Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Minions of the King

by Steve Foster

A scenario inspired by an article in National Geographic magazine. Maybe the Neanderthals didn’t die out? Maybe they co-existed for some time with our ancestors? Maybe they are the basis of stories about trolls and goblins? Who knows?…

I ran this scenario pretty much from these notes to give Tim a break in his long stint as referee of "Legend III". The players were staying at a minor castle between the lands of Montombre and Aldred. The castle’s lord was Eustace, one of Aldred’s men. A man named Gwylas had just turned up, an important aide to the local bishop. My scenario begins shortly afterwards.

Dramatis Personae
Bro. Theodoric
A too-curious friar.
Cannon Gwylas
An assistant to Bishop Daniford of Trewyn, and an honoured guest.
Sir Hrognar
Companion and bodyguard to Gwylas.
Fr. Damien (Damgharn)
A spectacularly ugly, though equally holy, priest.
Fr. Alric
A missionary. Still hale, even in his 70s.
Sir Cerewyn (Kurwan)
A pugnacious knight.
Freydwina
A distraught mother.
Krazkul
An aged orcish leader. Grandfather of Damgharn.
Plus assorted men-at-arms, peasants, orcs and demons.

The History of Ogsmoor
OGSMOOR IS A small village set on a small, high moor of the same name on the edge of the Bleaks. For many years, the moor was shunned for its evil reputation. Folk nearby said that it was the abode of devils and goblins. Strange lights and drums were seen and heard from its misty summit and the surrounding farms were often attacked or raided in the night. Yet, no-one in those days talked of a village on the moor.
More than 40 years ago, Herolaut, the grandfather of Montombre, put an end to the troubles by taking a sizeable troop and his sorcerer, Broden through Ogsmoor. His journals say that he fought more than one pitched battle, but his well-trained and well-armed troops were in little danger. He built a pyre from the bodies of the orcs that he massacred, and declared the area safe. A few years later, a young priest arrived at Herolaut’s court and asked permission to build a chapel on Ogsmoor. Herolaut, on his deathbed and fearing that his sinful life had doomed his soul, not only granted permission but also money and favours. A few years later, the tithes and taxes began to flow in. No one questioned the sudden springing up of a new village high in the moors, particularly one that paid its taxes!

An Untimely Death
It is early morning on the second day of Gwylas’ visit. A guard has seen a horse wandering on the edge of the forest. When it is brought in, the load it bears is seen to be the dead body of Brother Theodoric. The dead man has a massive head wound, caused by a stone axe, though it looks like he lived long enough to escape his attackers. (There is no sign of the two men-at-arms who would have accompanied him. Perhaps they held off the attackers until Theodoric could flee.)
Gwylas knows the unfortunate man. Theodoric had been charged by the bishop with maintenance of tithe records and travelled around various parts of the see. He was also a learned man who brought back records of interesting locations that he had found. A quick search indeed reveals a blood-stained parchment, stuck to his horses neck by the dried blood from his own wound. (The parchment bears the words "The Stones at Ogsmoor" and has several marks arranged in part of a circle, a small numeral by each. Theodoric’s blood and brains obliterate the rest of the circle. A guard may have heard of Ogsmoor - "Ugly as an Ogsmoor wife, my dad used to say")
Unless the players react so first, Gwylas will be affronted by the death and request that Eustace dispatch a party to investigate.

An Ugly Priest
While on the road to Ogsmoor, the party encounter an unfortunate priest whose donkey has thrown a shoe (perhaps in protest at the absurdly heavy load of chests and boxes that it bears). The priest is a singularly ugly man - jutting jaw, large nose, prominent brow ridges, small and deep-set eyes, greasy hair, bow legs, long arms, barrel torso - though also well groomed and scrupulously clean. He introduces himself in a pleasant but slightly grating voice as Damien, a recently appointed priest. Damien explains that he is on his way back to his home village, Ogsmoor, to see his mentor, Fr. Alric and his grandfather. Thanks to Alric’s influence, Damien has been able to study in Ferromaine at the famous Chaunterle Abbey. He has been absent from Ogsmoor for some 15 years since the age of 10, though he has corresponded regularly with Alric. Damien is something of a scholar. As well as being fluent in several languages and having an excellent familiarity with religious books and doctrines he is also a trained healer. However, he has been away from Ogsmoor for a long time and is unfamiliar with recent events. In all but one aspect, Damien is the mild, pious, educated priest that he seems.

