I Has a Pastebin (Historical Inspiration)

[Obligate apology for being offline for a couple weeks]

First off, Medievalists.net has a feature on a recently-excavated medieval fortress city in Salisbury (abandoned due to some king vs. Church shenannigans in the 14th century, so it’s preserved quite well – unlike most medieval cities). The aerial photography makes the layout of the city itself visible, and the cathedral and keep’s floorplan are even clearer. The article is here.

One of the cool things about the internet has always been the way it gives you access to things you could never see normally. Unfortunately, it takes a hell of a lot of work to find what you need. So.. I’ve spent most of the last month researching military drill, naval tactics, and clothing construction in the 1600s (with some branching into the 1700s). I’m collecting a link library of high-quality scans of various primary sources, mostly drill-books and a few strategic works, to help out other wargamers and DMs get a feel for the military of various historical periods. Even if you’re just a history buff, they provide some valuable context on the lives of soldiers. It’s living temporarily in this pastebin.

Yes, I know the list of historical conflicts is incomplete and Eurocentric. I’m also using the most common American name for the conflicts to reduce confusion on my end, which will no doubt give someone a severe case of butthurt.

Eh.

Anyway, right now I’m busy cross-referencing a bunch of books on Ottoman drill and military structure for a personal project (maybe a publishable one!). It’s a bitch sorting out the truth from the lies, self-aggrandisment, and general panic that most Europeans were dealing with at the time (the late Renaissance/Early Modern period). If I can find reliable primaries, they’re next in line for the library, then it’s time for screenshots and organizing an actual website for this.

Mohammad_Naib_Sharif_in_Kabul

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Quick personal update/USN Squadron Reference dump (Robotech Tactics, Battletech)

Spent all day yesterday and a good part of today painting up my entry into the most recent Iron Painter contest on the Battletech forums. The deadline is Dec. 1st, in case anyone out there is watching and wanting to play.
This weekend is the big Customer Appreciation sale at Olympic Cards and Comics, so I limped over there and grabbed assorted Christmas gifts for the folks (and magnets, as well..).

I’ve been toying with the idea of painting up my Valks as some of my old squadrons from CAG-9, partly to give me a reason to finish my cruise jacket and use up all my patches. Since I was combat-deployed during the time-frame of both the Global Wars and the First Robotech War, it stands to reason that some of the squadrons active in the era might have survived and folded into the UEDF. Plus, we know the Screwtops and the Top Hatters survived into the Robotech war by the markings on some of the Valkyries in background scenes. Hell, Skull Squadron is blatantly the Jolly Rogers.

Seriously Roy, get that thing on your back looked at.

As far as assigning them, I know the Golden Hawks are getting the VEF-1 squadron (that royal blue and gold screaming eagle looks amazing on a radome), and the Checkmates will be at least one of the Valk units (my main intercept squadron). I’m thinking, though, that some of the Attack squadrons should really be rocking Destroids, possibly one squadron per Destroid type. The Screwbirds would map well to Defenders or my Lancers, and the Black Knights would of course be rocking the Tomahawks. I know I’m going to have several units of Spartans and Phalanxes, so I may just set them up as the Blue Diamonds and Argonauts, and HS-8 as the Ghosts.

The Argo’s commander’s bird is damned sexy too. Tell me that wouldn’t look good on a Phalanx..

The other option, of course, is to use the funniest squadron names possible; the Fighting Redcocks (with whom I also deployed), the Red Rippers, the Puking Dogs..

Actually, this is a decent time to talk about squadron markings, in case you’ve ever been curious as to how they work. The Argo up there, for example, is marked “NH-200”, and belongs to squadron VFA-147.
The order of precedence is Air-wing/squadron/plane number. Each Air Wing has a 2-letter code, further broken down into “coast” (Atlantic = A, Pacific = N) and the wing’s unique letter. These are completely arbitrary, however, so all you need to know is that they don’t use the same letter twice. I’ll be using either “O” or “R” for “Orbital”.
The first number in the 3-digit designation is the squadron number in the Air Wing. Traditionally, the Intercept squadron(s) – the “fighters” – are squadrons 1– and 2–, the attack squadrons 3– and 4–, and the Electronic Attack and AWACS (Airborne warning and control) units get 5— and 6– respectively.
Thus, NG-400 is the leader of the 4th squadron in “Pacific Air Wing G”.
The Squadron’s call-numbers, meanwhile, tell you what kind of unit it is. So “VFA” means “Fixed-wing” (V) Fighter/Attack (FA) Squadron. “VAQ” is “Fixed-wing” (V), “Attack” (A), “Electronic” (Q), and so on.

So, how can you apply this to marking your units?
The Air Wing’s commander typically flies in 100 or 200, with his XO flying in the other of the two, or on his wing in 101/201. That’s where your VF-1S and/or VT-1D are most likely to be. Yes, it’s beyond me why they made the frigging Training variant a commander unit in RRPGTobotech, but whatever.
Destroid groups would likely have higher squadron numbers than Valkyries. I’m using “D” to re-designate them, so VFA-146 would become DA-146 if I loaded them into Spartans, while VMFA-314 (the “M” is for “Marines”) would become DMA-314.
The VEF-1A is technically a non-combat or support unit. Non-combat squadrons get numbered after the other, sexier ones get theirs, so something in the 6-7 range would be appropriate (2 Valk squadrons, plus 3-4 Destroid groups, and then the AWACS squadron).

Edit: Current marking scheme follows
UN Space Self Defense Force Veritech Combat Group 9, call number OH
Valkyrie units:
OH-1xx – VT-211 “Checkmates”  – VF-1R with VF-1D support
OH-2xx – VT-31, “Tomcatters” – VF-1A with VF-1S support
OH-3xx – VT-147 “Argonauts” – VF-1A with VF-1J support
OH-4xx – VT-146 “Blue Diamonds” – VF-1A with VF-1J support.
OH-5xx – VTAQ-138 “Yellowjackets”- VEF-1, no support. 5 aircraft.
OH-6xx – VAQ-112 “Golden Eagles” – Cats-Eye Recon, no support. 4 aircraft.
Destroid Units:
OH-7xx – DMA-314 “Black Knights” – Destroid Tomahawks and Spartans. Major William J. Smithson commanding.
OH-8xx – DS-22 – “Fighting Redcocks” – Destroid Defenders with Tomahawk support. “Ogre” Inman commanding
OH-9xx – DA-151 “Vigilantes” –  Destroid Phalanxes with Defender support.
Drone Units:
OH-0xx – UP-8 “Eightballers” – Ghost Drone Fighters with limited Lancer support.

(DS: Destroid Superiority/Anti-air)
(VTAQ: Veritech squadron, Spaceborne Early Warning/Electronic Attack)
(UP: Unmanned Patrol, wingless)
Units are split out by type now, which bumped up the VEF squadron.

Early Modern Reference Works (Free Book links)

I know that not all DMs research heavily before they play, but I find that illustrations help anyone. Plus, I love rooting through pretty old books with their decorated margins and their scrumptious woodcuts. So I’m upping links to a selection of interesting, freely-downloadable books  from the Early Modern period, dealing with soldiering and adventuring. You’ll find more details on the landing pages: these are just a link and a reason you should care about any given book. This list will be expanding as I can be arsed, and may move to a sub-page.
(edit: added several books, cleaned up descriptions)

Note: these following books are in French, but the primary utility for most of you is in the images, not the text.
Trophee’ des Armes &c. – great images of various contemporary military ranks, as well as a discussion of infantry drill
Traite’ des armes &c. – less great, but highly usable low-grade woodcuts of men employing various weapons, as well as the weapons themselves. A classic work.
De Gheyn’s Drill ManualTHE period drill book. Originally Dutch, but translated into English, German, French, Italian, even Swedish and Danish. Covers firearms as well as pike drill; used for the better part of a century all over Europe. The detailed woodcuts served as the model for virtually all of the images you’ll ever see of a Musketeer; even Osprey ripped them off completely for their English Civil War and Early Firearms books. This is the one I linked on the Lamentations G+ list, so if you frequent there you’ve probably already seen it.

