Friday, September 23, 2011

The World Around Cuxhaven

Before starting the actual campaign, I'll take some time now to provide background for the region, concentrating on the terrain, the use of land and the political situation.  This will take some time - I could write a book or so on the subject if I wanted to research and research - though I'll try to cover the highlights.

To begin with, a familiar looking map:

This would be the format of most maps on the blog, showing the elevation of the individual hexes to give a sense of what might be the bottomlands and where the hills are.  As you can see, most of the land is quite close to sea level, with much of the region subject to coastal flooding.  The land rises towards the south, away from the sea, and there are some low hills and uplands stretching from Lubeck on the right up towards Tonder at the top of the map.  Virtually everywhere, however, is less than 100 feet above sea level.

There are three significant rivers, not named on the map.  From west to east these debouch into the North Sea (the water in the upper left) near Leer, below Bremen and at Cuxhaven.  The first is the Ems, which rises in Westphalia, or the western bulge of modern Germany.  The second is the Weser, which rises in the hills of north Hesse, and the third is the Elbe, which rises in distant Bohemia.  Of these, the Elbe is easily the largest and most important, and creates an 80-mile estuary which is subject to tides and navigable for the largest ships of the age.  At Cuxhaven the estuary is about 8 miles wide.

Note that there are many trade centres: Delfzijl, Winschoten, Engleke, Leer, Oldenburg, Bremen, Luneburg, Hamburg, Lubeck, Cuxhaven, Kiel, Flensborg, Sonderborg and Nakskov ... all of which would have a different table for costs.  Easily the most important two are Lubeck and Hamburg, the road between them cutting through the bottom of the Jutland Peninsula (which extends off the map between the North Sea on the west and the Baltic Sea on the East).  This 38-mile road is perhaps the busiest road in Europe, and one of the busiest in the world, while Lubeck and Hamburg are points where goods are loaded on and off boats bound for everywhere.  The most important bulk cargos are timber, grain, wine, wool, iron goods and fish, but of course everything is carried.  Keeping the road open is of primary concern to every power in Europe ... and as such carries a heavy political importance.

In addition, cities like Hamburg, Bremen and Leer trans-ship goods from inland out to the sea ... Hamburg in particular, which ships from central Europe a wide variety of manufactured goods, silver, beer, leather and farm produce, while importing fish, timber, livestock, wool and goods from distant lands like India and the New World.  Hamburg is thus a crossroads between inner Europe and the world, and between east and west.  It is an immense city, with nearly 150,000 inhabitants.  Cuxhaven is comparably small, a town with merely 2,500 people.

Moving onto the next map:

This map shows the divisions between 'civilized' areas and 'wilderness.'  There is in fact a great deal of wilderness still within Germany in the 17th century, which though inhabited tends to lack the necessary presence to make said areas 'safe.'  Thus areas of moor and woodland is occupied by bandits and various monsters, with lairs throughout and the occasional dungeon (where the land is sufficiently above sea level).  The coastland and islands on both sides of the central peninsula are known havens for pirates.

The more heavily inhabited green areas, "mixed cropland & woods," are areas where even the forests and meadows have been civilized to some degree by herders and gamewardens.  These areas have a few scattered mansions within them, but most of the agriculturalists are cotters or villeins, persons occupying lands without a lord to rule over them - though with few personal rights and privileges, and often subject to incursion from persons in the wilderlands.  The life of a cotter is hard.  Still, there are priests throughout these lands as well, operating small churches, and druids living on the edge of the wilder forests, hamlets and thorps not shown on the map, and monasteries and a variety of other military or commercial groups living in small keeps or gatehouses.  Perhaps fifty percent of the land is cultivated, and the population density can rise as high as 240 persons per square mile.

The bright yellow-green areas surrounding Hamburg and Bremen are solidly cultivated areas where manor estates exist cheek-by-jowl with one another.  They are heavily populated, with numbers up to ten thousand persons per square mile in the cities.  Virtually every person not living in Hamburg or Bremen is a landed peasant, living in a restrictive social structure.  Cultivation and livestock raising is intense, with every square inch serving the needs of the population.

And the last map:

The political situation in this part of the world reflects the divided structure of states and entities occupying the land.  As you can see from the key at the left, there are four 'groupings' of states: the Kingdom of Denmark (& Norway), at the top left of the map; the Holy Roman Empire, a weak general authority made of powerful individual states; the lands occupied by the Kingdom of Sweden, military 'colonies' gained after the Thirty Years' War; and just the edge of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

These states are all at war with one another to some degree, and in the case of the Swedish territories, at war with itself.  That war is being fought by the outer lands (Stade & Verden) against Bremen, which was - and wishes to be again - a free imperial city.  As such Bremen has been crushed several times since 1648 by the Queen of Sweden, the unmarried Kristina Augusta, known for her posturing as a man and wearing armor into battle.  It is common to find Kristina in this part of the world, preferring to be involved herself as opposed to remaining at court in Stockholm.

While this minor 'civil war' progresses, the King of Denmark, Frederick IV, has designs on the County of Kiel, which it would like to swallow up - in particular, the small county of Tonder, which with Kiel is directly under the authority of the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, Frederick III.  He has plans to marry his daughter Hedwig Eleonora to the Duke of Bremen and Verden, Queen Kristina's cousin ... a marriage the Queen is presently obstructing.  Yet despite this Sweden very much would like to keep Kiel and Tonder out of the hands of the Danes, and the two countries have nearly come to blows over this.

Meanwhile ... the lands west of Swedish occupied Germany, the County of Oldenburg, is in the hands of the Brandenburg House, which controls much territory in the north of Germany.  Oldenburg would like to see Holstein in a bloody war, which would enable them to consume Stade and Verden ... and as such Oldenburg is providing arms to the rebels in Bremen in the hopes of breaking the Swedish hold there.  Brandenburg would rather not have Denmark move further south into Germany, but an all out Swedish-Dane war would be in their favor regarding Further Pomerania (not on the map) which is in Swedish hands and which separates the west territories of Brandenburg from East Prussia, which is also part of the Brandenburg estates.  The Brandenburgians slaver like Homer to have those lands.

Meanwhile, Calenburg's interests, along with Hamburg and Lubeck, is to keep an open trade arrangement with the sea, since these areas don't really care who politically controls the land as long as the trade is not disrupted.  As such, they tend to promote themselves as arbitrators.

The Holy Roman Emperor at the moment is Ferdinand III, an Austrian, who is more concerned with matters Turkish and Spanish than with these northern problems, and thus leaves the individual states to fend for themselves.  His power is minimal at any rate.

Most of the map is Protestant in religion, but the County of East Frisia and the small County of Emsland have a majority Catholic population.  The Netherlands is obviously Dutch Huguenot in belief; most of the remainder is firmly Lutheran.  The Thirty Years' War has largely ruined Europe's appetite for inter-religious strife, but the Catholics still present an embattled mentality where it comes to being wedged between Oldenburg and Holland.  Still, the agreement between those two Protestant countries to leave the Catholics as a 'buffer' makes it the most stable part of the map.

Smuggling goes on apiece just about everywhere as one can imagine.

This covers the basics, I believe.  Please ask questions.  There's always more to learn.


Silvius Volundr said...

Wow. Awesome.

Gotta read this again. For now, how big is each hex?

Nine-toes said...

Hmmm... I don't suppose the unmarried Queen of Sweden who likes wearing men's armor into battle would be interested in marrying a novice monk with an 11 charisma?

Never mind, please don't answer that.

Nine-toes said...

Actually, I do have a question, now that my head is spinning slightly less: Where is Stuttgart in reference to the map? My apologies if I've missed it. I'd like to know where it is so I can well avoid going back there.

Alexis said...

Hexes are 20 miles in diameter.

Stuttgart is directly south. You can find it near the middle of this map.

Silvius Volundr said...

This is one hell of a sandbox. The adventure possibilities are endless.

I am sure that Andrej is going to want to pound the lord onto some folks. I guess we really can't start game-planning this til we all "meet" though.

Ninetoes....11charisma? I like your chances with the queen.

Nine-toes said...

Are there any movers and shakers, relatively speaking, in Cuxhaven? Who runs the city?

Nine-toes said...

Silvius, if the Queen follows her historical counterpart, I'm thinking that even if I was of sufficient station to attract her attention that she might have things on her mind other than... men.

Alexis said...

Movers and shakers of Cuxhaven:

The town is administered by a Magistrate who is appointed by Hamburg; the town has no independent government, and is in fact under Hamburg authority in all things. Hamburg's interest is primarily in keeping the shipping lane open and in occasionally dredging the Elbe Estuary when needed. Thus, a naval force is posted with four major ships in the estuary, with a troop of two hundred engineers.

