Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Making a Medieval Sandbox III: Example Settings
Below are five places and periods which I think would work for a Feudal Anarchy (or another similarly hardcore medievalist) campaign. The astute observer will note a slight bias towards earlier periods - due to the fact that they allow for future campaigns to be set within the Feudal Anarchy time period of 1050 - 1250 - and towards Southern Europe - which is just because I like the Mediterranean. Note that many of the areas will retain similar features in time periods other than those suggested.
Suggested Time Periods: The life of El Cid
Unlike Averoigne, this setting allows for characters from a wide number of backgrounds - including Muslims and Jews. In addition, the political situation seems ideal for player characters as swords for hire for either a Christian or Muslim lord since warfare, both religious and secular, is incredibly common in the region. There are also a number of interesting historical personages that the PCs can interact with, and that's always cool.
Suggested Time Periods: Before September 1066; The Reign of Robert Curthose
It would be difficult for me to think of a setting that more matches the assumptions of Feudal Anarchy than Normandy - or broadly Northern France in general during the same period. It is home to the sorts of small scale warfare that is easy to get PCs involved in, and there's no shortage of famous people to butt heads with, including not only William the Bastard but also his father Robert the Magnificent, William's three sons, and Walter Tyrell. Later periods show a marked reduction in the small scale warfare mentioned above, so it's best to stick to earlier time frames. A similar setting, though one I will not bother to separate into its own category, would be the Ile-de-France in the same period, where one can help Louis the Fat against the nefarious Thomas de Marle.
Suggested time Periods: The Second Crusade; The Albigensian Crusade
Like Iberia, Occitania allows for characters from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the political situation is not unlike that of Normandy,* with feuding lords and small scale warfare. You also get the Peace of God movement and a few heresies, which may make for interesting things for the PCs to become involved with/oppose. It also lacks the direct contact with Muslims, which removes some of the darker aspect of religious warfare in the period. For those wishing to add that back in, Occitanian nobles participated in the conquest of Lisbon in the Second Crusade and the Albigensian Crusade is about as dark as it gets.
Suggested Time Periods: the life of Robert Guiscard, the creation of the Kingdom of Sicily
I have always preferred this region to the other Norman conquest, but that's partly because of my interest in the crusaders that it would produce. Again, like Iberia and Occitania it allows for a wide range of characters, but with the addition in this case of Byzantines. In addition to internecine warfare, one could also get involved with the Crusades, the struggles between the Pope and the German Emperor, or Byzantine succession crises. I am also reminded that Columbia Games planned on doing a sequel to Lionheart called Tancred, which would've covered this area. Shame that didn't pan out.
The Welsh Marches
Suggested Time Periods: The Anarchy
Merrie England is probably what most people are thinking of when they think of a hardcore medievalist game, and I think this is probably the best setting for such a game. While obviously different from the Southern European settings, it allows for a fairly wide breadth of character types - English, Norman, Welsh, and possibly those from other areas - as well as a great deal of raiding across the border. The Anarchy is the quintessential Feudal Anarchy period (duh), and in addition to the real world historical figures one can interact with there are also fictional ones such as Brother Cadfael (or those guys from Pillars of the Earth I guess). There's also already some gaming products that cater to this area, such as the Robin Hood book by Ice, and its very easy to find sources for this in English. This will likely be the setting for my next playtest.
This list is, obviously, not exhaustive. Noisms correctly observed in a comment to yesterday's post that the Crusader States would make an excellent setting. They share many characteristics with those above; however, I am normally wary of using them because - as someone who claims to be a historian of the First Crusade - I find the violence and horror of the period more readily immediate than that in the above settings.
*That is a gross simplification that I am embarrassed to even write, but it will serve for gaming purposes.