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Medieval Stasis


Mr. R
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New player talking to NPC in starting city of new campaign.

 

NP admiring a castle- “so how old is this structure?”

NPC “Well according to records the foundations were laid 100 AD (After Desolation)”  

NP “Seriously? WOW! Was it ever taken?

NPC “Well it was almost taken by the Northern Wasters in 4000 AD, but it has been rebuilt since then!”

NP “4000? You mean 400?”

NPC “No 4000 AD.”

 

NP OOC to DM --- UMMM what is the current date?

DM 6250 AD

 

NP ?????????


 

I noticed this while perusing TVTropes about Medieval Stasis, where a setting seems to think that making events go into THOUSANDS of years, and that countries and geography and peoples don’t change over ALL that time.  I have been looking at The Star Crown Empire by ICE and realized that the setting has this written all over it.

 

There are seven countries that are formed around seven city states and their borders have been the same for 6000 years.  To the north is a grassland that was burned after a wizard started a fire while fighting his enemies and burned all the vegetation and is still a wasteland after 6000 years.  The Empire was invaded and occupied for 500 years and after the invaders were kicked out, they went back to all the old borders and cultures.

 

Yeah I have some fixing to do, which leads to my questions.

 

How do you make it so it seems that the land has changed as a result of events?

 

This includes changing geography (Rivers change beds) borders (two nations go to war, or a civil war, or invaders have left and new nations form in the meantime) and any other features you can think of!

 

In my case I think I’ll truncate the calendar from 6000 to 1500 AD, Keep some of the events (Drought, famine, plague, invasion) and add a few (Civil war, Broken government that leads to fracturing country, make a desert bloom a bit with a River runs through it)

 

But seriously what have you done either to modify an existing world (Greyhawk for example) or your own home brew?

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This actually is something in the back of my head constantly and I strive to come up with a way that the entire planet of Jolrhos is basically stalled in development.  I want it that way because it fits the setting and concept I have for the game, but why?  I came up to the idea of magic basically stalling development because if you can wish fulfill, why bother making anything else?

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The only published Fantasy setting I can ever imagine using is Exalted, because the setting of Creation is so tied to everything else in the game. But Creation has seen significant changes over the centuries. The history that matters starts with the Primordial War, when the Exalted were given power so they could overthrow the world's creators. Then came the millennia of the Old Realm, also called the High First Age. That ended with the Usurpation, when two kinds of Exalted overthrew two of the others, establishing the Shogunate of the Low First Age. The Shogunate sort of limped along for several centuries until the plague called the Great Contagion killed 90% of the world's population. It was not a natural disaster: It was created by the ghosts of some of the Exalted murdered in the Usurpation, who had gained new power from the ghosts of some of the world's slain creators. Then things got even worse when the Fair Folk invaded from the primal chaos outside the world in an attempt to unmake it all. Their literally infinite hordes were stopped only when a young officer somehow found a way to activate the ultimate weapon of the Old Realm. She then founded a new Scarlet Empire with herself as its Empress, beginning the Second Age. She has ruled most of the world, to varying degrees, for more than 700 years since then. Five years ago, she vanished. All the conflicts she kept in check are starting up again -- and the power of the Exalted slain long ago now seeks new mortal hosts. Though some of these new Exalted are different in ominous ways. The Time of Tumult is at hand.

 

That's the history of the world as a whole. Every country has its own history too, in some cases reaching back to the Old Realm.

 

The way to keep a setting from seeming static is to begin with the premise that things will change, and some of those changes and events will matter for current people. A lot.

 

Dean Shomshak

(Full disclosure: Though I was not part of the initial design for Exalted and Creation, I did a lot of work on the Second Edition. A few things, I even think I did well.)

 

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As I've mentioned elsewhere, Hero's own Turakian Age setting has become my go-to for fantasy games. It contains a lot of breadth and diversity, including a detailed five-thousand-year time line. Over that period there have been major events that have changed the appearance of the world, e.g. the raising of Kal-Turak's Wall, the creation of the vast desert of the Hargeshite Devastation, and a number of once-great cities which have fallen into ruin. However, I sometimes feel that it has issues similar to what you describe, in which certain conditions, realms, dynasties etc. have persisted an unrealistically long time. In other instances I don't always see the logical through-line as to how certain ethnic populations have come to live where they do, or have societies and customs as described.

