I'm about to join a D&D campaign and I've decided to roll up a character with the most realistic biography I can think...

I'm about to join a D&D campaign and I've decided to roll up a character with the most realistic biography I can think of, no matter how boring it may be.

So from my limited understanding of what life was like during the medieval period, most of the populace in a kingdom was involved in agriculture somehow. Which means a realistic background would likely have a character coming from a family of farmers or something like that, correct? Was it ever possible for a peasant to own a plot of land he worked on to help in raising a family? Or was it always assumed that all land always belonged to the local lord (or whatever noble title they took), and the peasants just worked the land as a "privilege" for protection? I was thinking my character would come from a humble background like this, as the son of a lowly serf, and eventually got drafted to take up arms for the local landowner's army or something like that.

First of all, do you know what the setting is? This should dictate what the exact politics of the given realm are and let you extrapolate from there. On occasion, a knight might be from a peasant family and though he himself might be considered a noble, neither the rest of his family nor his descendants would be, so if he owned that plot of land technically it would count as a family of peasants owning land?

>First of all, do you know what the setting is?

Forgotten Realms.

Peasants were practically slaves, owned by the noble.
Even if you got drafted, how would you get free to go in campaign's party?
Did you run away? You WILL be hunted. By a goddamn noble.
I understand your intent OP, but this is not the place for adventurers to come from.


As a peasant, you could presumably sell all you had, buy some basic equipment, and then work as a sellsword for a while, earning more and more until you bought better equipment, and maybe eventually bought a horse as well. You wouldn't be a noble, but you would be a Man-at-Arms, a professional soldier in the service of your lord.

>You WILL be hunted. By a goddamn noble.
>Did you run away?
More like walked.

>You WILL be hunted.
I can't imagine a noble would put that much effort into finding him when replacing him would probably be ten times easier.

Alternatively, you could join the clergy or Holy crusading orders. As a clergyman you would be ascending a parallel hierarchy to the nobles, but don't expect to be a high priest anytime soon.

If you join a Holy crusading order then you'll be able to climb the ranks on meritocracy. However, your vows of poverty will prevent you from acquiring wealth and power for you and your family.

A noble commands presence. All he has to do is issue a "Escaped Peasant: Wanted" sign, and the entire populace will be after you for a reward that technically costs less than hiring a new peasant.
At minimum, you can never show your face again. Law enforcement will capture, and you will be hanged as an example.

Look, being a peasant and just a peasant in backstory is REALLY not a good backstory for what should be an adventurer.

Frankly, I haven't even picked a class yet. But the first suggestion sounds great for a fighter or other martials, and the second sounds great for a Cleric, Paladin, or any other religion based class there is.

It's not simply raw value. If they let one noble run away, what's stopping the others from doing the same? Thus they need to capture peasants to set an example.

Peasant*, not noble.

Yeah, just keep in mind that DnD is going to have a lot more social mobility than historical medieval Europe did, because once you've got the skills and equipment sorted out, you can raid dungeons and tombs for vast amounts of wealth, or kill a monster for titles and fame that a medieval peasant would have had a very hard time acquiring.

I think you're blowing things way out of proportion. Army desertion was a more serious offence but it happened all the damn time in that period, too. My guy just up and said "Farming is not for me anymore. I'm off to find a new job. Cheerio!"

Yes, it happened all the time.

Now why are so many people hanged again?

>I am Cleary retarded and don't understand what "fantasy setting" means despite year and years of media and popular culture

What if I told you my family was free holding peasants since the mid 11th century? And by renneisance, they were free citizens. And by the time feudalism was abolished, we were rich as fuck. In the Enlightenment, we were masonic masters. It was all good up until WWII when everyone ( both the nazis and the commies) started thinking masons were bas and we lost most of our shit. Still own shit tons of land, though.

Free-holding peasants were not really a thing.
It was serf, middle-class, or noble.
And if you just pump yourself up that much, then why even bother with the attempted humble background?

