I've had a couple day to think about the content of today's post and over the last few days I've been really thinking about how, for the most part, most OSR/D&D games are set in a general "medieval" period, and how the majority of OSR/D&D players are American. There are plenty of players world-wide, but based on my experiences it's mainly a US & English (language) based hobby.
I find this odd to an extent because as Americans we don't have a historical medieval period to draw from. We generally don't have this underpinning of history that still ripples into modern society. Well, we do, but it only goes back maybe 250 years or so.
Currently I'm in Germany on a business trip and I'm in Bavaria, which in my opinion is really the location most Americans think of when they think of Germany. Again, I could be way off base here, but that's my experience. When I was stationed here in the 90's I was a couple hours away, which in a country smaller, but roughly the size of Montana (357,588 km² vs 380,832 km²), a couple hours away could be a vastly different region.
As I'm puttering about I'm just bombarded with new notions and old reminders about just how different Germany is from the USA and how some of these differences could easily be used to tweak a OSR game world to bring in some historical flavor....because even some of the modern things I'm seeing have that connection to the medieval period.
I once went on a walk through the woods and came across a stone marker that was hundreds of years old. What I though was a simple trail through the woods was actually a trail between towns that has been in use for over half a century. I was surprised just how narrow the trail actually was, pretty much just single file for a man & a mule, no room for a cart. Evidently the old trail wasn't taxed but if you needed the use of a wagon, then you had to take the main road, which would be taxed.
A town I drove through today was 750ish years old. In this part of Germany nobody lives in the country, not even the farmers. Everybody lives in the town/village/city. It's just that there is a cluster of small villages surrounding every larger town/city and each one is maybe just a couple of kilometers away. Along a good stretch of road you might have a village every 2-3km, but in other areas there might be 25-30km between clusters of villages. Just depends on the region, or more likely industry. Oh and these old-assed villages....odds are every one almost has it's own dialect. It's probably just a couple of words they pronounce differently, but they do. It might take you years to figure out which words they are and a couple more to make the distinction, but the locals? Oh yeah, they know you're an outsider, even if that means you just come from the village 2km down the road.
Lots of small shrines and while every village has a church, they aren't necessarily the same, and there could be the odd second church or, as I found yesterday, a tiny church tucked off to the side of the village. While I know these are all Christian churches (no clue what denomination), I could totally see this working in a OSR game with multiple religions. This village's main patron deity is X, the village 2km down the road celebrates Y, and they tolerate the tiny church and/or shrines to the other gods, as long as they keep small. Whip out a copy of the Petty Gods books to devote the shrines to!
I know I'm just hitting the tip of the iceberg here........most of the stuff I've mentioned so far is old, but even the modern is ripe for ideas. At the Getränkemarkt (drink store) there was this big advertisement for bottled water, but just not any bottled water. No, this advert was pushing one brand of water for infants, another for children, a third for seniors, and even another for the athletic types. Knowing the area is littered with mines, heath spa pools, and artesian wells, I could totally see a whole industry of water merchants lugging "special" waters for people to drink and pilgrims travelling the trails between villages and even regions to get to the healing waters of mineral baths.
If I'm lucky enough to have the time & the inclination on this business trip I'm hoping to see if I can mine these ideas for inspiration for future adventures or adventure seeds. Until then I'll just have to enjoy the beer....and Currywurst...and Schnitzel.....