14th Century Italian Castles

In the era before gunpowder, star-forts, and sloped walls, your mental image of a "D&D castle" probably resembles the Château de Coucy.
A rough rectangle with four round towers and a central keep. A mountain of stone, built by a military commander aware of the latest trends in warfare.

But different rules applied in 14th century Italy. Small cannons fired wildly inaccurate stone projectiles. Towers were designed to thwart infantry with ladders. Slab-sided, made of brick or small stones, and taller than anyone wold expect, the strategic Italian castle sat on a rocky hill and dominated the local landscape.

If you want to look at a map of all (or very nearly all) castles in Italy, check out the instructions in this post.

The Tower of Frederick II
Doesn't look too imposing up close, but from a distance...
The Castle of Montecchio
Look at that enormous central tower!
The Castle of Zarfa
Ok, this one is cheating because it's in Spain, but still!
This location was used as the Tower of Joy in Game of Thrones. The location is very typical of Italian castles; a prominent rock in the middle of a plain or valley, with clear lines of sight in all directions.
The Towers of San Gimignano
Many italian cities had privately owned towers. Neighbors vied to build the tallest and most defensible towers. There's still some debate on their military usefulness, but from some accounts, a noble family could hide inside to wait out a 3-day sack of a town. What soldier would risk fighting their way up a narrow (potentially booby-trapped) staircase when plenty of families without towers were hiding at ground level?

I have more notes on the towers of Genoa, Pisa, and Lucca in this post.
The "Torre D'acuto", the Tower of Sir John Hawkwood, in Cotignola.
The tower incorporates a few defensive features Hawkwood probably requested personally, given his experience with field artillery.

Other castles, like the Castle of Monteliscai, were squat manor houses fortified and improved over the centuries.
Rocca d'Orcia
It's hard to find good creative commons photos of this imposing castle. The wiki article is well worth reading.
The Castle of Trezzo
The remains of the castle show off peak 13th-14th century choices: a tall square tower, use of terrain (cliffs along the river), brickwork, and flat walls.
Rocca Malatestiana
And finally, a late 14th-mid 15th century fortress. While walls and towers are still square, other innovations (flared tower bases, overhangs, reinforced regions) show the fortress was clearly rebuilt with artillery in mind.

General Rules

-walls are square
-some "castles" are just lone towers. Some are fortified manor houses.
-some castles are made of brick, some of courses of small stones.
-as artillery grows in power, castles become rounded, walls become thicker, and overhangs become common.
-castle technology lagged behind other technolgy for an obvious reason: it's slow and expensive to build a castle.

-it's cheaper and faster to build a tower or convert an old manor house into a fortress than to build a new fortress.

If you want D&D-type rules for building a castle, check out this post.


OSR: Veinscrawl Session 21 & Final Notes

Last session, the party found some occultum, hired antling followers, tried experimental wizard drugs, and lost Tuck the summoner to a disastrous series of misfortunes.

The surviving PCs are:
-Cazael the spiderling fighter. Hardened survivor of many perils and far too much "wizard business".
-Swainson the garden wizard. Turned into a Lamassu (lion-bodied human-headed flying sphinx). Has a cat-coat with pockets and enchanted claws.

-Klaus the barbarian-sorcerer. Turned into a brownie; very unhappy in current form.

-Alice the deerling animist witch. A little bit mad. Strapped magic daggers to antlers.
-Emilio, the human speleomage. Enhanced spellcasting power thanks to liquid occultum injections.
-Jericho, the human elementalist wizard. Stole some occultum and got dire radiation poisoning. Currently losing his hair and bits of skin.

Assisted only by light spells and the glow of the ruins, the party continued their descent into the shattered city. 

They found a complicated, new, and fully active machine boring into the rocks. It seemed to be some sort of occultum-extractor, pulling and condensing raw magic from the ancient stones. They weren't the first to find the prize; Tiggy the hedgehogling thief and her three scabrous camp followers had laid claim to the huge machine.

The party negotiated. With the aid of some wizard skills and a scry spell, they managed to "safely" remove a canister full of occultum gas. After some debate and bickering, Alice decided to spray the gas directly into her sinus cavities, hoping it would condense into solid form somewhere near her brain and give her extra powers. Everyone else found cover.

