Thursday, June 7, 2018

Stavanger Development 6: Introduction

If you've not been following along with this series, you'll want to start with this index post, with a list of the foregoing content relative to what's written below.

I can't say how much readers would like me to continue expanding on the Stavanger village adventure, regarding the wolf, the Sand clan, the shaman and the chief.  If that's to your fancy, let me know and I'll write a post outlining the rest of my plans there.  If I had a prize to give, I could create some sort of challenge to come up with the best set of possibilities ... just now, I'm anxious to move on with the next part of my program.

The year is 1237.  The settled lands and population of Rogaland have expanded considerably over the past three and a half centuries.  Stavanger itself is now a town of 1,628 people.  The whole population of Rogaland has tripled, to over 3,900.  New clans have come into existence; old clans have expanded their importance.  Rogaland is now considered to have a development of 6.

How, I'll ask, should we contrast the above with the previous map?  It isn't enough to say there are more people, or that three and a half centuries have passed.  What exactly does that mean?  How has Rogaland changed?  What about it matters to us as DMs, and the way we're going to run this region?

These are questions I've been asking since 2015, that I've failed to succeed answering in two previous attempts. I have better answers now, from research that I've done, but the answers are deep, complicated and far reaching.  And this still isn't a land of complex development.  But the full measure of that will have to be managed at another time.

My starting place has been the technology growth itself, so I will start there.  In the past 345 years, Rogaland has developed agriculture; animal husbandry; archery; mining; and the wheel.  They did not invent any of these; but their use has spread into the region, so that these things are typical now, complete with social effects and the knowledge that comes with knowing how to do these things.

Let's look at these things one-by-one, starting with the old technologies of fishing, hunting and mysticism.

Fishing has changed.  Where once the settlers simply did their best to catch the fish that were there, using primitive boats, now the boats have expanded into Viking warships ... these, however, at least in Rogaland, lack good sailing technology.  Some adventurers from Rogaland have raided outwards in these last two centuries, but primarily the coasts of Denmark and northern Germany, lands that can be reached by coastal journeys.

Some old fishing grounds are played out.  However, better and stronger boats now enable the residents to reach further out from the shores, finding other fishing grounds in deeper water.  The old Stavanger fishing ground continues to sustain the population ... however, common practice now selects stocks, in order to ensure a larger stock of fish.  Inland, the widespread presence of the bow (see Archery, below) has resulted in widespread bowfishing ... which is now seen by some as a recreational activity, rather than the old desperate efforts to ensure food for the clans.  With agriculture (see below), food is plentiful; so some activities have taken on a new bent.

Hunting, for example, is not what it was.  There are still bands of pure hunters, particularly in the wildest areas, but far more meat is now obtained by professional hunters, who use the bow and improved techniques to track and kill game, which is then sold in the village of Treborg, in the northwest, or in Stavanger, or to some of the larger rural clans.

Hunting has developed a new purpose, as well: the importance of keeping wild animals from feeding on croplands, or encroaching on civilized areas.  These things combine to initiate the development of the ranger class, who operate as scouts and foresters, learning to know the wild and protecting civilized places from it.

Mysticism is a strange adjustment.  Rogaland has been declared Christian.  The Christian church of St. Svithun's was completed some 90 years ago.  But is Rogaland really Christian?  Or is that in name only.

My call is that the religion is meant to be Christian, but like most fundamentally pagan cultures, the old ways continue to possess the minds of the people.  This dichotomy is called "folk religion."  A certain class of persons in the region do believe in Christianity; but the majority hold onto their pagan beliefs, ideals and cultural touchstones.  Most in Rogaland will never have seen St. Svithun's Domkirke in Stavanger.  To them, it has little meaning in their lives.

At the same time, however, the shaman seeks to withdraw from this mix of expressions, seeking greater unity with nature and a more enlightened perspective.  This is the beginning of the druid class.

