D&D General D&Difying History

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Often, but nonhuman races have biological differences. It doesn't always work.
In my mind, it works like this:

In real life, humans migrated for generations and generations, eventually settling and forming cultures that then mixed with other cultures.

In a "historic" D&D setting, it would be reasonable to assume that some elves migrated to Japan, others to Germany, others to North America... And so did Dwarves and Gnomes and Tortles and Humans. So it makes sense to me that if I am establishing a culture similar to, say, Ancient Athens, there could be Tieflings, Halflings, and Orcs who all identify as Athenian, no matter their biological differences.
 

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cbwjm

Legend
I'm actually all for swapping out a culture for a different race. Make Rome a dragonborn empire, make Britain the perpetual springtime home of the elves, throw some dwarves into Scandinavia, it's all good. It's not like I'm saying that these cultures are the races I've replaced them with, I just want to have homelands set aside for these races, so for me, that means booting out some human cultures.

Actually, Rome is probably a bad use of replacing a culture with a dnd race, once they get rolling, the makeup of the empire itself is going to be very eclectic, but the people in power will still be dragonborn and they'll still be represented primarily in and around Italy.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
In my mind, it works like this:

In real life, humans migrated for generations and generations, eventually settling and forming cultures that then mixed with other cultures.

In a "historic" D&D setting, it would be reasonable to assume that some elves migrated to Japan, others to Germany, others to North America... And so did Dwarves and Gnomes and Tortles and Humans. So it makes sense to me that if I am establishing a culture similar to, say, Ancient Athens, there could be Tieflings, Halflings, and Orcs who all identify as Athenian, no matter their biological differences.
But those biological differences would still matter, and would still create separations within the culture.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
But those biological differences would still matter, and would still create separations within the culture.
Why? It's a made-up game, since as you have said there were not actually different species living in these different cultures in real life. So if in my history-adjacent D&D game I want to say, "Spartans were these clothes, speak this language, celebrate these holidays..." I see no reason why that can't be a Spartan Elf, Human, or Gnome.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Of course, that means the only choice is to not use nonhuman heritages at all in that game.
Not at all.

They just aren’t “The Saxons”, and are instead spread around different cultures, some of which aren’t even related to eachother, and all of which also contain humans and elfs or whatever.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In my mind, it works like this:

In real life, humans migrated for generations and generations, eventually settling and forming cultures that then mixed with other cultures.

In a "historic" D&D setting, it would be reasonable to assume that some elves migrated to Japan, others to Germany, others to North America... And so did Dwarves and Gnomes and Tortles and Humans. So it makes sense to me that if I am establishing a culture similar to, say, Ancient Athens, there could be Tieflings, Halflings, and Orcs who all identify as Athenian, no matter their biological differences.
And if they are all peoples who have known eachother throughout all of history, they’re mindset will inevitably be different from that of a people who have never interacted with another people.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
But those races wouldn't be PCs in that world, at least not in a way that lets them easily interface with human cultures.

Why not? In the German legend of King Ortnit the king is on a quest when he meets what he first thinks is a child, but after they fight learns that it is the dwarf Alberich. Alberich agrees to join Ortnit on his quest and thus becomes a PC.

Equally Gilgamesh become best friends with Enkidu. Even Shrek gives us an ogre/orc protagonist
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But those biological differences would still matter, and would still create separations within the culture.

There is no reason why, among sentients, culture cannot span several species.

If they are all born in NAthens, grow up in NAthens, are under the rule of NAthens and engage in the arts and cultural heritage of NAthens ,then they are still all NAthenians, no matter what species they are.
 

Ixal

Hero
Good grief, I doubt any Saxon today has any problems with a fantasy game using fantasy races to represent Saxons from 1000 year ago. Thats about as accurate as the representation of (human) Vikings in media compared to the real ones.

I did find the Venice setting I spoke off before

Never got to play it, but its certainly an interesting read. Disclaimer, that was not written by me, just to be sure.
(I also copied it into a spoiler below, just in case it gets deleted there or if you do not want to change sites)
Setting (read first)
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Races of Europe
The Little People (aka Halflings and Hobbits)

The first of the modern races to colonize Europe 12,000 years ago were the Little People. These people were forced to live on the edge of the ice sheets having lost out in the race for better hunting land by the larger people of Asia. Not 2000 years after establishing themselves across Europe were they forced again to the edges by Human and Elven migrants. By modern times only three pockets of Hobbits remain in the Basque Lands of Northern Spain, Ireland, and Wales. There they are distinguished by the Stout (preferring to be called Halflings) who inhabit the cities and town, and the Lightfoot (preferring to be called Hobbits) who live out in the countryside.
Native Language Choices: Basque, English, Irish Gaelic, or Welsh Gaelic