In Ogsmoor
Ogsmoor is set in the middle of the often misty moor. There is a fine chapel, but only a curiously small graveyard. The houses are small and rude but well-maintained.
A circle of standing stones can be seen looming in the mist, a short distance off.
The people of Ogsmoor are of a similar appearance to Damien - squat and ugly, yet exceedingly well groomed and clean. For the most part they are also mild-mannered and courteous. They are delighted to see Damien and greet him warmly and devoutly - they clearly are proud that he is now a priest - yet they are shy and nervous in the presence of the strangers. One woman, less ugly than most, peers at them from a doorway. She is Freydwina.
While the greetings take place, Alric will arrive. He is a lean, silver-haired priest. Clearly in his early seventies, he shows no signs of physical or mental frailty. He wears a crucifix around his neck and the observant will see that there is also a second chain carrying another sign - a small oblong stone. Alric will pass this off as a good-luck charm, a memento from his early days here.
Alric insists on a service of welcome and invites Damien to lead it. Alric steps in to lead some of the prayers, which seem familiar until one additional proclamation and response is added. "Give unto God that which is God’s" says Alric. "And to the King that which is the King’s" respond the congregation. Moreover, a small child begins to say "For the minions of the King are countless…" but is quickly silenced by those around him. Alric seems unconcerned but Damien’s brow is furrowed.
As the party leave the church, they see the woman Freydwina talking to a knight some distance off. The knight pushes her roughly to the ground and storms off. He is Sir Cerewyn, and he has several men-at-arms with him.
Freydwina will say of this incident only that she sought help to find her missing child and that Cerewyn refused. Cerewyn, a short-tempered and brutish man, will only say that the brat was forever running off and could "damn well find himself".

Asking about Theodoric
Alric will say that Theodoric and his men left before dawn a few days ago. He is saddened to hear of their disappearance.
Cerewyn says that he doesn’t care what happened and that the men-at-arms probably slew Theodoric for his gold and then fled.
Freydwina will get very upset at the question. She will give several different stories, then just say "The Minions of the King are Countless" and "They will render unto the King! Oh Sweet God, How could you take my child away!"

Damien’s Grandfather
At some point, a player may observe Damien and Alric heading off into the moor. If followed, they will come to a cave, in a low, bramble covered cliff. There is the light of a fire deep in the cave and smoke. On entering, the players will see Damien, Alric and a woman from the village around a litter on the floor. Surrounding the litter will be various orcish totems - skulls and animal skins. On the litter lies an ancient orc, Krazkul, too old and near death to be any trouble. It is clear from his features what the secret of the village is. Damien, Freydwina, Cerewyn, all except Alric have the characteristic features of orcs which, cleaned and groomed, can almost pass for human. Alric is clearly respectful of the aged orc. If the players stop to overhear, they may catch something along these lines:
"Pah! It is bad enough that I let a priest overrun my tribe, now my own grandson is a shaven-headed shaman too! Changed your name too, eh, boy! What’s wrong with Damgharn? A good orcish name!"
"Grandfather, you must not talk like that. I’ve come to show you that we can change. I am accepted by men. I am a priest of their god -no my God. You will be accepted too if only you will convert to the True Faith."
"Pah! Though shalt not kill! Thou shalt not steal! Thou shalt bathe! What sort of life is that for an orc! Damn you Alric! You have destroyed my tribe"
"And if I had not, Herolaut would have done the job 40 years ago. Save my people, you said and I have done, in more ways than one. They are god-fearing folk, now, for the most part and have souls for the saving. Your own could be saved too if you’d agree to the baptism."
"Kurwan. Now there’s a good orcish name too."
"Perhaps too good. I believe that he still worships the King. I cannot prove it, but I believe he killed the friar for breaking the taboo, for counting the minions. I believe he has taken Freydwina’s child and will sacrifice him. I believe he is trying to revive the old orcish ways, and if he does then Montombre’s men will raze Ogsmoor to the ground."
From these conversations, it should not be too difficult to fathom what has happened. Alric came here shortly after Herolaut’s massacres. He found a beaten, demoralised people in fear of their lives. Moreover, he realised that these orcs were somehow very similar to men. He educated them and cleaned them up so that they’d pass for men then, bit by bit, converted them to the True Faith. However, he has had to make a few compromises by allowing some of the pieces of the orcs’ old religion to remain - the worship of the King. Kurwan wants to bring back the old religion and the old orcish ways, and he plans to do so by sacrificing Freydwina’s child to the King.

