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Historical Fantasy Setting: "The Dark Millenium"


Frank Frey

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Greetings,

Here is the basic premise of the historical fantasy setting that I'm currently working on.

In 990 AD. there were two great empires that stood facing each other. In the west, Otto II known as "The Red" ruled a consolidated Holy Roman Empire from Rome itself. Otto, who now held the title of "Pontifex Maximus" was both head of the secular state and head of the church. In this world, France died aborning and was nothing more than a collection of squabbling duchies that were dominated by the Duchies of Aquitaine and Normandy. The Kingdom of Burgundy tried its best to chart its own course but with Rome so close it was difficult.

In the East, Basil II ruled from Byzantium. His empire included the Holy Land and most of the Eastern Med. Unlike our history, Basil had three sons. The eldest of whom, Romanus, would be the next Emperor. Like, Otto, Basil regarded himself as Christ's Vicar on Earth.

Only one of them could be right but both empires had magic. The Great War began over the Burgundian Succession and soon spread over most of Europe. Magic was used sparingly at first but as each side experienced the fortunes of war, it became more commonplace.

Then someone summoned the dragons and other creatures of myth and legend. After that, the war became total. Although most of the dragons were slain they managed to lay waste to the great cities of Europe and Asia Minor. Nothing was spared. Other creatures such as minotaurs, mantichores, centaurs and others roamed the shattered ruins. By the year 1000, continental europe became a vast cemetary with the ruins of its cities as gravemarkers.

Civilization survived on the peripheries. Lands such as the Kingdoms of Gwnedd, Strathclyde, Dal Riada and others managed to avoid the worst of the destruction. It is from these small pockets of civilization that Humankind is setting out to rebuild its civilization and regain dominion over their world.

Well, what do you all think?

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Very nice.

I for one would be *very* interested in a kind of "fantasy Byzantium" setting, though - is there any scope for that in what you're doing, or has it all been destroyed?

Come to think of it - it might be nice to play *before* the devastation. These days I like a campaign with a positive spin - the potential for uplifting victory - rather than unremitting darkness.

V. interested in the entire concept though. What's the deal with the Islamic lands? Are they ruined too?

Cheers,

Sarah

"The Worm Within" - the first novel for The Chronicles of Future Earth, coming 2013 from Chaosium, Inc.

Website: http://sarahnewtonwriter.com | Twitter: @SarahJNewton | Facebook: TheChroniclesOfFutureEarth

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Sarah,

Thank you for your interest. As a matter of fact, my first impulse was to set it around 990 AD. I might yet go with that. I see your point about an uplifting campaign.

My reason for the post apocalyptic setting was actually to allow the PC's to play adventurers from different parts of the world.

Years ago, I ran a historical Byzantium campaign set on the Island of Cyprus. I used the same idea that Basil II had sons and one of them, Romanus, was now the Emperor. The PC's were members of the household of Dominus Justinian Draco who was the Exarch(Military Commander) of Cyprus. It was a very good campaign that was as fun to run as it was to play in.

BTW, the dragons and such were not released by either the Western or Eastern Empires. My idea is that they were released by the Cult of Ahriman to cripple and/or destroy both empires and allow the forces of darkness to take over.

I haven't done much with the Muslim world yet. I had an idea that Andalusia had survived relatively intact. Early on, it was discovered that Alamanzor was actually a priest of Ahriman and was leading the Andalusians into self destructive war. The good muslims overthrew the wretched blasphemer and now stand with their christian brothers against the forces of darkness.

Anyway, I will be offline until Monday as I enjoy the 4th of July.

Thank you again for your interest and input. I look forward to reading your ideas.

Frank Frey

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Hi, Frank:

Please understand, this is my opinion and my tastes here.

I like the historical angle you are taking. Enough to sound familiar, yet with a unique spice to make it different. Seriously, I love that kind of stuff. My game milieu is low magic. My PCs deal with challenges that arise from differences, social, religious/spiritual, political, economical, in the cultures of the lands they explore. I strive for the unique or exotic in my cultures...I want my player characters to experience the same wonder and awe that early 19th and 20th century explorers did in India or Nepal; Africa or Central America when encountering ancient peoples or "lost" ruins of peoples of the past. The situation between your two empires sounds like great fodder for such a feast as your PC's deal/flee/combat/ally/ignore situations as they arise. You could go a lot of places with that, and it sounds like you did as per your response to Shaira's post. In fact you had me quite interested...

…until you mentioned, "dragons and other creatures of myth and legend".

While I like monsters and badies, it sounds a little like maybe you didn’t know what to do next? I mean, you got the juices going with an awesome appetizer and are now serving Cheerios for the main...what the? :D I can understand why you might bring them in: PC's got to have badies and beasties to cut their teeth on, but let me encourage you to develop the idea as you laid it out prior to the dragon paragraph. That sounded pretty exciting and full of potential, but the dragon paragraph made all that effort sound "ho-hum"…just like every other fantasy seasoned story/RPG.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to tear you down. Nope. Rather I'd like to build you up in the Historical part of the Fantasy setting by encouraging you to keep the mythical creatures at a minimum. If it were mine, and it's not, but if it were, I'd keep the mythical beast presence low...very low...so as to keep their exotic-ness in tact. You'd probably get better mileage when PC do encounter them as a result.

