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Thread: Campaign Historical Accuracy

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    Campaign Historical Accuracy

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    Any sticklers for historical accuracy out there? Do you get frustrated when the peasants have multiple room houses? Or when ringmail and chainmail coexist? (See also: Literacy thread)

    I like a gray area of pre-printing press, post-iron working, sewers-in-cities (only) type development. Magic doesn't mess this up much, because a given kingdom (chiefdom or authoritarian) is lucky to have one or two decent mages. Monsters aren't too much trouble either, since the big ones can usually be dispatched by sending out the army.

    Where do you draw fair game and faux game history lines?

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    Depends on the game, I don't expect much historical accuracy playing D&D but if I am playing Dark Ages Vampire/Mage/Werewolf or Ars Magica I expect a lot. That said I'll let some minor things go if it interrupts the game, like if the peasant had a two room house I can live with that 4 or 5 room and thats killed it for me.
    Playing: Pathfinder
    Running: infrequent VtM game


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    I'm not historically savvy enough (especially when compared to some of my freakishly-intellectual players) to want to worry about deep historical accuracy in my games. I tend to detach my games from "historical reality" simply because I know that, given enough time, I'll muck something up if I don't. The last thing I want to worry about bogging down my game is "That shouldn't exist in this part of the world yet. It won't be introduced to this culture for another hundred years".

    That said, when I do try to set something in a historical era, I will make sure to do research so that I can portray it properly within the game. I like ambiance and I really try to make players "feel" like they are in a different world.

    An RPG campaign that I've wanted to run for a while (but, sadly, probably never will) was going to be set in ancient Mesopotamia. Naturally, I had to do a good bit of reading to make sure that I knew everything I would need to portray the time and place properly within the game.

    Still, even my "historical" games tend to have elements of "fantasy" that shake things up a little from the norm (and help dismiss some "accuracy" arguements).
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    The best way I know to describe it is to describe it. I don't get my shorts in a bunch if someone has an anachronistic world, as long as they are consistent in that anachronism.

    I keep prodding my Friday DM to think though his world building in order that it not bite his butt in the long term. I don't say you can't do this or do that, but think it through. What is the effect on your world at large?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thindacarulle Player's Manual, Chapter One -- Culture.

    Technology runs from early renaissance in the more civilized areas to late iron age in the sticks. There are some anomalies to this pattern, but finding them is part of the fun. Magic is very strong, often replacing technology; for example, artificial light is common in the great cities, but of magical origin rather than electrical. There are many centers of culture and the arts are well cared for in most large cities. Medicine, printing, and scientific farming are some of those arts that are practiced in the great centers. This is not to say all the world is entirely safe. For every mighty city there are five pockets of dark superstition, and three or four decadent decaying empires, all for your enjoyment.

    The World abounds with sentient life. Race refers to your species, not the color of your skin. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Avians, Centaurs and more rub shoulders in the towns and cities, more or less at peace. This is not to say that bigots do not exist, but they are not common. A good rule is; the larger the town, the more cosmopolitan. The number of different cultures is vast. Almost any character idea can be accommodated.

    What follows is a few general bits of information that will be helpful in gaining the flavor of the place. Each culture will have its own take on any one of these items, but I am not trying for an historical recreation. That said, it is a role-playing game and certain terms and ideas will help one get into the mood.


    The Quality of Life
    In the traditional heroic fantasy life is medieval Europe, with all the mud and grime scraped off. I will endeavor to put some the mud and grime back on, but with the effect of magic taken into account.

    Most people work very hard. The majority of people on Greyhawke are farmers of some kind. While sensible methods of farming are known and used, power is still supplied by wind, water, animals, and your back. Crop yields are low by today's standard. Many more people are required to work the land to feed the population.

    Most people do not have all they want to eat. They have enough, but no more, and sometimes they have less. Only the very rich have all the food they want, and in hard times even the rich tighten their belts.

    Even so, the effects of magic are felt. The presence of Clerics means that the crushing famines and plagues that devastated Europe in the 13th century are impossible. Clerical magic will save the crops, and cure the plagues. Do anything less and the remaining people will have different gods next year.

    Life is pre-industrial. This means that ready made goods are rare. Everything from the bit of lace on m'lady's dress to the shovel in the hands of a slave are made one at a time, by hand.

    Clothing is a luxury. It takes a family of four an entire year to spin enough thread to weave the cloth for one shirt. Those wealthy enough to own spinning wheels can work a little faster. As a result most people have one outfit. If they saved their money or bought used clothes they might have two. The rag man and used clothing seller are important businessmen. The limiter is not how well you sew, but how quickly the thread can be spun. Only the rich have a variety of clothing.

    People do not travel. Doubtless everyone has heard the old saw that "Most people never traveled more than twenty miles from the place they were born". It is true. Most people didn't, and that tends to be the rule on Greyhawke as well.

    Magical forms of travel are expensive and rare. Boats, animal power, and feet are the way travel is done, mostly by foot. Few places have roads worthy of the name.

    People are parochial. Strangers will be viewed with suspicion in places that seldom see strangers. Rumors will abound about other nations and people that have never been seen. Such rumors will bear little resemblance to the truth. The maps of our world created before anyone had seen the world are good examples. "Here be dragons." It is less a statement of actual dragons than admitting that "We don't know". Nations of people with their faces in their chest, wolf people, Prester John, and so forth. The world was populated with ignorance.

    Greyhawke is, for the most part, an armed society and as such is a polite one. A rude son-of-a-beatch doesn't live long. In even the most civilized cultures, an insult will be discharged with blood. Honor is a person's one true claim to respect, and the poorest wretch will defend it to the last breath.