Note the lanyard on the rest, which allows quick recovery when reloading.

One of many images from De Gheyn

Art Militaire’ a Cheval – Cavalry manual, including a number of woodcuts of Cavalry getting it very nastily from pikemen, images of contemporary weaponry, etc.

English books, more valuable for research etc. Keep in mind, there are period works in here, so get a decent dictionary handy if you’re not used to reading Randomm fhittes from the Century &c. XV. In addition, they are pretty heavily-skewed towards the English opinion of things, which we shall charitably call “humorously misinformed” on certain topics. Also, keep in mind the idea of a nation-state was born at the end of this period. “Nations” here are a web of loyalties/oaths to a sovereign, not rigorously defined areas.
The History of the Conquest of Mexico Volume I & Volume II– De Solis. First read this in a reprint when I was about 14. It’s good for staging a “survival horror” Conquista, which is a genre that gets nowhere near enough attention.
Another history of the Conquest etc. – Cortes furiously masturbates to his own awesomeness. Want to read a PC’s diary? Here you go.
The Draughts* of The Most Remarkable Fortified Townes in Europe.. – 1571. Discusses each town’s fortifications in detail, as well as the general methods of fortification, before diving into some extremely well-executed etchings of the town’s defensive works. Great for mapping your own cities. Or stealing outright.
(*Drafts/detailed planning drawings, not pulls of booze. Or checkers.)
The Military History of the Late Prince Eugene of Savoy and of the Late John, Duke of Marlborough Volume I & Volume II– Remember how I mentioned the War of Spanish Succession? The one between England, France, and Austria, fought in Italy and Holland over Spain?  Have some delicious, incredibly detailed primary source along with tasty, tasty copperplates and woodcuts. This collates English, German, and French sources as well as being a decent primary in its own right. Unfortunately, the pull-out images of some of the battles and most of the seige/town diagrams are lost in the fold on this scan, because Google does not love you.
History of the Late Campaign in Flanders – written about 20 years before the previous books, about the same campaign. Lot less flowery.
Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases &c. – About the Salem Witch-trials. From the 1900s, but preserves many primary and secondary documents from the period. A great study for building a witch-hysteria of your own.
History of the Buccaneers of America – Delightfully trashy “history” book you can mine for villains, NPCs, and the odd spell. Warning: Cannibalism. Also rape.

Of Shares and Silver (Historical Inspiration)

With the capture of the pirate ship last session, one of those old DMing issues cropped up again. See, treasure’s always been a problem in D&D – hell, most of the verbiage that’s not tables in the 1e DMG’s section is about developing discretion with it, and making up “appropriate” treasures. It’s one of those areas where Gary’s personal experiences and historical knowledge made certain types of adjucation easy.. but he kinda forgot to mention it to all the newbies out there.

"Pandora" by John William Waterhouse. Public domain.

This is what rolling on the 1e Treasure tables feels like, half the time.

The topic of treasure sizes has been hashed over enough that I’m not addressing it today. There’s another, more pressing problem – what do you do once it’s rolled up? Division seems easy enough, but it can be a Hell of a headache for a GM and the players, especially with the big stuff.

That Class “A” treasure for knocking down a band of Men in the Monster Manual seems huge for PCs, but it isn’t a reward to the players for taking out the camp or ship.

It’s for paying the army it takes.

Think about it – most of the entries in 1e were scaled for stocking hexes or domain level play, not random encounters on the road. To take them out, you usually need an army or at least a band of retainers. Now, most heartbreakers and the main D&D rules vary wildly in their opinions of plunder. But IRL it’s been a thing since the days when an “army” was your cousins and the booty was a couple cows. The historical salaried pay for soldiers was much lower than their actual rates. Plunder was an expected part of their pay. I mean, seriously, would you go to war for the equivalent of about $20 a week? That’s a recipe for desertion and murder. Yes, they were endemic, but knowing that sacking that city over there would pay out in pants, meat, and enough cash to start your own farmstead was a Hell of a motivator. In fact, plunder was so normal, contemporary histories will often extensively remark on “no looting” orders in battles, along with the punishments offered and the general success of the order.

Unfortunately, with widening the scope of booty awards comes the necessity of figuring out who gets what. Now, there are a lot of traditional sharing mechanisms. They were especially important (and handled in much more detail in the literature..) among pirates, but every armed force used them.
Now, I should note that Lamentations already has a booty system, but a) not everyone plays it, and b) I’m a relentless tinkerer.
Here are a few historical examples, which I hope will make fiddling with your game a little easier, and inspire said tweaks.

-Smash and Grab
Can you carry it off? It’s yours. This is what your average rioting civvie is doing, and it’s popular among levied armies or other semi-organized mobs.
Problem is, this doesn’t work in a more structured society. Historically, it led to a lot of murdering and infighting post-battle, so more legalistic/”fair” options popped up almost immediately (either for the division or for the murdering..). If you have to wake up in the morning with the people you’re screwing you tend to treat them a little better in the act, as it were.

-Share and Share Alike
This was a simple split (popular among the more egalitarian revolutionaries and pirates)  and the one most DM’s use – it’s easiest to run with a group of alleged equals. Every man gets a share of equal value, and anything that can’t be split is converted to cash or “bought” with parts of your share. This is implied in the DMG, but contradicted elsewhere. It’s very easy to assign partial shares, however, and the general math is very easy.

-The Thieves’ Bargain, AKA The Pitcairn/Bounty split
A quartermaster is appointed or elected. He divides the booty into shares, then leaves the area, so he can’t see who takes what. He receives what shares are left at the end. A common variation allows each man in order (selected by lots) to take a share, with the quartermaster going last, then anyone entitled to a second share draws lots again for order until all shares are distributed (This means that whomever pulls the most shares also gets the last share left). Another common variation

In the Thieves’ Bargain, everyone gets a number of “whole” shares, rather than half-shares, so the individual shares tend to be smaller. It seems “fairer” to PCs, and offloads some of the work from the GM, plus it tends to increase player investment in the treasures. It does make it harder to “split up” magic items, or other high-value items; historically, they were often diced for – see the description of the Seamless Tunic from the Bible.

-Navy and Military shares
Most militaries had very specific policies, but there were some customary systems. Most of my knowledge is based on the early American and British Naval systems, along with medieval mercenaries and the Roman army; I encourage you to do some more research on your own. Even fishing boats still use a very similar system to the old US Navy divvy.
As with the Thieves’ Bargain, the unit or ship would have a Quartermaster or Paymaster. His primary job would be to issue goods like boots and weaponry, which were usually bought locally with an allowance from the Crown. He would also divide any plunder, but traditionally was not allowed to select the first share. The position was very, very frequently abused, with the QM buying shitty goods (or none at all) and pocketing the allowances, for example. Most armies tried to combat this by instituting particularly brutal penalties for abusive QMs.
There were also issues with lower ranks stealing and hiding loot; the usual penalty was forfeiture of all loot, with flogging, or even death.

In the Navy, prized (captured) ships were sold when they returned to port, or if they still had military value, commissioned and set under the command of the ship’s Lieutenant (necessitating multiple field commissions – 2 new Lieutenants, a Lieutenant of Marines, a new Doctor if possible, a Quartermaster and of course the brevetting to Captain of the old Lieutenant). Cargoes were usually sold and the cash divvied, with the crew having first shot at buying any special items. Prisoners were often enslaved, with any left after replacements (you always lost some in combat and from disease, especially at sea) sold off to middlemen.

The traditional splits varied: usually it was some variation on the following.
Captain/field commander: 3-5 shares, and often pick of the litter.
Lieutenants/officers: 2-3 shares.
Skilled junior officers, such as Doctors or Sailmasters, and non-commisioned officers: 2 shares.
Infantry, Men-at-arms, marines, or any other active combatants: 1 share
Non-combatants: 1/4 to 1/2 shares.
Camp followers, levied Serfs and slaves: nothing.

In a number of cases, you could also be awarded an extra full or partial share.
0 The first man over the wall/on deck in an assault was usually awarded an extra full share (or, more likely, his widow/descendants were). Sometimes this was given to the first survivor over the wall, or to the entire Forlorn  Hope (a slang term for the poor bastards who went through a breach in gates or walls). Used to encourage aggression.
0 Trophies – Bringing back the heads of enemy officers or other leaders. Rewards varied, but the practice was so common that Samurai ettiquette manuals included entire sections on how to clean yourself up, in case your head got taken. After all, it’s your last major social event, gotta be pretty, right? Used to minimize lower-class casualties (kill the officers and you break the army, not the people. Plus it makes it a lot easier to take over). If you just want to encourage slaughter, offer rewards for right ears, thumbs, noses, &c.
0 Pick of the litter – people with multiple shares were often allowed to sacrifice one to jump to the head of the line; if not, the leader of the force traditionally had the right to demand any one share of the loot. This caused some serious friction during the siege of Troy – Agamemnon demanded a specific slave-girl that Achilles had taken, which precipitates the entire last half of the Iliad (and the death of Achilles).
0 The Captain’s Take – In naval battles, the ship’s Captain, Leftenant of Marines, and the Quartermaster were each traditionally awarded the pick of one of the weapons taken before the remaining gear was shared out.
0 Ransom – Defeating a knight and accepting his surrender granted you rights to his arms and horse, which did not count as a share. Often, you had the obligation to take any reasonable offer for their return. In addition, you had the right to keep the Knight prisoner and demand a ransom for his person, or for his body (usually somewhat smaller..) from his fief.
0 Equites – A mounted man was often awarded an additional share for his horse.
0 Sundries – It was common to exempt clothing, food, and other trifles from treasure sharing; you could keep all you could carry, but any weapons or precious items had to be surrendered to the QMs

Literary/Historical Inspiration: Herodotus, #1

So, there have been a lot of dudes who were hugely influential to fantasy, well beyond “Appendix N”. I’ve talked about William Morris before (who was one of Tolkein’s foundations – much of the Good Professor’s work was lifted, based on, or adapted from Morris’, in the tradition of all good storytellers). Another enormous influence was Lord Dunsany, who laid the cornerstone of Weird Fiction for Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft. Vance was the first to make “wizards” squabbling murderers hunting each other’s spells (although calling D&D-style magic “Vancian” is at best a bit blinkered. Perhaps I’ll touch on that later).

But there’s another figure towering behind them all. Because he worked in the “real” historical field, it’s not as easy to recognize Herodotus’ contribution to the RPG hobby. For example, the first Monster books and Manuals owe him a tremendous debt. Most were compiled from historical sources, especially Medieval bestiaries – which were, in turn, copied from the Histories. Herodotus remained one of the most widely-traveled, literate human beings on the bloody planet until the Crusades, and his work was literally seminal for every other historian and travelogue author down to the present day. He reported not just the things he saw, but the tales he was told, and it is to him we owe the surviving accounts of everything from Griffins to the Bonnacon.

In addition, unlike most other sources, the Father of History hasn’t really been mined nearly as extensively as, say, HPL by the OSR. He describes everything from atmospheric sculptures and rumors to adventure seeds, and is tremendously funny to boot. Even if the translators are shitty writers. Since it’s out of copyright, it’s available for free or very cheaply in complete editions; I have a B&N Classics edition of the Macaulay/Latenier translation, which cost me less than $10, and free versions are available all over the ‘net.
I’ve been through about 3/4ths of the Histories thus far (it is a bit dense..), and every time I find a tasty tidbit I highlight it for future reference. I’ve got far, far too many for my own campaigns, so I’ll be sharing particularly tasty tid-bits with you all. All quotes are referenced by Book: verse, to the aforementioned Macaulay/Latenier translation.

They say that [Queen Nitocris], desiring to take vengeance for her brother, who the Egyptians had slain when he was their king and then had given his kingdom to her, she destroyed by trickery many Egyptians. For she caused to be constructed a very large chamber underground, and making as though to inaugurate it but in her mind devising other things, she invited those Egyptians whom she knew to be guiltiest of the murder, and gave a great banquet. Then while they were feasting, she let in the river upon them by a large secret conduit. They told no more than this of her, except that when this had been accomplished, she threw herself into a room full of embers to escape vengeance.
II: 100 (Adventure/Plot seed)

Fun with magic:

..Immediately upon [cursing the river-god], Pheros suffered a disease of his eyes and became blind. For ten years thereafter, he was blind. In the eleventh year, there came to him an oracle from the city of Buto saying that the period of his punishment had expired, and he should see again when he washed his eyes in the urine of a woman who had had sex only with her own husband and none other.
Book II: 111 (Lulzy oracles: check!)