Apart from that, the fishmonger's guild is quite strong, and keeps authority over the city docks, receiving a tax from traders who arrive from afar to deliver goods there. The fishermen are given first occupancy for wharfage and repairs. Shipbuilding is the principle activity after fishing, and that guild controls much of the forested land that's available. It is illegal to cut a tree anywhere on the "Cuxhaven Bank," that area south of the Elbe controlled by Hamburg ... the sentence is variably slavery to distant coasts where Hamburg owns forest land or death.

There is little overland trade, but the town serves as a collection point for the immediate hinterland.

Silvius Volundr said...

Good news, Ninetoes. I'm a lesbian too, so we have that in common.

Nine-toes said...

Awsome! We've got an in with the Queen!

Silvius Volundr said...

Alexis, are there weapon carrying laws in Cuxhaven?

Nine-toes said...

Two questions: Are there many shipwrecks in the area, and is it possible in Cuxhaven (or perhaps any place else) to buy a scroll of waterbreathing?

Although I can't imagine other treasure hunters won't have had the same idea if it is possible.

Alexis said...

No weapons carrying laws. Keeping a crossbow loaded and pointed at people will probably get you in trouble, however.

There are a number of ships buried in the sand, but since all are accessible with the tide, they have long since been picked clean. The daily flooding and drying out makes them a lousy lair for either water or land creatures.

A scroll of waterbreathing cannot be bought; the mage/druid guilds are opposed so selling power to ordinary people. It's a dangerous proposition and destabilizes the carefully designed power structure.

Don't ask about buying magic items. I don't sell them.

Silvius Volundr said...

Alexis, what is the mood of Cuxhaven? Are its citizens cowed or are they light-hearted? I realize that they may be all over the board, but am wondering how much of the world events affect them.

Were we not armed to the teeth, would we otherwise stand out as "strangers" and if so, can we get a bead on how we would be treated? As I write this, I am thinking that I am getting ahead of myself, but I am trying to get a visual if Cuxhaven in my mind.

Alexis said...

The political events I describe have been going on since the end of the Thirty Years' War, so the citizens don't see them as being much more than sword-rattling. If there's a war, there's a certainty that Cuxhaven itself won't fact either side will want more ships, which will mean more work.

Generally, since the slaughter fest that was the TYW is over, most are just glad that the religious question has been 'settled' and business can continue unabated.

Silvius Volundr said...

I am just now reading up on the TYW...what a perfect d&d setting!

In your campaign world, Alexis, did these events take place as they dis in history, or has there been an alternate history....or would we know that yet?

Alexis said...

The general events have taken place as the history describes. Some of the details can be considered modified for the existence of magic, but the principles are sound; Gustavus still died Lutzen and so on, though it was probably due to a fire-ball or summoned treant-related injury.

Silvius Volundr said...


Now where are James and Butch?

Son of a Butch said...

I'm here. Adventure ho! My character didn't start with my money, so my first order of business is finding work and/or stomping monsters in pursuit of treasure, so I can get better equipment.

Ahmet said...

Whoops. Suppose I should post as Ahmet now. Ready for action!

Nine-toes said...

What is the state of banditry in this area? Are bandits even possible where clerics in abundance have access to auguries? If not, are there any bounties we might be able to tackle?

Silvius Volundr said...

I was thinking along the same lines, 9Toes.

Get in with the magistrate and leverage that.

Andrej said...

Sorry guys, got hung up in a meeting with my boss and am just now catching up. Will need a little time to read and digest this, then ask some relevant questions. I'm loving the enthusiasm, though.

Silvius Volundr said...

I'm interested to hear your take on things, James.

We need to get Ahmet paid too!

Andrej said...

Hamburg appears to remain part of the HRE. What of its people? Embattled Catholics? My own understanding of the treaties proceeding the war was that within the HRE, individual lords were free to choose a religion and essentially impose this upon their people. Correct me where I go wrong, Alexis....

What churches are active in town and can one tell their relative importance and number of parishoners?

Who has the biggest, most prosperous church?

Is there a Catholic church at all?

How many?

What religion are the movers and shakers of the town of Cuxhaven?

Are the common folk of Cuxhaven mostly embattled Catholics?

