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    Canonfire :: View topic - How to make Greyhawk more "medievalsy"?
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    How to make Greyhawk more "medievalsy"?
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    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Jun 17, 2020
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    From: Mogi Mirim, Brazil

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    Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:11 pm  
    How to make Greyhawk more "medievalsy"?

    Greyhawk is the setting i think gives us one of the best MEDIEVAL (emphasis on that) fantasy vibes in the d&d settings.

    I was thinking, what are ways we can use in our games to help estabilish and reinforce this look and feel? How do you do it?
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Fri Jan 15, 2021 10:04 pm  

    1 the F Word

    'The Feudal System' didn't really exist, not in the simplified, narrowly defined form you and I were taught in middle school. It's a later construct, a legal theory that became a historical model. Even the word 'feudal' didn't exist in the period.

    Simplified models can be helpful, though. Your GH game isn't set on historical Earth and conditions are quite different, anyway, so there's no need to go out and read Fiefs and Vassals before setting up a campaign (it's a great book, though, and well worth a read). Some form of what most laymen would call 'feudal' should be fairly common but by no means universal. It's a bad fit for a place like the City of Greyhawk, but good for Furyondy.

    2

    Think about how the PCs fit into the society. Give the PCs homes, family, obligations, and (most likely) a lord/clan chief/clerical senior, guild superior, etc.. And don't forget religion. It's for everybody, not just clerics.

    3 Banners and battle magic

    Defensive and protective battle magic can really help a Medieval army fight and win on a D&D battlefield. Include items such as blessed banners that counter fear effects or weaken area effect attack spells. Dragon magazine published an article that included similar stuff.

    4 Cold Iron Abjuration

    A fanzine--I believe it was the Oerth Journal--ran an article years ago about iron-based magic that makes traditional castles much more useful in a high-magic world like GH, or most D&D settings.


    EDIT
    look in OJ #11
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:54 am  

    Get rid of universal literacy. Reading & writing should be restricted to Clerics, Wizards, Monks & the more forward-thinking Nobles!
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sun Jan 17, 2021 2:01 pm  

    DriveByPoster wrote:
    Get rid of universal literacy. Reading & writing should be restricted to Clerics, Wizards, Monks & the more forward-thinking Nobles!


    I prefer to run GH with AD&D 2E rules, in which restricted literacy is a built-in feature of the optional NWP system.

    In 3E or 5E, I'd definitely use optional rules so that literacy wasn't universal.
    Here's a trait from the UA rules:
    http://dnd.arkalseif.info/feats/unearthed-arcana--90/illiterate--1426/index.html


    IMC many, but no means all, town/city-based merchants in places such as Greyhawk or Hardby would also be literate.

    I always assume there are no printing presses with moveable metallic type in GH.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:57 am  

    I agree with the removal of universal literacy, and would add that not all would be fluent or even proficient with the "Common" tongue used by merchants, the well-traveled, scholars/priests, and the upper classes who are more likely to deal with foreigners.

    Other things that I think would enhance Greyhawk's medieval feel:

    1) Aside from scholars, higher ranking nobles/military commanders, and wealthy merchants and seafarers, I think that most people (but especially isolated rural populations and the poor/downtrodden) would have limited knowledge of the wider world beyond their immediate place of residence.

    A farmer in rural Keoland would know about nearby market towns, but might never travel more than a day or so away from their own residence. They would probably have heard of the bigger cities in the realm (Niole Dra, Gradsul, and their own and neighbouring provincial capitals), they might have heard about the country's immediate neighbours (Gran March, the Ulek states, Geoff, Sterich, Bissel, Sea Princes), and might have heard stories about the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and Rauxes (i.e., the Roman Empire), the fabled City of Greyhawk, and perhaps Furyondy/Veluna and Ket due to retellings of armed conflicts that occurred with those nations... but I doubt the average joe could situate with precision most of those realms on a map. I would also make this a rule for low level/low status PCs. They learn about the wider world as they explore it.

    2) Emphasize the importance of religion in day to day life. I think most peasants and common folk would pray to many of the gods in a pantheon, and not just one. Prayers and offerings by common folk would also be made to evil gods, if only in the hopes that doing so would placate them (e.g., "O great Incabulos, please accept this offering of ______, and spare our house from the pestilence you have wrought on our neighbours").

