I am always on the lookout for books that I can use to mine for ideas that I can use in my roleplaying games. I stumbled across Willaim Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age while I browsing the bookstore and (since I had a Christmas gift card to burn) I picked it up.
Now, I realize that the book and its author have gotten flamed pretty badly by some historians and reviewers and I am not vouching for its historical accuracy. However, I am DEFINITELY going to use some its descriptions of what life was like in the Middle Ages for my next 4th Edition D&D campaign. Some of the ideas and details that I plan to gleefully use (read that as rip off!) include.
- A land that is heavily forested with only small pockets of open area for fields and towns.
- An illiterate peasantry that never travels far from home and is always one bad harvest away from famine.
- A population that is spread out in lots of little villages that contain only a hundred people or so.
So, check the book out and see for yourself. It may not be the best history of the medieval period, but it is definitely an enjoyable read and filled with ideas that you can mine for your own campaigns. I reccomend it!