The King and His Minions
The players will discover Kurwan and his henchmen at the stones. No doubt a fight will ensue and blood will be spilt on the stones, be that the child’s or Kurwan’s. This blood sacrifice is enough to call up the King and his Minions - a number of stone-skinned orcish ghosts. They are terrible opponents whose skin is almost impermeable. However, their strength depends upon the belief of the people. If only Krazkul, the last unbaptised orc, could be converted to the True Faith before he dies…

How It Played
I ran this scenario back in early ’97. I created the blood-stained map as a prop, and people soon wanted to go to Ogsmoor without much prompting. However, we were a bit short of players that week so Hrognar became a useful NPC. Things pretty much followed the route here, though no-one attempted to get Krazkul to convert. This was a shame, as I’d planned that the Minions would actually be impervious to normal weapons until that happened. In the end, to avoid a massacre I just gave them a very high armour rating that halved when Krazkul "spontaneously" converted. Of course, a little party blood had to be spilt before this happened!

Ye Olde Inn

by Bill Hoad

AFTER A HARD day rescuing beautiful dragons from ravenous princesses, it’s nice to know that there is always an inn to come home to. There are still some areas of ‘wilderness’ where inns are not available, but apart from that every town, settlement and village can be relied upon to have a least one inn, clearly marked and easy to find.
For the convenience and comfort of the guests, each inn is almost identical, serving the same foaming beer, generally being drunk by the same surly locals. It doesn’t matter if you cross continents or even game worlds; the same inn is always there. From AD&D to C&S, from RQ to Flashing Blades. The only historical or fantasy game I know which does not have a network of inns is Bunnies and Burrows. (Paul Mason points out that Tekumel has no inns. I should have known that game could be relied upon to be different.)
The only variation to the standard inn is that most game worlds have one inn that serves a brew that is especially strong and unpalatable. It seems reasonable to assume that this exception applies to all game worlds, but that it has not always been mapped in yet.
I believe that the similarity of all inns indicates that they all belong to the same chain. This would explain other features:
Why are they always so easy to find? The characters have picked up a brochure.
Why are there always vacancies? The characters book ahead from the last inn.
Inns are an essential part of FRPGs. Not only do they provide accommodation, they can be booked for bar room brawls and also act as informal employment agencies.
The problem with all these inns is, I don’t believe in them. They may fit into Medieval China or Medieval Japan, where the economy and administration was more advanced, and the population more dense so that there was a large demand for inns along a network of roads and waterways. But even in China, not every village and small town would have an inn. As for Medieval Europe, population was not only sparser, there were restrictions put on travel.
Where has the bog standard FRP inn risen from? I believe it’s inspired by the 17th century stagecoach house. It’s grown from images in The Three Musketeers films with a touch of the Western saloon thrown in.
We are playing fantasy games after all, so historical accuracy is not important and some anachronisms may be granted. So why should I make a fuss? Well it’s one aspect of the sameness of all role-playing genres. I think it would be good if role-playing games extended players, not just recycled the same settings.
In real life travel, one of the major tasks is finding somewhere to stay at each destination. This task goes a long way to establishing the character of a place, and one’s personal relationship to the place.
If we consider some of the historical options, they may suggest some alternatives to the bog standard FRPG inn. I may be pointing out the obvious, but as I have seen little of the below in the games I have played, a reminder may help.