    3) Familiarize yourselves with the festivals and holidays celebrated across the Flanaess, and refer to the way the locals observe these events (which should vary from region to region). These events add local colour, but can also provide plot hooks.

    4) Make magic rare and "miraculous." Most clergy would be lay people without spell casting powers, and only the exceptionally devout would be able to cast divine spells (i.e., "miracles"). This in turn makes illness, diseases, and injuries serious threats to most people. Likewise, common folk would be in awe and likely afraid of most arcane casters.

    5) Create a few idioms (expressions) used primarily by people from particular regions (and if you're good at it, try to create distinctive accents for them when RPing).

    6) Limit how much most people know about history and current events. Most of what they know is learned via oral tradition, and the true story has likely changed alot with each retelling across generations. The farther away the place/era they are talking about, the less truth there will be in the telling... even if they sincerely believe that what their uncle told them is 100% true. Most news consists of unconfirmed rumours.

    7) All smaller settlements, and even some large cities, do not have sewage systems. The contents of chamber pots are tossed out of windows and into the street. An unlucky PC may step in something pleasant, or have it land on their head. Densely populated cities stink and are hotbeds for disease. Stagnant canals/waterways might add to the stench and risk of waterborne or insect born diseases.

    8) Emphasize the unique characteristics of goods made in particular realms (e.g., Monmurg spiced rum).

    9) Have merchants inspect the currency that PCs are using to pay for goods/services. Were the gold coins they found in a treasure trove the same as the local currency, or are they from a different country or era? What do the coins look like? Perhaps the merchant will bite down or weigh the unusual coins in order to assess their value. Its probably wise from a DM perspective to not make a big deal about this every time the PCs want to buy something, but doing so once in a while can add flavour... and maybe even plot hooks ("what do you mean our hard earned gold is worthless???").

    10) If the PCs try to establish amorous relationships with NPCs, consider expectations regarding courtship across different sexes, cultures, social classes, etc.

    11) Make courtesy and proper etiquette significant elements of encounters. I think the Adventures in Middle-Earth Loremaster's Guide has rules for adjudicating courtesy and audiences. The last pages of the Glossography of the Flanaess (WoG 1983 boxed set) also feature social hierarchies, titles and honorific... figure out where the PCs stand in relation to everyone else, and have local lords or their representatives express annoyance when an uncouth PC fails to address them with the proper honorific.

    12) The poor in urban centres and common folk who live in cold climates probably have limited opportunity to bathe... so they probably stink. (Ice Barbarian chieftains probably have someone heat water over a fire, with which they then fill the chieftain's wooden tub... such is the privilege that comes with power).

    13) Most peasants probably live in poorly ventilated, crowded huts inhabited by multiple generations of family members. They may even bring their cherished goats and fowl inside the hut at night, to protect them from nocturnal predators, and also as potential sources of warmth. Most huts are one room affairs--private quarters are rare (although children might sleep in a loft).

    Excellent sources of inspirations that touch on many more subjects not mentioned above:

    . A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe (by Expeditious Retreat Press)

    . A Magical Society: Silk Road (Expeditious Retreat Press)

    . Gary Gygax's Living Fantasy (Troll Lord Games)

    . Gary Gygax's Nation Builder (Troll Lord Games)

    Unfortunately, the Gary Gygax's Gygaxian Fantasy volumes 1-9, which include the latter two titles, are long out of print, unavailable legally as PDFs, and are fetching high prices on the secondary market.

    Anyway, I hope this was helpful...
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:53 am  

    1. More obvious social/wealth disparity.

    2. Mud/dust and filth. And smokey fires. Everywhere. Cities are muddy/dusty, and everything smaller than a city is muddier/dustier still; the filth and smokiness increase the other way around.

    3. Powerful laws/governance not all that quick to ignore the activities of PCs. People traveling around freely, and armed and capable of launching a coup against any small local lord, would not exactly be tolerated, and so PCs probably wouldn't want to overtly advertise what they are. The peasants might call the PCs "adventurers/heroes," but to authorities they may very well be "brigands/outlaws/murder hobos." Adventurers would be VERY RARE. That, of course, just means there are lots of problems nobody is dealing with, because there is nobody but the PCs to deal with them.

