Journey To...South America
  • Journey To...South America


    It can be difficult to separate out the true myths of any particular culture from stories told by explorers who came after. Perhaps those become part of the mythology as well, but we want to do our best to get as close to the root mythology as possible. This is doubly difficult in South America where all we have of some of the cultures that called that land their home are ancient sites and strange monuments. Many of the civilizations overlapped and others were contemporaries.


    Somewhat sadly the typical modus operandi of many of our games follow along the tragic path of the explorers who plundered these ancient lands for their wealth. Still it is not impossible to incorporate the myths of these lands into our play in such a way that it does not continue exploiting them. For instance, the root of the El Dorado myth is actually quite interesting all by itself. It was not a city but a Golden Man that was covered in golden dust and rowed to the middle of Lake Guatavita. There is some debate over what exactly he did once there, but the actions of the Golden Man were necessary to appease the gods. This ceremony was performed by the Muisca (Chibcha) people who lived in what is now Colombia.

    Southwest of the Muisca lay the Inca civilization. The Inca Empire controlled a fair amount of territory on the western coast of South America and the Andes mountains. As an empire their reach and power was quite impressive. Their history and mythology was passed down orally until the arrival of the Spanish who managed to write much of the information down.

    It is said that the first Inca man was created by Inti the sun god. The man was named Manco Capac and with his wife (or sister) he took a special staff of gold to find a good place to build a city. Together they journeyed and found the place where the city of Cuzco would rise. This is just one of the many Inca myths that would reward a good campaign.


    Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention the Nazca Lines. Although there are many theories by modern researchers on what the lines are, there is little concrete proof as to why the Nazca built them, if indeed they did build them. What we do know is that there are a series of biomorphs and geoglyphs that number in the hundreds stretching through the plain between the Inca and Nazca valleys. What is their purpose? Discovering that could be a campaign unto itself.

    How would I use them? I would use them very carefully to be honest. The cultures of South America had a history all their own before the arrival of Europeans. There is no reason you cannot have an entire campaign set in South America or an analogue of that continent that never touches traditional fantasy tropes. In a Traveller or (any version) Star Trek campaign, these cultures could inhabit an entire world, which may be primitive from a technological point of view but is still highly advanced and well educated. I highly recommend delving into these cultures and their mythology for inspiration for your games.

    ​contributed by Sean Hillman
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Agray Day's Avatar
      Agray Day -
      i find that the strangest and most interesting ruins are these in south America: Tiwanacu and PumaPunku.
      https://www.google.com/search?q=Tiwa...w=1536&bih=701

      https://exemplore.com/advanced-ancients/Ancient-Mysteries-Puma-Punku-in-Tiahuanaco

      -agray
    1. TheSwartz's Avatar
      TheSwartz -
      whhoooaaaa! mixing RPGs with everything I've learned from years of watching Ancient Aliens on History Channel! Blowing my mind!
    1. Ramaster's Avatar
      Ramaster -
      The name of the country is "Colombia", not "Columbia".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombia

      This a common mistake, though.

      Check out the article, it starts with: Not to be confused with Columbia (disambiguation).
    1. Phasestar's Avatar
      Phasestar -
      Our history of just about every culture, including whatever you consider your own, is a combination of myth and fact. Especially for cultures that did not leave a comprehensive written record, it can be impossible to get a complete picture. While it can be very educational and informative to do additional research, unless you're a professional historian, trying to get to the "root" is admirable, but IMHO not necessary for a fictional setting in a role-playing game that is only inspired by the real world. D&D was born from and is full of stereotypes and myths from all across the world, all of them included strictly in the interest of creating heroic fantasy.
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ramaster View Post
      The name of the country is "Colombia", not "Columbia".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombia

      This a common mistake, though.

      Check out the article, it starts with: Not to be confused with Columbia (disambiguation).
      Well no excuses here because I should have known better. Thanks for correcting me on that.
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ramaster View Post
      The name of the country is "Colombia", not "Columbia".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombia

      This a common mistake, though.

      Check out the article, it starts with: Not to be confused with Columbia (disambiguation).
      And fixed. Thanks again.
    1. shidaku's Avatar
      shidaku -
      Creating games from non-European source material is often a tricky subject, since many of those game creators are often white Europeans or their spin-offs (Americans, Canadians, etc...). Even on a raw conceptual level, games like D&D embody the basic tenants of medieval European-ism: explore, expand, and conquest of the "other" in pursuit of phat lewtz and experience points. And it's not that non-european history lacks these elements, the Incas are a prime example that exploration, expansion, and conquest in the name of power and wealth are simply human concepts.

      But a game still needs to appeal to its target audience and there is a very real demand to "Westernize" non-western myths to make them more marketable and appealing. Many non-western stories often revolve around explorations of the mind, the spirit and the soul, your connection to the world and your place within it. They may be wholly devoid of combat, lewtz and many of the typical elements that drive a game forward.

      That's not to say it can't be done. It's that given I can safely say the majority of TTRPGers are probably white, western and male, it's to say that one needs to stop and really think hard and ensure you have a group that is willing to commit to something that may be highly non-traditional to what they are used to playing at the table.
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