Wednesday, May 16, 2018

[D&D] Flanaess Cuisine

Gary Gygax loved to talk about food and drink. As anyone who participated in the online Q&A sessions with him at places like ENWorld and Dragonsfoot can attest, he would frequently veer off on tangents about those topics, which were clearly more interesting to him than the sorts of D&D rules minutia that the fans wanted to discuss. Therefore, its no surprise that he tended to include detailed descriptions of such matters in both the D&D gamebooks and his later novels - most famously in the description of the Inn of the Welcome Wench in The Village of Hommlet and in chapter 14 of his novel Saga of Old City, in which he devotes several pages to an exacting course-by-course itemization of every item shared by Gord and Gellor at the Horn and Haunch tavern in the city of Stoink. However, those are far from the only mentions of food and drink - Gene Weigel uncovered dozens more, large and small. There are so many references to food and drink in Gary's Greyhawk works that it's possible by combining them all to get a pretty detailed picture of what he imagined the typical diet of that imaginary world's inhabitants to be.

One thing that stands out immediately is that it is strictly medieval, with all "New World" foods such as potatoes, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco conspicuous by their total absence (at least in all of the references I checked). This is a bit surprising, both because Gary generally wasn't hung up on "anachronism" (and in his later years advocated moving the default technological base of D&D forward to approx. 1650 for everything except gunpowder) and furthermore because he posited a class of cosmopolitan inter-planar travelers with knowledge of other worlds, including modern-day earth, and surely could have brought back such items (similarly to how Gord purchases several bottles of 1947 Chateau Margaux Margaux from a wine merchant in Weird Way), but the consistent absence of such items can only have been deliberate. With that in mind, and aided by several Google searches, I've filled in a few blank spots in the culinary landscape based on typical European medieval cuisine.

Does any of this matter or make a difference when playing D&D? Not really - as long as you know that a "merchant's meal" costs 1 s.p. and a week's supply of rations costs 3 g.p. for "standard" or 5 g.p. for "iron" per the Players Handbook it probably doesn't affect the game to know what exactly they consist of. And yet, added detail can also make the game more immersive, and help the players to picture the imaginary world. Going into exhaustive detail on every meal the characters consume is undoubtedly overkill, and yet the bill of fare at the Inn of the Welcome Wench with its list of exotic wines and brandies is still fondly remembered almost 40 years later as the kind of detail and flavor that made Gary Gygax's version of D&D so evocative.

Breakfast: bread (loaves, rolls, muffins), gruel/porridge (semolina, groat clusters), oat cakes, herbs, berries (whortleberries ("European blueberries"), lingonberries, blackberries, black currants), jellies, honey, cream & butter; herbal tea* or small beer (There's no mention of bacon, eggs, breakfast sausages, or ham - presumably in the Flanaess such hearty breakfast fare is consumed solely by hard-laboring farmers and not by city-dwellers or travelers)

Poor fare: gruel, soups, stews ("slumgullion"), hard black bread; small beer or sour wine

Dinner/supper - common inn and tavern fare: loaves of bread, puddings, soups, stews (ragout), steak and kidney pies (hot at dinner, cold at supper), smoked meat and fish, roasted meat (pork, mutton), roasted fowl (capon), sausages, fresh fruit and nuts**, boiled eggs, cheeses, butter, honey; beer (small beer, ale, stout, milk stout), herbal tea, honey mead, wine, mulled wine

Dinner/supper - rich or elaborate fare: fresh fish (poached salmon, stuffed trout), exotic seafood (smoked eel, boiled crayfish in drawn butter, crayfish soup), roasted venison, roasted or stuffed fowl (squab, pheasant, goose), fresh greens and vegetables (mushrooms and truffles, radishes, pickles, scallions, salads), spices (pepper, saffron, ginger), rare and imported cheeses***, butter and cream, fresh fruits and berries, tarts (berry, nut, mincemeat), iced cakes; rare and imported wines and brandies****, whiskey

