Resources for Historical Campaigns

Spellslinging Sellsword

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I don't know what modern programs are like, but back in the 1990's when I was looking into getting my Ph.D. in Medieval Studies it typically required mastery of Latin and two other languages, usually French and German. Ultimately I didn't pursue it, but we certainly read plenty of Latin Roman material for my undergraduate degree.
 

soltakss

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What books, RPG and otherwise, have you found indispensable for running historical games? What's your favourite era to run games in? Doesn't matter what time period it is.
I find that Wikipedia is a good enough basis for most historical games, for me.

It is at pretty much the right level of detail, is easily accessible and allows me to go down rabbit holes if I need to.

I also use children's books, as they contain the right flavour without going in too heavily.

Fairy Tales/Folk Tales/Folk Songs/Myths/Legends are also goof sources for me.
 

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Clandestine magic was the type most often punished by authorities, and it's use was closely associated with criminal activity, including many things that certainly veered into the very real like poisonings and druggings. One interesting thing about Clandestine magic is that it seems that Friars and Priests were the ones who were the most into it.
Were they most into it, or were they among those most often caught, one wonders? I mean, friars and priests would be more likely to have access and ability to read such documents, but also, as relatively important people in a medieval world, other important people might even have a vested interest in punishing them for whatever transgression...:angel:

And to bring it back to the HEMA, there's at least one fechtbuch which has survived in multiple translations: Bubishi.
Yeah, not an European manual, but it certainly reminds me of a fechtbuch. Including in the realm of weapon techniques.
Luckily, I actually own a Bulgarian translation which compares the different existing editions of it, pointing out differences. I wish more such critical analysis was available for fechtbuchs which exist in several editions, like Fiore's and the like.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Hey nothing wrong with the 'Bubishi', I have the book of five rings and the Heihō kadensho on my bookshelf.

As for Fiore, I think they are working toward something like that in a sense, in that they have identified a cluster of other manuals, including several German treatises such as the Von Eyb manuscript, as being part of a linked tradition with his work. But ultimately, for serious practitioners, you have to make your own 'critical edition'. As I said, there is no center in this part of the world, at this time.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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ts, but also, as relatively important people in a medieval world, other important people might even have a vested interest in punishing them for whatever transgression..

It's not so much that they always got in trouble, in fact to the contrary, they often seemed to get off lightly during the medieval period even when they were caught. It's more that these 'forbidden' works show up in their libraries, in their own inventories and so forth.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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One of the things I found particularly amusing about the law as practiced in the medieval period, which offers an insight into the reality of life in the cities then, I ironically learned from reading the memoir of an executioner from Nuremberg. At one point he tells how he asked the city to build him some new gibbets, as the old ones were rotting and falling apart. When the local carpenters set to the work, they were getting heckled by a crowd of onlookers, who even started throwing things at them. The whole phenomenon of execution in medieval Germany was very strange and the executioner, as well as anything he touched, was a kind of pariah like the 'untouchable' castes in India.

The carpenters, not particularly keen to the do the work to begin with, were angry about being taunted (always a risky thing in medieval context, ala Monty Python) and being armed, they were on the verge of violence. The town watch intervened and arrested the members of the crowd. The town council quickly interrogated them, but was unable to determine who was most culpable.

So they gave the carpenters the rest of the day off, and ordered all the members of the offending crowd to buy the carpenters beers for the rest of the afternoon at a local pub. This was a fairly significant financial hit for some of the crowd members, as beer was fairly expensive, but ultimately it healed the rift between the two groups. The next day the carpenters finished their work in peace.


This sort of thing is like learning a new word. I went back to my sources and looked for other instances of town councils ordering people to buy beers for each other. It shows up all over the place. A husband in Strasbourg ordered to buy beer for his wife after disparaging the in-law, bosses in Mainz ordered to buy beers for their workers after making them work on Sunday, a journeyman in Ulm ordered to buy beers for his master after pulling his beard during an argument. This is very typical of a medieval city at the time. The council had a lot of power, in theory, but they had to be careful how they wielded it because the citizens were armed and organized into various factions like little armies. Any kind of 'fix' that would improve rather than degrade social cohesion was generally preferred.

And of course, Germans like their beer!
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Maybe that last tidbit is a little too 'inside baseball' and only fun for researchers and historians. :tongue:

One other thing I like doing for games is borrowing history from one genre, or time and place, and putting it in another. Like the way Kurosawa took John Ford Westerns and made them into Samurai films, which were then in turn remade into Spaghetti Westerns and so on.

A western story that I used once is the one that was the basis for the grim Cormac McCarthy novel "Blood Meridian".

The story was based in part on the depredations of the "Glanton Gang", an incredibly brutal bunch of killers active on what is now the Texas / Mexico border area. Their most famous crime was repeatedly massacring travelers at a ferry landing on the Colorado river.


McCarthy's main source for all the details was a book called "My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue" by Samuel Chamberlain. Hard to find though it's out of print last I checked.

Needless to say, there were people like this in many eras. I used the basic idea for a gang of killers in medieval Hungary for a campaign I ran a few years ago. It went over very well. People from the real world can be scarier than any orcs.
 

Klibbix!

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After being kindly provided a PDF copy of Codex Superno by the author, I wanted to post my impressions here and urge others to check it out. I have never done an RPG review, so bear with me!

First and foremost, this book is packed to the brim with detail and is obviously a labor of love. It's written in a clear and concise style and if the idea of history texts bores you, and some certainly do, fear not, Codex Superno avoids any threat of boredom by making the history it discusses both accessible and, more importantly, easily applicable to your game.