Agriculture is the most notable development.  It is hard to fathom what a game changer it is.  It greatly increases food supply and makes the population sedentary instead of moving.  This advances the permanency of housing; and the elaboration of rooms designed for different purposes within the house.  The year becomes cyclical based on the requirements of agriculture: planting, harvest, different crops grown at different times of year and so on.  The crops need tending, which creates a different social structure from the previous clan life. Where before, everyone shared, no matter who obtained the food, now the principle is everyone works for their share; those who refuse are exiled.  The need to control and manage labor creates a structure for controlling and managing disputes of all kind.  Division of fields creates notions of property and private ownership.  These are considerable changes guiding a culture than what we saw with Stavanger in 892.

Animal Husbandry, too, increases the food supply, adds to ideas of ownership and helps specialize part of the population as herders, fence makers, protective hunters, tanners, leather workers and butchers.  The proliferation of animal products increases the need to trade for other sorts of food, creating a bartering economy ~ where regular exchanges, rather than individual negotiations, are common.  We always provide a certain amount of eggs or milk through the year in exchange for our stipend of grain; such-and-such an amount of leather is always exchanged for this much fish; and regular tributes in foods and products are given to members of the community who have certain entitled positions.

Horses are raised for transport, but not for war (not yet), in some cultures associated with the wheel (see below).  Dogs as companions, (but not war dogs) with minimal herding skills,  are bestowed as puppies throughout the clans, sometimes between clans.  Buildings protecting and controlling animals (sheep, pigs, fowl, goats) create "yards" around houses, further enhancing the idea of privacy and ownership.  This privacy begins to disrupt clans, as immediate families become more precious than extended families.

Archery is practiced for a number of reasons; defense and hunting, yes, but also for sport and as a competitive activity.  Contests inspire seasonal festivals, supported by the agricultural cycle, as gatherings for mass consumption of food, or the effort needed to plant many fields, naturally bring whole communities together.

Mining encourages individualism, as single persons separate from the main community to seek gems, placer metals or ores that can be exchanged with foreigners in Stavanger.  This is a whole different economy; while the residents of Rogaland in 1237 have no need for such things, being unable to smelt metals, and seeing gems as merely objects, such things can bring in very small supplies of outside goods, which will be possessed by a few but not by the majority.  One fellow in a clan may have a sword or a metal-headed spear ... but most would be limited to wooden weapons.

The mule does not exist, but donkeys do; and primitive sluice boxes are within the ken of the region's development.  There are no laws that govern mine extraction or taxes, but little protection exists for prospectors who work alone in the wild.

The Wheel creates changes of its own.  Carts are built, causing the proliferation of cart tracks between close communities.  Being that Stavanger has no overland connection with any other village or town (Treborg is more easily reached by water), cart tracks are few.  Some would exist around both Stavanger and Treborg.  Carts are built by carters and wheelwrights, further increasing the barter economy.  The use of donkeys and horses to pull carts increases the transfer of materials and communication.  Along with better water craft, the region of Stavanger is more closely in touch, both within and without the community.

The region of Stavanger is not developed enough to have a monarchy ~ it is too primitive and rural to sustain a local lord.  Rather, it would be a tribute province of outside kings.  So long as a certain amount of tribute is produced each year, to be collected in Stavanger, the local customs and privileges would be more-or-less ignored.  There simply isn't enough wealth to encourage an outsider to more purposefully fleece the population.  Even the agriculture isn't excessive.  There are no kilns to make bricks and no central planning to create public buildings, like granaries.  Instead, it is a quiet, primitive country backwater, but obviously much improved these past three and a half centuries over what it was.


Vlad Malkav said...

I love this, it is great !
I had trouble visualizing a place, in 10th and 13th century Europe with stone tools and weapons, with recent animal husbandry and other lacking elements already long developed somewhere else. But I had in mind the history lessons of my youth, and the images ingrained by medias like films and series, not the best references.

With so few people, on the verge of civilization, it doesn't seem so extraordinary now...

I want more, those are great. And yes, the more advanced it gets, the more complicated it'll be.

I'm also curious about the previous Stavanger's continuation, but I don't know how much you have still to say, so yes, the rest of your plan would be nice ^^.

Great work.

James Clark said...

This has been an interesting series, and timely for me, so thanks Alexis. The next D&D campaign I run will be set in ancient Mesopotamia, so I've been thinking a lot about this very topic.