I’m looking to leverage the situation of the English Anarchy. I have not given much consideration for non-human character stock.
What’s the big picture? What’s going on in this setting that makes it ripe for adventure. What’s changing, evolving, declining?
14th Century English Isles
The Norman barons had once sworn to install Empress Matilda as Queen of England. But upon King Henry I’s death in 1135 they, along with the church and people of London, raised Stephen of Blois to King of England. Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou fled England.
Though supporting King Stephen, the barons have used this time to expand and tighten their holdings in England and Normandy. A Welsh rebellion has succeeded, as King Stephen focused on England and Normandy.
Both the Earl Robert of Gloucester (her half-brother) and King David I of Scotland (her uncle) have declared for Empress Matilda. King David I of Scotland has broken his earlier treaty, once more invading northern England. The Earl of Gloucester is in open rebellion.
Stephen has responded to these revolts, by attempting to seize control of Gloucester. Part of that campaign has been the siege and capture of Shrewsbury.
What’s the world’s culture? What are the cultural analogs? Analogs can be taken from historical earth, current events or fantasy works.
Its 12th century Northern Europe. Serfs are bound to their lords manor. Knights follow a complicated code of chivalry, established by the papacy to better shape their aggression.
There is a general chaos as Norway, Denmark, and France cope with civil wars and succession conflicts.
What’s the conflict in which the characters are involved? What are the sides? What’s wrong?
Three days ago, you declared sanctuary at Shrewsbury Abbey. Per the law of the land, you have 40 days to either confess your sins or abjure the realm. You have surrendered your possessions. Per the charter of Shrewsbury Abbey, you are free to move about the abbey’s holdings; a few fields for sheep.
Yesterday, King Stephen hanged over 100 knights that had defended Shrewsbury. But the castellan of Shrewsbury, Willian FitzAlan, managed to escape and join in rebellion.
It is September 1st, 1138 A.D.
What physical place does this conflict take place in? What ecology, environment, place?
12th century England. Keeps and castles dot the landscape, many wooden motte and bailey, though a few are stone fortresses. Connecting pockets of civilization are trails and roads, some reminders of the Roman empires. Ancient burial mounds dot the fields. The old forests remain, a reminder of past eras.
What’s the name of the most important place in this setting?
Near the heath and hills of Wales is Shrewsbury, a city with an abbey and motte and bailey castle. It is along the river Severn.
What’s the name of a faraway place that folks talk about, dream about or mutter under their breath about?
Rome, the divine seat of power and progenitor of the empire of the eagles.
Who are the antagonists? Who is opposing the goals of the characters?
There are two major factions:
- King of England, Stephen of Blois
- Empress Matilda, claimant to the Crown of England
- Matilda of Boulogne, queen consort of King Stephen
- Bishop Henry of Winchester – Brother of King Stephen
- Count Eustace IV of Boulogne – son of King Stephen
- Archbishop of Canterbury Theobald of Bec – appointed by King Stephen
- Earl Ranulf de Gernon of Chester – loyal to King Stephen, though upset at loss of holdings to Scotland
- Pope Innocent II – supported by letter King Stephen’s claim
- Roger of Salisbury – Chancellor of England, Bishop of Salisbury
- Miles of Gloucester – loyal to King Stephen, though he is reconsidering
- Henry FitzEmpress – son of Empress Matilda
- King David I of Scotland – uncle of Empress Matilda
- Earl Robert of Gloucester – half-brother of Empress Matilda
- Count Geoffrey of Anjou – husband of Empress Matilda
- William FitzAlan – Castellan of Shrewsbury and Lord of Oswestry
- Brian Fitz Count of Wallingford – loyal to Empress Matilda
Imagine all of the characters are standing a room/ruin/field with the antagonists or their minions. What do the antagonists want from that meeting? What do the characters want from that meeting?
King Stephen demands your loyalty and assurances of such; Be they hostages or holdings. You will take up cause against Empress Matilda and fight to ensure that Eustace is his heir.
Empress Matilda has similar demands, though she seeks Henry FitzEmpress as her heir.
Alternately, imagine the characters standing at the scene of some great disaster or calamity clearly caused by one of the antagonists. What’s the disaster? How did it happen? What are the characters going to do about it right now?
The peasantry has been taxed to its breaking point; Starvation is rampant and disease lays waste to villages. Banditry and worse are the result of two nobles fighting for the scraps of a decaying kingdom.
What type of magic exists in this world?
Lets talk about this. I am thinking of Faith and at least Folklore from the Burning Wheel Codex.
This will be a table conversation.
What character stocks are in play in this world? Which are restricted and why?
- Humans are the dominant character stocks. It is said that the Welsh are the descendants of the Elves.
- Trolls haunt the hills and fens.
- Great wolves live in the ancient woods of the world.
I’m up for including others.
What cultural traits apply to the characters of this game world? Pick three character traits for each culture.
- Anglo-Saxon: Folksy, grumbler, charitable
- Anglo-Normand: Refined, tall, arrogant
- Welsh: Beautiful singer, rebellious, charitable
- Scottish: Rugged, independent, boisterous
- Irish: Rugged, artsy, story-teller
What’s your resources cycle? 1 month, seasonal, 6 months, annual? What’s the game world’s currency? Who collects the taxes? What do people do for work? what’s the major economy?
Resource cycle is seasonal. The kings taxmen collect the taxes. Pound, pennies, and farthings. The major economy is agriculture. Most people are peasants or yeoman scratching out a meager living.
Material world: what weapons and armor are available? Are some weapons and armor restricted to certain cultures or character stocks? What property is available? are resources and gear otherwise restricted?
Firearms and plate mail are not available.