How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#1

So without revealing too much, I've taken something of an interest to writing something akin to what a lot of other medieval fantasy-LitRPG type stories on here are trying to portray, but from a more grounded and real perspective; that being a relatively normal, rural boy who actually has a life outside the main story. No tragic backstory, a very limited amount of magic (but still something there), and believable personality traits, told from a limited, third person perspective. As an example (haven't decided if this should be the beginning or just after the beginning yet):


Quote:“You’re kiddin’ me, right?” Over his finished breakfast, Kett shot a confused stare past his sister at his Pa from across the dining table. “Nothin’? No chores? Just… go n’ have a whole day t' myself? Out in town?”

“I figure you can use a break from helpin’ around, am I right?” 

“Well sure, but... you'll be alright without me? I know I carry a lot o’ the work here and all-"

The orange-speckled Catfolk flicked his ears. “Oh I got that down, don’t you worry yourself ‘bout that. These little ‘uns haven’t any schoolin’ today, so I’m draftin’ them to do it all instead.”

“Aww, but Pa!” “Come on! I’ll be late to practice with-” His two younger siblings, Fel and Maia complained simultaneously.

“No buts. The two o’ you need to get some experience milking Butterbeetles an’ y’all know it.” While the younger children alternatively groaned and mumbled mutinously to each other, Pa whispered to Kett, “Y’know, I heard the sheriff’s out offerin’ a real quest in town… you have fun, ‘kay? And say hi to your Ma for me while you’re there. She’s had a busy night.”

Kett grinned thankfully. “I will!” He sped out from his chair and ducked through the outside door.

“Kett, your sword!” He cursed to himself, skidded back just inside, grabbed the titular sword, and profusely thanked Pa. “Just makin’ sure you stay safe.”

That would’ve been embarrassing to leave. Speaking of leaving, before I go just yet… 

I tried looking over some other stories with similar formatting, but I don't think I quite have that or the setting down just yet, and the detail work is a little barebones at the moment. Any tips?

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#2
Research. 

No, really. For example, my very first question, if this were to be a grounded setting, is why a farmer has a sword. The second question is why this boy is permitted to wander around with a sword. You may be surprised, but plenty of societies and cultures had pretty serious laws about weapons in public spaces, and the laws differed by class. Consider: would the nobility class, if in a feudal society, want the peasantry armed? 

Now, if by "grounded" you meant something else, pardon me! But the moment I read the words "grounded" and "real", those are the two considerations that popped up after reading your excerpt. 

As for the excerpt itself: great job on the dialogue! I like the way you wrote the accents. =) 

Edit: Upon rereading, it looks like you meant something else! My bad. But then I'm not sure what you quite mean by "grounded" and "real." Largely, a medieval setting would inform the characterization and everything else, so I'm a bit puzzled by what you are referring to! 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#3
Quote:Research.

No, really. For example, my very first question, if this were to be a grounded setting, is why a farmer has a sword. The second question is why this boy is permitted to wander around with a sword. You may be surprised, but plenty of societies and cultures had pretty serious laws about weapons in public spaces, and the laws differed by class. Consider: would the nobility class, if in a feudal society, want the peasantry armed?

Now, if by "grounded" you meant something else, pardon me! But the moment I read the words "grounded" and "real", those are the two considerations that popped up after reading your excerpt.

Very helpful consideration, thank you! My sort of "justification" is that for the most part, the wilderness tends to be dangerous and, as such, peasants are allowed to keep their (inferior) weaponry to defend themselves against monsters, bandits, etc. Not to mention, nobility and their armsmen are much stronger than most peasants and are thus less worried about if said peasants are armed or not. Also, these people live sort of far from the main town area (thinking ~30-35 mins away by foot). OOC, it's because I want a fantasy medieval Wild West-like setting, and that seems about right.

Quote:As for the excerpt itself: great job on the dialogue! I like the way you wrote the accents. =) 

Edit: Upon rereading, it looks like you meant something else! My bad. But then I'm not sure what you quite mean by "grounded" and "real." Largely, a medieval setting would inform the characterization and everything else, so I'm a bit puzzled by what you are referring to! 


Thank you! Your critique is still wholly valid btw! Maybe I should've informed more about the setting a bit more beforehand, though...