A night under the stars
The thousand star hotel as the Vietnamese euphemistically call it. This is the cheapest option, but risks being hassled as a vagrant or undesirable. If you stay away from settlements, you might avoid having to deal with nosey authorities who may question your right to travel. On the other hand, settlements offer more in the way of shelter or warmth.
When you consider that beds were a rarity 500 years ago, sleeping on the ground was quite normal. However, carrying tenting materials to protect one from the elements is advisable in temperate or colder climates.
As an aside, when creeping around town under the cover of darkness, give a thought to all the NPCs who may be sleeping outside—not just the homeless. In Singapore and Vietnam, people still sleep guard outside shophouses.

The hospitality of the local lord
A significant proportion of the medieval population lived in the halls of the local lord. Why not seek shelter there, but be careful not to approach after curfew, which would probably be around dusk.
You are dependent on: the lord’s generosity; whether he trusts you; and whether he thinks you have good cause to be on the road. A few more persons to feed and accommodate should not be much of a strain on his household.
The lord’s hall may be called a great hall, but may not be so great. It may be no bigger than a modern house. It might be larger, or be in the form of a keep or tower.
The living quarters would usually be one large room. What small windows there are would be covered by cloth to keep out the cold. A central fire would provide light, heat and cooking, the smoke drifting to the roof. If the lord is rich, he might afford some candles as well.
The lord would have a chair, as might his right hand man and other important household members, (hence the derivation of the terms ‘chairman’ and ‘right hand man’) and are placed on a low platform. The rest of the household would sit on benches or on the floor.The household—including family, servants, retainers, visitors and dogs—would sleep on the floor of this hall. Straw or reeds, or whatever is locally available, would help to soften the floor and disguise the litter accumulated since it was last replaced.
A balcony or floor above the hall, with separate bedrooms for the family, appeared in England about 500 years ago. But only in the largest and richest castles are there spare rooms for guests.

Pilgrimage
The one established reason for travel was pilgrimage. Various controls and restrictions were put on pilgrimage, such as the requirement to get written permission from a priest. But restrictions were not always enforced or effective. For example, attempts were made to ban women pilgrims, but there is evidence that this was never fully achieved.
Pilgrimage was generally neither comfortable or safe. (In response to the number of muggings a papal bull was issued instructing pilgrims to pass oncoming persons on the sword arm side, so as to be in a good position to put up a defence.) As pilgrimage routes became established, often the route itself became important, with recognised shrines to pay homage to along the way. For some pilgrimages, the journey and the shrines visited on the way was as important as the final goal.
Major pilgrimage routes were busy enough that services such as accommodation came to be established. Monasteries, churches and abbeys along the route provided accommodation. This might be a monastic cell, or a shared room in a hostel. Lodging was probably ‘free’, but guests might be expected to attend mass, assist in domestic or agricultural jobs, and make a voluntary donation.
On busy pilgrimage routes where there are enough rich pilgrims, private accommodation might be offered by enterprising locals.

Merchants
Travelling as merchants, or with merchants, is popular in FRPGs. For historical precedents, one should look towards the Silk Road, or Arabia. Cross-land trade routes in Medieval Europe were much less impressive. Most goods at market would have come from the immediate surroundings, traders coming for the day and returning in the evening.
Goods from further afield may be dealt with by merchants with a network of established houses or trading partners, thus his goods and his staff are secure in each settlement.
There is room for the smaller itinerant traders. But for security reasons, they would probably wish to sleep with their goods. Maybe they are allowed to stay in the market place or market hall.
But merchants wishing to trade, or even just pass through, a new settlement should check with the local authorities and be aware of any local guilds or merchants. There may be restrictions, duties and monopolies to consider. (Recent archaeological investigation in Stockport, England—my adopted hometown—shows that a complex bonding and duty system was enforced at the medieval market.) Merchants may find that licences to trade purchased elsewhere are not recognised. Conversely new merchants may find themselves welcomed as guests by the authorities or resident merchants keen to trade.

