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🎨 Creative A collaboration on a Mediterranean setting

La Conductora

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Validated User
#1
This setting is cross compatible with both D&D 5e (the system my friends play, and which I'd most likely use myself) and Pathfinder 1e (the system I prefer and know best), but it should be adaptable to other systems.

This setting is based on one simple idea - rather than Fantasy Counterpart England, France, or Scandinavia, this setting entirely takes place around the Fantasy Counterpart Mediterranean Sea. That means a few things. When I imagine a map of the setting in my head, the sea is the center of the map, and takes up the bulk of the space. There's land in the sea, of course, such as massive islands, archipelagos, and peninsulas, and I imagine an Italy-like peninsula in the center, but even that land is defined by the sea being there. A lot of the major settlements are going to be on the fringes of the map, because that's all valuable coastline, rather than the whole focal point being centered in the middle of the map. It's a very maritime setting, naturally, as literally everything is defined by its relation to the sea, and hugely cosmopolitan.

I especially want to catch that cosmopolitan nature, and that's why this needs to be a collaborative setting. The Med isn't just Southern Europe, it's Asia Minor and North Africa, and those places should be talked about. I'm not uneducated about the Med, but I don't know any of these places in depth. I especially am not super knowledgeable about Turkey or North Africa outside of a bit about Egypt.

I do have some thoughts. D&D has always been a giant mess of anachronisms, and this setting is certainly not immune to that, but as much as possible, I want to take inspiration from between 1000 and 1200. So stuff from, say, Renaissance Italy isn't gonna fit super well. I've also made a couple geopolitical calls regarding that. I want the analog to Venice to be a newly rising power. It's just now becoming wealthy and strong and finding its place. The counterpart to Byzantines are in a mini-Renaissance at the moment, still control their heartland in "Anatolia", and "Constantinople" hasn't fallen. Also, Byzantine is a term invented long after the civilization was gone. They considered themselves the Roman Empire. Let's keep that in this setting. Also, it's Greek speaking, and nobody ever, ever talks about Medieval Athens (or Greeks in general) in fantasy worldbuilding. So let's do that. As for "Spain", "Castille", "Leon", "Aragon", and other kingdoms all exist, there isn't really a "Spanish" identity, and al-Andalus is a big player. "Seville" hasn't yet been captured by "Castille".

That said, for the most part, I don't know how everything should be portrayed. Shiuld there be Crusades? I'm not convinced that's a storytelling element we want. What should "Jerusalem" look like? Is it under "Arab" or "Turkish" rule? "Greek"? "Jewish"? In an openly polytheistic world, how are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam portrayed? Is emphasizing a big religious divide something we even want to do? I'm not going to be able to design anything really good on my own. Nor do I really have a comprehensive plan for how to design this setting, or how deep to go with Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, or anything. So I put this forward to RPG.net as a bigger discussion.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#2
There are a couple design choices I would typically make with any setting. I don't want to say they must be used here, but I prefer them.

All playable races shall belong to the Human species. This means a couple things. First, anyone can crossbreed with anyone. It's not like vanilla D&D, where half-whatever always involves a round-ear. A tiefling can be elven or dwarfish as easily as anything else. There is also a Racially Mixed character option, which mechanically replaces the Human of vanilla D&D as the do-anything race.

Second, I just don't find alignment useful or desireable.

Third, I like only having 3 types of armor mechanically. There is Light, statted as chain shirt, Medium, statted as breastplate, or hide for Druids, and Heavy, statted as full plate. Since I skip 1st and 2nd level, a character would have that kind of armor, anyway, any they are really the optimal choices. This is especially useful here, because this setting takes place in a time and region where articulatee plate covering the whole body isn't really a thing. A lot of heavy armor characters would logically be wearing mail. I don't want to get into a whole thing about restatting and redefining all the armors to be accurate for, say, 1100. Easier to just say "You can wear x amount of armor", and leave style and appearance more open to personal taste.

I'm assuming multiple divine pantheons, but I want a discussion on what they should look like, and what religion should look like. Designing religions is not something I'm good at. One pantheon that everybody worships differently actually seems to fit better, given that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all worship the same deity IRL.
 
