Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some Actual Medieval Practices That Are Eminently D&D-able

-Light (a scarce commodity indoors) was frequently used for political symbolism: for example, in some castles special candles sunk into loaves of bread were used to illuminate the count, countess and seneschal--and nobody else--at the dinner table.

-After feasting, many lords would leave the doors to their halls open so the poor could dine on the scraps.

-Marriage was a tool of expansionism. Convincing party A to marry party B could unite lands and armed forces. We all know this--but I feel it's not used nearly as often as it could be as a plot hook. Finding ways to make the Troll Princess unwilling-, unable-, or unfit- to marry the Gnoll Prince just has endless possibilities. Conversely...

-Women occasionally hired men to kidnap them as a means of escaping undesirable marriages.

-Another popular method: since divorce was forbidden, an annulment could be achieved if it was proven that the spouses were related to each other--even distantly. Obviously the exact rules depend on the century and place (the Habsburgs were horribly inbred on purpose), but this method was common in the Middle Ages.

-In monasteries, an especially tasty dish was prepared on the anniversary of the death of any resident monk.

10 comments:

Ronson said...

Got any particular source?

Nick said...

I'm totally using no. 4 to open my next campaign.

The Grumpy Celt said...

The bit about the monks sounds like an excuse for murder.. for the sake of snack time.

Laowai said...

In medieval China, the closely-guarded technology of silk production was snuck out of China by a princess who was betrothed for political reasons to the foreign king of a vassal city-state along the Silk Road. The king sent an envoy to the princess to tell her that his land had neither mulberry trees nor silk worms, so if she wanted to wear pretty silk dresses, she would have to bring her own seeds and eggs. The princess secretly smuggled some mulberry seeds and silk worm eggs inside her hair, which was pinned up in an elaborate headdress. When the princess reached the border gates, the guards searched her thoroughly, but they dared not touch her hair. The princess was then taken with great pomp to the royal palace. Thus the secret of silk-making was taken from China.

noworkethic said...

Something pretty close to home for many PCs is weapons, more specifically weapon laws. They could get pretty specific and convoluted from city to city, it could be pretty interesting to have a super-valuable magic weapon taken by the guards because it's an inch too long, normally it would be given back upon leaving the city, but who would you trust with a priceless piece of magic equipment?

widderslainte said...

Get the Gies' whole series, Life in a Medieval Village/City/Castle.

John said...

Something often overlooked about mediaeval Europe is that A) beer was drunk at every meal, including breakfast, and B) this beer could rival wine in strength. The more important you were, the more you could afford to drink. English monks got a gallon of "good ale" a day, often more. A noble couple might share a quart of beer and a quart of wine together over breakfast, every day. I find mediaeval life, and D&D campaigns, make a lot more sense when you take this into account.

Laowai said...

beer was drunk at every meal

Same thing in ancient Egypt ... it was a staple foodstuff -- nutritious, thick and sweet, though not exceptionally intoxicating...

Lamentation said...

And of course, the thing with beer is that it was far better liquid then say.. the water.

John said...

While both of those things are true, and interesting, what I was really getting at is that your average mediaeval person must have been pickled as a fiddler's bitch pretty much 24/7. It gave me new insight into the phrase "drunk as a lord".