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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 12:33 am    Post subject: Does this fictional village "feel" right?         Reply with quote

So I am in the middle of creating a fantasy world for DnD. Since my story takes place in just a tiny bit of the world (a fairly isolated, Switzerland-like nation that's only about 110 miles across and 50 some miles from coast to boarder), I thought I could focus on some of the smaller details to create a more vibrant and interesting world.

So I decided to chose my "base" culture as the Anglo Saxons. Their little culture has always been pagan and oriented towards the natural world (which ties in with the obligatory magical critters, etc). For a short period of time, they fell under the dominion of a much larger empire, but were able to buy their way out when a particular political figure found himself in a pile of debt from all the assassinations required to get to his place in the world. Cultural diffusion left few things, but their foreign pantheistic religion did remain.

Anyways, my "test bed" village is called Ζcer. I originally had it "finished", but woke up one morning feeling it was a little too "quaint". So I'm beginning to redesign it into a more realistic village. This is sort of an exercise in applying the many social things I've learned here over the years.

I simplified the social structure considerably from the actual Anglo Saxon one for the sake of getting this done, and while I originally planned to include slavery, I do plan to "publish" my final setting and decided it wouldn't be the brightest idea.

----
The village has an adult population of 890. For arguments sake, lets say 445 of these are male, and the rest are female.

In their culture, leaders of population centers below 1,000 are called Reeves. This village has a reeve, who owns a portion of land. A total of 209 individuals here own actual land, with a total of only 50 owning more than 100 acres. The significance is as follows: Under this simple system, all people owning land must furnish one spear and one shield, and obtain the knowledge of its use. Anyone owning 100 or more acres must furnish equipment to equip at least two others. The village equips a total of 124 extra men this way. When mobilized, they bring a total of 333 men to the fight (Funny how it worked out that way).

This means a total of 23.5% of the population here owns land, and 23.92% of land owners are obligated to equip others. A total of 37.4% of the population is armed for war, or 74.8% of the male population.

As to what this place does for a living, they've managed to get a great system of planting going, and can grow excessive amounts of food, most of which they use as trade items. There are 222 children (derived by maths during my first draft), meaning 24.9% of the population is underage. People of note include a miller who owns three mills, a smith who spends most of his time doing something outside of his smithy, a priest, an alchemist, and a professional carpenter (pole turner for the most part I'd assume). All of these mentioned people own land, but not all of them own more than a 100 acres. A total of 681 people, or 76.5% of the population, fall under the "landless" category; those who get a house and some personal land in exchange for labor on someone' s land.

So far it looks like they produce extra of the following:

• Wheat (1d4 * 1000 bushels per year; Bushels * 60 = pounds.)
• Oats (1d4 * 100 bushels per year; Bushels * 32 = pounds.)
• Barley (1d4 * 50 bushels per year; Bushels * 48 = pounds)
• Turnips (1d100 + 9 pounds per year)
• Pigs (1d20*10 heads per year)

--

So does this fictional place feel as if it could exist? A few square miles outside the village form the croplands that make this village somewhat wealthy. Since I'm trying to draw in more places to go on my map, I was considering sticking a Thorpe or hamlet outside these fields to represent a small settlement of people who work the further away fields for someone in the village; basically a community owned by another.

Feedback would be great. I know it's not what we normally talk about, but I thought if anywhere was a good place, this would be the place.

M.

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J. Scott Moore





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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

firstly I can't see any kind of leadership, are these free-folk, or is there some kind of council, or leadership group? a mayor, anything? most town, (at least from my research) have a form of leadership. either from the landowners, or the males of a certain age group, both, or any kind of combination. what role do the women have in this community? (if it is Anglo-saxon based, I would imagine the women would have a similar role as the men, but separate tasks, and not necessarily excluded from leadership, but not exclusive either.) what are the children tasked with? do they have much time for play?
I would worry less about numbers, (though they do help) and more about roles. specifically how their community is formed, and how / how well they support each other as each community ultimately must. ( I mean apart from the obvious ways, ie farmer goes to the smith for tools, who goes to the carpenmter for wood and the miner for ore, both of whom get their food from the farmer, etc)
other than that it sounds like a nice little town.

"Whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war."
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J. Scott Moore





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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I retract my statement about the leadership.
"Whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war."
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J. Scott Moore





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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 7:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I apologize, I was replying under the assumption that you were writing a book... WTF?! yes, it sounds good for D&D I might want to live there meself....
"Whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war."
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, I plan to use this setting for numerous things; I've already written a few shorts (only one of which was good apparently) in that universe. If I can muster up a half decent plot, I might write a few chapters worth of stuff.

