Voord 99 Posted March 17, 2021 Report Share Posted March 17, 2021 (edited) creativehum’s thread about ransoms got me thinking, and I’ve been looking into the practice of ransom during the Middle Ages. Nothing very dramatic — basically, what I could read online. But some stuff that a GM might use in a Pendragon game:- - In some games, ransom might not exist in the Uther period. Background: it’s not as if the Middle Ages was the first time that anyone ever thought, “Hang on, we could get something for this guy, maybe?” What makes the medieval period different is that noblemen could *expect* to be ransomed, that it was institutionalized as a standard practice. There are basically two theories about when this came about. The first, which seems to be the more accepted one, puts it in northern France (in the modern sense of northern France, inc. Normandy) in the 10th and 11th centuries, and connects it to the development of the chivalric ethos. The second doesn’t see it as really becoming a standard expectation until the 12th century, and sees it as emerging from adoption of the Muslim practice of ransom in the context of the Crusades. Now, on the Cymri=Anglo-Normans model, there’s no doubt that, following theory 1, having ransom already there in the Uther period makes sense. But what if you *really* want to have Arthur be responsible for introducing chivalric ideas? If so, you might think about ransom only becoming normal as a new practice that Arthur introduces as part of his treatment of the rebels in 510. (Note: not saying that’s better, more consistent, or anything like that. It’s just an option if you want to paint Arthur in particularly chivalrous colors.) -I’d definitely think about taking sergeants off the list for earlier periods. Ransom for commoners only becomes normal in the Hundred Years War (=the Tournament Period), and it suits the game to have this be a development that happens during Arthur’s reign. - The game has very standardized ransoms, and to the extent that it suggests that they might vary, it suggests that proud captives might offer more. In fact, there was a lot of room for the captor to demand as much as he thought he could get. Families could be, and were, ruined by paying ransoms. Payments were often in installments. The entire thing was a question of negotiations, and there were very often documents giving the agreed terms. By the later Middle Ages, disputes over ransoms can be litigated — it is very possible for a captor to claim that they haven’t received a promised ransom when they have. Story hook: an unscrupulous captor arranges the theft of the letters of obligation giving the terms of the ransom agreement, and the former captive can no longer prove that they have paid in full. More interestingly, though, a ransom did not have to be in money. One could, for instance, demand that the ransomed captive demolish his castle. This is an area that one could exploit for the game. An obvious one is the ransom as quest hook: the captor demands that the captive or his friends achieve some “impossible” task as the ransom. -There is, however, an incentive for the captor not to demand too much and reach an agreement quickly — maintaining noble captives appropriately could be *hellishly* expensive. One could do a weird skewed variant on the Presumptuous Praetor adventure with a captive nobleman who’s dragging out negotiations for his ransom, and in the meantime your income is just draining away... - It was expected that noble captives in external wars would be ransomed, and there should be some Honour loss for not following the custom. But this did not apply to rebels, who were often ransomed but were not thought of as having the right to expect it. It is often hard for modern historians to disentangle ransoms from fines in medieval England, because an awful lot of the evidence pertains to rebels, whose ransoms might contain an additional (but not explicitly quantified) punitive element. But it can be kept in mind for Generous, Merciful, and Forgiving checks that there is no perceived obligation to ransom some captives at all. -The king of England was heavily involved in ransoms, from as early as the time of William the Conqueror, and important captives are supposed to be turned over to him, although he might generously give them back to their original captor. Ransoms also fell into the category of gains of which the king eventually (later 14th century) took a cut (1/9 - one-third to your captain, and then a third of that to the king). The king of France is different, incidentally. - From about the beginning of the fourteenth century, ransoms were hereditable. I.e., if you owe a ransom to someone, and he dies, then you owe a ransom to his heir — especially liable to happen where the ransom was being paid in installments. Prior to that, they were apparently intransmissible — which is an obvious adventure seed, with someone clandestinely arranging the murder of their captor to avoid paying the ransom, or being falsely accused of murder because the desire to get out of paying a ransom gives them a motive. Happy to be corrected by someone who is more knowledgeable about the history than I am. Edited March 17, 2021 by Voord 99 4 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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