Some adventure seeds from Baring-Gould’s “Curious myths of the Middle Ages”

As promised, here are some tidbits from one of Baring-Gould’s books (Curious myths of the Middle Ages) that provide some interesting inspiration for FRPGs.

1. Leonard & the lovelyish snake lady. (from the chapter: The mountain of Venus)

“In the year 1520, there lived at Basle, in Switzerland, a tailor’s son, named Leonard. He entered a cave which penetrated far into the bowels of the earth, holding a consecrated taper in his hand. He came to an enchanted land, where was a beautiful woman wearing a golden crown, but from her waist downwards she was a serpent. She gave him gold and silver, and entreated him to kiss her three times. He complied twice, but the writhing of her tail so horrified him, that he fled without giving her the third kiss. Afterwards he prowled about the mountains, seeking the entrance to the cave, filled with a craving for the society of the lady, but he never could find it again.”

The lady in this myth sounds a bit like the Greek monster Echidna, or perhaps Lamia. (Apart from not eating Leonard, as Lamia or Echidna would.  I’m surprised Baring-Gould did not comment on this.  There are so many snake-people in myth and legend, though, that it would probably take another whole book to explore the topic.)  A repulsive but potentially helpful monster like this seems like a good roleplaying encounter.  I’m not especially fond of roleplaying ‘romantic’ encounters but you could also modify the situation so that the monster wants the the PCs to fix her up with some other NPC, or even another monster.  Yes it is goofy but it is a change of pace from hacking and slashing.

2. The Sangreal (from the chapter: The Sangreal)

According to some of the older sources, these are the powers of the Holy Grail:

  1. It can be seen only by the baptized and is only fully visible to those untainted by sin.
  2. Oracles appear in writing on the surface of its bowl.
  3. It provides food, drink, & youth to any who use it.
  4. Those who see it can’t be harmed that day, and can’t be killed (but might still be wounded) for 8 days afterward.

Clearly you don’t want this falling into the PCs’ hands, though it is one of the archetypal quest items.  Instead consider how this item might make a pilgrimage site.  Your paladins or knights will certainly want to try to get a quick look before going off to war or undertaking some dangerous mission.  Or perhaps the guardians of the Grail will give the party a quick, protective peep at the Grail before sending them on a very dangerous journey, which naturally takes at least 8 days to complete, and then the party has come back and face whatever terrors the Grail protected them on the way.  Being woundable but unkillable might best be modeled with a form of regeneration.  And obviously the PCs can still be captured, robbed, etc. even if they can’t be killed for the eight days.  I think I’d give the PCs a peep at the Grail before sending them through a hell mouth into Hell.  Once the Grail wears off, the stakes get a lot higher…

3. Bishop Hatto (from the chapter of the same name)

One myth I’d never heard of before is described and interpreted at length in the chapter “Bishop Hatto.”  The general pattern — as this is really a whole genre of legends — is that an evil ruler is pursued and eaten by rats and mice, or other vermin like lizards, toads, insects, etc.  The ruler in some cases takes extraordinary measures to avoid the vermin — climbing a tree, hiding in a locked chest, or sailing to an island off shore — but in any case the vermin always catch their prey and leave nothing but a skeleton.  (Perhaps this legend inspired the “Creeping doom” spell in D&D. ) Bishop Hatto and his analogues usually deny charity to the poor, and are punished by the divinely sent vermin.  Imagine now a mission revolving around some selfish ruler (not irredeemably evil, just someone who made some bad decisions and possibly has been an ally of the party in the past) who finds himself besieged by vermin.  Kill as many vermin as you want, more keep coming.  There is clearly a curse and the solution must be some arduous quest to make things right.  Some grim humor could be injected into the situation if the vermin generally ignore everyone but the ruler and his family, and the party has to make a few trips back to his increasingly vermin-chewed and crumbling fortress.  By the end of the mission, the ruler might be sitting atop a bare metal pole while the vermin slowly pile themselves around the unclimbable base…they will form high enough a pyramid eventually.

Curious Myths facing p 450 bishop hatto.jpg

This is the illustration from Baring-Gould’s book!


About these ads
Published in: on January 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. One has to appreciate the number of places from which inspiration can come. The first one already has my wheels turning.

  2. I’ve been reading this lately too. It’s a fun book.

  3. Re: the Holy Grail, I think you might want to “baptize” your players first before letting them see it. Perhaps a saving throw of some sort to see who gets soggy, and who doesn’t, with the dry one completely unable to see the relic. They should still hear the heavenly music and perhaps see lights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.


Miniature Motivation


Geek Gaming Goodness


Teaching myself how to craft

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Documenting the 8-bit era and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.


Miniature painting, wargaming terrain creation and more

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

300 stories

A continuing mission to produce flash fiction stories in 300 words (or less)

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.

The Rambling Roleplayer

I play games and sometimes I write things about them. Geek, dad, husband, gamer, and amateur carpenter, in that order.

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Where the Wild Things Aren't

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


A vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.


Just another site

Bunker Club 55

Another Dump of Stuff for your RPGs, D&D, Microlite 20, OSR

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"


gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead


Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.


Tabletop gaming, Dungeon-Mastering, pipesmoking, and single malts News

The latest news on and the WordPress community.


Tales from South Zierden Alley

Wrathofzombie's Blog

A blog of Role-playing Dorkiness!

Atroll's Entertainment

A Troll's Account of Having Fun

Three Lil Pigs Painting

talking about painting miniatures for display and heritage figures


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers

%d bloggers like this: