Playing with History

Influenced by a old Jeff Rientspost and prompted because the third has been on my mind today and the second the past week (actually about a week ago, but just finishing the post) here are some pseudo-historically based campaign ideas I’ve had:

Period Campaign Idea Notes Probable Rules
About 110,000 Clark Aston Smith’s Hyperborea set in Sangamonian interglacial period Greenland When reading about Greenland after reading The Tale of Satampra Zeiros I found this map; it’s been the primary inspiration. Of all the ideas this is the one most likely to have me drag out AD&D and believe it or not, second edition. Second edition seems like plays much closer to what I’ve called Intermediate D&D which is the style I played in the early 80s. Also, I’ve never really played second.
871 AD The Viking conquest of Britain during the reign of Alfred the Great. I long had an SCA persona who was a pre-Conquest Saxon. For years he actually bridged the Conquest and afterwards went on the Crusades. Over time I got more interested in earlier periods of Anglo-Saxon England such as Alfred’s reign. Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories would be the major literary influence. Lamentations of the Flame Princess because only the fighter advances in combat and the very magic is very dangerous. Magic would be the hallmark of the invading Vikings in contrast to the clerics of the Saxons.
late 1400s The Valley of Mexico just before the Spanish Conquest (and possibly during). This is the most recently inspired, by the pyramids episode of Out of Egypt which I watched on Netflix. I didn’t realize that Teotihuacan was not of Aztec origin but in fact predates their culture. That alone sounds like an excellent megadungeon. Plus, Aztec culture, even the poor “I read Wikipedia and a overview book plus watched some TV” cultures that characterize D&D games (even ones based on the Middle Ages or Roman), is alien enough for most of the people who might play in my games to make it interesting. While part of me wants to do straight OD&D with this one I suspect Runequest of some form (I’ve got 2nd and 3rd edition as well as BRP and GORE on the shelves and I’m open to either Mongoose version, 6th edition, or Open Quest). More than the other three I’d like to use An Echo Resounding with this one. The Valley of Mexico is perfectly sized for it at 3816sq miles. Remember, in Pre-Columbia America there are no beasts of burdern or riding animals so distances will always be driven by foot speed.


Runequest Appendix N

I just noticed something last night. I was thinking about posting the Runequest reading list from the appendices. As soon as I sat down I noticed that it is N. Bibliography. That’s right, RQ maintained the tradition of putting reading material in Appendix N. For general interest and comparison here it is.

[Appendix] N. Bibliography

Bibby, George. 4000 Years Ago – check your library for other titles as well; anything by Bibby is recommended.

Byfield, Barbarbara N. The Book of Weird (formerly The Glass Harmonica) – a delightfully-written and illustrated encyclopedia of things fantastical.

Coles, John. Archeology by Experiment – excellent description of the practical side of archeology, easily relatable to FRP games.

Conally, Peter. The Greek Armies, The Roman Army, and Enemies of Rome – three educational picture books of incredible detail and content.

Draeger, Donn F. and Smith, Robert W. Asian Fighting Arts – an excellent survey of what it really takes to master a weapon.

Foote, Peter(ed.) The Saga of Grettir the Strong – on version of the making of a hero, direct from the Age of Heroes of Iceland.

Funcken, Lillane and Fred. Arms and Uniforms: Ancient Egypt to the 18th Century – first-class illustrated book of historical costumes and weapons.

Howard, Robert E. Conan (and others) – the archetypical noble and savage barbarian written with muscle and guts; his notes have been finished with less gusto by other writers as well.

Keegan, John. The Face of Battle – the descriptions in this book are a must for anyone wanting to know some truth in grisly detail about ancient and medieval warfare.

Leiber, Fritz. Swords in the Mist (and others) – a basic source of modern fantasy; the stories about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are classics.

Magnusson, Magnus (ed.). Njal’s Saga – an excellent look at a Dark Ages culture, and some rousing fighting besides.

Malory, Thomas. Le Morte d’Arthur – more information on heroic actions, though of a limited cult. Useful too for inspiration on possible event for FRP.

Moorcock, Michael. Elric (and others) – a basic source of modern fantasy.

Smith, Clark Ashton. Hyperborea (and others) – more standards of fantasy fiction, which everyone should at least taste.

Stone, George Cameron. A Glossary of the Constuction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor – heavy emphasis on Japanese fighting gear, but worth it anyway.

Sturlasson, Snorri. King Harald’s Saga – a superb epic tale by Iceland’s most famous saga writer, proving you do not need fantasy to create a legend.

Tolkien, J. R. R. Lord of the Rings – a modern fantasy classic. Tolkien is rightfully accorded as the Master of fantasy, and if you have not yet read LotR, please do yourself a favor. Of his other works, see also The Silmarilion – notes of the Master compiled posthumously by his son, Christopher. These are a chronicle of the earlier ages of Middle Earth.

Chivalry & Sorcery; Bunnies & Burrows; Flash Gordon & the Warriors of Mongo; Starships & Spacemen – all from Fantasy Games Unlimited, PO Box 182, Roslyn NY 11576.

