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African Adventures

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Just wondering how many people have used (or still use) an African-like setting in their campaign?

I have used a few, though Kodo (http://kodo.wikidot.com/start) our first 4E campaign was my main (and last setting to do so).

I have always loved D&D's Oriental Adventures and wondered why they never did oe for Africa or other cultures. (I like books based on a theme - hence I liked a lot of the 3E books, such as the desert one and the water one, etc).

Is there any interest for 5E?

And, something I want to know, is Chris Dolunt still out there and is he still writing stuff? I had collected the African material from Dragon magazine and then discovered Chris's early writings on some distant website. From then on I used his PDF, which went on to become African Adventures for Atlas Games.

I still love using that book. Whilst I was not a fan of the approach to classes (when they were much the same anyway), the races, setting, equipment, orisha, and monsters were excellent and ripe for the picking. (I think I have used the racial groups of humans pretty much unchanged for at least 2 settings now).

Anyway, no real point other to gauge interest African Adventures (and to see if Chris is still playing/writing etc).
 

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Celebrim

Legend
By 'Africa', I'm going to assume you mean 'sub-Saharan Africa', which is what most people think of when they think 'Africa'. Egypt, Carthage, Byzantine Rome, and Moorish North Africa tend to show up as different influences on a setting and are often loosely bundled with or are the boundary of the normal European inspired portions of a typical game world because those cultures interacted with the European during antiquity and the middle ages.

I haven't, though I have some interest in it purely out of curiosity. There are a couple of times I've been really tempted to pick up a copy of the 3e Nyambe source book, but I never can find a real justification to do it. As is true with most homebrew worlds, various parts of the worlds are fantasy pastiches of romanticized real world cultures and there is a portion of my world that is loosely 'Africa' with dark skinned peoples and immortal demigod kings ruling elephant riding armies from leopard skin covered thrones.

I've never felt the need to set a campaign or adventure there though, so its only a sketch in my head and rarely interacts with my actual games. Occasionally I'll have wealthy merchants from that part of the world in cloth of gold and silk trading exotic items to establish the cosmopolitan nature of a great metropolis, but for the most part it remains just the unglimpsed distant exotic south.

There are several issues with gaming in the setting.

1) I have no deep knowledge of African culture, and no real interest in exploring it for its own sake.

2) I can think of nothing which for me the African culture is particularly necessary to explore a subject or theme in a compelling way. This is possibly a result of ignorance, but even if I could cure my own ignorance any myth building here has the problem of anything that requires a large amount of exposition to become clear and understandable to a player. The more unique the setting, the longer time the player must be in the campaign to really get the tropes and be able to play their character 'correctly'.

3) Unlike say the Celtic, Egypt, Norse, Greek, or Hindu cultures, the African cultures didn't produce an easily accessible body of heroic myth literature that can be used to draw inspiration. Rather, most of it is either Animistic or Animism in an transition to polytheism, probably equivalent to pre-Homeric Greek myth with equivalent disorganization and is really hard to use or find works in English on, even if you went to a good college library. Worse, you don't get a lot of resonance in the average American group as even the African Americans aren't actually part of African culture. I have first hand experience with Carribean culture, and that's a step closer, but any influence that might have on my stories (Anansi tales, for example) tends to get indistinguishable from Aesop, Brother's Grimm, or Jungle Book influences. To the extent that I want to bring Animistic pre-polytheistic influences into my world, North American culture and myth is just a lot more accessible in terms of what you can find in a library and in terms of resonance with the average American player.

