I was about to post this on Honor’s blog, but I realized that she was just doing a screenshot exploring of a beautiful sim, and my “rant” would seem off-topic and if said there, mean. Because I enjoy her blog a lot, and my rant is at ‘some other’.
This is a general point about how this genre gets named in Second Life, and among roleplay folks in general. Not aimed at anyone other than whoever is in charge of terminology around here. :p
Been thinking about Roleplay a lot lately myself – in a quest for the right theme for me.
I’ve always been annoyed at the term ‘medieval’ for these roleplay places. They are anything but.
An actual medieval setting would have guns and canons of varying ranges of advancement (starting at 800 AD in Asia, and hitting Europe by 1222 in massive amounts, but even seen earlier in Crusades. Heavy plate armors developed near the end of the period (1400s-1600s).
Peasants throughout the entire period had no freedom of movement or profession, and little to no rights. They were for all intents and purposes slaves.
Punishments were often brutal and inflicted on a clan basis rather than individual. You steal from me, I get the right to kill your daughters – that kind of thinking. But there was no -city guard-. Policing developed mostly in the 1800s. “Law” was enforced by noble clans/families attacking each other in vengeance until higher nobility stepped in to wipe one side out or broker a peace. If your serf did something, I went to you, and demanding compensation. If I killed one of your serfs, you might be able to exact a few coins payment out of me – if the ‘lord’ we both swore fealty to felt that needed.
Anyone off “adventuring” would have been a landless noble. They were the only people with such freedom. And they had it because they were not allowed to be gainfully employed. If they lacked land and serf to prey upon, they had to either be the butt-kisser of some other noble (Courtier / Concubine), or go off and kill people to take their things (Conquistador / Crusader / Knight).
People got married young. As in, get your period and off you go, drop some babies for us. Health was poor. Famine would wipe out many every year (the entire point of the spice trade and age of exploration was to improve food resources – preservatives), disease would get many more. For much of the period cities were much larger than fantasy claims them to be. Only during the black plague did it get cut down so far. They were smaller than during imperial Roman days, and smaller than during the age of exploration. But not tiny. And cities of over a million did exist elsewhere on the planet (Bagdad in 775 AD hit 1 million, Tenochtitlan was about 200,000 during the time of the black plague).
Printing was around. Yes… while Gutenberg’s press is 1436, other more primative ones were about earlier. The screw press was in Rome by the first century AD. Yet despite all of this, almost everyone was illiterate. This is the reason they call it the dark ages – small handfuls of people in Europe retained the technology of literacy, while elsewhere in the world the idea of reading was spreading. Libraries were being built in Mesoamerica, new alphabets were being designed in Asia, and math, philosophy, and theological debate were advancing in Africa and the Near East. The Europeans in this period were the savages of the world. They got lucky later on in mixing, as it is said, guns, germs, and steel – in one location.
This was a harsh world, with very few fun elements to it.
Fantasy adventure and roleplay is fun. But we need to stop calling it medieval.
Fantasy has too many things the Medieval European world lacked, and lacks some critical things it did have.
The fantasy concept is all about adventure and grand stories – so its fine that it is not medieval, because the actual medieval period is a less adventurous notion than even our modern world.