Imagine that a posse of armed fighters, with few connections to society, travel around a sparsely-settled wilderness. They ride into town as vigilantes, have a drink at the tavern, and dispatch some wrong-doers. They are generally men of violence, and take on missions for reward and fame. They battle barbarian monsters outside of town, and care most of all for their own skill and freedom. We could be at the O.K. corral, or any knock-off of the Shire, couldn’t we? Just swap the revolvers for swords.
The systems of coinage used in the middle ages were more complex and more interesting than what's presented in most fantasy role-playing systems: if gold, silver and copper "pieces" with nice metric conversions seemed too neat to you, you were right; read on.
So you've laced your boots, strapped on your scabbard, and set your jaw. You're ready for some adventure. Where though will you go to find it? Where are the lonely places, where monsters, treasure and glory can be claimed? In this quest, you face some problems.
What business do a man, an elf, and a dwarf have traipsing the countryside looking for quests? Where do they come from, and how do they fit into their society? Can they exist at all? I'll give a few answers to these questions below.
The stock fantasy world of role-playing is, we usually think, basically like medieval Europe. There are castles, swords, peasants; various set pieces. But what do these worlds of abundant cash, swords for hire, open-minded villagers, and "mage guilds" really have to do with the middle ages?