 

I've done a great deal of tinkering with that time line, changing the dates at which certain events occurred, either forward or backward depending on what seems more logical; making some political entities last either longer or shorter than how they're officially described, even moving a few of them from their official locations to some place I think they fit better; adding details in places and times when and where nothing major appeared to have happened for a long time, particularly if that would help explain why those places have their "present" form. If there's a feature of history, geography or geopolitics which doesn't make sense to me why it would always have been that way, I'll insert some past explanation for how it got to that state.

 

All that being said, I do think there are a couple of factors worth remembering. For one, there are some places in the modern world, like the city of Jerusalem, which have been continuously inhabited since before recorded history, so that's hardly an impossible phenomenon. Many of today's great cities were founded over two millennia back, and elements of those early days are still visible. For another, in a world which includes powerful magic which can cause major changes to the environment, it's probable that those changes can persist far longer than they would be expected to in a more realistic world.

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I also have kept the time line pretty short for Jolrhos for three reasons.

 

1, the whole "it was nine thousand years ago when" bit... I mean, we don't have history back that far for earth, and we have great research and historical data.  Its too long.

2, Elves ruled most of the planet for the bulk of known history and their lifespan is so long and their attitude toward life is very slow, resistant to change, and static.

3, Big secret: the planet isn't actually all that old.  Lots of spoilers to why but there simply ISN'T history going back very long.

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22 hours ago, Mr. R said:

I noticed this while perusing TVTropes about Medieval Stasis, where a setting seems to think that making events go into THOUSANDS of years, and that countries and geography and peoples don’t change over ALL that time.  I have been looking at The Star Crown Empire by ICE and realized that the setting has this written all over it.

 

There are seven countries that are formed around seven city states and their borders have been the same for 6000 years.  To the north is a grassland that was burned after a wizard started a fire while fighting his enemies and burned all the vegetation and is still a wasteland after 6000 years.  The Empire was invaded and occupied for 500 years and after the invaders were kicked out, they went back to all the old borders and cultures.

This is one pet peeve that I have, completely unrealistic timelines in a setting where stuff remains stables and static for way too long. Warhammer's the Old World is an example of that, not so much that it is static but that through change the Empire has been apparently always gone back to a similar status quo over millenniums. I had at some point a storyline where the players would discover that a lot of the history they knew about was a lie. That storyline never really played out while we were having a blast on the main plot.

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The diagram that shows we humans are closer in time to a T Rex than a Stegosauraus is shows that things can be fairly static for a long time, but also that humans move the needle a lot.

 

My view comes back to the game.  Is it good for the game to have a stable history?  Would tossing in a major change a few years back make for a better game?  Perhaps continued stability would be better, or maybe major changes starting when the campaign starts would be better.  Or we could have a world constantly in flux.  We can make up any excuses we want for any level of stability.  "The Gods so will it" - something we don't have to contend with in our mundane world.  We don't have magic - maybe technology just doesn't work in the game world (recalling sweet, cynical Cynosure where magic works in some places and tech in others, but a good sword is pretty much universal).

 

If you have a 1,000 year world history that includes the same level of change reflected from, say, 800 AD to 1800 AD in our world, is it useful to the game?  Are the players so invested in the game world that they will study the minutia of that 1,000 years of history, or are they interested in the current setting, and what it means for them, and don't really care whether the current ruling family came to power 80 years back, or 8,000 years back?  In a fantasy game with magic spells, mighty dragons and bizarre denizens of an underground world which is perhaps even more diverse that the surface world, how important is a "realistic" world history?  Would you place as much energy in making the tax code, or societal views to drugs and alcohol, "realistic and evolving"?

 

Perhaps that 10,000 years of stagnation really does ring hollow for your gaming group.  Maybe that becomes a focal point of the game - what has caused it, what can the player characters do about it, and do they even want to do anything about it?

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Because fantasy settings often have long-lived and even immortal races as well as magic allowing for people to live far beyond the normal human lifespan, I think it is reasonable that kingdoms could persist far longer than would be plausible in a historically accurate world.  And from a world-building standpoint, having fairly static geopolitical boundaries is easier and simpler.

 

That said, I think complexity and change add a lot of flavor to a setting, and open up more plot hooks.  Bare minimum you want to have some High Age in the distant past when they made fantastic magical artifacts or had amazing arcane knowledge that was lost until the PC's find it again.  But you don't have to map out the whole history of the world, just the really major events.  You can fill in the details later, and even retcon things just by telling the PC's that the generally accepted version of history turned out to be wrong, either due to ignorance or actively falsified historical records done to benefit the ruler at the time.