I'm checking this thread while writing so ideas still popping into my head here 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#4
SchroedingersBand Wrote: Very helpful consideration, thank you! My sort of "justification" is that for the most part, the wilderness tends to be dangerous and, as such, peasants are allowed to keep their (inferior) weaponry to defend themselves against monsters, bandits, etc. Not to mention, nobility and their armsmen are much stronger than most peasants and are thus less worried about if said peasants are armed or not. Also, these people live sort of far from the main town area (thinking ~30-35 mins away by foot). OOC, it's because I want a fantasy medieval Wild West-like setting, and that seems about right.

bokhi Wrote: As for the excerpt itself: great job on the dialogue! I like the way you wrote the accents. =) 

Edit: Upon rereading, it looks like you meant something else! My bad. But then I'm not sure what you quite mean by "grounded" and "real." Largely, a medieval setting would inform the characterization and everything else, so I'm a bit puzzled by what you are referring to!
Thank you! Your critique is still wholly valid btw! Maybe I should've informed more about the setting a bit more beforehand, though...

You're welcome! I'm happy to help. =)

Thanks for outlining your rationale! I do understand your point, but I'll leave one further related note in case it is useful to you. Historically, peasants were armed, in a sense, just not with swords--those were military/noble weapons. Without being too specific, you can assume that there was status attached to some types of weapons depending on the culture. If you're writing for historical grounding, you could probably get away with hunting bows and clubs, and likely simple polearms like spears and such. Small knives were common across multiple cultures, especially since they are versatile and have non-combat utility. 

My own personal opinion around a medieval setting with peasants concerned about monsters/banditry would be to use polearms or tools that can double as weapons, such as axes, largely because the average peasant likely does not have the money for a sword or the time and means to practice with one. It is your world, however, so I encourage you (and everyone else, natch!) to do exactly as you wish, regardless of advice from internet strangers. =)

(Also if it's a LitRPG I really can't comment at all, since that's not my genre! I suppose the relative levels would be relevant here? Ah, kindly only take what is useful and ignore the rest, haha!) 

Cheers, and good luck with your writing!  DrakanWine

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#5
bokhi Wrote:
SchroedingersBand Wrote: Very helpful consideration, thank you! My sort of "justification" is that for the most part, the wilderness tends to be dangerous and, as such, peasants are allowed to keep their (inferior) weaponry to defend themselves against monsters, bandits, etc. Not to mention, nobility and their armsmen are much stronger than most peasants and are thus less worried about if said peasants are armed or not. Also, these people live sort of far from the main town area (thinking ~30-35 mins away by foot). OOC, it's because I want a fantasy medieval Wild West-like setting, and that seems about right.

bokhi Wrote: As for the excerpt itself: great job on the dialogue! I like the way you wrote the accents. =) 

Edit: Upon rereading, it looks like you meant something else! My bad. But then I'm not sure what you quite mean by "grounded" and "real." Largely, a medieval setting would inform the characterization and everything else, so I'm a bit puzzled by what you are referring to!
Thank you! Your critique is still wholly valid btw! Maybe I should've informed more about the setting a bit more beforehand, though...

You're welcome! I'm happy to help. =)

Thanks for outlining your rationale! I do understand your point, but I'll leave one further related note in case it is useful to you. Historically, peasants were armed, in a sense, just not with swords--those were military/noble weapons. Without being too specific, you can assume that there was status attached to some types of weapons depending on the culture. If you're writing for historical grounding, you could probably get away with hunting bows and clubs, and likely simple polearms like spears and such. Small knives were common across multiple cultures, especially since they are versatile and have non-combat utility. 

My own personal opinion around a medieval setting with peasants concerned about monsters/banditry would be to use polearms or tools that can double as weapons, such as axes, largely because the average peasant likely does not have the money for a sword or the time and means to practice with one. It is your world, however, so I encourage you (and everyone else, natch!) to do exactly as you wish, regardless of advice from internet strangers. =)

(Also if it's a LitRPG I really can't comment at all, since that's not my genre! I suppose the relative levels would be relevant here? Ah, kindly only take what is useful and ignore the rest, haha!) 

Cheers, and good luck with your writing!  DrakanWine
Ahh yeah, that makes sense. But what I'm sort of headcanoning that he's a military nerd who wants to do the whole adventuring schtick (real naive like that) and he wants to emulate the 'legends', even if it would make more sense to use something else? Is this too much justification? Okay this might be too much justification.

I'm still keeping it, but thanks for the advice. I'll figure it out in the writing. Still, cheers!

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#6
SchroedingersBand Wrote: Ahh yeah, that makes sense. But what I'm sort of headcanoning that he's a military nerd who wants to do the whole adventuring schtick (real naive like that) and he wants to emulate the 'legends', even if it would make more sense to use something else? Is this too much justification? Okay this might be too much justification.

I'm still keeping it, but thanks for the advice. I'll figure it out in the writing. Still, cheers!

Well, you could sneakily make his dad or grandad an ex-veteran of some vague war or another. Then again, if you want him to have a normal background, better make it the village drunk. MC is his only friend...and he's listened to his war stories for yeeears. Also he gave MC his old sword in exchange for booze because the locals refuse to give him any more, lol. 

Or something like that! Lots of ways to do it, for sure! 

Good luck! 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#7
Morning,

You should keep in mind, that peasantry in the middle ages was... let's say... piss poor, undereducated and oppressed. And illiterate. 
Meaning: no fancy clothes, no expensive weaponry (yes, swords were expensive back than), and were living in hovels, nowdays you wouldn't let your dog live in.
No canalisation, no bed-and-breakfast, gas station and convenience store in every last little village.

If you wanted to wander around as a lower class worker, you would have to have some real good excuse. Peasants didn't just wander around. Who did the wandering were bandits, traders and the occasional "crafter". The last two probably weren't considered lower class...

As for weaponry:
Farming implements (pitchforks, scythes, flails and such), and woodworking tools (hatchets and axes), plus the cheap clubs, knives and such. Maybe the occassional "real" polearm.
Nobels were originally invented to protect their peasants who fed them - so if the nobel is a bad one and does not protect them, he will be left with no peasants to feed him in short order. Arming the peasants wasn't considered a good idea for a few millennia, mainly because armed peasants often got strange ideas where their nobels' station should be - mostly on a tree, at the end of some rope.

As for the breeders... I mean to females: don't misunderstand our modern world's equality. For a few millennia, femals had a few very tightly defined responsibilities: bear children, keep the house in order and shut the fuck up. The few female westerns who dared to make waves were barbecued.

I think, there are a few documentaries about medieval society on youtube (I distinctly remember seeing some). Try to search for Castle Gueydon, for example.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#8
The language your characters speak is too modern.  Kidding, meaning to tease, dates from the 1800s. You could easily replace it with fooling.  Similarly with words like alright, or okay/ok.  If you wish to create something grounded, then keeping the dialogue period-specific helps.  Just changing one word can make a difference:

Quote:“Well sure, but... you'll be sound without me? I know I carry a lot o’ the work here and all-" 


You can easily switch "sound" up for safe, or secure or a bunch of other words.  It depends on the specific meaning you're conveying.  Modernisms can kill a period piece, and undo all the hard work you've done with the accents.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#9
Mr Wrote: I mean to females: don't misunderstand our modern world's equality. For a few millennia, femals had a few very tightly defined responsibilities: bear children, keep the house in order and shut the fuck up.

Females had the role of raising babies.  A baby cannot be more than 2 hours from mother's breasts for the first years of life. Mothers  had take on work that could be done while also watching the babies.  Because of child mortality, females had to spend roughly 20 years either pregnant or nursing to keep world population stable.  As such anything that couldn't be done while pregnant or also watching a baby had to be done by males.  Males then tended to take on work that you couldn't bring the older children with to do either - here ending childhood at about 10 when the sons could do useful work and thus were useful to train.  Meanwhile girls were taught the types of things mothers could do, to prepare them to be mothers themselves.

One thing you can do while watching children was spin thread - which in the days before the spinning wheel took up 10-12 hours per day for basically every female.  Over 10 - there is a lot of labor in making clothing - this is the primary reason peasants didn't own more than a few changes of clothing: they didn't have enough labor hours to make more.

Males did  not have an easy life either.  They did a lot of back breaking labor that for hormonal reasons females could not do, and this would cripple a lot of them early. Farming is not easy, though there are at least breaks at times, so there would be days where fathers could send their sons to find something else to do: the crop is in the ground and harvest isn't for a while yet.

You can find a lot more information (some of it will correct points I got wrong) from real historians. There is good reason behind our sexist culture - it doesn't excuse all the evil done to females over the years, but it does explain it as reasonable.  If our society was suddenly thrown back to mid-evil (que your favorite doomsday scenario) what comes out in 100 years would look a lot like the sexism of the past because it works - hopefully we don't take on the bad parts of the sexism with the required parts.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#10
Okay, so a lot of stereotypes got thrown around. Not all peasantry lived in hovels, people did know how to build solid wood houses. Yes, serfs were piss poor, mistreated and all that. Not all villagers and farmers were serfs. Kepe in mind that a lot of the literature and documentation we have from that time was written either by nobles or clergy, who tended to have their own preconceptions about the 'unwashed masses' 

As has been mentioned, peasants probably didn't have swords They did have knifes, staves, axes, slings, staff-slings, lots of sharp and/or heavy farming implements like the billhook (used for pruning trees and cutting through underbrush) and bows and spears if they were allowed to. Swords are pretty bad if you're dealing with the average animal or beast. They don't do fencing, there's no chance to do a parry and riposte, they just charge straight at you. You can't parry a boar or a wolf. The idea is to keep them far enough away that they can't hurt you in return. You want a heavy and long weapon like a long axe (axeheads are relatively small, don't believe anime or d&d), spear or staff.

Speaking of that, animals, beasts and monsters, keep in mind that humans are very aggressive and territorial. We do not tolerate dangerous beasts close to our homes. Hence the extermination or near extermination of all large land predators in Europe and anywhere where a lot of humans live. If there are dangerous animals near enough to a village, provide an explanation why it hasn't been dealt with. Is it on the edge of civilization and they drift nearby from the wilderness, looking for new territory? You'll either get very old beasts, driven out by younger and more vital counterparts, or the young ones who can't quite challenge the might of the settled primaries (can't think of a better word). As they'll tell you in India about tigers, the old ones are the dangerous ones. They're cunning and desperate. Unable to hunt with a weakening body, they'll go for humans who are 'easy' prey. 

A couple of hours out is where the village will regularly forage for game, herbs, wild fruits and odds and ends. The village will probably make sure nothing seriously dangerous is within a day of travel or so. Stories about wolves, bears or whatever attacking humans were the exception, not the rule. Over hunting prey animals, drought or a hard winter, most predators need to be desperate to turn from their usual prey to humans. We don't actually taste very nice, apparently, or it's a case where you don't like what you didn't grow up with.

Humans hunt for fun and glory. Sounds weird, it's not a common attribute in animals, but humans will actively seek out dangerous animals. I've always found the extermination quests in RPGs a little silly. Word gets out there's a wyvern nearby and people will be rushing out to be the one to bag the trophy. Either to sell it or to brag about it. No one needed to pay a hunter to hunt a bear, its hide, meat, skull and claws were valuable enough.

If it's in actual settled territory, you'll need something else. A spawn point, dungeon, a reserve, whatever. Maybe they keep a population of dangerous animals going in the nearby forest for the nobility to hunt and the peasants just have to deal with it. Poaching is strictly forbidden and carries a severe punishment in this situation.

If you're using a feudal system, keep in mind that in a stratified society it's not 'nobles and everything else'. There are nobles and serfs, sure, but there are also freemen. People who owned or rented their own farm, villagers, craftsmen, artisans, shopkeepers and merchants. Most people were not serfs and could live a pretty decent life, barring the usual misfortune.

So, some common misconceptions. Medieval farmers didn't have a guaranteed bad diet. Even serfs could live quite well. Dead farmers don't grow crops, so most nobles had enough sense to treat their tenants relatively well. That doesn't make for good movies or books, so popular image is massively skewed to how bad it was. Free farmers, who didn't have to hand over most of their harvest, had veggies, grains and fruits. Horticulture was less developed, but wild fruit trees and bushes were much more common and often cared for. Herbs and spices were well known and used, they grew everywhere after all. Sage, parsley, thyme, basil, horseradish, mint, and a variety of plants from the allium family (garlic, chives and onions are alliums, the whole genus generally has strong tastes) are examples of European spices. This last bit came to be due to the desire for foreign spices that gave rise to various 'East India Companies'. Somehow people translated that to 'there were no spices at all, which is why they were so desperate for anything'.