Indeed, what I like most about it is the possibility of using bits and pieces of the spells and traditions it covers in the system of your choice.

I figure most people reading this are more than capable of converting gaming material to the preferred games and even if you don't want to use D&D derived systems (Codex Superno does, being compatible with the 3rd edition D&D SRD and related games) you can easily use the purely historical information it contains in your own games without any conversion whatsoever.

Codex Superno, with the book's emphasis on magic of, “the Late Medieval period in Central Europe”, generally breaks down the arcane into, “four distinct types or families”

Holy Magic: “the invocation of saintly miracles.”

Cunning Magic: magic derived from living Pagan and Shamanistic traditions.

Learned Magic: “the type of magic practiced by highly educated scholars.”

Clandestine Magic: “which consists of tidbits from the various other types of magic, and almost always the 'naughtier bits'”. The author notes that this is the type of magic most likely to draw unwanted attention to its practitioners and includes such legendary artifacts such as the Hand of Glory.

It adds several new Skills, like Mnemonics, Cartomancy, Astrology and, interestingly, Flyting (which, “can be used to undermine the morale of an enemy (take away MP), to chastise an evil spirit, or to simply hold one’s own in dangerous banter.”

I really enjoy the addition of Mnemonics, considering its use during the time period under review, and the rules for Memory Palaces, something which I find endlessly fascinating.

Codex Superno also contains an entire section on, “Magic and the Law,” and notes that, “the threat of legal prosecution, whether by the Church, or by seigniorial or municipal authorities was always a potential problem for any magic practitioner.”

This is a welcome addition, and gives a Game Master ample ammunition to demonstrate to their players that transgressive actions can, and perhaps should, have serious consequences for those who engage in them. While other D&D settings may have their own detailed rules on a given society's response to extra-mundane powers, the real-world reactions to such traditions make for interesting reading, no matter how rare they were in actual history.

This is especially interesting given that many historical practitioners were themselves in positions of religious power, which the book mentions by saying, “Historically, there is an irony in that it seems that some of the most perilously blasphemous deviltry was studied and practiced by members of the clerical estates: priests, monks, friars and nuns, scholars, ecclesiastical students and so on.”

The meat of the book is, of course, a list of Cantrips and Spells grouped under the four main types. Each Spell has a 'historical', 'semi-historical' or 'invented' tag, a useful bit of information for those who want to be strict with their historical games, and a Legal Status, which ties back into the Magic and Law chapter.

Each Spell also has a section on failures (every spell using this system needs a successful check to cast) which run the gamut from amusing, such as Fashionable Attire, whose failure causes the magician's clothes to split embarrassingly open, to the horrific, like Babe of the Woods, where the magician runs the risk of their dreadful servant turning against them.

Sections follow on Magic Artifacts, from Talismans to such legendary objects as the Lamp of Aladdin, Alchemy and Real Life Grimoires.

This review does not do the book justice. What the author has managed to do is to gather information from a wide variety of sources, many of them dense and confusing, and make it playable. The eye to detail here is impressive and, though I am not as familiar with the rule system used as I once was, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't run smoothly at the table, as long as the GM has a good understanding of the book's content.

There is a lot of detail here, which might be overwhelming for some, but from a first glance it doesn't look like ignoring some aspects of the system will cause the rest of it to come crashing down. This is a book that will reward repeated rereading and I think could be a worthy addition to any D20 game and any other game, providing the GM is willing to put some conversion work in.

I've missed a great deal in this short review, but I urge you to check it out for yourself.

Oh, and the book has a great index!
 

AsenRG

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Hey nothing wrong with the 'Bubishi', I have the book of five rings and the Heihō kadensho on my bookshelf.

As for Fiore, I think they are working toward something like that in a sense, in that they have identified a cluster of other manuals, including several German treatises such as the Von Eyb manuscript, as being part of a linked tradition with his work. But ultimately, for serious practitioners, you have to make your own 'critical edition'. As I said, there is no center in this part of the world, at this time.
Oh, it's a great treatise! I just hesitated before mentioning it because of the geographical location.
But then I'm maintaining that HEMA should actually be Historical Authentic Martial Arts...

And that part about Fiore makes me glad:thumbsup:! I've always considered Fiore to be quite similar to the German school, which is what I've practised - or at any rate, the similarities are more than the differences.

It's not so much that they always got in trouble, in fact to the contrary, they often seemed to get off lightly during the medieval period even when they were caught. It's more that these 'forbidden' works show up in their libraries, in their own inventories and so forth.
Well, conversely, not being subject to so much punishment if you get caught is also an incentive...:shade:
 

AsenRG

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One of the things I found particularly amusing about the law as practiced in the medieval period, which offers an insight into the reality of life in the cities then, I ironically learned from reading the memoir of an executioner from Nuremberg. At one point he tells how he asked the city to build him some new gibbets, as the old ones were rotting and falling apart. When the local carpenters set to the work, they were getting heckled by a crowd of onlookers, who even started throwing things at them. The whole phenomenon of execution in medieval Germany was very strange and the executioner, as well as anything he touched, was a kind of pariah like the 'untouchable' castes in India.

The carpenters, not particularly keen to the do the work to begin with, were angry about being taunted (always a risky thing in medieval context, ala Monty Python) and being armed, they were on the verge of violence. The town watch intervened and arrested the members of the crowd. The town council quickly interrogated them, but was unable to determine who was most culpable.

