JP On Gaming

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughts on historical campaigns...

It’s no surprise to most people who know me (even from afar) that I am a “gamer-historian” and that history has a great appeal to me both as a game setting and as a source of inspiration to write or run RPG adventures but also to paint and play historical war games.

I’ve trimmed down my library of game books significantly over the years to “limit” myself to those sourcebooks I either find essential, inspirational or things I can’t throw out. Too many moves have led me to become very choosy in what I kept and what I was giving up… Thus, I have every Call of Cthulhu books I purchased (except a few modern, non-Delta Green ones whom I dislike), along with Gurps sourcebooks (I never seriously played Gurps, but I own like 15 supplements), 40k Codices, the old D&D Green-cover historical books, my main D&D 3.5 stuff and the Rolemaster historical. There are a few “one-off” games I kept like Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Werewolf: Dark Ages, Warhammer FRP, and some D&D adventure with some personal significance (Egg of the Phoenix) or war gaming rule sets. As you can see, pretty much everything in there has a historical feel to it (or is historic because they’re so old).

I go through my stuff on a regular basis, rotating them and reading small bits and pieces, trying to come up with new ideas. Some of books are falling apart from over-reading like Gurps Swashbuckler, Gurps Japan and Rolemaster’s At Rapier’s Point.

How do you go from the book, the research and all the trivia to the game table without turning the game into a history lesson very few of your players want to hear? Well, to be honest, it’s not easy. I turned many great ideas into games that were less than satisfying. There is nothing worse than to prepare a great adventure and a story that excites you turn into a big farce.

Yup, it happened to me many times, I should’ve read the signs and acted upon it.

What has experience taught me?

  • Feel is more important that Fact. It’s a game and if you want to recreate history perfectly, write a novel!
  • Stereotype you want to change should be clearly mentioned. If one of the main themes or ideas you want to break in your campaign goes against an established stereotype.
  • Stereotypes are your friends. If you wish to redefine the roles of everyone throughout the campaign, run a fantasy campaign. Use stereotypes and pre-conceived ideas found in movies, popular culture (everyone from Eastern Europe speaks like Bella Lugosi) and TV.
  • Encourage research through fun. Players who enjoy a campaign and know it is set in a historical campaign, might go look up a few things.
  • Know your stuff. This is the one that is most difficult. Know your stuff means that you should have a decent idea of who the main NPC are. If set in France, it’s important to know who the king and his immediate family is (the Dauphin, the Queen). This one is important because it helps to reinforce the historical aspect. “The Game is set during the reign of Philippe the First of France”. Philippe’s reign was marked by the rise of Normandy (William the Conqueror was Philippe’s vassal as Duke of Normandy). Philippe’s reign is also marked by scandals and a growing royal administration.
  • No comments:

    Post a Comment