Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Of Culture and Currency

[no, this is not going to be some scholarly treatise]

Man, this shit takes a long time.

Currently working on a list of all the noble houses of Westeros for my Crowns of Blood campaign. Yes, there's quite a few. I started with two of the smaller regions (the mountainous Vale and the Iron Islands) to "warm up" to the task, and it's a big one: nineteen houses (including two "cadet" branches) for the Vale and another nineteen for the Iron Islands not counting cadets (which would have brought the total over two dozen). I can only imagine what The Reach and The North are going to look like.


This is the kind of thing..."world modeling"...that I can get really bored with. And it's the kind of extraneous campaign material that...well, suffice is to say, my "world making muscles" are a little out of shape. I hate hex maps. And while spreadsheets are fun, it just takes so long to navigate this on-line information. I just want a hard copy atlas I can page through!

['course, I'd still be striving to transpose the atlas entries into the spreadsheet. It all takes work-effort]

Thing is, I'm not sure the effort is really being utilized as best as it could be. In fact, I know it isn't. All this is being done for character creation, to get a large group of "stuff" so that I can cut it onto random tables determining homeland and culture (with its associated traits, passions, starting skills, etc.). But I'm probably being waaaay too specific. Fact is, even with the "advanced chargen" of Pendragon's Knights Adventurous, the extra information doesn't result in a whole helluva' lot of mechanical adjustments.

Take Jaime Lannister, for example. I worked up a suitable replica of the Kingslayer using KA this morning, and it went something like this:

Starting age 15 (even though he's winning a tourney melee at age 13, I'll chalk it up as a little extra glory to start...his real beginning starts at 15 with his adventures against the Kingswood Brotherhood, and his subsequent knighting). Homeland region Cambria (roughly equivalent to the Westerlands), specifically (and just for fun) Cameliard, hometown of High Queen Guenever.

[there are a lot o similarities between Arthurian Cambria and the stand-offishness of the Westerlands. Cameliard is ruled by a king (Guenever's father Leodegrance), and Jaime is the son of the Warden of the West (Tywin Lannister) who would be a king in his own right if his ancestors hadn't sword allegiance to the Iron Throne (i.e. the Targaryen "high king"). The fact that Tywin's daughter Cersei Lannister is Martin's equivalent of Guenever in the books (married to the high king, very beautiful, committing adultery with the king's Golden Boy knight) is a tasty little parallel. In the actual Pendragon campaign, being from Cameliard gives one the passion Amor: Guenever. Giving Jaime such a passion (replacing Guenver with Cersei) sets him up with a motivation for their incestuous relationship]

He's got a "famous" passion...for his sister.
There's no random roll for father's class...Jaime's the first-born son of the Lord. In Pendragon, he's of the Cymri culture and a Westeros this is the equivalent of being of Andal ancestry (both the Andals and the Cymrics are the most populous race of the continent), and of the Faith of the Seven. However, the only real adjustment that any of this gives us?

Cambria Region: bonus traits: arbitrary +2, suspicious +2, prudent +1, temperate +1
Cameliard Homeland: culture (Cymri) and religion (Christian) set; bonus passion (amor: Cersei).

Skills (Pendragon is a skill-based system, and most of characters' effectiveness comes from their skill) are derived entirely from the character's culture and the father's class.  There are scores of homelands in Pendragon, but only seven cultures: Cymri, French, Occitainian, Irish, Pict, Roman, and Saxon. There are fewer than that in Westeros (unless you want to start allowing Braavosi and Dothraki and whatnot to have "wandered over" from Essos). Maybe six if you allow characters to be Wildlings and Mountain Clan tribesmen.

As for "father's class," the same classes are (more or less) present in every region. Even if you decide to go the Knights Adventurous route and step away from the default "all characters are vassal knights" you're still dealing with...well, with lords and knights and highborn warrior types (your character might be a savage, but you're still a warrior savage, and quite possibly a son of the tribal "chief"). Pendragon (and Crowns of Blood by extension) is NOT a game of playing small folk and peasants. You will never start off as the son of a baker or a criminal ("thief") type. Even churchmen and druids (in Pendragon) require GM's can never become one by random roll. You might be a bastard, but your father was someone who fought for a lord (if not a lord himself).

Which, again, is right in line with the Game of Thrones setting. None of these characters are "low-born." Sandor Clegane ("the Hound") isn't a knight...but his father was. Arya Stark is unlikely to become a knight, but her father was a Lord and she's had fighter training. Even if you want to allow for non-warrior women (i.e. the Sansa and Cersei and Catelyn Stark types), we're still talking about high born folk, movers and shakers in castle politics, not washer women. But you might as well take advantage of the setting and make your female characters fighters (like Maege Mormont and her daughters, Brienne of Tarth, Asha (Yara) Greyjoy, Arya and Lyanna Stark, the Sand Snakes, etc.).

