Orbis Mundi 2
Many Fantasy Role Playing Games are nominally based on elements of historical western Europe as it was during the Middle Ages … but the amount of actual background information they provide is minimal and, worse, mostly misleading, anachronistic or even outright wrong.
The first edition of Orbis Mundi (2006) was written specifically to deal with that issue and has been quite successful on RPGNow, currently being a 4 Star rated Silver Pick … but, at only 112 pages, it only scratched the surface of the realities of the medieval European world.
The original book surveyed the period roughly from AD 1000 to AD 1499, with the Annotated Price List mainly looking at the period 1301-1499 … OM2 covers AD 1000-1400 and the Annotated Price List will make an attempt to look at some of the key changes to prices and availability over those centuries.
The start date is one generally recognised as the earliest there is something that is starting to resemble what would eventually become the institution of Knighthood and a more formalised version of the feudal system while the terminal date was chosen as it is the point at which the importance of individual gunpowder weapons starts to have an accelerating impact on the battlefield and on individual combat.
With another decade's worth of research under my belt I am in the process of writing a Orbis Mundi 2 – a much more comprehensive work on the period and its quirks.
The first volume, A Guide to REAL Medieval Life is complete and fully laid out and runs to ~450 pages, covering many more aspects in much greater detail of Medieval Life than the original volume and, indeed, most of the limited competition on the topic and a second volume, The Medieval Marketplace: An Annotated Price List is currently in preparation and is expected to run to a minimum of 96 pages, possibly more (the original ran to 60 pages of OM1 … and there's a lot more material I've collected over the years since then, so 96 pages is likely to be exceeded … possibly by quite a lot).
What's in the Core Handbook for OM2?
If you believe that your favourite FRPG has the most historically accurate background representing the Middle Ages ever written and/or if you believe that it doesn't matter whether the background resembles reality in the slightest, then OM2 isn't for you.
Most people who have been playing Fantasy RPGs for any length of time seem inevitably to become at least somewhat interested in the history of the period their favourite game covers and tend to go on and read at least a few books on medieval Europe and feudal society … and, as they do, become at least vaguely aware that their favourite game isn't all that accurate. The more they read, the more aware they will become that there are severe disconnects between reality and the game background – even allowing for the impact of magic on the campaign world.
They'll also be aware that the background is full of holes – grossly incomplete, in fact. Lacking realistic detail of the underlying social and political basics of a medieval society … being more of a pastiche of Hollywood movie and Historical Fantasy 'reality', neither of which are notably accurate to begin with.
OM2 is intended to provide the nitty-gritty details a GM can drop into their campaign world to make it more 'real' for their players … using as much or as little of what is provided as they see fit.
The eight main Chapters are –
City & Country, which is divided into four subsections, Cities & Civics (Town Organisation, Markets, The Cityscape, Civic Militia and Garrisons, Guilds & Guild Organisation); Village & Villein (Types of Manors, Manorial Officials, The Manorscape); Res Rustica aka 'Agriculture' (The Farmer's Year, Farming, Stock Raising, Food & Famine) and Highways & Byways (The Natural Dimension [Forests, Wasteland, Wildlife], The Human Dimension [Demographics; Highways, Roads & Bridges; Ports, Sea & River Travel]) … ~75 pages.
As it says, this Chapter covers all aspects of City and Rural living and organisation (but not the Feudal System, nor a detailed look at Law and Justice, both of which are covered in the next Chapter, Kingdoms & Crowns), the places, people and officials you'll find in these locales, the crops that were grown, how and where they were cultivated and stored, and the ubiquity of famine (fortunately, rarely in the same place every year) as well as the 'wilder' side of things, the wildlife that you'll find away from the settled areas (and what wildlife you won't find), the demographics of a medieval society (life expectancy, morbidity and mortality etc.) and the important topic of Travel, covering the nature of roads and highways and land transport, Ports and Sea Transport in general terms (more information on each of those key areas can be found in Ars Mechanica: Mercaturia).
