Sorry for the silence the past week, but I just returned from a lovely vacation in Merry Old England, and on returning the climate of New England has been like a punch to the gut. Ugh, what happened here while I was gone? Who said it was time to be winter?
Anyway, you can see some lovely holiday snaps via Google Photos here if you like of my trip to London and Oxford. All the museum trips and exploration of 600+ year old architecture naturally sparks one kind of thought in particular for me though: how can I apply this to my gaming? Here are a couple ideas that came to me while looking at the artifacts:
1. Narrow Stairs
I climbed the tower at Oxford Castle and at Christ Church in Oxford, both originally medieval military defensive structures, and they had one feature very much in common: super steep and narrow stairways. Here’s a shot, notice how much my feet hang off the incredibly narrow step:
At the more crowded Oxford Castle when I went up and down such stairs as part of a large tour, we fit one person wide, and I could maybe see two people above and below me at most. The stairs are also all curved in this same direction, so that defenders coming down them can easily swing swords with their right hands, while attackers coming up have the awkward choice between trying to swing around the central column, or switching to their left hand.
This strikes me as a great setup for a really interesting fight. Everyone in single file. You can only see two people in front and behind you. It’s a huge crowd. Fight!
2. More Clever Locks
Here is a chest I saw in the British Museum in London. The little placard tells of how it contains three separate locks each with a unique key. And note the weird hinges that would be entirely confined to the inside of the box when closed. No breaking off the hinges to get into this sucker. Add in super thick wood and lots of metal, and this is sure to drive any party mad. Depending on how diabolical a DM you want to be, the interior could contain amazing treasure, or just another trap. Similarly, I saw a mummy enclosed in no less than three nested coffins. Makes that needle trap and orc guard seem like a pretty poor method of securing your valuables, doesn’t it?
OK, this one I don’t have a picture of, but apparently the Oxford Castle was used as a prison for a pretty long time, and as such is a good record of Medieval methods for dealing with criminals. The most interesting fact the tour guide gave us that made me think was that the prison itself was not meant as a punishment. No, punishments were far more severe – prison is just where you went until they got around to dealing with you. And conditions being so dreadful, probably you died just waiting for someone to pass judgement on you. But if you survived perhaps you would get off lightly and they’d lock in you in the pillory in the town square for a couple days, with your ears nailed to the boards, to have rotten food and rocks and who knows what else pelted at you by the public. And if you survived that, and you were very lucky, maybe when they opened the lock they’d give you a dull knife so you could cut off your own ears and go home. If not, well, give ’em a good yank and I’m sure they’ll tear free.
So there you have it. Use these to torment your players as you see fit.