Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Historical Settings - Your Favorite When and Where

So here's a nice mid-week "what-if" question to mull over.

If you had to pick a rough time and place - before the start of the 20th century - to set a historical campaign you'd either want to play in, GM, or both, where would it be? No elements of the supernatural, but I would allow wiggle room for "somewhat poetic interpretations" of the time and place concerned.

This question comes from me contemplating historical campaign settings, but realizing that the most commonly considered time and place that finds its way into most bastardized pseudo-historical RPGs like D&D and Harn and the like is the European Middle Ages, which in my mind is actually one of the crappier time periods to consider running around as a band of freebooting adventurers beholden to no one but their own sense of entitlement.

I mean, unless you just ignore the complete stranglehold the Church and the Feudal System has on anything and everything you do, a PC party that isn't beholden to one or the other is going to find itself on the wrong end of the "law" or an "enemy of the Church" really, really fast, and at that point, it's all over. Just seems to be too little middle ground between Dirt-Grubbing Famished Peasant and Bowing/Scraping/Forelock-Tugging Feudal Toady/Church Toady. I'm sure there are places to get away with such shenanigans, but I get the feeling the situations would always have to be contrived so that every time your PCs open their mouths, the local lord doesn't have them pin-cushioned with arrows or the closest priest doesn't have them slaughtered for heresy and blasphemy.

So, after I contemplated that, I started thinking of other places and times where a mostly accurate, non-fantastical campaign would be a lot of fun, and I decided to put the question out there for my readers.

So, any takers?

20 comments:

Joseph said...

Ancient Rome is a favorite of mine, and Victorian England always seemed to me to be rife with opportunities for gaming.

Mike D. said...

Another vote for Rome (during the Republic years). Just ripe with adventuring possibilities.

Chgowiz said...

Ancient Mesopotamia, 'natch.

Mike said...

3 Picks for me:

1) Late Republican Rome

2) Imperial Rome circa the Barracks Room Emperors. A time of chaos and confusion that's perfect for enterprising PCs if ever there was one.

3) Early Modern Europe, specifically during the Wars of Religion. Early swashbuckling, chaos, and human horror o'plenty.

seaofstarsrpg said...

So many . . .

Elizabeth England, Reformation Europe, Victorian anywhere, Republican Rome, the Greek City States and the Persian Empire, and others, but those are the first one that come to mind.

Trey said...

Hmmm...Early Imperial Rome, maybe. Arthurian England (though I've never got a round to actually running a campaign in a more realistic version of the era, I've always wanted to) and early 1600s Europe.

Masakari said...

I'll throw in something set between 1750-1850 myself. European, American, or otherwise - by that time, the whole world is a potential playground.

While ancients gaming sounds really cool, more often than not I think you'll find that a "mostly accurate, non-fantastical" game works at cross-purposes with "freebooting adventurers beholden to no one but their own sense of entitlement." Unless you're either a) explicitly playing bandits/raiding barbarians, or b) playing in one of the periods where civilization is on (or over) the brink of collapse, and society's normally draconian social restrictions become a bit more...fluid. (e.g. late Republican Rome, the Bronze Age Collapse, or Egypt's intermediate periods.)

Timeshadows said...

Age of Sail

The Basic Fantasist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BlUsKrEEm said...

The Haitian revolution and independence era has always captivated me. I've never ran a game set in or based on the events, but there's no work of fiction with greater intrigue, social struggles, or heroism in my opinion.

sirlarkins said...

which in my mind is actually one of the crappier time periods to consider running around as a band of freebooting adventurers beholden to no one but their own sense of entitlement.

The Dark Ages on the other hand...

My top pick, and one I've wanted to run for years, is a Viking campaign turned towards exploring and exploiting Rus. Game play could alternate between raids and mercantile missions and can range from frosty Finland to the Caspian Sea, Constantinople, and beyond.

Other picks would be Georgian London, the Age of Sail (as Timeshadows aptly put it), or the Old West.

The Basic Fantasist said...

Britain, Prehistory: blue-painted Celt invaders impaling pansy-ass Pictish natives with greatspears!

Britain, Dark-ages: Angle and Saxon invaders smiting the skulls of those sissy-boy Celts with bastard swords!

Britain, Middle-ages: Viking raiders beheading them girly-man Angles and Saxons!

Harald said...

In chronological order:

- Rome, either Republic or late Empire.

- Merovingian era (~ 800 CE)

- Viking era (~ 900 CE)

- Crusades (mid 12th Century)

- 30 Years War (17th Century)

- Victorian era

I know the question was pre-20th C, but I'll just add another:

- World War II

Of the games I've run, I think the Merovingian era and the 30 Years War are my favourites.

Charlemangne's conquests are ripe with myths, and the period is loaded with qll sorts of neat things to get entangled in. Especially if you go a little light on the actual history. It also lends itself well to the incorporation of legends like Arthur, Beowulf and Roland, to name a few.

The 30 Years War is awesome for intrigue, adventure, soldiering, thieving and all the stuff that makes for good fun. My current game borrows heavily from this era.

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BTW: Just found this blog through Swords Against the Outer Dark, and I will come back.

Eric Wilde said...

In order of interest:
(1) Ancient Greece
(2) Dark Ages Britain/Scandinavia
(3) Age of Sail

Padre said...

My vote is:
1) Imperial Rome
2) Dark Ages - with a continuation of pagan worship and no Christianity
3)Rise of Venice and Machiavellian politics
4)Wooden Ships & Iron Men

Lord Gwydion said...

I've had a hankering to run a Colonial America game, set in the late 17th/early 18th Century. Exploration, expansion, trade, settlement, disease, raiders, pirates, new immigrants, survival, overbearing colonial overlords...

So many seeds for conflict, who needs orcs or dragons?

folkert said...

the Dutch-Anglo Wars, a naval campaign sounds as an awesome thing.

Freebooter campaign aswell, but pirates might be a bit corny :P

Juri said...

Ancient Egypt. A lot of gods, I mean - A LOT. Sorcery, tombs, stuff like that. It has it all. If you want to spice up the concept, just sprinkle some sci-fi or fantasy elements(or both!) and there you go. %) Oh, and there is a lot of room for improvisation! Egypt is full of mysteries even nowadays...

maledictus said...

Homeric Greece
Rome
Spain Golden Century

kathulhu said...

No supernatural elements? That's one of the best parts! Victorian England might be fun or the time of the Celts.