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    Canonfire :: View topic - Peasant knowledge of monsters
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    Peasant knowledge of monsters
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    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 01, 2004
    Posts: 252
    From: Nyrond

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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 3:31 pm  
    Peasant knowledge of monsters

    Hello All,

    I'm thinking of the Gran March, a place that is one of the last bastions of good in the world. It has a strong military, most people are industrious and good-natured. The lands are generally free of monsters. I can't imagine for the life of me why someone would live out in the "boonies" where there are goblins, orcs, gnolls, ogres, a marauding giant ever now and again or worse! Do the peasants in WoG understand the true danger of living away from a city? Shocked What do you think the average peasant knows about the monsters roaming around? Do you think they would only be familiar with the common and uncommon beasts or do you think they would know about more rare and exotic monsters. How creepy do you think it would be for Farmer Hansel to go on his weekly trek from his village of Two Fords to the neighboring village of Whitestone and when he gets there, all of the cottages are burned to the ground and everyone is dead. Worse: he gets there and everyone is just missing, but everything else is good condition.
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 458
    From: Canada

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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 4:51 pm  

    Great question. I've often wondered the same thing about solitary woodcutters or herbalists living out in the woods in other fantasy worlds. How do they avoid being accosted by bandits or monsters?

    I think part of the reason has to do with resources. If there is fertile land to till, timber to cut or precious minerals to be mined, chances are some folk are going to try to settle the area-adventurers are notorious in this regard, of course.

    The 1983 Glossography pointed out that most citizens live near the capital and other major cities, with decreasing frequency as the border is neared. The border areas are obviously the most dangerous, although people will still move and live there if there are resources to be extracted.

    Just as in real life kings and lords received service from peasants in exchange for protection from raiders, the practice is the same when dealing with attacks from orcs, goblins or giants. Bold adventurers may undertake to claim an area, whether on their own or in the service of a ruler, and make themselves lords and masters of the region. They might then declare allegiance to a ruler and gain a noble title out of it, which makes entering the aristocracy maybe a little easier than it was in real life.

    Long story short, the kings and lords often send out patrols to fight and slay these monsters before they do too much damage to their holdings and citizens. If the monsters are too much for the patrols to deal with...that's when your players get involved. It's how attacks against the Slave Lords and the Giants got started, after all!

    In any case, I think that if there are resources and riches to be gained from a territory, people will move there in spite of the danger. In North America, the First Nations often fought wars over access to the best hunting and farming territories, and white fur traders came to deal with some of them in spite of the dangers offered by other Natives who weren't happy to see white men giving their enemies guns. Frontiersmen and pioneers came west for exactly these reasons, either fighting with the Natives or making Treaties with them.

    In short, I think that if there are resources in a given area, people are going to try and move there to use them. Dangers from other people and nature are quite common, and that's where the development of patrols, warrior bands, and othes come in-to protect your own resources and take some from the enemy.

    Medieval serfs and peasants in the Dark and Middle Ages constantly lived under the threat of bandit attacks, slaver raids, and everything in between. No doubt many people wanted to reach the safety of a city wall before sunset...
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 13, 2002
    Posts: 1076
    From: Orlane, Gran March

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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 6:58 pm  

    If you go to the Gran March Project page, in the map section you will find a population distribution page. In our discussions of the region, we felt that most of the March was still wild. The bulk of the population lives in a belt along the southern and western borders of the country. This area (bordering Ulek and Keoland) are both the safest and the most fertile as it is the river country (see other maps).

    IMO, the average peasant's knowledge of huminoids would be fairly high in the March, due to participation of the Amry and the rather rough nature of the area. In our write ups (as yet only partially published) the area's around the Rushnmoors suffer random undead wandering out of the swamps during parts of the year. They do not pose a significant threat except to lone travellers.

    As to more remote areas... our assumption is that the people live in villages, traveller's stay in fortified inns (often maintained by the Army or the KoW). This, and the Army patrols the roads... the roads are safe in the March. However, the rest of the countryside (in our version) is under the watchful eye of the Nobles, each responsible for their own estate. Therefore, security varies by barony and even between the.