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I have always attributed this concept to the way that people tend to think about the Dark Ages.  They went on for such a long time that they seemed endless. In actually they were 1000 years,  not several millennia.  Also people tend to attribute this time with extreme stagnation in everything. All aspects of society were different coming out than they were going into this time. Some examples were the appearance and destruction of the Vikings (who found the Rus society), the French empire of the 700's that led to modern Europe among much more. Surprisingly,  this was the best time for trade and travel,  not military conquest. 

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I've read the case for Europe just after the Roman Empire as a great example of a post-apocalyptic setting. The old civilization has collapsed, and fierce barbarians are everywhere. Ruins built by the former culture abound, grander than anything possible in the "present day." Much knowledge has been lost, outside of a few isolated enclaves. Organizations like the Catholic Church attempt to inspire and lead the effort to rebuild.

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I took a look on Wikipedia at Chinese History and WOW!

 

If you think China has been in its present borders all this time, think again.  Add all the time when the country fragmented into warring states ( at one point it was about 10 different states) and you rapidly get the idea that China's history is like boom or bust.  Periods of great stability and prosperity, then civil wars with huge losses of life and displacement.

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And that has had a big effect on the Chinese mindset and world view. Their sense of balance between order and stability versus change and independence is far more on the former side than in the West. There's a strong sense that order under a single authority is the proper state of things, that China being whole with all its traditional territories united is its natural state. To be otherwise is to invite chaos and suffering. You can better understand modern China if you view it through that lens.

 

I suspect that the Chinese view of the situation cited in this thread's OP would be approving.

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Culturally, China is still several separate regions forced by a tyrant to be a single nation.  They have different languages, different religious structures, different traditions, etc, etc.  That's why you have movies like Hero that try really hard to push the idea of a single united China at any cost as a positive and noble goal as pushed by the Communist government being so common in their cinema.

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Odd man out here (again.  Go figure).

 

I rather _like_ "medieval" stasis (where Medieval = whatever setting the game is in).  It's something I view as one of the unique markers of the genre.  Honestly, I find it to be one of the very few things that actual justify the existence of magic.  We have a problem; we work for a solution; a new technology is born; we use it to change the world.   With magic in the mix, it's easier to justify "we have a magical coping mechanism, so there's no real reason to change things."

 

I don't know how else to explain the idea of "a generally unchanging or very slow to change world" is an important part of creating that fantastic feeling, at least to me (and that may be one of the reasons I don't care much for Turakian Age-- don't get me wrong: I _appreciate_ it; it's just not at all my thing).

 

I have history-- at least, in some campaigns; in others, the history of the prior ages has been lost for whatever reason-- and that history contains changes and upheavals and shifts, etc, but generally-- not always, but _generally_, the current age is on the end of "a thousand years of peace" or some other very, very long length of time.  Generally, the campaigns are set at the beginning of oncoming change, and if possible, the PCs are ultimately going to be a part of enabling, creating, or preventing it (because I'm not stupid: peace makes for poor adventuring).  That change may be huge (as in: history will close this Age and declare a new one) or even relatively small, from a time-immemorial point of view (as in "the decadence of the nobles has become so great that the peasants are talking about revolt" or "the lands of Hyuster have gone barren and their armies have begun to march on their neighbors in search of new lands" kinds of things).

 

Like Hugh, I have noticed that "the presence of humans moves the needle considerably," in as much as the time between great advancements grows shorter and shorter with each new advancement (fantastic for Cyberpunk; sucks for Fantasy).  Accordingly, I also tend to reduce the size of the human population, or find other ways to reduce and slow their impact on the world (remote kingdom on a far-away continent, etc, etc).  Not always, mind you, but quite frequently.  And of course, there are a few campaigns where I have removed humans altogether (you guys sit this one out. Go over there with the elves.  No; you're not the same-- you will be back in some future campaign; they won't.)

 

The idea is that the non-human races, for whatever reason, have less overall interest in making huge strides in technological advancement or in having a global empire or are generally more concerned about their impact on the health of the world overall, etc.  No; there is no way to prove that this would be the case, but for all the same reasons, there is no reason to prove that they _wouldn't_ be like that, either.   I do _not_ want this to sound remotely political, but in thought experiments over the years, simply removing large-scale capitalism does wonders for keeping this relatively homeostatic.  Create races that have various cultural, spiritual, or religious reasons to not want large-scale capitalism or wealth beyond "a certain level of security," and you can drop lots and lots of the impetus to pave the world or burn foreign lands.  Not all of it, mind you, but enough that what's left can be kept in check with minor interesting points in history that still allow for that four-thousand years of the same borders" thing.

 

 

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One of the issues I have with many of the setting out there is they have far too much detail.  Far far far far far too much.

 

Right up to the 1900's, arguably up to the 1950's the vast proportion of people on earth were born, lived their lives and died within 20 miles.   The industrial age and the major wars (WW1 & WW2) were really the only thing that lead to massive numbers moving any great distance.  And they basically stopped after returning home until the modern era 1980's+.  Even now we have the largest number of population traveling world wide and still to this day the majority stay withing a 100 miles of home.  100 Miles because modern transportation allows travel of 100+ in a single day, but even with that I still meet people all the time in the US that have never flown or left their state.  I am pretty sure that with a small variance other countries are relatively similar.   I may have personally traveled all over the world, but that was because I spent my entire adult life in or around the Navy.   The extent of most of my high school class's travels have been from my home town to a larger city and then either back or putting down roots at that city or another small town and then staying within 100 from there.

 

Why do I say this?

 

Because the issue I find with fantasy setting is that they are written from a global view with billions of high tech satellites recording everything for the last 50 trillion years or so instead of what they should.  Cover a single area that can be covered by a horseman in a few weeks surrounded by an empty map labeled "here be dragons".   Did the ancient/old world have large urban cities?  Yes.  But they were the exception rather than the rule.  There were far more smaller cities and towns than metropolises.  Even New York City, London and other modern cities were far smaller than they are now in 1800's.  The were certainly amazing the people of the times in comparison to what was the norm at that time.  But still much smaller.  

 

My point is that the need by game companies to write massive entire world guides is why they don't get played.  One of the few things I thought WotC did right with D&D5th when they launched was reduce the "official" world to the Sword Coast.  And then slowly add bits in completely stand alone guides that could be used or ignored with the majority expanding on the Realms.  The non-Realm settings are covered in single digestible 250ish page books.   In other words they are accessible to new players and DM's.  Accessible in a time frame of hours.   Not months.

 

The initial book for a setting should be targeted at a single area and narrow the PC options down to at most a dozen occupations for a handful as in 4 or 5 "races" in a single culture.  If options are in the book the players will NOT PLAY until they have read all the options and then calculated the best PC build.  Narosia and Runequest are examples of game that actively bar and discourage new players.  There are so many races cultures and options that after owning both for years, decades for Runequest, I have not run either recently.  I played Runequest in the 80's but simply do not have the time to absorb what it has become.  For Narosia I still have not had the time to complete a good read, and I have not been able to get any players to even try.   

 

If the options exist, players will not play unless they can understand enough to understand those options.  

If the players cannot have a general understanding with the first evenings read, they move on. 

 

The same for a setting.  If the setting is too wide with too much info it will see less use.  Take a step back and really look.  D&D 5th has all kinds of settings if you include third party, but the only ones people are really playing are the thin books like sword coast.  The tomes like Midgard are not.  The thin books are limited in the area, player options and timeline they can cover.  The tomes are huge and simply have too much information for initial games. 

 

Start small in a single geographical area that the PC's can adventure in and that the GM can digest in a few days.  Then add supplements to expand if people get excited.  

 

Fantasy Medieval society.  Most are illiterate.  Most books and scrolls that contain lore are in carefully horded "libraries" with most being simply the writings of someone of which most are only copies.  And at most they have only been read by a fractional minority of the population.   Bree was just a days journey from Hobbiton and yet the two considered each other odd and weird, places to take care if you visit.  Anywhere more than a few days was thought of almost as fables and tall tales. 

 

Narrow the focus, anything known from lands 50 miles away would be highly embellished.  Further out would be legends and tales.  History would be from tales told by the grandmother and grandfathers sitting around the hearth in the evenings that they learned from their grands.  Tales that have probably become unrecognizable after 20 years. 

 

I have no Medieval Stasis issues because the topic really never comes up to the players or most games beyond "it's an ancient artifact from the blah blahs."  Who were the blah blahs?  No one really knows, they vanished from world countless years ago and now are only remembered in tales and legends. 

 

If I buy a setting book with too much info I usually do not actually use it.  I move on the things that allow me to actually run a game.

