Sources on mid-15th century Pomerania?

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    Powder Monkey

    I’ve been having great success running Road to Monsterberg chapters 1 & 2, but I’m feeling the urge to run a campaign of my own making. I was taken with the description of Pomerania in second volume of Guide to the Baltic. Between the Griffon dukes, Hanseatic towns, pirates, robber-knights, neighboring principalities, it seems like a perfect sandbox, at just the right scale that a band of PCs can make a difference.

    Does anyone know any good sources that have information on mid-15th century Pomerania? Particularly interested in details on local nobility, settlements and conflicts. My German is rusty, but can do at a pinch. Any additional information or pointers would be greatly appreciated!

    Jean Chandler

    Yeah I agree, it is a very interesting zone. Unfortunately, it’s not that well covered in English, and probably even German. There aren’t any Osprey books which really cover it. You will get a little more from the German and Polish language Wikis and maybe the Swedish ones on the various towns and individual Griffin Dukes.

    I did not find that much about Pomerania myself, I largely relied on some general histories of medieval Germany like this one

    … and histories of the Hanse especially Philippe Dollinger’s The German Hanse / Die Hanse

    which is very unfortunately out of print and hard to find. Jan Dlugosz also mentions the Griffon Dukes periodically.

    But I did find one really good source, for a bit later period (16th Century) by a guy who was the mayor of Stralsund and later, (after getting in political trouble there) Griefswald. He wrote a two part memoir which I used in part as the basis of a paper. Has a lot of crazy stuff in it, including a detailed scene of a fight between his brother and some robber knights, a Landsknecht getting attacked by a pet monkey, and other wild anecdotes.

    Unfortunately, the second part of his memoir about his time in Griefswald, which he provocatively subtitled “des Teuffels Battstube” (“the Devil’s bathhouse”) seems to be lost.

    An English translation of his memoir is available here:

    I think there is also some stuff about the Griffin Dukes and about a controversial 15th Century mayor of Griefswald named Henry or Heinrich Rubenow. This wiki mentions the incident I cover in the Baltic book where Eric II of Pomerania got into a fight with Sastrow’s militia over an incursion into the municipal forests.,_Duke_of_Pomerania

    Here is the auto-translate on the German language Wiki on Rubenow

    I would look for German language websites and maybe books about whatever specific towns you are interested in, and also another good strategy I find is to look for castles / castle ruins on Google Maps and read the local language wiki on them, they will often mention skirmishes and other incidents which took place there, quite often between the nobles and the towns.

    This site seems to have detailed histories of all the lords and ladies of the house of Griffin, but in German

    Hope that helps!

    Jean Chandler

    I should add, you might want to also look into the pirate groups like the Victual Brothers and the Likedeelers. Their heyday was earlier in the 14th Century but they were still around in the 15th and they had strong links to a couple of the towns in that zone, I think especially Rostock and Stettin.

    Powder Monkey

    Thank you very much for the advice! All excellent suggestions which I’ll look into. Using slightly later sources to provide more colour and information didn’t occur to me, but seems very natural. I’ve already resorted to using late 17th century maps for a detailed depiction of rivers, terrain and settlements. I also found an incredibly useful article on the Polish-language wiki about a trade war between Stettin and Stargard in the mid-15th century. The auto-translate feature seems to do an admirable job of making it comprehendible for non-Polish readers like myself.

    I definitely want to include the Baltic pirates in the campaign. Stettin having pirate links is interesting, with that and the above, it seems like a suitable hub for a campaign.

    Jean Chandler

    Yes this was a bit earlier, in the late 14th Century, but IIRC both Rostock, Wismar and Stettin, under pressure from the Dukes of Mecklenburg, made themselves open ports to the Victual Brothers. They basically became supply and logistics bases for the Victual Brothers in a privateering / piratical war against Denmark, and also the Hanse. The Hanse having already defeated Denmark in the first Danish-Hanseatic war had made peace and was trying to resume normal commerce in the Baltic, but the Pomeranian and Mecklenburg dukes still had a beef with the princely family that ruled Denmark (which had familial links to Pomerania) and so they wanted to continue the war, and their cities complied with this.

    So not only do you have these open pirate cities but the rather odd situation where Lübeck and some of the other Hanse towns were skirmishing with Stettin, Wismar and Rostock in the Baltic and around the coastlines of Denmark and Sweden. I think Lübeck actually raided Stettin at one point and burnt their harbor.

    Another interesting place to look at is Bergen in Norway, which was an unhappy place where the Hanse was taking advantage of the ‘food insecurity’ of the locals and the town itself seems to have not been adequately defended, so the Victual Brothers sacked it something like 6 times. Bergen was allegedly the inspiration for the “Pirate Jenny” song by Bertold Brecht in the Threepenny opera.

    I’ll look for some links on the pirate-town alliances. It is mentioned in the English Wiki on the Victual Brothers here:

    Thanks for the tip on the article looking forward to reading that one.

    Powder Monkey

    Appreciate the summary, and looking forward to anymore information you can find. I’ll have to make a doc to compile it all. I think I saw mentioned that Rügen had a pirate presence, but it doesn’t really come up in the English or German language wiki article for the island.

    One of the things I’m trying to work out is who controls what in Pomerania, and I’ve come across an apparent contradiction regarding Lauenburg and Bütow. All the articles I’ve seen agree that the Polish King granted the two areas to Eric II in return for his services against the knights. However, some claim that this was nominal and that the knights held the two until the 1460s. Others say that the knights retook them in 1459, so that they’d be under Eric II in the 1456 time frame. I’m wondering if you’ve come across the two in your research, that may clarify the discrepancy.

    Powder Monkey

    I’ve found the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie to be a very useful source as well. It has articles on the all the dukes of the period, as well as concise biographies of prominent individuals like the Stralsund mayor Otto Volge, and Heinrich Rubenow.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Powder Monkey.
    Jean Chandler

    That wiki you found is solid gold. Amazingly detailed and seems to be accurate from the other sources I have checked. This ongoing feud is rich with small paramilitary actions (capturing ships and boats, blocking or clearing harbors, kidnapping and freeing merchants and so on). It would make an outstanding campaign or adventure I think. (I am team Stargard 100% by the way).

    It’s really interesting to see these cases where towns are fighting each other North of the Alps. It was very common in Italy but a lot more rare up north, although you see it in Flanders and sometimes among the Hanse cities. I wonder if Lübeck’s raid against Stettin had something to do with this war.

    I also really love the names of the burghers in here, these are fantastic Low German names, I’m going to put them all into my name generator: “Blecken Sultze”, “Clawes Viphper”, “Hans Jesse”, “Jakob Grosere” all gold.

    As for Lauenburg and Bütow, I don’t know off hand. It will be hard to find sources with that much specificity though local people will know. I will check my sources on the Teutonic Knights and Hanseatic League, and Jan Dlugosz and see if these are mentioned. You might want to check that Nuremberg Chronicle online searchable site I linked here on the forum somewhere, you might get lucky.

    Jean Chandler

    Wow. Ok yeah. I just found and laboriously transcribed two pages from Jan Dlugosz for his entry on 1466, which are mostly about the siege of Chojnice but mention Bytow twice. This god damn website decided to log me out in the middle of transcribing all that so when I posted it, it disappeared. Wow. I an see that Titivillus is still out to destroy me after all these years.

    The short version is that according to Jan Dlugosz, Bytow was occupied by Silesians in the service of a local duke loyal to the Teutonic Order, until shortly after the fall of Chojnice to the Poles, after which it was purchased by the Polish King for the sum of 8,000 florins, and went into Polish hands.

    This was two months before the end of the 13 Years War between the Teutonic Knights vs. the King of Poland and the Prussian cities (Prussian Confederation).

    Once my morale levels have recovered I may try again to transcribe the passage, as it has pretty interesting details about the siege of Chojnice.

    Powder Monkey

    I definitely sympathize more with Stargard, but I’m no fan of Eric II, who backed them. The sources I’ve seen love to paint him as a bad guy, ambitious and violent. He’s probably not that much worse than other princes, I know Wartislaw X also robbed the Stralsund merchants, but he made lots of enemies and is well-suited to be an antagonist.

    Have you considered making a form of your name generator publicly accessible? I struggle with naming people, especially on the fly. Also thanks for the find on Bütow. Very interesting that it was occupied by Silesians, that feels somehow portentous considering my current campaign of Road to Monsterberg is set in Silesia!

    I’ve begun making notes on people, places and conflicts of 15th century Pomerania. I’ll post them here when I’ve put down significantly more information.

    Jean Chandler

    I agree with you Eric II is a heel! but politics makes for strange bedfellows, especially for a small community like Stargard. Stettin seems to have explicitly racist policies toward Slavs written into their town law which is kind of unusual for that time and something i find off-putting, on top of their bullying behavior in the feud.

    We are planning to put our name generator online, but it’s unfortunately stuck behind a queue of a half dozen or so other jobs for our web developer.

    In the interim though I could generate a bunch of names and post a list here. I think I did post some names like that in maybe one of the Monsterberg books? Anyway I’ll post some on the forum later maybe tonight.

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