When putting together some of the cities and towns in Dragon Heresy, I used an article by S. John Ross called Medieval Demographics Made Easy.
It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: a tightly-presented metasystem and consolidated research finding on the population of medieval towns, villages, and cities. It provides die rolls, tables, and other necessities to quickly understand how many of what profession are going to be in a given place, as well as talking about castles, agriculture, and more.
When S. John restructured his website, The Blue Room, it became convenient for him to offer this file to host on other blogs, and I asked if Gaming Ballistic could be one of them.
I intend to keep using this for Dragon Heresy, and I recommend it strongly, if for nothing else to avoid the trope of medieval villages that feel like 21st century suburbs and strip malls.
I’d been looking for a long time to find a source of very thin hide to try and face-and-back a shield. I had been told by my instructor at Asfolk Viking Martial Arts school that the evidence for a hide-faced shield was hit and miss; some were most likely raw wood, some were rimmed with hide and stitched, some may have been faced, etc. As with most things Viking, the relative paucity of physical artifacts means that every new find brings new and exciting information.
Nonetheless, if you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ve seen my learning the craft of making shields bit by bit, and that I also offer them for sale. One thing that always eluded me – mostly due to a lack of a good source for the hide – was the “parchment-thick” hide that my instructor says would have been used. I use goat hide claimed at 1 oz thickness (about 0.5mm thick) for the edges, but those hides are not large enough to cover a full-sized shield.
My existing “red” shield has been in use for quite a while now, and the edging, though one of my earlier trials, has held up well. I also made a pair of “three fox” shields, one as light as I could make it (less than 5 lbs!) of aspen, with a very light stainless steel boss (5 oz) so that the jarl of the Viking Encampment at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival could march with it, and a much more robust one of poplar, edged in deer hide, with a too-thick robust boss. Even so, that one came in at 7 lbs, which was several pounds lighter than her prior shield, which was too heavy for both performance and parade use.
Nonetheless, I wanted to try one of my own.
So, my wife is pretty cool. When I turned 40, she suggested that my relatives get me a unique gift. That gift was a one-hour lesson in how to fly an actual helicopter, which ended with me piloting a Robinson R22 after a brief introduction to the theory of rotary-wing flight. It was amazing.
Well, last week was my birthday (47 this time) and this time, after a week of cryptic hints that ranged from casual fun to 1970s naughty bacchanalia. One never knows with a redhead. But we started out on Sunday, having been only told “block out the afternoon” and made our way to Mall of America, where much to my surprise, she informed me that she’d rented a Tesla Model 3 for us for a day, and soon thereafter, we left to tool around the western edge of the Twin Cities (mostly around Lake Minnetonka) for the afternoon and evening. I had the car from 3pm Sunday to 3pm Monday, which let me drive it in various conditions. Continue reading “Apropos of Nothing: 24 Hours of Tesla”
Bit by bit, I’ve been working out how to improve my viking shields. My poplar edged shield that I made for myself is 5.75 lbs and about 34-34.5″ in diameter, and is still holding up strong after probably a year. Even so, there are issues with it that later commissions have fixed, but not for this one. It was my first attempt using goat hide for edging, and I hadn’t gotten the trick of keeping the edging flat and flush with the edges. The stitching is far too wide per stitch, and of course I re-used a boss that I had with a terribly wide flange, probably making the thing 1/2 lb heavier than it should be.
For all that, it’s a good shield. Still: I want to try a new one. Why? Read on. Continue reading “Viking Shield Upgrade Experiment”
There are some parts of the production of a book that are just no fun at all.
I’m in a few of those parts.
Hall of Judgment
Oh, sure . . . it’s getting done. Bit by bit. I should have another major revision to Hall of Judgment done either late tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully tonight (assuming my cat gets off my manuscript, but there are fairly sure-fire fixes for that).
But this is the part where you read . . . each . . . word . . . carefully to make sure things are just right, and you still manage to miss stuff.
But what’s going on and changed from last time?
- Lots of revisions to the Backer Credits
- Updated the front matter to hopefully include all my contributors
- Updated all of Glynn’s maps to tweak out a few things, like labels
- Lots of final editing and small corrections
- Removed some DnD-isms from things
- Rewriting some descriptives to ensure they jive with the evolving monster bits
- Completely re-did the cover . . . and got word from the printer that it looks pretty good
There might be other things too. But I still feel like I’m on track to deliver the finished product to backers next week, on schedule.