Kingdoms & Crowns, which is divided into three subsections, Lords & Vassals (Feudalism, English Feudalism, French Feudalism, Other Feudalisms); Law & Justice (Law & Justice in England [Before the Norman Conquest, After the Norman Conquest], Law & Justice in Europe [Civil vs Customary Law]); and Bullion & Budgets (Money & Coinage [England, France, The Germanies, Spain; Minting, Moneychanging], Feudal Dues and Taxes) … ~60 pages.
This chapter covers the Feudal System as it worked in practise, both in England and France, where, though there were significant similarities, there were also practical and legal differences originating from their different historical heritages, as well as, in broad strokes, how it operated in the rest of Europe … where, unsurprisingly, it worked quite differently to the Anglo-French model that is the only one normally presented in RPGs.
Also covered is Law and (the enforcement) Justice as it existed in the various areas – again, looking at the differences between the English Common Law and French-Iberian-Italian Civil Law systems as well as, again in broad strokes, the systems that existed in other parts of Europe and, especially, at the changes which occurred over the period covered by the book, changes that are often poorly modelled, anachronistically presented, or roundly ignored in many RPGs.
Finally, money and financial matters are covered in a degree of detail – suffice it to say that, in the real medieval period, 1/10th pound Gold Coins did not exist, pretty much nobody used a decimal system for their coinage and there were no coins other than gold or silver ones (NO. No Copper, Bronze, Tin, Iron. No Platinum. No Electrum. Gold and Silver only … though both could be debased, sometimes so badly as to have little gold or silver in them other than a thin wash over a base metal blank).
Also, the differences between the coinages and coin weights between the major European states/ethnic areas is also covered – and, while most states adhered to something like the old Late Roman 1 Shilling = 12 pence, 20 Shillings = 1 Pound system, the weight of the 'pound' of precious metal on which the coins were based varied by locality! Note that Gold and Silver, whether in coinage or bullion, was much less common than most RPGs would indicate – and wages and prices were far lower than are suggested in those self-same games.
De Civitate Dei ('The City of God'), which is divided into five subsections, the Roman Catholic Church (Regular & Secular Clergy; Land, the Church and the State; A Typical Cathedral; A Typical Monastery; Celibacy; The Liturgical Year; Heretics and Heresies), the Orthodox Church (Orthodox Churches, Hierarchy, Liturgical Year, Typical Orthodox Churches, Heresies); Judaism (Organisation, Generic Synagogues, Liturgical Year, Pre-modern Anti-Semitism, Restrictions & Discrimination); Islam (What is Islam?; Mohammed &The Beginnings, The Caliphs, The Shia-Sunni split, Organisation, Sects and Heresies, A Typical Mosque, Islam & The People of The Book) and Marginalised or Extinct (Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, Paganism) … ~40 pages.
Even if your campaign world doesn't have the same world religions that the medieval Mediterranean world did, there's a lot of information to mine here – a lot that can be transferred whole cloth to whatever religions do exist. The idea that the year is broken up into distinct liturgical periods with a set and repeating pattern of ceremonial observances over the course of the week and the year is pretty useful, and easily adapted to pretty much any sort of organised religion – or the differentiation between Clerics and Monks, Major and Minor Orders and so on. The attitudes that existed between the historical religions – “Brotherly Love and No Quarter!” – is also an interesting pattern to follow.
De Re Militari ('On Military Matters'), which is divided into four subsections, De Re Militari (Military Technology, Before the 10th Century, The 10th-13th Centuries, The 14th Century; Military Organisation by region and ethnicity, Chivalry, Code of Chivalry, Cost of raising Troops), Stratagemata ('Stratagems') (The Sinews of War, The Cost of War, Logistics; Medieval Laws of War, The Peace of God, 'Just War'; On Crusade, Crusader States, Costs of a Crusade, The Hospitallers, The Templars), Arma Virumque Cano ('Of Arms and the Man I Sing') (The 10th Century, the 11th-14th Centuries; Armour and Weapons) and Castle & Keep (Castle Development, Early [9th-10th Centuries], Standard [11th-14th Centuries], Parts of a Castle; Other Fortifications; Siege! [Bypass, Surprise, Escalade or Invest, Besiege], Occupy or Destroy?, Siege Engines & Techniques, Gunpowder Weapons) … ~84 pages.
