"Modern" things in your game?


First Post
CRGreathouse said:
While I agree with the rest of your post, I'm not sure I agree with this. (If you have more information than I do, great -- I'd be interested to know!)

I've seen a fair number of recipe books from the Middle Ages, as well as an ancient Roman cookbook. The recipes struck me as very basic -- things like "spiced honey wine: add 1 part honey to 2 parts wine, stir, add spices, serve warm". I'm just not convinced that cooking was particularly advanced until the agricultural advances that came with the Renaissance.

Ok, It's show and tell time......

Please remember that ancient recipies relied on ingredients available regionally, but Empires such as Rome had trade routes that ran for over a thousand miles (eventually). So they imported a lot of non regional spices as well.

Some of the recipies in the websites below have been translated into modern equivelent measurements and language so that you can duplicate them at home and try them!

The middle ages had some rather complicated cuisine...Here is a cookbook from the 1400's:


The food of the Nile region of Ancient Egypt:


Last but not least, 2 sites with ancient Roman Recipies (I've tried some of these, and they really turned out be quite good):




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Thanks for the links.

I guess I'm still not convinced, though; the recipes strike me as very simple, and nothing approaching the complexity of the meals typical to today's middle class -- let alone the upper classes, for whom these recipes* are intended.

* Or at least the Roman recipes; I presume it's the same for the rest?


First Post
Buttercup said:
Obviously you've been in college more recently than me, since you know about recent research. What books would you recommend on these subjects?

Thats the problem, its all REALLY recent, like late 90's. Alot of it is comming out of the annuls(?) school (you know the one where they study what people ate originally?). Most of this stuff can be found tucked away in professional journals. Speculum (a latin word meaning mirror) comes to mind, but I am not that sure, as it is pretty much a hodgepodge. The thing is that historians recently (again in the late 90s) have come to the conclusion that their field of study is broken, that is, it gets more and more inaccurate as they keep feeding off what historians wrote. So now we raid anthropology, archeology, chemistry, biology, assorted sciences (like physics when you want to know how a broadsword really was used), and such. So these things are scattered all about.

Chrichton's timeline has a great revisionist bibliography, but even that is a little dated. I really don't know where the teeth thing came from. I think Spec though. Heinrich Fictenau has some good stuff and he was considered an upstart in his day IIR. Chris Wickham does some interesting work too.

I will take a look at my shelf when I get home and post more.



The teeth thing - I thought it was well known that rotten teeth as something common post-dated the development of the Caribbean sugar-cane industry? Medieval peasants didn't often have rotten teeth, though I recall reading their teeth were often _worn down_ due to stone chips (from milling) in the bread they ate. The "filth & rotten teeth" image is really from the late 16th c onwards, also the period when urbanisation & middle-class literacy developed. If you look at death rates in childhood amongst eg the English royal family, they skyrocketed in the 16th century and stayed high through to the 19th, when the Victorians brought in public sanitation. "Filth & rotten teeth" is far more modern than Roman-style hygiene, piped water & daily bathing!


Princess of Florin
jester47 said:
Thats the problem, its all REALLY recent, like late 90's. Alot of it is comming out of the annuls(?) school (you know the one where they study what people ate originally?). Most of this stuff can be found tucked away in professional journals. Speculum (a latin word meaning mirror) comes to mind, but I am not that sure, as it is pretty much a hodgepodge.
Thanks, Aaron. I'm familiar with Speculum, but I haven't looked at an issue, new or old, since about 1986. I always liked it, and it sounds as if I still would. I'll see if our local library carries it.

Hand of Evil

I follow the pack here, reading & writing, view of race, equal rights, things being clean, good shoes and clothing.

Add to that modern time keeping, libraries, quality of food, and general health.


Buttercup said:
:eek: Really? My players are happy to pay top dollar for a hot bath. Generally they use prestidigitation to keep their clothes and selves clean, but when it's available, they all like a good long soak. Now the clothing, that depends on the character. I've had players role play shopping trips for fancy dress, and in my present group, now that they have a bag of holding, they can afford the weight of changes of clothing.
Medieval folks loved to take baths. The idea that they never bathed is a myth. There are a lot of misconceptions about medieval life. The feudal system was quite flexible, at points. Commoners often elected their own officials to govern internal town affairs, and the rights and powers of women varied widely throughout Europe. While medieval folks were much less concerned with the same degree or kind of hygiene, they did engage in lots of it. A classic example was dinner in many medieval households. The family ate on one side of the table, and the tablecloth was draped off of the table to be used, essentially, as a large communal napkin. When dinner was finished, the water bowl was passed about so that they could clean themselves off from dinner. I highly recommend this book, for example, for some insights into day to day life.

People didn't really get disgusting until the industrial revolution. ;)

The concept of complete gender equality certainly is more modern, as is the modern theory of economics and markets, a high availability of raw materials (not the least of which is steel), a stable economy, a consistent currency, ease of travel, a universal common tongue and so on and so forth.

Many of these are just game conceits, really. I don't think they were ever intended as intentional, they just sort of appeared to facilitate gameplay, in many cases. I mean, how often do the PCs actually find the need to read, other than ancient scrawlings, spellbooks and historical records? And let's not forget, there's a big difference between literacy and total illiteracy. Most tradesmen needed to keep records for their work. The may not have been able to read an illuminated text and understand it, but they could remember who ordered what, and how much they were owed.

Mind you, lots of folks tend to forget that Medieval Europe involved more than the U.K. and possibly France (and even less often, Germany).
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First Post
Apart from the usual ones (mainly gender equality, literacy and univeral coinage) I've also introduced insurance. The most popular (mainly for NPC's) is life insurance. Of course horribly expensive, and therefore only for adventurers and the really well to do. And of course in several variations, from the basic "if you bring the body we will resurrect it somewhat cheaper than normal" to the "we'll divine if you are alive every morning, if you are not we'll divine your location, pick you up and then resurrect you" variants. With extra fee for difficult pickups of course ;)

- Ziggy
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First Post
I just noticed a BIG one we've missed:


The notion that if you are competent you rise up, no matter what your initial social station. For most of history, one's station in life is pretty well limited by birth. Yes, there were the odd exceptions, but in the end merit would only get you so far -- if you were born a peasant, you might become a guildsman, but there would be little likelihood of becoming, say, king's champion (much less king).


I'm not sure that D&D specifies a meritocracy by default, though. Specific settings like the Forgotten Realms may do so, but I'm not sure I'd call that a 'modern' thing. Most D&D characters rise in levels of power unheard of in reality...in fact, what's unreal is that someone who could defeat a regiment of orcs single-handedly would chose to remain a flunky. Take a look at the political history of Europe, and you'll see an awful lot of folks who took power because they could.

The main reason that nobles held power was that they had access to the resources, training and social structure to give them the leg up on the commoners. Many commoners became clerics and could rise to powerful positions in both church and secular life. While politics played a role, a particularly skilled person could go far (such as being Mayor of his town or city, a military captain, a powerful cleric or skilled tradesman and guildmaster).

One thing that is quite modern, though, is the rugged individualism of D&D PCs. Medieval citizens never travelled very far (except the occasional pilgrimage, except for merchants), travel was dangerous. Strangers were viewed with suspicion, particularly someone who had no ties to the local community. D&D PCs travel from town to town with virtually no negative reaction, and consider it commonplace and obvious.

Not to mention that no person would carry the kind of enormous wealth with them that D&D PCs do. ;)

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