Simplicity Himself

I discovered Warhammer in high school. Some friends I met in art class were into the miniatures, and brought a catalog with them to school one day. Needless to say, I was impressed. I’d never been into miniatures before that, and the old Warhammer stuff was pretty cool. That led to me playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle and buying, though never actually playing, WFRP and Rogue Trader. I didn’t keep up with Warhammer, but the old stuff definitely certainly fired my imagination.

Which brings me to Simplicius Simplicissimus, Warhammer’s great-grandfather (or maybe closer than that). Written in 1668 by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, it is a picaresque novel set in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). It is the story of a simple country boy who gets whisked into the big events of the day, and I would say definitely an influence on the grim world of perilous adventure presented in Warhammer … except I don’t actually know that this is true. I suppose if you’re making a game/setting inspired by the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, you’re going to end up with something akin to a book about those same events.

The main thing that makes me think there’s a link is the progression of Simplicius from career to career over the course of the book. He begins as a simple farm laborer, and then becomes a religious hermit, a fool, an outlaw and sneak thief, a dragoon, a charlatan, etc.

No trollslayers, but still …

The book is a fun read, and the Alfred Thomas Scrope Goodrick translation I read (from Project Gutenberg) was easier going than you might expect for something written a few hundred years ago. I’ll also note that the book moves along at a pretty good pace – old books are sometimes slow (because they didn’t need to compete with TV), but I never had the temptation to skip ahead in Simplicius. The book isn’t entirely “safe for work”, but it doesn’t delve too far into sex and bloody brutality. I definitely give it my recommendation as a book to read on par with most modern adventure fiction.

Literary merits aside, the book presents good fodder for fantasy gaming, Warhammer-style gaming especially. The supernatural shows up a couple times, but isn’t prevalent, so it’s mostly about normal people trying to make their way in a rough time and place. Here are a few passages from the book that I found particularly interesting:

This is the introduction to the hermit who takes him in. This guy is about as Lawful as the book gets:

So I plucked up heart to come out of my hollow tree and to draw nigh to the voice I had heard, where I was ware of a tall man with long greyish hair which fell in confusion over his shoulders: a tangled beard he had shapen like to a Swiss cheese; his face yellow and thin yet kindly enough, and his long gown made up of more than a thousand pieces of cloth of all sorts sewn together one upon another. Round his neck and body he had wound a heavy iron chain like St. William, and in other ways seemed in mine eyes so grisly and terrible that I began to shake like a wet dog.

A description of the soldier’s life. This would apply to most old school fantasy adventurers as well:

For gluttony and drunkenness, hunger and thirst, wenching and dicing and playing, riot and roaring, murdering and being murdered, slaying and being slain, torturing and being tortured, hunting and being hunted, harrying and being harried, robbing and being robbed, frighting and being frighted, causing trouble and suffering trouble, beating and being beaten: in a word, hurting and harming, and in turn being hurt and harmed–this was their whole life.

The goings on of the aristocracy at a party – I thought it might make a good random table for behavior in inns and taverns:

‘Twas indeed a wonderful pantomime to see how they did fool, and yet none wondered but I. One sang: one wept: one laughed: another moaned: one cursed: another prayed: one shouted “Courage!” another could not even speak. One was quiet and peaceable: another would drive the devil out by swaggering: one slept and was silent, another talked so fast that none could stand up against him. One told stories of tender love adventures, another of his dreadful deeds in war. Some talked of church and clergy, some of the constitution, of politics, of the affairs of the empire and of the world. Some ran hither and thither and could not keep still: some lay where they were and could not stir a finger, much less stand up or walk. Some were still eating like ploughmen, and as if they had been a week without food, while others were vomiting up what they had eaten that very day.

A list of hangover cures:

There wormwood, sage wine, elecampane, quince and lemon drinks, with hippocras, were to clear the heads and stomachs of the drinkers;

A strange spell from the book:

And no sooner had the rogue mumbled some words than there sprang out of each man’s breeches, sleeves, boots and pockets, and all other openings in their clothes, one, two, three, or more young puppies. And these sniffed round and round in the tent, and pretty beasts they were, of all manner of colours, and each with some special ornament, so that ’twas a right merry sight.