So they gave the carpenters the rest of the day off, and ordered all the members of the offending crowd to buy the carpenters beers for the rest of the afternoon at a local pub. This was a fairly significant financial hit for some of the crowd members, as beer was fairly expensive, but ultimately it healed the rift between the two groups. The next day the carpenters finished their work in peace.
Apart from the beer, that fits amazingly well like a verdict a strictly Confucianist-minded gentleman might pronounce...:tongue:
This sort of thing is like learning a new word. I went back to my sources and looked for other instances of town councils ordering people to buy beers for each other. It shows up all over the place. A husband in Strasbourg ordered to buy beer for his wife after disparaging the in-law, bosses in Mainz ordered to buy beers for their workers after making them work on Sunday, a journeyman in Ulm ordered to buy beers for his master after pulling his beard during an argument. This is very typical of a medieval city at the time. The council had a lot of power, in theory, but they had to be careful how they wielded it because the citizens were armed and organized into various factions like little armies. Any kind of 'fix' that would improve rather than degrade social cohesion was generally preferred.

And of course, Germans like their beer!
...and for much the same reasons:shade:.

Maybe that last tidbit is a little too 'inside baseball' and only fun for researchers and historians. :tongue:

One other thing I like doing for games is borrowing history from one genre, or time and place, and putting it in another. Like the way Kurosawa took John Ford Westerns and made them into Samurai films, which were then in turn remade into Spaghetti Westerns and so on.

A western story that I used once is the one that was the basis for the grim Cormac McCarthy novel "Blood Meridian".

The story was based in part on the depredations of the "Glanton Gang", an incredibly brutal bunch of killers active on what is now the Texas / Mexico border area. Their most famous crime was repeatedly massacring travelers at a ferry landing on the Colorado river.


McCarthy's main source for all the details was a book called "My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue" by Samuel Chamberlain. Hard to find though it's out of print last I checked.

Needless to say, there were people like this in many eras. I used the basic idea for a gang of killers in medieval Hungary for a campaign I ran a few years ago. It went over very well. People from the real world can be scarier than any orcs.
Yeah, the last sentence is quite true. I've considered using the tactics of the Mongol army for invading orcs once...and decided that it might provoke the players to pelt me with dice. A foolhardy risk, now that I've bought metal dice!

After being kindly provided a PDF copy of Codex Superno by the author, I wanted to post my impressions here and urge others to check it out. I have never done an RPG review, so bear with me!

First and foremost, this book is packed to the brim with detail and is obviously a labor of love. It's written in a clear and concise style and if the idea of history texts bores you, and some certainly do, fear not, Codex Superno avoids any threat of boredom by making the history it discusses both accessible and, more importantly, easily applicable to your game.

Indeed, what I like most about it is the possibility of using bits and pieces of the spells and traditions it covers in the system of your choice.

I figure most people reading this are more than capable of converting gaming material to the preferred games and even if you don't want to use D&D derived systems (Codex Superno does, being compatible with the 3rd edition D&D SRD and related games) you can easily use the purely historical information it contains in your own games without any conversion whatsoever.

Codex Superno, with the book's emphasis on magic of, “the Late Medieval period in Central Europe”, generally breaks down the arcane into, “four distinct types or families”

Holy Magic: “the invocation of saintly miracles.”

Cunning Magic: magic derived from living Pagan and Shamanistic traditions.

Learned Magic: “the type of magic practiced by highly educated scholars.”

Clandestine Magic: “which consists of tidbits from the various other types of magic, and almost always the 'naughtier bits'”. The author notes that this is the type of magic most likely to draw unwanted attention to its practitioners and includes such legendary artifacts such as the Hand of Glory.

It adds several new Skills, like Mnemonics, Cartomancy, Astrology and, interestingly, Flyting (which, “can be used to undermine the morale of an enemy (take away MP), to chastise an evil spirit, or to simply hold one’s own in dangerous banter.”

I really enjoy the addition of Mnemonics, considering its use during the time period under review, and the rules for Memory Palaces, something which I find endlessly fascinating.

Codex Superno also contains an entire section on, “Magic and the Law,” and notes that, “the threat of legal prosecution, whether by the Church, or by seigniorial or municipal authorities was always a potential problem for any magic practitioner.”

This is a welcome addition, and gives a Game Master ample ammunition to demonstrate to their players that transgressive actions can, and perhaps should, have serious consequences for those who engage in them. While other D&D settings may have their own detailed rules on a given society's response to extra-mundane powers, the real-world reactions to such traditions make for interesting reading, no matter how rare they were in actual history.

This is especially interesting given that many historical practitioners were themselves in positions of religious power, which the book mentions by saying, “Historically, there is an irony in that it seems that some of the most perilously blasphemous deviltry was studied and practiced by members of the clerical estates: priests, monks, friars and nuns, scholars, ecclesiastical students and so on.”

The meat of the book is, of course, a list of Cantrips and Spells grouped under the four main types. Each Spell has a 'historical', 'semi-historical' or 'invented' tag, a useful bit of information for those who want to be strict with their historical games, and a Legal Status, which ties back into the Magic and Law chapter.

Each Spell also has a section on failures (every spell using this system needs a successful check to cast) which run the gamut from amusing, such as Fashionable Attire, whose failure causes the magician's clothes to split embarrassingly open, to the horrific, like Babe of the Woods, where the magician runs the risk of their dreadful servant turning against them.

Sections follow on Magic Artifacts, from Talismans to such legendary objects as the Lamp of Aladdin, Alchemy and Real Life Grimoires.

