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Old 09-16-2012, 09:06 AM   #1
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default actually gaming in Worminghall

I've just held the third session of a campaign based in Worminghall, in which the player characters are students of magic. The first session focus on their getting admitted to the university, enrolled in classes, and hazed by older students; the second on their setting up a daily routine and starting to learn Symbol Drawing; the third on their going through their first Michaelmas Term, acquiring basic Symbol Drawing skill, and starting to study their first spells (variously Light, Sound, and Ignite Fire), and on their developing social ties with each other. It looks as if the fourth session will look at how they spend the Christmas break between Michaelmas Term and Epiphany Term.

Having the maps of Worminghall is proving helpful; for example, one of the PCs was looking for an inn where he could sing and earn a little extra money, and by checking the map I spotted that as he came up the hill from Cyprian House he would spot first the Halberd (occupied mainly by soldiers and the town watch) and then the Rose Bush (very receptive to performances by entertainers).

I've been having mixed success from weaving in NPCs from the book; the players weren't very interested in Kate Foxe, but several of them have taken notice of Robkin, and one of them is doing volunteer labor at the Hospital of the Franciscan Sisters under the supervision of Sister Patience.

The rules for learning spells are working out pretty well. They provide for gaining the ability to cast a spell at default (IQ+Magery-6) after spending 8 hours studying it and practicing it, which comes out to skill 7 or 8 for the PCs; Symbol Drawing can boost the chance of success, especially if the caster spends extra time drawing the symbol just so on parchment or on their wax tablet. One of the PCs got a natural 18 on his Symbol Drawing roll; I improvised by rolling on the critical failure table for spell casting, which resulted in his inflicting 1 point of injury on himself—I decided that he had come up with a variant on Ignite Fire that blistered the tip of his finger. I made a point of having each of the masters assign a first spell with easily visible results, so that they could tell when a student had cast it successfully—and so that the student could see their own success as well.

The rules for study time as "income" from "working" as a student have helped give the campaign a sense of direction. The PCs have gained either just under or just over 400 hours of learning in their first term, which has gone into Symbol Drawing (Image Magic) and various other subjects—Acrobatics, Hobby Skill (Rock Collecting), Housekeeping (for the one who's a student at Cyprian House), Linguistics, and Public Speaking. The players have a lot of interest in this, more in fact than they have in spending experience points to buy up skills. I think this is probably a good sign in a scholastic fantasy campaign.

We've had only one actual fight, in which one of the PCs quarreled with the leader of a party of monitors and found the party waiting for him and his friends outside King Henry's Inn. Neither combatant was very skilled; they had Brawling and Wrestling at around 10. Under those conditions, actually having the fight resolved took a lot of play time, especially as neither of them was ready to back down after first being hit. I finally settled things with a Quick Contest of Brawling skill, which the PC lost. This actually seems fairly plausible for a couple of boys fighting without weapons.

The rules in GURPS Social Engineering have been a big help, especially the expanded search rules, but also the expanded reaction tables in the Appendix. Several of the PCs have influence skills, but at fairly low levels, so they often just rely on reaction rolls. I've made a point of noting the Loyalty of the various masters to their students, as something I can roll against when a student asks for a special favor.

The players aren't desperately eager to rush into adventures; they're more focused on exploring the environment of Worminghall itself. But I may have to expose them to rumors of strange goings-on and see if they choose to pursue them, now that their characters are getting settled in.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 09-16-2012, 09:47 AM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

This sounds like fun. How old are the PCs?

Something that I noticed reading Worminghall: many PCs will be dependent on money from home. I don't know how transfers of money over significant distances worked at the time. Once money arrived, it would presumably need to be stored with someone, acting at least informally as a bank, but I'm not sure who in Worminghall would provide that service.
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:25 AM   #3
whswhs
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
This sounds like fun. How old are the PCs?

Something that I noticed reading Worminghall: many PCs will be dependent on money from home. I don't know how transfers of money over significant distances worked at the time. Once money arrived, it would presumably need to be stored with someone, acting at least informally as a bank, but I'm not sure who in Worminghall would provide that service.
Well, there is a goldsmith in town, though she's also a loan shark who employs a couple of legbreakers. At this point most of the PCs are holding their own wealth. The exception is the one who's at Cyprian House; his money goes to the house, whose master gives him spending money. The amounts of money the PCs have isn't very hard to carry about; $600 is six shillings, or 3.6 ounces of silver. (I'm going with a pound of silver being $2,000, reflecting the recorded scarcity of currency metals in the Middle Ages.)

Three of the five PCs have families in Shropshire or eastern Wales, who can send servants to drop off money with them. The fifth PC is the foster child of dragons on the Isle of Man, who sent him with a pouch of gold to cover his year's expenses.

I don't know the details of financial transactions in the Middle Ages. Did they have anything like letters of credit? Was there a network of merchants who discounted each other's notes? I'm not focusing this particular campaign on mercantile dealings, so I've been assuming that payments are largely handled off camera—magically, as it were.

