Historical Backdrop

A time-line that showcases the setting of the Neverdarklands project, based on historical medieval doctrine with some supernatural liberties at the fore.

Last modified on October 20, 2010

6 Responses to “Historical Backdrop”

  1. admin Says:

    Set in 16th century Medieval Germany, Neverdarklands will attempt to closely emulate the realism and challenge that prevailed during the period; replete with historical backdrop, political intrigue, puzzles, sensible quests with “attitude” and most importantly roleplay. In a sense, the mission is to create an environment through the NWN game engine that has “personality”. This is no mean feat, and it has been promised before, but read more on the game mechanics here.

  2. admin Says:

    Medieval Germany was a time of violence, political and economic subterfuge and corruption. With three popes in authority (two anti-popes under strict interpretation) emperors were soon losing grip on their respective regions, a banal clergy, “robber knights” and corrupt noblemen were usurping the churches they fostered and misrepresenting the people with their influence. In addition, there was widespread occult beliefs and superstitions with which the people would contend: paganism, devil-worship and other unholy rituals, demonology, witchcraft, astrology and alchemy were part of a common belief system for some.

    One can see why this would be an ideal setting for establish a role-playing adventure. Introduce more supernatural elements, e.g. ancient dragons, a dwarf-kobold war, demon princes, some undead and other fantastic creatures and one has an unearthly cocktail of considerable merit!

  3. admin Says:

    The author is by no means a scholar on medieval history, but if one happens to be reading this, any edits or suggestions are welcome. Gleaning through various historical sources, we present a summary of Medieval History to provide some measurement of plot precision for Neverdarklands. Some of it is more fascinating than fiction!

    The Medieval Period of History

    ‘Medieval’, was a term that germinated during the time of this game setting, ca 16th century. It effectively meant a society that was significantly more civilized and advanced, than that which had endured over the previous thousand years of the Dark Ages:

    The End of the Middle Ages:

    1453 The capture of Constantinople by the Turks
    1453 The end of the Hundred Years’ War between the English and the French,
    1492 The Muslims’ being ejected from Spain
    1492 The discovery of America by Columbus.
    1517 The Protestant Reformation starting

    Germany and its Reformation: AD 1517-1648

    The emperors are Habsburgs. Imperialism falls into dissarray. The German princes become more and more independent, seizing political opportunities once regarded as religious affairs. Two hundred years later, the Reichstag is revived as Germany’s parliament. It is often cited that the 16th century marked the Holy Roman Empire’s long downward spiral to irrelevance, which brings 16th-century upheaveal in central Europe, marking the Reformation.

    The pope is resented by many and the emperor, overlord to a number of new Habsburg territories, develops interests beyond the traditional Holy Roman Empire (sacrum romanum imperium).

    The Holy Roman Empire is a political entity that covered a large portion of Europe, from 962 to 1806, with Germany square in the center. Clerics had a seat by virtue of the see or abbacy, much like the House of Lords in England or the Estates General. Those who did not have individual votes were grouped into two camps:

    the Bench of the Rhine
    the Bench of Swabia

    each with a collective vote.

    The Knights of the Empire (Reichsrittern) were nobles who answered directly to the Emperor, were remnants of the Edelfrei and Ministerialen and never achieved upper nobility status. They organized themselves into three unions (Partheien) in the late 15th century and into a single entity in 1577 in an effort to protect their rights and win recognition. They never gained access to the Reichstag, nor were they considered Hochadel.

    The Hanseatic League, a 13th to 17th century trading monopoly, was an economic alliance of trading cities and guilds. They ruled trade along the coast of Northern Europe; their influences reached as far as the Baltic to the North Sea. The Hanseatic cities had a customized legal system, furnishing their own protective devices, establishing almost complete political autonomy.

    At the beginning of the 16th century, the League gradually weakened. The political authority of the German princes increased, restricting the monopolistic control had by the Hanseatic.

    For instance, the gigantic Adler von Lübeck warship, was never put to use as a military vessel, which illustrated the languid efforts of Lübeck to uphold the elite commercial position he once had, throughout this tumultuous political and economic climate.

    Near the end of 16th century the League, no longer able to deal with its own affairs, had almost dissolved. Trade routes also degraded due to a number of socio-political factors: the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of Dutch and English merchants, began to erode the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire itself.

