Monday, January 26, 2015

Narrowing the Focus on the Americas Setting

Since I began this project it has become clear that building an Americas campaign is fraught with external problems that I've never experienced in publicly talking about a pseudo-European setting. Let's set those sort of problems aside though as I've no interest in rehashing such topics and instead would like to talk about focusing the campaign a bit more in the interest of building towards actually putting the damned thing out there. So if you're all about having those discussions take a deep drink of tea and chill the fuck out for a minute. We'll talk about that stuff on another day.


The question then is where and when to begin the campaign. For some the obvious answer is to build in a pre to early colonial period in what would eventually be the United States. There are advantages to doing so that go beyond familiarity with the geography. The area that will eventually encompass the entirety of the Untied States is wildly diverse going from steamy swamps of South Carolina, to the wooded mountains of Appalachia, to the plains of the Midwest, to the deserts of the southwest, to the formidable Rockies, to the massive forests of the northwest.  Yet if we were to begin in what came to be Canada we would have a far colder version of what's found further south, with perhaps far more formidable challenges in those frigid regions further north. Or we could abandon the North entirely and head towards Central America and their jungles and lost cities. But if we do then shouldn't we head further south into the mountains, jungles, lost civilizations, deserts, and plains of South America?

My instinct is to throw the campaign firmly into North America, focusing on an early colonial period of time in the area of the Eastern United States; but I also find myself thinking strongly about launching a campaign in the area occupied by modern day Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The allure of lost cities appearing in the jungles and mountains of that region with a ready access to the sea really appeals to my sensibilities. Focusing the campaign in this region of the world would give me access to a wide variety of actions (piracy, jungle exploration, contact with lost civilizations, tomb raiding, wild animals of practically every type looking to kill and maim the players, etcetera, etcetera). Moreover I suspect that playing here would allow me to have a bit more freedom in choosing how to set up the world as my players aren't anywhere near as familiar with the landscape down there as I am. 


The Central American nations of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras are places that I would really like to throw my players early into the campaign. Perhaps using Belize as a starting area since it's the least mountainous and has a disarming beauty that I should be able to use to lure my players into a false sense of security. 

In the real world there was a pretty heavily fortified Mayan civilization up in the Yucatan Peninsula that kept the West from really investing in Belize - plus there was no gold readily apparent so it seemed like a low end priority when you've got some of those areas with seemingly an inexhaustible supply of the stuff. You've also got Guatemala who didn't really recognize Belize's boarders (or even its statehood) for a long time. So it would be relatively easy to draw from these to build a state that sits on a razor's edge, balancing precariously in a very dangerous world. 

John Carter of Mars Frank Frazetta
I could push the campaign further south towards Nicaragua, which might be advantageous as well. Nicaragua has jungles, mountains, and lost civilizations and is a rich area of the world where I could build up a campaign without having to invent everything wholesale (something I'm not really interested in doing). So it's a possibility as well, but I'm already pretty sold on the idea of rocking a campaign in Belize.

Now as for when I think that it would be relatively easy to set this campaign in an era similar to the early 1500s. I'd get to throw in some guns, which I'm fine with, and yet it wouldn't be an overwhelming advantage for more modern civilizations over the, relatively, more primitive ones from the jungles. In fact if the players become accustomed to the idea of using guns it could actually place them at a distinct disadvantage as these older guns are a slow reload even under the best of circumstances; let alone in the middle of the jungle with poisoned spears and arrows hurling all around them.

A great thing I've discovered about building a campaign in the Americas - whether you're talking about North, Central, or South America - is that there is enough diversity and wild spaces lurking in this side of the world that you could have dinosaurs, lost civilizations, and treasure hunts anywhere because mentally we've been prepared for that stuff to happen. Our pulp literature is filled with them and if there's one thing that I love to bring into my campaigns it's the feel of pulp novels!

Alright, so I know that my time period is going to be set in the early 1500s and I've narrowed down the location to either Central America (Belize-ish starting area) or to the South Eastern Untied States. I'm pretty sure that the Belize-ish thing is the way that I want to go at this point but since I'm not really focused on an accurate historical portrayal of the world it isn't that big of a deal to switch things up if I find that my Belize isn't kicking things in the direction I really want to go.

Damned if building a campaign over here isn't reigniting my creative fires!

Fuck yeah, Americas Campaigns for the win!

7 comments:

  1. IRT a campaign set in the Carolinas and Georgia, you might check out Teddy Roosevelt's history of the trans - Appalachian settlements. Lots of great background there. Also, I just saw Jack Vance's "Old Nathan" about a backwoods wizard, over on Amazon and was wondering if you had used this as an inspiration.

    For the Central American setting, explorers searching for a route across the isthmus comes to mind as an initial hook. Looking forward to reading more on your world building.

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  2. IRT a campaign set in the Carolinas and Georgia, you might check out Teddy Roosevelt's history of the trans - Appalachian settlements. Lots of great background there. Also, I just saw Jack Vance's "Old Nathan" about a backwoods wizard, over on Amazon and was wondering if you had used this as an inspiration.

    For the Central American setting, explorers searching for a route across the isthmus comes to mind as an initial hook. Looking forward to reading more on your world building.

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    1. Nope. I've never read Old Nathan but I'm definitely going to be checking out Teddy's book.

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  3. Correction: Old Nathan is actually by David Drake. Great book.

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  4. Milord Dyvers, have you read The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson? I mean, totally not PC at all, and most of it takes place in Europe, but I think there's some food for your thoughts at the beginning of Quicksilver, and towards the end of The Confusion.

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    1. I have not but I will give it a try! Right now I'm reading a bunch of mysteries set in the midwest and china (different series).

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  5. I know this isn't the region you are considering but the Mississippi River Museum in Tunica, MS has an interesting display with a conquistador wearing buckskins and Native American breastplate armor over his chain mail. According to the display, the conquistadors, when exploring in the South, occasionally took off their steel breastplate because of the heat. The problem with that was the cane arrows used by the local inhabitants splintered when hitting their chain shirts which resulted in nasty wounds. As a solution, conquistadors started wearing native leather armor over or under their chain shirts when it was too uncomfortable to wear their steel breastplate. If I remember correctly, they adopted something similar in Central America except it was a padded or quilted armor. In both cases, I believe the adoption of native armor was a way to contend with the environment while exploring. Even with the heat to contend with, they probably preferred their steel breastplates for strictly military operations like attacking a settlement. At any rate, the Internet was kind & I found this image of the display: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/explorer-exhibit-tunica-river-museum-turn-century-sits-inside-mississippi-44863097.jpg

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NEW D&D SURVEY UP AND IT'S ALL ABOUT SETTINGS! GO GREYHAWK GO!

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