History, Mythology, Art and RPGs
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  1. #1

    History, Mythology, Art and RPGs

    Forked from: Mundane vs. Fantastical

    One argument I have heard many, many times from people who don't like low fantasy, is that they don't want a boring game about some peasant who has fleas and dies of the plague anonymously at age 27. They want to be a hero, someone remarkable, someone who transcended the mundane. Most of all they don't want to be anything like reality, which for some of us is like the life of Dilbert. We don't want to play Dilbert in the Dungeon.

    Well, if you prefer high fantasy that is ok, but as someone who enjoys history, I wanted to point out that there are rather quite a few remarkable real people from history who had adventures seldom matched in any Fantasy Novel, DnD game, or all the WoW games ever played, and they were a long way from Dilbert. In fact, many of the people on this list were IMO greater warriors than Conan, wiser than King Arthur, and more ruthless and intrepid than Elric.

    In my opinion at least. Here are just a few examples from Europe and the Middle East:

    Warriors, Bandits, Pirates, Rebels, Explorers, Mercenaries, Conquerors
    These are the ‘B’ players, most are not household names (at least in the US) though some are quite well known in their own parts of the world. Not kings or emperors in most cases, but people from the middle or even lower ranks of society who rose to achieve greatness. I put an estimated alignment next to each entry, for greatness in this context does not necessarily equate with virtue, so if you are looking for someone you might sympathize with or find interesting, maybe that will help. Some of these people were good, some are thoroughly evil, most are neither or both.
    Criteria: Traveled to exotic lands, lived a life of adventure, conquered great nations, triumphed against impossible odds, lived a long time despite constant danger, displayed multiple talents, demonstrated phenomenal skill as a warrior or military leader (often clearly the best in their generation), showed remarkable pluck, humor and / or creativity, broke tradition and pioneered new innovations.

    Most important: regardless of where they started in life, these people transcended expectations and the limitations of their position, and went far beyond the achievements of their peers.

    Artemisia of Halicarnassus (aka Artemisia I of Caria), 5th Century BC N
    Greek queen, tyrant, naval commander, political advisor. A female pirate queen who fought on the wrong side of the battle of Salamis and escaped to fight another day
    Artemisia I of Caria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Xenophon, 431-355 BC (96 years old) LN
    Greek soldier, mercenary, author, historian, tactician, philosopher, and horse whisperer. Fought his way out of deepest Persia with 10,000 Greek Mercenaries and lived to tell the tale
    Xenophon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Viriathus the Lusitani, 180 BC – 139 BC (59 years old) CG
    Celtic warrior, guerilla leader, rebel - confounder of the Roman Empire

    Viriathus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Spartacus, 120 BC – 70 BC (50 years old) CG
    Roman gladiator, slave, rebel, bandit, warrior - pain the Roman Empires ass

    Spartacus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Josephus (aka Flavius Josephus), 37 – 100 AD (63 years old) LN
    Hebrew guerilla, warrior, Roman collaborator, author, historian, math whiz
    Josephus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Charles Martel, 686 – 741 AD (55 years old) NG
    Frankish aristocrat, warlord, general
    Charles Martel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians [sic] carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts of the foe."

    Pelayo of Asturias, 690-737 AD (47 years old) LN
    Visigoth nobleman, Spanish guerilla leader, founder of the Kingdom of Asturias
    Pelayo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bjorn Ironside (aka Björn Järnsida ), 9th Century AD CN
    Swedish chieftain / jarl, resourceful pirate leader, Viking, warrior
    Björn Ironside - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Gange-Rolf (aka Rollo of Normandy, aka Ganger Rolf, aka Hrólfr Rögnvaldsson and
    Göngu-Hrólfr), 860-932 AD (72 years old) N
    Norse Viking, pirate, bandit, soldier, duke of Rouen, founder of Normandy
    Rollo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Egil Skallagrimsson, 910-990 AD (80 years old) CN / CE
    Norse Viking, poet, sorcerer, skald, pirate, duelist
    Egill SkallagrÃmsson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Egil is the great anti-hero of Icelandic literature, known for breaking his oaths, killing for trifles, and practicing sorcery. Many historians consider Egil to be one of the deadliest men that ever lived in bladed combat- several accounts tell of him slaughtering as many as 20 or more armed men single-handedly, and even dispatching a feared berserker with relative ease. In spite of this, he was considered a great healer, and his saga tells of him curing a girl who had been ill for quite some time where all other efforts had proven futile.”

