Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roleplaying in the historical past.

One thing that I have enjoyed is playing RPG set in historical settings, whether a strictly historical game like Beat to Quarters or games with fantastic or supernatural elements like Call of Cthulhu.

For Call of Cthulhu in many ways my favourite period is the Victorian or Gaslight setting, this may be because as a Briton it represents a high point of my nations power and status, but also because it feeels a good fit with late 19th Century science and technology. The other period that I do like for Call of Cthulhu is Cthulhu Dark Ages, or as I have described it previously 'A World lit only by Fear'. In the past I've played in several historically based CoC campaigns including 14th Century France in the 100 Years War and many Gaslight games.

A game that I am currently playing in is set in a Roman based world for Dungeons and Dragons, called Carceres et Dracones to reflect this and based on the later days of the Roman Empire with the barbarian foedarates inside the empire's boundaries and less of the strong control of the earlier periods.

I'm now thinking about how I would want to run a game in the post roman era of British history, traditionally the legendary era of King Arthur, but also with the scope to have small warlords controlling areas, barbarian invaders and remnants of earlier populations. My feeling is to make this a fairly low fantasy setting where mythical creatures and magic do exist, but not in the profusion that is seen in the usual D&D game. I'll go through this in a separate post or series of posts as I don't wish to make this too lengthy. A previous D&D based game set in a reimagined saxon past was the Raedwald game that I playtested at, there is a thread about the design there or the creator's blog is here.

There are disadvantages of historical or semi-historical role playing, particularly if you wish to play female characters or non-human characters who are difficult to fit into many eras as active adventurers. The world of antiquity has probably a little more scope for this as being far less clearly known than the more recent past and easier to turn into a mythical world where other races exist. Another constraint can be the social structure being more rigid than most role playing settings or gaming groups playing styles allow for. Although Chivalry and Sorcery is a good example of how a game can be given a stronger rooting in the society that it is based on, it was difficult to fit adventurers into such a rigid setting.

The advantages of roleplaying in history are being able to get inspiration from the many interesting history books that are available or the remains of past civilisations that surround us. In London I have often been able to go past remains of the Roman or Medieval past and been able to wonder about how life would be in those times. I think this topic has plenty more scope in it so I'll return to it soon.

No comments: