View Full Version : History is a writerís cheat book, or in this cases a DMís

2011-09-16, 11:42 PM
I believe it was Isaac Asimov that said something to that effect, explaining the not very subtle parallels of his Foundation series and the fall of the Roman Empire. But he was not alone, as the Star Wars prequel trilogy borrows a lot from the beginnings of the Roman Empire and the rise of Nazi Germany.

The point of this thread you ask? Is there any specific time period, event, or nation that you like to have in your settings?

Me, I love Civil Wars and tend to always plop my PCs into a war-torn nation that mirrors one that occurred in real life at some point in history (ex: Russian, English, American etc.). I also love the Age of Sail, and sending the group off into unexplored uncontacted but ancient lands by sea.

2011-09-17, 02:17 AM
I have lots. The place my party's currently in, for example, is based on pre-Columbus Americas, although there's somewhat more intercontinental cross-over and a few horses (only a few) have been introduced.

More specifically, I have a European-themed region which is roughly based on Charlemagne's time: the monarchy has grown weak, the feudal states strong, and the latter have become basically independent nations. Now there is a strong king, who is in the process of going from fief to fief, reinstating the old rule and making the region strong again.

I have another region, dominated by gnomes, which is somewhere between Medici Italy and the Caribbean at the height of piracy. It's an island region, and each island or group of islands is an independent city-state in a constant flux of war and alliance with the rest.

2011-09-18, 12:25 AM
Modernization is my favourite historical theme. In my current D&D game I've been borrowing heavily from the centralization of European states in the late middle ages and early modern period for the background, the rise of absolutism, bureaucracy and representation concomitant with the decline of feudalism. I didn't want to go all the way to gaslight fantasy and explore industrialization although I'll probably try to cram that into somehow if I ever make a more high magic setting.

It was pretty hard squaring the high potential of D&D magic with pre-scientific revolution notions of progress and rationality (that is to say where they are not prevalent). Maybe the political modernization and the emergence of a magic using bourgeois will pave the way for industrialization.

2011-09-20, 02:56 AM
Viva la revolucion! I love revolution, and I have been pondering whether or not to start a campaign where the objective is revolution.

Jay R
2011-09-20, 10:28 AM
In the late seventies, I invented a world positing that when the light reached earth from the supernova of 1066, so did magic. So the world was a feudal world, and with lots of magic and no understanding of it, so the first effect was subtle. What people believed started to come true. First, bogeymen actually did start coming after naughty children. The old women with no teeth actually became the witches people thought they were.

So technology and culture were pretty much stuck at a 1066 level, because that's what people believed in. Any creature mentioned in stories, and any magic spells in the stories, became real.

I recently set a game in 1620s Caribbean. Spain has all the power and most of the ships, and the other Europeans, especially on Cuba, are increasingly desperate. They hide in the interior and cook meat on wooden frames called buccans. They were about to become outlaws of the sea - the first buccaneers. (My PCs discovered the island of Tortuga.) Lots of wilderness, lots of anarchy, lots of gold, but an overpowering empire as well.

Next game, I plan to start in an isolated village surrounded by dark forest.

The PCs grandparents remember when there were traders along the road, and the village was well off " back when there was a king". But now nobody goes into the forest, and the village struggles to survive.

The PCs will leave, of course, and eventually discover that 50 years ago, King Arthur disappeared forever and the Round Table was broken. The land has been ravaged by civil war ever since.

This should provide enough corrupt nobles, infighting, bands of outlaws, evil influences and ruined castles still unexplored to provide all the adventures needed.

2011-09-20, 11:16 AM
I personally always loved studying Constantinople when I was a child, so it was a natural decision to make the primary trading hub/metropolis of my homebrew campaign a fantasy replica of that city. Granted, it spanned two mountains instead of two peninsulas and was commonly traversed by flying dragonborn/tieflings instead of by boats, but it still sat as a small city-state sandwiched between several larger nations but surviving due to its strong defensive system, economic power from trade and access to artifacts from the previous era of civilization. The government was a mash-up of ancient Sparta and Rome's- a semi-republic/oligarchy dominated by a few key families and led by dual kings. Ah... designing that place was fun!

Lyra Reynolds
2011-09-22, 03:43 PM
I run a steampunk setting, mostly because I love the late Victorian age (about 1870-1880). I work in a lot of stuff I read in books on the Victorian age, and in biographies of people who lived in that time.

For my campaigns, I usually do a theme. I did a faux-Egyptian campaign and a faux-Asian one, mostly because I wanted to run around in such a setting. :p

2011-09-22, 03:59 PM
The Ottomans are fun to cherry pick from, they have a long history that switched civilization types three different times.

2011-09-23, 10:33 AM
Well, i pick from current history really.

I run a high-magitech/steampunk world with modern values and economics.
The main nation has just recently started a war on another nation, providing the excuse that they were "evil" and possessed by demons and has great weapons that could destroy the world.
Turns out the "evil" gnome nation had a lot of "crystals" (which is basically magic oil) stored in the main city which the "good" nation wanted.
They even called the whole operation "Gnominia freedom" (Gnominia was the enemy city's name) so i guess it's clear where it's taken from. Especially when the "good" nation is called "United States of Midgar" and is a Federation. (don't mistake me, i actually like the USA mentality very much)

With all those crystals, they built a magic reactor that allowed to "compress" crystals to use as planar-engine fuel on the airship. And they built their first nuclear cruise missile, called it "Freedom" and said it would be used to, well, "export" freedom in case it was necessary.

Soon after, the President was shot in the back by a sniper while he was parading in the main city on a car. He didn't die though, but they never found the sniper.

2011-09-23, 04:10 PM
Since I have a bachelors in history and I'm currently working on my masters, I think it would be impossible for it NOT to influence my d&d campaign setting.

Most of the governments in my setting are inspired by governments that existed at some point in time, or use blended elements from more than one. Geopolitics are really important in the setting, so the map is quite important...especially when it changes after wars and whatnot :)

Most notably, the monarchies all work a bit differently (one is constitutional, one is closer to 'dark ages' pure feudalism, one is similar to the Holy Roman Empire, etc) and one country is a confederation that occasionally loses or regains satellite territories.

I use real languages and naming patterns for towns, etc as well, as appropriate..I use Scandinavian ones for the far north, etc. My favorite is the French-esque area, since I particularly like French history and I really love the language.

I also enjoy plotting out different regions' geography, politics and demographics...This region is on the border with neighboring country B, so while it's still part of county A, it has town names reminiscent of country B...etc