>most realistic biography
Died in infancy. Your family was peasantry for sure, but chances are good you died in infancy.
>D&D campaign
When Zexefalapatorias VI, the fifty second lich to attack your hometown tried to raid the barren graveyard for minions he ended up with the last two months' worth of dead baby skeletons again. Disgusted he moved on hoping to find unclaimed unterrorized lands and greener pastures.

As an infant skeleton, you have a crawl speed of 5 feet, the language of the undead, and no skills. Your only advantage in this world is the traits and benefits you get from being undead, which is actually not bad at first level. Although you are an evil creature, you're mostly harmless to the living as a baby that will never grow, so only asshole teenagers that cut dog legs off and some bitchass lawful types actually bother you. You don't have a clear direction in (un)life and your personality is still emerging, perhaps a party of first level adventurers could profit from your abilities help guide you toward a greater purpose.

>Forgotten Realms

FR is so high magic that most people read and peasants have regular access to potions of CMW and CLW.

What REGION of Faerun is he from? This is important

OP here. That wasn't me.

Sure they were. They were declared as such with a royal decree by some hungarian king at the time

>What REGION of Faerun is he from?

I suppose it would have to be wherever the campaign is going to take place in - which I don't know yet, to be honest. But if I had my choice it would be one of the more civilized ones where peasants wouldn't be hunted down for seeking out new employment as Anons mentioned earlier in the thread.

Oh thank goodness.

Though you devolved for a second.

All right, I'll ignore the bait poster. Any questions about what I've mentioned so far? I'm not trying to be rude, but peasants....just can't really reach the position of adventurers easily. If ever.

The best region is Illusk.


>peasants....just can't really reach the position of adventurers easily. If ever.

Well, as a previous user mentioned:
This is my personal fantasy of a lowly peasant making it as an adventurer. Or dying in the first few sessions - either or.

If you sell all your stuff you might be able to start a new life as a peddler, hoping to open up your own shop one day. Maybe meet a foxy wolfgirl along the way who promises you great riches if you take her to the far north.

I wasn't baiting. I was just stating my family history. I admit that I fucked up by 200 years because it's fucking early, and I didn't get much sleep, but it's all true.

>in a fantasy setting
>in FR
Its a setting with transdimensional God-Kings and empires ruled by magic meritocracy. Being a priest raised from birth to be a scion of Ra-Horakhty or whatever he's going by now is exactly as "realistic" for the setting as being a peasant farmer. You are more than welcome to play a tethyrian farm boy or something, but "realism" isn't really a factor here.

>Maybe meet a foxy wolfgirl along the way who promises you great riches if you take her to the far north.

This is a reference to something I don't know about. But you got my interest: Is this a manga or something?

Honestly in Faerun you're probably fine wherever as long as it's not Zhentarium or Thay.

The Sword Coast or Cormyr (not!France/England) would be good bets. Cormyr is a constitutional monarchy, it's peasants even have rights.

As for what you would know, you would be familiar with the sight of magic though not that much, there's still room to be ignorant and superstitious. The most magic a commoner see may be cantrip from the local priest or druid. For that matter, you may have a local druid.

You would know farming, possibly basic arithmetic and how to read/write. If your family had a trade you would know that, such as leather working, Cooping, etc. Take an English surname and look up its etymology and you'll likely find a peasants vocation.

Free-man/land owning farmers do exist but most work land owned by nobles. And the peasants aren't really 'slaves', they just pay taxes in the form of produce and being militia and shit

In short, yes. Your idea is doable. Faerun is a very 'light' form of the medieval era bordering on the Reneissance

Yes user, yes it is.

That pic better not be your related, cause that is literally sci-fi, or as far removed as a setting can be from accurate midevil times.

And by the way, OP wants this to be realistic. So as useful as the "it's fantasy" explanation is, I'm trying to not apply it.

Spice and Wolf, medieval economics the adventure

Star Wars is blatantly blatantly a fantasy heroes journey with sci-fi trappings

So THAT'S where "puffy vulva" girl came from!

Your understanding of feudalism is embarassing. Please stop.

Thanks user! You've been the biggest help in the thread yet!