    Also, I think villages would be about a days walk or ride (two different measures obviously) apart. I feel that most people in the March will be horsed. Others dont. We have not reached consensus yet.

    Check out the maps and let us know what you think.
    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Nov 16, 2006
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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:02 pm  

    Well, I think i have a beef with how D&D handles peasants. In truth your average peasant would have to be pretty hardy to handle the 16 hour workdays with only two days a week off to rest (and they aren't even back to back in GH).
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 458
    From: Canada

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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:09 pm  

    Almost forgot:

    Creatures like ankhegs and giant beetles are no doubt a constant hazard to farmers, who would probably have developed ways of dealing with them, just as I imagine real-life farmers and herdsmen have dealt with bears and wolves. What steps could/would farmers take to deal with these kinds of monsters? Could they have recourse to patrols? Would they have some archery training to drive the mindless monsters off? How would they keep the monsters from eating their crops?
    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Jun 16, 2003
    Posts: 152
    From: Calgary, AB, Canada

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    Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:23 pm  

    I agree with CSL, and with much of what Anced Math added. I DM a relatively low magic campaign set in GM in 575 CY, and IMC only those peasants who live near the Dim Forest or the Rushmoors have had a chance to see monsters with their own eyes--even then, actual encounters are very infrequent. Rare/exotic monsters are the stuff of legends (they exist, but few if any peasants can claim to have seen them with their own eyes... and some are completely made up). A greater number of commoners will have experienced encounters with goblinoids, ogres and trolls while being posted near the Dim Forest during their military service, so everyone knows the existence of humanoids to be true (the same would hold true for giants, if my campaign were set at a later date)...

    Both CSL and AM gave adequate justifications for why commoners would risk living near monster-infested areas... timber and medicial herbs are valuable commodities!
    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Oct 23, 2004
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    Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:12 am  
    peasants in Greyhawk

    I don't think that there is any consensus save they are not the cut from the same cloth as their Western European counterparts. They range from being Yeomen to near slaves which I think is part of the appeal of Greyhawk, it is very modern in feel.

    Peasants would have knowledge of monsters in my campaigns but not neccessarily to be able to give them a name. Hence, mauranding orcs, may not be known as orcs (in my campaigns, no two groups of monsters look exactly the same). Only, the adventurers who have seen dozens may deduce what they are but it is always better to rely upon description.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
    Posts: 3811
    From: So. Cal

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    Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:26 pm  

    Think of it this way:

    Peasants living on the borders of the land (and by borders I don't mean necessarily foreign borders but the borders of "wild lands") live in an area not well policed by those who do so. Border areas will be more prone to banditry, and borders near wild lands will be more prone to monster incursions.

    Bandits, while evil and thuggish, usually are not murderers. The reason for this is they are not completely stupid. If you raid a farm, take everything, and kill the owners, that is a resource that is fully tapped and never coming back. However, if you raid the farm and only take most of the goods and only rough up the owners, then you can come back later after they have recovered and do it again!!! Monsters, particularly those that eat humans/demi-humans or take slaves are more likely to lay waste to a village or isolated farmstead.

    As to monster knowledge, peasants will probably know a decent amount of info about monsters living in their general vicinity. By this I mean they will at least know some of the monster's capabilities or the general direction from which they threaten. For example:

    "Them bugbears is sneaky bastards they say."

    "Them trolls grow back bits what you cut off I tell's ya! Only way to put a troll down is to burn it dead!"

    "They say that to meet the gaze of the gorgon means death."

    “There’s some orcs living in the hills to the east a few days travel.”

    Very specific info on abilities that are not visually obvious would likely be unknown to common folk. You might give a +5 bonus to peasants' knowledge checks to know properties of critters locally well known, though I'd have that bonus only apply only to critters within 2 days journey of the peasants, as peasants are not prone to wandering farther than that usually. Take that bonus away completely for anything farther away, and for anything outside of the peasants hex on the world map you could impose a -5(or higher) penalty on knowledge checks about monsters- some peasants might not have even heard of most monsters. You might not apply this penalty as stringently to any peasant who is "well traveled", meaning that they are adventurous and have actually been to the NEXT VILLAGE or that are known to camp out in the local woods on hunting excursions, have served in the army and been many places, etc.

    One thing I would recommend is that any Knowledge checks that fail by 5 or more results in a false bit of info such as:

    "Just a splash of our good priest’s holy water kills vampires dead.” You’ll need more than a “splash”.

    "The kobolds around these parts are pretty stupid, and don't gather in large numbers." The kobolds have many traps and snares throughout their lair, and there is a HORDE of them.

    “Some adventurers killed that dragon years ago. If I could only find its treasure I’d be rich!” The adventurers got eaten by the dragon, which has merely been sleeping for the past few years or has been active away from the peasants’ area.
    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 01, 2004
    Posts: 252
    From: Nyrond

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    Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:34 pm  

    That is an excellent observation, both in that most peasants don't travel far from there village and they would know something of the critters in the surrounding area. Everyone has an idea of their own WoG, but has there ever been anything that is canon regarding the ignorance of peasants or is it just assumed they know little and travel even less. Let's face it, subsistence farming sucks and if you're barely eeking out an existence, you can't afford to go wander off too much or take a pleasure stroll to the next village.
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2004
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    Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:54 pm  

    Peasants show the same range of competence as anyone else. They aren't educated and they generally don't travel far, but that doesn't mean they are all idiots or completely clueless. They are certainly likely to be quite well aware of matters that affect their livelihood. Which happens to include monsters in the neighborhood. Are they going to have the sort of clinical details that a wizard or other professional monster slayer has? Of course not. But they are certainly going to know where its dangerous to go and generally why.

    "Mundane" monsters like orcs and goblins are not going to be any more noteworthy than viking raiders were to Saxon england: just another bunch of guys out there who aren't on our side and might come kill us and take our stuff. They'll have some idea of what to do when that happens, too. Folks'll be alert for signs of raids, etc.

    Nastier monsters are a different matter: folk will have a wider range of rumors about their abilities and will do their best to stay far away from them. Think about monster tales in mythology: Beowulf's Grendel, or the Harpies, Caledonian Boar, etc of Greek myths. Arthurian tales and the Mabinogion have other stories. The peasants knew where the monster was and avoided it while complaining to their lord to do something about it. Sometimes a lot was known about the beast, sometimes hardly anything. Depends on the nature of the creature and how it operates.

    A thing to consider is that the game is invariably described from an adventurer's perspective: guys who are professionals in the practice of violence in general and monster slaying in particular. And, as with the coinage system, monsters aren't presented in a fashion that makes any sense. They are just there to be fun for the PCs. So most adventures have far more monsters than could possibly live there and, generally, have them far too close to the town/village/whatever that the PCs are expected to operate from.

    It is certainly possible to work past that and have a more reasonable monster distribution. With mostly man made calamities (summoned things or created monsters) and intrigues in the really settled parts of nations and a wider range of threats on the periphery. Threats that are divided into "normal" stuff (orcs, trolls, etc) that folks can be expected to live with, albeit with risk. And 'mythical' threats that'll depopulate an area if they aren't dealt with: hydras, dragons, manticores, basilisks, and so on.

    Dungeon and adventure design would need to be different, since the 'toss a pile of critters selected mainly to be new and different into a collection of rooms' approach wouldn't make a lot of sense. But you could still have plenty of monster bashing going on. Just probably with more travel involved and/or the nearby presence of a persistant threat (Hool Marshes/Dreadwood or the Vast Swamp or the Crystalmists/Jotens).

    It really depends on the style of game play enjoyed by the group.
    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Jun 19, 2005
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    Wed Dec 27, 2006 3:01 pm  

    I think peasant should be pretty familiar with the creatures that live in the area but not with the very rare or foreign creatures. If ogres are common to the area, I'm sure the local yokels will know all about ogres and probably bore the crap out of newcomers by talking about them constantly.
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