Darklands

The Fanatasy Role-Playing Game of Medieval Germany

 

 

Gothic Germany

 

LIFE IN THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

 

Imperial Politics

The extraordinary chaos and violence of 15th Century Germany was rooted in its peculiar political structure. In an age where all surrounding kingdoms were dynasties that passed from father to son, the German King and Emperor (he was always the same man) was elected by seven powerful noblemen: the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Koln (Cologne), the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg, and the King of Bohemia.

This system insured that the Emperor was weak while the large noble families remained strong. To get elected, would-be Emperors gave money and lands to the electors in exchange for their support (i.e., buying their vote). Once elected, Emperors continued to spend money and lands, in an attempt to get their sons elected after them, ultimately hoping to create a family dynasty, such as that enjoyed by the kings of France, Spain or England.

For example, in 1439 Emperor Albert II died. In the next year his nephew, Frederick of Habsburg, was crowned King in Aachen and given custody of Albert's just-born son, Ladislas. However, not until 1452 did Frederick go to Rome for coronation as Emperor, and then only because a friendly Pope helped pay for the trip! For most of his reign Frederick III ruled from his Styrian (south Austrian) lands, enduring various indignities and setbacks from the nobles while he quietly, cautiously but competently ruled the family realm. In the 1470s he married his son, Maximillian, to the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, the single richest prince in Europe. The Duke hoped to use his wealth to buy the title of King from Frederick. This in turn would lead to becoming the next Emperor. However, the Duke was killed in battle against the Swiss in 1477, allowing the Habsburgs to inherit his wealth instead. This allowed Frederick to get his son elected co-Emperor in 1486, a major step on the road to establishing the Habsburg dynasty that would ultimately dominate most of Europe in the 1500s.

What this means is that in the 1400s, the Emperor was poor and frequently powerless, carefully husbanding resources for future generations. Various "princes" were the real powers within the Empire. Some were rich and powerful nobles or prelates, controlling wide lands. Others were smaller, sometimes no more than a tiny castle and a few villages. Some families used family money to purchase from the Pope a position of abbot, bishop or archbishop, which gave the son control of all the lands and income attached to that church office. These positions could be quite important: some bishops or archbishops were fully equal to a margrave or duke. The archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Koln were among the richest in Europe, hence their position as electors. The Papacy, poor and/or divided, was quite happy with this arrangement. Episcopal offices could not be inherited, and were therefore available for resale whenever the current occupant died.

Nobel families acquired land by intermarriage, gifts (including those from would-be Emperors), and conquest. They lost lands because fathers persisted in giving each of their sons a certain part of the family lands. This frequently caused bloody feuds between the sons. Family branches at war were especially frequent in this century. The English word "feud" is derived from "fehde," a German word meaning "private war."

To the casual observer, it seems that every major noble house in Germany was either fighting itself or its neighbors sometime during this century. Actually, the division and recombination of noble lands had gone on for centuries. By 1400 Greater Germany was a patchwork of divisions, with many nobles owning lands in dozens of scattered locations.

Each noble with sufficient military power could promulgate his own laws. The only higher court was the Emperor, and he was rarely available! This meant that criminals only needed to elude the local pursuit and slip into a neighboring principality to avoid justice. In some cases, the noble himself was a robber. With a band of mercenary soldiers, he could tax or plunder anyone who passed near his land. These "raubritter" (robber knights) were the bane of Germany.

On a larger scale, Germany had various wars during this period. The most significant struggle was between the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Poland, the most memorable the Hussite Wars.

The Order of Teutonic Knights, based in Marienberg and stretching along the Baltic coast into modern Russia, was an independent but waning power (the "Ordensstadt"). In 1410 a Polish-Lithuanian army crushed the Teutonic army at Grunwald-Tannenberg. For the remainder of the century the Poles slowly recaptured land from the Teutonic Knights, as well as expanding their eastern borders into the Russian city-states. Meanwhile a virtual plethora of Polish princesses married into the highest families of the Holy Roman Empire. This helped insure that Imperial forces would ignore the gradual dismemberment of the Ordensstadt, as long as the Poles weren't too greedy.