(His wife failed. So did the wives of most of the leaders of Egypt. After he got his sight back, he took all the ones who failed to another city, and burned them to death. Then burned down the city. Because Egyptians.)

Hand’s still bugging me, so done for now. More later.

Of Wizards and Magics Arcane (NPCs)

Remember how I said Seclusium got the mental wheels turning on the topic of Wizards?
Have some.

Makhali the Devoured

No mortal is certain who or even precisely what Makhali once was. The few who know aught say Makhali has bartered a deal for power; so long as no food passes its lips, it shall live forever, and remain pluripotent in the magical arts. There is an essential truth to these rumors, and the cunning and profoundly deaf Makhali had held in abeyance a spell which would eternally steal away its mouth. As is ever the case, the Daemon had the last laugh; hunger still afflicts the Wizard acutely as ever it did.
The once-human thing shambling through Makhali’s haunts looks upon all it encounters with the fever-bright eyes of a madman, from a shriveled face and wasted, yet unnaturally strong body. It communicates through signs and dreams. The animus of its hunger has permeated the sanctum, and Makhali now shares its eternal misery by holding great phantasmal feasts* for travellers, trapping and starving them while syphoning the hunger to its own ends. The wretched Wizard’s depredations have infested the surrounding woods with the Gaunt Things and other foul fae and phasms. They drive the weary to its waiting tower and unholy feasts. In the forbidden back of the tower lurk the forgotten remnants of its researches into Demonology and Summoning, as well as many horribly dangerous devices it has cobbled together when the hunger for power and magic briefly drown its body’s baser drive for meat.

*Consider the Feasts to be a multiple castings of Create Stuff That Looks Like Food But Really Isn’t, combined with some extra illusion magic (servants and such). For added ick factor, there’s always the option of using Makhali’s last set of victims as the source material.

 
Ali Ibn Sawad, Herpepotens, Vocator Serpenticae

Ali is held in the deepest confidences by the ensorcelled Bashah of Tangiers. The Kingdoms of Castille and Aragon do hold him accus’d of direst Sorceries and of Consorting with Demons; to wit, his bruited conferences with a being of the name “VALIS” who does provide advisings and false prophecy. Sawad speaketh to all those in thrall to the Serpent of Eden, and may hold Snakes and other scaled beasts at his whimful Command.
We, the King of Castille and the Queen of all Aragonians and Pamplonese, rightful Sovereigns of all Iberia, hereby proclaim a reward of one hundred-weight of pure Silver for his head, and further its weight in Carbuncles. To this, His Eminence the Cardinal of Valencia adds the promise of a Plenary Indulgence, relieving the weight of all Sins save true Blasphemy.
Any Criminal or Heretic within our power who wishes to undertake this task will be granted a year and a day of Parole; success will grant them a full pardon, but flight shall win them only Banishment and a Warrant of Death.

(The entity “VALIS” is a deliberate fabrication. Ali is the reborn soul of a high priest of Valusia, incarnated through his millenial machinations in a body which fits him ill indeed. He retains his ancient favor with the Snakefolk, and knows their Words of Command. His actions and advice are calculated to bring about a vast war, between and among the Mohammedan and Christian alike. In the chaos, he will take passage with trusted mercenaries and seek to excavate the sleeping-chambers of his folk beneath the newly-discovered Spanish province known as “Alta California”. Of course, the mercenaries are both warm-blooded and somewhat expendable.. and his folk hunger.)

Literary Inspiration: Book of the Dead, Aztec Myths

I’ve got a few hours to touch base before I have to swing back up Seattle way. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the bus (three bloody hours each way for an hour-and-a-quarter drive..), which means I’ve also been spending a lot of time reading. In this case, a shitload of occult anthropology and ancient linguistic works; there’s a reason I play the system I do..
So, I find that a lot of people get way too Jungian when they’re building their pantheons, neglecting just how fucking weird we as a species have gotten in the past. Here’s some examples of ways to weird up your creepy native cultists all proper-like.

For starters, I found a couple of excerpts from Budge’s 1895 translation of the Egyptian Books of the Dead (available here) that were too deliciously pulpy not to pass on.

..The Night-Watchers of Set. Yea, the Night-Watchers of the Crocodile, whose faces are hidden, who dwell in the divine Temple of the King of the North in the apparel of the gods on the sixth day of festival, whose snares.. are like unto Eternity. – Book of the Dead, V.II, Ch LXV, On Coming Forth By Day from the Nu Papyrus

Tell me that isn’t setting off the fires in your head right now. Elsewhere (Ch. LXXI) they consistently refer to “the God of One Face”, which is a hell of a title. Excerpt deliberately partially redacted, as I try to avoid using magical incantations – especially to obvious demons – in my daily life. For some reason.

....the God of One Face is with me… ye seven beings, who support the scales on the night of the judgement.. who cut off heads, who hack necks to pieces, who take possession of hearts by violence and rend the places where the heart is fixed, who make slaughterings in the Lake of Fire.. -op. cit., Ch. LXXI, Papyrus of Nebseni

There’s your demonic titles right there.

Meanwhile, the Aztecs are getting up to their own pantheonic Weirdness; the information here is taken from a book that’s rather badly out of date at this point, “A Primer of Mayan Heiroglyphics” by Daniel G. Brinton. Still, even what’s wrong is a fertile ground to play in. Just, preface all this with “Brinton says that..”. Anyway..
• Aztec Dwarves were the degenerate remains of the previous age of the Earth, having survived the apocalypse in defiance of the gods. Indeed, their very degeneracy brought the Apocalypse. Would explain the dour demeanour and throwing themselves into their crafts, certainly. Holding on to the dying arts of a dead world, lurking underground to avoid the prying eyes of the New Gods, not enslaved to the current god of Death. Adventurers are tired of an eternity of cowering, unafraid (or only a little) of walking under the eyes of the Sun. Some were said to have come, in the last, to the form of flowers.

• Some divine titles and charges (note that these are far, far more interesting than the shit that made it into Deities and Demigods) :
“The Virgin Fire” – Infants
“The Virgin of the Butchered Kill” – Hunting
“The Divine Snare” – goddess of killing by ropes and traps.
“He who tends the cooking fire” – Fisherman’s deity
“The intoxicating Mead” – Drinking, but not boning. So no Dionysis here.
“She who vomits precious stones” – Patron of gemcrafters in amethyst and jade
“The infinite jewels” – Medicine (consider the importance of gems in Western “medicine” until the ~1700s and it’s not that much of a leap..)
“He whose teeth are Six Lances” – War
“The Archer” – War, plague
“Dangerous one” and “The Terror” – War demigods
“Fire is his Face” – Burning things in war
“He who works in Fire” – Destruction by fire in a more general sense
“The Bearer of 8,000 lances” – war

..not that the Maya had a fixation or anything.

More to come later. Gotta head out to the bus now.

All excerpts are from texts in the public domain, your personal cultural heritage. Defend it.

I love the 1600s (Okay, the 14-1600s)

So, this has been sitting in my draft queue since I made the post about The Three Musketeers. Sat down and banged it out today.

Something people often overlook in the tabletop RPG hobby is just how long the Middle Ages actually lasted. I’m a fan of the Late middle Ages, myself. It’s an era of upheaval. Society went into a woodchipper and came out in a shape much grander, but that woodchipper itself is ideally suited for adventuring into the ruins of the lost Empire (and its decadent holdout, somnolent in opiatic and truly Oriental splendors) than the low-level skirmishes of centuries past or the industrialized wars of the future.

