View Full Version : Creating a real-world Middle Ages Campaign Setting

2007-08-14, 02:59 PM
First of all, hello everyone, being this my first post ever : )
Thanks for tolerating my likely newbye mistakes.

I have, for a while now, been cooking the idea of a D&d campaign setting built on the European Middle Ages.
Not inspired - built on. Characters wil visit old times France, Germany, Italy or Middle East, and might meet emperor Fredrik II or writer Geoffrey Chaucher.
On the other hand, this would not be an attempt at campaigning in the real world, but an attempt to integrate all the fantasy elements (from elves to resurrection spells) of the traditional d&d Greyhawk to Forgotten Realms campaign.

The scheme should be optimized for campaigns taking place bethween the XIIth and the XVIth century, but should work with previous times too. The scheme does not attempt to introduce new rules, classes et cetera, unless it be required for its internal coherence.

I am quite far in my developement, so I have ideas on how to solve most problems that would come up. Before exposing my prototype, I would ask if any of you happen to know of similar projects that I might be unwittingly overlapping with - mine hardly seems an original scheme.
So - did anybody else write something like this?

I will follow with some explanations of the scheme, and I thank in advance all thoose that will take time to help me devise this stuff!

2007-08-14, 06:20 PM
Okay remember that the romans would NEVER havbe taken over britan from the druids.

2007-08-14, 09:29 PM
If you say that everyone who calls themselves a "druid" has levels in that class. Real-world druidism (sp?) was a religion just like any other, and (likely) with it's fair share of all classes (including NPCs) in its ranks.

Zeta Kai
2007-08-15, 06:56 AM
Welcome to the forums, Kleblam. I hope that you enjoy the madness.

As for your campaign, is it Human-only? That can be done, there's even a discussion thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53274) about how to adapt D&D to use only Humans. Also, it is important to remember that in 12th-16th-century Europe, large kingdoms were in the minority, & the blokes across the fence rarely spoke the same language, making communication a logistical nightmare. I for one encourage the use of language barriers, but a realistic depiction of midieval Europe would host ~60-80 different tongues, which kinda a lot for any one campaign.

2007-08-15, 11:21 AM
Hey Kleblam,

I'm really interested in seeing your stuff. Really using real world history is a great thing IMHO.

In terms of other people doing the same thing... It sort of depends on how detailed you mean and what you think you should do with magic. There is a great game called Harn which has rock hard medieval elements set in northern Europe. There is a publishing house called Alea which has a great Medieval feel and a mostly all human world. There are a number of started projects here and there I'm sure but those are the ones that spring to mind right away.

My questions\comments for your setting are:

1. Be real careful and respectful of religion(s). In history\real life they dont always play nice together and people get offended real easy.

2. What are you going to do with magic? Its hard to ignore because it helps with great plot lines but it also is very hard to make 'realistic'. As the previous writers have said 'Druid' is not a simple concept. Again IMHO, priests of all religions tend to fulfill similar roles in their communities and if magic is the 'wait and see' variety of real life there is not always a vibrant difference between them.

3. Have you chosen a date in history to start from? I imagine that will make it much easier to map the state of the world for the setting.

2007-08-15, 01:46 PM
A real world setting would be far more noisy, smelly and brutal than the average D+D setting, so some things to consider:

Rank- Rank is a whole lot more important in a real-world setting. If you are a serf, you stay a serf, and a serf is almost property. To put it into context, in war conscripted serfs were often punished if they killed or injured noblemen on the other side. So unless your PCs are of noble stock, then they should be hassled to pieces.
Disease- Diseases of all kinds ran rampant, from plague to simple diarrhoea, caused by lack of sanitation. Forget the elaborate sewer systems all fantasy cities seem to have underneath them; in real life, muck of all kinds goes out into the streets. Unless PCs take precautions, expect them to get ill quite regularly.
Punishment- A simple Wiki search will tell you how brutal and sadistic some of the medieval punishments were, by our standards. Expect every town you go in to have regular hangings and floggings, for the entertainment of the people.

All three of these points reign in and limit the players, and if overdone can spoil the fun, even if the player's have signed up for the grittiest, darkest campaign you can run. Players won't want to be bossed around, and players don't like their characters getting sick. Emphasising the brutal culture too much can make people uncomfortable, especially if they're young or squeamish.

2007-08-16, 04:14 AM
Whoa, thanks for all the interesting contributions! I'm grateful.

We'll takle them, and then I'll start posting about races.

I agree, druids are really a b*** to implement. Basically, they're extint at the age we're writing about. I've come up with four-five formulas for implementing the concept, trying to save the class (i.e. offensive divine spellcaster with knack for nature spells) even at the price of changing its role.

No, I do not intend to make the campaign human-only, and yes magic is supposed to be implemented, although, especially in the early centuries, we're probably dealing with a low-magic setting. As I said I want to make an enviroment that has a place for all the conventional rules, and room for implementing peculiar manuals's and homebrews.

