Saturday, 9 December 2017

#RPG12: Q5 Historical Games

You’re running a historical or alt-historical game. What place and time in history do you choose? Are you including fantastical elements of any sort, and if so, what?

The Ring of Brodgar
I always prefer to run modern day games because I’m mostly lazy, and the modern day sorts out most of the background for me.

But having said that, I want to develop a game set in Neolithic Orkney. It will be set around the time that Maes Howe, the Ring of Brogdar, Ness of Brogdar and so on were occupied. It probably would have fantastical elements, simply because I don’t think I’d enjoy doing something without fantastical elements.

If I didn’t have the odd ghost or monster then I’d probably have to obey my impulse to make it more “authentic”, which means doing way more research than I can really be bothered with. But fantastical elements would be low key and rare.

The other problem with being too realistic is dealing with slavery and the role of women. (Okay, that’s two problems.) There’s no clear evidence of neolithic slavery, but as an armchair observer of human nature it seems likely to me that neolithic man probably took slaves. After all, someone had to construct all those stone monuments… So I’d need to treat that carefully.
Ness of Brodgar, 2016

As the role of women, I think I’d have to just ignore the fact that women would most likely be spending all their time at home being pregnant and raising kids. (Again, the view from my armchair suggests to me that it is very unlikely that neolithic times were a period of great equality.) I don’t think making the game “realistic” would be that much fun, so my neolithic tribe would be a paragon of equality.

Skara Brae
My current thoughts are that the PCs are vying to become apprentices to the tribal shaman, but that’s pretty much as far as I’ve got.

(Orkney is amazing though. You really should go.)

Bonus answer: English Heritage

I love visiting English Heritage properties - castles, earthworks, Roman fortifications, stone circles (and a cold war bunker, in York). Their guidebooks are full of useful information - and maps.

I’ve often thought that it would be cool to set a simple RPG scenario at such a site. My idea would be a lightweight RPG containing pregens and simple rules, plus a scenario set at the location. If you wanted to make it educational you would make it historical - but if you just wanted to use the location then it could be fantasy.

I often use such locations in my games. The Crasta Demon’s climax uses Dunstanburgh Castle, I used Lindisfarne Castle in The Bone Swallower, and I'm currently weaving the York Cold War Bunker into another scenario.

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