    Territorial Components

    Such components of the Empire fell into one of the following categories:

    • principalities (Fürstentümer, principatus in Latin), subdivided into
    • electorates,
    • duchies,
    • (further) principalities,
    • palatine counties, margraviats, landgraviats, princely counties (gefürstete Grafschaften)
    • imperial counties (Reichsgrafschaften)
    • free lordships (freie Herrschaften, dominia)
    • ecclesiastical territories (praelaturae)
    • free imperial cities (Reichsstädte)
    • free imperial villages (Reichsdörfer, pagi imperii)

    Origin and Evolution

    The Holy Roman Empire began in the eastern half of Charlemagne’s empire, divided after his death. In 800 AD, Charlemagne had been received as Emperor, harkening back to the title held by Roman emperors. Within a hundred years, eastern and western Franconia, had completely separated, the former continuing as the kingdom of Germany, while the latter persevering as the kingdom of France. In 962 AD Otto I the Great reclaimed imperial dignity conferred by popes throughout Italy’s political regime. Many associate this as a “start date” for the Holy Roman Empire.

  4. admin Says:

    Additional historical annotations, the majority of text from Wikipedia:

    (More) Religion and Politics:

    The “constitution” of the Empire was still largely unsettled at the beginning of the 15th century. Although some procedures and institutions had been fixed, for example by the Golden Bull of 1356, the rules of how the king, the electors, and the other dukes should cooperate in the Empire much depended on the personality of the respective king. It therefore proved somewhat fatal that Sigismund of Luxemburg (king 1410, emperor 1433–1437) and Frederick III of Habsburg (king 1440, emperor 1452–1493) neglected the old core lands of the empire and mostly resided in their own lands. Without the presence of the king, the old institution of the Hoftag, the assembly of the realm’s leading men, deteriorated. The Reichstag (Reichsversammlung, was the legislative body of the Holy Roman Empire and theoretically superior to the emperor himself. It was divided into three classes. The first class, the Council of Electors, consisted of the electors, or the princes who could vote for King of the Romans. The second class, the Council of Princes, consisted of the other princes. The Council of Princes was divided into two “benches,” one for secular rulers and one for ecclesiastical ones. Higher-ranking princes had individual votes, while lower-ranking princes were grouped into “colleges” by geography. Each college had one vote. The third class was the Council of Imperial Cities, which was divided into two colleges: Swabia and the Rhine) as a legislative organ of the Empire did not exist yet. Even worse, dukes often went into feuds against each other that, more often than not, escalated into local wars.

    The economic interests of the south and west diverged from those of the north where the Hanseatic League operated. German historiography nowadays often views the Holy Roman Empire as a well balanced system of organizing a multitude of (effectively independent) states under a complex system of legal regulations. Smaller estates like the Lordships or the Imperial Free cities survived for centuries as independent entities, although they had no effective military strength. The supreme courts, the Reichshofrat and the Reichskammergericht helped to settle conflicts, or at least prevent verbal arguments from spilling over into actual conflicts.

    The Empire also had two courts: the Reichshofrat (also known in English as the Aulic Council) at the court of the King/Emperor, and the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Chamber Court), established with the Imperial Reform of 1495.

    The Church was in a state of crisis too, with wide-reaching effects in the Empire. The conflict between several papal claimants (two anti-popes and the legitimate Pope) was only resolved at the Council of Constance (1414–1418); after 1419, much energy was spent on fighting the heresy of the Hussites.[neutrality is disputed] The medieval idea of unifying all Christendom into a single political entity, of which the Church and the Empire were the leading institutions, began to decline. Here, the king and the dukes agreed on four bills, commonly referred to as the Reichsreform (Imperial Reform): a set of legal acts to give the disintegrating Empire back some structure.

    However, it took a few more decades until the new regulation was universally accepted and the new court actually began to function; only in 1512 would the Imperial Circles be finalised.

    Conflicts of religion would be another source of tension during the reign of Charles V. Before Charles even began his reign in the Holy Roman Empire, in 1517, Martin Luther initiated what would later be known as the Reformation.

    In the Holy Roman Empire, the main dukes and bishops of the kingdom elected the King of the Romans. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV issued the Golden Bull, which limited the electors to seven: the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier.

    From 1515 to 1523, the Habsburg government in the Netherlands also had to contend with the Frisian peasant rebellion, led first by Pier Gerlofs Donia and then by his nephew Wijerd Jelckama. The rebels were initially successful, but after a series of defeats, the remaining leaders were taken and decapitated in 1523.

