Three Settings I’d Love to See
So we’ve all got our favorite settings. Frequent readers know that I’m particularly fond of Deadlands and Urban Arcana. But there is always room for more settings, so here’s three that I’d love to see, along with working titles:
Basically, it’s the world of Homer’s The Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid as well as other legends like Jason and the Argonauts where mortals must survive perilous journeys. Along the way, they encounter life-threatening hazards, battle fearsome monsters, and deal with the whims of the gods. Rather than having a single hero as these stories, groups with a common goal set out on a ship to reach their destination, and have an incredibly difficult time getting there.
The benefit of this setting is that it’s set up perfectly for episodic game sessions. You arrive an an island of lotus eaters one week and fight Scylla the next. Given the frequent detours, long term planning isn’t necessary and so the GM can easily adjust the scenario given the events of the campaign.
Ancient Greek and Roman history hasn’t seen too much love in roleplaying games, which I find odd given that a number of recent movies have been made in this era and have been very successful (e.g. Troy, Gladiator, Clash of the Titans). The closest roleplaying game I know is Hellas, which presents a space-faring Ancient Greek society. It’s pretty cool to yell out “This! Is! Sparta!!!!” as you kick your enemy off your trireme starship, but I think I’d be more interested in something a little more traditional and less over the top.
Holy Land, Unholy War
The Crusades are a fascinating era in human history. It is true that there was a great deal of bloodshed and misuse of religion in order to gain political power, but it was also an era of heroes from both sides and some incredible moments in military history, as well as some truly surprising moments. There was the surprise upset of the First Crusade, the stupid decisions of the Second Crusade, the glorious military campaigns of the Third Crusade, and the complete bizarreness of the Fourth Crusade (the Platinum Warlock once told me he’d like to write a comedy musical on the Fourth Crusade. Yeah, it’s that bizarre!).
I imagine the best time period for a crusades setting would be the Third Crusade simply because it’s the one that is most recognizable (this is the one in which Richard the Lionheart and Saladin fought) and there were some really great military campaigns. The biggest hurdle in creating such as setting is that it’s not very politically correct to be Christian crusaders fighting Muslim warriors or vice versa, especially given recent conflicts in the Middle East. Personally, I think that the conflict between the two religions, and the often non-religious motivations of many leaders, is an important aspect of the setting, but I think it’s best to have a truly evil faction.
For that, I’d propose adding some fantastic elements to the campaign. Let’s imagine that both factions had splinter groups who were using some dark arts to try and sway their side of the war. It’d probably be the Knights Templar on the Christian side (although in reality they aren’t nearly as mysterious as they’ve been made out to be in fiction) and evl sorcerers reminiscent of Arabian Nights on the Muslim side. Clearly, both of these groups are not aligned with their religious ideals and, especially if they’re summoning creatures of darkness or creating plagues or something, they’d be a group that Christians and Muslims can unite against in order to unite against. Or if the GM wants to blur the lines, perhaps sometimes they might present situations where it’s not clear what the side of righteousness is.
Years ago, Pinnacle Entertainment Group announced that they were working on Weird War: Crusades to join their Weird War II and the upcoming Weird War: Rome. Although it’s on indefinite hiatus and details are scarce, it seems to be exactly the sort of setting that I’d love to see. I hope that Pinnacle does make it some day because I’d love to play it!
When I take long drives, I like to listen to audio books and have grabbed several free ones from LibriVox.org. This past summer as I was moving to St. Paul, I listened to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and my mind was spinning with possibilities. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a novel about Hank Morgan, a modern man in the 1880s who suddenly finds himself in the medieval era of King Arthur. His knowledge of science, especially electricity and gunpowder, is mistaken for wizardry and he uses his influence and learning to transform that backwards time into a much more modern era.
As I was listening to that book, I was fascinated by the merging of two time periods. I think my favorite part was where Hank and King Arthur are rescued by Lancelot and other knights charging into battle on bicycles! Just that image sticks in my mind as something that makes me want to game in that setting!
I imagine that the setting would occur after Hank has been put into a delirious sleep and apparently returns to the modern era. There would be less emphasis on combat and more on social interaction and being able to effectively use and manage new technology in the medieval world. Player characters would be either other individuals who have arrived in the medieval era from the 1880s (or perhaps slightly before) or native medieval folk who were under the tutelage of Hank or one of his institutions (the novel for instance describes how a “West Point” had been founded as a military academy as well as a patent office: “the cornerstone of any civilized society.”) Antagonists would be those who are ignorant or fearful of the advances, especially the Catholic church as it was in the original novel, but I imagine a new faction could emerge who sees the power of inventions like Gatling guns and wishes to use it to overthrow the feudal structure.
All in all, this is a setting I would absolutely love to see. Perhaps someday I’ll actually write it!