Empire of the Petal Throne; Knights of the Round Table; Space Patrol; Superhero 2044 – all from Gamescience (Lou Zocchi & Associates), 1956 Pass Rd., Gulfport MS 39501.

Advanced D&D; Dungeons & Dragons; Gamma World; Metamorphosis Alpha; Star Probe; Star Empires – all from TSR Hobbies, Inc., PO Box 756, Lake Geneva WI 53147.

Bushido; Space Quest – Tyr Gamemakers Ltd., PO Box 414, Arlington VA 22210.

The Fantasy Trip (included Wizard and Melee) – Metagaming, PO Box 15346, Austin TX 78761.

Tunnels & Trolls; Monsters! Monsters!; Starfaring – all from Flying Buffal, Inc., PO Box 1467, Scottsdale AZ 85252.

Traveller; En Garde! – Game Designers’ Workshop, 203 North St., Normal IL 61761.

Legacy – Legacy Press, 217 Harmon Rd., Camden MI 49232.

Arduin Grimoire; Welcome to Skull Tower; Runes of Doom – all from James E. Mathis, 2428 Ellsworth (102), Berkeley CA 94704.

Star Trek – Heritage Models, Inc., 9840 Monroe Dr. (Bldg. 106), Dallas TX 75220.

The Society for Creative Anachronism. Write to Society of Creative Anachronism, Inc., Office of the Registry, PO Box 594, Concord, Calif. 94522

Write for prices to Lou Zocchi & Associates, 1956 Pass Rd. Gulfport MS 39501,or see you local hobby or game store.


When contrasting it to the DMG the following stand out:

  • The presence of a lot of non-fiction.
  • The fiction on this list is present on the DMG.
  • The addition of commentary
  • That this list is specific works for all authors
  • The pointers to other games (more about this below)
  • The presence of DIY history in two places
  • The presence of non-modern texts in the form of sagas.

The presence of other games I think is very telling for two reasons. One, it indicates this work is a product of a period when the hobby was one of associates and friends not rival businesses becoming an industry. Second, it provides a context not only for the stories the designers wanted to tell but the games they knew. It is an interesting addition to the context of the game looking back 30 years later.

Monday Pointers: February 22, 2010 Edition

D4:Chronicles of Drenai RPG

The late David Gemmell wrote great swords and sorcery. His longest, and I suspect most popular series, was the Drenai series. I was introduced to it via Legend when Gary Gygax’s New Infinities Productions published it as Against the Horde. Now, Dareil over at The Madman’s Cave gives us an RPG purpose built for that world. It has some interesting ideas, such as combat being a save against fear and your “score” as a product of your points for both heroic and anti-heroic actions. In spirit it reminds me a lot of Pendragon because it provides mechanics for the kinds of passions that drive Gemmell’s characters. Well worth a look for those interested in swords and sorcery and experimental ideas.

D6:The Lost Fort: Roman and Medieval History

My historical interests via the SCA and boffer LARPS is sub-Roman and Anglo-Saxon England. This website is a great source for someone interested in that period by Gabriele Campbell. The pictures alone qualify as an entire blog of inspirational images for RPGers. I appologize to whoever in the OSR bloggosphere first posted this because I forgot to put it in my notes.

D8:Some Considerations of Polite Society

I’m of two minds on this post. One, I’m glad to see more people taking up the idea that RPG groups should meet basic standards of courtesy even if the stereotype and expectations of the gaming community are otherwise. In fact, that we should even as society is abandoning them. On the other hand, that we need it seems to reinforce the fact that Miss Manners Wouldn’t Play D&D. On the gripping hand, the battle to restore etiquette, dark or otherwise, in our culture at learge and our community in particular can always use a new leader.

D10:How Many Books Will You Need for a Decade of Gaming

If you’re Chris that number is five. Think about it, he got a decade of playing out of five books. That’s old school and doubly so when you read the books he used.

D12:Play Style and “Fun”

Meanwhile, one of our young ones (who I don’t want off my lawn but maybe she could mow it while she’s over) takes on the theory geeks with some practical rules on playstyles. A lot of them are basics we probably know but don’t think about. They also point out something we should remember when we discuss what “old school” means. It’s not one playstyle but a bunch of mostly compatible. If Oddysey is the future of our hobby my great-grand kids will be playing D&D in a traditional style.

D13:People Link to Me

While I love being linked to I feel bad when I brag about it. So, at the very least I can make it a D13. That said, both of my posts this past Saturday were picked up at Old School Rant. I’m listed under “The Bad” but I think that’s because my PDF topic is about what’s wrong not that I’m wrong.

And that’s a Monday wrap. If this isn’t the biggest pointers (excluding the D13) it must be close. This week will have a delayed post in the Silver Age series (it was supposed to be this weekend while baby sitting server upgrades but the PDF rant pushed its way in instead). I have four of the things outlined so one should be finished already. We’ll also have inspirational art, either a buried treasure or a review, and hopefully a follow-up from Dream Pod 9 (maybe we’ll hear from White Wolf on the topic too).