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3 minutes ago, Spence said:

My point is that the need by game companies to write massive entire world guides is why they don't get played.  One of the few things I thought WotC did right with D&D5th when they launched was reduce the "official" world to the Sword Coast.  And then slowly add bits in completely stand alone guides that could be used or ignored with the majority expanding on the Realms. 

 

This was actually one of the things I loved most about the old Shadow World stuff: each module had the info you needed for the area in which you were playing, period.  If you bought a new module, you learned about a new area, but you didn't actually have to set the adventure there.  The "planet full of large islands" approach has, to this day, been my favorite approach to Fantasy worlds.  Granted, I might not do islands specifically (though I have, because I like the impression of separation and isolation the ship travel imparts to the Players), I tend to stay with isolate cultures with some knowledge of their nearest neighbors, very limited trade, and not a lot of other interaction.  It just makes more sense for non-technological ages and agrarian cultures, as well as large cities (and by extension, continent-conquering kings) pretty rare.  It takes the burden off of me in that I don't have to build an entire planet that the party just isn't going to see anyway.  It also allows me to fill in the world as we go in a manner that works with the story at hand: should the party need a healer to raise a comrade, there can be one two days ride from here if there needs to be.  If the party needs a city, or if some pursuers need a logical source of intelligence, that can be arranged much more easily than buying someone else's book and learning "this city is only accessible by magic means, and is in the dead center of a thousand square miles of desert," or, as it could be paraphrased, "I am sorry, Lewis; you're going to have to make a new character."

 

 

3 minutes ago, Spence said:

If the options exist, players will not play unless they can understand enough to understand those options.  

If the players cannot have a general understanding with the first evenings read, they move on. 

 

I have found this to be true of setting books myself, both for my players and for me.

 

3 minutes ago, Spence said:

Start small in a single geographical area that the PC's can adventure in and that the GM can digest in a few days.  Then add supplements to expand if people get excited.  

 

My rule of thumb is "if you aren't willing to spend a couple of evenings sketching up the maps, the setting is too big to use."  Maybe you can work it in later, or borrow from it as your own world grows, but yeah-- no one is going to soak it all up thoroughly enough and in enough time to get playing while excitement is high. I have, in the past, tried to make the argument in favor of over-detailed world books that they give you the option of a number of starting places and you can pick the one you like and work outward from there, but the reality is, at least the last twenty-odd years, the authors go to great lengths to link everything together in such a way that you and the Players are going to have know about that, too, if you actually want to play in that setting with even the slightest accuracy.

 

Don't get me wrong!  Campaign books are a labor of love, and I _get_ it!  I have had a few campaigns that I would _love_ to sit down and write up the entire world, in minutiae, and share it with the world, but I also understand that the bulk of this information is, well- more or less useless to someone wanting to use that setting, because it locks out most of the things they would like to decide for themselves, or locks them into things that may bite them in the rear later on.  And of course, a super-detailed history can be renamed as "all this amazing stuff that the PCs had absolutely nothing to do with, and a lot of it is more amazing than anything they are ever going to be able to do away, so give up now."  Players want their characters to have an impact on their world.  Some players want their characters to have a large impact on their world.  Too much detail just makes this goal harder to achieve. 

 

 

3 minutes ago, Spence said:

 

Fantasy Medieval society.  Most are illiterate.  Most books and scrolls that contain lore are in carefully horded "libraries"

 

And, if I remember correctly, spread randomly though dungeons, stuffed into the pockets of orcs, griffins, and owlbears.  Keeps them safe, I suppose.  ;)

 

 

 

 

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I just realized that I may have come off as disparaging to the authors that wrote the setting books like  Narosia and Midgard.    Not my intention at all. 

I wish I had the chops to put out something even close to what they have achieved. 

 

My criticism is not of the setting, but just like I can assess a mechanics work on my car I can assess the end use of an RPG product as I see it. 

Narosia is a fantastic setting that was delivered as a final Deluxe Edition and skipped a release via 4 or 5 book plus supplements.  Broken up into smaller regional books would be far more digestible.

Midgard is the same.

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Quote

With magic in the mix, it's easier to justify "we have a magical coping mechanism, so there's no real reason to change things."

 

Yeah that's the conclusion I reached.  Magic tends to stagnate development.  Why create a better crane when magic can do it?  Sure, not everybody can do magic but SOME people can.

 

Quote

Broken up into smaller regional books would be far more digestible.