We’re in a bit of a dead zone here. The “F&G” (Fold and Gather) milestone “should be” coming up by Friday. If those are OK (and I’m not sure if I get samples or no), I give the “OK to bind” with the first advanced copies of the book arriving to me at the end of the first full week in August. If that’s what I think it is, it’ll be the first time I hold Dragon Heresy as it’s meant to be (well, as the Introductory Set is meant to be!) in my hands. That will be a good day.
As with many others, I was saddened to hear that business conditions have led to the shuttering (at least temporarily, but plan for the worst, hope for the best applies) of Pyramid Magazine.
I got my start there, and in a very real way, a succession of Pyramid editors taught me how to write and organize text. I list my 13 Pyramid articles proudly on my resume, and in no small part, I know that my history with Pyramid plus my playtesting org skills got me the nod to be the first third-party publisher for the DFRPG.
It served as a garden where the seeds of future authors were sown and watered, and those of us that had been published there would frequently go out of our way to help others. For 25 years, it was a monthly dose of GURPS and Powered by GURPS.
Alas, and farewell.
I am having *ridiculous* fun writing festivals for the Hall of Judgment setting and adventure.
Why so many festivals? So you don’t have to force a timing on an adventure. There were 60 holy days per year in medieval times, and perhaps 1/3 of those were pretty important. So on the average, there’s something going on weekly, and something IMPORTANT going on at least once or twice a month.
Murder-hobos. Heavily armed vagrants, wandering from town to town. Tempers flare, and corpses lie still on the barroom floor. Like a samurai granted kiri sute gomen, the permission to cut and depart, only the presumed wailing of friends and relatives is left in their wake. Weeks later, they return, bloodied themselves, with heaping mounds of gold and treasure. They may glow visibly with newly-acquired power. And still they provoke the inhabitants of the town, who probably treat with them anyway, and take their gold, give them lodging. And as the Chitauri master (?) said: “The humans? What can they do . . . but burn.”
A really active facebook thread about what do to about murder-hobos got me thinking about the why and the what of the phenomenon. I’m not going to try and solve it her, per se, but I do have a few thoughts.
Free Action is not Consequence-Free Action
The biggest solution to what happens when things in town (or on the trail, or . . . ) go horribly awry is always the same: have the perpetrators treated like there are consequences for their actions. People remember when they draw axes during an intense political conversation at Ye Olde Pubbe and kill some folks. They won’t be served, at least. The town may just bar the doors to them. No service for you. No corselet, no sollerets, no service, so to speak.
Writing Dragon Heresy got me thinking about this more, though, because if you kill some random chap in Viking culture, if the cause wasn’t just – and the culture seemed to have a pretty good idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust,’ or at least ‘he brought it on himself’ or ‘that was uncalled for,’ then the family of the deceased had not just the right, but the obligation to pay you back in turn.
And that wasn’t relegated to “oh, a 1st-level schlub gets to try and revenge himself on a 17th-level guy named Sir Cuisinart.” No . . . it extends a few relations over. They might kill your brother. Or your third cousin twice removed, or something. I believe there was a limit to the distance of the relations, but things would happen. They would, if I understand it right (and I’m still learning), happen at the Thing, (pronounced ting, I think). During this moot of the karls and jarls, a claim of grievance would be lodged, and folks would basically say whether the claimant was in the right for wanting vengeance.
Here’s the kicker: if it was deemed so, that just meant the wronged party got a nod that whatever they did was within the bounds of justifiable homicide. It was up to them to recruit friends, neighbors, and relatives to try and do the deed.
I might have that wrong; I’d love reference to validate.
But in any case: the culture supported quite a bit of give-and-take on violent retribution, and the expectation that not just you (hey, I’m high level), but your brother Bernie (Berndred? Bernr?) might get offed in vengeance. If you had a house, it might be attacked and burned, and if you were in it, so much the better. If not, that’s good too.
That’s easy, though. The key bit is not having it happen to begin with.
Restrained Dispute Resolution
Sometimes I wonder if the reason a lethal escalation to violence was so very common (is very common) is the lack of alternatives that are, for lack of a better word, fun.
It can be fun to roleplay a loud, boisterous, beserker shieldmaiden that will insult the town gentry, finish off three chickens and a cask of wine, and challenge the local tough guy to an arm-wrestling contest. But if some local hotshot goes for an inappropriate pinch . . .
. . . no question he’s gonna deserve a smackdown. But brawling is frequently slow, or geared to be not that much less lethal than weapons. Grappling makes folks flip the table over in rage in many cases, as I noted when writing Dungeon Grappling.
