Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 1100-1500

There is so much history out there and the world is so large, that sometimes when you see a word, like Crusade, associate with a different location than you're used to, it perks your interest. Hell, sometimes seeing a favorite artist involved with a project, like Angus McBride, perks your interest.

While I haven't delved very far into the book, a few things struck me as important world building bits from this Northern Crusades material.

One, religion is a huge motivating tool in a society. The author argues that many went on Crusade because it was the 'right' thing to do, not because the royalty and religious powers wanted all of the 'rough' men out of the country during times of peace. There were rewards to be sure, such as having all previous sins, and all those committed on the trail, forgiven, but it was done because it was a 'good' thing.

Two, the use of waterways is so vital that it can help establish not only cultural similarities due to bleed, but is essential in the spread of news. This allows those individuals who are notable and noteworthy to have much greater and more reliable methods of finding out what is going on in the world. In a campaign setting like the Forgotten Realms, news in the Moonsea region, despite the hostility many of those independent city states hold towards one another, probably travels much quicker than it would merely up and down the Sword Coast, which is a huge stretch of coastline.

Three, religious pilgrimage. It's a common enough event for these times but one frought with danger. For example, King eric I 'Ever Good' of Denmark maded an armed pilgrimage to Palestine but did not make it back home.

Four, crusade is often used, at least in the times I've heard it referenced, almost in exclusive contact with the Holy Land. Here, the text makes the distrinction that it's against any religious hersey, even when its against members of the same faith who practice it a different way. Looking at the Forgotten Realms again, the Twilight War by Paul Kemp put this to good use with the sun god unergoing his change at the time and the new face of the faith taking place. The victor of the battles will determine what is the actual heresy. In some fantasy settings, perhaps the followers turn away from their god if the god does physically make new decrees and laws that those of his faith simply do not wish to follow.

Fifth, the environment plays a vital part in any military matters. While it was mentioned in the old mercenary book how one of the commanders used superior tactics involving the surrounding country side through use of scouting and planning, that idea is hammered home again here where the rugged landscape here isn't necessarily one that is suitible for the standard mounted men with the infantry taking a larger and more important role.

When looking at your gaming maps, try to keep in mind what type of armies can realistically funtion there. Now the rough terrain may not be an issue for those who ride griffons or giant eagles. It may not be an issue for those who use flying ships and fortressess. But for those who are using a more earthly campaign or more rooted in standards of reality, when the mountainous terrain and the badlands become too common, the use of horsemen is out.

The Baltic Crusades brings a lot to mind without even getting into the specifics of it. When reading material, try to keep the mind open. Try to think what can be applied to your own campaign. Try to think how you might be able to use the material. Keeping such things in mind as you read may open the campaign  in ways you never initially thought about.