiled roof, a typical feature of the area.

Close to the church there is the main square of the village or Tanzplatz (Dance Square) around which the social life gravitates. The only buildings situated next to the fortifications are those of communal use: the school or the village hall. The parish house, along with the houses of the most wealthy villagers, are situated around this square. Also in most sites, barns for grain storage are situated close to the centre of the village.

16th Century Dress

At the Court of the Blood Countess

The Blood Countess

Friday, 4 May 2012


The Thaler is the common silver currency of all lands of the setting— except in the Empire of the Crescent Moon. Any noble with access to silver mines can mint his own Thalers. Obviously the true silver content of a given local Thaler will depend on the wealth of the lord of the land, so some Thalers are more readily-accepted than others.

The Thaler is a huge coin, 5 cm in diameter, and weighing 1oz (about 30g). Obviously this type of coin is mostly seen by merchants and wealthy nobles. Less rich people usually see its sub-unit: the silver Kreutzer (there are 60 Kreutzer to a Thaler).

The golden Dukat is favoured by rich travellers since it is easier to carry round because of its smaller size. There are 12 Dukats to a Thaler. Dukats are usually not minted in the Fair Kingdom, even though they are widely accepted there.

There is yet another silvern sub-unit of the Thaler, minted in the Empire of the One Faith: the Groschen. It is a small coin but rather thick. There are 24 Groschen to a Thaler.

a princely Thaler

the Mountains People

The Mountains People keep to simple animal husbandry and to a grazing economy with a nomadic changing of their pastures. The forests and the land are owned jointly. The families have the right to use the land but have no right of ownership. Even in this time of pre-capitalism, with private ownership becoming stronger, a sensible collectivism is stubbornly maintained with a village-based joint ownership and with the repeated opportunity to redistribute joint property according to need. Yet the Mountains People could not remain untouched by their feudal environment, and there was also an ongoing internal differentiation. Thus, a Mountains nobility has evolved on an economic basis. The rest of the population is divided into those who fight on horseback and those who fought "only" on foot, thus forming three classes identified clearly both in peace at home and in war.

The Mountains People have gained their privileges and independence with their own blood and toil. These are frequently threatened and the Mountains People must stand up again and again in their defence. They protest verbally, in writing and, occasionally, by taking up arms.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Kurutz and Hayducks

The Plains People like to compose ballads praising their heroic past as free cavaliers, but the present is alas much bleaker and less romantic: unless someone born outside of the noble class has somehow managed, for instance as a skilled craftsman or as a successful soldier of fortune, to integrate the class of the burghers, he is condemned to a hard life of intentured labour, without any hope of change. This explains the frequent peasant uprisings, which are invariably met with harsh repression meted out by the gentry and their retainers. Those malcontent armed peasants who manage to evade the nobles' repression will then usually gather with similarly-minded individuals from the lowest-ranking groups of feudal society such as wandering students, defrocked friars and parish priests, and with fugitive nobles, and then end up as highwaymen known as kurutz.

In the violent society of the Fair Kingdom, cattle driving is an important and dangerous occupation, and drovers travel armed. When unemployed, and loth to return to serfdom, many of them end up as bandits or retainers in the service of local landowners, or become soldiers of fortune. These armed commoners are known as hayducks across the Fair Kingdom.

Kurutz and Hayducks are a good background for a party of adventurers in the Fair Kingdom, as it provides a rationale for their skills at horse-riding and fighting, and also for their behaviour outside of the established classes of 16th/17th century Central Europe.

Systems of Choice

Given the time period chosen for the setting, the systems of choice are Renaissance and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, both set in the early 17th century, and both fully or partially downloadable as free PDFs from their sites.

Both role-playing games are also based on well-known gaming engines: RuneQuest/BRP/D100 for the former, and the original fantasy role-playing game for the latter.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


The Fair Kingdom is ethnically diverse. One of the Kings of the past encouraged migration to his lands after yet another war had depleted them of people.