Retainers
Travelling as someone else’s retainer, serf or guard solves many problems. It restricts the options of the retainer, but the patron has to worry about explanations for travel, transport and accommodation.

Hospitality
The traveller may have to rely on private accommodation. Someone may be prepared to act as host, either out of generosity or to make a little money. The traveller might have to ask around to find somewhere. Maybe a widow, who has more space in her house than she needs may appreciate having someone to cook for.

Other Historical Examples
According to the 1997 World Book Encyclopaedia, hotels have been around for 3000 years. Most of them were private homes whose owners provided rooms for travellers. ‘Many early inn keepers did not keep the rooms clean and they provided only crude meals for their guests. Several travellers usually had to share the same room and sometimes even the same bed.’
The Indian emperor, Ashoka (272-232 BC), established resthouses called daks, where a traveller could stay for a fixed price. In 17th century Europe, inns were established along roads used by stagecoaches. But it wasn’t until the 1700s, when people started to travel for pleasure, that their quality improved.
Greek legend tells us that private houses were open for all guests and travellers. If the master of the household is away at war for some years, then it seems that his wife also became fair game.

Personal Experience
Most of my travels have been done with Lonely Planet in hand and a well-established system of hotels or resthouses catering to backpackers. But even then I often didn’t know what was in store for me.
A couple of times I have ventured beyond the well-trodden path.
In North East Thailand, between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, I and a Thai friend dropped into a village to gate-crash their annual party. We were a day late but they had a party for us anyway. We found someone willing to put us up for free—his daughter got chucked out of her room for the night. We later had to go and meet the headman, our host’s brother-in-law. There was some heated discussion amongst the villagers because the headman said I should be his guest. But my original host stood firm. I was made very welcome and told that any time I could come back, marry my host’s daughter and live in the house together. However, these contacts didn’t cut much ice when my Chiang Mai friend had a motorbike accident with some kids. The kids were unhurt, but their parents did their best to extort money from me. The police held the motorbike and my friend until an arrangement could be made with the parents. You could see the dollar signs in the parents’ eyes.
A few years later, I took the wrong boat on a reservoir in Lao PDR. I ended up in an isolated village with no prospects of return until the next day. The villagers did their best to ignore me. I had no choice but to make a nuisance of myself and insist on getting help. Eventually I was taken to the headman and he sent out the word that an English speaker was needed. They found it in the form of a policeman. At least that is what he described himself as. The only signs of officialdom was that his haircut looked as if it had been done in a salon and his nylon shirt was pressed and a bit cleaner than the other villagers’. My name and passport details were recorded very solemnly in a children’s school book. I and the policeman were then dispatched to someone’s hut. Before sunrise (05:00) I was woken and told to get moving. I had breakfast of noodles at a small stall and escorted to the edge of the village where I was left to wait three hours before the truck came to take me back to the boat.
It could have been a fun adventure, but until I was taken to the edge of the village, I believed that I was probably beyond the legal limit of my visa, and the policeman only let me off at the last moment. But it was also clear that I was unwelcome. This was in 1993, when the Lao government was still wary of foreign visitors, and the locals were probably frightened of the consequences of contact with me.

Conclusions
The bog standard FRPG inn is a useful and convenient device. It explains where the characters stay without spending game time on the realities of travel. It provides a generally accepted setting: as a base; for making contacts; for picking up rumours; and other activities such as brawling. But the FRPG bears little relationship to historical reality or the practicalities of travelling.
In establishing a new setting, whether it be a historical setting, or a fantasy setting, there are two approaches. The normal approach (assuming it is even thought about) is to keep the bog standard inn as an established reference and convey the new setting through other aspects. There is something to be said for this approach.
But the alternatives should be considered. Remove the inn and the players may feel they have had the rug removed from under them, but it may also signal that they can take nothing for granted.
Admittedly recreating the uncertainties of travel may detract from the game if it distracts from the action or slows the game. The answer may be to develop a new convention for the new setting. But it should not be just thought of as a nuisance factor. As well as a taste of reality, it can present new hooks for adventures. Instead of a nice safe private room in an inn, characters have to interact with the local community: their host(ess); the other members of the household; and fellow guests they may have to share a room with.
As I said before, I may be pointing out the obvious but I hope I have presented some ideas.

