• The window for editing your posts has been extended from 48 hours to about two weeks or so. Please report any problems with this in Trouble Tickets.

🎨 Creative A collaboration on a Mediterranean setting

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#11
Okay, at home and in front of a computer and a lovely mechanical keyboard, now.

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
I kind of like option A, with caveats. I think Dragon Age is very much the best example of what I want to do. Ferelden is clearly England in DA. Orlais is very obviously France. The two countries use those respective languages, mostly have names appropriate to those respective languages, have stereotypes derived from those real world nations, but do not have political situations identical to their real world counterpart. France conquering England, only for England to drive them out for good? That didn't happen.

Similarly, I want my analogs to be like Orlais is to France - linguistically and culturally French, but the political situation need not resemble France at all. For example, I'm seriously thinking about whether I even want Crusades at all. That would be a massive political change, but the Arabs, Eastern Roman Empire, Venetians, and other analogs would still be recognizable as being those real world peoples. Similarly, the real world path of history wouldn't be inevitable. Maybe the Turk analog never takes Anatolia, or maybe Constantinople never gets sacked (especially if there are no Crusades), or maybe al-Andalus will make gains in Iberia. Never know, and it can depend on player actions.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#12
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.
I used to read Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory series, but grew bored. I do know his degree is in Byzantine history, but I've never read that part of his work. I might give it a shot.

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?
I think places away from the Med can matter, but they won't be fully fleshed out. I'm aware that Northern Italy was heavily German influenced, and the Normans conquered Southern Italy. I think having German and Norman characters and political influence is fine, but they won't actually be on the setting map. I also don't know if Norman or Holy Roman Empire Italy is the ideal direction. I'm not against it, but I'm not set on it.

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'.
I definately want a polytheistic religion, but upon further thought, let's have one giant pantheon, in which different civilizations have different names, anthropomorphizations, and legends regarding each deity. That could match IRL Judaism-Christianity-Islam best, since all three of those religions are so interrelated. I'd actually love the idea that the whole setting worships the same gods in vastly different ways, and even calls them different things. Especially if deities are shapeshifters - a deity is going to take on the appearance of who they're speaking to, and doesn't have a set gender identity, so different civilizations don't attribute the same gender and ethnicity to the same deity.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#13
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)?
Both sounds good. I like the idea of Satyrs, and I also had some ideas as to core races. Since all races are Human, I thought maybe the analog to IRL Earth People is actually Orcs, who even look like us. Why are we Orcs? We're one scary-ass horde. We used to hunt prey be just following it until it collapsed from heat exhaustion, we eat capsacin for fun, we can thrive in basically any natural environment, we're amazing at conquering things, and Orcs are the most numerous race (so horde-aspect). Dwarves tend to live near Orcs, but segregated. Elves prefer the wildlands, but close enough to people to trade. Drow are just black Elves (and Elven hair gets really pale when their skin gets dark, hence Drow being white haired). Goblins kind of take the role of Halflings, and are the green-skinned race, since Orcs became more Humanlike. I'm working on a common race that is a blend of Hengeyokai and catfolk. As I mentioned before, with Humanity becoming a species, it is lost as a player race, so that mechanical niche is taken up by a Mixed-Race/Racially Ambiguous option. Humans love to intermarry, so some people have a bit of everything, and that sounds like the ideal jack of all trades option. Naturally, this does eliminate half-Elves and half-Orcs as options, but I'm kind of okay with that. I want tieflinqs and aasimar balanced with the rest of the playable races, especially tieflings. Love me some tieflings.

I'd honestly love satyrs and other more exotic racial options to be available. The above options could be the setting-wide races, while other, less populous, races like satyr only live in a couple regions.

- 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.
Let's go with one pantheon of gods for the whole setting. Since you can argue that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are much, much more similar than they are different religion-wise, I like the idea of one pantheon that is worshipped and anthropomorphized in many different ways across the region, sort of like how Christians and Muslims worship the same god in very different ways. What I'm not sure of is if I want a setting that's heavily about Christians and Muslims fighting each other while Christians hate on Jews.

- 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.
I think the Alps, mountainous parts of Greece, and the mountains north of Israel sound alright for giants. Dragons can shapeshift into human form, so they are pretty versatile, but likely live in the same places giants do if they aren't among humans.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#14
Do you plan to include anything from further afield, like the Red Sea/Indian Ocean trade network? I think that would be really cool.
I don't. It would make a pretty cool setting, but I'm already proposing something pretty ambitious, and I don't want to overreach. Also, a key aspect of map and setting design is going to be that there's this sea in the middle, and every single thing on that map defines its existence and role in the world based upon it's relationship to that sea. So, that one sea dominates the whole map, with a ton of important areas actually being out on the fringes of the map. Moving into the Indian Ocean would mean losing a lot of focus, and breaking the rhetorical idea of the Mediterranean as the Middle of Earth.
 

