A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe (Second Edition) by Joseph Browning and Suzi Yee is a role playing game supplement published by Expeditious Retreat Press intended to help with the creation of a society in the European Middle Ages, or Medieval period, including the sometimes extensive influence that magic would have in comparison to a purely historical setting, and is part of their Magical Society line of supplements. The supplement is aimed at the d20 System. The product purchased was a standard PDF digital product. No other product types are available.
The Introduction covers some generalities for the period, including some d20 specific details, and an overview of magic in general in the period.
There are nine chapters that make up the majority of the book, On Those Who Toil, Generating Manors, On the Magical Medieval City, Generating Towns, Economic Simulator, On Those Who Pray, On Those Who Rule, Generating Kingdoms and Aristocracy and On Warfare, and five appendices, Demographics, Generating Magical Resources, The Magical Medieval King Template, The Building System and A Magical Medieval Miscellany as well as a Glossary which covers the terminology in use throughout the supplement.
The first chapter, On Those Who Toil, is based around the lowest class in medieval times, the peasants. It discusses two of the smallest types of settlements, manors and villages, as well as how they are run and the effect magic can have on such everyday matters as food production. There are also a number of plot hooks tying characters into manor encounters.
Credit: Expeditious Retreat Press Chapter two, Generating Manors, goes into detail about how to create the medieval manors from the first chapter. Manors are the basis of the entire medieval setup and, although it is unlikely a player will ever work in one, they may become lords of the manor themselves as well as pass through them from time to time. Populating and running manors, including generating an income for players who become manorial lords, are covered in detail in this chapter.
Chapter three is On the Magical Medieval City and covers the city in detail, from its founding to its government as well as different types of city. Also covered are how cities grow, trade and what can be found in them as well as the various powers that influence a city, including the relationship with higher authorities in the medieval power structure. Magic can have a significant effect on city life, and this chapter covers those affects, and how magic might be regulated. This chapter, and chapter 4, Generating Towns, are also available as a free PDF, A Magical Medieval Society: City Guide.
Generating Towns is chapter four and covers the mechanics of actually building a city based on the ideas from the previous chapter, including mapping the city and the structures in it, as well as determining the influence of the various powers in it.
Chapter five is Economic Simulator covers the economy, expanding on what was in the d20 core books, with different levels of detail available, with a number of examples.
On Those Who Pray is chapter six and this covers religion. Religion in fictional magical medieval societies is vastly different to how it actually was historically. In medieval Europe there was only one main religion - and its' relatives - for the majority of the period, whilst most fantasy societies have multiple gods which makes a substantial difference to how religion influences its' society. How religions interact with each other, and what effect their level of dominance in religious matters has, are considered.
Chapter seven, On Those Who Rule, covers the fundamental system of a medieval society, vassalage. The various rights and laws applicable, and the sometimes extremely complex feudal system, as well as kings and the rest of the aristocracy, are the basis for this chapter.
The next chapter, chapter nine Generating Kingdoms and Aristocracy, shows how to create an entire kingdom and its population and rulers along the principles from the previous chapter.
The final chapter, On Warfare, covers medieval warfare. Here, magic can make an enormous difference, and this chapter has a lot of emphasis on the d20 System. Warfare, and the armed forces typical for the time, as well as fantasy related things that are not typical, are discussed.
The various appendices are mostly quite short, with the main exceptions being Demographics and The Building System. The latter covers the cost of constructing any build, with examples, as well as how a variety of d20 items and spells can reduce cost, construction time, or both.
The PDF has built-in bookmarks, making it easy to navigate to chapters and chapter sections, for those PDF readers with the facility to use bookmarks. The Table of Contents is also thorough, duplicating the same list as in the bookmarks, making the supplement easier to navigate should it be printed out.
The various illustrations throughout the book are in black and white and look to be old public domain or stock images for the various topics rather than specifically made for this book. The cover, which is in full colour, appears to be using an image from a similar source as its' base.
This is probably the most thorough book of its type, based on extensive research of the period by a look at the bibliography at the back of the book. It covers the creation of an entire society, from the bottom to the top, including NPCs, and how to build the influence of magic into the creation of said society. There are enough details on medieval society that it can also be used to create one that doesn't have the level of magic seen in d20 fantasy, and similar, games, by simply ignoring the majority of the magical references. As a whole, the book is well laid out and follows a logical progression for building a setting in the Middle Ages.
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe is less useful for the creation of Renaissance era societies, as there are some significant differences in how countries in the two different periods function. In the medieval period kings have much greater power than they did in Renaissance times for example. The Middle Ages and the Renaissance did overlap, as the Renaissance started before the Middle Ages ended, and which period was extant largely depended on which country was being considered.
The supplement is aimed specifically at the d20 System, with the occasional reference to specific d20 spells, items, alignments and races. The chapter On Warfare and the appendices Generating Magic Resources and The Building System are the sections that have the most extensive references to d20 spells and magical items, but these specifics could be replaced with details from other game systems as required, or simply ignored. Due to the book referencing the d20 System it is also, at least in part although this is not specified, covered by the Open Game License.
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe (Second Edition) is an excellent resource for anyone looking to create a country, and its constituent parts such as settlements, the nobility and religion, in the set in the medieval period no matter which system is being used.
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