Case in point, I remember finally dishing out a mated pair of Manticores terrorizing a very remote village/mining camp to my players once. LOL…they damn near wet themselves in consternation and spent hours hashing out how they would try to deal with them. The satisfaction they felt after defeating them…priceless. Further, a Gryphon once showed up as a powerful mages main mode of transportation. The riot that caused…delicious. Those two beasties are the only two I remember fielding…after 15 years of Gming? Many demons but few beasties. The legends of such, however, abound, but few be the eye-witnesses >:->

The axiom, "fact is stranger than fiction" is so true, so let me encourage you to continue to tweak the facts...I.E. the historical...end of things and use your creatures sparingly...legends that "might" be real. Don't let the cool setting you established in the first part of your post be watered down by the fantasy grist from the second.

Again...just my comment, as solicited :) ; disregard it as such. I have to admit, it's pretty personal-taste oriented at that :P

Cheers,

Sunwolfe

Present home-port: home-brew BRP/OQ SRD variant; past ports-of-call: SB '81, RQIII '84, BGB '08, RQIV(Mythras) '12,  MW '15, and OQ '17

BGB BRP: 0 edition: 20/420; .pdf edition: 06/11/08; 1st edition: 06/13/08

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Sunwolfe,

First of all, thank you for your post. I spent part of the July 4th weekend reading my notes and such. Shaira suggested that I run the campaign in the 990's before the Magnus Belli(?). That way, there are no dragons or any of the other beasties roaming about. Actually, the dragons were my medieval version of WMDs. I was originally going for a post holocaust style of setting and I needed something to use as "nukes". Upon further review, it was kind of lame and reminded me of "Reign of Fire". A movie which I did not care for.

As of now, the start date is in fact 990 AD. As for the characters, I always like to leave that up to my players as to what they would like to play and how they all got together.

For magic, I'm going to use the "Great Grimoire" from Cthulhu Dark Ages along with some parts from the Mythos Magic Monograph. I want to make magic very dangerous to use without the proper training and ritual. Losing Sanity points gives magic that especially dangerous edge.

The legendary monsters will be just that exotic and legendary. I plan on incorporating some of the Cthulhu Mythos into this setting. It will be the dark shadows starting to intrude.

Some books that I am using and have found to be excellent resources.

Cthulhu Dark Ages

Mythos Magic

Atlas of the Year 1000

Various Osprey Men at Arms books.

I look forward to yours and Shaira's comments.

Frank Frey

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Hi Frank,

That sounds very cool. I was thinking you have a number of foci available around 990 for "trouble" to come from:

- the Bulgars and the great Pagan Unwashed from where Russia is now doubtless have loads of nasty rites, weird monsters, and hideous religions. Not to mention piles of berserkers and generally Ungodly Practises to throw at the Byzantines. They were remarkably successful at causing *lots* of trouble.

- naturally you've got the Caliphate and the various Islamic developments going on in the south and southwest, with civilized-yet-alien practises threatening Byzantium's self-belief.

- the Mongol Hordes are nascent in the east - you could have forerunners appearing, again with presentiments of what's to come.

- then you've got all the Mediaeval Greece stuff to play with - ruins of Ancient Greece, ancient Greek critters still hanging around, layers of weird heresies, strange cults, unusual sorceries "just round the corner".

- then the Terrible Barbarian Heretics of the western church and their rowdy ways.

I haven't got my John Julius Norwich handy, but I think you've got a *lot* of material for mediaeval WMDs and Cthulhoid Cults around 990. Wasn't it around then that the Varangians turned up also? Also the legends of Prester John? I'm probably straying into anachronism now, but if you're doing an alternative history anyway, there are some very rich pickings!

BTW - it's probably best as "Bellum Magnum" (or maybe "Bellum Magnum Ignis" - the Great War of Fire), although the Byzantines of course all spoke Greek. Unlike me - I've no idea what Great War is in Greek! :D

Looking forwards to hearing more!

Cheers,

Sarah

"The Worm Within" - the first novel for The Chronicles of Future Earth, coming 2013 from Chaosium, Inc.

Website: http://sarahnewtonwriter.com | Twitter: @SarahJNewton | Facebook: TheChroniclesOfFutureEarth

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Hi Frank,

That sounds very cool. I was thinking you have a number of foci available around 990 for "trouble" to come from:

- the Bulgars and the great Pagan Unwashed from where Russia is now doubtless have loads of nasty rites, weird monsters, and hideous religions. Not to mention piles of berserkers and generally Ungodly Practises to throw at the Byzantines. They were remarkably successful at causing *lots* of trouble.

Not to mention the Hungarians although they tended to be more of a problem for the West.

- naturally you've got the Caliphate and the various Islamic developments going on in the south and southwest, with civilized-yet-alien practises threatening Byzantium's self-belief.