4) Because of real world history, you have to be really careful about introducing any African inspired themes without offending people. You have to either romanticize the heck out of it, which become boring and dishonest eventually, because really that's avoiding the interesting problems the reality of human existence raises, or else you have to have players that also know that any Norse or Scottish pastiche would be filled with murder, stealing from your neighbors, and cattle rustling as an accepted profession as well and you aren't specifically picking on anyone or any group in portraying the general ugliness of humanity. What makes this particularly hard is that each culture tends to accept and romanticize its own savagery - for a Northern European this is the Conan material or as another good example Pirates - while responding all alien savagery as being ignorant, bestial and evil. And that's pretty universal as far as I know, so that I'm pretty sure in Africa its at least somewhat the other way around (our brutality is justified, but those Europeans are soulless demonic brutes). As such, I feel any attempt to include Africa in any way would be pigeon holed in the mind of everyone else into a modern political discussion or some modern racial stereotype or reaction to some modern racial stereotype even if my actual inspiration was say Roman racial stereotypes or actual African culture circa the 16th century. This is going to be at best a distraction, and at worse breed all sorts of arguments. So, in general I end up forced to something close to a movie director that dares not cast a black actor in a role because its all downside and no upside since it will inevitably be seen not as 'this actor is good for the part' but a comment on race (positive or negative) based on the depiction of the character. You don't really dare show an black skinned NPC in European platemail, or half naked, scarified, and wearing cotton bands as padded armor because either is seen as a statement and someone would see it as a negative statement. The result is sadly 99% 'this racial appearance is not appearing in my campaign'. And if you were actually going to publish an adventure, that risk would be an order of magnitude greater. Heck, and even discussing this is probably offending someone, so there was a cautionary part of me saying from the beginning, "Don't respond or else lie and say how cool and how positive you see the whole thing and how unreasonable it is that Africa is largely ignored in gaming."

But, if I was a brand manager I'd look at a proposal to do anything with sub-Saharan African tropes as potential dynamite to be carefully diffused and round filed, just because there is no amount of potential sales that offsets the risk someone decides you haven't been 'sensitive' enough and launches a crusade. On a small scale this is also why I don't have tons of interest, even though I'd describe my campaign world as a sort of Hindu-European fusion (imagine Europe with real magic, and Hinduism replacing the Catholic church) and try mitigate a tendency to pastiches by blending them together in various ways (Indonesia-Ireland, India-Italy, China-Rome, France-Japan, Persian-Elizabethan England, Norse Mongols).

In short, don't be surprised if no matter how cool your Africa product is (Nyambe, for example) it gets a relatively cool reception.
 

Voadam

Hero
My campaign world is a homebrew mashup of D&D settings and historical/mythical pseudo analogues. It includes a not-Africa continent. I use stuff from Atlas Games' Nyambe, Paizo's world of Golarion's Garund continent, Chult stuff from Forgotten Realms, and Black Kingdoms stuff from Conan as the deepest Africa influences while the North Africa coastal parts are more Arabian, Egyptian, and Babylonian, with some WFRP Chaos dwarfs, Scarred Lands Chardunian empire, and Cheliax mixed into the mediterranean aspects.

My games have not gone to the continent but there have been plot aspects and character backgrounds from there and plans to go there that never materialized.

I would have a mild interest in a new fantasy Africa thing, whether for 5e or whatever. I've still got my eye out for good deals on various other Africa themed RPG books such as Kalamar's Svimohzia, Cthulhu's Secrets of Kenya, or any of the OSR ones, or the pulp adventure types.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I've touched upon Africa in my Skulls & Shackles game and I have kept some people that are black in Pazio adventures as being black despite it not really making sense in my renaissance version of Greyhawk. But that's it.

A friend of mine has played miniatures games in colonial Africa of the 19th century, but that's a different beast altogether.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Cool. Thanks guys. I don't pay much mind to 'messing with things' and worrying about how people feel. This is fantasy and I mash up all cultures - quite often bashing 2 completely different ones together. I guess Kodo (randomly) ended up being a very mashed up set of cultures/kingdoms based upon an African-styled background.

I just like the weird deities, cool creatures and mystical elements. Besides, a lot of the modern art now suits the Kodo setting. :) There are Kalamar, Pathfinder and now 5E D&D pictures of dark-skinned people, often in non-African styled clothes. Kodo is a chance to play those without having to be from 'that distant land'. I guess that is the main problem getting them involved, if people always place the 'Africa-styled continent distant from where all the main action is.

