Monday, May 29, 2006

How fast did news travel in Middle Ages Europe?

This question was asked on the RPGObjects boards, and since my answer was about as long as a blog post, and since my history musings seem fairly popular here, I thought I'd cross post it.

Here's the original question:

Chuck,In all that research you've done... do you have any idea how
knowledge of world events propegated prior to electronic communication? It's
easy to picture messengers with specific orders whizzing about at horse speed
but what about lesser generic news?Looking over your time line from B&R I'm
wondering about things like what did the King in France know about events
happening in Rome? How long did it take for news to travel? Obviously hot gossip
moves quickly... but not everything is hot at the time it happens.

And my answer:

It depends on when of course.In this case early is better. The Roman world, with
its roads, (relatively) pacified populations in Europe and high degree of
organization could get a message from France to Italy very, very quickly and
efficiently.There were official waystations on the Roman roads for couriers and
those on official business that provided refreshments and fresh horses, allowing
a message or important person to travel 500 miles in 24 hours. Since the Roman
roads comprised more than 50,000 miles of networking routes, you could thus get
almost anywhere in Europe very fast. In the early dark ages (476 to 800) things
were much, much worse. The Roman roads could no longer be repaired, at least not
easily (the secret of concrete was lost and would remain that way for over 1000
years) and the chaos of barbarian migrations and wars prevented people from
traveling whenever possible, certainly not for something so mundane as
delivering "news".From 800-1400 things were a little better, with regular news
coming from all over via Churchmen, Kings, soldiers and occupying armies. While
news would be a much more regular occurance in this period, it would only be
from "official" sources and thus biased. So you'd get news but from a
Pravda-like source.Consider what you'd hear about a great scientific achievment,
for example. Unless it had a practical application to your Lord's farming or
military concerns, you probably wouldn't even be told. From the church you might
hear that it was wrong and the scientist a heretic because the discovery
violated dogma. From 1400-1800 you start to get more "unofficial" news, and by
the 19th century, things return to what was the norm in the Roman world, with
news crossing Europe in 1-2 days. Only in the 20th century do things actually
get better than they were in the 5th century.This is why, unlike some modern
historians, I have no problem with the term "dark ages" for the early Middle
Ages. It was a real example of a post-apocalypse society.Some technologies were
maintained if they had a military application and were relatively simple to
make, like iron weapons and iron chain mail. Other (again military technologies)
advanced some, like the stirrup and horsemanship. But by and large technology
was behind where it had been in the 5th century for 1000-1500 years. Keep in
mind in the year 500 you had indoor plumbing, public baths (and the associated
hygeine and relative freedom from disease that comes with it), concrete, the
arch, cranes capable of lifting 6-7 tons for construction and cargo loading,
wine presses, aqueducts, bridges, theaters, mechanized harvesting machines,
aqueducts for irrigation and water supply and so forth. This whole package of
engineering knowledge alone would not reappear until the early 20th century.

Hope you enjoyed this. It really is an eye opener to me every single time I drag out my notes and take a survey of the state of Roman technology from the 1st to 5th centuries.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Blood and Time reviewed

Nice Blood and Time review by RPGNow Staff reviewer Chris Gath (ENWorld's Crothian).

X-men 3 review

Well, as you can probably guess from my open, and rather shameless fanboyishness toward this franchise, I loved it.

The characters were spot-on, Beast, Kitty, Multiple Man, Juggernaut, Callisto, hell even Spike (from X-men Evolution) were all nailed and translated more or less perfectly from comic to screen.

Interestingly many of these are on the side of "evil" in the movie, "evil" being the side dedicated to wiping out the cure for mutation. I liked that, since I could see otherwise good mutants lining up to make sure that abomination never sees the light of day.

Also the characters from the previous movies were given a chance to shine, especially iceman and storm and colossus.

The movie also had some great moment for the fans like the fastball special, iceman icing up, a sentinel and the danger room.

I give it an A+ overall.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Recent Offerings

Well both of my recent releases are doing well (let's hope this isn't a goocher).

Blood and Time is currently #2 on the overall sci-fi list and #4 on the site-wide Hot Sellers list at RPGNow (makes me realize what a hot category sci-fi is- hmmm) meanwhile Legends of Sorcery: Gems, a book with maybe the most clunky title ever, continues to chug along modestly and has slipped up to #7 on the overall fantasy list.

I know return you to your trembled, Remains of the Day-like anticipation of X-3... oh, wait that would be me. Nevermind.


Zero Hour

Well my pilgrimage to see X-3 is almost upon me. I will have a review anon.

It's all about the drama with you!