    Doge Enrico Dandolo, 1107-1205 AD (98 years old) N / CE
    Blind Doge (ruler) of Venice, crusader, military adventurer, conqueror of Byzantium at age 90
    Enrico Dandolo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    William Marshal, 1146-1219 AD (73 years old) CN
    English soldier, knight, first earl of Pembroke
    William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Alexander Nevsky, 1220-1263 AD (43 years old) LN
    Swedish –Russian prince, warlord, soldier, and statesman
    Alexander Nevsky - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Roger de Flor (Aka Roger von Blum),1266-1306 AD (40 years old) CN
    German templar, pirate, Byzantine Caesar, leader of the Catalan Grand Company
    Roger de Flor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    James Douglas (aka “The Black Douglas”), 1286- 1330 AD CN
    Scottish knight, guerilla, rebel, and bandit (44 years old)
    Earl of Douglas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jeanne De Clisson CN
    Female Pirate and Breton rebel, scourge of the French Navy
    "Jeanne de Clisson, enraged and bewildered over her husband's execution, swore revenge on the King, and Charles de Blois in particular. She sold off the remnants of the Clisson lands to raise money, whereupon she bought three warships, and the aid of many of the lords and people of Brittany to ensure their independence.
    The ships that Clisson purchased were painted all black on her command, and the sails dyed red. The 'Black Fleet' took to the waters and began hunting down and destroying the ships of King Philip VI, and were merciless with the crews. But Clisson would always leave two or three of Philip's sailors alive, so that the message would get back to the King that the “Lioness of Brittany” had struck once again. Jeanne and her fleet also assisted in keeping the English Channel free of French warships, and it is very likely that as a privateer she had a hand in keeping supplies available to the English forces for the Battle of Crécy in 1346. When King Philip VI died in 1350, it was not the end to Jeanne's revenge. She continued to wreak havoc among French shipping, and it was reported that she took particular joy in hunting down and capturing the ships of French noblemen, as long as they were aboard. She would then personally behead the aristocrats with an axe, tossing their lifeless bodies overboard."
    Jeanne de Clisson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bertrand du Guesclin, (aka ‘The Eagle of Brittany’)1320-1380 AD NG
    Breton knight and French military commander (60 years old)
    Bertrand du Guesclin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sir John Hawkwood, 1320-1394 AD (74 years old) NE
    English mercenary leader, condottieri, leader of the ‘White Company’
    John Hawkwood - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jan Žižka, 1360-1424 AD (64 years old) CG
    Czech soldier, Hussite military leader, military innovator and rebel
    Jan Žižka - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Braccio da Montone, 1368-1424 AD (56 years old) LN
    Italian aristocrat, prince of Capua, condottieri, and military innovator
    Braccio da Montone - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    John Hunyadi, 1387-1456 AD (58 years old) LG
    Vlach aristocrat, Capitan-general and regent of Hungary, War Leader and rebel
    Omnipelagos.com ~ article "John Hunyadi"

    Skanderbeg aka Gjergj Kastrioti, 1405-1468 (63 years old) CG
    Albanian nobleman, Ottoman war leader, Albanian rebel, guerilla leader, warrior
    Skanderbeg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Pierre Terrail, aka seigneur de Bayard1473-1524 (51 years old) LG
    French knight, military leader
    Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Grutte Pier (aka Pier Gerlofs Donia)1480-1520 (40 years old) CN
    Frisian Pirate, revolutionary
    Pier Gerlofs Donia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bernal Diaz, 1492-1584 AD (92 years old) LN
    Spanish conquistador, soldier, author
    Bernal DÃaz del Castillo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    John of Austria, (aka Don Juan) 1547 – 1578 AD (31 years old) LG
    Austrian noble, admiral
    John of Austria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    William Adams, 1564-1620 AD (56 years old) LG
    English samurai, shipwright, pilot, navigator, sailor
    William Adams (sailor) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Miyamoto Musashi, 1584 – 1645 AD (61 years old) CN
    Japanese samurai, duelist, fencing master, author, artist and philosopher
    Miyamoto Musashi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sir Kenelm Digby, 1603-1665 AD (62 years old) LG
    English gentleman, privateer, scientist, alchemist, Catholic activist, author, duelist
    Kenelm Digby - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Extraordinary Street Fight of Sir Kenelm Digby