But what if 'that land' or even some of 'that culture' actually influenced a nearby group. I guess that is what Kodo does for me, but you could even use African-themed ideas for different cultures or races. The local elves/dwarves/orcs etc could have such an influence. I often do this with other cultures too. Celtic elves may be common enough, but American Indian wolf-folk for eg are a major race in my main/first big campaign setting. I often come up with these blends straight from my Realms Creation charts. But it is great to give the local tribes, settlers, etc an attached 'culture'.

I was just thinking of some conversions of weapons, subclasses, creatures etc.
 

Lwaxy

Cute but dangerous
All my self-made world have African-style cultures, though not necessarily with African looking people. We have black skinned hobbits running round an Asian-style culture (in a jungle/desert setting) and red skinned seafaring dwarfs in an African-style culture.

I have had one continent built somewhat like our Africa, but the desire of the players to be in a stereotype Africa for the most part and my desire to do justice to African cultures clashed somewhat so the campaign there didn't last all that long.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Yeah, that is kinda what I am getting at (and I believe others here were too). Running a full African setting in isolation is hard (or to some undesirable). I am sure a lot of this is simply 99% of what has been created for D&D would not be suitable. If there were a lot more suitable adventures, then I am sure it would be easier and more likely. I liked the //Nyambe// setting that came with African Adventures, but it was too isolated and unconnected for me. (I am sure that was the aim, so people can drop it in).

But I like the other approach - mixing it up. Make it part of a setting, even if just in little bits. Like what you have done there [MENTION=53286]Lwaxy[/MENTION]. :)

For the record, the //Kodo// setting is based in an area like Africa and the inhabitants are dark-skinned with a lot of African influences, but a nearby 'typical Euro-feudal with knights' settled next door hundreds of years ago. One group of original inhabitants have developed into a magocracy and had rejected the knights/feudals, but the more warrior-based people of the north embraced them and now the cultures are quite blended. In the last year a 'shogun-styled Japan-influenced' culture with warforged as soldiers has smashed the Euro-feudals. The refugees have had to seek escape in the original inhabitants realms. Needless to say, some in the north welcome and help, others (the magocracy) don't.

Anyway, a lot of this came about randomly from my Realms Charts, but I LOVE blending cultures/ideas/ etc and I was just wondering whether others have used African elements when they have done so.
 

Dave R

First Post
Spears of the Dawn does this. It's written for old school D&D, so stats would be the main thing missing if you're talking about 5E.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
I think with a little imagination, an African campaign would be easy to implement. For armor we could drop metal and go with charms that add magical protection, but a player can only have one charm at a time. If you really want to have weight be a factor, maybe you can say a charm holds a psychic burden that equates to weight in game mechanics. Or you can go with leather, hide and bone armor and stone and bone weapons, like Tekumel (the first D&D setting) uses.

The pantheon of gods, would also be interesting in both an alien (insect gods?) and familiar way (gods act a bit human). I became interested in Anansi the African Spider god after reading Neil Gaiman, and there seems to be much in the way of interesting legends and lore that could fuel quests. I think I'd enjoy playing or running such a campaign.
 

Razuur

First Post
Spears of Dawn by Sine Nomine

And Nyambe by Atlas games.

Spears is eminently playable, designed to be approachable, and user friendly to folks not knowledgeable on the african-inspired front.

And add "Imaro" by Charles Saunders to your reading list. Father of the Sword and Soul sub-genre. Lot of neat stuff in this corner of fantasy, and it will definitely make you want to RP there.

ET
 

gamerprinter

First Post
I've seen work done on a Colonial Africa, for Ravenloft I think, but its more based on European like countrys establishing colonies in Africa for exploitation, and less about the African cultures themselves.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
So any word on Chris Dolunt? Is he still writing?

Also, any interest in African-themed EN5ider articles? (Or any cultural ones for that matter).
 

