Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Anglo-Saxon Hoard


Yesterday was President's Day in the US and I made the best of the day off by taking my family to see the Anglo-Saxon Hoard exhibit at the National Geographic museum in DC. For those of you not in the know, the Staffordshire Hoard is the largest (only?) hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever discovered. Discovered on a working farm by a hobbyist with a metal detector, the collection consists of over 3,500 items, nearly all martial in character (ornamental bits of swords, helmets, and such). Estimated value: £3.285 million. Can you imagine the luck?

Anyway, as is usual for these sorts of things [see my trip to see the Terracotta Army two years ago], thoughts went immediately to gaming applications. I have a periodic (if infrequent) fascination this period of British and Northern European history. Not only does it scream D&D to me, but it also screams Tolkien. With all the castles and knights in fully articulated plate armor, most people seem to play D&D in a setting more reminiscent of the late middle ages. But I dig the grim look of these Anglo-Saxon Warriors and the pre-feudal period seems much more magical and pregnant with possibilities for grubby treasure hunters. Besides, you've got the historical King Arthur, the post-apocalyptic fall of the Roman Empire, and Beowulf. 

I'm going to allow my thoughts to dwell on running a game with a Dark Ages aesthetic for a few days before shifting to a much earlier period for my Hillfolk play test on Saturday night. Hmmm, Lamplighters seems tailor made for Dark Ages imagery (even though I had mentioned a desire to avoid western influences)... 

9 comments:

Bard said...

It's great that you got to see that -- I'm quite jealous. I used to live in the D.C./Baltimore corridor, and got to see all sorts of exhibits like that. Now, out in the middle of nowhere, not so much, though I do get lots of inspiration for wilderness settings! :)

Narmer said...

I rather like a Saxon type setting also. Fierce warbands wandering about fighting for dominance over a countryside dotted with the ruins of an earlier civilization. Can lead to cool sword and sorcery type stuff too.

Jennifer R. Povey said...

It's definitely the era Tolkein was going for in his work. We saw it a little while ago, and while the Sutton Hoo treasure is more intact and therefore more spectacular in its way, the sheer size of this find...

Prince_Herb said...

I saw the Staffordshire hoard a couple of years back at the Potteries Museum in Stoke and I was knocked out by it. The photographs really don't do it justice.

Craig A. Glesner said...

For me that period is more Conan than D&D. Not that it is not cool, just not D&D.

Also, I too am a smidge jealous. But only a smidge, I got to see other cool things in my life. I hope it was cool.

Risus Monkey said...

@Bard: The area is great for culture stuff but there's something to be said for easy access to "wild" places, especially of you dig hiking.

@Narmer: my thoughts exactly

@Jennifer: I don't know if it was the illustrations, but Children of Hurin especially had an Anglo-Saxon vibe. And I totally forgot about Sutton Hoo.

@Prince_Herb: no, seeing the stuff in person really is incredible.

@Conan: I get a little bit of a Conan vibe, but for me Conan is usually (but not always) associated with warmer climes (based on the stories that I've read)

GeneD5 said...

Looks like a great exhibit! I also prefer the aesthetics of the early Middle Ages to the better known later medieval period.

While I understand the production demands for plate armor in the Lord of the Rings movies, I would have preferred more chain. Now that I've got a full shelf of Arthurian references, I'm also itching to run a Dark Ages scenario....

Theodric the Obscure said...

Yeah, the Anglo-Saxon hoards are a great source of inspiration for me, too. IIRC, the first Starkey Monarchy episode (available on Netflix Watch Instantly) has an enlightening discussion of at least one of them, if not the hoards in general.

Risus Monkey said...

@Gene: I too would have loved less plate and more chain in the LotR movies. But keeping it confined to Gondor was ok with me too.

@Theodric: Cool, thanks for the headsup. I'll need to check out the Monarchy show on netflix.