The other great conflict occurred in Bohemia, a fertile basin surrounded by mountains. Bohemia is a unique area in the Empire. Originally Czech-speaking, its rich mines and the great city of Prag (Prague) insured strong German interest. The religiously-inspired Hussite rebellions of the 1420s attracted a virtual crusade of German knights, led by the Emperor himself at times. The Hussites not only sought religious reform, but Czech cultural freedom from German domination. Unfortunately, the Hussite movement eventually fragmented, began fighting itself, and was ultimately crushed by Imperial forces.

In the north, the Hanscatic League was an association of cities that promoted and protected their trade. Although generally mercantile, the Hansa did organize and fight wars, with each city contributing troops or mercenaries. Like the Teutonic Knights, the Hansa was a declining power. It had made unwise choices in prosecuting trade wars with the Scandinavians and Dutch. Their monopolies were crumbling, making the League a power more in name than in fact.

Many of the larger cities in Germany were "Imperial Free Cities" (see "The Cities of the Empire," for details). Such places were effectively independent of all outsiders. The city citizens, embodied by the current city council (the "Rat of the Reichstadte"), ran their own affairs as they pleased, establishing all laws and rules.

POLITICS & ADVENTURING: The existence of feuds and warfare is a major consideration when traveling. You run the risk of encountering military patrols, who generally assume that anyone not enrolled in their army must be the enemy! In addition, it is difficult to enter a place preparing for war, and almost impossible to get into or out of a place currently under siege.

The political landscape may also affect your reception in places. Noble houses sometimes ruled multiple cities. Your reputation in one of these cities may influence your reputation in the others. Of course, if you are hated by one house, the enemy of that house may welcome your presence.

The Imperial Free Cities are virtually independent states within their walls. Many of the richest cities in the land hold this status. Here your reputation is unique and the possibilities are limitless.

 

Religion

The Church of medieval Europe was quite different from the modern Catholic Church. By the 1400s, the Church was a decadent institution so badly in need of reform that priests, monks, and sometimes even Popes attempted to make changes. The Church sold everything from indulgences to archbishoprics. Clerics from simple country priests to the Pope himself routinely had mistresses. Excommunications were invoked and revoked to suit immediate political ends. In rural parishes some priests couldn't even read Latin, making it impossible for them to say the mass correctly. Of course, nobody else in the parish understood Latin, so superstition and old folk ways often continued under a thin veneer of Christianity. Many were aware how easily this allowed heresies to grow.

To many people the Church was an awesome institution, controlled by men of great wealth and power who used a "secret" language (Latin) and commanded all sorts of daunting powers, including miraculous aid, powerful relics, and terrifying excommunication to eternal hell. Degrees of religious belief might vary, but nobody sneered at a noble archbishop leading a mercenary army! Some took heart in the mendicant (traveling) friars and preachers, whose charismatic teachings ranged from inquisitorial witch-hunts to hints that the final reckoning was at hand. Of course, some were no more than freeloaders, threatening hell and damnation to anyone who didn't provide them with food, drink, and a soft bed!

RELIGION AND ADVENTURING: For an adventurer, the miraculous aspects of the 15th Century church are very useful. This includes both prayers for saintly miracles, and the power of various relics.

Cathedrals, churches, and sometimes monasteries are useful places to add virtue or regain divine favor (DF), so that characters depleted by asking for saintly aid can "recharge" and try again. Others prefer simply staying at an inn or in camp and praying to regain DF.

Useful relics can be gained by a judicious barter of services. Furthermore, few churchmen are actively corrupt or evil; most are just pragmatic. They might offer various forms of religious aid, if you give them something in return.

You should be wary of clerics met on the road, in the remote countryside, or small hamlets. Some are genuine, but the world is also full of freeloaders, scoundrels, and worse.

 

Society

ECONOMIES: In earlier centuries, land was wealth. Feudal nobles owned the land, which included the peasant families that worked it. Land was passed to sons and daughters, with holdings subdivided by death, then recombined by marriage. Not even wars permanently changed the tradition of family land. Military victors usually sought to eliminate the enemy's sons and marry their daughters, to give them "permanent" title to lands currently occupied by their army.

