Scriptoria & Scribes

Creating game materials? Monsters, spells, classes, adventures? This is the place!
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Sir Bedivere
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Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:55 pm

FAIR WARNING: ACADEMICESE AHEAD

Small children and people with a high intolerance for wordiness and general pedantry are encouraged to either avoid this thread altogether, or to jump right to the "The Plan" part where things get short and sweet.

Introduction

Today, knowledge comes from many sources and spreads through society in many ways. Academic research of one kind or another is a major source of information. Research results are published in peer-reviewed journals which are available online, through the mail, and in libraries. Journalists, in websites, newspapers, broadcasts and on cable are another source, and a third source includes the accounts and opinions of private individuals made public through blogs, Twitter, etc. Finally, email, IM, telephones, Skype, letters, and more, are used for private communications between people of all kinds, from private citizens to world leaders.

There are social aspects to this information culture as well. The education systems which train all of these people are vital for the mass creation and consumption of information. The academic societies, governmental councils, and other organizations which manage information and / or information creators, are other important components. Some aspects of these institutions are impersonal, but personal relationships between teacher and student, colleagues, and author and reader can be deep and meaningful relationships that affect how information is generated and disseminated.

Many of these modern systems, however, are relatively recent innovations. Two chief questions of this supplement are: How did all that work in the medieval world? And, for us fantasy gamers, how would magic & the fantastic capabilities of many BF races and creatures affect a medieval system of information creation and dissemination? Finally, the supplement aims to simplify the resulting answers into information a GM could use in a BF campaign, provide example settings, such as a library and scriptorium, that can be dropped into a campaign, and offer a short adventure for a party of beginning Magic-Users as pure ubergeek fun*.

The Plan

1. Research medieval information creation & dissemination (i.e., scholars, scribes, books, scriptoria, libraries, schools, etc.)
2. Speculate about what effect things like ESP and teleportation spells, djinni and dragons, and the cultural aspects of the various races (What do dwarves like to read?) would have on medieval information systems
3. Provide GMs relatively simple, useful resources for implementing the effects of our fantasy information system in their game worlds in ways as simple as, e.g., expanded equipment lists for writing materials, and as sophisticated as, e.g., a BF school, library, and scriptorium
4. Finally, present an adventure in a BF academic setting for beginning Magic-Users

Timeline

A long dang time.

What You Can Do

1. If you know about any of these things, or are willing to research them, jump in.
2. Let fly! We're talking about things like: Would scholars be able to employ mermaids to research the oceans? What kinds of knowledge would fey creatures, or djinni, or long-lived and intelligent creatures like elves or dragons, have that might not be possible in the real world? What is the elven educational system like? Do halflings have newspapers? And the perennially popular, What do Dwarves like to read?
3 & 4. Not much at the moment; we'll need to do more w/ 1 & 2 first, though ideas are welcome any time.
More: Illustrations are always welcome, as well as humor

* Yes, the thought of a group of gaming geeks role-playing a group of fantasy geeks (AKA Magic-Users) through the dangers of, say, an ancient library is amusing**.

** Yes, there will be footnotes, even sometimes to my footnotes.
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LibraryLass
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:15 am

The trouble with reliance on historical sources is that, well, fantasy elements can subvert a fair number of them.
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MedievalMan
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:10 am

My knowledge of medieval scholarly institutions is pretty weak. Also the medieval time period covers a very large chunk of history. Early medieval scholarship is gonna be a lot different than late medieval scholarship.

Like during the "dark ages" most work went on in monasteries. While during the late medieval/early renaissance period their were universities in some cities. But I think an important thing to keep in mind is that education and scholarly institutions were often religious institutions as well.
Sir Bedivere
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:36 am

Right you both are.

LibraryLass: Yep, and that's one of the main topics for this supplement - How would the fantasy aspects of our game modify the historical stuff? Do you have any thoughts on what would be changed?

MM: Indeed, both the universities (from the 14th century) and the school system (the cathedral schools) that existed prior to them were Catholic institutions. Noble families could often afford to hire private tutors, but for the vast majority of people, education meant being taught in a religious institution. Literacy got a big boost when the Protestant leaders insisted the laity should read the Bible for themselves and started schools across northern Europe to teach the common people how to read.