People did get old. This misconception came about because 'the average life expectancy was 30ish'. While I'm sure war and diseases took their toll, the most important factor was infant mortality. It's an average. If enough children die before they're four years old, there must equally be a lot of people making 50 and older to balance it out to 30. Once you got past your early years, you had a decent chance to reach a ripe old age. Losing your teeth was not an issue - the oldest dentures found are from around 2500 BC and were made with animal teeth. Others have been found made of wood. Even without, humans have a strange respect for the elderly and would actually pre-chew food for them, something animals only do for their young.

Something I've written about before: Adventurer's Guilds don't make sense in a fantasy world with stats and levels. Dunno if that's what you're going for, but think of it like this. Hunting monsters = xp, xp = levels, levels = power. Hunting monsters is the easiest way to power up your army, your men-at-arms, your knights and your nobles. How incompetent and stupid do you need to be to let some random people, with no affiliation or loyalty to you, gain in power while your own forces sit idle?

Whew, this turned out a bit longer than I first imagined

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#11
If you want something grounded in reality, study small settings. Because that way, you actually get to study a piece of tangible reality - as opposed to a big, sweeping generalization of a time period. Generalizations are useful in history to give an overview, but it is in the details that a setting will come alive. You could say all peasants lived terrible lives in terrible hovels, and that was true, in some places. But in other places it wasn't the case. In both events, there were reasons for why it was so - what were the reasons a certain village lived in terrible filth, while another one had a different quality of life? Much of it comes down to lifestyle. Perhaps a fishing village will never be quite as dirty as the larger port town cramped into its protective walls, especially if the people there have to bring all the cows inside for half the year because the raiders start trying to steal them once it's winter. Perhaps the fishing village is terribly poor, but it's not quite as poor as the poorest of the poor in that port town? What caused that poverty, and why didn't people just leave for the villages, then? People tend to have reasons to do what they do. Or, more precisely - they do it the easy way the first time, but then they learn from the fuck-ups and make informed decisions about everything. 

The devil is in the details. Study a narrowed down setting, and you'll find details. Pick a historical town somewhere, there are lots of them scaling from tiny villages to bigger towns. Preferably, pick something that is still a historical town, like Visby or Riga, because they make a living from tourists interested in their history and there's a metric ton of books and info out there on their histories, sometimes even narrowed down to the history of individual crafts practied in that individual town. Get a look at how the town layout and the building materials changed, compare that to the history timeline, and see if you can get a glimpse of how people situations changed their realities. 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#13
Oskatat Wrote: Okay, so a lot of stereotypes got thrown around. Not all peasantry lived in hovels, people did know how to build solid wood houses. Yes, serfs were piss poor, mistreated and all that. Not all villagers and farmers were serfs. Keep in mind that a lot of the literature and documentation we have from that time was written either by nobles or clergy, who tended to have their own preconceptions about the 'unwashed masses'

Oh man I just read an incredible book on this, so I had to comment.

Also, important to remember that a lot of these records we work from were, in a sense, more like ritual/community fundraising exercise. Church activity and the such (at least in England during Catholicism) was often recorded in a manner that was used to encourage others to do good Church works. Financial records (especially of smaller towns) were really recorded loosely, and more intended to be used to set an example for other people. A record might initially seem to say "Look at John, he donated 2 pennies to rebuild the church, and he was also the churchwarden for three years despite being a father of five." 

When really, what happened was that John donated two pennies worth of candles yearly, and is role as churchwarden was fairly limited from an administrative perspective because he couldn't read or write. Still, John did organize that amazing yearly barbecue that people like (and the other churchwarden in that time could read and write, so he handled the more boring stuff and was recorded as having donated a higher amount of money).

Mind you, this wasn't (usually) the local church abusing people or taking their time unnecessarily. A good relationship between clergy and churchwardens and the denizens of villages was predicated on everyone assuming others had the best interests of their mutual community at heart.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#14
Good point, JMWebb
As someone else also pointed out, there were parts of the year where farm life was relatively slow paced, in between the back breaking work of preparing the land, sowing and harvest. One thing that could be done during that time was work for their liege. Beware of Chicken refers to it, actually. I found it a nice little detail. Farmers didn't just hand over part of their harvest as taxes, they also owed their liege work time. When farming calmed down, or in times of emergency, the lord could levy a workforce to help build or maintain bridges, roads, irrigation, anything really. Fun thing, well, not really fun, this is why wars were often fought in summer and autumn. Lots of idle hands to either conscript or help in logistics.

