A Look at Chronicles for any Campaign

Copyright Phillip A. Ellis © 2008

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"The chronicles created by such groups will differ, and can provide very different information to readers."

Historians write history, and chroniclers write chronicles. The two are related, though, in some ways, distinct. Both histories and chronicles concern themselves with the deeds of the past. The latter, however, make no pretence of organising the events covered into a larger narrative or analysis. Instead, they note events by date, making a list of deeds.

In the real world, in which we live and play rpgs, there are many examples of chronicles to look at and, possibly, use. For the most part, these date from the late Classical and the medieval periods, and most are the products of the monasteries. In game universe, the origins of chronicles can be wider. Essentially, anyone who can write, inquire and organise materials can create chronicles. They can be religious institutions, they can also be political bodies seeking to glorify and justify the rulers' deeds and reigns. They can even be individual or eccentric scholars, cabals or other groups of spellcasters, or professional historians.

In any case, the chronicles created by such groups will differ, and can provide very different information to readers.

For example, a political chronicle will be likely to include the texts of treaties, and contain implicit information related to an area's politics. It will note wars, accessions and deaths, and other politically-related events. Miscellaneous deeds, such as omens, or religious material may be included, but usually only when it has a bearing upon the state.

Further, each group will display its own biases and outlooks on the material. It will shape the material in its own form. The death of a king, after a brief but mysterious illness may be stressed as the result of sins in a religious chronicle. Or it may be claimed as the result of assassination or intrigue in a political one.

In game terms, having a chronicle or chronicles available to the player-characters can help. They can be used to fill in gaps in the timeline, for example, or reveal tantalising hints or clues. They can be used as source material for adventures, in other words, and to supply background details, especially if variant editions, with unique entries are found.

Further, the players can be encouraged to write entries for chronicles, subject to the GM's approval, of course. Some of the background work of a campaign can be farmed out to players, especially if it is background material, or of tangential importance to the plots of the campaign. As the saying has it, many hands make light work.

In addition to providing source material for campaigns, chronicles can be used to give small bonuses to lore checks. A +5 or +10 bonus, say, for Rolemaster or HARP, at best, would help provide characters with the necessary information, even if sketchy at best.

Two Examples of Chronicles and their Use in Rolemaster and HARP

The High Chronicles

The High Chronicles are records kept by the various branches of high elf society. As a result, they form an important source of knowledge of both high elf history and culture. The entries reflect, further, the high elf viewpoint and concerns, as well as aspects of their culture. Use of the High Chronicles will give a +5 bonus to History (High Elves) and Race Lore (High Elves).

The Chronicles of Agoth

The Chronicles of Agoth are a chronicle of the followers of that evil deity. It recites the deeds and manifestations of Agoth, as well as noting the various high priests and important followers. Some general material is included, but only in a slant relating to Agoth and his worship is detailed. Some details of important rituals are included.

The Chronicles of Agoth bestow a +5 bonus on History attempts, but a +10 bonus to Religion (Agoth)

Chronicles Online

Chronicle -- Wikipedia


Medieval Source Material on the Internet: Medieval and Early Modern Texts