If you like gore, the book has some gore. This could also work as a description of a fantasy battlefield:

The earth, whose custom it is to cover the dead was there itself covered with them, and those variously distinguished: for here lay heads that had lost their natural owners, and there bodies that lacked their heads: some had their bowels hanging out in most ghastly and pitiful fashion, and others had their heads cleft and their brains scattered: there one could see how lifeless bodies were deprived of their blood while the living were covered with the blood of others; here lay arms shot off, on which the fingers still moved, as if they would yet be fighting; and elsewhere rascals were in full flight that had shed no drop of blood: there lay severed legs, which though delivered from the burden of the body, yet were far heavier than they had been before: there could one see crippled soldiers begging for death, and on the contrary others beseeching quarter and the sparing of their lives. In a word, ’twas naught but a miserable and pitiful sight.

The effect of gunpowder on the world (i.e. look out high level fighters):

But ’twas this cause made me so great a man, that nowadays the veriest horse-boy can shoot the greatest hero in the world; and had not gunpowder been invented I must have put my pride in my pocket.

On the glories of gold (and some supernatural associations with gemstones):

Yea, I could even take upon me to prove that this same money possesses all virtues and powers more than any precious stones; for it can drive away all melancholia like the diamond: it causeth love and inclination to study, like the emerald (for so comes it that commonly students have more money than poor folk’s children): it taketh away fear and maketh man joyful and happy like unto the ruby: ’tis often an hindrance to sleep, like the garnet: on the other hand, it hath great power to produce repose of mind and so sleep, like the jacinth: it strengtheneth the heart and maketh a man jolly and companionable, lively and kind, like the sapphire and amethyst: it driveth away bad dreams, giveth joy, sharpeneth the understanding, and if one have a plaint against another it gaineth him the victory, like the sardius (and in especial if the judge’s palm be first well oiled therewith): it quencheth unchaste desire, for by means of gold one can possess fair women: and in a word, ’tis not to be exprest what gold can do, as I have before set forth in my book intituled “Black and White,” if any man know how rightly to use and employ this information.

Probably not the best name for a game (bolded text):

And though I did no deed evil enough to forfeit my life, yet was I so reckless that, save for sorcerers and sodomites, no worse man could be found.

On random encounters in the Black Forest:

… that I should not escape from the peasants of the Black Forest, which were then famous for the knocking of soldiers on the head.

A melee:

… when we did least expect it, came six musqueteers with a corporal to our hut with their pieces ready and their matches burning, who burst in the door and cried to us to surrender. But Oliver (that, like me, had ever his loaded piece lying by him and his sharp sword also, and then sat behind the table, and I by the stove behind the door) answered them with a couple of musquet-balls, wherewith he brought two to the ground, while I with a like shot slew one and wounded the fourth. Then Oliver whipped out his terrible sword (that could cut hairs asunder and might well be compared to Caliburn, the sword of King Arthur of England) and therewith he clove the fifth man from the shoulder to the belly, so that his bowels gushed out and he himself fell down beside them in gruesome fashion. And meanwhile I knocked the sixth man on the head with the butt-end of my piece, so that he fell lifeless: but Oliver got even such a blow from the seventh, and that with such force that his brains flew out, and I in turn dealt him that did that such a crack that he must needs join his comrades on the dead muster-roll. So when the one that I had shot at and wounded was ware of such cuffs and saw that I made for him with the butt of my piece also, he threw away his gun and began to run as if the devil was at his heels. Yet all this fight lasted no longer than one could say a paternoster, in which brief space seven brave soldiers did bite the dust.

A spell to force thieves to give back their stolen goods, worth 10 sp (or more or less, depending on your system):

And since ’tis as grievous to lose such things as ’tis hard to get them, therefore the said Switzer would move heaven and earth to come by them again, and did even send for the famous devil-driver of the Goatskin, which did so plague the thief by his charms that he must needs restore the stolen goods to their proper place: for which the wizard earned ten rix-dollars.

I hope this motivates you to give the book a read, especially if you’re a WFRP player or game master. Well worth the time!

Black Death Preview

Today, I’m talking about my next Quick & Easy (though that classification might not fit exactly) game, Black Death. Obviously, it’s a cheery game about rainbows and gumdrops.

The idea for Black Death was really just an image of a guy being molested by a skeleton. From there, it turned into a game set during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the devastating Thirty Years War, in which all the fighting and condemnations and general hatred have allowed Hell to burst forth on Earth. Now the Catholics and Protestants also get to deal with demons, the undead and other fantasy creatures. Into this cesspool of violence, black magic and disease (lots of disease), a band of mercenaries, picaros and itinerant scholars does their best to survive and thrive.

Here are a few bits and pieces from the game as it currently stands. Right now, it’s about 80% there – written, but with lots of editing and tweaking needed, but well on its way. I’ve also got the hex map for NOD 28 done (need to start writing my buns off), and I’m doing another round of edits on GRIT & VIGOR.

Abilities: Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception and Charisma.

Allegiance: This can be to a religion, nation or other concept. Characters get to allegiances, and they get an experience bonus when they serve them (which may pit characters against one another, if their allegiance’s clash)

Classes: Hoo boy, there are a few of these. Since classes in Q&E games are just a collection of skills, it’s not too hard to build them. Each of these classes also have a special ability each. Here are a few examples:

HexenhammerHexenhammers are witch hunters, scouring the countryside for the tools of Satan (or harmless-but-scary old women, as the case may be). Hexenhammers are possessed of a frightening determination, and once they are on the scent of a witch, they do not stop their hunt until they have their quarry. Every hexenhammer carries with her a well-worn copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, a guide book for witch hunters.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Endure (Con), Intimidate (Str), Prayer (Wil)

Special Ability: After long study of the Malleus Maleficarum, hexenhammers know well their ways. They can use a Sixth Sense task check to sense the presence of witches, conjurers, heretics and tools of Satan within 60’.


The landsknechts are mercenaries, fighters-for-hire that care little about the cause, only the reward. English mercenaries might instead be called “gentleman adventurers”, Italians “condottieri” and the Swiss “reisläufer”, but they’re all just mercenaries. When a general is willing to pay them, they are happy to fight battles. When clients are in short supply, they are happy to turn to brigandage or adventuring to earn a living.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Marksmanship (Dex), Carouse (Con), Endure (Con)

Special Ability: Landsknechts are well trained in the fighting arts, and may use any armor and any melee or missile weapon, regardless of their current Fighting or Marksmanship skill values (q.v.).


Magicians practice the scholarly magic of the Renaissance. While they themselves may be benevolent, they must have truck with demons to produce their magical effects, and therefore are considered suspect by most decent folk. Magicians are usually to be found in the robes of a magic, or in the dress of a gentleman or gentlewoman with one or several grimoires on their person, heavily annotated in the margins and smelling slightly of sulfur. The most famous of their number is perhaps Doctor Faustus.

Primary Skills: Invocation (Int)
Secondary Skills: Flee (Agi), Fortune Telling (Wil), Learning (Int)

Special Ability: Conjurers receive their magical knowledge from books, and are thus always literate. When they have a grimoire in hand, they can use it to aid in their magic. For each grimoire they possess, they can add +1 to their Invocation score during a task check, but add one combat round to the time it takes them to cast the spell.

Other classes include the archer, barbarian, cleric, courtesan, doctor, flagellant, fool, gypsy, hunter, inquisitor, knight (dame), mariner, musketeer, picaro, professor, rakehell, rat-catcher, resurrectionist, robber, satanist, student prince, trader and witch.

When these classes run around killing things (or trying not to be killed), they’ll have a big list of weapons. I went a little nuts on the weapons, and each weapon is capable of a “weapon trick” in place of doing damage – things like tripping people, backing them up, disarming them, crushing armor.

There’s a section on disease – lots of opportunities to catch something nasty – and on damnation. Damnation points are collected when people do bad things – absolution by the church can remove them, as can holy quests and pilgrimages.  The more damnation points, the harder it is for holy magic to work on you, and the more likely you bear a “mark of Satan” – i.e. a mutation.

There are lots of monsters – undead and demons, but also fey creatures. The monsters are mostly from Central European myth and folklore, but some other bits and pieces as well, such as from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s still a pretty quick and easy game to play (I think), but it does look like it’s going to be about 88 pages long – about twice the size of earlier efforts. I’ll keep folks updated.

Oh, and here’s an early draft of the map, broken into regions for easy travel rules.

Dragon by Dragon – May 1980 (37)

To be completely honest, The Dragon was not the biggest thing that happened in May 1980.


That being said, it may have been the biggest thing that happened in RPG’s that month, and that’s good enough for me. Let us delve into the top ten things about The Dragon #37.


Arthur W. Collins fills in the alignment gap of dragons in this article, and introduces the gemstone dragons we have all come to know and love (well, some of us). These are dandy creatures, especially if you’re into psionics. What follows are some quick stat blocks in Blood & Treasure style for the gemstone dragons (all adults, max. hit dice):

Crystal Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 6; AC 18; ATK 2 claws (1d4) and bite (2d6); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dazzling cloud that cause blindness, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (35%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 50% chance of speaking, 30% chance of magic-use, druid spells (1/1/1/1), magic-user spells (1/1/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Topaz Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 7; AC 19; ATK 2 claws (1d4+1) and bite (2d8); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dehydration gets rid of 3 cubic feet of liquid per dragon hp and deals 1d6+6 Str damage to creatures, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (40%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 60% chance of speaking, 35% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Emerald Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 8; AC 20; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (3d6); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W8; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day; sonic vibration knocks people unconscious for 1d6 x 10 minutes or deafens them for same if they save), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (50%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 70% chance of speaking, 40% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sapphire Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 9; AC 21; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (5d4); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W6; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day, sonic vibration disintegrates a number of hit points equal to the dragon’s hit points), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (55%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 80% chance of speaking, 45% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/2), magic-user spells (2/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Amethyst Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 10; AC 22; ATK 2 claws (1d8) and bite (5d6); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like a banshee), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (65%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 90% chance of speaking, 50% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/1/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/1/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sardior the Ruby Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 11; AC 23; ATK 2 claws (1d10) and bite (5d8); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like amethyst dragon or dazzling cloud like crystal dragon), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (75%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 100% chance of speaking, 100% chance of magic-use, druid spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), magic-user spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Inflict one on your players today!

Side Trek #1 – Fiends!

“On other fronts, it seems likely now that TSR and Games Workshop have reached a final agreement regarding the publication of the Fiend Folio …”

Love the Fiend Folio. Love it.

Side Trek #2 – Calling Mr. Hall

“Question: My character is a 9th-level Druid changed to a Magic-User (he is now 10th level as a M-U). I want to be able to put my previously owned Apparatus of Kwalish inside my newly acquired Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. Then I would have the ultimate weapon …”

#2. Happenstance

So I’m knee-deep in writing Black Death, which is set, vaguely, during the Thirty Years War and the Wars of Religion. What article do I happen to come across, but “Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati Part VI – Landsknect and Reiters”.

Apparently, the Landsknecht army (and my game) should include:

Infantry – pike-armed, in the style of the Swiss pikemen they were trying to counter

Light Cavalry – dressed as landsknechts, armed with arquebus or crossbow – trained as skirmishers and scouts

Ritters – armored lancers with full plate, battle lances and longswords, and plate barding for the horse

Reiters – black-armored pistoliers, they took two form – light reiters wore a shirt of mail and heavy reiters wore half-plate; both carried three wheellock or matchlock pistols and an estoc

The landsknechts were true mercenaries – a good war to them was one with lots of prisoners they could ransom!

#3. Magic-Users are Experience

T. I. Jones presents a very long article about magic research for magic-users and clerics. I think it’s one of those interesting pieces that tried to deal with all that treasure that was floating around in AD&D. The idea, which I generally ascribe to, is to keep the players needing money, and that keeps them delving into dungeons. The DMG had training costs, which we never used when I was a kid and which I now understand were kind of important to the game. There was also the expense of one day setting up a stronghold. This article gives another – magic research. For example:

“Research in one’s own library will require that such a library have been acquired and built up over the course of several levels of experience. It should be not only difficult but expensive to acquire such a library—a minimum expenditure of 10,000 gold pieces per level of the spell to be researched is recommended. That is, if a Magic-User is to research a second-level spell, he should have spent at least 20,000 gold pieces on his library.”

#4. Libraries

Speaking of libraries, the next article, by Colleen A. Bishop, is a random book generator. Let’s build a library shelf by rolling some percentile dice:

Our shelf contains 250 scrolls (holy cow! – I’m not rolling up all of those) and five books. There’s a 4% chance of a scroll being magic, so there should be 10 magic scrolls on the shelf. The books are two histories of particular castles, a book about the inferiority of kobolds to human beings, and another about how humans are better than dwarves and an alchemist’s notebook in which the writing is too difficult to read.

This would be an excellent random table to automate, to produce large libraries quickly.

#5. Giant in the Earth

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay present another batch of literary heroes for D&D. This time, the article does not include any character stats. Rather, it describes the rationale used by the authors for creating their stats. The article includes a great passage about doing stats for Tolkien’s creations …

“As far as writing up the characters from Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, we would love to try our hand at them. Unfortunately, the Tolkien estate is known to be fanatically paranoid about the slightest possible infringement of rights (whether real or imagined). We were also unwilling to attempt them because 90% of the Tolkien fans would be unhappy with the results, regardless of what they were. In the end, we decided it was simply too much hassle to write up Tolkien characters.”

Yeah, this would be post-lawsuit.

The article has a nice table comparing AD&D to D&D levels, which I reproduce:

AD&D 21+ = D&D 40+ / equivalent to demigods, for characters with magically extended lives or who are in close contact with the gods

AD&D 17-20 = D&D 30-30 / the max. an exceptional character would obtain in a single lifetime

AD&D 13-16 = D&D 20-29 / average for heroic characters

AD&D 9-12 = D&D 10-19 / normal minimum for any hero

AD&D 5-8 = D&D 5-9 / this line was actually missing from the article

AD&D 1-4 = D&D 1-4 / low-level cannon-fodder

#6. Urban Encounters

Here’s a nice table folks should find some use for …

#7. Nothing New Under the Sun

From the letters to the editor …

“Unfortunately, I do not feel so good about Mr. Fawcett’s article, “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons.” Yes, I did read the article’s opening statement about the source material being both religious and fictional in nature. As a DM, I will admit that the concept of having angels for the deities of a mythos is intriguing. However, it is the source material that bothers me. Let us remember that much of the article was derived from the Holy Bible, and as far as I’m concerned that is not a book to be taken lightly! Games are games, but the Word of God is not something to be used in such a manner.

I happen to believe in the Bible. However, I also happen to believe in the Constitution, and I respect your right to print what you wish. But I think that “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons” was in extremely poor taste.”

#8. Magic Items

Some goodies in the Bazaar of the Bizarre this month. Here’s an inventory:

Mirror of Speed
Mirror of Confusion
Mirror of Memory
Mirror of All-Seeing
Yefar’s Great Mirror (all by Gerald Strathmann)
Rod of Singing by Robert Plamondon (cursed  item)
The Discus Shield by Roger E. Moore

#9. Vulturehounds

A cool monster by Chris Chalmers and Dan Pollak. Quick stat block

Vulturehound. Small Magical Beast: HD 2; AC 15; ATK 2 claws (1d3) and bite (1d6); MV 50′ (fly 30′); SV F13 R11 W18; AL Neutral (N); Special-None.

They run around in groups of 4d6, and have voracious appetites. I think they’d be a great encounter in dry hills.

Side Trek #3 – I love McLean!