Some people will be offended by portraying Africa "accurately" (insofar as that occurs in a game). Some people will be offended if you don't portray Africa "accurately" (under the same caveat). Some people will be offended if you don't portray Africa at al.

tl;dr - Some people will be offended. 90% of them are offendees looking for a reason to happen. That's no reason to pay attention to them.

Include the cultures and regions in your world that make sense in your world.
 

dragon magazine 189 might be for 2e, but that and jungles of chult might give you something to fiddle with for theme.

otherwise agreeing with nyame.
 

Dorian_Grey

First Post
In the past, for 2e, I used the series of articles that were done for the sole purpose of including Africa in a campaign. I had a small chain of islands where European type characters could come from, leased from a local Empire (NOTE: There are some VERY interesting historical empires in African history which I can just not get enough of in terms of reading material). The Empire was very powerful, ruled by an alliance of elemental spirits (earth dragons, air dragons, fire dragons, water dragons) and humans. Their were ruins of an ancient civilization in the jungles, who built massive and huge structures - but left almost no clue as to who they were, yet their defensive magics were still strong (I was inspired by that Star Trek TNG episode, Season 1, with the bridge guard person that Riker had to face).
 



Connorsrpg

Adventurer
[MENTION=36150]Herobizkit[/MENTION]. Yeah, Dark Sun suits. In fact one of the 'city-states' IS based upon Africa, inc having a great a great Oba as king. Gulg? I don't have it with me, but I know one is very African, and another influenced too? Nibomay?
 


SHARK

First Post
Greetings!

Currently enjoying a mug of good coffee, and smoking a fine *Brick House* cigar. You have posted an interesting topic, a subject that I have also enjoyed contemplating for many years. Years ago now, I simply grew tired of waiting for some company, some game designer, somewhere, to finally produce a quality, thorough African-based campaign book. I was tired of waiting, and frustrated with the few weak and pathetic modules and source-books haphazardly put out over the years. *Nyambe* being a recent, and noted exception. Nyambe is a good product that makes a serious effort to present a comprehensive, quality work on an African-based campaign book.

I resolved finally to just do it myself.

Celebrim, I really appreciate your passion, attitude, and devotion to your campaigns over the years! You have mentioned before how some game designer somewhere, is not going to be likely better at producing something that you have worked on for your own campaign world. I fully agree. People can be quite surprised by what they can do themselves through passion and effort!

I proceeded to gather together the resources to do the job. Lol. I used my own personal library-already quite extensive on history, religion, mythology, geography, gaming, and so on as a basis for research. I added several new history books, prehistory books, world mythology, African mythology, animal books, geography, atlases, books on trees, fish, and so on.

I proceeded to develop an African-based continent for my own campaign world of Thandor, the African-based continent in my world of Thandor is Arghanda. Arghanda features three large empires, a dozen or more kingdoms, a confederation of city-states, a dozen distinct pantheons, various spiritual philosophies and political systems, and 75 different languages and cultures.

In Arghanda, I have developed four major regions dividing the continent, with sub-regions, regional climate and geography tables, different tables of animals and creatures, types of trees, woods, plants, economic resources, and more, region by region. Extensive essays on history, cultures, religion, political development, warfare. Some two dozen cities have been developed, trade routes detailed, major animal populations, as well as numerous special zones, dinosaurs, ancient ruins, mysteries and more.

I have developed an interesting, dynamic African-based continent for my campaign world. It has certainly demanded effort, time, and attention. The good thing is, I now have no real need for any commercial product on the topic. I don't need to wait and hope, endlessly, for a product never to see daylight.

I highly recommend jumping in, and doing it yourself. As to the politically correct nonsense? Yeah, just do what you want. Read, research, write. Be inspired by real history, geography, animals, mythology--mix in fantasy and crazy, and it's good!

African people are no different essentially from anyone else. They eat, conquer, love, build and destroy like people have everywhere throughout history.

Semper Fidelis

Shark
 

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