Tabletop Review: Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
Publisher: Ire Games
Pages: 268
Size: 49.1 MB
Cost: $8.00
Release Date: 11/26/2010
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

I highly recommend that anyone wishing to become a Game Master start collecting books and forming a reference library. There are lots of books that can help any GM create a more “realistic” campaign setting, especially when playing in a low (magic) fantasy campaign world. Understanding how different people interact with each other and their environment goes a long way in being able to portray a believable setting to your players.

This codex details what 15th century life was like in the area around the Baltic sea. The codex gives a good overview of the region and “drills-down” to give some great specific details that can liven up any fantasy campaign. I’ll have to admit that my initial impression of this PDF was rather poor. First of all, it costs $15 for an electronic copy. $15 can buy a GM both Life in a Medieval City and Life in a Medieval Castle in paperback. My demo copy was marked as being draft version 2.52 and I know that the file size is now listed as larger than what I’ve received. Is the PDF finalized, or is it still a work in progress? The author also added a forum link for people to help him find errors and listed a number of people as “Casual Proofreaders“. This, along with a reference to his “smoking hot mama” wife did little to make me think this was a document I’d be happy spending $15 on.

This was all just from page 2 of 268!

4/9/2012 Edit
The author has reduced the price of this PDF to $8 and has confirmed that it is being updated as new research is discovered.

The document’s index started on page three and there was almost a page and a half dedicated to listing the various terms described in the eight page glossary. Although the author describes his work as a reference document, he decided to write about the 15th century in the present tense and then going on to joke about the language used in the book before devoting a paragraph to writing about modern fantasy and science fiction terminology to illustrate his point regarding keeping period terminology and proper names in his work. A bibliography and references, with web links, are provided while at the same time this large document doesn’t have a single PDF bookmark. Navigating the document is difficult at best, and the whole thing seems to be a general college research paper that was simply expanded and put online to make a few bucks.

If you can get past these warts, the Codex can actually be a good tool for a GM. I’ve only read through this document once and I’m not sure how many more readings it will take me to unlock some of the great things I can take and bring into my game world. While most sections of each chapter of the book are rather general in nature, not unlike what you’d find in other reference books, each section has extra details that really help bring the period to life. In the small coinage section there is a listing of coin denominations and their relative values. Pretty common fare, but the information goes on to describe furs as currency. Just a page later the author gives a few wages and prices, but goes on in better specific detail other resources usually skip over, “Day wage for a Carpenter or a mason in Saxony 2 groschen and 4 dinari, plus two jugs of “Ëœhornet’ beer, 3 groschen per week as bath money. Monthly wage = 29 Kreuzer per month (assuming a 5 day work week and not counting the beer)

These details really help bring the subject matter to life. I don’t know how many times I’ve had PCs spend some “down time” trying to use an auxiliary skill to make some money. Instead of simply stating they make a certain number of gold pieces for their efforts I could reduce that amount and give them some credit at the bath house and provide them with beer. I’m sure my Dwarven PCs will love the beer and hate the fact that some of their wages are baths!

I would recommend the codex to someone wanting to use the setting for their campaign or a GM who wants to be able to get a little insight into the medieval world. Personally I would like to see the PDF edited some more, bookmarked, and make available for a more reasonable price, but it is still a worthwhile GM resource.

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