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    I try to keep it reasonable, and keep my mouth shut when players inadvertently let anachronisms slip into the game. A recent backstory I got had a scene in which a bartender illegally gave wine to a 15-year-old. My historical brain said "no, that 15 year old would be right at home in a medieval tavern", but the part of my brain that wants players to come up with interesting backstories said "shh!".

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    I like the Thindacarulle story - that's a good point about thread. But it sounds a little on the unruly side. Maybe that's unique to Greyhawke, but I don't see a lot of rulers letting the populace run around with deadly weapons, killing each other in someone gets lippy.

    (D&D warning)
    Enter the Commoner class - proficient with one simple weapon i.e. the club.

    The tavern brings up another question of mine - what cultures had the money to blow on prepared food and alcohol? I imagine that taverns didn't proliferate until the middle class did, which was what, 1500-1600s?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    The tavern brings up another question of mine - what cultures had the money to blow on prepared food and alcohol? I imagine that taverns didn't proliferate until the middle class did, which was what, 1500-1600s?
    I wish I could find informations about taverns in medieval time. Probably it was organized differently. But be sure that people loved beer, wine, mead, schnapps... Even monks were good at fermenting ! So I would be surprised if there wasn't an outlet for alcoholic products. It's kind of a constant with mankind.

    When it comes to lodging and prepared food I think you're correct to correlate restaurateurs and hoteliers with middle class. But another very important factor may justify such activities : pilgrimage. For instance pilgrimage to Rome and Santiago de Compostella were very important in terms of travels, cultural contact and economy. Many towns and abbeys developed by the sheer proximity to a flux of pilgrims.
    Au gibet noir, manchot aimable, dansent, dansent les paladins
    Les maigres paladins du diable les squelettes de Saladins.

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    I'm a History Buff, so I LOVE historical accuracy... but in a game of D&D I'll let allot slide cause of magic.


    Supporters tend to argue with me that roleplaying is separate from the system and can be strongly supported in any game. I always encourage them to write a history for their iron token in monopoly and discuss the motivations for passing go.
    - Engar

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    The tavern brings up another question of mine - what cultures had the money to blow on prepared food and alcohol? I imagine that taverns didn't proliferate until the middle class did, which was what, 1500-1600s?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pub

    Roadside inns (tabernae) in the British Isles appeared shortly after the roads themselves. A horse can only travel so far if it has to carry food for itself and the rider, so any traveller would be a patron of a tavern.

    Restaurants, on the other hand, got their start after the French Revolution when all the private chefs and waiters found their patrons headless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Valdar View Post
    when all the private chefs and waiters found their patrons headless.
    aaaaw... good time
    Au gibet noir, manchot aimable, dansent, dansent les paladins
    Les maigres paladins du diable les squelettes de Saladins.

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    Since my game world is not Earth, I don't worry to much about historical accuracy. If that's what you like, I say go for it but I don't prefer to be too accurate, specially since it's a fantasy game world that I run.
    Skunk
    a.k.a. Johnprime



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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    I like the Thindacarulle story - that's a good point about thread. But it sounds a little on the unruly side. Maybe that's unique to Greyhawke, but I don't see a lot of rulers letting the populace run around with deadly weapons, killing each other in someone gets lippy..
    Depends on where you are in the world. But knives are everywhere. Swords, not so much.

    the Eyrian Empire sends armor and weapons home with every soldier than leaves the army after a full enlistment. The Reserves consists of all these men (and not a few women), and every generation of soldier before them. The average village will have enough arms and armor to field an impressive militia and the people with experience to teach the militia how to use them.


    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    IThe tavern brings up another question of mine - what cultures had the money to blow on prepared food and alcohol? I imagine that taverns didn't proliferate until the middle class did, which was what, 1500-1600s?
    When in the world are you? In Ancient Rome the lower classes ate out exclusively. Most homes did not have kitchens. A "tavern" in medieval terns could be as simple as someone opening a keg of ale and selling it to his neighbors. Brewing was on the home scale. The formal establishment of the Pubic House was a later invention.

    Game worlds can be as the writer decides.
    Last edited by tesral; 08-22-2008 at 10:14 PM.

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    I guess the idea to "Enforce" a particular "Historical Accurate" characteristic of your world will depend on how it will benefit the opportunities for "Role-playing" or "Challenge" the PCs.

    My favorites are (in no particular order):
    1) Illiterate populations.
    2) People does not know how to swim
    3) Language barriers
    4) Social Classes or Birth Rights (Nobility or Slavery)

    As for technology for the "Medieval type fantasy world" I allow the best technology available at the time as kept or utilized by Europeans, Muslims and Chinesse. I prefer "Alhambra" type Palaces not your typical "Dark and unsanitary" medieval castle.

    I don't bother with things like:
    1) Life expectancy
    2) Hygiene (everybody are normally clean and wash their hands when appropriate).
    3) Banks of other "Financial" institutions.

    .
    Saluti
    Carlos

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimthar View Post
    I
    I don't bother with things like:
    1) Life expectancy
    2) Hygiene (everybody are normally clean and wash their hands when appropriate).
    3) Banks of other "Financial" institutions.

    .
    I bother with a great deal, but the characters don't. Banks exist, but I cannot recall any PC every darkening the door of one.

    Most cultures all but revere the bath.

    Life expectancy is high. Food, good hygiene, magical healing. Oh yes the Jug of Babba Yaga. Very important that.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    The formal establishment of the Pubic House was a later invention.

    .
    You have formal Pubic houses? Now that is one liberal society.

    Sorry i'm aware that pun and pointing out grammatical errors are the lowest form of comedy but it's early, I'm tired, at work , and couldn't help myself.

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