The PCs are mostly 14; I think one may be 13.
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:53 AM   #4
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I don't know the details of financial transactions in the Middle Ages. Did they have anything like letters of credit? Was there a network of merchants who discounted each other's notes? I'm not focusing this particular campaign on mercantile dealings, so I've been assuming that payments are largely handled off camera—magically, as it were.
Credit transfers are fairly doable in "your" period. Jewish money lenders and the Knights Templar can help with that, and there are Italian bankers too although they may not have a strong presence in England. Then again, they might. I think it's reasonable to assume that they sent out agents whereever the money are, and the English coinage system was much more stable, because of a royally controlled mint that did not debase the coins, than that of other European nations of that period.

All of those use letters of credit, but rarely or never transferable between groups, that is if you deposit money with a Jewish money lender/banker/whatever, the letter of credit he writes for you will be recognized by other Jews (at least a lot of other Jews, maybe not all), but not by the Templars or the Italians. And so forth.

In terms of reach, size and consistency, the Templars are probably your best bet, since they function as a Europe-wide corporation, with a presence in most Catholic lands (including a strong presence in England), and in the Middle East, especially the Holy Land. They get destroyed by the King of France in 1307 AD or so (I'm pretty sure the actual crackdown happened on a Friday the 13th), IIRC, so if your campaign is set after that, there'll be a niche for the Jews and Italians to exploit.

Some characters may have prejudices that makes them disinclined, perhaps even strongly so, to do business with Jews (look up "blood libel", and so forth). Other characters may believe some of the rumours about the Templars (devil worship, ritualistic homosexuality, strongly heretical or even downright pagan practices) and refuse to do business with those, but character who do either are probably people disinclined to rational thought and/or actively looking for reasons to hate their fellow men.

The Jews are exempt from the Christian law against usury, the charging of interest of any kind (even 0.01% interest per decade would be a grave sin!) making them more flexible than the alternatives, in theory, but the Templars and the Italian bankers found all sorts of loopholes against the usury laws, so there's probably no difference there in practice.

Assuming the university is in a decently sized town to attract a banking agent of one of the available flavours (which would probably be the case if there are a couple of hundred students per year, year after year, all needing to have money "wired" to them from home), it's perfectly sensible to sweep everything under the carpet and just assume it works smoothly. Unless of course the campaign starts in 1305 or 06 and the banking agent is a Templar...
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:54 AM   #5
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
At this point most of the PCs are holding their own wealth. .... The amounts of money the PCs have isn't very hard to carry about;
This does make it quite worthwhile robbing them, or their lodgings. I was thinking more in terms of security than portability.
Quote:
$600 is six shillings, or 3.6 ounces of silver. (I'm going with a pound of silver being $2,000, reflecting the recorded scarcity of currency metals in the Middle Ages.)
That seems perfectly reasonable.
Quote:
I don't know the details of financial transactions in the Middle Ages. Did they have anything like letters of credit? Was there a network of merchants who discounted each other's notes?
Hum ... I don't know about this either. The only relevant book I have, Braudel's The Structures of Everyday Life, says that Europe rediscovered bills of exchange in the thirteenth century: the Roman had used them, but they had disappeared from the West until the Crusades brought them back from the Levant. Forgeries and other abuses developed quickly, of course, and central banks are centuries away.

Given that Worminghall is, inevitably, a somewhat cosmopolitan place with ideas arriving from many places, there are probably some merchants who will discount bills.
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:59 AM   #6
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Knutsen View Post
Credit transfers are fairly doable in "your" period. Jewish money lenders and the Knights Templar can help with that, and there are Italian bankers too although they may not have a strong presence in England. Then again, they might. I think it's reasonable to assume that they sent out agents whereever the money are, and the English coinage system was much more stable, because of a royally controlled mint that did not debase the coins, than that of other European nations of that period.
It's not going to be Jews. They were expelled from England a few years earlier, by order of Edward I. They didn't get back in until Cromwell authorized their return.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:14 PM   #7
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Join Date: Sep 2010
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Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

Merchant Guilds were established fairly early in southern England and they remained strong for a long time. I can't say whether they introduced letters of credit in the 13th century, but it doesn't seem to be much of a stretch. Shropshire is a bit out of the way, but the wool trade would make it important enough.

The other two options for forwarding money are church organisations (the Templars have been mentioned, but members of other orders or priests of a diocese could be entrusted with money) or distant relatives. Kinship networks were fairly strong on the Celtic fringe and people would probably think twice about embezzling money intended for "grand cousin Oswald's godson who's learning magicks in Womel".
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Old 09-16-2012, 03:02 PM   #8
whswhs
 
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Default Re: actually gaming in Worminghall

Incidentally, I've been posting the actual writeups at whswhs.livejournal.com.

Bill Stoddard
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