Sure, nobles could abuse this, and forced conscription sucks, but if you were stupid you could cripple the local economy. If there weren't enough hands to work the field, the harvest would spoil, directly affecting your income. And since humans don't reproduce and mature that fast, it would be crippled for a decade or more until the next generation, or generations, grow up. 

Why am I mentioning this? Because popular depictions love to have either evil and/or incompetent nobles or the really nice and caring kind. The majority fell in between. They were more like landlords (gosh, I wonder where the name came from, land'lord'). They want a high income, sure, charge as much 'rent' as they can, but also had to perform some maintenance and safety work. Again, we mostly imagine the evil count evicting the family because they don't pay their taxes, which they can't because pests destroyed the crops, because it makes for a more interesting story.

Intelligence
Our own prejudices paint the average medieval villager as stupid. Why? They're illiterate, that's a big first reason. They don't get education in things like physics, history or geography, they don't get a formal education at all!
Okay, but why would that make someone stupid? What you need to know is how to work your craft, how to do some numbers and the local area. That's it. And there were smarter people, and less smart people, and none of them could read or write. But your average farmer knew well how to farm, how to care for animals and cure their simple maladies. The dozens or hundreds of different wild plants nearby and which were edible, which made good fiber for weaving, which were medicinal. They could do some carpentry and woodworking, weaving and clothes making, butchering, preserving foodstuffs (smoking, drying, pickling or... I forgot what it was called if you used the sugar from fruits to preserve) and sometimes made their own stone fences with cement (or mortar, not the grenade launcher). How stupid can you be if you can learn a multitude of skills like that?

Regarding houses... 'farmers lived in hovels'... seriously? Maybe serfs who weren't allowed to gather their own materials, but free(er) villages could cut wood from nearby and use the lumber to build surprisingly sturdy and comfy homes. No architect or anything required. Why and how? Because that's what they'd been doing for hundreds of years, why wouldn't they know how to build a farmstead, barn, coop or whatever? I did a quick search and found a lot of videos on Japanese carpentry and how they don't use nails in wooden construction - that was the norm in medieval society, not the exception. Nails were to attach things to wood, rather than to attach wood to wood in construction or furniture. The two I know by heart are dovetail joints and swallowtail joints (the craft is called joining, but the connection is called a joint, not a join, so to join a joint. Figures).

And you're now profiting off of my research and fascination with old crafts  DrakanLaugh

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#16
Quote:but free(er) villages could cut wood from nearby and use the lumber to build surprisingly sturdy and comfy homes.
Since the forest belonged to the lord (and not neccessarilly your lord), you would have to ask him for a permit. Or buy the wood outright. Loam, bricks and stone came into use relatively late for village houses - since it was expensive and you needed a whole other skill-set. Which the average villager lacked. I'm speaking here about central and eastern Europe, that's what I know, but would be surprised if it was much different in the West.
What villagers could do was to get a few thicker trees (a dozen or so), build the frame of the house, fix a few stakes in-between, braid thinner branches in-between and cover the whole thing with mud. 

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#17
All right, so, let's start with this:  this is a fantasy.  

A lot of the advice in this thread is perfectly accurate if you're looking to do a medieval European style fantasy.  However, you can achieve almost identical results by shifting the time period away from medieval.

I'll start with Rome, since that would keep your European flavor.  Ancient Rome was in many ways more advanced that medieval Europe.  You'd need to make in pre-Marian reforms, but you could make the boy and/or his father a Hastatus without too much trouble.  The Hastati were drawn from the poorest ranks of Roman citizenry.  They weren't given any armor at all, but the Senate DID supply them with a gladius (short sword) and a scutum (big shield), as well as one or two pilae, or throwing spears.  So if you want someone from a peasant class who has a sword, the Hastati are your best bet.

Centering your story around a Roman-like culture would actually give it a slightly different flavor as well, making it stand out a bit from the other medieval-style litRPG stuff out there.  And the fun thing is, because the Dark Ages were such a regression from Roman culture, much of the tropes that work in a medieval setting can also work just fine in a Roman one.  