As for roles, I intentionally left that out for the sake of keeping my post short. Most of those listed people (smith etc), have their own fields. The reeve interprets and imposes local law, the miller operates grinding stones, etc. Above the reeve is the Cynning. Direct resource exchange I felt would be implied. For the other roles, are you asking what sociological gender roles exist?

In the case of child's play time, I was under the impression that rural communities didn't have much in the way of leisure, the whole dawn to dusk in the fields sort of thing.

M.

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J. Scott Moore





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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

all children play, it is part of being a child. imagination always will occupy if not dominate a child's thought. The only question is how do they incorporate the play into their work. ie: dancing about as they carry a load, singing/whistling/humming tunelessly. also not all children are old enough to understand the concept of work. they cannot be forced to work when they don't understand it. I don't mean to beat a dead horse, I just want to inform you that a child's laughter really MAKES the difference. without that most pure of sounds your village would seem droll, and the work would seem, at least, a burden. with it, I can't think of a happier place to be.
"Whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war."
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 31 Jan, 2009 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah good point. Hopefully I'll get some other feedback, though I guess I could refine it a bit.

M.

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had always figured the "village" was the basic form of settlement, around which the fields lie; a cluster of homes and industries (smoke houses etc) built closely for mutual defense. I notice instead in several forms of fiction that there appears to be numerous instances of singular homes, near the associated fields, built away from a village or town with nobody really near by.

How often are these "homesteaders" found in reality? While I'm aware of free-holders (Yeomen if I recall the title correctly) who own their own lands but nothing more, most villages and the like are within a mile of a town (housing what is basically bleed-over population of field workers) or their manor (manorialism).

M.

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am not the forum farm expert, but there are some. I will just guess that worked by hand a small farm of this era would have been around 30 to 50 acres. A farm might produce something like 10 bushels of wheat per acre without aid of modern equipment. In your figures, the village probably needs several small farms within a reasonable distance. These may form the edges of the community. (I am striving towards a concept of the size of this community and what must surround it, which I suspect is at least a couple of miles in length to support these numbers. Also, just guessing, It is not small in comparison to historical places that were not major cities.) Live stock would probably be just as critical a resource as the grains. To feed this many people, with agriculture being the primary economic activity of the time, I anticipate a fair amount of agriculture. Consider that the average U.S. person consumes around 200 lbs of beef/fish/poultry per year! Your population requires a few hundred various animals, and more grain or land to support grazing. If near the sea, fishing may provide much of the meat. Human grain consumption by weight is roughly similar to that of meat, and many peoples would have produced barley for a couple forms of consumption including ale.
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 4:24 pm    Post subject: average US consumer         Reply with quote

Jared,
I don't want to be picky, but a medieval anglo-saxon village/farming community would be a lot closer to we call third world conditions than to modern american standards. We are now in the midst of a society that eats more than any other in the history of mankind, and that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our collective excessive appetites. One glass bottle would last a lifetime, and when broken, would be melted anew to make yet another glass implement, and so on...I don't know of many american rural families that survive on a diet of porridge, maslin breab, pottage and small ale. A nice little book that would help our new D&D author would be ''Life in a Medieval Village'' by Frances and Joseph Gies, Harper & Row,1990.
It covers pretty much most of the questions asked in a very comprehensive manner, yet is still light reading of only some 200 pages, with a great glossary of usual terms one can add for extra flavor in a D&D text....

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 5:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Domesday Book medieval city and settlement generator might help you. The list of merchants is interesting in and of itself.

http://www.rpglibrary.org/utils/meddemog/

This one is similar; I'm sure there are more.

http://qzil.com/kingdom/

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 5:20 pm    Post subject: Re: average US consumer         Reply with quote

Jean-Carle Hudon wrote:
.I don't know of many american rural families that survive on a diet of porridge, maslin breab, pottage and small ale.

Fair enough. As I said above, I don't claim to be the farm expert. The medieval age in Anglo Saxon territory is known for a micro warming era in which ideal rain and temperatures produced an ideal agricultural economy with explosive growth in population, industry, and culture. At least two of your mentioned staples (maslin bread, ale) were made typically made with large portions of barley. I expect a source of protein (mutton, beef) to have been utilized one way or another. Hunting could have accounted for a lot of this. But, that was not necessary of the time in 9th - 13th century era.