What of the rest of the lands of Hamburg/ Lubek/ Calenburg?

Are the borders between four primary powers watched closely? Are common travellers allowed passage provided tolls are paid?

Andrej said...

Gents, big picture...

I'm thinking Andrej's wishes would be to ultimately return part of this region back into the fold of the Catholic church and the HRE. But given the region's lack of appetite for more religious strife and the further lack of any interested Catholic power he wouldn't consider direct confrontation even were he powerful enough.

I'm intrigued by the situation in Bremen. Were the rebels there at least partially of a Catholic bent, Andrej might endeavor to aid the rebellion. Perhaps as a smuggler of weapons or a fighter/ adventurer. We're on the opposite side of the wedge about Bremen from friendly Catholics in Frisia and Emsland.

As I'm uncertain of the party's religious bent, perhaps directly aligning ourselves to any of the factions would be against our collective desires. Instead, we could be free agents, working with or in spite of all the powers described as it suited our needs. Andrej would always err on the side of Catholicism, but the troubles here are clearly more political than religious at this point so there's probably a wide berth there.

Nine-toes said...

Nine-toes is not against allying with rebel Catholics. It sounds exiting (and of course dangerous). He wishes more than anything to perfect his fighting art, and that will come with inevitably with blood and gold. Whose blood and whose gold is largely a matter of expedience to him. For the record, he carries a rosary with him (although he'll have the sense to hide it in protestant country).

I would like to play him as being very curious about the true nature of the universe (Does the same God grant power to the clerics of the Protestants and the Catholics?) but likely such questions would get him killed rather shortly, or would annoy or offend Andrej in the least. Likely such questions are not appropriate to any 17th century mind (particularly one with an int of 9) but I can't help wanting to ask them nonetheless.

Silvius Volundr said...

James, I agree that with the info at hand, a crusade doesn't seem as low hanging of fruit as making use of the political strife.

I am down with seeing what we can find in Bremen and aiding the rebels there. We may want to whack some fools locally first to see what that yields. Info or loot, maybe.

Alexis said...

I got hung up too.

The Holy Roman Empire is a loose amalgamation of states over which the Emperor has weak, nominal power, and the ability to influence by joining together friends among the Empire's electorate (the Emperor is elected for life).

Except for East Frisia and Emsland, ALL the states are Protestant. The Netherlands is Orange Huguenot/Calvinist, similar to modern day Presbyterians, but with very little of the fervor to be found in, say, Scotland. The country is very free with regards to other religions, and religion is not important in that state: money is.

The remaining states are Lutheran, with no central church or even official grouping...individual cities/states allow the Lutheran church independence but not great power as a Catholic Church might have. Again, the principal driving force for the Lutherans is not religion, but money and trade.

Catholic churches exist in the Protestant lands, but they are small, scattered, and with little or no political influence.

The Catholic church in East Frisia and Emsland exists with little power, since a strong Catholic presence would suggest French or Spanish influence, which would be quickly crushed by the Brandenburgers or the Dutch. Thus, Catholic lands, but not overtly Catholic in local policy.

Cuxhaven is Lutheran. There is one small catholic church in the town, and one small catholic chapel on the island of Neuwark.

The borders are not watched or restricted; pay tolls and travel. One of the party has a writ to travel without paying tolls, but all may travel freely.

Alexis said...

The struggle in Bremen is not over religion, but over Sweden's attempt to control trade in that city when formerly not even the Empire controlled trade there. Bremen wants the privilege of having total control over their own taxation - so it is like the American colonies 120 years later.

Pretty much it is Lutherans vs. Lutherans.

Alexis said...

No need to hide the rosary. Lutherans tended to consider themselves to be Catholic in spirit, if not in obeiance to Rome. Even in Holland a rosary would not bring much trouble. However, in Calvinist parts of France, Ireland and Scotland? Yes, there you probably wouldn't want to show it.

Andrej said...

Thanks for the clarity, Alexis.

I hear you, Ninetoes & Silvius

As a matter of course, and perhaps in preparation for the immediate future and as yet unknown needs of his forthcoming companions, Alexis would make himself known to whomever presides over the small Catholic church in town. I'm hoping to establish at least an understanding amongst colleagues if not a friendship. Andrej would like to make himself of service here to the Catholics.