Got quite a fortune and buy off your freedom and some land. Yes, that was possible.

SUDDENLY raid or war left you without home, little money you had, land, and sire. You are rapefugee now.

Got a kind of lucky ticket, got education in local monastery and now you are priest.

Minor noble, minor son. Got some kind of nobility, but not enough wealth or lands for you. In fact, no real power at all. Your brother gets all land while you have only your armor and weapon, along with a tittle. Welcome to the knight errant industry.

Boring life, poverty and all. Nearby a major trade route. Let's rob some rich fuckers! Banditry and raider are not fancy, but will do.

Take your pick. Some of these backstories are kind of plausible.

Peasants could own land, look into the term "wealthy peasant", generally speaking they could live as comfortably as a knight, largely because knights had some massive costs to handle.

>"Farming is not for me anymore. I'm off to find a new job. Cheerio!"
He would be dead before even reaching the next town.

Probably but not because the Laird sent men after him

Do you think these people took accurate census' or something, and the Laird knew exactly how many peasants worked his land or who such and such a family had so and so many children?

If he was found roaming he'd probably be executed as a brigand or something

If he went to another town he'd Ben immediately ostracized as an outsider

If he lived in the right area he could slip off to a city and live as one of the working lower class by mingling with the Burghers

Yeah just finished the thread, take this guy's advice.

Does anyone else feel like summer on Veeky Forums has started early this year?

The word peasant is not synonymous with the word serf. Anybody who acts like they mean the same thing doesn't know what the hell they're talking about.

If our biggest summer problem is anons mixing up serfs and peasants, hurray.i feel like /pol/ /r9k/ being on literally EVERY FUCKING BOARD is a bigger issue that will only be exacerbated by summer. I can't even go to fucking Veeky Forums without this shit coming up, and /co/ and /TV/ are worse than ever. Don't even bring up /v/

>cause that is literally sci-fi, or as far removed as a setting can be from accurate midevil times.
Star Wars is science-fantasy, complete with rescuing princesses, farm boy heroes, futuristic swordfighting, and space-magic-wizards. they literally call the main good guy order "knights" for crying out loud.

>Cormyr is a constitutional monarchy, it's peasants even have rights.
>Constitutional Monarchy
>High Medieval setting

>inb4 Hittite Panku and Magna Carta

It's also a medieval setting there literally being 2 separate, major gods who care about peasants and farmers. Ilmater and Chauntea are not gods you want pissed off at you.

Nigger, even in historical medieval Europe this differed greatly per kingdom. Being a paysan in France, a serf in Russia or a farmer in Venetian territory meant very different things. And within those individual realms it changed a lot over the course of A THOUSAND YEARS.

That said, zooming in on your actual question (how do I make a peasant an adventurer) depending on the times and economy there are multiple answers.
>Post-Bubonic Plague
If it, or osme other grand disaster, suddenly wiped out a large portion of nobles and commoners alike then social mobility suddenly increases. This would make it easier for a peasant to slingshot himself into becoming a landowning freeman.

>Peasant levies
Was a thing, but not often and not for long times. Every day a peasant is marching (not even fighting per se, just marching) is a day he isn't tending to the land. That's not really good for the economy, so it'd only happen if for example the enemy was nearby. On top of that the serf could die (especially because he wouldn't have the best gear upon being levied) so local lords would rather avoid this. That said, it's entirely possible your character saw a battle or two during his days as a peasant.

This is especially viable during the late middle ages, as due to advances in metallurgy decent armor and weapons became much cheaper and the military model switched from feudal to standing army of men-at-arms (we're talking late late middle ages here, as in the last phase of the Hundred Years War. However, you could justify this in a fantasy setting that takes place "earlier' in time by having better metallurgy and somehow having more centralized power [though kings in fantasy, in my opinion, resemble Early Modern kings more than Renaissance kings as their rule over the realm is presumed to be absolute, sometimes merely limited by a 'council of nobles' rather than by their individual vassals being powerful]). Under these circumstances, especially when war is common (and loot plentiful) I can imagine a peasant deciding to sell everything he owns, invest in a decent weapon and armor and upgrade his gear as he goes along. He could grow pretty rich if he's lucky enough to survive.

