Sunday, December 7, 2008


The 15th Century lands that would one day become Germany and it's neighbors are a patchwork of rulers and loyalties. Duchies under the great lords of the land jostle rude fiefdoms extending only so far as a man might ride in an afternoon, lying amidst these are free cities and would be utopias and, at the borders, whole states ruled by orders of religious knights or federations of traders. This is all under the rule of the King of the Romans and Emperor-Elect , Sigismund, with the sanction of the head of the universal church, the Pope in far away Rome.

The great rivers of the land cut down through rich valleys to the sea in the north. Dark forests and brooding mountain peaks look down on small walled settlements, the largest of which could barely be termed "cities" when compared to the populous south. Though the land is rich for farming and towns begin to thrive, the population is recovering from the plagues of the last century and the constant wars and banditry of the present. In the empty spaces between settled places, under the hills, within tumbled ruins and in the forested depths exists a world known to most only in story, fairy tale and the doubtful boasts of strangers. This dangerous realm is alive with opportunity for those who are ambitious, brave and lucky.

The Emperor's rule is weak, constrained by myriad laws, and customs, undermined by concessions made in return for the support of the electors, hampered by the machinations of the ambitious while fighting heretics and rebels. Even the Pope is as often enemy as ally to the Emperors. There is no common rule of law, only the multitude of overlapping and often conflicting jurisdictions and everywhere the reality that "might makes right". Any would be lord's (or churchman's for that matter) authority is only as good as their ability to enforce it and anyone with a strong arm and a band of followers can establish them selves as the local "lord" and extort levies wherever they dare.

The universal church provides social glue and the promise of spiritual salvation for all. However, it struggles to recover credibility only a decade after three popes claimed at once to be the true heir to the ring of St Peter and the sole voice of God on earth. While some in the church aid the faithful, others act as venal and grasping lords. A wandering friar might bring comfort or be a demagogue stirring up only fear and suffering, a bishop met on the road might offer benison or might extort a fee to allow you passage. While the church is the moral bedrock for most, rivals are everywhere. Pagan revivals, heretical forms of Christianity or insidious Satanic cults constantly emerge and thrive until brutally suppressed and from without the Roman church faces the ancient challenge of the Orthodox Church in Byzantium and the seemingly unstoppable spread of Islam.

Within these pages find the keys to dangerous adventures, legendary treasures and immortal fame. Whether you begin life the daughter of a line of Kings or a peasants runaway child escaping a life bound to toil, your actions will determine your destiny. You have only to step forth. You may be a virtuous Knight Hospitaller, a thieving scoundrel, a shrewd Alchemist or a simple Herbalist, a feared Pirate or an astute merchant, the Captain of a renowned mercenary company or the unknown spy in a Dukes service. Or the path you choose may be entirely your own. Step forth to bring down Robber knights, foil the schemes of witches, discover the treasures of Kobolds in deep mines, fight great battles and slay Dragons!

No comments: