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Bringing the past to life - what works best?

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I'm working on an adventure set in Ummayad-era Damascus circa 725 CE, and I'm trying to make sure I have brought the era to life while also making sure to provide answers to common things the Investigators (and the players) would want to know or ask questions about. I'd also like to write this up for other Keepers, so I have to cover the problem that no one knows exactly what you know, so a different Keeper might only be working with whatever I am able to write up for them.

Here's my rough idea so far:

Some "boxed text" type descriptions that the Keeper can read for the Investigators as a prelude (what you see when you approach Damascus for the first time, for example) and whenever they enter a new area or scene.


Then a list of flavorful "encounters" that a Keeper can drop into the background or add to another scene to help it feel more grounded.


I have a historical background for the Keeper to fill in basic ideas and themes about the city and setting.


I also have a rough timeline of historical and Mythos and adventure background.


I also have a lot of pictures and I'm working on several maps.


I have a list of common and nonexistent things (that I believe was in the 6th edition rules for the 1920s?) like "coffee hasn't been developed yet!" "backgammon is popular!" etc.


Common player/Investigator knowledge or areas of curiosity:

How does trade work?

How is knowledge recorded?

What weapons/tech are common?

How do people travel?

What does art look like?

What are science levels, particularly astronomy, and how does the government/religious groups view it?

What are medicine levels and how is it viewed?

What are superstitions?

How multilingual is the society?

How is the society balanced economically?

What are the roles of the sexes?

What are the interactions of religions?

What are the interactions of minorities?

What food is common?


(I'm not sure I can answer all that but I'd like to know if I missed any important areas! Or if you have a good source for 8th Century Middle Eastern cultural history!)


What has worked best for you as Keepers to help you feel grounded in bringing a historical era (1920s or whatever) to life?


As an Investigator, what did you need to know to feel like you could play in a different era?





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I would just cover the above in a couple of sentences each, to be honest. Players don't want to wade through pages of background for a scenario.

As to bringing out the flavour, I'd concentrate on what is different. Describe a marketplace as being full of stalls selling frgrant spices, bright cloth and jewellry, with a small square selling slaves. You show the familiar and unfamiliar together.

Edited by soltakss
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