This is a particularly interesting chapter for gamers – on both the level of Tactical and Individual armour and weapons, their nature and use, as well as on the higher Operational and Strategic levels. There are fairly extensive notes on the 'typical' tactical organisation of most feudal forces, and an examination of how fragile they were … even the Knights, who were, at least to begin with, pretty much useless in battles (as opposed to individual combat) as often as not, as well as background on the local-ethnic-national organisation of some of the major forces players might encounter (or belong to … or even command!).
There is also coverage of the logistical side of warfare and the Crusades – where logistics was very important – and the horrendous cost of running a war on the pitiful levels of income available even to major rulers. No possibility of making war support war here. Also included is a look at Castles, Castle Building and Sieges and siege operations … which are also horrendously expensive.
Finally, there is a detailed examination of the types of armour available, and how that availability changed over time, as well as the types and variety of weapons … which also changed over time. These changes were a constant dance between improved weapons creating a need for improved armour and improved armour creating a need for improved weapons … pretty much like the modern world, in fact.
What you won't find is a huge variety of polearms, as almost all of the types included in RPGs date to after the increasing use of man portable gunpowder weapons on the battlefield … which is way past the cut-off date for OM2.
Ars Mechanica ('The Mechanical Arts'), which is divided into five subsections, Architectura ('Architecture') (Stone & Brick Buildings, Wooden Buildings, Building Materials, Building Components), Coquinaria ('Cooking') (The Medieval Kitchen, Equipment-Staff-Layout; Cooking Methods; Foodstuffs & Recipes; Food Service & Etiquette), Mercaturia ('Trade') (Land Transport; Water Transport, Shipbuilding Technology, Medieval Navigation; Commercial Practise, Banking, Maritime Law), Metallaria ('Metals') (Ferrous Metals, Cold Iron, Steel; Non-Ferrous Metals, Copper-Tin-Bronze-Brass, Gold-Silver-Lead, Casting; Mining) and Vestiaria ('Tailoring') (Materials, Sources of Fibre, Other Materials; Weaving, Knitting, Dyeing, Putting Out System; Garments & Footwear; Cleaning & Maintenance) … ~73 pages.
This chapter covers those things the medievals classed as 'mechanical arts' … what we moderns would call a mix of crafts, technology and commerce. If you want to know how things were built or made, what materials were used and how they were put together in the styles that changed over the four centuries covered, this is the chapter you'll want to have a look at.
It makes it clear that this is not a world of mass production – it is based on low productivity labour, hand tools and handcraft level production. Things are made to order, almost as 'one offs' … you don't walk into a shop and buy more than a very limited range of items 'off the shelf', you order it from the shop owner, who then makes it for you over the next days or weeks. Even months.
And you'll find out why things are so slow to make.
Surprisingly, 'Ars Mechanica' includes things related to these areas of interest – so Cooking covers table manners as well recipes, and Trade covers Navigation as well as Maritime Law.
Ars Scholastica ('The Scholastic Arts'), which is divided into two subsections, Ars Scholastica (Medieval Schooling, Primary Schooling, Grammar Schools, Medieval Reading & Writing; Universities, The Seven Liberal Arts, The Trivium, The Quadrivium, Philosophy & Science) and Practical Science (Alchemy, Medicine, Herbal Remedies, Surgeons & Physicians, Death by Surgery) … ~30 pages.
Medieval people could spend years gaining an education – a small percentage of the population anyway. Just like today – but the content of that education was very different. Much of it was completely useless and totally wrong, in fact … but you'll get an idea of the sort of education that might be involved with a Mage's or a Priestly Collegium course. And what was involved with a medieval medical education … which is pretty scary, at least in part.
Daily Life, which is divided into two subsections, Daily Life (People, Attitudes & Behaviour, Hygiene, Leisure [Games, Hunting, Jousting & Tournaments, Plays & Drama, Song & Dance, Sports]; Names [Anglo-Saxon, Norman-French, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Spanish]; Sleep & Dreams) and The World (Calendars & Chronology, Julian Calendar, East Roman Calendar, Islamic Calendars; The Measure of All Things, Area, Distance/Length, Weight, Volume; Heraldry, History of, Basic Design, Continental Variations, Livery) … ~54 pages.