Sorry for channeling Tony Soprano there.

No, no I'm not.

Anyhoo, I've completed a little PDF that will allow you to draw random cards from a deck, then play the cards by spending action points.

Sort of a way to add a little spice to your game and my personal homage to Torg's drama deck, one of the coolest game concepts ever.

We'll see if folks like it buggled into their d20 Modern games.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A good month to be me

Or at least to write what I write.

Between The Da Vinci Code and X-3 it looks like Hollywood producers have finally started acknowledging that I have my finger on the pulse of the American psyche.

Now go play some Blood and Relics and Blood and Vigilance games inspired by these movies.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Some quick updates

A couple of things have hit the virtual shelves in the past couple of days that I'd like to point your cursors toward:

Legends of Sorcery Gems, bringing the mystical power of gems to your games, allowing you to embed them in items as a way to enchance them. It also includes the Jeweller low magic class and the Geomancer medium magic class.

Modern System Gangland, updating an older product. If you ever wanted to play a criminal, or just add more interesting felons to your game as baddies, this little book is for you.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

T minus 8 days and counting

X-3 in 8 days. WOOT! This movie is going to rock. Here's the featurette that was on Fox. This movie uses a plotline from Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men" run in which a cure is developed for mutation. This is a great plotline and the actors really responded to it, especially Ian McKellan and Halley Berry who understand the overtones of "curing the different" all too well.

Patrick Stewart has said many times he thinks this is the best script of the three, and I am officially geeked.

The Unit has been renewed.

Well that didn't take long. The schedules for the next season were announced the day after the Unit's season finale and it made the cut. Not surprising since it was a top 10 show, but after all the indecision and "maybe it will maybe it won't" second season of Rome, it's nice to not have to wait.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Yes I have a review and a video over at eclectic, but it's become my personal mission to introduce this band to folks, so you get more here. Go read the review and watch the video at eclectic for good measure too.

I love this band. Music not actually slotted into some AOR category by design is so refreshing when you hear it in today's "slot into programming and be under 3 minutes for radio" world.

Through the wall?

Had a little brown out, writing the Feeding Grounds adventure for GenCon (guess it's good I started early huh). When that happens and I am grinding out writing for work trying to break through to the far side of the wall, recreational writing (like this blog) get shut down entirely.

Maybe that's not good for me. Frequently the best answer to burnout is more writing, not less, but sometimes it just sucks to stare at this screen.

That said, you might have noticed posting has resumed, which means enough of my whining, cylinders are starting to fire again.

And I also updated my long neglected music reviews blog, eclectic music reviews, with a review of one of the most interesting new artists I've come across in ages. Haven't checked out eclectic reviews yet? Stop in and give it a look, I think you'll find some interesting tunes as well as my usual ADD-style ramblings.

Unit Season Finale

So tonight we had two Unit episodes for the second week in a row. Sweet. Maybe they started the series too late in the mid-season run but since it's a top 20 show they wanted to get in a whole half season so they could sell some DVD box sets. Works for me.

The finale was great, working well both as an end to the series (if it's cancelled) as well as setting up possibilities if the series comes back. Turns out that David Mamet guy is kinda talented.


One thing that struck me about the finale is that the Unit is attacked at a private party. They're honoring their Colonel's marriage to his new wife. When the bad guys walk in, every single one of them, including their Colonel who never goes on field missions, doing the paperwork stuff and mission coordination, is armed.

Hilarious. It was a real PC moment (no one in a game ever goes anywhere armed).

Of course, if you have watched the whole run of the series, there are some other, darker and more interesting reasons why every single one of them might have been armed at this particular party.

If you don't know what I mean...

Even Bigger Spoiler Alert

The Colonel is sleeping with the wife of one of his men, and Delta Force founding member (and series consultant, producer and writer) Eric L. Haney makes clear in his blog that if the men found this out THEY (plural as in the entire unit) would kill him.

At this party, the Colonel had just broken off the affair with the wife of his soldier and gotten quickly married to another woman.

I'm not sure how many of the men knew... but ALL their wives knew, and one of the wives (newbie wife Kim) had vowed to tell her husband, the Unit's newest member Bob.

I'm not sure anything was implied by all of them being armed, could just be healthy paranoia. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.

Geek Week interviews "Joss Whedon"

You'll understand why the interview is listed as "Joss Whedon" after you watch. Hilarious.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Appointment TV: The Unit

I don't normally "do" TV the old-fashioned way, which is to say I set my schedule around the program and set aside time to watch episodes as they air. I'm more of a tape the show/bittorrent kind of guy myself.