    Henry Morgan, 1635 – 1688 AD (53 years old) CN
    English / Welsh soldier / sailor, pirate / Buccaneer / Privateer
    Henry Morgan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Julie d'Aubigny (aka “La Maupin”), 1670-1707 AD (37 years old) CN
    French aristocrat, swordswoman, duelist, storyteller, outlaw and opera singer
    Julie d'Aubigny - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Donald McBane, circa 1670 ? -1730 AD ? (60 years old) CN
    Scottish adventurer, fencing master, soldier, pimp, tobacco spinner et al
    History : The Expert Swordsman : The Royal Scots - The Royal Regiment

    Runners Up

    Pytheas of Massalia, 380-310 BC (70 years old) N
    Greek merchant, geographer, and explorer
    Pytheas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    ‘Discovered’ British Isles (‘pretania’) and “Thule”

    Aud the Deep-Minded, 834-900 AD LG
    Norse noblewoman, one of the founding settlers of Iceland
    Aud the Deep-Minded - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ahmad ibn Fadlan, 10th Century AD LN
    Arab writer, diplomat and traveler
    Ahmad ibn Fadlan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Bohemond I of Antioch, 1058 – 1111 AD CN
    Norman Crusader, Prince of Taranto and later Antioch
    Bohemond I of Antioch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Freydís Eiríksdóttir, 11th Century AD CE
    Norse explorer, warrior, pioneer, killer
    FreydÃs EirÃksdóttir - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Usamah ibn Munqidh, 1095-1188 LN
    Arab historian, politician, and diplomat
    Usamah ibn Munqidh - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sir John Reresby, 1634 – 1689 AD LN
    English English politician, author, duelist and gentleman
    Sir John Reresby, 2nd Baronet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Sir John Reresby: Seventeenth-Century Scrapper

    Villains and Monsters
    Don’t think real life villains could be as scary as monsters in the fiend folio? Check out a few of these historical characters.
    Sawney Bean NE

    Sawney Bean - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Gilles de Rais, 1404-1440 AD NE
    French aristocrat, soldier, and serial killer.
    Gilles de Rais - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Cesare Borgia, 1475-1507 AD LE
    Spanish-Italian aristocrat, condottiero (soldier), statesman, killer
    Cesare Borgia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Stube Peter (aka Peter Stump) (??- 1589 AD) CE
    German serial killer and alleged werewolf
    Peter Stumpp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Elizabeth Báthory, (aka “the Blood Countess”) 1560-1614 AD CE
    Hungarian countess, sadist and serial killer
    Elizabeth Báthory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Beast of Gevaudan 1767 CE
    Man eating wolf or werewolf
    Beast of Gévaudan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Semi - Historical (we knew they existed, but most stories about them are really legends)

    Ragnar Lodbrok CN
    Ragnar Lodbrok - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Lathgertha CN
    Viking Shield -maiden and pirate, possible the coolest female warrior who ever lived

    "....With a measure of vitality at odds with her tender frame, roused the mettle of the faltering soldiery by a splendid exhibition of bravery. She flew round the rear of the unprepared enemy in a circling maneuver and carried the panic which had been felt by the allies into the camp of their adversaries".
    Ragnar’s Saga

    Lathgertha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Semi - Mythological / Quasi- Historical figures

    William Tell, 14th Century
    Swiss archer, rebel, guerilla leader
    William Tell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hiawatha, 15th Century AD LG
    Iroquois chieftain, warrior, statesman, and orator
    Hiawatha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sawney Bean, 16th Century AD CE
    Scottish bandit and cannibal
    Sawney Bean - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A Few Historical Alchemists and Wizards

    (I just got started on these, this is only a tiny random sampling mostly some Arab and Persian alchemist I'd been researching, there are several dozen fascinating characters from the European renaissance alone)

