Living as I do in Tottori, particularly this time of year, it's difficult to imagine a more dreary, damp, grey and bleak place, but I'm trying.
I'm trying to envision myself into a society in which most people bathed perhaps once in a lifetime, owned but one set of clothes, and had barely any seasoning for a diet consisting primarily of potage and what's technically referred to as 'offal'. They at weevily bread that gave them the runs, and had no toilet paper. No tobacco. No tomatoes. No potatoes. Lots of violence.
Reenactment society Regia Anglorum giving us a taste of Anglo-Saxon life
No inns. If you have connections, or if you're the son of a thegn and can play the lute to keep the eorl of a village entertained, you might be offered some gruel and a patch of straw on which to sleep among the dogs in the eorl's mead hall. The rushes on the floor would be full of discarded food, dog piss, and vermin. Characters would itch. They should suffer combat penalties because of it.
Settlement Information Complete
Overview of all settlements in Ebrauc
This chart provides an adequate summary of each settlement's foundation and products, so that we can see how they relate to each other and, by extension, to other kingdoms. This informs the location of what passed for roads--simply areas of land showing signs of recent hoof, cart, or foot traffic--in addition to the extant Roman roads we can glean from history texts. These would be made of increasingly rough-hewn slabs of stone with grass growing in the cracks, but would make for somewhat easier traveling than the alternative thoroughfares of mud and dung pressed into the earth just because people happened to cross the landscape there.
The screenshot does not show the settlements in Deira or the other surrounding kingdoms, partly because my players read this blog and wouldn't be privy to that information just yet, just in case we do play this setting again. Suffice it to say that in general, the settlements in Deira are fewer in number but more populous, so that military forces are approximately evenly matched. Political tensions are mounting, but even the DM doesn't yet know if or when they will erupt into full-scale conflict.
Dark Ages Economy
In this society people are considered rather well-off if they possess any coin money at all. The players didn't see it because I pre-rolled the characters, but starting wealth is in the form of animals that can be used to trade for goods or coin. The number and type of animals a character possesses at creation depends on the family's status and father's occupation. I haven't made tables for determining precisely how this will function, but when I do it will provide another dimension to the world that the players can find interesting or irritating.
Most settlements govern and protect themselves to the best of their ability. They are usually 'governed' by an eorl chosen by the cyning, and each eorl is a thegn, by which is meant he possesses good weapons and fighting ability, and a little surplus wealth. He lives in a mead hall with his family and livestock. If he's particularly wealthy he might have a two-floor structure, with his family and retainers living upstairs, and the animals, weapons, and farm implements kept below. There is no concept of castles, and creature comforts are minimal. Most people provide for their own necessities, with certain goods traded between villages. There are no stores as such, but with a settlement one might find a few skilled craftsmen willing to sell or barter their wares.
Because we had so few players for this setting, each player controlled two characters at a time. Some had tents, others had blankets, some had swords that break on a 1 in 6 because that's all they could afford. Our richest character, a paladin, had well-crafted weapons, a lute with a few extra strings, and a fine woolen mantle. He was slain by an aurochs in the second session. A moment of silence, please.
Thrydwulf, Son of Caedwulf Son of Wulfnod. Three generations of thegns. The player tried unsuccessfully to finagle his father's suit of chainmail for the adventure, but it actually wouldn't have helped much in the end. First a witch in the forest got the best of him, but merely put him to sleep because she thought he was alone and had other purposes in mind for him. She only tried to kill the others when they came to the rescue. He went hunting with a certain eorl and followed the eorl's injunction to go after an aurochs with his sword. A horn right through the gut and he was gored to -9 HP; he bled to death before anyone could get to him.
Raegenhere the Cleric. I liked having a sword-bearing cleric in the party. This being several centuries before the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 would forbid it, priests can draw all the blood they want. I always found it amusing that D&D rules preclude clerics from drawing blood but allow them to bludgeon people to death with clubs and quarterstaves. A fishhook hit this bloke between the eyes as a child, and he had all kinds of personality. He met his end falling into one of the witch's traps, where he was immobilised while she slowly knifed him to death.
This was another small-group session and thus I still don't have a quorum of votes on this world from the party, but it really is time to move on. One comment was that it seemed the world consists basically of more villages, thegns and mead halls, and primeval wilderness. For the immediate area, this is true; but the entities one could potentially encounter would become more fantastic the further the party moved from home base. The same is true for the Minoan Campaign; in the Medieval Campaign that will be the third of three worlds, it would likely be a matter of increasingly powerful human adversaries, unless the party traveled to very remote locations.
It was a relief to have had enough of the world created that I could adjust to any decision the players made. During the first session I felt trapped and frustrated by not having enough potentially interesting things available in every direction the party might go. I have little more than a week before the next session and have to complete at least this same amount of work on a 14th-century setting, just in case enough players show up to make it wise to introduce it for the next session.