The point is, why am I bothering to write all this up? I might as well simply say, "roll for culture, roll for class status, and then PICK a house...from the books or the wikipedia...that fits!" Characters can have random trait adjustments or adjustments based on REGION (instead of house) or simply assigned...they don't have to be a "chip off the block" of their ancestors. I'm making this harder than it needs to be!

Oh, and just while we're on the subject of streamlining character class: what is up with this "qualify for a career class" step in KA's chargen process? The "classes" offered (again all fighting-types: warrior, foot soldier, squire, sergeant, merc knight, vassal knight, etc.) don't add a blessed thing to your character. Not skills (these are determined by culture and social class), not traits (culture and religion), not starting glory (that's father's social class), not starting equipment (father's social class again), nor special abilities or gear (random rolls on "luck tables"). This step is utterly pointless, having no effect except to determine whether or not a character is qualified for eventual knighthood (which thereby gains a 1000 point Glory bonus)...but since the section states eldest sons of rich lords might be knighted even when not meeting the qualifications of knighthood, it really does become pointless.

These two? Same "class" of character.
Okay, SO, new plan...stop making this so hard. Roll for region (North, Vale, Westerlands, Reach, etc.), roll for culture (Andal, Ironborn, Targaryen, etc.), and roll for father's social class (the usual). Then you get pick from a list of house names based on region, probably excluding the principle Great Houses (Stark, Lannister, etc.) of each region. Probably....I'm still considering that option.

Whoops! Almost forgot the "currency" part of this post. In Martin's books, the folks of Westeros use three types of coined currency: gold "dragons," silver "stags," and copper "stars," plus (per Martin in a web interview outside the books) a variety of pennies and half-pennies, etc.

Gold, silver, and copper. Pretty familiar, huh?

Pendragon uses three types of coin, apparently based on the currency minted by Pepin the Short in 8th century France: 240 pennies (Pepin's novus denarius) to one Carolingian pound (called a Libra, or L, in Pendragon)...that is, one pound (weight) of silver. Pendragon also uses the silver shilling (valued at 1/20 of a pound), though I can't see where that was used prior to Charlemagne (Pepin's son). Remember that Pendragon is based firmly the 6th century...but it's fantasy, yeah?

Anyway, Martin doesn't bother to give us a breakdown of currency conversion in his books, though he does say the cost for a complete set of steel armor (from the description something the equivalent of Pendragon's reinforced chain mail, including closed helm) is about 800 silver stags ("roughly four gold dragons"). In Pendragon, such a suit would cost 6L, or 120 shillings...thus, one gold dragon of Westeros has the equivalent value of 1.5L (a pound and a half of silver, or 30 shillings = 30 sheep).

In Westeros, it would appear you'd need about seven silver stags to buy a sheep, instead of the 10-15 pennies of Pendragon (see the Stockyards table).

She's rich, fellas!
Martin also states that 300 gold dragons is a fair price to ransom a knight. Of course, the knight in question is Brienne of Tarth, the only child and heir of House Tarth. Lord Tarth himself offers the ransom. Per Pendragon, ransom amounts are set by custom and not open for debate and are based on three years average income; by that standard, the yearly income for a small noble house like Tarth could be estimated at 100 dragons, yeah? The equivalent of 150L? Well, a ransom for such a house would then be 450L. The closest equivalent ransom in Pendragon would be 550L for a Baron which is close...and for a small house, it may be a rich one given that it controls Straits of Tarth, the northern entry into Shipbreaker Bay.

All right, folks...I've got to close this for the moment. More later (probably). Got to go convert some money myself, before the exchange shop closes!


  1. Librae, solidii and dinarii were the coins of Rome. The gold libra was worth a pound of silver, give or take. The solida was 1/12 of a pound of silver. The dinar was 1/20th of a solida. That's how you get dodecimal currency in 6c. Gaul which was basically the remnants of Rome.

    1. Yeah, I get that. But Pendragon still uses the "shilling," not the solida. I would guess this is due to the fiction on which the Pendragon game is based (which was written long after the 6th century).

  2. Maybe pick up ?

    1. @ Eric:

      Yes, I remember skimming through this a couple years back (when I still had a local game shop with books to skim). I honestly can't remember what turned me off about the system...maybe that it tried to hard to emulate Martin's stories, rather than his world?

      Really, I don't remember. Maybe I just wasn't that interested in the subject matter at the time.