Speaking of survival, looking at medieval battle death rates you will often see that the difference between the losers and winners is much more staggering than in later periods. This is because the battle itself didn't kill all that many people (most radical example: Battle of Muret. Only 8 Frenchmen died. I think there was also this battle from the Hundred Years War where the listed French casualties were "1 knight"), but what killed most people was the rout that ensued (formations broke, the enemy was free to hack down anyone who didn't surrender). Your peasant-mercenary has a pretty decent chance of survival as long as his army keeps winning battles. Otherwise he'd better master the noble art of running away.

But that is a big deal, though. Feudalism worked on tiers and without the toers it would dissolve into anarchy, as demonstrated in this topic.

Well the issue is that the French casualties rarely mention any non-noble losses, and tend to list them as "some peasants".

Every poster in this thread is acting like a peasant.

Freemen existed throughout the middle ages for sure.

Generally they were worse off than the landed peasants, because they didn't have a farm to work and the nobility distrusted them.

OP, being a serf is fine. I could see a nobleman picking some random shmuck and kitting him up for a chance at all that sweet dungeon gold. Just realize that any noble would probably have the best end of the stick by far.

It wasn't uncommon for the local clergy to teach literacy and other basics to the peasants either.
It made the church look good and let them skim for intelligent people to recruit as priests or for monastic orders.

Well, my only contribution to this thread is to state that my last character referred to any primary-arcane caster (bard, sorcerer, warlock, wizard) as a "magician" regardless of class, and any cleric or druid as a priest.

The fine distinctions between them were mostly irrelevant to her.

>Do you think these people took accurate census' or something
They might well, depending on the time and place.

In a small community word would certainly get out that so-and-so's boy had up and gone roaming. The lord doesn't know all his peasants by name but his bailiffs and stewards and armsmen and so on will, between them, be in touch with everyone who lives locally.

Still, it should be pretty easy for a runaway serf to go to any town or market and blend into the crowd. The difficulty is in finding work with noone to vouch for you before you become a penniless beggar.

>cause that is literally sci-fi
and you're literally retarded.

>Would a noble keep track of his property?
Yeah, you fucking moron, he would. If no one keeps track of his peasants and they're all free to just fuck off, suddenly he wakes up one day with no peasants.

>cause that is literally sci-fi,

Star Wars isn't sci-fi. It's a fantasy story that happens to take place in space. Sci-fi has to have at least some focus on technology or science, and Star Wars doesn't do that even once.

In fact it fails at even the most basic definition.

>fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.
>future scientific

The very first thing in most Star Wars movies is "a long time ago".

>Do you think these people took accurate census' or something,
What is the Domesday Book?

A set of records that gave a "snapshot" of everyone's holdings at one particular moment in time.

People "slip through the cracks" all the time in modern bureaucracies with computers, internet, and everything being updated in real time. I have a hard time believing accurate records could ever be kept even in the medieval period. Or at least accurate enough for anyone to notice when a peasant decides to change jobs.

>Was it ever possible for a peasant to own a plot of land he worked on to help in raising a family? Or was it always assumed that all land always belonged to the local lord (or whatever noble title they took), and the peasants just worked the land as a "privilege" for protection?

If we are talking about Dark Ages/MedievalRenaissance Europe, the term "peasant" refers to any non-titled person living in the countryside (i.e. not a townsperson). There are many grades of peasant, and depending on the time and place, the preponderance of each would vary.

At the lowest level, you would have serfs. A serf would be tied to the land itself, and in effect the semi-property of the land owner. They could still own legal possessions of their own, and would have some degree of "rights" via the church, so it's not the same as slavery. Serfdom itself began to diminish (at least in Catholic Europe) by the 14th century, and would rarely have accounted for the majority of a population. In some places, like Medieval (post-Christian) Norway, Sweden, Finland, and for a time Estonia, the practice never existed.

