Episode 114: High Wycombe: Conspiracy, Sin and Iniquity

This month, Roger and Mike discuss the English Civil War and how it can be useful to role-playing.

We mentioned

The Century of Revolution, James VI and I, Charles I, the Gunpowder Plot, Jenny Geddes, the Bishops’ Wars, Oliver Cromwell, Putney Debates, Matthew Hopkins, A Distant Mirror, The High Crusade, Worldwar, A Midsummer Tempest, A Skinful of Shadows, and The English Civil War: A People’s History.

Michael recommends Adam Nicholson on the history of the King James Bible: original title Power and Glory: The Making of the King James Bible , also issued as God’s Secretaries in the US and When God Spoke English in the UK.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).


I recently finished a good primer to the English Civil War - The English Civil Wars 1640–1660 by Blair Worden. Quite short and accessible, covering the causes, events and main individuals very well. Highly recommended.

It is an interesting conflict in as much as the country was divided, with adherents on both sides, a lot of people got absorbed without too much devotion to either cause. Some families deliberately had different members siding with both Parliament and the King, hedging their bets as to who might emerge victorious. Certainly in the early war, some towns and regions wanted nothing to do with either side, and that might make an interesting setting for a game, with the PCs trying to navigate carefully through a complex situation to try and keep a town neutral, playing off/fending off both factions.

The spread of the Independents and the range of different doctrines could give another angle. Some of them maybe more insidious than others.


And any doctrine (religious or otherwise) that promises certainty can easily get a foothold in chaotic times.

Civil wars in general are fertile backgrounds for role-playing. Our standard heroic (or picaresque) adventure tropes work best if there’s no central authority, and as Roger noted, you can get away with a lot more near a war zone.

One campaign idea I had was an alternate history of the late Roman Republic, where I mapped personalities like Pompey, Julius Caesar, Crassus, etc to the leaders in the Irish Civil War and used the events of 1922-23 as the template for what would occur if the PCs weren’t making changes.

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