D&D General D&Difying History

Reynard

Legend
Have you run a historical (including mythic history) game in D&D? If so, what era and location did you choose? How to you integrate D&D's particulars? DID you swap out real world cultures for D&D races, or not use D&D races, or something else? How did it go?

I have made a few attempts but the most ambitious was Post-Roman Britain using 3.5/Pathfinder. I didn't necessarily direct swap cultures for races but generally speaking Dwarves were from the Wales region, Elves were from Ireland, halflings and humans were "local" and orcs and goblins had been pushed back to the other side of Hadrian's Wall (but I avoided saying "Picts are orcs"). The invading Saxons were replaced by hobgoblins, but in retrospect I should have made them the elves. It worked pretty well for a while but as happened a lot in that time it eventually collapsed under the weight of the system.
 

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J-H

Hero
When I originally ran Castle Dracula (Castlevania), I set it in Transylvania. The party starts at the edge of the castle mountain, so the setting didn't play into it very much outside of the introduction mentioning undead and werewolves near the walls of Istanbul and Vienna by the time the party arrived.

There were some prisoners in the castle that I originally had as four different groups (Hungarians, Turks, etc.) that didn't get along. When putting it on the DM's Guild, I had to edit that to more of a suggestion of "Use groups from your world that hate each other to make managing them more complex" and delete the references to real-world cities in the intro.

Since the DM's Guild is probably the main source for 3rd party module/campaign material, there's not going to be much published out there that reflects a D&D-ized real world setting.

I also explicitly said that I wasn't touching the religious aspect. If D&D, obviously paladins, clerics, druids, and a pantheon of deities, including a fight with an Avatar of Death... yet in Dracula's castle, there's an old Christian chapel and a few places where crosses are carved (usually signifying safe areas for the party to rest). There's recognizable history up to the 1400s, which means recognizable religions in the background.
Everyone was there to kill zombies, skeletons, vampires, etc., not to discuss theological possibilities.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Not D&D per se, but homebrew rules inspired by them (4E was used as a basis).

The lore of the setting says that magic was real and fairly common until some event sealed it away causing a collapse of society that regressed technology in many places. Magic was sealed away for nearly 2000 years, but it returns in the opening moments of the game (set in London, 1870).

It is a mix of Call of Cthulhu, D&D, Sherlock Holmes, Deadlands, Alias (tv show), etc... Over 9 adventures the Pregen PCs, each with unique mechanics that the players figure out as they play, have to go to different locations around the world and deal with the impacts of magic returning to the world. It is designed to run for about 200 hours of gaming and features 32 locations - some well known real world locations, some fairly obscure, and some fantasy (Atlantis, for example). I use real world maps for almost everything - even Atlantis maps are based upon real world designs.

It is not a balanced RPG. Some of the PCs are more powerful than others, and it is very easy for it to go off the tracks and reach a premature end (which did occur twice). However, every PC has spotlight built into the adventure, and it has had a successful run.
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
I did not do a direct game, but I use to refer to the green book Historical 2E supplements for a lot of things.

Outside of D&D, I've played quasi-historical games such as 7th Sea, and CoC set in the 20's.
Those books were cool; i had the whole set. I wish it were still possible to make stuff like that.
 

nevin

Hero
Have you run a historical (including mythic history) game in D&D? If so, what era and location did you choose? How to you integrate D&D's particulars? DID you swap out real world cultures for D&D races, or not use D&D races, or something else? How did it go?

I have made a few attempts but the most ambitious was Post-Roman Britain using 3.5/Pathfinder. I didn't necessarily direct swap cultures for races but generally speaking Dwarves were from the Wales region, Elves were from Ireland, halflings and humans were "local" and orcs and goblins had been pushed back to the other side of Hadrian's Wall (but I avoided saying "Picts are orcs"). The invading Saxons were replaced by hobgoblins, but in retrospect I should have made them the elves. It worked pretty well for a while but as happened a lot in that time it eventually collapsed under the weight of the system.
I'd have made the Elves norway, sweden, scandanavia, or had them be the surviviors of Carthage.
 


MGibster

Legend
I attempted an Ancient Greek campaign using one of the historical green books from 2nd edition AD&D. It didn't go very well as I don't think AD&D was well suited to that kind of thing. There are just too many changes one has to make and you get to the point where it no longer feels like you're playing D&D. So why bother using D&D at that point?
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I attempted an Ancient Greek campaign using one of the historical green books from 2nd edition AD&D. It didn't go very well as I don't think AD&D was well suited to that kind of thing. There are just too many changes one has to make and you get to the point where it no longer feels like you're playing D&D. So why bother using D&D at that point?
The same reason as always: because you're DMing for a group of D&D players.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I attempted an Ancient Greek campaign using one of the historical green books from 2nd edition AD&D. It didn't go very well as I don't think AD&D was well suited to that kind of thing. There are just too many changes one has to make and you get to the point where it no longer feels like you're playing D&D. So why bother using D&D at that point?
To me, the stickler always seems to revolve around with dealing with magic. D&D's default magic system is generally to flashy and powerful for "historical" games, where magic is hidden, restricted and/or difficult. It can be done, but as MGibster points out, there's other game systems that can handle it naturally where you don't have to throw out half of D&D's systems to get similar effects.