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R. David




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PostPosted: Sat 02 May, 2009 8:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you're following the whole Anglo-Saxon system, keep in mind that a community this size would be dominated by the major landholders... you basically have a typical Anglo-Saxon Tun here. A tun was usually around ten or so households, which you could think of as self-sufficient units of production run by one landowner who effectively leases out fields to tenant farmers...these individual households were called hides.

This village you describe would be under a tun-geriff (town's reeve), who is basically the richest landowner of the major hides, and is responsible for law & order and may or may not answer to the sheriff (shire's reeve). Remember also that this small village would probably be part of a hundred, about 10 or so other villages like this one, possibly spread out over some distance (dependent on the distribution of arable land).

Those with especially wealthy of numerous hides to their name would be theigns, henchmen to an earl. but that's getting into other details...

If you want to get a feel for the nature of a village, or tun, think of them as a collection of small autonomous communities of individual hides, living close together under the control of a coucil of the owners of the hides, the most powerful of which being the one who calls the shots (and subject to change as financial circumstances change).
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 7:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I had always figured the "village" was the basic form of settlement, around which the fields lie; a cluster of homes and industries (smoke houses etc) built closely for mutual defense. I notice instead in several forms of fiction that there appears to be numerous instances of singular homes, near the associated fields, built away from a village or town with nobody really near by.

How often are these "homesteaders" found in reality? While I'm aware of free-holders (Yeomen if I recall the title correctly) who own their own lands but nothing more, most villages and the like are within a mile of a town (housing what is basically bleed-over population of field workers) or their manor (manorialism).


It will probably depend greatly on the concentration/distribution of fertile arable land. In places like medieval France you would have had large contiguous expanses of fertile agricultural land and a large population, so the landscape was made up of contiguous farm plots and the amount of land that a homestead had to farm was small enough that daily commute from a centralized village to the fields and back was a practical proposition. On the other extreme we have something like, say, Iceland where the population was low and fertile land wasn't all that common so each farmstead needed to farm more land and the cultivated plots had to be further away from each other; in this situation daily commute would have taken too long so the people would have lived in the middle of their own family's plot and traveled to meet others only when there was a specific need to do so (such as to arrange marriages or attend a Thing).

Comparing memoirs from 15th-century French wars (like Commynes's) and Icelandic sagas would probably give you a good idea of what the difference looked like from a narrative standpoint. An adventurer in a setting like France would have crossed hedgerows and haggled over a basketful of apples where one in an Icelandic wilderness would have climbed crags and trudged across deserted moors.
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Ian Hutchison




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PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding farms and the question of diet:

People doing hard manual labor without many of the mechanical aids available today naturally expend a lot of energy. This necessitates that they take in more calories. I've read (and watched) a few sources that suggest people in the past actually ate a lot more (calorie wise) than we do today. In fact, I remember turn of the last century farm workers in France and 19th century sailors ate many thousands of calories. Between 5000-10000. Many laborers might have expended energy on a level comparable with that of an athlete.

I'll see if I can dig them up and will list them when I do.

EDIT:

Source for British navy seamen period 1750-1800, from Tim Clayton's "Tars: The Men who made Britain rule the waves":

Per Week:
Bread: 7lbs
Beer (or diluted Wine/Rum): 7galls
Beef (fresh or salted): 4lb
Pork (fresh or salted): 2lbs
Pease: 2pts
Oatmeal: 1 1/2pts
Sugar: 6oz
Butter (or olive oil): 6oz
Cheese: 12oz

Marine William Todd had this to say: "I live very well, having commonly Beef, Pork etc, platter fulls standing besides me & always a large Rum bottle, as the Gunner drinks very hard."

The French farm laborers diet was in a book I last remember reading 5 or 6 years ago and I can't seem to find it atm Sad Needless to say it would have been many thousands of calories.



Lastly, more period relevant, some research done by people in the Hurstwic society regarding Norse diet and nutrition:

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/dail...d_diet.htm - at the end of the page.

and the study itself:

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/dail...etails.htm

Quote:
I was surprised by the low caloric content of the diet: only 1200 Kcal (5MJ) for the winter diet. A Norseman could not have survived for very long with such a low energy intake.

I reanalyzed the diets, using much, much larger portion sizes. It required enormous quantities of Norse era foodstuffs to get the diet up to the 3000 Kcal (12.5 MJ) level, probably the minimum required for good health given the active lifestyle of that era. Serving sizes several times larger than would be considered normal today were needed: hundreds of grams (nearly one pound) of meat and fish; hundreds of grams of diary products; hundreds of grams of nuts and vegetables and grains.