Gnomes (aka The Alpine Folk)
Rather than be pushed westward, some of The Little People retreated up into the Alps and the Pyrenees. Isolated from their Halfling cousins they evolved and adapted to life in the mountains where you needed to be inventive to overcome the challenges life gave you. Forest Gnomes grew at home in the alpine forests that blanket the valleys. Meanwhile, Rock Gnomes taught themselves to make more use of the land, to invent new things, and establish trade with the lowland peoples. In modern times it is the Rock Gnomes who inhabit the cities and towns while the Forest Gnomes prefer to live in the countryside.
Native Language Choices: Basque, French, Spanish, or Swiss

Humans (aka The Mediterranean Peoples)
Around 10,000 years ago Modern Humans began to move in around the Mediterranean Basin. The lives of these early colonists was tied to the sea. As the coastal populations grew and became fruitful, they moved ever inland pushing the Little People up into the mountains. Villages grew into cities, cities grew into Empires. It was through empires such as that of Alexander the Great, the Carthaginians, and finally the Roman that they pushed their populations to populate vast distances. Now every land settled by the Romans contains purebred Humans.
Native Language Choices: Nearly any national language of Europe and Asia.

Elves (aka The Celts)
At around 4000 B.C. the Greeks began to write accounts of horse-riding warriors coming out of the plains of the Ukraine. The earliest accounts actually referred to Centaurs but later, more accurate, accounts described The Celts. The Celts swept across into Central Europe for the most part. Although a group did break away, built boats, sailed across the Black Sea, and settled in Central Anatolia. But the main group settled the lands north of the Balkins, north of the Alps, all of what is today France, Western Iberia, and crossed into the British Isles. Covering a vast territory they remained fiercely tribal until one by one they were conquered by the Roman Empire. Over time they adapted to Roman life... a bit too much. Now the only Elves to remain purebred and speaking their native Gaelic tongues can be found in Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Native Language Choices: Breton, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, or Welsh

Half-Elves (aka Your Typical Western European)
The Celts interbred with the Romans, sometimes forcefully but often by choice. Half-Elves have thus become the most common race to be found in Western Europe; dominating England, France, and Portugal. Pockets of Half-Elves can also be found living in Austria, Ireland, Northern Italy, Romania, and Turkey.
Native Language Choices: Any Romance language, English, German, or Turk.

Goblinoids (aka The Huns)
Originating from the Volga Region of Russia, the Goblin peoples swept into Eastern Europe attacking anyone who got in their way. Sensing a potential ally against the German peoples, Rome made motions to welcome the Huns into their territory provided they serve Rome as mercenaries. After successful raids against Germans, the Huns discovered that Roman towns had little defense. Lead by Attila the Hun they plundered their way through Pannonia and into Italy itself. Unable to defeat Attila in battle he had the Roman Empire on its knees until he was suddenly murdered by his wife. Afterward his Ostrogoth allies turned on the Huns, forcing them to retreat back to Pannonia to defend their claims. It is there that they remain in the Kingdom of Hungary. Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears are all members of the same race. Goblins are the children, Hobgoblins the adults, and Bugbears are the old.
Native Language: Magyar

Dwarves (aka The Vikings)
It is unclear just when Germanic people moved west into Europe as they do not accurately retell their own history. They prefer to tell it like the ice sheets melted away during the last Ice Age and they were thawed out. In any case they remained isolated, developing their own language, culture, and religion until met by the Roman Empire. With first contact came a culture clash that led ultimately to the Gothic tribes crushing the Western Roman Empire. Only about three centuries later the Norse tribes got into the act. Sailing out from their fjords in Viking Longboats, these Vikings became the terror of Western Europe throughout the Dark Ages. Viking traders went everywhere that water went from Russia, around Europe to Turkey. The Vikings settled anywhere they could wrestle control of the land from the local people. But they weren't the murderous savages depicted in the history books. After settling down the Norse showed their cultured side, which turned out to be more civilized than the native Celts. Outside of their homeland of Germany and Scandinavia, Dwarves can be found in Austria, England, Italy, Northern Ireland, Normandy, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Native Language Choices: Any Germanic, Baltic, or Gothic language, or English

Half-Dwarves (aka Goths)
Not to be confused with people who dress in black and wear pale makeup, but they do usually have black hair. After the German tribes, and later the Norse, raged across Europe they settled down, took up native wives, and built what would become the cities of Medieval Europe. The majority of people in Western and Central Europe outside of the Germanic homelands are Half-Dwarves. Having interbred with Humans they tend to be short for Humans averaging 5'2" tall. Their hair ranges from all degrees of color from blonde to black. Unlike Latin peoples they grow heavy facial hair like Dwarves. These are the people who rebuilt Europe in the Medieval Era. Their architecture can be found everywhere, particular on Catholic cathedrals.
Racial Ability Score Increase: Your Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom all increase by 1.
Alignment: Most Half-Dwarves are Lawful, believing in the benefits of a well-ordered society. They tend toward Neutrality with a strong business sense.
Size: Half Dwarves stand between 4'8" and 5'6" tall. Your size is Medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Dwarven Resistance: You have Advantage on saving throws against Poison, and you have Resistance against Poison Damage.
Skill Versatility: You gain Proficiency with any two skills.
Tool Proficiency: You gain Proficiency with any one set of Artisan Tools.
Native Language Choices: Almost any language of Western or Central Europe.

