Holding Light Sources

Now I certainly wouldn’t run, climb, fight, or jump with that, on my belt or in my hand. But that’s definitely a lamp, not a lantern.

Sure. I’ve never held a lantern, so my references are mostly popular culture. I gather from your reply that you can’t wear one on your belt, but why?

I believe luke posted a picture of a lamp on the bottom of page 2, is that something you would wear on your hip. I suppose we could argue about the distinction between a lamp and a lantern, but either way I think the discussion on page 2 makes a pretty clear argument that even if we are talking about lanterns, you really wouldn’t want that up against your body (it gets hot!), and particularly not sloshing oil all over the place with every step you take as your feet move up and down.

A typical Medieval Lantern, even when glassed, won’t look like that 1700’s-1900’s blown glass lantern above. It’s not so much that the blown window is too hard, but that the combined metalwork and glass tended to make combining them a bit more difficult to make stable, so the blown glass tends to wear poorly. Plus, matches were uncommon, so you need to be able to light it - that needs a door - and keep air flowing, which meant either punching the metal or the glass.

Also, most sheet glass was small, and in round sections. It’s usually blue-gray or tan, and rapidly acquires a darker cast due to the smoke accumulation. So, you’re typically going to see 4-6 flat planes, with glass cut to fit, and then tarred into place. Poor men or careless men will have parchment replace one or more sides. A 6 sided lantern can be made reasonably bright by using copper sheet for three sides, and glass for three. One of the sides is usually a door, so you can light it easily.

They tend also to be fairly small, and with open reservoirs, with the wick held up on a pin or two.; the best had a cork, and a slot for the wick, but again, usually held up with a pin. Many a lantern was fueled not with oil, but with 3-19 candles.

We are talking about 5 to maybe 20 candlepower - less than a typical flashlight, and worse, not focused. Smokey, hot, and if not glassed, flammable parchment, often pierced, would be used.

When glass cylinders were used, they tended to be straight sided and set over a lamp or candle for in-home use. And again, tended not to be the clear stuff we think of.

There are numerous accounts of early miners affixing candle ‘stubs’ to their felt helmets or neckerchiefs with wax or clay so they might work hand’s free.

They also had ‘spikes’ to drive into walls for holding candlelight, or hang from available hooks / shoring.

This website has a lot of good information for the aspiring murderhobo for their lighting needs.

How “early” is early? I don’t think “early” miners wore helmets or used much in the way of safety gear.

For reference, that’s a felted fur hat, not a hard helmet, and mining in that part of cornwall has recorded annals back to the C12th, and archaeological evidence dating back to the bronze age (for tin). The tunnels were deep and would have required some sort of ‘hand’s free’ lighting (or its postulated that someone had the job of holding the light source). Since medieval mining is perhaps our closest reference for ‘dungeoneering’ skills and tools; lanterns or lamps slung on belts would have been too dangerous, and hot and messy as others have noted.

The 800 year old salt mine at Wieliczka in Poland has a grand museum of mining paraphernalia, of which candle lighting or oil lamps was the obvious medievalist underground explorer’s choice. Plus the place is just epic for inspiration!


So it more or less acts as a head-slot candle?

From my perspective, historical correctness is really unimportant. I don’t mind others caring about it at all, but I am looking for things that make the game more interesting. There is, of course, a certain level of authenticity that needs to be present to make the game believable, but that’s really it.

As far as I can tell, the logistical problems from having to free hands to carry light sources is something that works well in the game; it adds to the harsh atmosphere and it presents interesting issues. That, I like. If the game would get better (which I, to clarify, don’t necessarily think) from headlamps or belt lanterns, then I’d consider including them regardless of the actual history of mining in our own world.

I haven’t played or GM:ed the game yet, so I’m not about to change anything or try anything until I have, but are there any people out there who have and who have any thoughts on the issue?

I wouldn’t want to set a precedent for these kinds of things, but I could see requiring a test (in camp) to build a “candle-helmet” (out of a candle and helmet). Of course, the candle can go out at the GM’s whim, and if you lose the helmet in a Conflict, the helmet and the candle (and the light!) are gone. So, much like a Labor test can let you carry more than normal, I could see a (what? Peasant?) test to hold a candle precariously on your helmet.