Travelers' fare (i.e. "standard rations"): hard sausages, dried fruit, dried fish, wheat loaves, cheese, pickled vegetables and eggs (iron rations = jerky, hard tack, hard cheese, dried nuts)

Regional variances: In Gary's works the menus are mostly the same whether the meals are being served in Stoink, Urnst, Hommlet, Veluna, or Greyhawk City. Some of that is presumably due to the characters typically dining in inns and taverns, which are likely to be more similar to each other than if they were dining in local homes (noble or peasant). Also, those locations are all centrally located along the tributaries of the Nyr Dyv, and had Gary gone into more detail on the cuisine of far-flung locales we might have seen more variety. To step outside of this "canonical" baseline, the notion of Cultural Approximations in Greyhawk suggests some fairly obvious regional specialties - waffles from the Duchy of Urnst, raclette from Perrenland, breaded veal cutlets from Veluna, haggis from Geoff and Sterich, etc.

*Tea is mildly anachronistic in comparison to the other mentioned foods (since it wasn't commonly introduced to Europe until the 17th century) but nevertheless Gary mentions it frequently, and even includes a couple of dedicated tea-houses. Characters consume a variety of different herbal teas including alder-root tea, bark tea, blackberry tea, lingonberry tea, and an unspecified "smokey-flavored tea," but never common black or green tea

**based on the list of common trees in the World of Greyhawk Guide pp. 6-7: apple, apricot, cherry, chestnut, fig, galda (Oerth-native), grapefruit, kara (Oerth-native), lemon, lime, mulberry, olive, orange, peach, pear, pine, plum, usk (Oerth-native), walnut, yarpick (Oerth-native)

***Gary describes and named several such cheeses, including smoked Okelard cheese (presumably equivalent to gouda), Kettite goat cheese, Perrenlander cheese (equivalent to Swiss), Wickler from the Yeomanry (a blue cheese), and Djekul - a creamy, smelly cheese from the land of Fruztii (presumably equivalent to something like Pont l'Eveque). Surely there are many more such cheeses in the Flanaess, making this a ripe (ha!) area for further individual development

****A wide variety of wines are named and described, giving us a pretty solid sense of the wine economy of the Flanaess. The Rhennee typically drink a harsh red wine but favor fine wine from Caporna (wherever that may be [EDIT: a town in County Urnst, on the Artonsamay River]). Likewise, the Paynim tribes drink pungent date wine, but value the wine of the Chepnoi people of the Sulhaut mountains. A strange, mildly addictive black wine comes from the Pomarj, but production of it has declined since that land was conquered by humanoids. The major wine-producing areas are Urnst (white wine and special aged brandy) and Keoland (golden wine, amber wine (served chilled), and brandy). Furyondy and Veluna produce comparatively fewer wines, but theirs are among the most celebrated - Furyondian dry white and emerald pale, and Velunan fireamber. However, the rarest and most celebrated wines of the Flanaess are produced by elves - Sunndish elves produce lilac wine, the elves of Celene a ruby wine, emerald wine (served chilled), and nectawine (made from moonberries harvested only when both moons are blue), while the elves of Ulek produce both a heady, sparkling violet wine and their unique "elixir" liqueur. Even the drow produce wine - a black wine with an earthy smell and taste like nothing else that is so strong that consuming a single gill (4 oz.) will make a human tipsy. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

AD&D Languages

Another big info-dump post. Here's a list I compiled of all the languages mentioned in the World of Greyhawk set and the various AD&D monster books (where creatures are mentioned as "having their own language"). The initial idea behind this was to come up with a more comprehensive version of the Random Language Determination table on DMG p. 102 but there ended up being so many languages to render that impractical (at least for the moment). So instead of a table I'm just presenting it as a raw list.

Human Languages:
Baklunish (spoken in Ekbir, Ket (alongside Common), Tiger Nomads, Tusmit, Ull, Wolf Nomads, and Zeif)
Flan (spoken in Geoff (alongside Common), Rovers of the Barrens, and Tenh)
Old Oeridian (spoken in Great Kingdom (including Medegia, North Province, Rel Astra, and South Province) and Ratik, generally alongside Common)
Rhennee (spoken by the Rhennee people, alongside Common)

Human Regional Dialects:
Fruz (Suloise/Flan dialect spoken by the Frost, Ice, and Snow Barbarians and in Stonefist - 40% compatible with Suloise and Flan)
Keolandish (Oeridian dialect spoken in Bissel, Gran March, Keoland, Sea Princes, the Ulek States, and the Yeomanry, often alongside Common - 60% compatible with Oeridian and Common)
Lendorian (Suloise dialect spoken alongside Common in the Spindrift Isles - 60% compatible with Suloise and Common)
Nyrondese (Oeridian dialect spoken by peasants and shopkeepers in Almor and Nyrond (alongside Common for learned people) - 60% compatible with Oeridian and Common)
Velondi (Oeridian dialect spoken by rural folk in Furyondy, Veluna, and Verbobonc - 60% compatible with Oeridian)

Archaic Human Languages:
Ancient Baklunish (ancient version of Baklunish still spoken in Plains of the Paynims (alongside Common for traders and educated folk) - 60% compatible with modern Baklunish)
Suloise (dead language now read only by scholars)

Human Foreign Languages:
High Suhfangese
Low Suhfangese

Common Non-human Languages:
Hill Giant*

Uncommon Non-human Languages:
Black Dragon*
Brass Dragon*
Copper Dragon*
White Dragon*
Fire Giant*
Stone Giant*
Water Naga*
Merrow (dialect of Ogrish)

Rare Non-human Languages:
Carnivorous Ape (rudimentary language)
Atomie (dialect of Sprite)
Blink Dog
Dark Creeper
(Dire Corby)
Blue Dragon*
Bronze Dragon*
Green Dragon*
Red Dragon*
Pan Lung/Shen Lung
Mist Dragon
Giant Eagle
Cloud Giant*
Frost Giant*
Storm Giant*
Giant Lynx
Mind Flayer
Moon Dog
Spirit Naga*
Giant Owl
(Tiger Fly)
Ice Toad
Umber Hulk

Very Rare Non-human Languages:
Gold Dragon*
Silver Dragon*
Lung Wang
T’ien Lung
Cloud Dragon
Faerie Dragon
Dragon Turtle
(Dune Stalker)
Foo Creature
Fog Giant
Mountain Giant
Greenhag (dialect of Annis)
Invisible Stalker
Lava Child
Guardian Naga*
Ogre Magian*
Svirfneblin (dialect of Gnome - 60% compatible)
Winter Wolf

Other-Planar Languages:
Common Tongue of Hades

Secret/Special Languages:
Alignment Languages (nine in total)
Ferral (Oeridian dialect now used as a secret code language among officials of the Iron League - 60% compatible with Oeridian)
Subterranean Trade Language (“Undercommon”)
Thieves Cant

I drew a distinction between Ancient Baklunish (as described in the WOG Guide p. 16) and modern Baklunish (per the table on the WOG Glossography p. 31).

The "Human Foreign Languages" were all made up by me, based on various off-map lands mentioned in Gary Gygax's Gord novels.

The "common" non-human languages are the nine listed on p. 34 of the Players Handbook plus the three additional languages (bugbear, gnome, hill giant) that have a 2% or higher occurrence on the DMG p. 102 table, which seemed like a reasonable standard. The "uncommon," "rare," and "very rare" lists are based on the monsters' Frequency (with common monsters that don't fit the above criteria included on the uncommon list).

Non-human languages with asterisks are those included in the table on DMG p. 102.

Non-human languages in parentheses are not mentioned in the books but I'm assuming based on the nature of the creatures that they probably have their own language (and note that the DMG p. 102 table includes several monster-languages that aren't mentioned in the Monster Manual: ettin, gargoyle, manticore, naga, salamander, and xorn).