There would also have been tenant farmers, probably the most common. These would be non-land owners who were effectively free, but still had to offer part of their production (whether from agriculture or some other trade) to their landlord as rent. There would also be people who might own the small non-productive properties in which they lived, but still had to conduct their labor on behalf of an employer. You could sometimes even find relatively wealthy tradesmen who for whatever reason nevertheless still rented their property, much as today. (this would also describe many city-dwellers, although they would never be called peasants).



Then there would be landed peasants who might have had tenants of their own, or even possess serfs. This category could generally be described as Yeomen, although that term has had different meanings. This wasn't a rare social status, and quite often, being land owners, they would have the right to participate in local governance- or beyond the local level, as seen early on in places such as Switzerland. It would not be impossible for them to sometimes be wealthier than low-ranking nobles.

In short: It was much more complex than is commonly understood. Most people would have lived lives of deprivation, but it wasn't all mud, shit and misery, either.

This guy has no idea what he is talking about.



Meaning after these societies had become Christianized, not "post-Christian," sorry.

>all the peasants stop farming to go run after the escapee for that sweet reward
>nobody left

>being this stupid

Thanks for the clear writeup.

>So from my limited understanding of what life was like during the medieval period


fuck you

Also, regarding landed peasantry:

It was normal for communities to have militias whose ranks were primarily made up from the men of the landed peasantry. It was expected, or required, that propertied men would own weapons (real weapons, not just pitchforks and such) and be able to report for periodic training or duties, or to provide someone to serve in their stead. These militias could often operate independently of Noble or Church authorities, though generally they would cooperate as their interests were aligned. Aside from mustering in times of war to defend their properties, they would more commonly function as police forces, and do things like deter bandits and such.

There would also have been city militias, which operated by similar principles, though they probably involved higher proportions of hired men.

So, for you character idea, if you want them to be "historical," and have a military background, it's not even necessary for them to have served in a nobleman forces, or to have been a mercenary or whatever.

Awesome, thanks! OP here: Still watching this thread.

Glad to help!

Feel free to ask if you have any other questions, or if you wanted further info from these posts
Also, I'd imagine for a place like the Forgotten Realms, or any other setting where things like orcs and dark elves and ogres actually exist, you would DEFINITELY expect to see commoners organizing well-armed militias. The only exception would be places which had strong totalitarian governance and large professional forces.

We're speaking later middle ages here tough, aren't we?

Yes and no. Urban militias definitely became more prominent in the later Middle Ages with the growth of cities, and they morphed from militias into true standing forces as wealthy townsfolk would increasingly hire soldiers to serve in their stead. (And the distinction between city and country is very important, because even though cities only constituted a fraction of the population of a Medieval society, they also existed largely independently from the nobility). But propertied commoners were basically always a thing, and it's only natural that they would organize with their peers to protect their PROPATAH. A nobleman might want to maintain a stable society, but he isn't going to stick his neck out too far to protect what isn't his.

In Anglo-Saxon England, which is prior to what is understood as the true Medieval period, it was required for peasant landowners to own at least a shield and spear, and to report for periodic training. These militias were organized by local petty aristocratic authorities (generally Thegns), but these were still free men who could (and did) negotiate the terms of their service and were capable of autonomous functioning. You would also often see landless men serving in either a militia or a lord's forces as a form of their household's rent payment.

By contrast, in places where there was very weak central authority, and no clear distinction between aristocrats and wealthier commoners, like pre-Christian Scandinavia (the "viking" era), you would see genuinely autonomous forces made up of landed men. These would organize themselves around the most prominent "big man," but he would have no legal right to command. Basically "every man is a king on his own land."

The times where you saw these systems of freemen militias disappear or diminish (and this was a rare occurrence) was when you would have an invasion and the new conquerors would dispossess the land's original owners and apportion it among themselves in large estates.


...and I realize the examples of Saxon England and pagan Scandinavia aren't really applicable to a discussion about Medieval times, but I brought them up to dissuade the idea of militia forces being specific to the late Medieval period. These two examples are also hardly unique.