Amazingly, Alice's plan worked. Her ego, formerly an unshakable force, grew to deific proportions, and her spellcasting abilities grew in equal measure.

Side Note: How many Saves vs Death can one character pass!?!
Reasoning that the occultum-extractor was a Dvergr machine, the party continued to descend. A few hours later, they spotted a spray of sparks from the side of a truly enormous vault. The castle-sized structure was made of strange glassy stone, impervious to the general ruin and destruction that had befallen the rest of the city. It stuck out from a vertical wall of rubble like a tree root from an eroded riverbank.

Suspended on the vertical face, on a gantry fused to the stone's surface with lumps of foam, six stumpy Dvergr miners operated an enormous and extremely complicated drill. Every few minutes, it sent out a spray of sparks and eroded another microscopic layer of stone. The hole into the vault was wide enough for a very small person to squeeze through, but not, the party reasoned, a full encumbered Dvergr.

"What's inside?" Tiggy asked. 

"Treasure, probably. Lots of it. Otherwise, why all this effort to get to it?" Alice replied.

That settled it. Thoughts of "rescuing" the mining team faded. They didn't need rescuing... except possibly from the avaricious PCs.

Wan Bao
The plan was simple. Alice's scying eyeball could see into the vault... but without a light source, it couldn't see past the first tiny room. It provided just enough information for Klaus and Swainson to use sorcery to warp inside.

Their appearance went unnoticed by the Dvergr on the vault's exterior. The flying cat and the brownie crept through the glass-stone chambers, examining strange rune-marks and magic control panels. They found enormous glass tanks containing preserved - or gestating - biomechanical war golems, creatures of sinew and magic clearly designed to terrify and devour. Or so Klaus conjectured; he really had no idea.

"If the Dvergr want to get inside, they probably know these things are here. If they know they're here, they can probably control them. And if they can control them, they'll kill us all." Swainson said, counting out her arguments on her clawed paws.
"True, Klaus said. "I wonder why the city-builders made this thing?"
"That last room had a surface-map in it. Maybe they wanted to invade the surface?"

"Maybe the Dvergr want to finish the job."

When the sorcerous effect expired, Swainson and Klaus returned to the top of the vault. The moving light source attracted some attention. While Cazael tried to distract the Dvergr by leaning off the vault and hollering diplomatic comments at them, the rest of the party prepared for a tactical ambush.

They seemed on the brink of success. Six unarmed dwarf-like things vs. a fully stocked, armed, and armoured party of experienced veinscrawlers.

Needless to say it all went to hell.
Derek Jones
1. Thoroughly worried, the Dvergr retracted the drill and started stuffing themselves into the vault. They had to break their shoulders to do it; not a pleasant sight.

2. Klaus tried to use sorcery to teleport all 6 Dvergr into the air above the poison gas fog in the centre of the ruins. The teleport would only be temporary, but exposure to the toxic green fumes (after a brief fall) would still probably kill them.

3. Unfortunately, the sorcery misfired. Instead of targeting the 6 Dvergr, it targeted 6 of the PCs: Cazael, Swainson, Alice, Emilio, Jericho, and Tiggy. Luckily, Klaus remained on top of the vault.

4. Klaus used sorcery to teleport Emilio, Jericho, and Tiggy, back to the top of the vault. Alice could transform into a flying bird-form. Swainson could already fly and had caught a very unhappy Cazael.

5. The strain of so much rapid sorcery caused Klaus to pass out, bleeding from his ears and twitching violently. When he fell unconcious, all sorcerous effects ended. The group was un-teleported once again. Everyone ended up where they started, deeply confused and very unhappy.

6. Alice, in bird-form, barreled into the vault at full speed, falling upon the Dvergr inside like a hawk on fieldmice.

7. Swainson, who had been carrying Cazael and flying at full speed when the teleport ended, flew off the vault and into the air. Cazael, still hanging from her claws, followed, howling the whole time.

8. The vault started to glow. Powerful magic circles appeared under the glassy surface. Apparently the Dvergr had activated something inside.

9. Jericho started climbing the ropes up and away from the vault, following the Antlings.

10. Emilio and Tiggy, on the surface of the vault, tried to heal Klaus.

11. The vault teleported upwards. Anyone touching the surface was smeared into a paste and spread into a thin sheet several miles tall. Emilio, Tiggy, and Klaus perished instantly.

12. Safe inside the vault, Alice continued to hunt and slaughter Dvergr.

13. Jericho, dangling from a rope and trying not to look down, waited until Cazael and Swainson landed before shimmying the rest of the way up to a semi-stable platform.

14. Swainson realized that she could use her teleport spell to follow the vault upwards. The spell had left a channel in reality, a sort of ozone-path a similar spell could easily follow, even if she didn't have a clear picture of the destination. While Dvergr-controlled war-golems were frightening, Alice-controlled war-golems would be unthinkable.

15. Cazael, thoroughly sick of life underground, agreed. Jericho was more-or-less coerced into joining the two survivors.

The teleport spell carried the PCs upwards. They landed in a swamp in the middle of the night, next to the half-sunk bulk of the vault. While Jericho shouted "WHAT IS THAT?" and pointed at the moon, Cazael stripped off his armour and climbed through the drill-hole.

Inside, Alice had cornered the last two Dvergr inside a golem vat-room. Cazael assisted in dispatching them before they could activate a golem. Just to be safe, Alice decided to cast doom on the golem.

She botched the spell and it targeted her instead. The mighty wizard, full of occultum and ambition, keeled over from her own spell.

Cazael shrugged, kicked the corpse, and dragged it out of the vault. Jericho used a full-power control earth spell to bury the giant stone structure in the water and slime of the swamp, hopefully concealing its dangerous cargo from ambitious warlords and wizards.

Yuri Hill
And so Cazael and Swainson returned to the surface. With sacks full of gold and bundles of magic items they could easily afford to retire. They wished Jericho well and set off for the hills, the giant winged cat padding along next to the dirt-encrusted fighter. No record exists of their fate.

Jericho spent the next few hours pointing at things and screaming. Trees, stars, toads; anything new and surface-related got a thorough examination. When the sun finally rose he pulled his hat over his eyes and sat in abject terror. A small group of curious visitors from a local barony found him sitting next to Alice's body.

But that's a story for another time.

Veinscrawl Notes

As a framework to use Veins of the Earth, the Veinscrawl worked fairly well.  The yellow line above is the approximate route the PCs took; ~29 hexes over 21 sessions. There's still plenty of material to use. The PCs didn't really get to see large sections of the map and entire factions. The also avoided cities and large settlements.


Finding a consistent group goal beyond "get loot" was a problem. The party happily followed anything that vaguely resembled a quest until they forgot the original goal. The players weren't intersted in domain-level play or carving out an empire.

Food and Light

Food was never a major issue. The PCs just ate whatever they killed, no matter how weird. Light was a constant concern. They used lanterns, fungi-branches, magic items, and conjured fire.

These session reports are very condensed and hastily edited. They're the highlights only; details, descriptions, and rulings are often left out. Overall, I'd say the game had a darker tone than the writeups, though there were still sections of pure farce and ambitious over-extension. As usual, the PCs were their own worst enemies (followed closely by gravity and 10' of water).

Whole subplots got cut (like Jericho's fire elemental familiar, Cazael's badly articulated plan to take Death hostage using a god-slaying spear, the dEr0, etc.).

Missing a Session
The oppressive darkness of the Veins let players drop in and out easily. The Missing a Session table saw a lot of use.


The mix of Veins-creatures, creatures from the AD&D MM, and invented monsters kept things very interesting and volatile. The players never quite knew what to expect. The use of Omens (sounds, smells, or signs before the encounter) helped set the scene.

What Got The Most Use

-Veinscrawl encounter tables.
-Veins of the Earth bestiary and climbing rules.

-VotE treasure tables, cave shape tables, and spell list.
-Veinscrawl hex descriptions.

Things I'd Create For Next Time
-A player-facing price list with no prices and a GM-facing price list with prices. It just helps prompt good item-based problem solving and avoids the GM listing off every mundane item a market. Even a list of 20 common items would be good.
-A mundane "I Search the Body" table to complement the one in Veins of the Earth.

-I used the medieval-based GLOG hack throughout. In retrospect, a more carefully curated section of classes, races, etc. would have been useful, but I never got around to it.


OSR: Magical Murder Mansion Megapost

I wrote a funhouse dungeon. You can buy it in print and in PDF form here.


