Signets of Power

The computer game Signets of Power centres around  teenage girl Bea, who is accidentally sent back in time to the year 1458. In the medieval town of Aarhus, where many fight for power, you will help her manoeuvre between the contending parties and find a way back home. You will have to acquaint yourself with the way the people of Aarhus live and think, otherwise Bea is stuck in the past for the rest of her life. And then she’ll surely get really surly, and that’s no fun for whoever that falls upon!  

The aim of Signets of Power is to communicate historical and archaeological research in a fun, interactive and accessible way. The game is fiction, but the fiction in the game is solidly founded upon historical and archaeological knowledge about the Middle Ages.

We depict the specific town of Aarhus in the specific year of 1458 based on the knowledge available. The art of the game is caricatured, but the outline of the town, its squares, streets, buildings and interior all were as  depicted in the game. Many of the characters in the game really did live in Aarhus in 1458, and just as the ones we have added of our own invention, the horizon for their thoughts and knowledge was as we show it. There really was a power struggle between the church, the nobility, the citizens of Aarhus and the Crown, just like the one Bea is trapped in. When you have finished playing, you can learn more about all if this in our the

 

Background and surroundings

We portray a changing medieval society, from a pledged kingdom rebuilt by Valdemar IV, and turned into an important part of the Kalmar Union by Margrete I, to Eric of Pomerania and his continued centralisation of the State. Times of crisis lead to a development in the country and a series of social conflicts, all the while the nobility and the clergy quarrel in the country.

The physical surroundings of Signets of Power are Aarhus and the surrounding country. Large parts of the action take place around the city centre, namely in the churches Aarhus Cathedral and The Church of Our Lady. During her search for the Signets of Power, Bea must also travel to Kalø Castle in Kalø Fief. Underway she must deal with the privateers that caused havoc in the Bay of Aarhus. These privateers operated with permission from the bishop Jens Iversen  (Lange), for which the Council of the Realm also had him convicted.

Feuds, laws and the thing

A central element of the Middle Ages and of Signets of Power is the struggle for power between the nobility, the King, the people and the clergy. The Crown and the aristocracy quarrel, and there is religious and social tension in society.

This struggle often resulted in feuds between families. For a feud to be declared duly honourable by the King and the Counsellor of State, they would have to send a fejdebrev, which is a written document declaring formal enmity.

One of these feuds was between the two noblemen Otte Nielsen (Rosenkrantz), his son Erik Ottesen (Rosenkrantz) and the Bishop of Aarhus, Jens Iversen (Lange). A sentence was passed over this feud on September 13th 1458.

Alongside these more or less legitimate feuds, there was an extensive effort made on behalf of the Church and the Crown to limit these feuds and generally to introduce law and order into medieval society. “A country is built on law” is one of the proverbs of Peder Laale. An example of this is the peace legislation and the introduction of various punishments, such as wergeld, outlawry and orbodemål, which was the punishment for a crime considered severe enough not to be punishable by a fine.

The people of the town and the Church had several economic areas of conflict to resolve. One of these was the question of how the tax obligation of the Church was related to the town tax. Another concerned the trading rights of which the citizens held a monopoly in the market town of Aarhus, while the clergy was allowed to trade as required. Settlements were reached regarding contributions to the town tax as well as trading rights.

As a landowner, the Church was in conflict with the citizens as well. Especially the drawing of the field boundary between Aarhus town field, which was owned by the citizens, and the district, where the Bishop’s many farms were located, caused uproar. Evidence was presented to prove that the citizens had not received warning about the changing field boundaries and that the bailiffs of Hasle had altered the legislated area of the town field.

Everyday life and religion

Alongside the struggles for land and power and the feuds between the Lords, Signets of Power gives a good impression of the culture and everyday life during the Middle Ages. The game paints a picture of the workings of the town and commerce, of a vibrant Aarhus with buskers and folk musicians, prostitutes and beggars, who all had to find ways to get food on the table. What this food was, you can read about in food and drink in the Middle Ages.

Hand in hand with this more colourful life, churches as well as monasteries had large influence on medieval society. 

Practicalities

The game can be played directly on this web page. It is completely free, but requires an internet browser with Adobe Flash Player and a display resolution of minimum 1280x720. When starting the game, it might be a good idea to use the full screen mode (F11).

The total playing time is 4-8 hours, if you play alone. Every time you pause the game, you can save it by clicking on the X in the upper right hand corner of the screen. This will close the game, but Flash Player will save the data needed on the computer. When you reopen the game, you can continue where you left off by clicking “Continue game”. If you change computers, you will have to start over.