This review does not do the book justice. What the author has managed to do is to gather information from a wide variety of sources, many of them dense and confusing, and make it playable. The eye to detail here is impressive and, though I am not as familiar with the rule system used as I once was, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't run smoothly at the table, as long as the GM has a good understanding of the book's content.

There is a lot of detail here, which might be overwhelming for some, but from a first glance it doesn't look like ignoring some aspects of the system will cause the rest of it to come crashing down. This is a book that will reward repeated rereading and I think could be a worthy addition to any D20 game and any other game, providing the GM is willing to put some conversion work in.

I've missed a great deal in this short review, but I urge you to check it out for yourself.

Oh, and the book has a great index!
...for a first try, I give you an A+, man:thumbsup:!
 

Klibbix!

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Apart from the beer, that fits amazingly well like a verdict a strictly Confucianist-minded gentleman might pronounce...:tongue:

...and for much the same reasons:shade:.


Yeah, the last sentence is quite true. I've considered using the tactics of the Mongol army for invading orcs once...and decided that it might provoke the players to pelt me with dice. A foolhardy risk, now that I've bought metal dice!


...for a first try, I give you an A+, man:thumbsup:!

Thank you!
 

Peter Von Danzig

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After being kindly provided a PDF copy of Codex Superno by the author, I wanted to post my impressions here and urge others to check it out. I have never done an RPG review, so bear with me!

Than you so much for that very nice review. I particularly appreciate this:

"...gather information from a wide variety of sources, many of them dense and confusing, and make it playable."

That is what I try to do with all my stuff. Historical anything is a very, very small niche in the RPG world, or to people in general. Most fans of genre fiction and gamers reject historical grounding or combat realism out of hand. But with the rise of computer games like Mount and Blade and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, as well as the long existence of TTRPGs like Cal of Cthulhu, Mythras, WHFRP, Ars Magica, Aquelarre and so on, which borrow elements from history and mythology to enhance the gaming experience, I think perhaps the tiny window is opening just a little bit wider.

Using historical elements doesn't mean you have to be a slave to them, the analogy I try to use is rather than "Ikea instructions", think of it as a "very large box of crayons" which allows you to use any color you want to. This is what the pioneers of Weird fiction, fantasy, and sword and sorcery genres did.
 

Lofgeornost

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I'm not an academic myself, so I can only base my understanding of this on my own perceptions and what I read when I do wade into academic articles, but a lot of the 19th and up to mid-20th Century work on medieval history in German has been fairly downgraded by the more recent generation of German speaking medieval scholars...

I agree that 19th Century students could probably outpace many modern experts in their translating abilities...
I think we are in agreement and simply talking past each other. Certainly a lot of older historical scholarship is dated and being replaced, in many different fields. But fundamental editorial work--making a critical edition of a source based on all available manuscripts, creating stemmae showing the 'genealogical' relations between different 'families' of manuscripts, and trying to work out the original reading of the source--is less likely to be wrong, since it is based on fairly objective criteria and, if well done, notes the variant readings that are rejected. It still needs redoing from time to time, because new manuscripts with significant variants may surface, and those need to be taken into account. Obviously, the commentaries that accompany critical editions are far more likely to become dated than the texts themselves.

I fear I may have introduced a red herring by mentioning translating Thucydides into Latin as an example of the superior knowledge of Classical Languages in the 19th century. I did not mean that 19th-century translations of medieval texts into modern languages are superior than later ones. Often they are not, if only because the modern languages themselves have changed since the 1800s. Though since translation is always interpretation, it simply needs to be redone from time to time as our our understanding of the historical context and meaning of a text will shift. Of course, real historical work will always be done with the original language, not a translation; 'trust the horse, not the pony' as teachers used to say.

I don't know what modern programs are like, but back in the 1990's when I was looking into getting my Ph.D. in Medieval Studies it typically required mastery of Latin and two other languages, usually French and German. Ultimately I didn't pursue it, but we certainly read plenty of Latin Roman material for my undergraduate degree.
Well, yes, AFAIK that is still the standard today. But what mastery means has shifted. I've known a fair number of professional medieval historians over my lifetime. All of them, I think, could read Latin fairly proficiently. I don't think any of them could have got up at a birthday party and delivered an extemporaneous address in Latin (as Classicists in the 19th century might). Outside of some people I've known whose special focus was Classics (or something similar), I've not really met scholars who are fluent in Latin in the way they might be in a 'living language.' And one of my old professors of history amused himself by translating children's books into Latin...
 

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The Ancient Roman kids would no doubt be delighted if they visited your house:grin:?
Although they'd probably wonder at this very strange type of household god spoken of in the books.
 

AsenRG

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Although they'd probably wonder at this very strange type of household god spoken of in the books.
Don't underestimate them, Romans had their own household gods, so yours would be just an exotic variation, methinks:grin:!
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Apart from the beer, that fits amazingly well like a verdict a strictly Confucianist-minded gentleman might pronounce...:tongue:

...and for much the same reasons:shade:.

I think you would certainly find parallels with Confucian rule, at least to a point. One thing that is quite intriguing to me about the medieval towns, mostly miniature republics, is that their rulers seemed to be so sensible. These were chaotic places with frequent upheavals of government, near constant protests, demonstrations, factional disputes and so on, but the Germans, who made an industry of founding these little towns and did so well beyond German speaking areas (including in Sweden, Poland, Czech lands, Hungary, Romania etc. etc. - see Lokator and German town law) had this knack for what they called the Rezeß. This now mostly forgotten term means something like 'backing down' or 'backing away'.

