British Museum

dsc_0045It’s hard to think of the day we visited the British Museum as the second day of our trip, I keep thinking it was the first.  Probably because the day we left pretty much ran right into our first day there, like one long 40+ hour day.  Anyway, it was kind of rainy on our first real day in London and we decided to visit the British Museum.  I found it much like any other museum really.  I gravitated towards the Medieval Europe section, both because that’s always my favorite part, but also I hoped this being London there would be an especially large collection to be seen.

While that wasn’t actually so, I did find one thing that really interested me: hoards.  There were several displays of “hoards” found buried in some farmer’s field, usually by a local guy with a metal detector, consisting of a lot of coins and often pieces of jewelry.  Of course, this strikes me as right out of a D&D treasure table, but I also found myself wondering why on earth someone would bury a large collection of money like this, and then forget all about it.  The only thing I could think of was that perhaps it was done during a time of conflict.  I could imagine some rich merchant on seeing his town attacked by invaders (I imagined Vikings) burying his money in some remote location in hopes they wouldn’t find it, and then getting himself killed trying to flee the area.  Then it sits there for hundreds of years until some 20th century fellow with his metal detector digs it up.  Of course, this immediately draws my imagination to how to incorporate these ideas into D&D.  I think I could feel much more justified hiding random caches of treasure in my game if I can come up with back-stories like this.

Another interesting fact I discovered: ancient coins are much smaller than I always imagine them.  This is probably because of D&D encumbrance rules always telling me that 10 coins weight 1 pound.  A coin that weighs 1/10 of a pound must be pretty heavy indeed!  In fact, on this trip I discovered an interesting fact: originally 240 silver pennies weighed one pound, which is why the English currency is in fact called a “pound”.  In the old system there were 12 pennies to the schilling, and 20 schillings to the pound, thus 240 pennies to the pound.  Anyway, this has got me thinking that I should probably change this rule in my home campaign.  Perhaps I’ll make it 100 coins to the pound, just to keep the math easy.

The last bit of gaming inspiration I found was a pair of gates from ancient Assyria.  They’re enormous and really cool looking, and also there was a convenient map of the place they were found.  A map that just begs to be numbered and stocked.  I’m sure I’ll transcribe that to graph paper eventually.

Speaking of ancient Assyria and gaming, the last thing that really caught my eye was a huge set of stone gates.  It wasn’t the gates themselves though, I didn’t even take a picture of that, it was what was scratched onto one of the two foot high edges — a board game.  Apparently it’s a Royal Game of Ur board probably scratched by some bored palace guards assigned to watch the gate.  It’s just too bad that the rules of the game are lost to time, I’d live to try and play it.

Anyway, that was our trip to the British Museum.  And somehow, I’ve managed to make most of this post all about gaming.  Anyway, here are the photos.  Enjoy.

3 thoughts on “British Museum

  1. I do think the issues around coinage are quite interesting (I’ve posted some on my blog about it, under “money”). Definitely in favor of weighing coins more like 100 per pound; that’s one of the core big-mistakes baked into D&D from the beginning (also, valuing stuff in gold instead of silver).

  2. Yeah, I switched to a silver standard in our campaign a while back too. I didn’t change much, just shifted everything a decimal point and use silver as the basis for XP.

    I really like what this has done to gold and platinum in our game. Gold is pretty valuable, and I find it pretty satisfying to start players with 3d6 gp. It seems like so little, until they see prices like full plate costs 6 gp. A platinum piece — that’s a fortune. Every now and then a player pulls out a platinum piece (usually to over-pay and/or bribe an NPC) and everyone at the table takes notice.

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