In the late Middle Ages merchants and mercantile pursuits were an important part of Europe's economic fabric. Traditionally, profit from buying and selling, without putting any personal labor into the product, was considered unworthy. Interest on loans (usury) was technically illegal by church law. However, the weakness of the Church and fraying morality allowed these proscriptions to lapse. Merchants and bankers eagerly entered the financial arena, and by the 1400s were rich enough to finance world-wide trading expeditions. In earlier ages the non-Christian Jews had served as bankers and merchants. Now they were unnecessary, which led to many tragic pogroms that drove them from the cities, or sometimes the entire realm.

When industry and trade returned to Europe, money and wealth became more important than land. Not unlike today, people started measuring status by disposable wealth. Expensive clothing, palatial residences and costly recreations all displayed one's place in society.

Minor nobles and knights, living in rural castles and ruling a few hamlets, were often poorer than modest merchants or guildsmen in a neighboring city. Property, income and sales taxes were unknown, leaving many nobles with nothing more than traditional land rents established centuries earlier. Some were virtually forced to become "raubritter" (robber knights) just to survive. Greater nobles consumed money by the wagon-load to maintain their status and finance military ventures (or defenses against venturesome neighbors). To get money, they frequently sold land for big, long-term cash payments, or let wealthy towns and cities buy various degrees of independence.

MONEY: Various kingdoms and principalities minted their own coins with varying amounts of precious metals. The florins, groschen and pfenniges in Darklands are common denominations widely used in the Empire. Florins are very valuable gold coins, usually carried only by noblemen, rich merchants, and other wealthy persons. Groschen are larger silver coins, carried by all but the poorest citizens. Pfenniges are small change, valued by only the poverty-stricken. A popular nickname for the gold florin was "Rhinegulden" (Rhine gold), as many gold florins were minted in the wealthy Rhine cities.

The actual value of coins depended on the mint and the date minted. Various principalities issued various types of coins, including half-groschen, schillings, wittens, etc. Germany had some of the richest silver mines in Europe, and new mining techniques available in the 1400s allowed the reopening of many old, abandoned works.

On the other hand, princes with minting rights frequently debased their coinage by making coins with a lower percentage of precious metal, to "stretch" their money further. The complexities of multiple and frequently debased coins are ignored in Darklands. Instead you can enjoy what medieval man longed for: a stable, recognizable coinage that always has the same value everywhere.

POPULATION: In the winter of 1347-48 the bubonic plague (the "Black Death") struck Europe. For the remainder of the century, outbursts repeatedly decimated populations in various areas. By the middle of the 1400s, between one-third and one-half the population had disappeared. Unoccupied farmland reverted to its wild state, usually forests. There was a shortage of labor everywhere. This destroyed the old feudal system where peasants were "tied" to the land. After the plague, an unhappy family could abandon their farm, and join the many refugees, pilgrims, and other victims of chaos in the countryside. From there they could find a new and better occupation in a labor-hungry town or city, or at least find a nicer nobleman in need of farmers!

Some of these refugees joined mercenary companies, who hired themselves out to feuding nobles. German mercenary companies were plentiful. They were so experienced that virtually every neighboring state used them: the English in their civil wars, the Duke of Burgundy in his wars of expansion, and the Italian city-states in their perpetual conflicts.

Throughout most of the 15th Century, opportunities for mobility and social change were better than previous or future times. Furthermore, the rise of monied economy, where wealth (not land) bought success and power, allowed venturesome people the prospect of great gains. In fact, so many newly rich families purchased titles of nobility that heraldic insignia underwent a vast expansion and change, to accommodate all the newly noble families.

Needless to say, this wild and changing time is a perfect setting for adventure, a place where one can easily find dangerous tasks, large rewards, and everlasting fame.

VIOLENCE: In a world of social change, weak laws, and constant warfare, it is no surprise that towns, cities and monasteries built or improved their fortifications to protect the inhabitants. A standing force of guardsmen existed primarily to defend the walls, and secondarily to keep the peace within. Initially recruited from the citizenry, the guard was frequently supplemented by mercenaries.

Outside the walls, violence was commonplace and justice rare. The leader of each village or hamlet (typically a "schulz") was a warrior as well as an administrator. His skill and leadership helped assure survival against bandits and wild animals. Only rarely could a schulz rely on his titular noble overlord for aid. All too often the overlord was just a distant source of taxation and trouble.