    As part of the Imperial Reform, six Imperial Circles were established in 1500; four more were established in 1512. These were regional groupings of most (though not all) of the various states of the Empire for the purposes of defence, imperial taxation, supervision of coining, peace-keeping functions and public security. Each circle had its own parliament, known as a Kreistag (“Circle Diet”), and one or more director, who coordinated the affairs of the circle.

    It has been said that modern history of Germany was primarily predetermined by three factors: the Reich, the Reformation, and the later dualism between Austria and Prussia. The Empire as an institution was severely damaged by the contest between the Pope and the German Kings over their respective coronations as Emperor.


    An abundance of different tales of the Wild Hunt is recorded in Germany. In most tales, the identity of the hunter is not made clear, in others, it is
    • a mythological figure named Waul, Waur, Waurke, Wod, Wode, Wotk, or Wuid, who is thought to be derived from the ancient Germanic god of the wind and the dead, Wodan;
    • a mythological figure named Frie, Fuik, Fu, Holda or Holle, who is thought to be derived from the Germanic goddess Freya or Frigg;
    • an undead noble, most often called Count Hackelberg or Count Ebernburg, who is cursed to hunt eternally because of misbehaviour during his lifetime, and in some versions died from injuries of a slain boar’s tusk.

    Sometimes, the tales associate the hunter with a dragon or the devil. The hunter is most often riding a horse, seldom a horse-drawn carriage, and usually has several hounds in his company. If the prey is mentioned, it is most often a young woman, either guilty or innocent. The majority of the tales deals with some person encountering the Wild Hunt. If this person stands up against the hunters, he will be punished, if he helps the hunt, he will be awarded money, gold or, most often, a leg of a slain animal or human, which is often cursed in a way that it is impossible to get rid of it. In this case, the person has to find a priest or magician able to ban it, or trick the Wild Hunt into taking the leg back by asking for salt – which the hunt can not deliver. In many versions, a person staying right in the middle of the road during the encounter is safe.

    German folklore shares many characteristics with Scandinavian folklore and English folklore due to their origins in a common Germanic mythology. It reflects a similar mix of influences: a pre-Christian pantheon and other beings equivalent to those of Norse mythology; magical characters (sometimes recognisably pre-Christian) associated with Christian festivals, and various regional ‘character’ stories.

    When belief in the old gods disappeared, remnants of the mythos persisted: Holda, a “supernatural” patron of spinning; the Lorelei, a dangerous Rhine siren derived from the Nibelung myth; the spirit Berchta (also known as Perchta); the Weisse Frauen, a water spirit said to protect children; the Wild Hunt (in German folklore preceded by an old man, Honest Eckart, who warns others of its approach); the giant Rübezahl; changeling legends; and many more generic entities such as the elf, dwarf, kobold and erlking.

    Popular folklore includes Knecht Ruprecht, a rough companion to Santa Claus; the Lutzelfrau, a Yule witch who must be appeased with small presents; the Osterhase (Easter Hare – the original Easter Bunny); and Walpurgisnacht, a spring festival derived from pagan customs.

    Urglaawe (“primal faith” in Deitsch) is a tradition within Heathenry and bears some affinity with Asatru and other traditions related to historical Germanic paganism. It derives its core from the Deitsch healing practice of Braucherei,[1] from Deitsch folk lore and customs, and from other Germanic and Scandinavian sources. Urglaawe uses both the English and Deitsch languages.
    As with other Teutonic religious and philosophical traditions, adherents of Urglaawe may have differing beliefs[2] that range from polytheistic reconstructionism to syncretist (eclectic), pragmatic psychologist or mysticist approaches.


    Flagellantism was a 13th century and 14th century movement, consisting of radicals in the Catholic Church. It began as a militant pilgrimage and was later condemned by the Catholic Church as heretical. The followers were noted for including public flagellation in their rituals.

    Flagellation (from Latin flagellare, to whip) was not an uncommon practice amongst the more fervently religious. Various religions, like the cult of Isis in Egypt and the Dionysian cult of Greece, practiced their own forms of flagellation. Women were flogged during the Roman Lupercalia to ensure fertility.

