OSR: Bosola (or Why 1380 Was A Very Exciting Year For Almost Everyone)

First, Magical Industrial Revolution made its funding goal (and then some!) While the book is being whipped into shape, I've finally got some time to work on more medieval content.

Before writing anything, I like to spend time "sharpening the axe". I'll pick and test a format, a world limit, and a goal. Working directly in publishing software helps. Will each location get a page? A half page? A column? A paragraph? Will tables be consistent? What information is vital? What information is repeated (and could be combined into one universal entry or table)? How will this information be used?

For the medieval Italy pointcrawl, I'm not really expecting the PCs to spend a lot of time inside towns and cities. Mercenaries were (for good reason) barred from walled towns. They'd create a camp nearby, usually by taking over a village or two, and sit around waiting for something to happen.

So while I'm not going to map or plan urban adventures, conflicts between cities will define the campaign. Luckily the real world provides examples in great abundance.

Real-World Background

I've decided to use 1380 as the base year. It's an... interesting time in Italian history.
  • Both of the original Popes in the Western Schism are alive and feisty in 1380.
  • The final war against Joanna I of Naples starts in 1380.
  • Genoa and Venice are grinding through the War of Chioggia. The Genoese fleet, theoretically blockading Venice, has itself been encircled and blockaded. 
  • Pisa, broken as a maritime power, is fighting for its life against Florence.
  • Milan is ruled by Bernabò Visconti; his unassuming nephew Gian Galeazzo Visconti has just started a 5-year plot to gain control of Milan.
  • After a staggering number of revolutions and plots, Siena has a stable, if completely ineffectual, government.
  • Bologna has just thrown off both Papal and Milanese rule.
  • The Malatesta have seized Ancona.
  • Florence is convulsed by revolutions.
  • Arezzo is up for sale; everyone thinks the price is too high.
  • Paul Palaiologos Tagaris reaches the peak of his ludicrous career.
  • France crowns a new and precarious king
  • Geoffrey Chaucer was in northern Italy in 1378, possibly as envoy to Sir John Hawkwood
  • The world gets ~2oC colder within a generation. New weather patterns wreak havoc. Crops fail. 
  • Basically, anywhere you look in 1380 something is either going awry, has just stopped going awry, or is on the edge of going awry.

Fictional Background

The peninsula is Bosola.

Bosola is the personal property of the Archpriest, donated by a pious emperor in a half-mythic era.  Bosola is also the personal property of the Emperor of Grept, distant successor of the aforementioned pious emperor. The dukes and nobles of Pellamy, north across the mountains, covet the rich cities and fertile valleys of the peninsula, and constantly interfere in wars and crises. The city-states of Bosola, enriched by trade and emboldened by lack of central control, have become independent nations in their own right.

Thirty years ago, a third of the world died. Villages stand empty. The Plague cut down young and old, rich and poor, soldier and scholar, priest and farmer. Smaller plagues still roam the land; even a hint of "the Pest" can wreck a military campaign or end a merchant venture.

Twenty years ago, the benevolent King Robert of Orvonca died without a firm plan of succession. His death, and the perceived weakness of the rich Kingdom of  Orvonca at the south tip of Bosola, lit the fuse on a series of bloody and destructive wars.

Ten years ago, Pellamy concluded a treaty with her enemies. Soldiers of fortune, out of work and with limited prospects, migrated or were chased to Bosola. Existing mercenary armies grew in power; new companies sprung up overnight.

Two years ago, the Church split in half. A controversial election placed the unstable and quarrelsome Archpriest Simon II on the throne of Molont. Backed by the rich country of Pellamy to the north, a group of cardinals disputed the results of the election and appointed the vindictive and ambitious Archpriest Ignatius I. The two Archpriests promptly excommunicated each other. Nations were forced to take sides. Bosola universally declared for Simon II; Pellamy for Ignatius I, Grept for whichever sides seemed likely to restore their lost lands in Bosola. The revenues of the Church also split; both Archpriests demand donations and sell offices to raise funds.

Last winter was hard one but spring is finally here. The mountain passes are finally clearing, and the armies of Bosola are once again on the move.


  1. Yesterday, you were kicked out of [X], and today, well, today is up to you!

  2. Not directly related to your post but the awesome comment spam...FNStylez- Charizma lawn collection 2019. It's the fucken CHARIZMALAWNCOLLECTION2019! I'm in for that. And Bosola 1380.

  3. At what level do your players interface with merchantry, mercenary work, statecraft, religion?

    I’ve got a great setting (I stole your hexagonal war generator and some of your NPC generating lists) but all my players want to do is go into the dungeon and get treasure.

    1. The earliest possible level (level 1, ideally), via either taxes (in an established stable feudal regions) or via mercenary contracts, contacts, or choices (in less stable regions).

    2. Oh gosh. This is an error on my part, to use the word "level" which already does far too much work.

      I mean to what extent and at what mental distance? Like, are events procedurally generated every game day? Or is it more in the background or does it depend on the PC and the player?

    3. Ah, I see. Events are procedurally generated as needed. I might roll on the mercenary captain table a couple of times just to get some ideas flowing, then see where the current mission is and improvise from there (without any further rolls). There's no set structure to how the currently published tables are to be used.

      The existence of city-state and mercenary factions comes up a fair bit. Treasure and hints might point at the involvement of a nearby city; to whom should the PCs sell this info, etc?

  4. Is this intended as system agnostic? Quite curious by the setting - your "mission generator" is essentially a campaign in a can - run 5-10 of those and *something* will emerge :)

    1. Sort of. I intend to do a GLOG-type rewrite, integrating updates from 2+ years of testing and other people spinning ideas in the blogosphere, and bolt it onto a system-neutral generic medieval mercenary system.

  5. Do you have an tutorial for your maps anywehre?