Given the region's apparent ambivalence, I see Andrej leaning more toward cautiously cooperative than rabble-rousing minority at this point. As such, we can focus on more immediate needs for the party: income. He would still seek out other local minorities for the purpose of commiseration and counsel.

I'm finished work for the weekend and have familial obligations tonight. I'll give some more thought to what's here, but encourage you guys to push Alexis for more information and possibly follow through on the idea of getting in good with the magistrate. I'll check back in this weekend as I'm able and be prepared to play Monday.

Andrej said...

I meant to say andrej would make acquaintance with the local priest, not Alexis of course.

Silvius Volundr said...

Within Cuxhaven are there any bills or signs posted of an adventurous nature? Brigands wanted or services requested?

Silvius Volundr said...

Excellent, James. Have a great weekend. I will be unavailable Saturday afternoon and eve. I am running a live AD&D game with some close friends. Today and Sunday I will be able to post, however.

Once we team up as a party, I am going to try to use Ahmet's raw brawn to see if we can tempt the magistrate to give us something dangerous to do. We can always walk away from it if something better comes along.

Don't think I have forgotten about Neuwerk Isle either!

Alexis, just si I can plan my next few days, when do you plan to post our "beginning"?

Alexis said...

Sigh. That old annoying standby: "Adventurers Wanted: Apply Within."

Don't suppose for a moment the world works that way. But may I remind you, the fishmonger Silvius knows made a comment about families temporarily vacating from Neuwark Island and Silvius didn't ask why.

Alexis said...

I was thinking about posting a beginning in a few hours, actually. I'm not really worried about people not being able to post through the weekend; throw in a word here or there when you can and the adventure will wait when it is necessary to wait.

Silvius Volundr said...

C'Mon Alexis! Don't beat on me for looking for low hanging fruit!

You know what's annoying? Bandits. Sometimes people get annoyed enough to put bounties on them. Info that leads to the capture of Red Beard...that kind of thing.

I would feel like a chump for not checking out the obvious.

Speaking of which, at first opportunity Silvius the Hammerless will be inquiring about the Flight of the Fish Families. If that vanity be resolved now, I will happily loosen the fishmonger's tongue with strong beer and smoked eel.

Silvius Volundr said...

Sigh. "Vanity" should actually read "cannot be"

Ahmet said...

Ahmet is just in it for the money (at the moment). Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran... you're all infidels anyway.

I'll sporadically busy tonight and tomorrow afternoon, but should be able to pop in from time to time.

Nine-toes said...

Okay wait, I may have just had a breakthrough. In the descriptions Alexis said the moors and woodlands were full of bandits and monsters, possibly remote castles. If I'm reading the second map right, Cuxhaven is right on the edge of moors to the West and South. Should we head to the moors looking for trouble? Or would this be a suicide march for us?

Can I ask anyone for info whose been through the moors?

Silvius Volundr said...

Works for me, Ninetoes, but if we are going to do that, let's see if we can get some sponsorship from this magistrate.

I am going to find out more about that island too.

Alexis said...

Bad habits.

Silvius, do you really believe the appointed magistrate (who himself answers to other people in another city) is going to even grant you an audience, given that you are a completely unknown entity and not a resident of the town? Imagine knocking on the door of any mayor's office that you know about and asking for him to give you a good reference for the next job you want. T'ain't gonna happen, my friend.

Seriously, you've got to realize that any human interation that would NEVER happen in the real world is pretty much not going to happen in my world, either. There are NO short cuts. You've got to do it down on the ground, make your own name. Don't go thinking you can trade on someone else's.

Silvius Volundr said...

I hear you Alexis.

I had no intention of knocking on his door. That was just some player-to-player, big picture talk. It was not a suggestion to be taken literally, or even for your ears necessarily.

I thought of a few ways we could seek to catch the magistrate's eye that I will not bother to type up on my phone until we decide that is our goal. Once we all buy into a given plan, then we can drill down to details.

First, we will need to buy a holy avenger sword though...

Silvius Volundr said...

I'm just busting your chops on the sword, by the way.

Alexis said...

"It was not a suggestion to be taken literally, or even for your ears necessarily."

Sorry. My bad.

Silvius Volundr said...

No worries!

I understand that you just want your game to be played well. I want that too.

In the flurry of posts today, while working, I have been turned around a couple of times. So I appreciate your desire to keep us focused.

Thanks again.