This article originally appeared in Imazine.

True Arte of Defense illustration

Apocalupse 1000 AD

by Tim Harford

AS THE YEAR 1000 approaches, Christians across Europe gather on their knees in prayer. Strange stars appear in the heavens above Wessex, heretics roam through the streets of Paris, blood rains down on the Aquitaine coast, and the Antichrist is among the people of the world.
"They say that demons once ruled the world, but we humans frightened them away."
– Woodcutter in Kurosawa’s Rashomon

Before the Storm
Playing in a post-apocalyptic world is more than a role-playing cliché; it’s a tradition, and perhaps an inevitable one for a hobby which has developed in the Nuclear Age. The flip side of the coin is a world of pre-millennial tension: an exciting setting for any game, and an undervalued one.
Typically, characters faced with a dying world save it. That can be fun, but the end of the world doesn’t have to be the focus of the plot – apocalyptic expectations can be part of the backdrop against which the action unfolds.
Some post-apocalyptic campaigns can lack texture because too much has been destroyed. In the world expecting disaster, the destruction has not yet taken place. In true "disaster movie" style, while the true threat looms closer and closer, its precursors can become ever more destructive. The characters start with friends, with property, and with a place in society. Perhaps it is as a result of upheaval that they become wanderers.

Soldiers of Fortune
In my current campaign, the characters are all mercenaries. There is always work for mercenaries, but times of social change present particularly rich pickings. This does not mean that things are comfortable. Already, the baron who hired them has been killed; his young son is at risk of assassination from former allies. The land they were supposed to defend was over-run from an unexpected direction, and by an unlooked-for foe. Many of the leaders of the company which employed them have been killed, and the company has fragmented into various factions under the strain. Life before the apocalypse is about being uprooted.

The Modern Perspective
The modern perspective has two facets.
First, the apocalypse did not occur in 1000 AD, nor in 1033 AD. The fears were therefore unfounded.
Second, there were no supernatural events. There was no rain of blood, the famine was caused by natural causes, and any problems were caused by self-fulfilling prophecies of trouble.
Take care! Of course, in a fantasy campaign or an alternate history, these things need not be true. More importantly, even in a historical campaign, the characters do not know that the apocalypse is not coming. Neither do they know that rains of blood are impossible. If Annwn stands for anything, it stands for trying not to take a secular 21st Century western perspective in games where such a perspective is completely alien.

The World in 1000 AD
Hopes and Fears
"Apocalypse" is not resonant with positive connotations. But apocalyptic expectations were not all about terror. Many hoped for final deliverance from evil, at the return of Christ, and salvation. If they considered such matters at all, most people would naturally have a mixture of fear and hope; their reactions would be unpredictable, and moods - especially of crowds - could change quickly.

A Historians’ Controversy
Interestingly enough, there is no agreement among historians as to whether there really was widespread terror around the year 1000 AD. The 19th century romantics certainly thought so. More recently this view has been called into doubt. For the sake of gaming interest we stick with the romantics – one of their vocal modern proponents is Richard Landes. His site at http://www.mille.org/ is heavy going but a major source for this article, and a good starting point for those interested in taking things further.