I wanted to try writing a dungeon full of traps and unusual encounters, in the style of classic funhouse dungeons like Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, and Tegel Manor. 

Some of the traps in classic funhouse dungeons seem like jokes designed for the module’s author and the GM to share, with the poor players left frustrated and baffled. I’ve tried to make Magical Murder Mansion entertaining for everyone; even the deathtraps and surprises should get an joyful “oh no, I can’t believe we walked into that one” from the players. The GM knows it’s a trap. The players know it’s a trap. But someone’s got to open that door.

Magical Murder Mansion isn't revolutionary and it's not designed to be. It's just a solid, playtested, fun, cleanly laid out, and tightly edited dungeon designed for immediate use.


Frenden did the art and it's excellent. From the tasseled fez of the Auburn Bulk to the grin on Hubert Nibsley's smug face to the screaming hordes of ravenous Veggie-Mites, Frenden did an excellent job in capturing the mansion's flavour and tone.


David Shugars, once again, stepped in to polish the layout and make the PDF do all those lovely fancy hyperlinked things. All page references are linked, all layers optimized, all... other things I don't completely understand done to make the PDF product as convenient to use as possible.


Shane Liebling helped find what felt like hundreds of spelling errors and suboptimal phrases. He also ran a playtest of the module.
Print Copy
Oh yes, way back in this post, Brian Ashford and Chris Wilson provided
the prompts for the Corpulent Callowfex and the Tooth Fairies.


Before you stands a bizarre creation: a funhouse dungeon that tries to make sense. It is a neatly engineered mishmash, an IKEA nightmare that would pass an EU inspection. You see, the killer cucumbers are all according to directive, and the death ray room will kill you in a fair way. Do not run. You will, in fact, have fun. Welcome to Magical Murder Mansion.
-Gabor Lux, Beyond Formalhaut
In 30 pages, Skerples manages to detail almost 75 different rooms. It's an extremely easy read and the material is whimsical and fantastic. Another one written for an unnamed OSR system. Another strong recommendation.

-Edgewise, Artifacts and Relics
Video Review - Questing Beast

Anyway, Murder Mansion continues Skerples’ trend of excellence as well as providing a really FUNNY dungeon crawl experience. Plenty of adventures have jokes or puns, but few are actually funny. This one is. My players were laughing and sweating through the entire adventure.

-David Schirduan

The adventure has a clear goal in what space it's trying to fill, and it delivers in spades. Increased verisimilitude compared to other funhouse dungeons was something I liked and worked well, and the main adventure structure (with the 4 keys) was well received by my players. Deadly traps and situations are not too capricious or random; clever players will be rewarded. The whole adventure evokes a Saturday morning cartoon feel. [...]

The PDF version is more than enough, ideal for print & play, there's really no need for a physical version. Price to content ratio is a steal, and it belongs to any OSR collection as a masterclass in the space it's trying to fill: funhouse dungeons. Very much recommended. 

-Adrian Hammer, The Man With A Hammer

-Between Two Cains

Useful Tools

Virtual Tabletop Map (Tim Clark)

Final Notes

Backers at the $5 level or above level on Patreon get PDF copies of this book and all future books for free. If you read this module I'd like to hear about it! Feel free to post links to play reports or reviews in the comments below.


OSR: 1d100 Burgher Grievances

In a pointcrawl or hexcrawl with cities in towns, you will run into a surprising number of burghers. They all have problems. Most of them aren't problems the PCs can solve.

The table can be used with a d100 roll, or a d10 roll on a particular topic, or (and this is my personal favourite), by picking an entry and rambling on and on and on, listing subsequent entries, looping, and changing the subject until the players beg you to stop. Burghers will often call in friends and neighbors to verify complaints, add detail, or offer complaints of their own.

Burghers will reveal their troubles to anyone they think might help.

If you want to see how the peasants feel, check out this table. Baronial complaints can be found on this table.

Rocío Espín Piñar

1d100 Burgher Grievances

These are dark times.
1 Bandits roam the hills, robbing and killing.
2 Mercenary armies circle our town like vultures.
3 Ancient compacts are ignored.
4 Our town is surrounded by diabolical rivals.
5 Monks stab abbots; nuns abandon their vows.
6 Men fight for gold instead of glory.
7 On the road, every bastard with a castle charges a toll.
8 In town, a new tax is invented every day.
9 The sons of shoemakers become tyrants.
10 Angels cover their eyes when they look upon the world.