What in meant in practice was whenever an internal dispute reached a point of crisis, where further conflict was likely to weaken both parties (townfolk always being aware that there was a baron or a bishop out beyond the city walls who would be only too happy to take over) they would stop fighting and cut a deal. And, rather miraculously, they often stuck by the deal. One famous example led to the constitution of the town and micro-republic of Hamburg in 1410, which granted the citizens more say over things like foreign policy than I have in my country today. This lasted until the French Revolution.


And it all started with a dispute between an armorer and a Duke. The Duke, who had come into some money, ordered a bespoke harness (plate armor) but then got fat in the interum. So he didn't want to pay for it.

The town council meetings where both criminal and political matters were decided were all recorded by scribes and they have a certain 'late medieval patrician voice' which I find amusing to read. Erudite, worldly (these were typically merchants who had spent their youth traveling to dozens of foreign ports), sardonic, darkly witty, frequently exasperated but also patient and cautious. If I have time I'll transcribe a couple of these. Their judgements so often seem to be sensible in a way I find rare in modern politics.

J
 

AsenRG

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The town council meetings where both criminal and political matters were decided were all recorded by scribes and they have a certain 'late medieval patrician voice' which I find amusing to read. Erudite, worldly (these were typically merchants who had spent their youth traveling to dozens of foreign ports), sardonic, darkly witty, frequently exasperated but also patient and cautious. If I have time I'll transcribe a couple of these. Their judgements so often seem to be sensible in a way I find rare in modern politics.

J
I hope you would find the time:thumbsup:!
 

Lofgeornost

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One of the things I found particularly amusing about the law as practiced in the medieval period, which offers an insight into the reality of life in the cities then, I ironically learned from reading the memoir of an executioner from Nuremberg. At one point he tells how he asked the city to build him some new gibbets, as the old ones were rotting and falling apart. When the local carpenters set to the work, they were getting heckled by a crowd of onlookers, who even started throwing things at them. The whole phenomenon of execution in medieval Germany was very strange and the executioner, as well as anything he touched, was a kind of pariah like the 'untouchable' castes in India.

The carpenters, not particularly keen to the do the work to begin with, were angry about being taunted (always a risky thing in medieval context, ala Monty Python) and being armed, they were on the verge of violence. The town watch intervened and arrested the members of the crowd. The town council quickly interrogated them, but was unable to determine who was most culpable.

So they gave the carpenters the rest of the day off, and ordered all the members of the offending crowd to buy the carpenters beers for the rest of the afternoon at a local pub. This was a fairly significant financial hit for some of the crowd members, as beer was fairly expensive, but ultimately it healed the rift between the two groups. The next day the carpenters finished their work in peace.
Very interesting. Is this the 'diary' of Franz Schmidt, the Nuremberg executioner in the late 16th-early 17th century? I've not looked at it in years (and don't have a copy to hand). Joel Harrington's book based on it mentions the reconstruction of the gallows in July 1578, and again more briefly in 1605, but doesn't mention the contretemps or the beers.

IIRC, a piece on your blog references one of Barbara Ann Tlusty's works, so you probably know her Bacchus and Civic Order: The Culture of Drink in Early Modern Germany. It's the kind of social history I find very useful in bringing historical settings alive in gaming.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Very interesting. Is this the 'diary' of Franz Schmidt, the Nuremberg executioner in the late 16th-early 17th century? I've not looked at it in years (and don't have a copy to hand). Joel Harrington's book based on it mentions the reconstruction of the gallows in July 1578, and again more briefly in 1605, but doesn't mention the contretemps or the beers.

Yes it's that same diary, I can pull it down and quote the exact passage if you like. The 'buy beers for them' type rulings are all over the place in dozens of cities, for petty and fairly large scale issues (like labor disputes).

IIRC, a piece on your blog references one of Barbara Ann Tlusty's works, so you probably know her Bacchus and Civic Order: The Culture of Drink in Early Modern Germany. It's the kind of social history I find very useful in bringing historical settings alive in gaming.

Yes. I did a lecture largely based on her "Martial Ethic of Early Modern Germany" at the wonderful Higgins Armoury back around 2012. I really like her Bacchus and Civic Order and "Records of Medieval Augsburg" (or whatever it was called precisely) as well.
 
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Peter Von Danzig

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I think we are in agreement and simply talking past each other. Certainly a lot of older historical scholarship is dated and being replaced, in many different fields. But fundamental editorial work--making a critical edition of a source based on all available manuscripts, creating stemmae showing the 'genealogical' relations between different 'families' of manuscripts, and trying to work out the original reading of the source--is less likely to be wrong, since it is based on fairly objective criteria and, if well done, notes the variant readings that are rejected. It still needs redoing from time to time, because new manuscripts with significant variants may surface, and those need to be taken into account. Obviously, the commentaries that accompany critical editions are far more likely to become dated than the texts themselves.

We are talking past each other a little, and I agree with what you are saying, but if you will forgive me a little excursion, I'll try to do explain the nuance I'm getting at. With the major Greek philosophers we can, usually, pinpoint an individual author. Plato wrote the Republic. Our surviving manuscripts come from Arab, Persian, and Moorish sources, isolated Irish monasteries and so on, and are all from centuries after Plato was alive. We need to compare them and create a 'critical edition' so we can be sure what we are reading is actually what Plato himself wrote.