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NobodyImportant

Registered User
Validated User
#3
How close do you want to adhere to history here? Is this straight-up a version of the 12th century mediterranean, with all nations and institutions intact but with magic and monsters layered on top; a fantastic pastiche thereof, a la 7th Sea’s Thera; or an ahistorical mismash akin to Pathfinder’s Golarion?
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#4
I think either the 7th Sea or Pathfinder approach is better, closer to 7th Sea, as Pathfinder is a bit too kitchen sink for this. Like, when I say Medieval Greece, I want it to feel like Greece.
 

vitruvian

Registered User
Validated User
#5
This setting is cross compatible with both D&D 5e (the system my friends play, and which I'd most likely use myself) and Pathfinder 1e (the system I prefer and know best), but it should be adaptable to other systems.

This setting is based on one simple idea - rather than Fantasy Counterpart England, France, or Scandinavia, this setting entirely takes place around the Fantasy Counterpart Mediterranean Sea. That means a few things. When I imagine a map of the setting in my head, the sea is the center of the map, and takes up the bulk of the space. There's land in the sea, of course, such as massive islands, archipelagos, and peninsulas, and I imagine an Italy-like peninsula in the center, but even that land is defined by the sea being there. A lot of the major settlements are going to be on the fringes of the map, because that's all valuable coastline, rather than the whole focal point being centered in the middle of the map. It's a very maritime setting, naturally, as literally everything is defined by its relation to the sea, and hugely cosmopolitan.

I especially want to catch that cosmopolitan nature, and that's why this needs to be a collaborative setting. The Med isn't just Southern Europe, it's Asia Minor and North Africa, and those places should be talked about. I'm not uneducated about the Med, but I don't know any of these places in depth. I especially am not super knowledgeable about Turkey or North Africa outside of a bit about Egypt.

I do have some thoughts. D&D has always been a giant mess of anachronisms, and this setting is certainly not immune to that, but as much as possible, I want to take inspiration from between 1000 and 1200. So stuff from, say, Renaissance Italy isn't gonna fit super well. I've also made a couple geopolitical calls regarding that. I want the analog to Venice to be a newly rising power. It's just now becoming wealthy and strong and finding its place. The counterpart to Byzantines are in a mini-Renaissance at the moment, still control their heartland in "Anatolia", and "Constantinople" hasn't fallen. Also, Byzantine is a term invented long after the civilization was gone. They considered themselves the Roman Empire. Let's keep that in this setting. Also, it's Greek speaking, and nobody ever, ever talks about Medieval Athens (or Greeks in general) in fantasy worldbuilding. So let's do that. As for "Spain", "Castille", "Leon", "Aragon", and other kingdoms all exist, there isn't really a "Spanish" identity, and al-Andalus is a big player. "Seville" hasn't yet been captured by "Castille".

That said, for the most part, I don't know how everything should be portrayed. Shiuld there be Crusades? I'm not convinced that's a storytelling element we want. What should "Jerusalem" look like? Is it under "Arab" or "Turkish" rule? "Greek"? "Jewish"? In an openly polytheistic world, how are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam portrayed? Is emphasizing a big religious divide something we even want to do? I'm not going to be able to design anything really good on my own. Nor do I really have a comprehensive plan for how to design this setting, or how deep to go with Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, or anything. So I put this forward to RPG.net as a bigger discussion.
I don't think it's necessarily the case that nobody ever talks about medieval Greek culture per se, it's more that the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople was largely culturally Greek more than Roman, and was therefore the center of that culture even though it was next door in Anatolia. For flavor of the empire in that time, I would go for lots of stuff by Harry Turtledove, although I believe most of his alternate histories involving Constantinople or fantasies involving a Byzantine Empire pastiche are about an earlier version.

While you want the Mediterranean or equivalent to be the center of things, you'll have to decide how far away from there different countries really matter - e.g., will there be a Holy Roman Empire/Kingdom of Italy equivalent in the northern portion of your 'Italy', making things tough from time to time for the Maritime Cities in the southern region right on the shore of the inland sea?

As for religion, that's a tough one.... you're either going to have to go ahead and use the actual monotheistic religions, or fantasy realm equivalents, or go D&D polytheistic and for the real world religious conflicts and excuses for crusades, sub in either conflicts between different pantheons, or a whole different set of reasons for conflict, possibly something like divisions between the different D&D races or between different schools of magic. Depends just how far you want to part from a 'real history Mediterranean but lots of folklore of the time is actually correct' view of things towards more of a 'standard D&D tropes set around a vaguely Mediterranean-like inland sea'.
 

neutrondecay

An Experience
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#6
Hi! I'm really interested in the time and place you're looking at, and I love designing religions.