Though, Theros shows you can do history/real-world inspired campaigns if you're willing to bend to accept "magic is real" and "magic is common" of regular D&D play.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
To me, the stickler always seems to revolve around with dealing with magic. D&D's default magic system is generally to flashy and powerful for "historical" games, where magic is hidden, restricted and/or difficult. It can be done, but as MGibster points out, there's other game systems that can handle it naturally where you don't have to throw out half of D&D's systems to get similar effects.

Though, Theros shows you can do history/real-world inspired campaigns if you're willing to bend to accept "magic is real" and "magic is common" of regular D&D play.
I'm not sure you have to throw out a lot of D&D's systems or default to a magic is common campaign. You do have to pare down spell lists to effects that are generally subtle. No fireballs, no Leomund's tiny huts, etc.
 

We played two (somewhat) historical campaigns using D&D3.x in the early 00s - one happened in India before the colonization (or rather, a pulp movie version of India), the other, which unfortunately died somewhere in the middle, played in Constantinople shortly before its fall. In both cases, everybody just played human and there were less magic items than usual (though we never had too many of them even in our regular fantasy campaigns), but that was basically all the change w.r.t. mechanics.
Today, I would probably use another system (maybe Mythras or OpenQuest) instead of a d20 system, but back then we used the D&D mechanics for a lot of things.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
No. Never had much interest in running a game that tried to be historically accurate in any way. Depending on the DM, I could see enjoying playing in such a campaign, but I fear that there would be a lot of lecturing about what my character says, does, knows, is anachronistic. I like to read history, but I don't want to have to do a lot of homework to play a game.
 

Voadam

Legend
Does a d20 modern game with hidden magic type stuff count?

Everyone was human with some connection to the supernatural and some secret our secret organization was blackmailing us with. Very X-Files/Delta Green/Conspiracy X/Warehouse 23.

I played an Aglican priest who became a monster hunter and eventually a paladin type custom prestige class. First meeting the rest of the party my character brought a tray of deviled eggs. No magic or even a gun for my PC for about the first half of the campaign. My eventual summoned mount was a K-Car.

Investigating a haunted Ikea built over the site of an early Quaker prison that ended poorly.

Aliens.

Cthulhu fungi things.

Mothmen.

Illuminati.

A pact with The King of TV.

Civil War re-enactor Wild Hunt.

Illithid plot tied into a fast food chain.
 


GuyBoy

Hero
I’ve never actually done it yet but one day I hope to run a game set in a historically accurate Europe in the year 1,000.
The game would be set initially in Normandy and England and would play on the (at the time very real) fear that the turning of the Millenium would bring about an apocalypse of evil. Kind of like a millenium bug but with demons.

I’ve taught 1066 era history for some years so it would be based on an era of history that is dear to me.
 

MGibster

Legend
No. Never had much interest in running a game that tried to be historically accurate in any way. Depending on the DM, I could see enjoying playing in such a campaign, but I fear that there would be a lot of lecturing about what my character says, does, knows, is anachronistic. I like to read history, but I don't want to have to do a lot of homework to play a game.
It can be difficult for players to wrap their head around playing a character with a very different perspective from their own. I suspect one of the reasons D&D is so popular is because the "good" guys embody modern western liberal values like individuality, freedom of speech, secularism, rule of law, and political freedom (insofar as politics comes into play during games). This is true not only of games set in our past but also games where social norms do not match modern sensibilties.

I do run games set in historical eras, most notably Call of Cthulhu, and what I like to remember is that while social norms were different back then, there were always oddballs who marched to the beat of their own drum. As a GM, I don't like to tell players what their characters would think of something. The 1920s is sometimes called the nadir of race relations in the United States post Civil War, but you'll find people from many walks of life who thought everyone deserved to be treated equally regardless of race or religion. So it's not out of place for a character in a campaign from that era to have similar ideas. They're not going to be in the majority, but they exist. So there's no need to stifle player agency here.

Nor should there be any need for a player to do homework. For the 1920s, it's at once familiar and unfamiliar to players. They have a lot of what we're used to in modern life, like automobiles, telephones, radio, accountants, etc., etc., but it's different enough to be just a bit unfamiliar. And it's not like I know everything even though my speciality in graduate school was American history from 1877-1939. There are a lot of little things I either never knew or escaped my notice. But during my last CoC game, it was a lot of fun seeing the Investigators try to locate a phone, having to explain to them what a party line was, and then making it clear that someone could alway be listening in to a call.
 

Reynard

Legend
I like to read history, but I don't want to have to do a lot of homework to play a game.
That's interesting. I have always thought that there was more "homework" when playing in a published campaign setting. As someone who enjoys history myself, i feel like I have a pretty good (if shallow) knowledge base and can "figure out" a historical period more easily than, say, the Dalelands in the year 1312 or whatever.
 


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