Behind the cut is some information for a game I intend to run loosely based around the Crusades (in particular, the second Crusade). This is the first of probably a few such mini-essays I’ll do to give players a sense for the society, the setting, the technology of the time period and so on. I have gathered way more detail than is included here, but I wanted to make something concise and readable to begin the discussion. As an inexperienced GM whose never tried to prepare for a long-term game, much less run one, I’m basically wandering around in the dark and blindly following instinct!
King and Vassal
"With joined hands, he shall say thus ~ I become thy man of such tenement to be holden of thee, to bear thee faith of life and member and earthly worship against all men who live and can die, saving the faith of my lord and his heirs..."*
The overarching structure of society is the pledge between the King and his lords and the lords and their vassals, the knights. The King holds the land, and by word and deed he grants it to his lords, the barons. These barons, in turn, grant the working of his deeding to the knights, who manage the village, crops, animals, meadows, and woods.
By royal order, the barons dwell half the year in the realm of the King while their families dwell in the baronial demesne, at their manor. The barons’ Knights dwell all the year at their keep in the seat of each deeding, apart from the baron and his family. Save for the King’s Tax, all the wealth of cash and crop go to the baron and his knights, to keep his deeding in good order.
Motte and Bailey
The knight at the seat of his baron’s deeding lives in a c. 11th century Motte and Bailey style keep, that is a hewn wooden wall (bailey) set atop a mound of earth (motte) surrounded by a ditch or moat. The bailey encloses the knight’s keep, a wooden hall where the knight and his family live. The keep is reached by a suspended bridge that spans the moat to the gate of the bailey.
Toft and Croft
The knight, in his turn, leases the Baron’s deeding to villagers, farmers, and freeholders in exchange for his protection. All the knight’s tenants must tithe part of their crops and animals and handiwork to their knight. They must also commit part of their week to working the knight’s land.
The tenants are thus entitled to work and live on their own allotment of pasture (toft) and garden plot (croft). In times of war, the surrounding tenants may take shelter in the knight’s keep for as long as the threat perseveres.
Crusade and Cavalcade
In exchange for their lease on the land, the barons’ knights and their lesser born sons are bound to the service of the King, who may call them to serve at his whim. Only the knights’ eldest sons are released from this duty, until he is head of the household.
The King may call his vassals to a great quest (crusade) that increases the glory and fortune of the Kingdom in the outer world. The King may call his vassals to a minor quest (cavalcade) as such is the need within the Kingdom.
Thoughts? Berating? If you were a player, what else would you want to know in order to create a character?** As a GM, what else should I include to make life easier for me?
Much obliged! :)
*Gies, Joseph and Frances. Life in a Medieval Castle. Harper: New York, 1974. p.47.
**I’m using an indie system that has yet to be finished, so I can’t discuss the particulars of it just yet. My initial players are the ones developing it, so they will be intimately familiar with its workings. When I am at liberty to discuss the system, I will do so with alarming regularity!