Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The Great Kingdom (Domesday Book #9)
Since the first copies of my book have trickled out, I've noticed that the coverage of the Great Kingdom as described in Domesday Book #9 has garnered a lot of attention. Several early commentators have pointed out that the map prefigures the later development of Gygax's world of Oerth. Initially, we see little hint of that in the Domesday Book, however: this map was distributed as the basis of a wargame that Gygax hoped would involve the entire Castle & Crusade Society. While he only provided a sketch of the intended system, it is worth studying to see both what it includes and what it omits.
First of all, the planned game was a wargame, of a particular type called a multiple-commander play-by-mail wargame. All of the major "peers" of the Castle & Crusade Society, that is prominent members of the club, would be granted holdings, and each would serve as a commander of their own forces. The final sentence notes that the game should incorporate elements of both Avalon Hill board wargames as well as aspects of Diplomacy. The only hints we see about how the game would be conducted are mentions that the King can reach out via the Society Newsletter (the Domesday Book) or through personal correspondence.
The sketch we see here leaves us with as many questions as answers about the manner of play. We are shown a hierarchy of feudal leadership, ranging from a Great King through subordinate, weaker Kings down to various lesser nobility. Each holds a certain number of castles, and it seems that crusades are a major subject of the game. We can infer this from the presence of a Paynim Kingdom, where "paynim" is here a medieval word for pagan used throughout the literature of the crusades to refer to the Islamic antagonists of the West. We see that the Paynim forces have a far greater strength than other kings, which may be intended to establish them as a long-standing antagonist for the Great Kingdom.
What little of the system we see largely concerns the ability of Kings to demand military service from their nobles. We can only infer that the purpose of the assembling a large force would be to go to war against another kingdom, such as the Paynim, as a crusade. We see that Kings who make unwise decisions may face a rebellion, and that the system for resolving a rebellion requires the King to win a vote of confidence - in the event of a loss, however, the King is reduced in rank instantly to that of a gentleman, the lowest station in the Society. At the term of this writing, Rob Kuntz ranked as King, Gygax as Steward and Earl Palatine, and Dave Arneson as an Earl.
The map attached to this article does not in fact contain any designations that assign territory to particular peers, nor does it delineate any "nearby lands." We cannot infer the location of Blackmoor or Greyhawk, except by reference to later maps. Nor do we see anything here implying a fantastic dimension to the Great Kingdom. Interestingly, this issue contains the first notice of the publication of Chainmail in the Domesday Book, so certainly those fantasy elements had now become a matter of public record. But what we see here is mostly just a game of castles and crusades - approrpriate enough for the Castle & Crusade Society.