Speaking of that, I had an idea last night that the Eastern Church would be a combination of Mithraism and Nestorian Christianity. While the Western Church is the traditional Nicean Christian church except that the pope is not considered the head of the church but rather "the Pope of Rome" as it were.

- the Mongol Hordes are nascent in the east - you could have forerunners appearing, again with presentiments of what's to come.

Pechenegs, Patzinaks, and Khazars, oh my:eek:

- then you've got all the Mediaeval Greece stuff to play with - ruins of Ancient Greece, ancient Greek critters still hanging around, layers of weird heresies, strange cults, unusual sorceries "just round the corner".

Mycenaen Greece was a very strange place. Look, for example, at the cult of Dionysius.

- then the Terrible Barbarian Heretics of the western church and their rowdy ways.

I resemble that remark:lol: Actually, the Holy Roman Empire(HRE) has its share of major hassles as well. The Dukes of Bavaria and Swabia as well as the Kings of Aquitaine and Burgundy have a tendency to go their own way.

I haven't got my John Julius Norwich handy, but I think you've got a *lot* of material for mediaeval WMDs and Cthulhoid Cults around 990. Wasn't it around then that the Varangians turned up also? Also the legends of Prester John? I'm probably straying into anachronism now, but if you're doing an alternative history anyway, there are some very rich pickings!

Yes, I believe that you are right. I don't have my notes handy but IIRC this is about the time that the Varangians were first established. Why not Prester John or El Cid for that matter? This, to me, is a major part of the fun.

BTW - it's probably best as "Bellum Magnum" (or maybe "Bellum Magnum Ignis" - the Great War of Fire), although the Byzantines of course all spoke Greek. Unlike me - I've no idea what Great War is in Greek! :D

Looking forwards to hearing more!

Cheers,

Sarah

So am I. Sunwolfe also has some good ideas as well. I wish there was a way that we could all get together over a good dinner.

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...

BTW - it's probably best as "Bellum Magnum" (or maybe "Bellum Magnum Ignis" - the Great War of Fire), although the Byzantines of course all spoke Greek. Unlike me - I've no idea what Great War is in Greek! :D

...

"Megalos polemios" (μεγάλος πόλεμος), IIRC (my ancient greek is 20 years away, and thus a bit fuzzy), but "Bellum Magnum" is good (but should be "Igni Magnum Bellum").

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

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"Megalos polemios" (μεγάλος πόλεμος), IIRC (my ancient greek is 20 years away, and thus a bit fuzzy), but "Bellum Magnum" is good (but should be "Igni Magnum Bellum").

Runequestement votre,

Kloster

Cool! Megalos polemios it is! Though (without getting bogged down in Latin grammar) the genitive singular of Ignis is also Ignis (hence Bellum Ignis = War of Fire), unless you mean something else :D

Cheers,

Sarah

"The Worm Within" - the first novel for The Chronicles of Future Earth, coming 2013 from Chaosium, Inc.

Website: http://sarahnewtonwriter.com | Twitter: @SarahJNewton | Facebook: TheChroniclesOfFutureEarth

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- then you've got all the Mediaeval Greece stuff to play with - ruins of Ancient Greece, ancient Greek critters still hanging around, layers of weird heresies, strange cults, unusual sorceries "just round the corner".

Yes, lots of weird Christian/Gnostic cults....

Also the legends of Prester John? I'm probably straying into anachronism now

Yes that would be much later, but could be tied in with the Christian proto-Mongol hordes (some inner Asian nomads did convert to Nestorian Christianity).

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Cool. In my setting, Norway and the rest of Scandanavia are still predominantly pagan. They have ties to the Rus and through them to the Byzantines. The Western Empire is slowly trying to swallow them up. They've already turned Denmark into an Imperial protectorate for all intents and purposes.

The Vikings also control large hunks of England and have a foothold in Ireland. BTW, why is beer so expensive?

Frank

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The Vikings also control large hunks of England and have a foothold in Ireland.

Just the way it should be! :cool:

BTW, why is beer so expensive?

Very high tax on alcohol, to limit peoples alcohol consumption . It's a goverment thing. :(

SGL.

Ef plest master, this mighty fine grub!
b1.gif 116/420. High Priest.

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Wow:shocked: My irony meter nearly maxed out at this piece of news. When I took my seminar in Viking History, the professor had us meet at a local restaurant/pizza joint. We would present our papers and critique them over pitchers of cold beer and plates of good food. BTW, I got an A for the course.

We all felt that it was an appropriate way to learn about the Vikings.

In my Campaign, Viking traders and explorers are a suggested Player group. As always, I make provisions for female warriors.

Well, it provides the goverment with a lot of money in taxes, but it doesn't really work the way it was intended (unless they only intended to cash in money on it that is). The alcohol consumption in Norway is lower than in other european countries, but norwegians have a tendency to drink a lotwhen they first drink. (ref. http://basicroleplaying.com/forum/conventions/625-tentacles-2008-beetle-rapport.html#post12164 )

SGL.

Ef plest master, this mighty fine grub!
b1.gif 116/420. High Priest.

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