A Theologians’ Controversy
The church in the Dark Ages did not agree on any date for the second coming. One of the sources of disagreement was the aim of the theologian: some thinkers (Landes characterises them as "roosters") wish to proclaim that the end is nigh. Others (Landes’s "owls") assert that it is centuries away. These disagreements were made possible not because of argument over the calendar (the AD dating system was in widespread use) but because a wide choice of apocalyptic dates were available; as each date approached, the Owls sought to reset the clock by proposing a later one.
Some dates were based on the Annus Mundi (AM) scale – which measured the years elapsed since the creation – on which there was further disagreement. Early dates include Hippolytus’ AD 200 (5700 AM I) and Augustine’s AD 400 (5600 AM II); there was more theological support for the idea that the Second Coming would be 6000 years after Genesis (AD 500 – following the sack of Rome in AD 410 – or AD 800), rather than 1000 years after Christ. The AD dating system gained popularity after AD 800, and a further resetting of the theological clock did not occur. However, even then, who knew whether the date would be AD 1000 or AD 1033? Throughout all this, the official line was always that the time of the Second Coming could not be predicted.
"It was as if the whole world had shaken off the dust of the ages and covered itself in a white mantle of churches."
– Rodolfus Glaber, Historiarium III

Political Responses: trickle-up or trickle-down
Political responses were more pronounced in Central Europe, where the Ottonian dynasty (briefly) dominated both the papacy and the imperial throne. The rhetoric of the apocalypse was used to support the imperial theme: the dynasty was held to be the rightful successor of Charlemagne, and thus a holy bastion against the Antichrist. It was alleged that while the dynasty stood, the Antichrist could not be born. Otto, in fact, exhumed Charlemagne's body at Aachen on Pentecost of the year 1000, held an "unusual procession" on August 15 of that year, reformed the papacy, lead the highly-successful drive to convert the pagans, and copied many of Charlemagne's responses to the coming of the year 6000.
A clear exposition of this view came from Adso of Montier-en-Der. In 950 he wrote a treatise on the Antichrist for the Queen Gerberga of the Franks. Adso observed that the great Antichrist would be born "in the East of the tribe of Dan". He also pointed out that there would be previous antichrists who would rebel against their rightful place - among other things, this provided Gerberga and others in authority with justification for whatever repression seemed in order. Adso claimed that until the Roman Empire had been defeated the Antichrist would be held at bay. Of course, as long as there were Frankish kings who "ought to be emperor", that empire was still "standing." Adso's last assertion was that Christian theologians foresaw a mighty emperor. This emperor would unite the World under Christianity, rule in peace for a hundred years, and then make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, lay down his crown, and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.
This political opportunity meant that pre-millennial expectation and apocalyptic rhetoric was a "top-down" phenomenon in central Europe. In France, by contrast, central authority was in chaos. Apocalyptic fears and hopes arose in the peasantry, expressed in penitential processions, peace gatherings and vast pilgrimages (in 1026, 1033 and at other times).
More violent actions were not unheard of, though. In the late 990s, church property was forcibly seized at St. Hilaire. In 1018, there was a panic and stampede in the early hours of the morning at St. Martial. A subsequent outbreak of heresy throughout the south of France was seen as the influence of agents of the Antichrist. Four years later heretics were burned at Orléans.
Across Europe, peace councils - the Peace of God movement - intensified in 990-1000 and in 1023-1033. (In 1024, a "letter from Heaven" circulated throughout northern France calling for peace councils.) Missionaries were very active: Kiev, followed by Iceland and Hungary, became Christian. At the end of the last millennium the Christian movement was tremendously powerful.
In England, Archbishop Wulfstan, perhaps the most powerful man in the country at the time, was much given to apocalyptic rhetoric. A translated example…
"Dearly beloved, recognise what is the truth; this world is in haste and it is drawing close to its end. And the longer it is in the world, the worse that it gets, and so it must of necessity occur because of the sins of the people before the coming of the Antichrist that its going to become ever much worse, and truly then it’s going to be grim and dreadful everywhere in the world…"
Meanwhile the Vikings, who were pillaging the coasts of England, were regarded by some as a divine punishment for the sins of the English.
Further afield, the Holy Sepulchre was destroyed in Jerusalem in 1009 by Caliph Al Hakim; the reaction in the west was violent and included anti-Semitic outbursts. The Jews are expelled from Mainz in 1014 following a number of natural disasters.