Only rarely does a show grab me enough where I am unwilling to wait at all, even if that means suffering through commercials and rearranging my schedule.

Currently there's two shows that meet this criteria: Smallville and the new entry, The Unit.

The Unit is a show about Delta Force run by David Mamet (author of Untouchables among many many other plays and movies) and Shawn Ryan (former Angel writer and creator of amazing cop drama The Shield).

The show focuses on a Delta Force unit and their wives, with the plots of each episode revolving more or less equally between in the field and homefront. It's a really fascinating look at the secretive world of special ops and has a founding member of Delta Force as a consultant and writer.

Two new episodes tonight. Mmmm.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blood and Time: One Day Early!

Instead of releasing on Monday we went ahead and released Blood and Time today. Check it out and let me know what you think!

We also released the Lindberg Kidnapping today, an adventure compatible with Timeline: Roaring 20's and Blood and Time today.


Sunday Musings

Working on the Feeding Grounds, my upcoming Darwin's World adventure for my upcoming Darwin's World setting (coming to a GenCon near you I think) and I'm trying to wrap my mind around the city the adventure is set in.

It's sort of Dawn of the Dead. It's definitely a horror setting. I'm also trying to decide how to handle the issue of people who went to sleep (cryo sleep centuries ago) in paradise and woke up in hell.

Probably not realistically. Save vs. straightjacket doesn't make for good adventuring most of the time.


Friday, May 05, 2006

New Voyages Trailer: In Harm's Way

Available now, this episode shows how good a fan-film can actually be and represents the New Voyages crew at its best. I have high hopes for the episodes to come but this ranks as one of the best trek stories ever.

Plus- this episode has the Doomsday Machine, the Guardian of Forever and Pike all in one episdoe. As good as many of the "professional" trek episodes. Better than Enterprise. Way better thanVoyager.

JJ Abrams dishes on Trekkies

He likes us, he really likes us! Seriously though, to all the idiots out there who think he just wants to take the franchise and wreck it and turn it into Lost, all I can say is "nyah". Of course those folks won't believe this anyway. He's recasting Kirk and Spock, obviously, just to crush their dreams.

"I have been on the road since the news came out," [Abrams] says, suddenly looking somewhat fearful. "Is the reaction bad?" No. On balance, they seem happy enough.

"Being involved with a series that has a passionate and vocal following makes me incredinly sympathetic," he says, happier. "They have to put up with so many incarnations along the way. These fans, they are a smart bunch. They are an intelligent group. We are respectful and we have no intention odf subverting the material".

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why Ben Affleck being in Trek XI is not the end of the world...

As we know it, and why I feel fine about it.

Ok, the rumors are flying faster than Paris Hilton's clothes at an airshow about the new trek movie, and the latest rumor, that Ben Affleck is being courted for a starring role has the trekkers really, really upset.

They of course assume "starring role" means he'll play Kirk.

What if he plays Pike though?

Picture this: Affleck plays Pike, Capt of the Enterprise, picks up Kirk, (maybe taking him from the Academy to his first posting or some such), there's a crisis, where Kirk, Spock and Pike end up saving the day. During the course of the adventure, Pike gets mangled and Kirk is promoted to take command.

Then *BAM* spin off series starring the unknowns playing Kirk and Spock.

This is just one possible scenario, but it's actually an optimistic one.

What is it about trek fans that make them read every rumor in the worst possible light and then go Chicken Little?

T minus 4 days and counting...

Blood and Time, as well as an introductory mini-adventure set during the Lindberg kidnapping will both be released Monday.



Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Art Preview: A Time Enforcer meets a dinosaur on its own terms

Nice piece from the upcoming Blood and Time.

Breaking News: Blood and Fists coming back to print

Blood and Fists, the premier martial arts book written by yours truly has been out of print for awhile now and we constantly get orders for it on Amazon that we have to refuse.

But not anymore.

We're releasing a Blood and Fists: Master Edition that will include all the material from Blood and Fists, Blood and Fists: Hong Kong Knights, Wasteland Fury and Cosmic Fury. In all there will be over 100 martial arts styles and more maneuvers than you can shake a stick at.



Blood and Time: looks good

Well, I'm really starting to get jazzed now. This looks like it's going to be a great book.

I know, I'm biased. But I don't gush a lot about my stuff and usually have an idea how much gamers will like stuff because I am a gamer ;)


Monday, May 01, 2006

Blood and Time: in my (virtual) hand

Proofreading it now. Looks good. This is always an exciting time.

Except for all those mistakes we find lol.

Updates soon


Night Ride Part 1

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