One key question: how close are your analogues going to be? There are lots of possible approaches, including:

A: One-to-one equivalents - one city plays the exact role of Jerusalem, there's an empire that's pretty much the Eastern Roman Empire, and so on.
B: At least one of everything - like TSR did with Kara-Tur, include more than one competing vision of several of the setting elements - a Byzantine Empire that's a web of stereotypical backstabbing intrigue, right alongside one that's a burgeoning military force and a mainstay of orthodox religion.
C: Mix and match - separate each key setting location into a number of key aspects, and shuffle them up. Here's a highly multicultural collection of small kingdoms close to the frontier of a major religious conflict, which also has an ancient library, and sports teams are a major political force. Here's the seat of a religious patriarch and former imperial capital, where the patriarch has a bodyguard of barbarians from the far north, and half the property is owned by merchant houses from a nearby port. And so on.
D: A drop of flavour - no direct analogues at all, but a whole bunch of individual themes and concepts from the historical setting scattered across an otherwise quite typical D&D setting.

nd
 

NobodyImportant

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Validated User
#7
The way I see it, there’s three questions you need to answer first to get a good starting picture for the setting:

- Races. Will you be scattering period-appropriate versions of the standard PHB races among the populous, or will you be looking for something more exotic (Satyrs, genie-kin, free-willed undead based on Egyptian mummy technology, etc)?

- Religion. Most importantly, are the assorted Old Faiths of Europe correct? Most settings of this nature seem to enjoy having a horde of pagan gods hanging around and getting into trouble, but this will have a massive impact on your setting. After all, if Lug is real and can blow up your house, exactly how Christianized is Britain going to be. Some can be handwaved away - maybe Ragnarok happened in 2000 BC, maybe Julius Caesar killed the Gaulic pantheon - but not all of them.

- Dragons and giants. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I start a setting I like to figure out where the races who take up the most real estate will go early. If I try to add them in later, they can feel tacked on. You can usually get away with making dragons a type of demon, but giants need their own space if they’re to plausably exist. Going off folklore, I’d probably place giant kingdoms in the Spanish mountain ranges, Britain, Ireland, Russia, the Nordic countries, and the Middle East.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#8
Quick update (I'll post more in depth tonight after I have dinner with my dad). I might borrow stuff from up to around 1260, just because the 1250s had cool stuff. That's when Mamluk Egypt comes into being, and also marks Venice and Genoa starting to fight naval wars with each other. Both of these are things I think would be interesting for the setting. Mamluks are fascinating.

Also, I was this thread. It excites me. If it is naval combat for 5e, that's great. A setting like this needs robust sailing mechanics and encourage players to use them.
 
#9
Do you plan to include anything from further afield, like the Red Sea/Indian Ocean trade network? I think that would be really cool.
 

Constantine XI

Registered User
Validated User
#10
Quick update (I'll post more in depth tonight after I have dinner with my dad). I might borrow stuff from up to around 1260, just because the 1250s had cool stuff. That's when Mamluk Egypt comes into being, and also marks Venice and Genoa starting to fight naval wars with each other. Both of these are things I think would be interesting for the setting. Mamluks are fascinating.

Also, I was this thread. It excites me. If it is naval combat for 5e, that's great. A setting like this needs robust sailing mechanics and encourage players to use them.
I'm planning a one-shot Last Breaths of Ashenport game set in the fortress of Monemvasia (in the Lakonia province of the Principality of Achaea), ca 1250.

At this time the area is under Frankish rule (William Villehardouin), has been depleted after a long siege and largely neglected since. The locals in their desperation have turned to the worship of Dagon, whose shrine was discovered in ancient Minoan sea caves. Heeding their supplications, the Abyssal Prince of the Deep offers up his bounty in return for sacrifice...

The PCs are, for the most part, en-route to Cyprus to join the Seventh Crusade, but are blown off course and or have to pull into port for repairs when a severe storm closes in, trapping them on the island. Another PC may be a local, or a seeker of antiquities discovered in the Minoan ruins. Just a thought.

This could also work very well with Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e.
 
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