The other-planar languages are mentioned in the books and are not specific to one monster; based on these it can probably be extrapolated that each Outer Plane has its own Common language (that presumably, like the modron language as described on MM2 p. 86, is related to that plane's corresponding Alignment Language(s)).

Various monster descriptions mention the ability to speak with types of animals - burrowing mammals, woodland animals, snakes, birds, fish, etc. I chose not include any of these as languages per se.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

[D&D] The World of Greyhawk's Population

In Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue series of novels depict the city of Greyhawk as a great, teeming metropolis, comparable in scale and atmosphere to both Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar and Victorian London as depicted in the novels of Charles Dickens (combined almost certainly with touches of the real-life Depression-era Chicago of Gary's own childhood). In the novel City of Hawks he even included a schematic map of the city showing its various districts and neighborhoods, with a scale that indicated the city covers an area of about 30 square miles - roughly seven miles north to south by 4-5 miles east to west. As I've mentioned previously, Gary describes the city in a way that makes it feel really alive, from the reeking Slums to the glittering High Quarter, with many other areas in between. The city feels almost impossibly, immeasurably large, truly the center of its own self-contained universe. The depiction of the city is by far the best thing about those novels, and it seems almost impossible to me that a D&D player would come away not wanting to use it as a central location in the game (with the fact that it was never detailed in print - and no, the version TSR released post-Gary emphatically does not count! - isn't really an obstacle, precisely because the city is so bi; it can't really be mapped or fully detailed - just use the large-scale district map and at the local level do whatever you want).

And yet, when you look up the entry for Greyhawk City in the World of Greyhawk, you see it listed with a population just over 50,000 (depending on which version of the set you're looking at - it's 53,000 in the original 1980 folio, increased slightly to 58,000 in the 1983 boxed set). That is, to put it mildly, not a teeming metropolis as described in the novels. And that's not just me applying unrealistic modern standards (like it being about half the size of the mid-sized city I grew up in) - in the medieval period there were many cities in Europe and the Near East with populations of 100,000 or more. Even the random city population size table for the World of Greyhawk that Gary included in Dragon #101 generates populations of up to 96,000, which puts Greyhawk's population as just about the middle of the range. In order to plausibly feel like its portrayal in the novels (and fill up those 30-odd square miles of space) Greyhawk City needs a population of at least several hundred thousand people. That the "official" population figure doesn't actually reflect the entire population - leaving out garrisons, criminals, foreign enclaves, and other such marginal groups - isn't enough to make up the difference.

But, having decided to increase the population of Greyhawk City, that creates another issue - if Greyhawk City has a population of around half a million, then the population figures for almost everyplace else in the World of Greyhawk become too low - Greyhawk City shouldn't have a higher population than the entire Kingdom of Furyondy, or the County and Duchy of Urnst combined. Thinking about this and a couple of Google searches showed me that the anomalously low population values of the World of Greyhawk have been a point of contentious discussion in the fan community for a very long time, and in particular a lot of virtual ink was spilled on this topic a few years ago in the D&D blogosphere. So it's not just my imagination - compared to, for instance, Europe in the middle ages, the published population figures are around 5-10x lower than what would be expected, and when we consider that the Flanaess is actually quite a bit larger than continental Europe, the population density is even lower than that, with even "central" civilized regions having about 5 people per square mile (compared to anywhere from 50-100 in medieval Europe).

Those old blog-conversations (and the message-board thread where I brought this up a few weeks ago) offered some justification for those low values - from the "not everybody is counted in those figures" argument again, to various notions of the need for low populations to allow for "adventure-able" frontiers and manageable/wargame-able state-level conflicts, and the notion that in a world that includes both real magic and real monsters the population might stabilize at a low level, further afield to claims of the World of Greyhawk being a de-facto "post-apocalyptic" setting where hard-pressed pockets of civilization are under constant threat of imminent collapse and even the ostensibly-civilized areas are really little more than howling wilderness. While those arguments are all reasonable enough to allow somebody who wants to stick with the published population values to do so, they don't really do it for me. For one thing, because the World of Greyhawk isn't really depicted as a wasteland on the knife's edge of total collapse, for another because most of those arguments and justifications would still apply with a population 3-5x larger (which would still be very low compared to medieval Europe), and - selfishly - because sticking with the "by-the-book" population values doesn't address my original issue: that I want Greyhawk City to have a much larger population, but also don't want to completely throw off the implied balance of the setting. 