    4. Stricter laws on what arms/armor commoners may possess, and restrictions on available technology (no full plate or equivalent; plate mail is the top). You carry a sword, or wear heavier armor, you better be a noble or in service to one. Daggers and/or a walking staff are suitable for around town. Bows are for hunting. Or are they for poaching? I guess that depends where one is at the time. City Watch - should be wearing leather, studded, padded, or nothing; city guard - scale or chain mail at most, but probably just leather, studded, padded in peace time. PC weapon choice will be more about what is permissible to them, and not about power gaming. A peasant? With a great sword? Probably not gonna happen. How you wish to balance out starting money/social class/other legal alowances with other benefits is up to you, but one way is that wealth is noticed, while mucked up commoners are not, and vice versa, depending on the situation. That makes for a lot of room to work benefits/penalties in. If somebody wears the trappings of wealth, shop owners might charge them more, thieves target them more, nobles expect to be obliged by them in some manner more, peasants won't trust them, and so on. Commoners, on the other hand, might be charged less, be trusted more by peasants, be hidden from authorities by peasants, more easily acquire rumors, etc.

    5. Use the "Gord the Rogue" money system, where the common coinage is not made of precious metals, therefore precious metals are, well, more precious.

    6. Powerful organized religion.

    7. More desperation/desperate people.

    8. More "Might Makes Right!" and rarely will be it be the "good people" (see below) who have the Might.

    9. Way more gray, as in, "They're the good guys because they don't kill as many people."

    10. Harsh and immediate local justice/ "justice" - both from mobs and from local lords.

    11. HUGELY ramp up the importance of religion in the everyday lives of people.

    12. TRUE clerics are more rare.

    13. Accordingly, disease, death, and suffering are more common facets of everyday life. This goes hand in hand with the increased importance of religion, and the miracle of TRUE clerics.

    14. Wizards are RARE, though maybe not as rare as TRUE clerics, and are not trusted because they mess with forces not governed by the gods. Beware the mobs, and most of the churches, PC wizards; at least until you gain the power to more easily avoid them/frighten them off.

    15. Ramp up the superstition, which can be much less about superstition in this case, and more about misinformation about the strange things in a fantasy world.

    16. Social status matters. A lot. Different social classes only mix at very specific times/in very specific places, and otherwise only mix when the lower is subservient to the higher. Lots of deferential treatment from lower to higher (i.e. the commoner not covered in muck might as well be a lord to the commoner that is, and will be addressed at such.)

    17. Less people, and smaller cities, towns, villages. Much more wilderness/unexplored/wild lands.

    18. And among those less controlled lands, petty lords, or mobs in isolated villages, will hold much more obvious autocratic power in their small areas of influence.

    19. Social justice is pretty much non-existent; it is an ugly problematic world to navigate through and deal with.

    Enter the PCs...
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    Sun Jan 24, 2021 11:48 pm  

    "Medieval" is a broad category (both in time and space) and some of these things will be more or less true depending on what time/place the setting is inspired by.

    If it's more "Dark Ages" (Migration Period, whatever) there may be less (or even no) difference between an actual lord and any other powerful warrior with followers, so PCs may have more ability to rise socially. Later on, with more infrastructure and established kingdoms, there's much less chance of that.

    Similarly, e.g. Ireland and (I think) parts of Scandinavia were more "loosely organized" into much later times - there were kings, jarls, etc., but they were less separated from their subjects by layers of custom and "pomp and circumstance" than, say, the late-medieval French or English kings.

    Cebrion wrote:

    4. Stricter laws on what arms/armor commoners may possess, and restrictions on available technology (no full plate or equivalent; plate mail is the top).


    I would think in the more "chaotic" times/places (not necessarily in the alignment sense, but less infrastructure/more local rather than regional or national rulers) there would be less availability, but fewer legal restrictions (at least for "freemen"; even the Scandinavians had thralls). Whereas the reverse for more of a High/Late Middle Ages society.

    Quote:

    14. Wizards are RARE, though maybe not as rare as TRUE clerics, and are not trusted because they mess with forces not governed by the gods. Beware the mobs, and most of the churches, PC wizards; at least until you gain the power to more easily avoid them/frighten them off.