And yet, and yet.
Having Gudrun backhand said offender across the face, then wrestle him into a pretzel until he squeals for mercy is not just satisfying narratively, it should be fun to play out. Dragon Heresy does this with the addition of better rules for grappling that allow everything from conditions to applying pain. You can, with solid mechanical support, make poor Robert the Pincher squeal for mercy. And then have your part skald sing songs about it, renaming him Robert the Squealer. Telling the tales of His Yelpiness far and wide.
That’s a combat-oriented but non-lethal avenue that provides satisfying and decisive mechanical support for a narrative outcome that doesn’t involve entrails.
A Flyting Victory
Again with the Vikings! The stories and sagas, eddas of prose and poetry, show a particular kind of “combat” that was basically a contest of insults. Called Flyting.
Now there’s something neat. Engaging in a contest of insults would be pretty spiffy. It would give mechanical support to non-spellcasting combat that focuses on CHA and INT instead of STR, DEX, and CON.
I love this idea, it’s culturally apt for the Dragon Heresy world, and I can completely see how to do this within my ruleset. So much so that I’m actively looking for a place to put it.
But again: defeat your foe in a formal contest of insults, have skalds on hand to sing the song of said stinging victory with cutting words. Your fame grows (Egil was renowned as both a lout, a brawler, and a poet) and your star rises . . . all without having to figure out where to dispose of the spare liver.
And maybe skalds could actually turn that into actual injury. Fairly sure they can do that anyway, through magic, but having this level of support for it would be pretty spiffy.
So two things, really. I think that in many cases “murder-hoboism” is played out because there’s mechanical support for it (combat rules are usually the most detailed), it’s the most fun (it’s a fantasy game based from a wargame in many cases), and there is little consequence for it (social, physical, or otherwise).
With Dragon Heresy, you’ll be able to engage in robust grappling to provide full-on combat experience with no fatality unless you mean it. The new flyting rules (gotta write those Right Now) will allow for an entirely different axis of combat.
And I definitely need to put in some reputation based rules for such, because your fame and honor need to come into play. Including a rep that turns you into “very dangerous, kill on sight.” And with enough arrows, you’re going down. Your’e certainly not getting into town to sell your loot and buy your supplies. And if the Thing votes you Outcast and Thrall . . . you’re not even a person. You can be killed and rolled off a cliff like so much trash, provided your assailant(s) has the might, or lots of people where quantity has a quality all its own.
But the more non-impaling axes one has to resolve disputes, and the more clear the consequences for murder-hoboing, the more easily players will engage with both story and rules to avoid it. Just make it fun.
It goes both ways, too. If the players can avail themselves of such avenues if a powerful NPC gets all in their face, that’s just juicy fun.
I need to wrap this up earlier in the day today due to family schedule, but here are the winners for the 12 Days of OSR Christmas, from beginning to end
|Ryan Hixson||Dungeon Grappling hardcopy|
|J T Brookreson|
|Adam Ness||Lost Hall physical copy|
|Dungeon Grappling hardcopy|
|Steve Muchow||Lost Hall physical copy|
|Jan Egil Bjune|
If you won a PDF, you’ll have received (or are about to receive) an email from me asking about your preference for Lost Hall or Dungeon Grappling. Physical copies – well, two were given out by hand, as Ryan and Adam both coincidentally lived in the Twin Cities. One will go out later by request of the recipient so he’s there when it arrives. The last one to Steve, will have to wait until my own physical copies arrive in the next few days and will go out along with the Kickstarter backers’.
Thanks to all for dropping by and expressing interest in the giveaway and my products. My only request: read and review! If you have a blog, I’d appreciate a bit of a writeup. If you don’t, an email or note will do, and I’ll host it here on Gaming Ballistic.
The Random Number Gods have spoken, and hath decreed that:
James M Shaw is the winner of a physical copy of Dungeon Grappling. Rus Ketcham gets his choice of DG or Lost Hall of Tyr!
The next three days will show gifts of a PDF today and tomorrow, and a physical copy and PDF on Christmas Day.
In fact, I’m going to give out SEVEN PDFs on Christmas day, being in a holiday mood and all.
So be of good cheer!
Was distracted by the need to travel for the holidays, so this post is a bit late.
I think I forgot to also give a PDF out on Day 6 (Dec 19), so Paul wins that one.
The Day 7 (Dec 20) prize goes to Jeff Scifert.
The Day 8 (Dec 21) prize goes to Ngo Vinh-Hoi.
That should bring us current!