I will assume about languages that neighbouring dialects are mutually intelligibile, and simplify the language system at that. Therefore, although even neighbouring towns like Pisa, Lucca and Firenze had developed sligtly different neo-latins, I will assume that at least adventures can communicate with any italian just by speaking one of this neo-latins, despite italian as a language starting to exist only with Pietro Bembo's 16th century poetic rules (and even then just as a litterary language).
Also, some languages will be "grouped" (for instance, I'm inventing a "Scandinavian" and likely a "Slavic" or two), otherwise, Zeta Kai, I agree it would come out messy... Still, since we're implementing planes and such too, languages still are many, so I'm working out some rules to make them easier (e.g. humans start with 2 languages and non-humans with 3, only adventurers).

Continues next post...

2007-08-16, 04:51 AM
Huff, fatiguing...

I have set no starting date. As I have said, I just want to introduce an enviroment with actual history and fictional rules, so that it works from (roughly) 10th to 16th century.

Hazkali, your contributions are duly noted and intelligent. Rank probably is not so "harsh" on PCs. powers were constantly in conflict with each other, and most likely they are much more interested in hiring 4-6 extra soldiers with class levels than to split their forces bossing them around.
Plague is fun, just fun. As is famine and brutality. Keep in mind we're speaking about PCs, who can afford to pay for a "cure disease" and food and won't get in this kind of trouble - for long, at least - after level 3 unless there is a pretty good explanation. Therefore we're left with a bunch of adventurers striding through town with a lot of hungry diseased children looking at them with envious, tear filled little eyes - witch, narratively, kicks ass, both if you are a good PC and get all mad about injustice and feel guilty because you're well fed and can cast 3 cure diseases each day and memorized silent Bull's strenght instead, or if you're an evil guy and enjoy that kind of stuff.
Of course, you can make plagues incurable or keep your PCs starved for a while just so that they know their place, what I mean is that you're not forced to do it!
Pretty interesting topic actually, but we're getting a bit off I think : )

Brutality has no reason to be implemented more than in a normal campaign setting. Why should evil Forgotten Realms overlords just tie the hero to a chair and punch him a bit for torturing's sake instead of scalpelling out his eyes and cutting off all his fingers? The level of brutality is alwais

Realigion is a pretty troublesome subject! Full time touché there, all my players are atheists so they don't really care how corrupt I paint the clergy and gods, but getting our nose in Christianity might be risky for a campaign setting we want to make public - even if we depict god as good and only some of its clergy as corrupt, we make for a campaign many people wouldn't want to get close to...
I have some ideas alreadly - but I'll have to work on this problem very carefully.

2007-08-16, 05:38 AM
*Huff*... at long last, momento costruens

Chapter I - Races
First part

First of all: it's obvious that we're taking some liberties here for the sake of playability.
We're running an european centric campaign, so we're trying to place human and humanoid races in europe, and traditionally evil races outside europe. This is absolutely not meant to convey a racist message - it's just an attempt to make the player feel the radical alterity that the other races rappresent.
My starting concepts are purely ethnic - so I'm not putting dwarves in germany or gnomes in spain beacuse I feel like making the spanish different (and small). Let the races speak.

Third to Fifth century, we're looking at the roman empire's decline. Beside furnishing europe with a lot of ruins that would make excellent dungeons, romans rappresent the typical great empire of the past. That says Elves to me. We're getting elves as the latin race. They're the ethnic majority in Italy, France, and Spain, rulers elsewhere. We've got the Greeks too to account, but unless someone knows of a more cultured race, I think elves still work well. The romans's many slaves are of many ethnicities.
Spanish, Greek and Italian elves can well be of different subraces.

The germanic populations called Goths invade, year 476 marks the deposition of the last ruler of an alreadly long-decaying empire. Goths form kingdoms in Spain, Africa, France, Germany, Italy, often merging with the roman (elven) burocracy, and are alreadly have a certain importance in the roman empire when it falls.
While the Eastern Roman Empire remains Elven, we will assume that the Goths (as a race) become an ethnic majority in all countries they conquer. Because they would make excellent Humans. Let's assume that elves and half-elves make for something like 30% of the population in italy, less in Spain, lesser still in France, and they're the majority in Byzanthium. We can place some elves anywhere - some were everywhere.

Now, we need Dwarves. Once again, there is an excellent fit: Vikings.
They come from northern Europe, and from 9th to 13th century raze quite a lot of Europe, justifying dwarves in adventuring parties almost everywhere. They become stantial in Normandy, England, part of Russia and southern Italy (in the early 1200s if I recall correctly). Placing dwarves on ships heading perhaps all the way to America might seem far-fetched, but try dressing up a dwarf in viking attire and you know it must be; also, we want dwarves to be a pretty meaningful ethnic group, and Vikings/Normans is the best we get.

Ok... all this writing has drained me. I'll post again tomorrow or later today, finish races and see if I can start takling classes... Later!

2007-08-16, 06:24 AM
Nice touch for the dwarves, were it not that vikings were quite tall, and didn't have much to do with stonemasonry. You could scratch the stonecunning and make it something along seamanship. Like giving them a +2 racial to Profession: Sailor, and giving them, instead of always knowing how deep they are underground, an innate feeling of navigation at sea.
Now, as for speed...
Come to think of it, nords and dwarfs really aren't very much alike at all. Nords depended on speed, both on land and sea. Dwarves.. Well, not quite so.