David Howery

Registered User
Validated User
#15
I briefly ran something similar in the early days of 2E, right before I had to move and lost my last gaming group. Although mine was set a little earlier, during the time of Atilla and Aetius. I had the demi-humans as very rare, but present. But the campaign world was centered around the Mediterranean Sea, the 'known world' included Europe, N. Africa, the Middle East, etc. Only had the chance to run a couple of adventures in it, never had the chance to really develop it.
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#16
So, I want to make a note about my attitude towards historically accuracy. First off, this is fantasy, not reality, so I get that historical accuracy is kind of a weird idea. We have dragons and wizards, after all. Secondly, this is a game, and needs to be playable as one. That takes precedence over historical accuracy.

That said, we are going to be heavily using fantasy counterpart cultures here, and when doing so, I like to understand those cultures. That's not to say I want a 1:1 cultural analog. I don't. However, when my fantasy counterpart culture differs from the real culture, I want it to be because a change was necessary for gameplay purposes, or because I thought a change would be interesting, or because of geopolitical changes in the world or differences in how D&D tends to view things, not because I failed to properly understand the real world culture.

A good example is the rights of women and LGBT people. My gaming group is from my school LGBT Pride center, so this is a topic that will come up, and my players won't enjoy a world where they can't openly play characters like them. That means women need to have equality and people need to be able to be openly gay or trans. This takes precedence over historical accuracy in my mind, because it's about people interacting with and enjoying this world. Similarly, D&D is a very abstracted game, and making D&D combat realistic is an exercise in futility. So war isn't going to be historically accurate. Especially when armies have wizards.

That said, there are areas where I think bringing in more realism in fun. These are mostly issues of politics. The Venice analog is a Republic? Well, let's portray a 13th Century style Republic as well we can. Same with Feudalism. Linguistic and culinary accuracy is also fun. Or looking at how monarchs and the nobility actually tend to interact.
 
#17
I don't. It would make a pretty cool setting, but I'm already proposing something pretty ambitious, and I don't want to overreach. Also, a key aspect of map and setting design is going to be that there's this sea in the middle, and every single thing on that map defines its existence and role in the world based upon it's relationship to that sea. So, that one sea dominates the whole map, with a ton of important areas actually being out on the fringes of the map. Moving into the Indian Ocean would mean losing a lot of focus, and breaking the rhetorical idea of the Mediterranean as the Middle of Earth.
Well, I don’t mean expanding the map to those areas, more including them as a story or setting element (i.e. the PCs may never go to *India or *Africa, but merchants and goods from those places can appear sometimes, and the trade routes to those areas connect to the ones in the central sea).
 

La Conductora

Active member
Validated User
#18
Well, I don’t mean expanding the map to those areas, more including them as a story or setting element (i.e. the PCs may never go to *India or *Africa, but merchants and goods from those places can appear sometimes, and the trade routes to those areas connect to the ones in the central sea).
Oh, for sure. IRL, people from those regions did visit the Mediterranean, and I'm not going to exclude them, just like how I won't exclude Normans or Germans froom being in the game, despite those places not being on the map. I want this to be an extremely cosmopolitan setting, just like so many real Mediterranean port cities.
 

vitruvian

Registered User
Validated User
#19
Okay, at home and in front of a computer and a lovely mechanical keyboard, now.

I kind of like option A, with caveats. I think Dragon Age is very much the best example of what I want to do. Ferelden is clearly England in DA. Orlais is very obviously France. The two countries use those respective languages, mostly have names appropriate to those respective languages, have stereotypes derived from those real world nations, but do not have political situations identical to their real world counterpart. France conquering England, only for England to drive them out for good? That didn't happen.

Similarly, I want my analogs to be like Orlais is to France - linguistically and culturally French, but the political situation need not resemble France at all. For example, I'm seriously thinking about whether I even want Crusades at all. That would be a massive political change, but the Arabs, Eastern Roman Empire, Venetians, and other analogs would still be recognizable as being those real world peoples. Similarly, the real world path of history wouldn't be inevitable. Maybe the Turk analog never takes Anatolia, or maybe Constantinople never gets sacked (especially if there are no Crusades), or maybe al-Andalus will make gains in Iberia. Never know, and it can depend on player actions.
Honestly, you could even use real world names, or variations on them (e.g., Albion for Britain*, Gallia or Gaule for France, etc.) and feel free to change the history. You can remove the Crusades, or have them as background a few centuries past but not something that's persisted to the current political situation your players have to deal with, whatever you want.

Heck, you could even use France by that name, and have a bunch of fictional provinces like Averoigne and Poictesme, the former being a potential call back to B/X D&D.

But long story short, even if you go with real world names and stereotypes, that in no way locks you in to real world details of history, or prevent anachronisms like Ostrogoths vs Mamluks vs Venetian-hired condottieri vs Arthurian knights and Charlemagne's paladins (or heck, Arak, Son of Thunder if you like). Even outside of fantasy, alternate history is a thing.

*Ruled early by the elvish or Archfey Gloriana, if you want, especially if you're a Moorcock or Spenser fan.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
#20
Alternately, depending on your relative attachment to polytheism vs. specific historical period, you could use classical or Hellenistic times. Rome as a rising but not yet overwhelming power, Greek city states or post-Alexandrian kingdoms, a pantheon clearly shared among Greeks and Romans and kind of recognizable among Germanics and dubiously jammed onto Egyptian beliefs... anyway, little or no religious conflict as such. And actual goddesses like Artemis and Athena could help 'justify' good treatment of adventurous women or women in general.
 
Top Bottom