    Archimedes of Syracuse 287-212 BC LG
    Archimedes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Heron of Alexandria 10- 70 AD LN
    Hero of Alexandria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jabir Ibn Hayyan, 721 – 815 AD LG
    Persian alchemist, pharmacist, physician, astronomer, physicist and philosopher, known as ‘Geber’ in the West.
    Geber - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Al Kindi, 801-873 AD LN
    Arab scientist, philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician, also known by the Latinised version of his name Alkindus to the Western world.
    Al-Kindi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is best known for his efforts to introduce philosophy to the Arab world

    Al Razi, 865-925 AD LN
    Persian Alchemist and Scholar
    Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Avicenna, (aka Ibn Sina aka “ibn Abd Allāh ibn Sīnā”)980-1037 AD LG
    Persian polymath and the foremost physician and Islamic philosopher of his time. He was also an astronomer, chemist, geologist, Hafiz, logician, mathematician, physicist, poet, psychologist, scientist, Sheikh, soldier, statesman and Islamic theologian.
    Avicenna - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198 LG
    Moorish philosopher and physician
    Averroes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hassan I Sabbah 1031-1141 AD CN (CE?)
    Persian Assassin Cult leader and founder of the Ismaili Shia sect of Islam
    Hassan-i Sabbah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Omar Khayyám 1048-1131 AD CG
    Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer
    Omar Khayyám - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Judah Loew ben Bezalel, (aka “the Maharal of Prague) 1529-1605 AD LG
    Jewish rabbi, philosopher, mystic, Talmudic scholar and creator of the Golem
    Judah Loew ben Bezalel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Giodorno Bruno 1558 - 1600 C?
    Giordano Bruno - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Italian. Either a subtle philosopher or a heretical demon worshiper, depending on who you believe. Burned at the stake for writing among other works, the infamous "De Umbris Idearum" (aka 'Shadow of Ideas') and Lo Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante (The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, 1584) and De gl' Heroici Furori (On Heroic Frenzies, 1585).
    Last edited by Galloglaich; Wednesday, 15th October, 2008 at 02:54 AM.
    XP Quickleaf, Grainger, RPG_Tweaker gave XP for this post

  2. #2
    All I can say is... wow.

    What a fantastic collection - I'm going to really enjoy going through this. So many ideas!!!

    Best Regards
    Herremann the Wise

  3. #3


  4. #4
    If I could add to this list:

    Gráinne Ní Mháille (called Grace O'Malley by the English and also called "The Sea Queen Of Connaught"), 1530 – 1603 AD (73 years old) CG/CN (Depends who you talk too)
    Irish Pirate, Noble, Mother, Well Educated, Spoke to Queen Elizabeth the I
    Grace O'Malley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Fallen Seraph View Post
    If I could add to this list:

    Gráinne Ní Mháille (called Grace O'Malley by the English and also called "The Sea Queen Of Connaught"), 1530 – 1603 AD (73 years old) CG/CN (Depends who you talk too)
    Irish Pirate, Noble, Mother, Well Educated, Spoke to Queen Elizabeth the I
    Grace O'Malley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Yeah thats a good one... I added her to my own list thanks.


  6. #6
    Wow, excellent.

    History always has more fantastical stories anyway.

  7. #7
    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)

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    I'm bookmarking this just in case I run out of material to add to the Arcana Wiki...

  8. #8
    To offer a counterpoint, take Kurt Buseik, and his comic, "Astro City". In the prelude to one of the collections, he says that people often write him, praising his comic for how realistic it is. And then he says, basically, "realistic? It's got shapechanging aliens and a giant ice kingdom full of trolls!" And it does. But what makes people say that is that, unlike most superhero comics, the people in Astro City are aware their world has heroes in it. Mr. Fantastic is allowed to cure cancer, but people also write letters to the editor complaining that local heroes jetted off to prevent the world from exploding when there's a serial murderer on the loose in their neighborhood, and don't they care?

    Or, put a different way, "the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be believable". The problem with overfantasy is not that it's fiction, but that it's unbelievable.

  9. #9
    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)

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    Thanks for the awesome list.

    I'm sure I'll mine it for future NPC's details, though I'll probably replace the actual personages of historical importance with talking dinosaurs or elven samurai wielding glass katanae...

    (lilies were made to gild, weren't they?)

  10. #10
    Bookmarked. Excellent post.

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