 

As big and full as the Jolrhos Field Guide is, that's my approach.  I don't want to detail the entire world, just the places adventurers will be busy in.  I gave the basic overall "here's how the world works" in the Field Guide, and specific areas will have their history, background, cultures, etc when released.  The base setting is one country called Morien, but I hope to have later stuff come out eventually about other nations.

 

And honestly, beyond a really vague concept, most of those nations I don't even have a lot of details worked out.  Because nobody has ever gone there in my games. So... why bother, beyond odd little stuff that once in a while peeks into the setting of the adventure like a coin, some pottery, an odd suit of armor, etc.

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Oh, I think I am the wild card or odd man out. First, I don’t like the medieval stasis, and I do allow my players, and some important NPC‘s, to move the needle forward, if there is an idea good enough for other people to recognize it and use it. Second, I tend to bounce periods around, depending on the campaign. The one that I am running right now, as a small, online campaign, features a number of non humans, in a human dominated world. That campaign is low to no magic, and is at a time where small, would be empires are rubbing up against large, established ones. I stole a lot of the flavor of the large empire, from late Rome - Byzantium, with a smattering of pre-Islamic Persia. 
 

The second campaign, is a relaunch of my 1980s -1990s, Fantasy hero campaign, but after 20 years , I look at it now, and realize it never really was Medeival, but was more early renaissance, with the growing of nation states and the conflicts there in. Unlike the other campaign, it is a high magic, and often highly bureaucratic, background. Unlike the first campaign above, in this campaign players have the ability to be movers and shakers, leaving long-term political effects in their wake. This was the campaign, that had the rules for parliamentary elections and parliamentary votes.The campaign, also had the first appearances of early gunpowder weapons.As soon as I can find all of my old notes, I will be putting this together in tabletop simulator.

 

In all cases, most of my campaigns, are travelogue. The people, who do not travel outside of their 20 mile radius, are the folks that do not matter much in the grand scheme of things, therefore, it is the traveling adventurers that leave their marks on history. So, I guess this means that, that classic, dark ages, campaign, isn’t that much of a template for the stuff I’m doing, because I prefer a bit more than dumbstruck villagers looking at the ruins of aqueducts, and thinking it’s the products of giants. As a GM, I prefer the company of learned, competent, adventurers. 

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, Spence said:

If the options exist, players will not play unless they can understand enough to understand those options.  

If the players cannot have a general understanding with the first evenings read, they move on.

 

 

That described the analysis paralysis often faced by new Hero players quite well. 

 

11 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Yeah that's the conclusion I reached.  Magic tends to stagnate development.  Why create a better crane when magic can do it?  Sure, not everybody can do magic but SOME people can.

 

Not everyone can design and build a better crane, or research a vaccine for a virulent new virus, either. I think this is an excellent analogy. Let's go one step further - what are the Fantasy splatbooks full of?  [OK, besides 💩...]?  New spells.  New classes with new magical abilities.  New technology?  Not so much - the researchers are mainly researching new magic. But many create new magic items to fill up those splatbooks.

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Its not the stagnant tech that bothers me so much, but the stagnant borders and societies.

 

IF after the fall of a major empire, all the member countries go back to their old borders, that is believable.  But after a drought, famine, invasion, occupation and civil war?   OKnot so much.

 

Going back to the China example, when it fractured into multiple states, those states were NOT the same borders as the last fracturing.  There was no "Well this was the border of the state in the last warring period, so we will stop here!"  NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!

 

If there is a history of 6000 years, there will be major shifting of borders and the disappearance of some states!

 

Even 2000 years will have major changes to borders/ countries!

 

 

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I used the European example since that is where most fantasy games tend to be located.  By moving to other parts of the globe,  (let's try the Americas) we will find much activity at this same time. The Olmecs rose and fall giving rise to several others that later European explorers discover. Even North America is a flurry of activity with several tribes rising and falling in that thousand year period. Effectively the entire continent is traveled and documented before Columbus was even born. There can be other comments made for other regions of the globe as well. 

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6 hours ago, Mr. R said:

Going back to the China example, when it fractured into multiple states, those states were NOT the same borders as the last fracturing.  There was no "Well this was the border of the state in the last warring period, so we will stop here!"  NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!

 

In many cases, fragmentation would occur along lines determined by China's physical and social geography.

Specifically, the great river systems would often result in a north/south split, while the well-established elites of the historic provinces would often form the basis of splinter states.

 

And then there were the non-Han Chinese areas...

 

The result was a general trend towards similar lines of fragmentation happening each time, even though the details would vary.

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