Always loved the art style, and the humor

#10. The Pit of the Oracle

A module by Stephen Sullivan, with a nice cover image by Jeff Dee in which a fighter is either doing a bad-ass, casual back strike against a troglodyte, or in which a fighter is about to get his ass kicked by a couple troglodytes.

The module contains a dungeon and a town (and a Temple of Apathy), as well as some other nice art pieces by Dee, Roslof, Otus and Sutherland. You can tell the elements of D&D’s most classic phase are all coming together.

The map has all sorts of notations on it, which makes me think the adventure is a bit complex … but it also looks really cool. Hey, maybe that’s just the art talking.

And that’s Dragon #37 – happy Sunday folks and have a groovy week ahead.

The Landsknecht

Click to make larger … you know, so you can actually read it

The landsknechts – roughly translated as lowland vassals – were the preeminent mercenaries of Europe in the 16th century, surpassing the famous Swiss pikemen when they defeated them at the Battles of Bicocca and Marignano. The landsknechts were first formed in 1487 by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, as an imitation of the Swiss pikemen. Like the Swiss, they relied primarily on the pike with support from crossbowmen, arquebusiers, halberdiers and swordsmen. The landknechts probably reached their height during the Thirty Years War (which is why I’m featuring the class in this issue).

What roll could a landsknecht play in dungeon exploration? It is a common practice to bring retainers into a dungeon to help overpower enemies and soak up their attacks for the player characters. The landsknecht is a master of soldiers, a captain in the field. The landsknecht may not be as powerful a front-line warrior as the fighter, but he brings friends and knows how to use them.

Experience Points: As Fighter

A landsknecht is not trained to fight solo, like a fighter, but rather in a company of warriors. When he starts his career, he is a slightly less powerful fighter, though he receives a +1 bonus to hit with spears, pikes and other polearms due to long training with these weapons.

As the landsknecht advances in level, he adds men-at-arms to his company. At each level beyond 1st, the landsknecht adds a single man-at-arms to his company. The man-at-arms equipment is rolled on the table below:

1-5. Pike (or spear), leather armor, dagger
6-8. Arquebus (or heavy crossbow), leather armor, scimitar
9. Halberd, leather armor, dagger
10. Greatsword, leather armor, dagger

These men-at-arms are the landsknecht’s personal guard, and do not count as his retainers. Retainers can still be hired separately by the landsknecht, and are commanded by him, but they do not benefit from his special abilities as his personal guard does.

A 3rd level landsknecht adds a trabant to his personal guard. The trabant is a 2 HD warrior armed with a greatsword, dagger and ringmail.

A 5th level landsknecht adds a kaplan (chaplain) to his personal guard. The kaplan has the same alignment and patron deity as the landsknecht. He fights as a 2 HD warrior and casts spells as a level two adept. The kaplan is armed with a light mace, buckler and chainmail shirt.
Once per day, a 6th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to amazing levels of courage. As long as he is within 10 feet of them, they enjoy a +1 bonus to save vs charm and fear effects, and a +1 bonus to hit and damage for one battle.

A 7th level landsknecht adds a führer (guide) to his personal guard. The guide fights as a 2 HD warrior and has the track and survival skills as a 2nd level ranger.

Once per day, an 8th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to greatness. All troops within 30 feet of the landsknecht gain 1 Hit Dice, an additional +1 bonus to hit and damage, and a +1 bonus on all Fortitude saving throws for the duration of one battle.

A 9th level landsknecht adds a standard bearer (and personal standard) to his personal guard at 9th level. The standard increases the fighting ability of his special troops (trabant, kaplan, führer) by one hit dice, and grants his entire personal guard a +1 bonus to save vs. fear and magic spells. The standard bearer fights as a 3 HD warrior, using his standard as a quarterstaff. He also carries a dagger and wears a breastplate.

It is not uncommon for a landsknecht to lose troops, of course. Any troops lost from his personal guard can be purchased in a settlement (town-sized or larger) at a cost of 10 gp per soldier plus equipment costs. Special troops can be purchased for 100 gp plus equipment costs.

The Thirty Years Campaign

Taking of Breisach by Jusepe Leonardo | via Wikipedia

As the land of the Brothers Grimm, Germany seems an obvious inspiration for a fantasy campaign. Castles, tiny kingdoms (or marks, or duchies, or palatinates, etc.), dark woods, tall mountains, Germanic mythology … it all works.

Dungeons & Dragons (or whatever version you prefer), though, has at its heart the idea of the fantasy apocalypse. Adventurers combing through the ruins of ancient civilizations for wealth and fighting the monsters that now control these ruins and wastelands to make the world safe for civilization. Medieval Germany might not be the best place to set a fantasy apocalypse … but how about Germany during the Thirty Years War?

Round about 1618, Catholicism and Protestantism decided to have it out, and Germany was unfortunate enough to be located between the largely Protestant north and the largely Catholic south. As the war dragged on, religion became less of a factor, and the struggle between the Hapsburgs and Bourbons took center stage. Whatever the opposing sides, the German states took the brunt of it. Thousands died from war, famine and disease. Death, war, famine and disease – sounds like the apocalypse to me. Towards the end of the war, witch hunting came into vogue.

A landscape with travellers ambushed outside a small town by Sebastian Vrancx | via Wikipedia

So what do we have? A once prosperous country ravaged by war, disease and famine. Lots of ruins, foreboding landscapes, etc. With all that disease and death, the undead are a natural. Undead that spawn by killing make a great stand-in for plagues. You’re in Germany, so all sorts of fey and dragons make sense. As human civilization retreats, the monsters begin expanding their ranges. You have two formerly Lawful Good religions that have probably become Lawful Neutral (at best) clashing over matters of liturgy and ritual, and opening the doors to Chaos. The goblins have retaken the woodlands! Hobgoblin mercenaries are plundering the countryside! Ruins! Treasure! D&D!

For characters, you can bring in dwarfs from the Alps and elves from the Black Forest, or you can just focus on humans. Germans sure (though German was still a nebulous term – think Saxons and Bavarians and such instead), but the war was also fought by Swedes (led by Adolphus Gustavus), Danes, Bohemians, the French, Lowlanders, Prussians, Transylvanians, the Spanish, the Italians, Scots, Croats, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Austrians … plenty of variety for human characters.

Batalla de Rocroi (1643) por Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau | via Wikipedia

Fighters can be modeled on Halberdiers or Pikemen or, best of all, zweihander-armed landesknechts. Paladins would be great in a setting like this, and Rangers are perfect guides through the wilderness. Most of the armor we’re used to would work fine in this setting. The Thirty Years War also has muskets, pistols and cannon. Oh – and Cyrano de Bergerac!

Clerics can be Catholic or Protestant (and may represent the good members left in those religions, on the hunt for relics to save or destroy) or they can be anti-clerics sewing discontent in the name of Chaos. Jewish clerics would make interesting characters, for sure. Druids could be complicated, and would probably be better modeled as wise women or cunning men from the countryside, or followers of primitive Christianity trying to get back to the basics of life. Cardinal Richelieu is a participant in the wars – wouldn’t he make an interesting patron for a French cleric?

Magic-users could be learned alchemists and pseudo-scientists, or they could be those witches the bishops were hunting down.

Thieves and assassins are naturals in a setting like this – the assassins working for the different political factions, the thieves just being normal folks who have lost everything and had to turn to robbery to support themselves.

So, how about a campaign set in the depths of a fantasy-style Thirty Years War? Bold adventurers delve into ruins in search of loot or holy relics (or both) and battle roving bands of brigands, mercenary companies and the monsters that are emerging from the edges of the empire. Sometimes the adventurers retreat into France or Italy or England to rest, buy supplies and hire retainers. As the campaign continues, they become powers in their own right, rubbing shoulders with kings and princes and generals, and eventually joining in the famous battles of the war – what a great excuse to drag out Chainmail and its fantasy supplement! Maybe the Erlking of the Alps is planning to join the war with his dwarves and elves and trolls and giants? The possibilities are many.

Soldiers plundering a farm during the thirty years’ war by Sebastian Vrancx | via Wikipedia