Showing posts with label a touch of history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label a touch of history. Show all posts

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Never Surrender?

Surrender or not, that is often the end of combat in D&D for the party or their enemies.

But what does surrender mean? Death? Imprisonment?

In history, there are many cases of surrender that end in neither death nor imprisonment. At the Battle of the Caudine Forks, 324 BC, the Romans walked into a trap. The Samnites, lead by Gaius Pontius trapped the Roman Legion in the passes with barricades. The Romans quickly realized their mistake and erected a camp. However, no attack was forthcoming. Gaius Pontius meant to wait until the food and water was gone, then accept terms.

However,  Gaius Pontius was too pleasantly surprised by this victory and sent a message to his father, Herennius, asking what he should do with the Romans. He hadn't expected this outcome. Herennius replied that Gaius should let them go. Herennius was a general in his own right, and this message didn't sound right to his son. The next message was much clearer: "Kill 'em all!" But Gaius was convinced that his father was going senile and sent for him.

Herennius arrived and explained that freeing the Legion and sending them on their way would position the Samnites and Roman for eternal peace through practical magnanimity. The other option, killing them all, would result in peace for a generation as Rome rebuilt it's legion to attack the Samnities.

Gaius Pontius decided on a third path, the yoke. Each Roman would be disarmed and forced to stoop under a spear lashed across the path home. Being wildly driven by honor, the Romans did this but marched home burning with anger. Either the Senate refused the treaty terms or merely waited until an excuse for war in 316 BC is unclear.

In either case, this appears to be a retelling of a tale from either the Punic Wars or a contemporaneous account of something Alexander the Great pulled off in his many campaigns. Truth or no, it establishes many cases where one side will let the other side to walk off relatively intact. Battles to the death in ancient times had a tendency of wiping out citizen farmers, which could result in massive disruptions of the economy or society of both combatants.

So, Herennius message is valid for gamers and generals alike. In the context of lawful or good characters, an honor bound solution is within the realm of possibilities.

Friday, October 25, 2019

City of Nace Update

I have been doing some updates to my City of Nace map. The software I am using is called Worldographer by Inkwell ideas.

When I first started with the software, I just started throwing stuff on a map all willy-nilly. If it looked vaguely correct, I went with it. Since this is a Roman themed campaign, I realized that I need Roman themed buildings. Worldographer comes with a solid icon set, which features hundreds of icons. This is overwhelming at first.

In the first iteration of the map you can see medieval structures blended with Romanesque structures. I thought it was cool, but then I learned to hate it .


I have been slowly updating and over writing medieval structures with Roman-like ones. In the image below, can see the difference. These two blocks are a mixture of villas and apartments. To get a sense of scale as to how large this city is, the villas have a footprint of 160 feet across by 80 feet. Each black grid box is 80x80 and each city block is about 800 by 800 feet to the middle of the road. I plan on having about 62 of these insulas or city blocks on the map, perhaps more. 


There are a couple of different villas, some with large stone block structures and others that are more plain. I did some sketches of villas based on some of the ideas I had for this city. Currently, I am working on inking some of the apartment like structures.

With the sense of scale, you should have a sense of density. The smaller, rectangular structures are apartments, which could hold 20-24 families. The Romans sort of had a nuclear family, but they also had a high mortality rate. Sometimes, families would include adopted family members, adult children (adopted or not), servants, in-laws, parents and slaves. A family of 4 plus, one parent, one in-law, a servant and a slave would be 8 people packed into a tiny space. Add in some cousins and such and the density swells. Each one of these structures would hold about 175-200 people in a 40 by 80 foot space.

Since this city is new and Romanesque, the town will have massive green spaces and broad roads because of the expected density. To be Roman was to be civilized and that meant your city was your home. Your apartment was merely were you slept.

Nace has two independent, but side-by-side agricultural industries going on. The first is the official state run gardens of magical herbs. The other is the hoppers and brewers black market. Due to happenstances of history, the city first had a minor environmental disaster that made some parts of the city undesirable for dwellings rapidly followed by two acts of war which made rehabing these areas impractical. The brewers moved in and started planting trees, flowers and herbs in the empty spaces of the city. Such activities in the city are illegal, but the Hopper's Guild is too strong to be confronted, mainly for the reason of beer. The other issue is that almost no one wants to live in these areas, so bringing the practice to heel is not practicable.

The villas with the stone block structures are silos for black market goods, mill houses or fake silos. Some people pretend to have access to black market sources to inflate their social standing and build these fake structures into their homes. Mill houses are animal and human powered grinding stations within the city walls. Both tend to hide the houses of  illicit business. Some of these mill houses are simply stone sitting areas where children and women sit with family and neighbors to gossip while using small hand mills. It could take hours to produce enough flour feed a family for a day, so these are social hot spots in the town.


The second type of villa house has a central courtyard, sometimes with a fountain or pool, memorial stones or other outside artwork. I have rendered all exterior features as "stone thingies". They could be standing stones, benches, flagstones, etc.

These villas are slightly more modern than a Roman villa, while maintaining many of the features. The roof covers only the sections around the walls with an open courtyard. The exterior walls are brick covered with stucco or perhaps marble depending on the owner's wealth. Some of the walls are not entirely closed. The most modern area is a smallish gable like structure on the south wall. Its is two stories tall and has two 15' by 10' wings which are independent of the main two story structure. The main space is about 20' by 30'. The front doors are vaguely like the large wooden doors on a stave church. This central structure serves many purposes, from storage to upscale apartments.

The two L shaped, roofed but unenclosed areas are work areas. In winter, the ends of the L's would be closed off by light wooden walls with doors. This area doesn't often receive snow. The southern two corners are bedrooms, while the center wings are offices and living spaces. In the open areas under the roof would be many tables and such to support the production work in the L shaped areas, whatever that might be.

Moving away from the housing areas, there are two large areas for infrastructure. First is the termination point for the aqueduct, which comes over the walls of Nace. From here water, is directed around the city underground. There are three large pool in this area: the main reservoir (center south), the public fountains (center north) and the fountain of Neptune (northeast). The main reservoir is 8 feet above ground and rough stairs lead up to the water's edge. The public fountains are large attached to a 3 foot retaining wall. Neptune's fountain is a massive pool with a backing wall 10 feet high. All three are connected by tunnels under the insula.


Midtown is the Colosseum, just east of the northern gate. It is a massive 4 insula or city blocks. Around the southern edge of this image are the tavern houses. These are illegal business and are frequently burned to the ground by arsonists. These pyromaniacs have yet to be arrested. Sometimes people go to bed looking at the large green spaces around the structure, only to awaken to new, illegal bars and taverns in the morning.

The grounds of the Colosseum are public spaces and no buildings can be built there, except the 4 gladiator quarters. The city guard plans on not investigating their 3 planned arsons that will demolish the row of taverns on the southeastern side of the Colosseum. The citizens don't mind because of the cheap beer and the fact that the guard calls the fire brigade before it commits these unsolvable crimes. It's a game of flaming cat and mouse. 

Much of this history is based on David Macaulay's excellent book, City.

 I do receive remuneration for Amazon Ads, and if you purchase the Kindle version, I receive more. However, I strongly suggest you pick up the cheaper, paper copy because it is just better experience.

As an added bonus, David Macaulay partnered with PBS to create the film Roman City, which uses animation and live action show how his fictional city of Verbonia came to be. I have yet to find DVDs, but it is available on Youtube.