I lead a troubled life.
11 Moneylenders plague me.
12 My head aches from doing sums and figures.
13 I spilt a whole pot of new ink last week. 
14 These candles smoke and splutter.
15 My dog shit in my new boots.
16 The cat produces new kits every week.
17 The chickens will not lay if a cloud passes over the sun.
18 Worms eat the timbers of my house.
19 Rain leaks through my roof.
20 And mice run through my hair at night.

And my family!
21 Obedience and fidelity! The young laugh at those virtues.
22 Will my daughter be dishonoured by a soldier or a student?
23 My son sleeps from dawn until dusk and drinks all night.
24 This new generation loves only soft and expensive things.
25 They fear hard work.
26 They love fatuous poetry.
27 My relatives eat like hogs whenever they visit.
28 When I visit them, they serve only bread and water.
29 I am constantly asked to find work for unworthy nephews.
30 Or husbands for cross-eyed and bow-legged nieces.

And though I cannot prove it...
31 The pork we get today is not as good as it once was.
32 My neighbors plot robberies.
33 Our parish priest keeps a dozen lovers.
34 The old woman three houses down is a witch.
35 Foreign spies infiltrate our government.
36 Heretics host midnight debauches.
37 Traitors to our town put slow poison in the wells.
38 Diabolical fiends sabotage our public buildings.
39 New laws are made to benefit only those who rule.
40 These are the last days of the world. 

41 Is it here? Have you seen it? Tell me! 
42 The plague carried off two of my brothers.
43 Last time it struck, the dead lay unburied for a week.
44 The summer fevers are terrible here.
45 Chills strike every winter.
46 Bad air causes disease, but who can afford perfume?
47 I have blood let once a fortnight during the summer.
48 Doctors hunger for gold like a leech hungers for blood.
49 We are being punished for our sins.
50 Well, not my sins obviously. The sins of the world.

51 Bread prices are stable.
52 But the loaves get smaller every year.
53 Soldiers steal crops from the fields.
54 Peasants can glean grain. It's the burghers that starve.
55 Peasants should eat grass or thorns!
56 A curse on all fat-bellied grasping peasants.
57 Three times three curses on lying grain merchants.
58 Ten thousand curses on those who hoard grain.
59 Other cities will not sell us grain during a famine.
60 Though of course we will not sell to them. The bastards.

61 Every new war means a new tax.
62 Paid soldiers move from town to town like locusts.
63 They spread disease.
64 They spread violence and disorder.
65 The knights of the old tales are like a forgotten dream.
66 Our militia captains are afraid of thunder.
67 Our cannons are as crooked as an old man's fingers.
68 Our gunpowder burns like damp straw.
69 Our pikes snap like reeds.
70 And for this, we are taxed and taxed again!

The town is on the brink of disaster...
71 Noble families feud openly in the streets.
72 The rulers are surrounded by fawning advisors.
73 They cannot make clear and wise decisions.
74 Instead, they dither and bicker.
75 They forget civic duty and seek personal glory.
76 Beggars appear in swarms.
77 Those who cannot find work turn to thievery.
78 Executions will not deter them.
79 We should use torture more frequently, with hot iron pincers.
80 Or roll thieves through the street in a barrel stuck with nails.

My work?
81 I am overworked and exhausted.
82 I barely make enough to pay my expenses.
83 Those higher in the guild do no work at all.
84 Those lower in the guild plot to throw me out.
85 My peers despise me for my honesty.
86 Our festivals are not as grand as they once were.
87 Our processions are mocked or forgotten.
88 New places are given to the sons of idle men.
89 While good craftsmen are fined, despised, and exiled.
90 But the alternative is unthinkable.

Nothing is as it seems.
91 Salt is mixed with sand.
92 Flour is mixed with chalk and sawdust.
93 Rotten fish is sold as fresh.
94 Dung is sold as pepper.
95 Lead passes for gold.
96 Pot-metal passes for lead.
97 Knights are worse than bandits.
98 Kings act like jesters.
99 Emperors fight like children.
100 But I suppose things could be worse.