This chapter covers miscellanea – those things that are of interest either on a personal or campaign level but which don't fall into any of the other main Chapter categories.
Myths & Medievalism, which is divided into two subsections, Myths & Medievalism (Fantasy States, Static or Universal Empires, Feudal Snakepits, Cities – Oligarchies or Princedoms; Stated Limitations, Transport & Communications, The Cutting Edge [Technology]; Social Stasis; Costs & Prices) and Magic & Medievalism (Magitech … In Warfare, In Agriculture, In Health, In Industry) … ~16 pages.
The final chapter covers a variety of issues that are of possible interest to a Game Master who is considering the design of a new, or existing, campaign world – dealing with some of the dubious excuses given by existing (commercial) campaign designers for the existence of what should be mutually exclusive anachronisms and/or baseless 'explanations' as to why, supposedly, there is no advanced technology, or no technological advances in their world.
Use it or ignore it as you will.
The Medieval Marketplace: An Annotated Price List
Unlike the OM2 Core Handbook, this book is not yet complete – but it will be based on the same section from OM1, which was around 60 pages long. It is projected that this will be at least 96 pages … but my original projection was that OM2 alone would be 200-240 pages and it ended up as ~450!
This book will look at a wide variety of equipment, services, landed and moveable property that could be acquired by, or on behalf of, the Player Characters … or which they might end up temporarily in possession, before fencing it … and provides descriptive information as to what the items are, how they are used and any 'rules' that might be applicable to their acquisition or use. And how likely the various items are to be available for instant purchase according to the size and/or location of the place the purchase attempt is being made … or a general idea of how long it will take for the local craftsman/men to actually make the item on order.
As you might guess, there's not actually a lot of state-of-the-art armour or weaponry in stock, even in large cities … more often than not, exactly none. Except for stuff that's in the process of being made for someone else.
Second hand gear? There's a bit more of that – but generally not a lot, and what there is will be older styles, though that doesn't mean it will be in poor condition, or not necessarily. The second hand stuff will generally be serviceable but may not be as effective in protecting against modern weapons or in penetrating modern armour … but, since up-to-the-minute arms and weapons will cost a heck of a lot more, you won't be encountering too many foes wearing or using such, so it will tend to balance out.
A lot of the information provided here is the sort of quirky background stuff that may have more of a game impact than you'd expect, at least at first, increasing or decreasing the item's utility …
As noted above, the Core Handbook, all 468 pages of it, is already complete as a PDF and is currently being run through the pre-press and print-proof stages at Amazon (CreateSpace) and RPGNow (Lightning Source) ... if this project is successfully funded then the PDF will be made available as soon as the funds have cleared and been transmitted to yours truly. Assuming that the proofing process goes well, the Codes for the At Cost Print on Demand version will be made available soon thereafter, hopefully by mid November, and in time to be ordered so they will arrive before Christmas, at least in the US and Europe.
The Marketplace Handbook, however large it turns out to be, is unlikely to be available before the end of the year. Over time I can average around 10-12 fully laid out pages per week ... so, assuming it's around the 96 pages I'm estimating, it should be available as a PDF early in the New Year, with PoD codes following around a month later, assuming only one go around in the proofing process.
On the other hand, if the Marketplace Handbook runs to more than 96 pages, it will obviously take longer ... but I will keep you updated.
Stretch Goals, any that are achieved, will probably be ready by July 2018 - unless they run to more pages than estimated or if the funding exceeds $3000 and more are unlocked, in which case they won't be ... and therein lays a problem, as I will be travelling overseas between late July or early August and the end of November 2018 ... so any goals not ready by my departure date probably won't be available until 2019.
Reward Levels Explained
Spearman ($15). At this level you receive only the PDF of The Marketplace.
Archer ($20). At this level you receive The Marketplace both as a PDF and as an At Cost Print on Demand Code.
