Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gærstfeld: An imagi-nation.

Imagi-nation:  A historically themed fictional culture and/or political region.

Galen recently posted two articles covering his nation of Odálagaard, which can be found here and here.  This article covers the nation that I am working on to provide an opposing faction in our games of Hail Caesar by Warlord Games.

Gærstfeld is based on the Anglo-Saxon era of England.  It is a country consisting mostly of open, rolling plains run through with rivers and dotted with forests.  It is an idyllic countryside; ripe for farming and rich with resources such as wood from the forests, minerals from the mountains, and a long coastline with ample fisheries.

About a thousand years ago, Gærstfeld was a sparsely populated frontier with only a few small settlements.  During the great migration, however, many clans from the South and West came to this region in search of an opportunity at a better life.  The lush and fertile countryside, fed by several river systems running from the Westhealf mountains to the coast, provided ample opportunity for the migrating clans to settle and start anew.

The people of Gærstfeld are mostly common workers such as farmers, fishermen, woodsmen, and craftsmen.  The common folk are free, working for the betterment of their local villages, towns, and their families.  Communities generally share the produce of their efforts, and any surplus is traded to nearby settlements.  A certain taxation is in effect to the extent that the lord, or thegn, of each hold receives a portion of said produce and trade income so that he may use these to re-invest into his lands and ensure the stability of his holdings.

Each thegn may be in charge of a small village or rural region, or possibly just a small collection of farms or a mill.  There are thousands of thegns in Gærstfeld, and although these landowners are more wealthy than the common folk, or ceorls, they are by no means above working with their people.  A thegn may assert some level of local authority of law, but for the most part has no say beyond his small hold.

Above the rank of thegn is the bregu, or chief, a title left over from the old days of the nomadic clans.  The bregu may lord over ten or twenty thegns, who owe loyalty to their chief usually more from ties of kinship than any political agreement.  The bregu is in charge of maintaining the safety of the holds under his control and passing judgement over any disagreements or law breakers, and to serve this function may maintain an organized militia.  The bregu usually is also the chief authority in most minor trading towns, and the thegns under his dominion usually oversee smaller settlements that trade with the bregu's town.

The bregu, in turn, owe loyalty to an ealdorman.  Each ealdorman is in charge of what is the lowest official political region, the ealde.  Each ealdorman may maintain a fortified keep and a standing garrison.  Around these usually there has developed larger towns or small cities.  The ealdorman will also be the governing figure in these settlements.  The ealdorman is answerable to his cyning, or king, and is responsible not only for maintaining order in his own ealde, but may be called upon to raise and lead a military force when the cyning summons him.

Each cyning inherited his role from ancestral high chiefs who conquered, settled, or otherwise came to control vast swathes of land.  Each of these demarcations is called a folde, and to this day operates mostly independently.  Two foldes may come to blows over a disagreement, but the conflict must be kept brief and the loss of life to a minimum, lest the high king, or cynehláford, become involved.  The foldes of Gærstfeld each used to be its own kingdom, but over two hundred years ago they were united by Bældon The Wise, the first high king.  Since then, each cyning still rules his folde and maintains his own standing army, but owes allegiance to the high king.  

There are seven foldes in Gærstfeld:  Pearroc, Dunland, Eteland, Gelenda, Bocland, Stródland, and Eardland.  Pearroc is sparsely populated and is characterized by harsh winters.  Dunland is a land of rocky foothills near the Westhealf mountains and is the main producer of mineral resources.  Eteland is, like Pearroc, not very heavily populated and consists mostly of coastal farming and fishing settlements.  Gelenda is one of the more prosperous of the foldes, and is known for it's abundantly rich farmlands.  Bocland is the seat of the cynehláford, or high king, and the center of government for the region.  It also boasts bountiful farmland and prosperous stone quarries near the plains of Eardland.  Eardland itself is the least populated and organized of the foldes, still consisting mostly of the old clan structures and not holding to the typical governmental structures as the other foldes.  There are few ealdormen here, mostly in the lands closer to Bocland, and through most of the folde the bregu is the chief authority.  The people of Eardland are known as expert horsemen.  Stródland is a region of thick marshy forests run through with three rivers.  There is not much farmland here, but the hunters and trappers of Stródland are without peer and many expert bowmen reside here.

The military of Gærstfeld is relatively small, as far as standing armies go.  Each king may have only a few hundred professional soldiers, and the ealdorman usually much less, closer to fifty.  The militia of the bregu may be full time or part time soldiers, usually the latter, and may number as few as a dozen men.  Each thegn, however, is required to maintain mail, helm, shield, sword, and spear for himself and to ensure that all able bodied men under his authority are armed with a shield and spear or javelins.  By doing this, the actual military might of Gærstfeld may be measured in the number of adult men who are fit enough to fight.  All men are trained to fight in the shield wall, a formation of interlocking shields which creates a defensive bulwark of humanity bristling with spear points.  Each man may not be a highly skilled warrior, but with hundreds of men side by side behind their shields, they must only stand their ground.

Thus concludes our brief overview of the geography, history, politics, and military of Gærstfeld.  This is just the beginning, however, and I anticipate developing this project further.

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