The origins of the humans can be as varied as the myriad of gods they have invented over the ages to explain their existence and the limitless and fascinating aspects of the natural world around them. Where ever the players end up in the GM’s world, it is up to him to provide a cosmology and origins explanation.
Humans are the established standard in RoM. They receive no penalties and no bonuses on the basis of race. Any allowances, penalties, or modifiers given for the other races to their skills abilities and attributes are meant to illustrate and reinforce their differences from this standard, as the most populous race in the worlds of RoM.
This description is only a rough over-view. The particulars of the medieval world, which all are based on the historic record of human society, are presented in the Primer, broken up by topic for the player’s and GM’s convenient reference.
The natural attributes like tone and shade of complexion are up to the GM to make use of; reaction to the sun; quality and abundance or lack of hair on head, face, and body; prominence of chin, cheeks, foreheads and/or nose; and the like, to differentiate the human folk of his world from one region to the next. This is likely also to form a basis for some sort of regional, if not national, identity for the people sharing similar physical characteristics, or form some sort of bond for a group of nations or empire of similar people.
Humans are by nature the most varied and diversified race in the worlds of RoM, and the most adaptable. Unlike the other races, they “burn with the brightest mortal fire” (as the elfs would say), and this has driven them far and wide to be the greatest seekers in all areas of life, and to multiply and diversify like no other race. As mentioned, humans are postulated to be the most numerous race in most GM’s worlds and, more often than not, they most certainly are going to be concerned with holding the territories they have, and settling more territory to support their constantly growing numbers. It is a common trait for them to constantly jockey for the most advantageous relationship they can with any neighboring races/peoples. Where the humans’ lands border those of another people, regardless of race, they will move in and simply start to take what they need, declaring war if any resistance is offered. Only after they have been staved off for a long enough period or soundly beaten will they settle upon a permanent border and establish a diplomatic peace with their neighbors. Historically, the medieval and Renaissance periods were rife with battles big and small over coveted lands hardly settled or cultivated by their neighbors.
The average life expectancy for a human is 60 years. Characters with an above average CND can expect a longer life, barring any unforeseen injuries and/or accidents, a shorter span for those with below average CND.
Thoughts & Beliefs
Religion is a huge part of the lives of the human folk as discussed in regards to the medieval gameworld. The rituals of the Church mark the hours of the day, the days of the week, and the seasons, and they hold fast to many of the beliefs we of the modern world have since shed. Four times a week is considered common for Church attendance. The people of the period have a certain childlike innocence and willingness to believe what they are told. Their attention to what is called ‘superstition’ these days is a large part of the magickal air of the fantasy gameworld, for in the context of this game, their beliefs are translated and transformed so that they largely hold true. Magick and the power of Spirit are very real forces in the gameworld. The Virtues can indeed bring a good and happy life and Vices can indeed darken one’s days, and final reward. Volatile of heart, they can kill a spouse or neighbor in a fit of passion in the middle of an argument and then run to the priest in tears to confess their crime, in true heartfelt repentance. They have no trouble doing whatever needs to be done to survive and prosper in the material world on one hand, while also holding true aspirations to the Virtues and desire to lead a good and up-right life. They strive for high ideals but do what life requires to survive. This is medieval double-think. They see no conflict in this. It is one of the major driving forces in the extensive bequests the wealthy and well-to-do make in their wills to redress what they could not during life, and so improve their lot in the afterlife. The popularity of the practice of founding chantries for perpetual prayers for the cure of their souls speaks volumes of the peoples’ knowledge of how far short of their ideals they fell during life.
In order to play a viable, living medieval fantasy, the players must accept the social ground rules. The structure of society and navigating about in it is part of the fun! From the distinct social classes and their privileges and rules of conduct (at least among their own kind), to rules of dress and the restrictions (and subsequent freedoms!) of the fairer sex, trade, travel, and the deference and respect required by the rules of precedence, the social scene in itself is one big game! Not just between the commons and lower classes, or the commons and the nobility, but within each class as well.
There is a certain order of precedence among the nobles – who must yield to whom when passing in public, who must be served first at table, and the like. If the character has noble rank of his own (rather than merely coming from noble blood), the player must learn what his rank is and where he fits in relative to the other titled nobility. A nobleman is recognized by those around him by the wealth he displays in his clothing and personal effects, the number of retainers he keeps around him, how well they are dressed, and the generous hand with which he gives alms to the poor and the scraps from his table. Indeed, the types of furs one is allowed to wear publicly are dictated by rank, as are the quality of fabrics one may wear. The nobleman should always be accompanied by his retinue in public. Even in the most private setting, an attendant should wait in the next room, within easy distance to call at need. A noble never handles his own money, it is considered beneath his dignity. There is always a squire of the body (if the noble has been knighted) within the retinue, or valet (from “vassalet”) to take care of his personal needs. Only the poorest simple knight will not have at least two attendants.
