Sunday 27 April 2014

Diggers and Ranters

Religion in the DCC English Civil War

The English Civil War was not primarily a war of religion, though religious rhetoric was universally deployed to bolster the political cases made by each side and one of the prizes for the victorious faction was the chance to remake the Church of England in their own image.

Religious innovation was rife throughout the period. The 1640s saw the start of any number of religious sects, many quite bizarre in their beliefs and many attached to extreme (for the 17th century) political agendas. I am only going to make a few distinctions here between primarily spiritual sects like the Quakers and primarily political ones like the Levellers; if historically they thought they had God on their side then for game purposes they have.

I have not yet finished this document, which details what sects are available to a beginning character as yet, writing the huge tables for DCC spells is pain in the arse, but it is here for your perusal and hopefully enjoyment.

Player character Clerics will be able to use the 'Found Sect' spell which I haven't written up properly yet. They can concoct their own sect de novo, or found one of the historical sects detailed here pre-empting the historical founder.

Standard DCC Divine Intervention is not allowed, and the spells available to each sect may vary. In addition Divine Disapproval does not go away overnight, you are stuck with it until you make amends for your sins. But you do get a special ability and spells associated with your sect.

The list of available sects given here is not quite historical for the planned campiagn start point in 1642, but I want to give the players the chance to experience the joys of being a Muggletonian or Digger from the beginning; even if the sect did not emerge from the fog of history until a later date there were assuredly people who had similar beliefs years before but kept them quiet. The death of Charles, the apparent end of Anglicanism and the heady revolutionary atmosphere of the Commonwealth encouraged any number of radical oddballs to openly preach their own off-brand of salvation.

An example sect:


Alignment: Cavalier
Likes: Tobacco, Drinking, Free Love, Spirituality
Dislikes: Bishops, Priests, 'The Demiurge', Property Laws, Materialism

The Ranters were extreme Antinomians – they believed that the laws and codes of 'godly' behaviour were irrelevant to one who had been truly saved and had become one with the holy spirit through their program of prayer and meditation. Once you had been saved you could fornicate, drink, smoke and even take other people's stuff – property was man's law, not God's – with impunity. A Ranter was one with God, he had experienced the enlightenment Jesus himself had gone through, nothing could be sinful to such a person. Having your worldly goods liberated and consumed by a Ranter was actually a divine favour, reminding you that material things are what keep us from true enlightenment. Once everyone has been saved the world will be perfect and everyone will follow the one useful commandment discovered by the Ranter prophets William Preston and Theodore Logan; ‘Be excellent to each other’.

Needless to say they were not in least bit popular with anyone. One of their noted thinkers, Abiezer Coppe, was continually in and out of jail, breaking all oaths to keep the peace out of principle, since oaths were man's law and an invention of a Satanic Demiurge to limit the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

They got away with their anarchist hi-jinks for a while during the Civil War, but inevitably the dour Puritans caught up with them and they eventually all got jailed, transported to the colonies or converted to less demented spiritual sects like the Quakers. But who knows? Perhaps in the fantasy ECW Ranterism will take off, though who knows what lunacy that would lead to.

Ranters, like the Seekers, are an anti-clerical sect, and may combine Cleric levels with another class. Being spiritual anarchists they gain Divine Disapproval for not behaving badly; if there is a chance of cadging a free meal they must, they are obliged to indulge in casual sex, and if an opportunity to pilfer from a non-believer crops up they must take it - the Ranter must reaffrim his spiritual freedom and transcendence of the mundane. Ranters are generous to a fault as well, they will happily blow all their cash on a party for all comers and give away any possession on a whim to prove their indifference to materialism; this is their chief way of reducing Disapproval.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Cavaliers and Roundheads

Alignment in the English Civil War

What's all this rubbish about Law and Chaos? No one in 17th century England, not even them drunkard Ranters, ever sat down and said 'Hi folks, I'm Chaotic!'.

Alignment in the English Civil War is, I'm afraid, a two dimensional affair like good old AD&D...

Cavalier vs Roundhead

Cavalier characters are, well, a bit cavalier. They are hearty fellows, pleased to live life to the full, but also a bit inclined to go into things cockeyed, like a cavalry troop at the gallop, hoping their natural panache will see them through if it gets a bit difficult. They like adventuring for the look of the thing, to pay for the fine wines, strong ales and rich living they intend to get done before Judgement Day or a stray musket ball takes them off this mortal coil. They are brave but easily discouraged if there's a bit of hard work to be done to get their just reward.

Roundheads are a lot more sober. They are stubborn and unwavering in the pike square, or when methodically reloading their matchlocks while the damn fool cavaliers bounce off their prepared positions. They measure twice and cut once, and do not suffer fools gladly. Sometimes they may be too cautious, but their feel their careful and planned approach to adventuring leads to a bigger and better pay offs in the long run than the cavaliers smash and grab raids.

Neutrals are everyone else; not too rash, not too careful, not liable to start a punch up over possession of a fine hat feather, not over obsessed with counting the gunpowder to the last grain and weighing its cost against the value of the purse in a highway robbery.

Royalist vs Republican

Royalists work from the top down; there's people in charge and there's people who ain't, it's just the way the world is. If you follow orders without whingeing and backchat and impress your betters you can get promoted, and might get to be considered a gentleman too. Loyalty is the primary virtue, everyone knowing their place in the world, swearing an oath to God and King and sticking to it the only honourable way. Being disrespectful to the King and Bishops is the next best thing to cheeking God himself, if these people weren't meant to be in charge why did the almighty allow them to prosper?

Republicans work from the bottom up. No man's opinion can be discounted for naught, all men have reason. The actions of the nation must be decided by a Parliament of equals chosen by the men of the boroughs, solid citizens who have earned the trust of their fellow man, not had position bestowed on them from above by a nincompoop who happens to have a fancy hat on. God made all men equal in his sight, all men should be equal before the law and government of the land also; that idiot Charles Stuart is merely a man like the rest of us, he would do well to remember it.

Neutrals can't make their minds up. The old ways worked, you knew where you were; you were probably face down in the mire with a noble standing on your head, but you knew where you were. Parliament? A lot of clever gents well learned in law, but would their way be any better? They certainly seem to be a lot more hardworking and upright than them fancy pants courtiers, but, ech, puritan lawyers...

The classic combos are Royalist/Cavalier and Republican/Roundhead, but there are plenty of neutrals on the Royalist side and a few dedicated roundheaded fanatics who will carefully plot in the King's cause. Likewise many Republicans are a bit cavalier, caught up in the romance of the revolt, inflamed by the bold words of the Scottish Covenant or the English Petition of Rights and highly likely to shoot first and ask questions later.

Thieves and Clerics

DCC alignment is important for Clerics. In the core book certain deities are of a given alignment, and I will cover religion in another post. It also plays a part in healing, with the table on p31 being divided into 'Same', 'Adjacent' and 'Opposed'.

In the two axis system see the chart below – one square horizontally, vertically or diagonally away from the Cleric's alignment is 'Adjacent', two squares away is 'Opposite'.

It might trouble some players as to why a difference in temperament and political opinion might lead to divine healing being of varying effect, especially when almost everyone claims to worship the same Christian God. And so it should...

The other major use of alignment in DCC is for thief abilities. Civil War Thieves get to use whatever table they like regardless of alignment, as long as they stick to that table throughout their career.

Alignment Bonuses and Changing Alignment

In the course of play actions that are in accordance with the characters declared alignment may be awarded with bonus experience points at the GMs discretion.

People with 'corner' alignments will get more opportunities for XP bonuses than 'side' alignments, and double neutrals, being wimpy middle of the road snivellers liable to be run down by carriages, will get no bonuses until they get off the fence.

Changing alignment from neutral to Cavalier, Roundhead, Royalist or Republican will cause no XP loss. Moving towards neutrality, or even to the opposite side, will cause an XP loss.

In addition changing from a Royalist to a Republican or vice versa may gain you a reputation as a turncoat. Royalists and Republicans will almost always fight each other anyway, but a traitor will have a bounty on his head and may well face hanging, drawing and quartering. Don't let the bastards take you alive!

Sunday 20 April 2014

An Uncivil War

I am working on a new campaign, a fantasy English Civil War using DCC rules.

The ECW for beginners...

Cavaliers vs roundheads, royalists vs republicans, Anglicans vs Presbyterians, plus Levellers, Ranters, Astrologers, Rosicrucians, Masonic conspiracies, Jesuit counter-conspiracies, witches, witch-hunters, cannibals, mercenaries, plague and the pox. All togged out in outrageous hats and dented breastplates, and wielding pikes, pistols and a hefty dose of religious bigotry.

The Civil War was one of those interesting times the Chinese had curses about. In 1625 the monarchy had fallen into the hands of an utter pillock, King Charles I, who tried to rule his three kingdoms (and one principality) of Scotland, Ireland and England (and Wales), without calling any parliaments. He managed it for a few years by taking a few liberties with the tax system he probably shouldn't have, but eventually people started to grumble.

The Scots rebelled first, ostensibly over a prayer book, but it soon got political. Charles botched the campaign to put them down, which encouraged the Irish to rebel as well, and he had to call a parliament in England to ask for more tax money and more troops. They wouldn't give him any without some concessions and reforms, arguing the toss with their divinely appointed monarch with gusto. Charles wouldn't compromise and told them all to bugger off home, they refused. Parliament started calling up the militia while the King revived the feudal levy, and it all went downhill from there.

The British Isles had missed out on the carnage of the Thirty Years War, but made up for it now with a religious/political war that saw the usually phlegmatic Brits get just as fanatical and rabid as anyone on the continent. It was described at the time as 'the world turned upside down', and as the war went on more and more eccentric religious cults and political movements emerged. Lots of people thought in millennialist terms, and this mundane scrap over taxation and representation became the prelude to the Apocalypse itself with Charles and/or Cromwell cast as the Antichrist depending on whose propaganda you read.

All ripe for a a fantasy RPG really, just turn the loopiness of the time up a notch, have a few of the madder rumours and conspiracies real rather than imagined, make the then popular alchemy and astrology real and allow the preachers a bit of real fire and brimstone to call down and off you go.

It is going to take a bit of work though, the DCC magic system does not lend itself to quick adaptation what with all the spell tables, corruption tables, divine disfavour and so on. As key elements are finished I will post them here, and then put out a call for victims for an introductory funnel adventure.