Man-at-Arms ($25). At this level you receive a PDF of Orbis Mundi 2 - A Guide to Real Medieval Life.
Foot Serjeant ($30). At this level you receive a PDF of Orbis Mundi 2 - A Guide to Real Medieval Life and a PDF of The Marketplace. You also receive PDFs of any Stretch Goals achieved.
Mounted Serjeant ($35). At this level you receive a PDF of and an At Cost Print on Demand Code for Orbis Mundi 2 - A Guide to Real Medieval Life. You also receive PDFs of any Stretch Goals achieved.
Knight ($40). At this level you receive a PDF of Orbis Mundi 2 - A Guide to Real Medieval Life and of The Marketplace. You get an At Cost Print on Demand Code for either of those books. You also get PDFs of any Stretch Goals achieved.
Baron. At this level you get both books in PDF and At Cost Print on Demand Codes for both of them as well. You also get PDFs of any Stretch Goals achieved.
Print on Demand. None of the Reward levels include the cost of printing or shipping the books for which Print on Demand Codes are provided ... that additional cost is the responsibility of the Backer. An 'At Cost' Code simply means that when you go to RPGNow or DriveThruRPG to redeem the reward all that is due is the actual printing cost and the actual shipping cost ... read on below for the savings you're likely to make!
A Note on Pricing
Funding for the campaign is in Australian Dollars ... pricing for the Books on RPGNow will be in US$. The Core Handbook will sell for US$40 as a PDF, $50 PoD, or US$55 for a PoD plus a PDF. The Marketplace Handbook will sell for between US$15-25, depending on page count, as a PDF, around $7-10 more PoD, +$5 to that for PoD plus a PDF. This means there is a very considerable discount for backers ... as the exchange rate is currently ~AU$1 = US75c. So, for example, at the Baron pledge level of A$45 (~US$33.33) you're getting a US$65 (at least) value ... a saving of more than 50% on RRP!
Depending on how successful this campaign is, a number of stretch goals are currently proposed – including A Medieval Village (~12 pages, detailing a 'typical' medieval Village and its immediate surrounds), A Medieval Manor (~12 pages, detailing a 'typical' Knight's Fee – the one which includes the Medieval Village already created), A Medieval Castle (~12 pages, detailing a Castle suitable for a noble who controls several Knight's Fees, such as the one described in A Medieval Manor) and Magical Medieval Europe: A Historical Fantasy (~24 pages, an altered 'medieval' European background that allows for a mix of real world medievalism and low magic fantasy without being anachronistic or unrealistic).
Note: The page counts are minimums ... they may well be exceeded, especially if the $3000 funding level is exceeded.
$1500: A Medieval Village
$2000: A Medieval Manor
$2500: A Medieval Castle
$3000: Magical Medieval Europe
$3500. A Medieval Monastery (~12 pages)
$4000. Regional Handbook - a combination of A Medieval Village, Medieval Manor, Medieval Castle and Medieval Monastery with ~12 pages of new material into a combined PDF for all those levels who get 'All the Stretch Goals' and as a PoD option for those at Baron level.
$4750. A Small Medieval Market Town. ~12 pages. Probably included in the Regional Sourcebook. I did some quick research and I am pretty sure I can do a a fairly good survey of a small Market Town (say 2-3000 people) based on information I have at hand or can access.
$5500. A Major Medieval Castle. ~12 pages. Also probably included in the Regional Sourcebook. This would have a look at a major Regional Lord's main castle and nearby holdings, probably nearby to the Small Medieval Market Town, geographically, and would either be a wealthy Baron or a modest Count or Viscount.
If funding exceeds $5500 there may be room for one or two more modest Stretch Goals within the campaign completion timeframe (i.e. before the end of July 2019).
Risks and challenges
The Core Handbook is already complete as a PDF and, by the time the campaign has finished, should be ready as a Print on Demand item as well.
The Marketplace Handbook will take longer.
Since I am one person, it is always possible that I will be hit by a Bus ... apart from that, I have completed one Kickstarter already so I at least have a track record of successful completion!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)