OSR: Horrible Burgher NPC Generator

Burghers are town-folk; members of the third estate who live and work in towns or cities. Some are richer than any lord. Some are more wretched than any rural peasant. Medieval urban centres were deathtraps. Mortality rates far exceeded birth rates.* Higher wages, greater security, and a greater availability of goods and luxuries drew new arrivals into cities.
*Infant mortality and plagues were the main contributing factors. If you made it to 20 in a city, you were nearly as likely as someone in the country to make it to 50.

Boccaccio, Des cas de nobles hommes et femmes (French version of De Casibus), France c. 1470

1d100 First Name Profession Guild? Demeanour
1 Richard Alchemist
2 Richard Apothecary
3 Charles Architect G Devout
4 Charles Banker G Devout
5 Louis Bookbinder G Devout
6 Louis Bureaucrat
7 Robert Chirurgeon
8 Robert Clock-maker G Devout
9 William Engineer G Devout
10 William Falconer
11 John Goldsmith G Stoic
12 John Herbalist
13 John Illustrator
14 Claude Land-merchant G Stoic
15 Thomas Lawyer
16 Adam Poet
17 Jean Sea-merchant G Stoic
18 Hugh Spice-merchant G Stoic
19 Joseph Storyteller
20 Michael Tax Collector
21 Raymond Armourer  G Ruthless
22 Roland Astrologer
23 Matthew Bag-maker G Ruthless
24 Gilles Baker G Ruthless
25 George Barber-Surgeon
26 Greggory Basket-maker G Ruthless
27 Edmund Belt-maker G Pragmatic
28 Phillip Blacksmith G Pragmatic
29 Geoffrey Brewer G Pragmatic
30 Henry Bridle-maker G Pragmatic
31 Gadifer Bronze-caster G Hopeless
32 Oliver Broom-maker G Hopeless
33 Stephen Butcher G Hopeless
34 Andrew Carder G Hopeless
35 Huguet Carpenter G Hopeless
36 Francis Cartwright G Hopeless
37 Peter Chandler G Hopeless
38 James Cheese-maker G Hopeless
39 Gilbert Clerk
40 Arthur Cobbler G Hopeless
41 Jules Cook
42 Andre Cooper G Lazy
43 Jerome Copyist
44 Guy Debt Collector
45 Jacob Dyer G Lazy
46 Isaac Embroiderer
47 Mark Farrier G Lustful
48 Nicholas Felt-maker G Greedy
49 Victor Fishmonger
50 Roman Fletcher G Slothful
51 Alice Furbisher G Wrathful
52 Alice Furrier G Envious
53 Joan Gambler
54 Joan Glassmaker G Blasphemous
55 Agnes Glove-maker G Petty
56 Agnes Goatherd
57 Margery Gongfarmer  G Ambitious
58 Margery Gravedigger
59 Isabel Hat-maker
60 Isabel Inn-keeper G Ambitious
61 Mary Jailer
62 Mary Jeweler G Ignorant
63 Mary Leatherworker G Ignorant
64 Mary Locksmith
65 Margaret Mason G Ignorant
66 Emma Mercer G Diseased
67 Juliana Miller G Diseased
68 Christine Minstrel G Diseased
69 Katherine Miracle Play Actor G Diseased
70 Beatrice Needlemaker G Diseased
71 Elizabeth Lead Servant
72 Ellen Ointment-maker
73 Mary Pack Handler G Skeptical
74 Amice Painter G Skeptical
75 Sibilla Parchment-maker G Skeptical
76 Cecily Pewterer
77 Sara Plasterer G Frantic
78 Avice Porter G Frantic
79 Isolda Potter G Frantic
80 Lucy Poultry-keeper
81 Mariota Rat Catcher
82 Ann Rope-maker G Frantic
83 Annabel Salter G Frantic
84 Anastasia Scullion
85 Avelina Sculptor G Frantic
86 Letitia Servant (Domestic)
87 Agatha Servant (Military)
88 Eustacia Shipwright G Surly
89 Sabrina Siege Engineer
90 Susanna Stonecutter G Surly
91 Andrea Swineherd
92 Anna Tailor G Surly
93 Bianca Tanner G Surly
94 Colette Thatcher G Surly
95 Flo Toll-keeper
96 Lucia Weaponsmith  G Rebellious
97 Goody Weaver G Rebellious
98 Charity Woodcarver G Rebellious
99 Faith Woodcutter G Rebellious
100 Hope Woolwinder G Rebellious

Generally, membership in a guild was limited to men, but every system has an exception, and the sources sometimes show guildmaster's wives giving wise advice, interfering, supporting, or occasionally wreaking havoc.