With this much food intake, the analysis showed that all the key nutrients were consumed in adequate quantities. However, even a 3000 Kcal diet was probably insufficient to cover daily energy expenditures during much of the year. I analyzed required caloric levels for a hypothetical day of Norse era farm chores and hand labor. A energy expenditure of over 10000 Kcal (42MJ) was predicted.

This number is quite believable. Modern athletes routinely require these levels of energy intake, and a fascinating observational survey of college athletes' eating habits in 1983 showed that some athletes averaged over 11000 Kcal (46MJ) daily intake.


This corroborates with the seaman's diet of pounds of bread and meat and gallons of small beer.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of course, the converse is that there will be times when villagers work very little. Farm work isn't evenly distributed through the year, and of course there is bad weather and short winter days when not much can be done. This means peasants tend to eat a lot some times, and not so much other times. But 3 lbs of food a day isn't uncommon for men doing heavy work.

I'm not sure what to think about the Hurstvic study since it doesn't give any explanations of why its hypothetical height, body weight, and summer work schedule are reasonable. For example, when does their hypothetical Norseman rest and eat?
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2009 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something pointed out in a couple of my texts (Frances Gies, David Crouch) on medieval era is that there were more frequent feasts and local holidays than we have now. These coincided with the weather periods unfavorable towards farming, at the end of natural harvest seasons, numerous religious traditions that used to be observed, etc. Fief holders were expected to provide plentiful amounts of food, and host some form of festivity for the locals more than once per year. The expenses of these were mentioned as one of the deterrents to formal knighthood/ tennant fief as the feudal system was phasing out.

On the "Switzerland" like setting, mining was a significant industry there until late medieval era. (Ores were not suitable for higher grade steels that were being produced in Germany by the close of medieval era.) A fictional parallel could depict a mixture of iron related industry, agriculture, and trade.

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 5:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
I had always figured the "village" was the basic form of settlement, around which the fields lie; a cluster of homes and industries (smoke houses etc) built closely for mutual defense. I notice instead in several forms of fiction that there appears to be numerous instances of singular homes, near the associated fields, built away from a village or town with nobody really near by.

How often are these "homesteaders" found in reality? While I'm aware of free-holders (Yeomen if I recall the title correctly) who own their own lands but nothing more, most villages and the like are within a mile of a town (housing what is basically bleed-over population of field workers) or their manor (manorialism).


It will probably depend greatly on the concentration/distribution of fertile arable land. In places like medieval France you would have had large contiguous expanses of fertile agricultural land and a large population, so the landscape was made up of contiguous farm plots and the amount of land that a homestead had to farm was small enough that daily commute from a centralized village to the fields and back was a practical proposition. On the other extreme we have something like, say, Iceland where the population was low and fertile land wasn't all that common so each farmstead needed to farm more land and the cultivated plots had to be further away from each other; in this situation daily commute would have taken too long so the people would have lived in the middle of their own family's plot and traveled to meet others only when there was a specific need to do so (such as to arrange marriages or attend a Thing).

Comparing memoirs from 15th-century French wars (like Commynes's) and Icelandic sagas would probably give you a good idea of what the difference looked like from a narrative standpoint. An adventurer in a setting like France would have crossed hedgerows and haggled over a basketful of apples where one in an Icelandic wilderness would have climbed crags and trudged across deserted moors.


Never thought of it that way, thanks. That's pretty much what I was looking for.

M.

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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Manning,

On Mon 04 May 2009, you wrote:
I'm not sure what to think about the Hurstvic study since it doesn't give any explanations of why its hypothetical height, body weight, and summer work schedule are reasonable. For example, when does their hypothetical Norseman rest and eat?

I don't know what the conventions for this type of nutritional study may be, but they probably influenced the example's body mass and schedule, and seem likely to be available on line. To address your specific question, Hurstwic's hypothetical subject must eat and rest during the three hours of "general activity" that the study description mentions.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a gammer myself, I gotta say this villiage feels far more real than most that I have visited in the guise of Grognar the Very Inteligent, Good Looking, And Popular With The Ladies.

My only "criticism" is that from the description it seems very, errr, wholsome.
Not wishing to lowere the tone, but , umm, are there any young ladies or widdows, who, ummmm, provide... errr.... well, you know....

I'm just thinking that a town of near enough to 500 adult males, I mean, were the Anglo-saxons much more 'family values" than I had been lead to believe?
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