I've no idea if that actually works for you or not, but it's food for thought.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#19

Quote:Actually, Roman Times would work better for the common fantasy tropes. Out there in the colonies (that is not main-Italy), probably no one would lift a brow, if you walked around with your family heirloom sword, or mostly any other weapon. A bit more untamed wilderness, more dangerous animals. Oh, and those indomitable Gauls from Aremorica with their magic potion :D:D:D


Exactly!  The world needs more Roman fantasies.  

...goes back to writing his fantasy set during the Viking Era.

Re: How to write a believable medieval fantasy story?

#20
SchroedingersBand Wrote: So without revealing too much, I've taken something of an interest to writing something akin to what a lot of other medieval fantasy-LitRPG type stories on here are trying to portray, but from a more grounded and real perspective; that being a relatively normal, rural boy who actually has a life outside the main story. No tragic backstory, a very limited amount of magic (but still something there), and believable personality traits, told from a limited, third person perspective. As an example (haven't decided if this should be the beginning or just after the beginning yet):

(This is done largely from memory, so historical stuff is all IIRC.)

If you want to focus on the character, then you'll have to start with his position in society. That society is defined by the era you want - "medieval" is a very long period with very different technologies and social structures. Likewise, you should choose a template (or merge a few) from different cultures. There are huge differences between 'England', 'Southern Spain', and 'Greece'. For example, there was the Magna Carta signed in England in 1215, southern Spain was part of the Caliphate, and France had centralised royal power. Three very distinct local eras.

Social class is probably the defining thing you'd want to look at.

If the boy was a serf, he wouldn't have a weapon, wouldn't be allowed to travel off his lord's land, wouldn't be paid except in food and clothing. He would have no money - not in the sense he didn't get paid, but he just wouldn't ever see a coin. There was no village market he could buy for. There was likely a social community of trade, but even that was fairly weak (depending on the period you template off of.) No education.

If the boy was a freeman, he could be obligated to carry a weapon. A sword was cheap - about the cost of a shoes or a gallon of wine. It's likely that he would have a full set of armor available to him by the time he was an adult. It wasn't that expensive - on par with a wedding. This, of course, depends on the template - it was mandatory in England for some periods, for instance. But, if the boy didn't have travel papers, he'd likely have a hard time travelling anywhere, and it was unlikely he'd have papers.

If the boy was a city dweller, it'd be a whole different situation again.

Economically, you say 'rural', but also say 'town'. If we define cities as more than 10,000 people, France had less than a dozen until later on (after increases in agricultural technology, increasing till ~1300). Keep in mind that 'cities' as we know it formed as we approached the industrial revolution. The economic system of the time was manorialism. You couldn't buy land easily - although this was progressively possible in cities at great cost - without being given the right by nobility (or whatever system was in place, but mostly nobility.) A person on the outskirts of Paris (100,000+ people) is going to be very different than a person in some remote duchy with a village of less than 1000.

Another component that is hard to wash out is the male position of power during the era. This isn't just about men vs women, it's about social hierarchy, expectations, and conformity. Masculinity is something of a big deal in almost all of the cultures in this era. Sometimes it would come from religion, and often would have variations even within it (eg: Christian teachings clearly set women as inferior, but the Virgin Mary re-equalised status some. These beliefs were held in different strengths depending on location and era.) Other times, it was men feeling threatened and forcing women out of the workforce (guilds in the latter part of medieval times.)

You may wish to change this aspect of history, but a core 'feel' of any era is the concept of what a person should be. A modern person's sense of what is 'right' will immediately break the feel of the medieval era. For instance, the boy would be sent, he'd be told to report to the sheriff, told to bow to the lord and due his duty, told to honor the weapon and armor he has, and told not to drink or talk to women. Depending on the era, he'd be told to hate the town just down the road, to not talk to no moor's, and to kill some if he got a chance. It's a huge range of things, but what it is not is modern. This applies no matter what template you take during this era.

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So rambling aside, it's two things that will help more than anything;

1) Figure out medieval beliefs, because no one will believe it's medieval times if you use modern sensibilities. It doesn't have to be historic, but you are going to need Feudal underpinnings to make it believable. Otherwise it's something else. Keep in mind that feudal power is essentially 'lord has power, the people pay for protection, including protection from the lord.' This attitude cascades all the way down. Also, different is bad. Always. It's true today too, but uneducated peasants with superstitions are going to turn that to 11. And did. A core component is that the world is scary.

2) Figure out the character's social class. Him and his family and how they/their class fits into the world.