Travelling merchants hired guards to protect their goods and lives. Even friars and pilgrims frequently travelled with weapons to defend themselves.

EDUCATION: Despite the difficulties of the age, the 15th Century was also the beginning of the Renaissance. Knowledge and learning were no longer just the province of priests and monks. Universities existed. Scions of wealthy noblemen or merchants were tutored by various teachers, not just monks and priests. Johannes Gutenberg began printing books in the 1440s. Even the wildest ideas, when committed to print, seemed credible. One of the "best-sellers" in this era was the Malleus Malificarum, a handbook on the evils of witchcraft, how to identify them, and how to deal with them.

Education did not instantly confer wealth or position. However, intelligent men and women began trying to expand their knowledge, experiment and learn. For example, while alchemists in previous centuries generally tried to invoke and bind demons or devils, alchemists in the 15th Century were at least as interested in identifying pure elements and achieving chemical changes. Their hope of transforming lead to gold simply indicates the amount of knowledge they still lacked.

Latin remained the primary written language of Europe. However, for the first time documents were also written, and even printed, in local everyday languages. This also contributed to the decline of the Church, in this case as the repository of human knowledge and wisdom.

THE CLOCK: The classic "monastic clock" of eight hours, or bells, was the traditional method of timekeeping in this era. The actual length of each monastic hour varied with the amount of daylight in each day, since the hours were timed to the sun's position, rather than an absolute measure. New mechanical clocks were just appearing in the richer towns and cities, mainly on public buildings. Clock mechanisms were still cumbersome and complex, using weights and counter-weights. Coiled spring clock mechanisms were not invented until the next century.

THE CALENDAR: For simplicity, in Darklands all holidays occur on the same date each year, and there are no leap years. In reality, holiday dates were a difficult and complex art, since medieval Europe used the Julian Calendar, created in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. Although this calendar included leap years, it produced an error of one day every 128 years, resulting in considerable confusion by the 1400s. This problem was not corrected until the 1580s, when Pope Gregory sponsored adjustments still in use today.

Popular holidays in Germany during this era include the Christian celebrations of Easter (April 15th) and Christmas (December 25th), plus Shrovetide (February 11th), Maidult (May 1st) and Michaelmas (September 9th). Of these, Shrovetide was the largest. Other well-known dates during the year include the Vernal Equinox (March 21st), Holy Thursday (April 12th), Ascension (May 26th), Corpus Christi (June 11th), Midsummer Eve (June 21st), the Autumnal Equinox (September 22nd), All Hallow's Eve (October 30th), and among certain heretics the Last Sabbat (December 26th).

 

The Cities of the Empire

Germany had a plethora of small cities. The largest, Cologne (Koln in German), had about 30,000 people (6,000 to 7,000 families) by the end of the century. This is similar to London and somewhat smaller than Paris, but vastly smaller than the 100,000 of Naples (in southern Italy), not to mention Constantinople or the great cities of Asia. For this reason, some historians refer to German cities as "towns."

The Imperial Free City was an institution unique to the Empire. Normally cities were subject to whatever nobleman ruled those lands. But in the Empire, certain cities became direct subjects of the Emperor (which, of course, changed whenever a new Emperor was elected). Typically cities "bought" this status by giving both the former noble and the emperor large sums of money. Often the rich citizens of a city saved and waited for the right moment, when the noble or the Emperor desperately needed funds for some war or ceremony.

Once free, a city formed its own council (or "Rat") which selected a few men to run the city's day-to-day affairs. Important laws, decisions about foreign policy, etc., were made by the Rat as a whole. The Rat generally consisted of the wealthy families who financed the city's freedom. The laws and rules naturally favored their interests. In future generations, as family fortunes rose and fell, political problems could result when new, rich families were denied participation in city government. Many cities obtained their freedom in the late 1200s or 1300s, so by the 1400s they were ripe for political revolts.

German cities were extremely self-protective. Most built walls during this period, had a city guard, and frequently prepared for war or were actively at war. More than once nobles attempted to retake a free city on some pretext. A few even succeeded. For example, until 1462 Mainz was effectively independent from its titular ruler, the archbishop. Then laxness among the city guard allowed the Archbishop of Mainz, Adolf of Nassau, to sneak his troops into the city. After ten hours of confused street-fighting he captured "his" city and thenceforth ruled it with an iron fist.