    At first, flagellation became a form of penance in the Catholic church, especially in ascetic monastic orders. For example, the 11th century zealot Dominicus Loricatus once repeated the entire Psalter twenty times in one week, accompanying each psalm with a hundred lash-strokes to his back. The distinction of the Flagellants was to take this self-mortification into the cities and other public spaces as a demonstration of piety. As well as flagellation, the rituals were built around processions, hymns, distinct gestures, uniforms, and discipline. It was also said that when singing a hymn and upon reaching the part about the passion of the Christ, one must drop to the ground, no matter how dirty or painful the area may seem. Also one mustn’t move if the ground has something on it that may cause an inconvenience.

    The movement did not have a central doctrine or overall leaders, but a popular passion for the movement occurred all over Europe in separate outbreaks. The first recorded incident was in Perugia in 1259, the year after severe crop damage and famine throughout Europe. It spread from there across Northern Italy and thence into Austria. Other incidents are recorded in 1296, 1333-34 (the Doves), notably at the time of the Black Death (1349), and 1399. The nature of the movement grew from a popular interest in religion combined with dissatisfaction with the Church’s control.

    Indeed, many of these prefects will be contained as plot devices and quest missions throughout the module. See here for a list of medieval artifacts that will be used throughout Neverdarklands.

  5. admin Says:

    Everything you always wanted to know about the music during the period, as it influenced their culture. Fascinating material!


    The Geisslerlieder were the songs of wandering bands of flagellants, who sought to appease the wrath of an angry God by penitential music accompanied by mortification of their bodies. There were two separate periods of activity of Geisslerlied: one around the middle of the thirteenth century, from which, unfortunately, no music survives (although numerous lyrics do); and another from 1349, for which both words and music survive intact due to the attention of a single priest who wrote about the movement and recorded its music. This second period corresponds to the spread of the Black Death in Europe, and documents one of the most terrible events in European history. Both periods of Geisslerlied activity were mainly in Germany.

    There was also French-influenced polyphony written in German areas at this time, but it was somewhat less sophisticated than its models. In fairness to the mostly anonymous composers of this repertoire, however, most of the surviving manuscripts seem to have been copied with extreme incompetence, and are filled with errors that make a truly thorough evaluation of the music’s quality impossible.

    In medieval music, the Geisslerlieder, or Flagellant songs, were the songs of the wandering bands of flagellants, who overspread Europe during two periods of mass hysteria: the first during the middle of the 13th century, and the second during the Black Death in 1349. The music was simple, sung in the vernacular, often call-and-response, and closely related to folk song; indeed some of the flagellant songs survived into the 17th century as folk songs in Catholic parts of central Europe. Musically the Geisslerlied were related to the Laude spirituale: they were unaccompanied song, with instrumental accompaniment specifically forbidden.

    First outbreak, 13th century
    The first period of Geisslerlied began in 1258 in response to the breakdown of civil order in northern Italy. Permanent warfare, famine, and an apparent demise of the moral order in contemporary life gave rise to a movement of public flagellation accompanied by singing; the penitents implored the help of God to ameliorate their sufferings, but never formed a specific sect, and neither did they attempt a social revolution. Initially, the flagellents were members of the mercantile and noble classes, but as the movement spread outside of Italy, lower social classes took part.
    Of the first period of activity, only a single song has survived, although many of the words they sang have been recorded. Typically the texts were imploring, penitential, and apocalyptic.

    Second outbreak, 1349
    The Black Death was one of the most traumatic events in European history, and the renewed desperation of the people, hopeful for divine intervention to end their sufferings, brought about a return of the flagellants and the Geisslerlieder. Unlike the situation with the first outbreak, much of the music was preserved. A single priest, Hugo Spechtshart of Reutlingen, who happened to be a capable musician, was impressed by the activity he witnessed, and transcribed exactly what he heard of the singing of the flagellants; indeed his work was one of the earliest examples of folk-song collection. He produced a chronicle of what he heard in the Chronicon Hugonis sacerdotis de Rutelinga (1349), and the content corresponded closely to the description of the lost music from a hundred years before: simple monophonic songs of verse and refrain, with a leader singing the verse and the group of flagellants singing the refrain in unison.

    Particularly interesting about Hugo’s transcriptions was his notation of variation between successive verses sung by the lead singer, a procedure common in folk song.
    This second outbreak of flagellants, with their incessant and repetitive Geisslerlieder spread far wider than the first, reaching England, Poland, and Scandinavia, and probably attracted a greater number of participants, although it did not last as long: most of the records of the occurrence are from 1349.

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