So, after having given all of this way too much thought (and justified - just like my change to the Oerth calendar - by noting that TSR already increased the population of many states between the 1980 folio and 1983 boxed set, thus undercutting any notion that these values should be treated as "sacred text" or that there was some secret justification behind them that we dare not second-guess), I created a big spreadsheet of the population values for the World of Greyhawk and just semi-arbitrarily increased them across the board. Most countries got their population increased by a factor of 5 over the folio value, some by a factor of 3, a few by less. For towns (population under 10,000) I generally increased their population by 20-40% (to better reflect the range given by Gary in Dragon #101), cities (population over 10,000) were mostly doubled (for the same reason), and the four free cities (Dyvers, Irongate, Rel Astra, and of course Greyhawk) were treated like countries (i.e. population increased 3-5x). Demi-human populations (and human woodland populations) were mostly doubled. The end result of all of this was an increase in total population from 12M to 40M, with Greyhawk City having a population of 265,000. That's still small compared to Victorian London (1M+) but about the same as Paris in the 1400s (i.e. as depicted in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris), which I can live with.

I uploaded the spreadsheet, in case anyone wants to see it:

Since these numbers were all derived semi-arbitrarily based on gut feeling (which I'm fairly certain is the exact same way Gary Gygax created the original numbers) I did some further spot-checking, calculating population densities for a handful of areas (states and forests) to see what the numbers looked like and how that would affect the feel of play - whether I'd inadvertently over-populated the place. The results (which I didn't save in a convenient spreadsheet) came out okay - the ostensibly-densely-populated central states having populations of 10-20,000 per 30-mile hex (i.e. about 26 per square mile), borderland-ish states (Geoff, the Iron League states, etc.) having populations around 5,000 per hex (6/sq. mi.), and woodlands around 1,000 (1.3/sq. mi.). Those latter two figures are totally workable, and even the former one is low compared to historical values for Europe (and is comparable to the present-day population density for some mostly-rural counties in northern California that feel anything but crowded). It does mean that the central states need more cities and towns than are depicted on the map alongside the already-assumed hamlets and villages, and that even in the borderland areas every "open" hex will be assumed to have 7 or 8 villages rather than 1 or 2. 

That might seem to some people like too much, but I think it's worth keeping in mind that the civilized areas, the open hexes on the map, by-and-large only matter as a backdrop. Characters are from those places, and may be in service to their rulers, and are trying to defend them from the forces of evil, and will pass through them, and may spend their between-adventures time in them, but the actual on-stage adventuring activity almost always takes place elsewhere - in the forest and hill and swamp and mountain and desert and jungle and badlands hexes that surround them - the wilderness areas that remain just as vast and sparsely-populated as they ever were. And even those adventures that do take place in the civilized lands almost by definition aren't going to be exploratory wilderness hex-crawls, but rather will center on investigations and negotiations and other such matters where, except for determining travel time from location A to location B, the map isn't even relevant.

So when traveling through open/civilized areas on the way to and from adventures we can assume that there are almost always roads and inns to spend the night in and no reason to camp outdoors except by choice (if they're outlaws, or trying to keep their presence in the area a secret, or broke), which affects the number of random encounter checks. Having sat through many boring sessions where what seemed like a routine overland trip from point A to point B got bogged down in a seemingly-endless procession of random encounter checks and by the time we got the the ostensible starting-point of the adventure we were already exhausted and ready to call it a day, I see that as a feature, not a bug :)