Free or not, the cities of Germany were the center of its industry and trade. Even at this early date, Germany already had a reputation for fine craftsmanship, good workmanship, and careful attention to detail. German arms, armor, and mechanical devices were prized everywhere. Even today, internationally renowned museums value an early astrolabe or gold drinking cup made in a late-medieval German city, such as Nuremberg (Nurnberg), Salzburg, or Leipzig.

CITIES & ADVENTURING: In cities you can find almost anything for a price. Larger cities usually have greater selection and higher quality. In addition, not every city includes every aspect of urban life. For example, some cities have a swordsmith's guild, a cathedral, and/or a slum, while others do not.

The largest cities of Germany include (in order of size) Koln, Lubeck, Hamburg, Danzig, Strassburg, Nurnberg and Ulm. Others nearly that size include Bremen, Leipzig, Dresden, Mainz, Trier, Worms, Regensburg, Augsburg, Munchen, Prag and Wien (Vienna).

All cities have a seat of government, either in the Council Hall (usually termed the "Rat" or "Stadthaus") or a fortress. Some cities include a fortress or barracks for self-protection, in addition to the Council Hall.

Every city has a central square where notices are posted, and a marketplace where goods are commonly bought and sold. This marketplace sometimes includes offices of the Fugger or Medici banks, or even a new concept developed by the Fuggers: the Leihhaus (a pawnshop). Marketplaces frequently include a pharmacist, who might have various alchemical materials.

Every city has its parish church, representative of the many in the city. Cathedrals are frequent, although most are still unfinished. Cathedrals frequently have patron saints and/or relics. Virtually every city has a monastery of some sort. Praemonstrater monasteries are especially common in the west and Freisland (the North Sea coast). Their specialty is providing well-trained clerical staffs to churches and cathedrals. For the adventurer, monastic libraries are excellent sources of religious knowledge.

Industry and crafts are ostensibly regulated in cities by the guilds. The guilds control all work in a specific field, insuring high quality and requiring all members to charge a "fair" price. Useful guilds include swordsmiths (for hand-to-hand and thrown weaponry), bowyers and gunsmiths (for missile weapons), and artisans (for miscellaneous items and tools). Smaller cities and various rural hamlets just have a blacksmith, who can fashion certain types of weapons or armor, usually of lesser quality.

Also in the guild district you may find alchemists and/or physicians. Alchemists may be willing to sell or trade knowledge and materials, while physicians can be helpful in curing physical ailments.

Virtually every city has inns of some sort, a place for travellers. Every city has an annual fair. This was a time of celebration, sometimes linked to a trade fair. Naturally prices are higher during the fair. Shrovetide is the most common celebration.

A few cities have universities, centers of intellectual activity sponsored by the state, rather than the church. For an adventurer, these are excellent sources of information about alchemy and various saints. University cities include Rostock, Koln, Wittenberg, Erfurt, Leipzig, Freiberg, Freiberg-im-Breisgau, Wurzburg, Prag, Basel, Wien, Pressburg and Heidelberg. Universities founded late in the 1400s are not included.

 

Ordinary Life

Over three dozen common occupations are available to potential adventurers. These allow adventurers to develop skills and abilities. Theoretically, in the Middle Ages birth determined allowable occupations. However, after the Black Death, Europe was underpopulated. People could and did travel about, dropping their old life and making a new one. When this is combined with the growing importance of wealth (rather than land-holding), considerable social mobility results.

Medieval society was also quite conscious of gender. Women had a carefully defined role, subservient to the male. Women were supposed to create and nurture families at home; older single women or working women were considered undesirable and possibly unsavory. Overall, the female sex was seen by the Church as more dangerous and potentially sinful than man.

Women, of course, adopted their own solutions to this problem. Many cross-dressed as males, disguising their "true" nature. It is impossible to estimate how common this was. For example, as late as 1700, the finest duelist and best secret agent in Europe was the Duke d'Eon. To this day nobody is sure whether "he" was a man or woman, since the Duke dressed convincingly for both roles!