“ ‘It were a shame,’ said Robin,
‘a knight alone to ride,
without squire, yeoman, or page
to walk by his side.’ ”
the Gest of Robin Hood
The retinues of greater nobles often number more than 30 or 40, including such people as household servants, grooms, messengers, cooks and scullions, minstrels, solicitors and other “courtier” dependents living on his good will to improve his reputation (which courtiers may also be of noble blood, with or without rank of their own, depending on the rank of the noble in whose household they live). The retinue are those who are ready and willing to take up the nobleman’s causes and do his bidding as long as their own needs are provided for.
The social climbing aspect of the game is a matter of accumulating the wealth and then earning the noble title needed to be able to display it.
If the character is a commoner, whether affluent or not, the nobility should always be treated with respect and deference at all times, especially the ladies. A kind and gracious noble lady should have the means to humble most any commoner with a smile, blushing bashfully if she actually give him a gentle word or two. No commoner keeps his hat on in the presence of a noble, hence the practice of tipping the hat (or bowing the head) by the affluent or doffing the cap even if simply passing a noble in the street. If the commoner has no hat, bowing the head and tugging the forelock and making a proper greeting is expected and accepted. If the way is narrow, the commoner must step aside and allow his social superior to pass. No commoner must take a seat in the presence of a noble before that noble seats himself in a public place, or without an invitation in an interview with a noble, nor look a social superior boldly in the face, much less stare at him. To do so is an open challenge to his rank and station, and as a matter of honor most likely to get the offender beaten by the noble’s retainers for his impudence. To do so to a lady is to threaten the sanctity of her person with unwonted interest.
To those of the landbound classes, especially the poorer ones, these social rules are even more important. To flout these rules is to invite disaster without any means of recourse, which may include those with whom he travels by association, as well. To protest any reprisal on the behalf of the landbound is to invite still further reprisal.
When traveling in human society it is important that the means of free travel be established and spelled-out to the letter particularly for the benefit of characters of the landbound class. The modern freedom of travel, particularly for Americans within the continental states, is a concept the players must learn how to kiss goodbye. Even freemen have lords to whom they must answer when there is trouble. Medieval folk are somewhat stand-offish and suspicious of strangers and especially foreigners, called “aliens.” These are the first to be questioned when there is trouble. Journeymen and other itinerant craftsmen have bona fides or letters from their home master(s) and guild showing who they are and attesting to their character, not only by way of a resume, but also as a reference in finding work where ever they may stop to look. Pilgrims carry a letter from the local bishop with a blessing for their travel plans. Travelers must expect a thorough investigation by local authorities if there is any doubt about the validity of papers, unless they appear to be noble or particularly wealthy. But even money or rank cannot deter investigations if there has been trouble. All of this is discussed in more detail in the Primer regarding society in the medieval world. They must understand that, if they want to maintain a good reputation and relationship with the authorities, they must petition the royal court for permission to leave the country and specify the reason for doing so, the latest date by which they will be allowed to return, and set a limit on the amount of wealth they may take out of the realm in plate and coin. Leaving the country without the consent of the sovereign, one may not be allowed to return again.
At birth, babies are wrapped up tight in swaddling clothes, arms and legs bound to prevent free movement. It is believed that this encourages the limbs to grow straight and strong and prevents the babe from hurting itself. Boy and girl children dress much the same until roughly the age of five. Children begin to take part in the household at this point, learning their role in society, starting any schooling they may be eligible for (“songschool”, as appropriate to class and station).
As early as age seven, boys are sent out to apprentice to a trade in the house of a relative who plies the same trade as the father. If he feels the child does not have the aptitude for the craft, the parents find the child a master in another trade to take him on, and applies to that craft’s guild for the boy. Unless there is a master in the new trade to actively sponsor the boy to an apprenticeship, it is unlikely the guild allows him to apprentice. Apprenticeships can be as short as seven years or as long as 10 or 12 years (goldsmiths and brass wiremakers, respectively). For the family with money, however, these may be reduced by a fine that may be as high as £4 sterling paid to the guild.
Girls commonly learn the craft of their fathers as they are taught the womanly arts of caring for the home and ordering and taking care of any staff (as applicable) by their mothers. Alternately, if there is a spinster or widow plying her family’s or husband’s trade who is in need of an apprentice, she may have other options. There are a number of crafts and trades that women participated in as full guild members: butcher; chandler; ironmonger; netmaker; shoemaker; glover; girdler; haberdasher; pursemaker; capmaker; skinner; bookbinder; gilder; painter; silkweaver; embroiderer; spicer; smith, even goldsmith, among many others. Brewing was largely done by women (brewsters), a favorite bye-industry of married women at home, called “alewives.” Whether retail or wholesale, the brewster/baxter (baxter = female baker) combination of crafts was common among women.
But such women were indeed, married. Women generally marry young among the common and landbound classes. This is not so true among the nobility, who must be careful to make matches advantageous to the family fortunes and influence. The noble men may marry at any age, sometimes heirs being bound in a marriage contract at birth or before they reach the age of 3. Among the lower classes the men, too, marry young. The wife commonly moves into the husband’s house, generally with his family, unless wealthy enough to secure a separate lodging for them, or the woman brings in dowry a suitable piece of land for them to build their home on. The eldest male generally never leaves the house, because when his father steps down he needs to be there to maintain the family farm/business. When the parents pass on, the heir simply maintains residence.
