14th century Earth

It’s my turn to run a game for my friends, and I thought I would finally get around to playing ACKS! Lately I’ve been failing to learn how to play Europa Universalis 3, and I liked the idea of using a fantastical version of late 14th century Earth as the setting. I’ve decided that I’m going to start things off in Venice, but otherwise there’s going to be no starting story. When things start, things are going to be more or less where they were historically: two popes, Venice warring with Genoa, John V Palaiologos is traveling Europe trying to get help against the Ottomans, etc. The players know better than to bone up on trivia to take advantage of “prescience” but things will probably play out differently anyways.

I’m trending towards not having demihumans and having humanoids in underground, underwater, and other extremely remote/inhospitable lands. There will be monsters in the wilderness, and undead will haunt the usual places.

The game will likely start sometime in the next week or three. Does anyone have any advice, suggestions, or admonishments? Once things get rolling, I’ll share the groups exploits and pitfalls. Are there any good resources you can point out? Has someone already done this,because I’d love to nab any details someone might have made for domain revenues and markets!

That sounds like a marvelous setting! My wife and I have been playing Assassin’s Creed II and that has made me want to try out a similar setting. There was also an old computer game called The Prince which had you run international trade, manipulate cardinals and biships, and so on, that was inspirational for ACKS…

Rules: Here are a few ideas to give you a Renaissance feel rather than high fantasy…

  • Make Sleep a 3rd level spell, Lightning Bolt a 4th level spell, and Fireball a 5th level spell. Wish is an 11th level spell (e.g. unavailable).
  • Replace Mages with “Natural Philosophers” or “Alchemists”. These would be built along the lines of Warlocks, but with Loremastery and Alchemy instead of the other class powers.
  • Add a human version of the Dwarven Machinist, called Artificer. That lets you have your Leonardo da Vinci flying machines and whatnot.

Video game websites or strategy guides for Assassin’s Creed II/Brotherhood probably have maps of all the Italian cities in those games. They won’t necessarily be historically accurate but they’ll be well-sized for use in a game.

Alexis at Tao of D&D has hex maps of Europe published on his site, and information about demand and trade in Europe.

One thing I’ve found is that ACKS plays best when there are dual threats, one political and one fantastical-existential. (Think how in Game of Thrones, there’s the War of the 5 Kings AND the White Walkers beyond the Wall). In your Renaissance Italy setting the political threats are many and delightful. I’d recommend you come up with a hidden fantastical threat of some sort.

Maybe the Ottomans have been breeding a race of beastmen as their new Janissaries and will soon be unleashing these unstoppable killing machines on Christendom. No one believes that a monotheistic nation would engage in the pagan dark magic involved in this, and reports of sighting of the creatures go ignored.

Maybe a coterie of vampires has been slowly assimilating the families of a particular city-state (Venice? Rome - the Papacy!). If unchecked they will unleash a magical plague that will leave the realm on its knees and ripe for takeover.


How about… The Dieci is pursuing a secret war against a supernatural threat, or is the source of one!

Depending on how much of a stickler you are for historical accuracy, it’s worth noting that Alexis’ maps are from a later time period (16th/17th century). The terrain might not have changed much, but the political boundaries certainly did.

Alex, thanks for all those plot hook ideas, I especially like the Beastman Janissary plot. This is my first time running the game, and all my friend’s first time playing it, so I’m disinclined from changing the rules too much yet.

DrPete I confess that I am not familiar with the Dieci and a google search did not clear it up for me, care to educate me?

Asaris, I’ve been looking up 14th century maps on google, I haven’t found a great one yet but I can fake it.

I don’t know much about it, but it’s a sort of secret police body it simmering, established at the beginning of the period you at looking st to root out corruption. Sounds like it could be either very noble or very troublesome. It had small numbers, but they included inquisitors and leaders that had to remain in the palace to prevent then from being corrupted. The name refers to the fact that there we ten of them.

If you’d like to consider a version of the Warlock mods Alex mentions above, take a look at my Collegiate Wizards of Lore and Alchemy.

http://www.bythisaxe.co/2012/08/the-wizard.html Lore (Blue Wizard)
http://www.bythisaxe.co/2012/11/additional-wizard-college-college-of.html Alchemy

Oh hey, your blog is among those I have bookmarked. I’ll be sure to take a look.

The original plan was to create characters and start play this evening, but I had an incomplete group so I just did character creation with those who were available. There’s another two or three people who will be joining us, but the roster at the moment is…

*Matteo the Footpad: A trapper.
*Costoluto Genovese the Arcanist: A charming, amateur alchemist with a bewitching presence.
*Gustavo Amedeo the Man-At-Arms: Brilliant officer material.
*Kiriakos the Man-At-Arms: An archer and would-be drill instructor.

I’ve decided to start things off in Padua rather than Venice, and the starting date for the campaign shall be November 11, 1378. The story begins (and ends) as follows: Last night, the party was enjoying an evening out when they saw a brilliant star streaking across the night sky (Halley’s Comet). They took this as a favorable omen to set out and make their fortunes.

I think you can find valuable information about Medieval Europe in the Ars Magica books: politics, believings (christian but also pagan, heretic, muslim faiths…), ideas about “magic creatures” in the wilderness, the main cities and markets, etc.
The advantage of this books that’s their are summarized and adapted for role-playing game campaign setting.

Good luck with your campaing :slight_smile:

I’ll see if I can find those, thanks for the suggestion.

Tonight we concluded with character creation, we were joined by two more footpads. The group almost immediately agreed upon, and declared their intent to do away with the anti-pope all the way in France, despite being a pack of nearly broke indigents in Padua. They spent some time in town, figuring out what route they wanted to take. They decided that sailing would be too expensive, and they don’t want to brave the mountains, so they’re going to travel to Croatia, wind up through Austria, and pass through various German entities while avoiding Switzerland. They set out soon after.

So far Kirakos and Costoluto are filled with righteous, downright manic zeal while the three footpads are much more worldly. Gustavo’s player was unable to join us tonight.