A few of the boldest, most charismatic women ignored social convention entirely, making their own rules. Joan of Arc is one example. She was a charismatic military figurehead for French forces fighting the English in the later stages of the "Hundred Years War" during this period. Her death and martyrdom occurred after she fell into English hands (in 1430).

In either case, and in keeping with a more modern sentiment about gender, women are allowed virtually equal opportunities in Darklands. Female character's graphics are included in Darklands, but feel free to use a "male" appearance for female characters who are cross-dressing.

The only exception to this equality is in religion. Certain clerical occupations are only available to males. However, this is balanced by various saints who provide greater benefits to women.

MILITARY OCCUPATIONS: Most soldiers begin as a RECRUIT in a mercenary company or nobleman's army. After receiving training in basic weapons and various specialties, they are considered a useful SOLDIER, where once again their concern is with weapons. VETERANS have mastered the military life. They can pursue non-military interests, or strive for excellence in a specific weapon. The last step is becoming CAPTAIN of one's own mercenary company or city guard. Here one develops leadership and human-management skills.

ARISTOCRATIC OCCUPATIONS: For most, the easiest entry to the aristocracy is becoming a COURTIER in one of the great courts of the Empire, perhaps even that of the Emperor himself. Courtiers become adept at negotiation, urban living, and clerical matters, but have only limited opportunities for weapons practice. For a person of noble birth, the alternate route is inheritance -- as a NOBLE HEIR. This provides a well-rounded range of opportunities, depending upon one's interests. KNIGHTS are invariably noblemen, fighting and often leading contingents in an army. Successful captains or high clerics can acquire patents of nobility and become knights. The pinnacle of aristocratic success is the MANORIAL LORD, with personal lands. These leaders have a wide range of experience, especially in leadership and management.

CLERICAL OCCUPATIONS: Noble or wealthy families could and did buy their sons a PRIESTHOOD. This is also open to persons with significant intellectual training (such as clerks, professors, etc.) or social status (such as nobles, village leaders, etc.). Otherwise, the usual entry into the Church is through a monastery, where one begins as a NOVICE MONK or NOVICE NUN. A few years as a novice normally results in acceptance as a member MONK or NUN in the order. Then one can aspire to being a PRIEST (if male), ABBOT or ABBESS. The final step possible is an appointment as BISHOP. The Church prohibits women from becoming Priests or Bishops.

In addition to the traditional monastic orders, there are also new, mendicant orders. These FRIARS travel the world, begging for sustenance and helping the needy wherever they find them. An even more ancient tradition is the HERMIT, who find some private, lonely place to contemplate privately the meaning of religion and virtue.

Monasteries also allow OBLATES, lay students taught alongside the monks. Unlike novices or monks, oblates make no commitment to a monastic life. In effect, an oblate is like a modern student, with the monastery serving as a private school. Historically, many monasteries received a stipend from families who sent sons or daughters to be oblates.

MERCANTILE OCCUPATIONS: Travelling PEDDLERS are the simplest of merchants, selling small simple items to rural peasants and farmers, then carrying simple country crafts back into the city, where they can trace them for more small items. LOCAL TRADERS have somewhat greater substance, with enough capital to take wagonloads of goods between a city and the surrounding countryside. Much to the dismay of the guilds, these traders often undercut the guild system by engaging peasant wives and other rural labor to make cheap copies of guild products, especially clothing. These "cottage industries" helped fuel northern Europe's economic development in the latter Middle Ages.

TRAVELLING MERCHANTS are the national and international traders who link European cities together into a larger economic network, and who reach out to the rest of the world. Marco Polo was one such merchant. Considerable wealth is needed as capital, but the rewards are commensurate with the investment and the risk. The most successful become MERCHANT-PROPRIETORS, wealthy managers of an international business. These managers stay at home, while subordinates take risks and travel for them.

CRAFTSMEN: Medieval Europe had no factories and no production lines. All goods were hand-crafted. In cities craftsmen specializing in a certain sphere quickly learned to form guilds. Originally similar to labor unions, guilds soon became the sellers as well as creators of their goods. Guilds established rules for both prices and quality. In a guild, a person starts as an APPRENTICE CRAFTSMAN to gain initial training and experience, then graduates to JOURNEYMAN CRAFTSMAN. After a suitable period, the most skillful become MASTER CRAFTSMEN and leaders of the guild.

