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You Can Say That Again: Medieval Language in Story Games

Many Atlas Games products call on players to tell a story of some kind, whether it's backstory for a horrible turn of events in Gloom or bringing tales of the magical and mysterious to life in one of our roleplaying games.

The language we use can make those stories more immersive. This is especially true for games played in another historical period. Whether you're in Ars Magica's Mythic Europe or a fairytale of your own construction in Once Upon a Time, medieval terms might be just the thing to spice up your next game.

Costumes at your typical Renaissance festival include elements from the Middle Ages to modern fantasy; our game Ren Faire pokes fun at these fashion inconsistencies. But what you hear at a Renaissance festival is usually Renaissance or Elizabethan (Shakespearean) language, so rest assured that your “milords” and “prithees” fit with the advertised time period.

Medieval language is something different, though. Fortuantely, there are excellent sources for medieval vocabulary on- and offline. The Scriptorium has an excellent glossary that includes technical terms for armor and castle-building, as well as many terms for everyday life, such as:
  • fletcher: if you know someone with this last name, their medieval ancestors made arrows.
  • enceinte: the area inside a castle's protective wall; this word is also the modern French word for "pregnant" (another kind of protective wall around a valuable area, if you think about it).
  • gallon: a unit of liquid measurement with different amounts for water, wine, and beer.
  • hide: a portion of land that can sustain one farmer's family for a year, about 140 acres.
  • motte: a mound of earth built around a structure for defense; not to be confused with a moat, which is a ditch that may be empty or filled with water.
  • scrivener: a person who could write new compositions, such as letters or legal documents; a scribe, however, only copied other works, and may even be illiterate.
And if your adventures in Mythic Europe get a little raunchy from time to time, this chart offers many helpful metaphors for the world's oldest pastime. You can be sure people in the mid-14th century did as much swiving and japing as their descendants do today. However, the best hope for some privacy in the Middle Ages was often outdoors, as evoked by giving someone a green gown, which refers to the grass stains often sustained by open-air lovers. Novels like Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and Hild by Nicola Griffith also bring the medieval world to life through period language and vivid descriptions.

Even if you find the words too difficult to work into your games and stories, you may learn a thing or two about modern words and phrases. For instance, a baby's bassinet is named for an armored helmet whose visor looks similar to the little hood that pulls up on the crib. And the fighting pell, a post used as a swordfighting practice dummy, gives us a way to tackle a problem: pell-mell.





Jonathan Tweet's Kickstarter

Jonathan Tweet, of Over the Edge fame (among others), is Kickstarting a fantastic kids book about Evolution … but it ends TOMORROW 6pm PST. Check it out, download a preview, support it now!


Love and Angst at @AtlasGames

We're looking forward to our big Gloom spotlight event at the Geek & Sundry Lounge at Comic-Con. Keith Baker will be there hosting a small cadre of lucky Gloom fans, who'll play with Geek & Sundry luminaries and friends including Nika Harper, Boyan Radakovich, Pat Rothfuss, Tigermonkey, Neil McNeil, Becca Canote, Cristina Viseu, Craig Cackowski, and Hal Lublin. Up for grabs, among other things, will be a hand-crafted set of oversized Gloom story cards.

The event's almost full, but don't be too distressed… because we're not done putting people on the guest list.

Interested in joining us? Then clear your Comic-Con schedule on Friday the 25th from 1:00–2:30. Then, jump on Twitter and tell the world why you love Gloom. Or, speak out about why Gloom ties you up in knots. Better yet, do both.

Use the hashtag #GloomLove or #GloomAngst, depending, and mention @atlasgames. We'll pick our favorites on Tuesday. Make sure you follow us, because we'll inform winners by Twitter DM.

Speak out for your health. Speak out for your sanity. But most importantly, speak out because you want  to play Gloom with Keith Baker and Geek & Sundry.

We'll see you at Comic-Con!

The Death of a Bon Vivant: A Murder of Crows Story

Scarlet Moonbeam card
Scarlet Moonbeam was clever and charming. At dinner parties, her anecdotes shimmered with dazzling turns of phrase, her understated wit providing additional amusements for those clever enough to appreciate it.

When Scarlet first met Heidi Harmony she was — to be a little unkind — not impressed. Heidi was not clever like Scarlet. When Heidi told stories, they were coarse. They were loud and blunt. Without subtlety. And yet, everyone laughed.

Night by night and week by week, vulgar Heidi was invited to more and more dinners, and subtle Scarlet found herself eating take-out all alone.

And as Scarlet sullenly shared her stir-fried rice with — well, with no one — she began to have thoughts. Sweet and sour thoughts. Of revenge.

One night, passing through a grove of weeping willows on the way home from a delightful fête, a cool breeze danced through the trees and Heidi heard — or did she imagine it? — a voice whispering out a strange and clever little story of murder.

Heidi wasn’t sure she had heard it, really. And even if she had, it didn’t make any sense. But then again, Heidi was accustomed to not getting the joke.

The week after, as Scarlet Moonbeam shared a meal a the mayor’s manor, one of the guests shared a shocking story about Heidi Harmony, skewered with chopsticks and left for dead in a copse of trees.

It was sad to hear, of course, but it reminded Scarlet of an amusing anecdote that delighted everyone at the table.
Full card spread that tells the murder story

Do you have a taste for stories of murder? Murder of Crows is a card game—recently back in print—that challenges players to uncover darkly witty stories of their own, piece by piece.

Special Ops update for 2nd Quarter

Special Ops is Atlas Games' corps of loyal fans who organize and run demos and tournaments at retail stores and conventions across the country and around the world. In the Second Quarter of the year, more conventions sprang up as the northern hemisphere thawed, and over 140 different groups of players participated in the Feng Shui 2 playtest.

Members earn Hazard Pay points for each demo report they submit, points that can be spent on games and contribute to their advancement in rank. Atlas is happy to announce that the following Special Ops members have gone up in rank this quarter:

Robert Hartsell (Major, 1000 points)
Roscoe Gibson (Captain, 500 points)

Congratulations to all of you, and keep up the great work!

We want to extend a special thank-you to all the Special Ops folks who led a playtest of the new Feng Shui 2 rules and submitted feedback. This process has been incredibly valuable to Robin Laws and the entire FS2 team. Hearty gratitude to these operatives:

Michael Athey, Jeb Boyt, Jim Crocker, Jason Dettman, Francis Dickinson, John Donoghue, Sean Dunstan, Stéphane Gallay, Dean Gilbert, Ollie Gross, Kairam Hamdan, Steven Hammond, Julian Hayley, TJ Howell, Petr Jonák, James R Jeffery III, Lee Kolb, Joshua Kronengold, Kevin Kulp, Andrew Lloyd, James Mayse, Matt Miller, Leif Mogren, Ernest Mueller, Dean Newman, Sean Nokes, John Olson, Lisa Padol, Jesse Quisenberry, Ben Rasmussen, Diego Rivera, Matt Ryan, Avram Shannon, Allen Shock, Paul Anthony Shortt, Dan Spragens, Paul Stefko, Joey Tyne, Henry Ulrich, Paul Venner, Daniel Walsh, Jonathan Walton, Nick Wedig, Michael Wight, Marc Willner, William Wilson

We'd also like to welcome the following new recruits:

Paul Stefko, Daniel Luce, Will Glenn, Bastien Daugas, Kelly Warren, Thomas Ryan, Wolf-Philippe Fischer, Aaron Farrugia, Gonzalo Prados

Thanks for being a part of Special Ops!

If you're interested in joining Atlas Games' Special Ops demo team, just fill out our Application Form. There's no obligation, but it's the best way to earn new product for teaching folks the Atlas games you already enjoy, and to get advance access to special opportunities like the Feng Shui 2 playtest.

To request a Special Ops demo at your convention or retail store, simply fill out our form to Request a Demo.


     
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