A girl is expected to marry by age 14, 18 at the latest, even earlier for noble marriages and those among the upper nobility made for reasons of state for which the Church has given consent. Among the lesser nobility, particularly knighted families where marriages are much more critical to the advancement of the family, girls are expected to live completely virtuous lives until the head of the family can secure a suitable advantageous match.
It can easily be said that, in human society, the men rule, but that is a very misleading generality. There are numerous songs of the period that have come down to us about strong-minded women who insisted on having things their own way, who gave their men nothing but the rough edge of their tongues until satisfied. The argument between men and women over “who wears the pants” comes from the period of the game when pants (trews, breeks, gaskins, etc.) first came into use as a garment specifically to distinguish men by their garb. No doubt a woman could gain a great deal of personal freedom by wearing men’s attire and masquerading as such. Of course, if care is not taken and the ruse is pierced and becomes public knowledge, the Church likely to seek to prosecute. For a woman to express herself as a man is a trespass against the natural order of things, a violation of the Golden Chain discussed in the Primer. Of course, a woman who had done her duty and married only to lose her husband was her own woman, to dispose of herself any children and monies and property as she likes. The wealthiest woman in Tudor England was Bess of Hardwick, married five times and each time a great step up in wealth and prestige, one of the Queens Ladies in Waiting at one time, where she met one of her husbands. The many strategies and approaches to securing freedom of travel for characters from the various social classes for the purposes of adventure are discussed in more detail in the medieval background of the gameworld.
Point of View
The relationships human societies form with the other races are affected largely by the differences in their attitudes concerning roles of men and women and also approaches to property and business.
In the human view, the dwarfs are reclusive and taciturn lot, their fear of open spaces a mystery. The dwarfs are seen as a deeply possessive people. Humans generally envy the quality of dwarfish goods and the marvelous secrets that their craftsmen hold. In their jealous suspicion, the dwarfs are tight-fisted with their goods, despite the apparent high standard of dwarfish life. Humans are by no means fond of the rather unendearing streak of hard-headedness that makes them as unyielding as the stone of their mountain homes at times. This does not prevent them from seeking them out for the purposes of trade at least, but they have learned to be wary of dwarfish trade agreements and contracts, having been caught by the short hairs that way more than once. The dwarfish dour pragmatism and practicality fairly flies in the face of human faith, religion, and spirituality, and commonly bruises tender noble egos. Their integrity cannot be argued, however, despite how insistent they are to have debts repaid them, or how much they hate for the debts they owe others to be recounted, which seems to be almost as much as they dislike to become indebted to any outsider.
From their first contact with them, the humans’ view of the elfs was divided between a subtle fear and anger. The fear was for their extreme age (only half-believed), their strange customs, and the eldritch power of Færie to which they were kin. The anger came of the elfin gall in trying to tell the human folk where and how to live, the elfin lack of willingness to take a stand and fight for their land or leave it to the humans cleanly, free of tricks, of traps, or tests and the taint of their accursed magick. Over the centuries, however, the common folk have romanticized the elfs, touting their manners and grace (which truly only belongs mostly to the high elfs), and their beauty. Elfin goods are highly prized for their fluid grace and natural beauty, far beyond the same goods of human make, and where beauty has priority over utility, valued more even than goods of dwarfish make. Few elfs are ever seen in human society, as they abhor the towns of men, despite the fact that even the lowest among them are generally always treated nobly. With their reclusive ways, only a very few humans can claim that they have ever actually known the elfin folk, and for this they invariably trekked to the wild places where the elfs live to learn from them. Even fewer of these ever become “Elf Friends”. In addition, places where elfs are said to dwell are commonly feared because they are almost invariably also færie-haunted. The overwhelming majority of humans simply do not have the humility or courage to ask to sit at the feet of the elfs and benefit from the great body of knowledge they possess.
Due to the occasional mingling with the Færie races over the centuries, and especially with the occasional halfelf, some of the fey blood runs here and there in the older bloodlines among the human folk, especially among the peoples corresponding to the Celts (Irish, Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Bretagne) in the GM’s world. In these peoples a strange power simply called “The Sight” may manifest every so often in a family member who is highly Spiritual, enabling them to see the fey when they manifest in the mortal world, whether they cloak themselves in Glamourie or not, also snatches of precognitive vision, and visions of loved ones in moments of high emotion or distress. These abilities are intended to come into play only for those with magickal talent (SPT and MSS scores of 14 or higher), whether they are trained or not, but this will be allowed at the GM’s discretion to provide color for the character, especially in cases where the character’s knowledge of his heritage and background is incomplete or a sham, or they are completely unknown.
Half-bloods are not generally well received among humans, except when they live their lives among the humans as part of the community, eventually being accepted the longer they are there, until they become fixtures in their communities. It is when such a character is apparently without roots, a traveler, an unknown quantity, that the humans’ trust and fear come into play. Such strange folk as they must either settle and integrate with the human folk or live far enough away not to stir their fearful imaginations, for if they reside too close by any ill-fortune may well be laid at their feet.