THE INTELLIGENTSIA: In addition to monastic education as an oblate, monk or nun, one can be a STUDENT at a university, where literacy, Latin and clear thinking are the main topics, along with a certain amount of religious background. This opens the door to various advanced professions. The most common is that of CLERK, who functions as scribe and bookkeeper for noblemen, businessmen or guilds. Senior clerks frequently act as middle managers, especially in large businesses or noble courts.

Instead of clerking, the intellectually inclined could become PROFESSORS and teach at universities, or gain an equivalent, resident position in the court of a powerful nobleman. Specialists in medicine and the human body might become PHYSICIANS and treat the sick.

Finally, one can become an ALCHEMIST. With experience, alchemists ascend to MASTER ALCHEMIST. Both of these pursuits confer knowledge of alchemical formulas, provide simple components, and a starting Philosopher's Stone.

COMMONERS AND THE COUNTRY: Those without the ability or inclination to pursue more complex pursuits can always work as a common LABORER in a city or town. Merchants, guilds, and large households always need strong backs and willing hands for many tasks.

The countryside is composed of small farming hamlets and villages. Homes might be spread out among the farmed plots, or grouped together in the center for protection. Officially, the residents are PEASANTS, tied to the land and prohibited from leaving without the landowner's permission. In fact, unhappy peasants can and do flee to the independent cities, where residence for a year and a day gives freedom. In many larger villages, especially those with a neighboring noble manor, some residents are HUNTERS, usually for the lord. They specialized in taking game from uncultivated land. Unlike England, in Germany most woods are Imperial property or owned by nobody, making hunting available to everyone, commoners as well as noblemen.

UNDERWORLD AND UNDERCLASS: Most urban criminals are THIEVES, specialists in robbing people or dwellings. A few of the brightest and best-talking are SWINDLERS, who outwit their victims in various ways. In the countryside, all manner of fugitives hide in the forests, becoming BANDITS who prey on passing travellers, or sometimes terrorize small hamlets.

The most humble of all the underclass is the VAGABOND, the penniless wanderer without family or residence, barely surviving from day to day. Any variety of disaster creates these miserable creatures. Sometimes their struggles and privations provide an inner strength (not to mention pragmatic experience) that helps in later life.

THE LIFE OF ADVENTURE: In all cases, it is presumed that some "sea change" in life caused the person to start adventuring. Nobles or clerics might be suddenly dispossessed by war or family misfortune, great merchants might have their fortune ruined, and any manner of disaster, or simple wanderlust, might cause a person to abandon the "easy" life and seek truth, justice for all, and everlasting fame.

ADVICE FOR ADVENTURERS: In childhood, the major decision is whether to favor certain attributes (making the character truly outstanding in those), or to divide EPs evenly. Beware of short-changing strength and endurance, since such characters die quickly. Intelligence is critically important to would-be alchemists. Somebody will need to be the leader, and he or she should have superior charisma (and a good "Speak Common" skill). Also consider having a secondary "battle leader" with good perception and superlative fighting attributes, who takes over from the "meet and greet leader" at appropriate times.

The first five years of adult life are the most important. Characters receive a great deal of experience, allowing them to learn a lot quickly. The next five years are also important, although the experience gained isn't quite so large. After that experience varies solely with the profession selected. Remember that many professions may adjust attributes as well as offer opportunities for skill increase. If you are depending on a certain attribute, avoid professions that might reduce it!

After age 30, aging begins to reduce attributes. Endurance, strength and agility suffer first, then perception and charisma, and finally intelligence. The amount of loss gradually increases, especially from age 45 onward. Old warriors may have superior skills, but are very brittle, with less endurance and strength than younger men and women. Remember also that while adventuring can increase your skills, there's almost no way to permanently improve attributes. Therefore, a younger, stronger, but less experienced character has long-term advantages, although you must suffer with his or her poor skills during early adventures. Fortunately the inexperienced learn quickly (or die trying).

The last occupation of a character before adventuring determines his or her starting equipment. Therefore, certain occupations are very useful immediately before adventuring. One of the most popular is a military pursuit, since the character ends up with weapons and armor. Knights, of course, have the best equipment, followed by Veterans, Captains, Manorial Lords and Solders, in that order.

 

 

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