With some medieval documents we can also pinpoint a specific author - we know Dante wrote his divine comedy for example, Boccaccio wrote the Decameron. But if you were trying to pin down the folk tales he compiled in that tome, you would have a harder time figuring out the origin or what is the definitive version of a given story. This is what the Prussians ran into trying to figure out medieval German law back in the 19th Century. Sachsenspiegel has many different versions, and ultimately they derive from a murky layer of oral tradition and hand written documents that are now lost. There are several regional variations and it's not clear which if any takes priority. In fact it's pretty clear that none do, and that is something hard for 19th-21st Century people to grasp - there is no center.

The same turns out to be true for the fencing manuals. Almost all of the German language fencing manuals all purport to be based on the works of a mysterious figure named Johannes Liechtenauer. But we can't determine a hierarchy of these manuals. Instead there are regional clusters, and clusters over time where certain masters are influenced by previous authors. The same is true for medieval books on the occult, and what you might call the proto- sciences like astronomy, mathematics, fluid dynamics, pneumatics, music, alchemy, physics and so on.

In the Medieval period, writing books was a bit like modern hip hop. Everything is kind of a 'hack" of what came before. There was no dishonor in copying other sources, or even in claiming to be a famous author ('auctore'). In modern parlance it's kind of a combination of an homage, a "shout out", and a type of "virtue signalling" in the sense that you are showing your readers that you know all the relevant sources. Around the 12th-13th Century is when medieval scholars were just starting to gain a mastery of the Classical scholarship (and the Arab / Persian gurus of the Classical scholars) and were beginning to explore their way past the boundaries of the ancients. By the 14th-15th Centuries they were moving well beyond them.

365px-Philipp_M%C3%B6nch_-_Kriegsbuch_-_cod._pal._germ._126_-_069.jpg
e6b28ebca311d981cc13bcbaef1df1f6.jpg

Left, a volley gun from the Philip Mönch kreigsbüch (1496), and ... something else up above. Right, an (I think) 40 barrel volley gun from the Inventarium über Büchsen und Zeug im Kaiserreich zur Zeit Maximilians I (circa 1500). None of this stuff was known to the Romans.

So we have all these documents that are hacks of previous ones, for example in the 15th and 16th Centuries we have at least two hundred wonderful 'kriegsbücher', (war manuals) which are often described as 'copies' of the 1405 Bellifortis, which itself is routinely referred to as a 'copy' of the 5th Century Roman military author Vegetius. But Vegetius didn't have cannon, volley guns, war wagons, firearms, cap a pied plate armor, scuba gear, or a very wide array of weapons and military kit and techniques which the medieval war manuals routinely have, because the Romans didn't know about them. In reality these aren't copies of earlier manuals, they are 'hacks'. Each one is very different from Bellifortis and very, very different from Vegetius De Re Militari. Most deal with very contemporary tactics, weapons and methods like Hussite war wagons, cannon forts, and Swiss style pike squares (very different from the Greek type).

By the High Medieval Period you have the phenomenon of the 'pseudo-epigraphical' authors. People who would pretend to be a renowned scholar in order to get attention. Like if I wrote a book on electricity and claimed to be Nikola Tesla. Perhaps the most important chemist of the last 500 years (arguably) is a guy whose name we don't know. This is the so-called "Pseudo-Geber", a medieval (13th Century) Latin scholar (maybe Spanish, maybe Italian), but we don't know. He represented himself as "Geber", aka "Al Jabir" aka "Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān", an extremely renowned Arab alchemist and polymath (I call him a 'wizard') from the 9th Century. Al Jabir wrote some of the first explanations of the processes of distillation and is sometimes credited for inventing alcoholic 'spirits'.

Like many from his era however Al Jabir wrote in somewhat euphemistic or allegorical fashion and did not get into a lot of detail. "Pseudo Geber" however wrote detailed laboratory instructions, which were easily reproducible for the creation of aqua vitae (ethanol, i.e. moonshine), aqua fortis (a strong acid), aqua regia (another strong acid), oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid), silver nitrate, the purification of potassium nitrate (getting the problematic calcium nitrate out, which turned out to be very important) and a bunch of other stuff. Pseudo Gebers manual was later used by the 16th Century alchemist and physician Paracelsus to synthesize the anesthetics ether (from oil of vitriol) and laudanum (as a tincture of opium), which were used into the early 20th Century. But Paracelsus is relatively famous, while we don't even know who Psuedo Geber was.

I gather (original) Al Jabir himself is also pretty hard to nail down, and what we think of as his work may actually be the work of several authors.
 
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Peter Von Danzig

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The term 'gibberish' allegedly comes from people frustrated trying to break ciphered versions of Pseudo Gebers works...
 

ZDL

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He represented himself as "Geber", aka "Al Jabir" aka "Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān", an extremely renowned Arab alchemist and polymath (I call him a 'wizard') from the 9th Century. Al Jabir wrote some of the first explanations of the processes of distillation and is sometimes credited for inventing alcoholic 'spirits'.
Weren't the first known examples of distillation from the Akkadians c.1000BCE? And I'm pretty sure the Indians were doing simple distilled spirits in the first couple of centuries CE.

Or are you talking double-distillation and high-purity alcohols here?
 

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I can recommend this Medieval Baltic book, although I haven't used it for a game.

And I see there is now a second volume.

If anyone knows of a good book about hanseatic cities, especially with a focus on daily life I'd love to know.
It turns out that the inhabitants of Lübeck had a bigger load of stomach parasites than anywhere else in Europe. Perhaps the Hanse travelled so much because they couldn’t bear the endless trips to the karzi. The source of their stomach problems did, however, change markedly in AD 1300. Before AD 1300 the problem lay in the freshwater fisheries of the River Trave. The inhabitants went off fish but replaced it with imported beef which they undercooked.