The core stock of the Fair Kingdom are the Plains People. Their ancestors were horse nomads who came from over the forbidding Oriental Range and practised a shamanistic religion. They converted to the True Faith centuries ago but it is rumoured that some of them still invoke the spirits rather than the saints in times of trouble — such as these. Both the indentured serfs who toil the land and the petty nobles who lord over them descend from this stock. There is abysmal class difference between the nobles, clergy, and inhabitants of free towns on the one side, and the peasants on the other side.

In the mountains of the Fair Kingdom live the Mountains People. They are all free men, a status that was granted to them by the Kings of the past in exchange for guarding the mountain frontiers of the Fair Kingdom. The Mountains People are proud and warlike.

Despite the ever raging wars, trade is brisk between the empires, the petty fiefs of the Fair Kingdom, and the more distant lands in every direction. A rich class of burghers has appeared, who manages all this trade. They have built large cities on the rivers and along the main trade routes. They are nominally protected by the Emperor of the One Faith, and it is through the burgher class that the High Language has become the common tongue of all in the Fair Kingdom.

All the peoples mentioned above are equally split between the Old and the New Way of True Faith.

Two other, more mysterious peoples live in the Fair Kingdom:
  1. the Gipsies are a travelling people who trade in used items and who repair furniture. They are often accused of many wrongdoings, but this has possibly more to do with their dark complexion than with any actual misdemeanors. Their women are held to be able to predict the future.
  2. the People of the Herds are a semi-nomadic people who has recently arrived with their large herds of sheep from the Empire of the Crescent Moon. They however seem to have their own faith, and it is rumoured that they are ruled by a coven of witches. They seem to be well versed in ancient occult lore.
The Gipsies and the People of the Herds lie outside of feudal society. They are subordinate only to the king, and sometimes to the monasteries on whose lands they happen to dwell.

Note: this setting does not contemplate any demi-human player characters nor any sentient non-human opponents, i.e., no elves, no dwarfs, no orcs, no lizard-men.


As written in the previous post, there has been an internal fight for the throne ever since the death of the last King, and thus a state of almost civil war, with the greedy Empires just beyond the garden wall. Allegiances shift back and forth, the situation is totally confused, and at times everybody seems to be against everybody else.
Negotiating, Fair Kingdom-style.

As a result, war and violence are ever plaguing the Fair Kingdom. It is not an all-out war; it is the sum of all the warlike events or violent encounters the player characters may face:
  • The constant war between the two Empires, much of it taking place in the Fair Kingdom
  • Peasant uprisings, mercilessly crushed by the nobles
  • Feudal skirmishes between the petty nobles
  • Bands of marauding unemployed mercenaries, an oft-encountered hazard on the highways of the Fair Kingdom.

The Fair Kingdom

The Fair Kingdom lies between two warring empires: the Empire of the One Faith, and the Empire of the Crescent Moon.

The Fair Kingdom hasn't had a King for decades: the last King died without an heir, and the squabbling nobles, most of them with some claim or another to the throne of the Fair Kingdom, haven't managed to elect a new King. The petty nobles of the Fair Kingdom are also variously subordinate to the two empires by oaths of fealty, yet the two empires, being at war, cannot convene a Diet to settle the dispute either. This situation suits most nobles just right, so it's probably there to last...


Not only should monsters be uniquely designed by the GM; they should also be sparingly used. Anyway, the most frequently met foes are humans. They are the most formidable opponents player characters may encounter.

True Faith

There is only one religion in the setting: True Faith. However, it is interpreted differently by various people in the campaign setting. In the Fair Kingdom, people are almost evenly split between those who follow the Old Way and those who follow the New Way. As is alas men's character, they would more readily fight each other than fight the heathens or the devil worshippers. True Faith comes under yet different flavours without the Fair Kingdom.


Monsters must be uniquely designed by the GM for each adventure: what sense of awe and bewilderment can there possibly be if the creature encountered is already well-known by the players? There are, however, monster categories, so as to have specialised weapons, spells, etc. Suggested categories are:
  • Changelings/faeries
  • Monsters from the pagan past
  • Otherworldly monsters (e.g., demons)
  • Undead

Saturday, 28 April 2012