The Early-Modern German Court, Part 1/3

These are a bunch of notes I put together for a friend who was working on a court supplement for WFRP. Although the supplement hasn’t, as far as I know, yet materialised, I thought I’d put these up here to help anyone wanting to reconstruct a convincing aristocratic court in the Empire. There’s quite a lot of it, so I’ll divide it into three posts. The information is taken and translated almost entirely from Rainer A. Müller, Der Fürstenhof in der frühen Neuzeit (Munich, 1995).

For Part Two go here, and for Part Three go here.

Ideally the court consisted of two groups of people, each of which undertook different functions even though the functions often overlapped in one person. One group, the Hofstaat [princely household] was entrusted with the personal care of the prince and his family. The other constituted the offices of state, such as the Hofrat/Geheimrat [both meaning Privy Council]. But the two areas were not separated in the patrimonial early modern state – Hofdienst [service at court] meant largely the same thing as Staatsdienst [state service]. The Hof [court] was at the same time centre of government and the prince’s household. Work in the central administration was couple to service to the prince and administrators had the additional status of being a personal servant of the prince.

The medieval court was dominated by the quattuor officia principalia [Four Principle Offices] of the Marschall [Lord High Marshal or Earl Marshal], Kaemmerer [Lord High Chamberlain], Truchsess [Lord High Steward/Seneschal] and Mundschenk [Cup-Bearer/Butler], but in the later Middle Ages and 16C, the importance of these offices varied greatly, with some becoming key and others losing in importance. But later the hierarchy became much more fixed, with the idea of places of honour (particularly the different statuses in seating positions at feasts) being extended to the administrative hierarchy.

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Asmodai, Lord of Change

Recently, my attention was brought to a fantastic book from the Wellcome Library: the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros [A Very Rare Compendium of the Whole Art of Magic, Systematised by the Most Famous Masters of this Art].

One page allegedly depicts the signs for various demons:

Compendium rarissimum, fol. 2r

The familiar symbol at the top right? That’s for Astaroth, a Duke of Hell. It doesn’t match up with the older sixteenth- and seventeenth-century traditions, though.

The book claims to be from 1057, but is actually from c.1775. This sort of pseudo-scientific magic and demonology is a creation of the Renaissance and an emphasis on rationality and systematisation; in fact, the very next page has symbols for the elements, demonstrating that up to the Enlightenment, there wasn’t much difference between science, magic and demonology.

But by the time this book appeared, it was already out of date. The great witch trials were long over, and the author’s dating his work back to 1057 is a bit of pseudo-medieval sensationalism. The first page tells the prospective reader: “Noli me tangere [Don’t touch me]”, which to me sounds more like an advertisement than any real warning (and would to any self-respecting PC too!). Certainly, the lavish illustration makes the whole thing look more like a scandalous coffee-table book than anything intending to be practical.

And where’s this Lord of Change? I’ve put him after the break because he’s very slightly NSFW:

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New Adventure for WFRP 1e: The Sins of Our Fathers

Luke Ó Scolaidhe has generously allowed us to host his substantial WFRP 1e scenario, The Sins of Our Fathers here. It’s great to see 1e still being catered to: it has a vibe all of its own. This adventure picks up a thread from the river encounters in Death on the Reik and leads the PCs into a murder investigation full of darkness and paranoia in which old secrets return to haunt a village on the Empire/Wasteland border. And, true to 1e tradition, there are spoilers ‘hidden’ in the German of NPCs’ names!

Here’s the link: Sins of Our Fathers

The New Guy Introduces Himself

Hi. I’m Rangdo and Doc has generously given me a copy of the keys to this particular kingdom. I’ve been active on Strike-to-Stun, Liber Fanatica and rpg.net, but this is the first time I’ve ever blogged, so be gentle…

I played WFRP when it first came out, then fell out of the roleplaying habit in the 90s, only to return in the middle of WFRP 2e. Since then I mainly play online and have acquired a large collection of games, most of which I don’t get a chance to play. I’m something of a system junkie, apparently. But WFRP is and will remain my main squeeze.

I have a couple of one-sheets which Doc hosted here, The Arabyan Knight and The Estalian Prisoner; I contributed to Defenders of the Forest, the Liber Fanatica Elf sourcebook, and am also the author of the scenario A Bitter Harvest, which was adapted to be the intro scenario for Zweihänder. That’s about the extent of my RPG ‘publishing’. But I do have a lot of unfinished thoughts and plans. I often think of something that might be cool, then don’t really finish it up, or it gets left as a draft in a folder somewhere. I’ll be putting that stuff up here instead on the off-chance someone else can use it, and hope to post about once a week. I will also, of course, be following the development of 4e, recently announced by Cubicle 7, with great interest.

Talk to you again soon…

Zweihänder Kickstarter has been funded!

Amazing job fellow gamers! Zwehänder was funded in six hours and now we just keep digging for more rewards! I was away from computer when this thing went live but here is the announcement anyway! Yay!

ZWEIHÄNDER fans! We are now officially live on Kickstarter!

Thanks to each and every one of you for your interest, support and shared over these long years as we prepared the game for the public. We know you’ll enjoy ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG as much as we do, and hope to count on your support to bring a cool new indie tabletop RPG to market!

Happy gaming, and we’ll see you over at Kickstarter!