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Old 11-26-2016, 11:55 PM   #1
Prince Charon
 
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Default [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

Recently, I was watching a video by Lindybiege about lighting fires - and more importantly, about how they generally didn't light fires: it's apparently very difficult in anything other than ideal circumstances (rather more-so than RPGs have lead me to believe), so what they did was never let their fires go completely out. Even if they did, you mostly had neighbors who you could bum a light from, on the assumption that if they ever needed it, you'd do the same for them.

I'm pretty sure GURPS has rules somewhere for 'carrying glowing embers with you all day so you can light a fire when you arrive at the next camp,' but that's not what I thought of for this thread. Suppose that one night, every fire in the village goes out all at once, and when they search for embers to relight their fires with, they find that all the hearths are stone cold. It's not winter, so this is not a complete disaster, but they still need to get someone to the next village in a bloody great hurry (if there's a castle nearer, of course, that's the first place they'd go, but let's say that the lord of the manor, if any, hasn't got any fires or embers, either). They also go and look to see if anyone is missing, or if any strangers are about, and send runners to outlying farms and such to see if they've got any fire.

Regardless, this is a bigger problem for them than it would seem to us, even if they do have someone who still knows how to get a fire lit without an ember. They know fire, and they know that hearths all going stone cold like that does not happen. They are very scared, and scared people are dangerous, especially if the PCs just got in last night (strangers in the village are likely to be blamed for things suddenly going wrong after they arrive, especially if they're very strange).

Let's say that they get the fires lit, things are normal for a few days, and then it happens again. The local priest (or priests, and/or priestesses) is likely thinking that some deviltry is afoot, everyone is looking for someone to blame, and the local lord wants answers. If it keeps happening, and especially if folk start dying or disappearing, you've got some serious problems.

You could get a pretty good ancient, medieval, or even renaissance horror game starting from here, but what are some other examples of spooky things that don't directly cause damage, but would be more threatening and frightening at lower tech levels - especially things that would actually be more inconvenient and/or scary than we would expect?

EDIT: Important thing I forgot to say about the scenario, the hearths stay stone cold unless actual fire (or a glowing ember, or a red hot piece of iron) is applied to them. Not red hot tin or something, has to be iron.
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Last edited by Prince Charon; 11-27-2016 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 11-27-2016, 12:21 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

One thing that witches were particularly noted for is souring milk in their vicinity. (also causing impotence, stillbirths and turning animals vicious)
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Old 11-27-2016, 01:00 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

While the base concept, all fire in an entire town goes out at once, is interesting enough. I find the basic premise a bit flabbergasting. Starting a fire from nothing, while not the most fun thing in the world, and far more miserable in poor conditions is not hard.

The stick and bow technique is very old, and somewhat reliable. If you can wait to morning glass exists, so sun focusing spheres cab exist. With that said 'borrow a light', or 'carry the embers' were probably great time savers, but the basic premise that most people in the midevil era could not light a fire seems suspect.
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Old 11-27-2016, 01:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

Certainly, the spookiness of the fires all going out at once is the key element here. If the PCs are cursed so that fires won't stay lit in the whole village so long as they're around, then that's annother matter entirely.

On a related note, rot. Wood rotting overnight and iron rusting away after a day in the shed would be a big problem.

Reliably competent people getting confused and lost on familiar roads could be a problem. "We sent Bill to the manor, but he came back hours later and said he got lost and never reached it... It should have taken him only some minutes!"

Metallic, clearly artificial cubes in the hen's eggs -- just small enough to fit in the shells. Not harmful, but how did they get in there? Are the eggs safe to eat? If not, are the chickens? Are the cows?
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Old 11-27-2016, 03:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

I get lost very easily. And I have once when going in a straight line from home to school during daylight hours. I wasn't feeling well, but still, it doesn't take severe brain damage to lose one's way that easily. If a not insignificant minority suddenly became like me, that would start a riot.... that would get lost on the way to the local witch's house.

But lots of spooky stories involve chills and cold type aches that remain even when it should be warm. Imagine seeing your breath indoors when it's warm. 2spoopy.
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Old 11-27-2016, 03:43 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

There is a tall tale about candle wax running in spirals when Death is coming close/to claim someone. Also, putting shoes n a table is a sign of Death - perhaps someone's boots keep ending up on a table?

An owl seen during the day is an ill omen in just about every Native American culture there is. Oh, moths flying upside down are a sign of demonic activity. Roses that wilt but for a single petal are said to be in the presence of a geist or similiar violent spirit.

There's a lot you could do. It depends on what you want to adapt and from what sources you want to borrow.
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Old 11-27-2016, 07:32 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prince Charon View Post
It's not winter, so this is not a complete disaster, but they still need to get someone to the next village in a bloody great hurry (if there's a castle nearer, of course, that's the first place they'd go, but let's say that the lord of the manor, if any, hasn't got any fires or embers, either).
No they don't.

Starting a fire with a fire bow takes at most an hour. Generally it only takes a few minutes. While not everyone in town in those days would have this skill, many would. Hunters would for sure.

Now, someone might just go to the next village to see if something is happening there, but it won't be for fire. Unless absolutely no one can start a new one.
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Old 11-27-2016, 07:43 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

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Originally Posted by evileeyore View Post
No they don't.

Starting a fire with a fire bow takes at most an hour. Generally it only takes a few minutes. While not everyone in town in those days would have this skill, many would. Hunters would for sure.

Now, someone might just go to the next village to see if something is happening there, but it won't be for fire. Unless absolutely no one can start a new one.
Two points:

1. I think he's saying that fires simply won't ignite or go out due to some supernatural force.

2. At most an hour? LOL. No, dude. I've seen someone spend 3 hours using a pump drill in a swamp to get a fire going in 40F weather. Firebows are even worse when dealing with damp kindle or firewood. Granted, that may not be the case because you have the materials in a shelter out of the weather, but that seemed like a blanket statement about primitive firestarting.
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Old 11-27-2016, 07:58 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghostdancer View Post
There's a lot you could do. It depends on what you want to adapt and from what sources you want to borrow.
Lots and lots. Pretty much anything that doesn't happen very often or usually isn't seen when it does is probably already an omen somewhere.

I've personally always liked the mirrors tarnish as an evil omen and things bloom or fruit out of season as a more neutral one - one side of a tree in summer fruit while the other goes winter bare is a fairly common one in stories about the fae.
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Old 11-27-2016, 08:03 AM   #10
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Default Re: [Horror] [Low-Tech] Hearthfires going cold and other Low-Tech spookiness

I think Lindybeige's point was not so much that fires are next to impossibly difficult to start (though that can be hard), but that it's dead easy to go next door and borrow a light. Taking an hour with a firebow is still something you'd avoid if you could take a five-minute walk to get a light. It's relative difficulty that counts.

- the well dries up
- the cows dry up
- all the herb die (all the crops dying is much more serious and life-threatening)
- the roosters all crow in unison
- One night, the moon doesn't rise
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