Signs in the Heavens
AD 968
Otto's army panic as an eclipse portends the end of the world.
AD 989, August
Haley's Comet appears, and is cited in several texts.
AD 992
German chroniclers report a light in the north "like the sun" at dawn. The rumour in the populace is that three suns and three moons and stars were at war.
AD 1006, May
A new star sighted in heavens (Super Nova of 1006).
AD 1009
Rain of blood; sun turns red and fails to shine for three days; plague and death follow.
AD 1028
Another rain of blood on the Aquitanian shore.
AD 1033
An eclipse and terrible earthquake lead to a procession of penitence in Jouarre-Rebais.

Adventure Seeds
Vox Populi
In Francia in 859, the standard method of dealing with a peasant uprising was to slaughter them. In Normandy in 990, techniques had been revised: malcontents had their hands and feet removed. What are we to make of the fact that the peace councils which were permitted in the 1030s, despite being a powerful outporing of peasant sentiment? Vast numbers of peasants gathered together, palms raised to the heavens, chanting, "peace, peace, peace…" Was there anyone to stop them?
The peace movement was particularly strong in southern France, and it's no coincidence that secular authority was correspondingly weak. As knights renounce terrorism and peace breaks out all over the region, there's a power vacuum to be filled. Perhaps the characters are well placed to take advantage. Perhaps they are simply charged with putting down the peace movement.
Of the barons and the bandits taking advantage of the movement, might some of them be antichrists, of whom Adso of Montier-en-Der warned Queen Gerbega? And if Royal troops show up, will they ask questions first, or later?
The Letter from Heaven
A number of bishops proclaimed the apocalypse and demanded peace and repentance - after receiving letters from Heaven with these instructions. A letter from Heaven is no small matter - especially a genuine letter, when so many fakes are circulating.
The Bishop of Orly possesses such a letter - this one written by Christ himself. (Many rival letters were merely scribed by Gabriel or Michael.) The letter is of great significance, being one of the holiest relics in Christendom (and therefore the World). Possession of the letter puts the bishop in line for the Papacy - not to mention providing him with a warrant to pass through the gates of Heaven itself.
Unfortunately, it has been stolen.
Leviathan
Strange creatures from the sea were often washed up on the beaches of Europe. They were portents of the apocalypse. Some scholars demonstrated that these were simply failed attempts by sea monsters to invade, and precursors of an eventual onslaught which would prove unstoppable.
The most recent and notable such incursion is of a huge blue-black fish in Poole harbour. The fish is somewhat tubular in form, and over a hundred paces long. The beast is either dead or sleeping, but the boy who saw it beached also claims that it vomited men when it came ashore. These men were strange, tall, leathery figures, and their footprints are nowhere to be found…
The Expulsion from Mainz
In 1014 the Jews were expelled from Mainz following a series of catastrophes. Cut this one any way you choose - a heroic game would have the characters trying to prevent the expulsion and demonstrate the innocence of the Jews. More historical accuracy, unfortunately, would make such a happy resolution unlikely. If the characters are Christians they might well perceive the persecution as fair game. Of course, the characters might not be Christians. Playing Jews in the middle ages certainly suggests adventure and challenge.
An interesting take is that the persecution is likely to have been orchestrated for someone's advantage - someone who will be able to take over Jewish property and Jewish business. They may be taking advantage of circumstance, or the "natural disasters" may not be natural at all. The characters might expose the villain; whether it makes a difference to the fate of the Jews is another question.
Pilgrimage
In 1033 the Deacon of Orleans left for Jerusalem on a pilgrimage, to save his soul and those of others before the apocalypse came. It would suit several parties if the Deacon did not return.
The White-Mantled Church
Glaber's description of the appearance of churches all over Europe is famous; the reason less so. The churches were funded by, and built on, generous gifts of land to the Church from potentates all over Europe who wished to save their souls.
William of Carnac is one such lord; on his death bed he signs over his land to the pasty-faced Bishop Wilfred. William's son, Bernard, is suddenly dispossessed at the moment of his inheritance - unless the documents and Wilfred himself can be caused to disappear very quickly indeed.

Monday, August 09, 1999


Apocalyptic Expectations Illustration