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Molecular archaeoparasitology identifies cultural changes in the Medieval Hanseatic trading centre of Lübeck​


Patrik G. Flammer, Simon Dellicour, Stephen G. Preston, Dirk Rieger, Sylvia Warren, Cedric K. W. Tan, Rebecca Nicholson, Renáta Přichystalová, Niels Bleicher, Joachim Wahl, Nuno R. Faria, Oliver G. Pybus, Mark Pollard, Adrian L. Smith

Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 285, No. 1888 (10 October 2018), pp. 1-10
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Weren't the first known examples of distillation from the Akkadians c.1000BCE? And I'm pretty sure the Indians were doing simple distilled spirits in the first couple of centuries CE.

Or are you talking double-distillation and high-purity alcohols here?

Distillation or fermentation?

I don't really know the true origin of distillation of alcohol but the basic idea of distillation probably goes back to the ancient Greeks at least. Al Jabir is one of a handful of "Muslim Golden Age" scholars (Al Kindi is also often mentioned) who are sometimes credited with the invention of alcoholic spirits and quantifying the lab equipment associated with distillation and a lot of other key chemical processes. Specifically the alembic and the retort, as well as most of the other equipment you'd find in a high school chemistry class.

269px-Alambik1.jpg


Distillation was key not only for making alcohol but also a variety of important acids used in processing mineral ores and for many other purposes. I don't know of any mention of distilled alcohol spirits prior to around the 8th or 9th Century AD but that doesn't mean it didn't exist. Supposedly Al Jabir's innovation was to add salt to wine so that it evaporated better making it possible to collect.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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It turns out that the inhabitants of Lübeck had a bigger load of stomach parasites than anywhere else in Europe. Perhaps the Hanse travelled so much because they couldn’t bear the endless trips to the karzi. The source of their stomach problems did, however, change markedly in AD 1300. Before AD 1300 the problem lay in the freshwater fisheries of the River Trave. The inhabitants went off fish but replaced it with imported beef which they undercooked.

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Molecular archaeoparasitology identifies cultural changes in the Medieval Hanseatic trading centre of Lübeck

Patrik G. Flammer, Simon Dellicour, Stephen G. Preston, Dirk Rieger, Sylvia Warren, Cedric K. W. Tan, Rebecca Nicholson, Renáta Přichystalová, Niels Bleicher, Joachim Wahl, Nuno R. Faria, Oliver G. Pybus, Mark Pollard, Adrian L. Smith

Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 285, No. 1888 (10 October 2018), pp. 1-10

:grin: Don't believe everything you read! You can find nasty stuff in a sewer, I gather they just found Polio in London's sewer system. Hopefully it's not as bad as it sounds.

The two best sources I know of in English for the Hanse are Strasbourg historian Philippe Dollinger's "The German Hanse" from 1970 (sometimes "The German Hansa") which is also available in French and translated into German; and 'The Chronicles of Three Free Cities" by an English guy named Wilson King back in 1917.

Dollinger is out of print but worth looking for. It's a pretty short book but very erudite. Wilson King's "Chronicles of Three Free Cities" is available in those cheap scanned reprints, and worth getting. It's an abridged version of the medieval chronicles of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, and basically a litany of all the near constant skirmishes and wars they had with pirates, bandits, robber knights and regional princes, as well as their many internal disputes and uprisings. It covers Hamburgs defeat of the Victual Brothers and other pirate groups, Bremen's brief but bloody capture by her own bishop, and Lübecks military victories in successful wars against Denmark and England.

The Osprey book on the Hanse was done by a guy who specializes in Middle Eastern military history and I think he was out of his depth, it's not very good. I generally like Osprey books for this kind of research but they can be hit and miss.
 

Peter Von Danzig

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You may now return to your previously scheduled programming.

Anyone know of any good resources on early 16th Century Indian Ocean / Pacific Rim?
 

Lofgeornost

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We are talking past each other a little, and I agree with what you are saying, but if you will forgive me a little excursion, I'll try to do explain the nuance I'm getting at. With the major Greek philosophers we can, usually, pinpoint an individual author. Plato wrote the Republic. Our surviving manuscripts come from Arab, Persian, and Moorish sources, isolated Irish monasteries and so on, and are all from centuries after Plato was alive. We need to compare them and create a 'critical edition' so we can be sure what we are reading is actually what Plato himself wrote.

With some medieval documents we can also pinpoint a specific author - we know Dante wrote his divine comedy for example, Boccaccio wrote the Decameron. But if you were trying to pin down the folk tales he compiled in that tome, you would have a harder time figuring out the origin or what is the definitive version of a given story. This is what the Prussians ran into trying to figure out medieval German law back in the 19th Century. Sachsenspiegel has many different versions, and ultimately they derive from a murky layer of oral tradition and hand written documents that are now lost. There are several regional variations and it's not clear which if any takes priority. In fact it's pretty clear that none do, and that is something hard for 19th-21st Century people to grasp - there is no center...
Yes; this is a very clear exposition of the problem. You find the same thing with Old English/Anglo-Norman laws as well. As I think I mentioned upthread, it's a major feature of manuscripts on the occult, which sometimes are compilations of a lot of things the writer/operator thought interesting, abridged and reworked to taste. Sometimes the individual elements of them are identifiable as parts or wholes you can find in other manuscripts, but sometimes they seem to be from an oral tradition--or just the writer's own inventions.

Of course, traditional textual criticism can still be useful in dealing with these kinds of manuscripts, not least because it can help you figure out where variations are likely to be the result of a copyist's error, rather than a deliberate adaptation or reinterpretation of material.
Anyone know of any good resources on early 16th Century Indian Ocean / Pacific Rim?
Are you looking for secondary (i.e. modern) treatments or editions of original documents?
 

Peter Von Danzig

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Yes; this is a very clear exposition of the problem. You find the same thing with Old English/Anglo-Norman laws as well. As I think I mentioned upthread, it's a major feature of manuscripts on the occult, which sometimes are compilations of a lot of things the writer/operator thought interesting, abridged and reworked to taste. Sometimes the individual elements of them are identifiable as parts or wholes you can find in other manuscripts, but sometimes they seem to be from an oral tradition--or just the writer's own inventions.
Yeah fencing manuals are definitely the same way. That's actually what pulled me into reading about the esoteric works, there is magic all over the fencing manuals and war-books. For example, look at what is in the various sections of the 3227a


Interestingly, a lot of that stuff like the Liber Ignium is very real, definitely works and is very important. Like how to process "Salt of St. Peter" to get potassium nitrate instead of calcium nitrate so you have reliable gunpowder. But nobody knows who really wrote it or even precisely when. It's all hidden by layers of medieval trickery.

Of course, traditional textual criticism can still be useful in dealing with these kinds of manuscripts, not least because it can help you figure out where variations are likely to be the result of a copyist's error, rather than a deliberate adaptation or reinterpretation of material.

Are you looking for secondary (i.e. modern) treatments or editions of original documents?

Anything relatively accessible in English and not too expensive. I've found a few things but I need more.
 

Lofgeornost

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Anything relatively accessible in English and not too expensive. I've found a few things but I need more.
The first thing that comes to mind is The Book of Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese author from the early 16th century. It was published in English translation by the Hakluyt Society around 1920. Volume II, which has most of the material on India and the Indian Ocean, appears online for free courtesy of the Indian government: https://indianculture.gov.in/rarebooks/book-duarte-barbosa-vol-ii
 

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The first thing that comes to mind is The Book of Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese author from the early 16th century. It was published in English translation by the Hakluyt Society around 1920. Volume II, which has most of the material on India and the Indian Ocean, appears online for free courtesy of the Indian government: https://indianculture.gov.in/rarebooks/book-duarte-barbosa-vol-ii
I didn't expect the Indian government to help...but even more than that, they're also hosting volume 1, for which I am personally grateful:thumbsup:!
 

Peter Von Danzig

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The first thing that comes to mind is The Book of Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese author from the early 16th century. It was published in English translation by the Hakluyt Society around 1920. Volume II, which has most of the material on India and the Indian Ocean, appears online for free courtesy of the Indian government: https://indianculture.gov.in/rarebooks/book-duarte-barbosa-vol-ii

Outstanding! Thank you. I didn't know that one, that's fantastic! I love the Hakluyt Society they also published an extremely rare translation of the journey of Leo of Rozmital, a magnificently weird and wonderful 15th Century travelogue. I'm gonna download Duarte Barbossa from the Indian gov. and try to buy a hard copy of the Hakluyt Society print if I can find it.
 

Lofgeornost

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I find that Wikipedia is a good enough basis for most historical games, for me.

It is at pretty much the right level of detail, is easily accessible and allows me to go down rabbit holes if I need to.

I also use children's books, as they contain the right flavour without going in too heavily.

Fairy Tales/Folk Tales/Folk Songs/Myths/Legends are also goof sources for me.

Getting slightly off track here, but this seems a good place to mention it:

I've recently been browsing through Sibelan Forrester's Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). It's mainly a collection of translated tales, but it is illustrated with images from a wide range of media, including some pretty modern takes on Baba Yaga, like Mignola's in Hellboy. Part of a section of the introduction on "Baba Yaga in Popular Culture: East and West" reads (p. 24):

Baba Yaga is a character in the RuneQuest/Gloriantha game, and the accompanying materials provide a sophisticated psychological and biographical background to explain why her house is on chicken legs and why she is so antisocial despite her many powers.22

Footnote 22. Interestingly, the RuneQuest explanation of Baba Yaga and her daughters imagines her mating with men in dark places, rather than producing children by herself 'in the old way.' See her page on Simon Phipp's RuneQuest Gloriantha site, http://www.soltakss.com/babayaga.html.

Probably you were well aware of this reference. I can't fault Forrester for misspelling Glorantha, but she apparently read your Baba Yaga material closely!
 

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Very interesting... I think the reason for the house on chicken legs is more prosaic maybe, as these kinds of structures are (even now) commonly built around rural Scandinavia, the Baltic and NW Russia. The purpose is to keep bears out and allegedly, mice.

tumblr_lj5fmig7iD1qcxyrro1_500.jpg
 

Lofgeornost

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Very interesting... I think the reason for the house on chicken legs is more prosaic maybe, as these kinds of structures are (even now) commonly built around rural Scandinavia, the Baltic and NW Russia. The purpose is to keep bears out and allegedly, mice.
Interestingly, that very photograph appears in Forrester's book--it seems to be from a a museum in Stockholm? Forrester mentions it as a possible origin of the 'chicken leg' idea, though she's not trying to find 'real' sources for parts of the Baba Yaga mythology; she's more interested in how people have reworked it.
 
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