Most of Intwischa’s best traffic is sent to us by other gaming blogs, and several bloggers have been kind enough to provide commentary or links to one of our articles (and, by extension, grant us a traffic bump). With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some articles that I bookmarked from the previous week, as well as some reflections I have on the posts.
This week, I seem to be dwelling on the past. At least that’s what my reading material seems to indicate! Today we dig out some gaming ideas from a new archaeological find, dive into the possibilities of prehistoric paintings, and alter history to suit our role playing needs. Oh the power we gamers possess! If only we could use it for good instead of evil…
Bones of the Baptist
I’m sure that by now my fondness for spiritual/divine story threads & themes is no secret to all of you. The notion of religion in role playing has always intrigued me, and many of my posts and games have centered on these plot hooks from higher powers. Today’s post contains one such thread, inspired by a news feed from outside the gaming community.
This story focuses on the recent discovery of a small marble box beneath a church altar that holds a collection of bones which may or may not belong to John the Baptist. The debate rages as to whether they actually came from this New Testament preacher, but what really got me thinking was how they ended up there. The article makes mention of a man named Thomas who was commissioned by wealthy patrons to obtain these saintly relics (ie: body parts) for the consecration of church buildings.
Now I’ve played as a member of a party commissioned to explore an uncharted wilderness, sent to recover arcane artifacts, and paid to plunder ancient crypts. But a party specifically dedicated to the ‘procurement’ of physical remains? This hook is going at the top of my “So many games, so little time” list. Are these true believers seeking inspiration for themselves and others through these items? Are they students of history, hunting evidence of a realm’s mystic past? Are they professional tomb raiders looking for a job? I’d love to see the types of characters our group would come up with to fulfill a mission like this.
As an added bonus, using this as the impetus for creating a party should eventually lead to the discovery of powerful and previously unknown magic items or artifacts that can be created by the group, and introduced into the campaign setting. That means that both the players and their fictional counterparts get to discover new gaming treasures! High fives all around.
Drawing(s) From the Past
I had a pretty lengthy discussion recently with a fellow Intwischa colleague about the history of the custom campaign world in which most of our games take place. While some of the major events in this realm’s past have been established on a rudimentary timeline, it occurred to me that our contemporary games have delved very little into what happened in this campaign world before we started playing in it. What if the history my characters believed was flipped on its head by an in-game discovery?
This premise came back to me as I read this feature story on newly discovered cave paintings in Spain. This ancient artwork has forced some anthropologists and historians to rethink their views on the culture of our species, and that of our biological relatives. Glimmers of these revelations have worked their way into several of our games: the discovery of a ruined temple deep below the sea, or an archaic script that no one alive had ever seen, or giant sculpted figures that bear no resemblance to the native population. However, they’ve usually remained that- just glimmers.
What if a party of PCs were the ones to stumble into this cave in Spain, where previously unknown paintings revealed new information about our history? What if they depicted events that we currently had no record of, or that conflicted with what’s already been written? What if they foretold future events, lurking just over the horizon? What if they revealed the existence of exotic races, presumably lost to time? The opportunities for gaming gold seem endless in my mind, both in quantity and quality.
Tweaking the Time Line
After months of lusting after it, we’re finally in the planning stages of a Victorian-era RPG campaign. (Thanks Matt!) We’d already agreed on using the core rules from the Dresden Files RPG, but now we’re starting to make decisions about the campaign world. This means engaging in one of my favorite topics: Revisionist History.
At this point, it would be best for me to simply steal directly from Matt’s instructions:
“The game will be based out of London, England, around 1840. However, this is a fictionalized London so do not let facts get in the way of our imaginations. If you want Jack the Ripper to be part of the back story, do not let the fact that his crimes were committed in the 1880s get in the way of the fun. Also literary figures are fair game as well. Is there a Sherlock Holmes running around somewhere? Is the Hyde formula being mass produced and sold to Whitechapel street gangs? Is there a serial killer creating bloody corpses out of young men with the surname Van Helsing? There is if you want there to be.“
The only problem I have now is where to start! I starting rooting around the internet for some period-appropriate inspiration (names, trends, landmarks, discoveries), and wondered how other games have incorporated fictional or anachronistic elements successfully into their systems. What I found was a really great breakdown over at Board Game Geek, compiling information on the majority of ‘alternate history’ games on the market.
Not only has it influenced some of my shopping list for our Victorian campaign, it’s added a few more titles to my “So many games, so little time” list. Because, you know, it was in danger of running dry.