Your party will unite in 801 Anno Domani. You meet in the company of pilgrim monks on the road to Aachen, capital of the Franks’ empire, having recently learned that the man known variously as Carolus Magnus, Karl der Gros, and Charlemagne has returned from his campaigns in Italy, having been crowned by Pope Leo III emperor in the West. But there are rumors that his rival emperor in Constantinople, determined to undermine the “Latin-barbarian upstart,” is stirring up trouble among the restive German tribes as well as the Moors in Spain. Finding yourselves penniless and wretched, you hope that the Frankish ruler’s fabled court is as splendid as the minstrels have sung it to be…
Most of the party would probably have been peasants with some clergy and warriors, you can choose your own story. But there was some recent event that caused you to lose what you had, whether it was your farm, your livelihood, your wealth or your reputation. Maybe it was a savage Viking raid or a strange sickness which ravaged your village. Maybe the Church accused you of being a pagan and confiscated your property. Perhaps your warlord was killed by treachery and a usurper drove out his old followers. Or you were journeying on a pilgrimage and were waylaid by foul creatures in a dark forest, and forced to abandon your wagons, leaving everything behind…
Whatever it may have been, you’ve found some temporary refuge with the humble entourage of Benedictines traveling barefoot to Aachen in order to take up residence at a new monastery…
Some things happening around this time period were that the Viking raids were just beginning, and Charlemagne’s army was conquering the different regions of Germany including Saxony and Bavaria and subduing the last pagan tribes with forced conversions.
Good map for context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Frankish_Empire_481_to_814-en.svg
Charlemagne’s reign was the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire that the West had been controlled by one ruler.
Also recommend re-watching The 13th Warrior even though it’s 2 centuries later, basically will be that kind of atmosphere.
Instead of choosing a Deity for your character choose a Religion. It would be hard to give the religions alignments as they each encompass many teachings but here are some suggested alignments for the believers of each:
The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant institution in Europe, and Christianity is on the march despite being surrounded by dangers. Churches throughout the land answer to the Pope in Rome, and bishops often wield the same power or greater than noble lords. Monasteries hold out a fragile candle of light amidst the darkness, where devout monks heal the sick and laboriously copy ancient texts to ensure that civilization endures.
The East-West split was not official yet at this time, but Christians in the West used Latin texts and Christians in the East used Greek.
Mostly Lawful with tendencies toward Lawful Good/Lawful Evil, some Neutral Good.
A catch-all term for the non-monotheistic traditions of Europe and other lands. Though Christianity has been on the rise, there are still many pagans in this dark age of ignorance and savagery. While in the frozen Norse lands men freely worship Odin and Thor, in Western Europe most remaining pagans hold to their old traditions in secret; even the once-mighty Celtic druids of Hibernia and Britannia are now little more than a legend. Charlemagne’s armies have just crushed the last resistance of Woden-worshipping pagans in Germany with the downfall of the Saxon king Widukind. And beyond the marches of the Danube are the Asiatic nomads of the steppe, who hold to their own shamanistic beliefs.
Mostly Neutral or Chaotic, with Celts and folk-religionists/animists being more Neutral and Germanic/Norse adherents being more Chaotic.
A religion of the book and the sword which spread like wildfire in the 6th-7th century, spanning the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. Europe still feels threatened by the scimitar of Muslim jihad, and the Caliph in Baghdad reigns over a vast and sophisticated empire where knowledge and science thrive, unlike the medieval darkness of the West. Islam means “submission” and the religion preaches absolute obedience to the tenets of Allah and his Prophet Muhammad.
Mostly Lawful, with the mystical sect of Sufis being more Neutral.
The Greek-speaking body of the Church, influenced more by the Patriarch in Constantinople than the Pope in Rome. Their strength has been decimated by the rise of Islam, which wrested North Africa and Levant out of Byzantine control. But the Emperor of the Eastern Romans still holds vast power and influence, and Eastern Christians proudly defend their legacy stretching back to the days of antiquity.
Mostly Lawful Neutral.
The diaspora of this exiled nation continues across many lands, and its dispossessed people survive on the margins of society, pursuing trades such as moneylending which were barred to Christians or Muslims.
Mostly Neutral, some Lawful.
Other minority sects… let me know if I missed anything.
Also, I conveniently listed them in order of their predominance in the campaign setting— i.e. your likelihood to encounter other believers of each.
Here is a rough list of languages you can choose in my adventure setting. It is by no means exhaustive. I may award bonus languages beyond what your Int mod allows, depending on how well you develop your character background story.
Also, since this is the Dark Ages, a time of ignorance, poverty and squalor, all characters are assumed illiterate similar to the Barbarian class. You may spend 2 skill points to gain literacy in all languages you speak, UNLESS it uses a different script— for instance if you are literate in Roman script languages, you still must spend 2 more skill points to gain literacy in Greek, Arabic, or Norse runes.
Your mother tongue instead of Common
Vulgar Latin— including Castilian and Italian dialects
Classical/Late Latin (used by the Catholic Church, most clerics)
Anglo-Saxon (Old English)
Celtic— including Ireland, Scotland, Wales
Norse— including Danes and other Scandinavians
Greek— includes classical and Byzantine, used by the Orthodox Church (though the split with Rome is not official yet) and the citizens of Eastern Roman Empire
I had listed Frankish as a language but by this point it was already inextricably mixed with Vulgar Latin and would eventually become French. So I’ll replace it with Vulgar Latin- Northern and the other for Italy/Spain will be Vulgar Latin- Southern.
Keep in mind that as there is no “Common” language will be very important for communicating with anyone else in the world, even within your own party.