    I think you can go either way with this. There are probably some places where wizards are more socially powerful than clerics, where religion is relatively unorganized and done more by a head of household or clan chief than by formal priests.

    However, these are likely the places 'on the fringes' with less infrastructure.

    (even in RL, Europe wasn't fully Christianized for much of the Middle Ages...)[/i]
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 25, 2021 3:21 pm  

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...not all would be fluent or even proficient with the "Common" tongue used by merchants, the well-traveled, scholars/priests, and the upper classes who are more likely to deal with foreigners...

    -I DM D&D 3.5, but use a heavily modified "Speak Language" skill that includes skill points, inspired by the rules in Dragon #57, AD&D 1.5 and AD&D 2. The single dumbest quote from any set of D&D rules: "You don't make Speak Language checks. You either know a language or you don't" was clearly written by people who have never learned, nor used, a foreign language. The inability to understand to communicate well comes up all the time IMC, and actually got a PC killed.

    FormerlyKnownasNorker wrote:
    ...I prefer to run GH with AD&D 2E rules, in which restricted literacy is a built-in feature of the optional NWP system.

    In 3E or 5E, I'd definitely use optional rules so that literacy wasn't universal.
    Here's a trait from the UA rules:
    http://dnd.arkalseif.info/feats/unearthed-arcana--90/illiterate--1426/index.html

    ...

    -One of my favorite traits for NPCs! I even used it for a PC once because 1) I wanted the extra skill point and 2) It added a little character motivation (he hired on with the other PCs if they'd teach him to read).

    One thing about literacy in the Middle Ages, though, is that people were more literate than is popularly assumed. When you hear that most people were illiterate, there are two points: 1) "Illiterate" is not the same thing as non-literate (generally, a reading level below 4th is illiterate, the inability to write your own name is non-literate); 2) "Literacy" in the Middle Ages generally referred to literacy in Latin, by which standard, most of the people reading this are "illiterate".

    My general rule of thumb is that someone in one of the settled areas, who is Middle Lower Class (a large chunk of the population), has the non-literacy trait if they have an Intelligence score under 10, under 8 if Upper Lower Class, but under 12 if Lower Lower Class. If the NPC is Lower Middle Class or higher (a small percentage of the population), I generally don't use the Illiteracy trait unless there's a specific reason, but there are always exceptions.

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Aside from scholars, higher ranking nobles/military commanders, and wealthy merchants and seafarers, I think that most people (but especially isolated rural populations and the poor/downtrodden) would have limited knowledge of the wider world beyond their immediate place of residence...

    -"Knowlwdge (Geography)" skill!


    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Familiarize yourselves with the festivals and holidays celebrated across the Flanaess, and refer to the way the locals observe these events (which should vary from region to region). These events add local colour, but can also provide plot hooks...

    -I've been trying to do more with this.

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Create a few idioms (expressions) used primarily by people from particular regions (and if you're good at it, try to create distinctive accents for them when RPing)...

    ...and that.

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Limit how much most people know about history and current events..

    -"Knowledge (History)" and "Knowledge (Local)"!

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Have merchants inspect the currency that PCs are using to pay for goods/services...

    -Straight out of the AD&D1 DMG.

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...Emphasize the unique characteristics of goods made in particular realms (e.g., Monmurg spiced rum).....

    -The Inn of the Welcome Wench and the Gord books did this a lot, and I keep a list. 😉

    TwiceBorn wrote:
    ...The poor in urban centres and common folk who live in cold climates probably have limited opportunity to bathe... so they probably stink. (Ice Barbarian chieftains probably have someone heat water over a fire, with which they then fill the chieftain's wooden tub... such is the privilege that comes with power)...

    -The Norse (the RW Cold Barbarian analog), and medieval people in general, actually bathed quite a bit, at least before the Little Ice Age, when bathing fell out of fashion.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 25, 2021 4:13 pm  

    jamesdglick wrote:

    -The Norse (the RW Cold Barbarian analog), and medieval people in general, actually bathed quite a bit, at least before the Little Ice Age, when bathing fell out of fashion.


    I think there's a broader point here, which is that a lot of the things popularly thought of as medieval really only belong to the end of that period or even really more the early modern period (e.g. full plate armor, witch trials).
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