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.