Hanseatic League
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Basic Information

The Hanseatic League (or Hanse) was an alliance of primarily German merchant guilds and independent merchant towns dominating the maritime trade along the Baltic as well as parts of the North Sea from the 15 century to the 18th century. (The League was founded in 1356.) They worked to remove restrictions to trade for their members, developed their own internal court system, and fought piracy. Their trade outposts, called Kontors, stretched as far away as Bergen (Norway), London (England), and Novgorod (Russia).

The Hanse were also relatively well known for sending (usually annual) expeditions to the Mediterranean - usually consisting of a small fleet of merchantmen escorted by warships - to trade directly with the locals and load up with exotic goods which they could then re-sell at a premium in the markets of Northern Europe. Goods which otherwise would have to come up by unorganised costal trade or a more or less impossible cross country route.


The Patrician series of computer games revolve around growing and developing a merchant house into a part of the Hanse.


Game and Story Use

  • As a major, powerful faction independent of both nobility and church, the Hanseatic League is a powerful addition to any game set during this period, or in fantastic world with comparable social systems. They can serve as allies and sponsors, enemies (in pirate campaigns), or neutral factions that will alternatively help or hinder powerful individuals depending on their interests.
    • For example, the Hanse could easily be recycled in space … given fairly laissez-faire interplanetary government … or in any other minarchist setting.
      • To really recapture the Hanse flair, there need to be mercantile free ports surrounded by more conventional governments that are incapable of preventing the existence of the free ports in the first place. These governments might be Monarchies, Democracies, Anarchies or whatever else you can imagine - but the free ports must have won some kind of independence from them, whether by paying them off or force of arms. And this of course makes "Hanse Towns" perfect Adventure Towns.
        • This would fit really well with the Traveller style of autonomous starport towns on planets with assorted governments - orbital freeports would work as well.
  • A Hanseatic annual sailing could make a good adventure cycle for a group of PCs - either with their own ship (assuming that they have already acquired Hanseatic rights) or hired as crew.
  • Like any other powerful organisation, the Hanse will employ all sorts of people in all sorts of roles: besides merchants and seamen, expect soldiers, spies, diplomats. Not to mention all sorts of trades in their supply chain and internal economy (so everything from primary industry to high-tier engineering such as shipbuilding and gunfounding). Virtually any character could potentially work for the Hanse.
    • Even, it must be said, a knight given that the Hanse held land and, as part of that, would have held a number of manors and thus been free to enfeoff knights onto them.
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