1d10 Guild Troubles
1 Supplies of a vital material or resource are running low.
2 The treasurer absconded with the guild's savings.
3 Feud with a rival guild is nearing a bloody climax.
4 Desperate drive to recruit new members.
5 Preparations for an annual procession paralyze guild.
6 Factions within the guild fight for power and control.
7 Disaster cripples both guild members and guild finances.
8 Guild has earned the wrath of local rulers.
9 Rival town seeks to undermine and bankrupt guild.
10 The lower ranks of the guild are in open revolt.
Bible Historiée, France c. 1250


Concentration of wealth was moving upward in the 14th century and enlarging the proportion of the poor, while the catastrophes of the century reduced large numbers to misery and want. The poor had remained manageable as long as their minimum subsistence could be maintained by charity, but the situation changed when urban populations were swelled by the flotsam of war and plague and infused by a new aggressiveness in the plague’s wake.

As the masters became richer, the workers sank to the level of day labor, with little prospect of advancement. Membership in the guilds was shut off to the ordinary journeyman and reserved under complicated requirements and fees for sons and relatives of the master class. In many trades, work was farmed out to workers in their homes, often at lower wages to their wives and children, whose employment was forbidden in the guilds. Obligatory religious holidays, which numbered 120 to 150 a year, kept earnings down. Although forbidden to strike and, in some towns, to assemble, workers formed associations of their own to press for higher wages. They had their own dues and treasuries and connections across frontiers through which jobs and lodgings could be secured for members, and which doubtless served as channels of agitation.


They worked at fixed wages, often below subsistence level, for sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and their wages might be withheld to cover waste or damage to raw materials. The alliance of the Church with the great was plain enough in a bishop’s pastoral letter declaring that spinners could be excommunicated for wasting their wool. Workers could be flogged or imprisoned or suffer removal from the list of employables or have a hand cut off for resistance to employers. Agitators for the right to organize could be hung, and in 1345 ten wool-carders had been put to death on this charge.

-A Distant Mirror, Tuchman

Naturally the merchants, whose rise preceded the coming of industries to Siena, lead the way in the formation of a general society planned to protect their common interests... But the crafts were not slow to follow suit, and presently the masons, carpenters, inn-keepers, barbers, butchers, millers, and other classes of workmen and artisans were organized as arti, with the usual apparatus of constitution, officers, regulations, prohibitions, and fines... Among many excellent regulations which concerned themselves with obtaining for the consumer a full measure and an honest product, were to be found others which, by paralyzing the free activities of the workers, must have caused grave harm. Thus the statues of the wool guild required that only one pieces of cloth be woven at a time, that it be neither longer nor shorter than a certain standard, and that only native wool be put on the looms; and all guilds alike pursued a selfishly exclusive policy, imposing a heavy tax on all candidates for admission, and positively forbidding the exercise of their respective occupation to all but guild members in good standing. Add minute regulations regarding the hours and quantity of labour and the observation of so many church festivals that about one hundred and thirty days of the calendar year were devoted to enforced rest, and we get some idea of the mischievousness of that spirit of over-regulation which characterized both the guilds and the government.

The proletariat of [the wool] industry, concentrated largely in the quarter of Ovile, numbered several thousands. In the recurrent periods of industrial depression or in time of high bread prices, their condition must have been terrible. That they organized in 1371 and sought redress by violence proves that they were growing desperate; decimated for their pains by a cowardly massacre... they and other workingmen of a too independent leaning were expelled, to the number of four thousand, from the city. This almost ludicrous act of party fury may be taken to mark the end in Siena of capitalistic production on a large scale.

-Siena, Ferdinand Schevill

Other Useful Tables

Horrible Peasant NPC Generator  
1d100 Peasant Grievances  
Horrible Baron NPC Generator
1d100 Baronial Grievances
If you want a more refined sort of person, from a different age, try the Dickensian NPC Generator. If not, try the Table of Camp Followers.