As you say, there were big changes in all this during the medieval period, and that, too, would need to be discussed.
Sir Bedivere
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:01 am

Actually, MedievalMan makes a good point. Instead of researching the whole sweep of the medieval period, maybe we should start by asking what part of the medieval period BF most closely resembles. Then we could just focus on that part of history.

What do you guys think? To me, for the most part, it seems like an early medieval setting. If we look at the Morgansfort setting, the Reformation has hit, which in real history was after the printing press & universities, but I don't think that matters as much here.

Any thoughts?
Sir Bedivere
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:48 am

Just thinking about this some more as I get ready for the day.

In addition to religion, commerce and government would also drive literacy. One thing this project should do is take a good look at the Morgansfort and Glain settings to get a feel for how these three factors (church, government, and commerce) would affect things like literacy and education.

Economic development and literacy together would drive demand for entertaining writing. Instead of waiting for the local storyteller to make the rounds, people would like having written stories in their homes.

Speaking of literacy, one thorny question might be how literate the player characters would be. For example, while clerics and magic-users would need to be literate, it could be that most fighters and pretty much all thieves would be illiterate.
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:31 am

Effects of magic as given in game on medieval society are broad, and some are not expected. Wandering off the topic a bit, I'm sure you've all considered the effect of real, working Clerical magic on society... the actual ability to cure people would be a huge thing in a medieval society, and would dramatically increase the stature of the priestly characters. But I don't bet any of you have thought about the effect of magic on weapons and armor.

In the real world, chain hauberks (in effect, shirts with skirts) gave way to full chainmail suits in time. Similarly, some weapons improved with time, and some weapons came and went as a matter of fashion.

But now I give you the lowly Shortsword +1, made of magically hardened bronze back in the ancient times of your game world. A "modern" Thief, or even a Fighter, would happily strap it on and use it because of its magic, whereas in the real world, ancient weapons go into museums. So you'd see armor or weapons possibly hundreds of years old still in service for their magical benefits.

The effects of magic on society are not completely obvious.
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LibraryLass
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:23 pm

Sir Bedivere wrote:Right you both are.

LibraryLass: Yep, and that's one of the main topics for this supplement - How would the fantasy aspects of our game modify the historical stuff? Do you have any thoughts on what would be changed?
Well, the thing that seems most immediately obvious to me is that the presence of sapient races that can be reasoned with diplomatically (not to mention magic that simplifies overland and underwater travel) means that more about the world's topography (and possibly the species that live in remote places) will be known (at least to magic-users) than was known at any time before the last 100 years or so.
The ability to commune with gods and things like that through magic also means that (depending on the amount of knowledge the gods have, of course-- no good if they're no more knowledgeable about the nature of their own creation than the mortals that inhabit it) many of the questions that drive science, history, and philosophy in our world are easily answerable.
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LibraryLass
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:38 pm

Sir Bedivere wrote:Actually, MedievalMan makes a good point. Instead of researching the whole sweep of the medieval period, maybe we should start by asking what part of the medieval period BF most closely resembles. Then we could just focus on that part of history.

What do you guys think? To me, for the most part, it seems like an early medieval setting. If we look at the Morgansfort setting, the Reformation has hit, which in real history was after the printing press & universities, but I don't think that matters as much here.

Any thoughts?
The presence of plate armor and greatswords strongly suggests that the technological level is comparable the latter half of the 13th century at the very earliest.

For reference, in Earth's timeline, on earth by the end of the 13th century, eyeglasses were a recent invention in Europe, sophisticated gunpowder weapons like hand-cannons and landmines were a recent invention in China, the wet compass (ie a magnetized needle in water) as a navigational tool had been in existence for well over 100 years and the dry compass (like you probably had if you were ever in the scouts) was only a couple years away, movable type had been around for about 200 years in China but hadn't been developed in Europe yet, and the number zero had been in use in Europe for around 100 years (around 300 years in Asia).
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Solomoriah
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Re: Scriptoria & Scribes

Post Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:31 pm

Dang, it's nice having someone here who has a real grasp of history.

IMC, the gods have better things to do than answer every silly philosophical question the mortals come up with.

At least, that's what they tell the mortals...
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