The era brought the Hundred, Thirty, and many other Years’ Wars, the true birth of the gun, of the flowering of arts outside the walls of monasteries for the first time in a dozen generations. Lines of communication shortened drastically, and (as always) people found out that just because you can make yourself understood twice as fast and twice as clearly, it doesn’t mean that someone won’t want to stab you over it. The only true pillar of society for a good millenium – Mother Church – was unceremoniously kicked out from under nearly everyone. Sure, there had been heresy and even schisms, anti-popes, &cetera. But now the Church of Rome began to realize that it was going to have to do more than trust in God and Princes to protect herself. Then there were the great plagues, increasing both the mobility and the value of the grunt peasant through scarcity, the rise of towns against the fracturing nobility.

Everywhere you look in the histories, there’s shreds of things you can turn into adventures. Paganism is still close enough to the surface that it can break through in all kinds of fucked-up ways. A village in the hills (fine, barrows) chock-full with cannibal halflings was still a too-close-for-comfort nightmare in my family in the 1800’s – imagine what it would have been like 200 years or more earlier, with dipshit foreign invaders trampling all over the sacred places pissing off the locals. And Hell, if all other inspiration fails literally everyone, from the Pope down to tiny shithole cities on the edge of the Baltic, was hiring mercenaries and dispatching King’s Men off on missions of intrigue and/or copious amounts of murder and burnings.

Playing in the historical sandbox makes it easy to build a character and his motivations. Granted, there’s a lot of baggage that carries through to the modern era (remind me to tell you sometime about how the Peace of Westphalia is the real reason global climate change is a problem). And sure, you can offend people, but a quick talk and any level of adulthood at the table mean it’s not a real issue in-play.  No matter how many words you put into your made-up world’s background, when you can say “He’s a French Huguenot on the run, who once served as a Dragoon but escaped during Queen Catherine’s purges, now looking for work in Bavaria”… just look at the motivations on the character, and what that puts in your DM’s pocket. Make it clear to your players that this is funtime, that you’re not putting their religion on trial..

..even if you totally are.

..even if you totally are..

..and that they need to be able to put aside their egos for the characters’ tonight.

But that “baggage” notwithstanding, using the real world allows a few less-obvious things that make your life as a DM much, much easier. Major public figures of the late 16th and early 17th centuries are famous enough that you can name-check them for atmosphere, while still obscure enough that their motives and character are not only questionable but positively murky. The average player’s historical knowledge is pretty sketchy on a good day, and a 20 or even 50-year anachronism for the sake of story (there’s a good example in that 3 Musketeers post) doesn’t hurt immersion. Richelieu sending the PCs to undermine this upstart Cromwell fellow? Sure!
Same goes for battles, let alone wars, and you can make one up that sounds damned convincing. How many people do you know that actually understand the impact of the Battle of Hochstedt, who won, or even the war in which it was fought? (You’d think the War of Spanish succession would involve combatants from Spain, but.. yeah.)

The only reason I know jack over shit about the battle in question

The only reason I know jack over shit about the battle in question

Finally, play in the 17th Century and you too could look like this stylish group of SOBsscreen-shot-2012-12-12-at-11-35-21Or him

This is what a 3rd-level Fighter looks like IRL.

This is what a 3rd-level Fighter looks like IRL.

Or, for that matter, her..

So, about that reward..

So, about that reward..

And then, of course, Solomon Kane. Because really, he’s up there with Van Helsing on the “Greatest Clerics Ever” list.

Not Solomon Kane, but God I love this picture

Not Solomon Kane, but God I love this picture

In conclusion: Great style, turbulent politics, pimping buckles on your shit, and everyone’s fuzzy memory on the details but familiarity with the broad strokes makes this a perfect era for the local murderhobos.

Poste Scriptorum: If you want more sexy, sexy 17th-century armor/clothing pics, go to this blog, it’s frigging delicious. Clothing porn ho!
Edit: Not a lady. Mea maxima culpa.

A discussion of medival arms pricing

Holy CRAP, this is awesome. Prices for artillery, conventional arms, and guns from the 1500s in the Low Countries; these were bought for town watches and militias in a particularly.. timultuous time.
http://james.wardware.com/J-Europ-Econ-Hist.pdf
I am sooooo playing around with this – brother and I have spent the evening going over it already