Kobolds (aka Skraelings)
Claiming descent from Dragons, Kobolds look rather like a lizard crossed with a dog. They're short and ugly. They have patches of scaly skin separated by hair. They are, in truth, the native people of Scandinavia who lived there since before the last Ice Age. They survived the Ice Age by living underground. With the melting of the glaciers they move out to inhabit the land. That is until the Norse began to move in. While Alexander the Great was busy conquering the known world the Norse were busy conquering the Skraelings. The Norse made them slaves, so while the Vikings were out plundering the Skraelings were busy working their fields. (The Danes though believed that having a Kobold aboard their ship was good luck so they often brought one along on their voyages.) The Viking Age though brought salvation to the Skraelings in the form of Christian priests captured in Viking raids. The enslaved priests spread Christianity to the Skraelings. When the kings of Scandinavia finally adopted Christianity the Skraelings were freed because a Christian is not allowed to hold a fellow Christian as a slave.
Native Language Choices: Kobold, or any Germanic language.

Firbolg (aka The Children of the Vanir)
In the days before modern people the world (aka Midgard) was ruled by Giants. Most powerful of the Giants were the Vanir, gods of the forces of nature. According to Norse mythology, the Vanir were defeated by the Aesir, gods of Dwarven-kind. While the more evil Giants such as the Frost Giants were wiped out, other Vanir joined forces with the Aesir. Their descendants are the Firbolg. The Firbolg are peaceful people of nature holding fast to their ancient Vanir religion. Persecution in the last century from Christians though has forced the Firbolg into hiding. Now they are shy about going into settled lands. They will always use their natural magic to disguise their Giant heritage.
Native Language: Firb

Shifters (aka Wesen)
One group of Humans, the Slavs, migrated north into Eastern Europe while the rest of Humanity spread west. These people followed an Animist religion that worshiped animal spirits rather than gods. Settling in what is now Bulgaria, Belorussia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine these people were challenged by countless invaders: Celts, Norse, Romans, Huns, Mongols. For protection they prayed to the spirits. The spirits answered by melding animal spirits with their Human spirits. The result was shapeshifters. Legends about the Shifters distorted the truth. The legends call them Monsters-in-Man-Form, or Wesen. Other legends say that they are the offspring of people who were cursed with one of the many forms of Lycanthropy, and can themselves spread the cursed disease. Shifters now live alongside other people, but they keep their Wesen side a carefully guarded secret. In recent decades they have been spreading into the German states. This is what has gotten them into hot water with the German Inquisition. An Inquisitor who specializes in hunting Wesen is known as a Grimm.
Native Language Choices: Any Slavic language, or German or Romanian.
This message was last edited by the GM at 11:26, Tue 23 Apr 2019.
Setting (read first)
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Races of Africa
Tabaxi (aka The Children of Bast)

When Upper and Lower Egypt was united it was by a race of semi-divine cat beings. The Tabaxi ruled Egypt during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The Hittite "invasion" brought a change in the line of the Pharaohs. No longer were the Tabaxi the rulers. Humans from the east had migrated into Egypt and accumulated great wealth. By popular demand Humans ascended the throne. Tabaxi remained greatly respected and served Egypt as priests and defenders. It wasn't until Alexander the Great invaded Egypt that all Tabaxi were finally ousted from their place of power. They then began their migration eastward across North Africa where they settled anew in the Canary Islands. After the Roman Empire took over Egypt their path of wandering opened to the east and north. In the matter of three centuries, Tabaxi could be seen anywhere in the Roman Empire often as entertainers or gladiators. When the Gypsies (actually people from India) arrived in Egypt, Tabaxi were allowed to join their caravans. Now a days Tabaxi are almost exclusively associated with Gypsies.
Native Language Choices: Coptic or Romi

Races of Asia
Aasimar (aka The Annunaki)

When Humanity was but a child-race, wild and uncivilized, a race of minor Celestials descended from the Heavens. They were on a mission from God to teach Humanity law and the ways of civilization. The Annunaki took their task too seriously. "Better the stick than the carrot." was their motto. They enslaved Humanity and forced them to mine gold. The Annunaki succumbed to the vices of the Mortal World, and grew selfish. But Humanity learned the lessons the Annunaki were sent to teach. When the time was right for Humanity to stand on its own, they rebelled against their Annunaki masters. After which, the Annunaki began to atone for their crimes. They became priests and advisers to the Mesopotamian kings. Zarathustra was an Annunaki philosopher who founded Zoroastrianism. Its philosophy became the founding principals of Christianity. Following the rise of Islam, however, tolerance for Zoroastrians disappeared. The Muslims hounded and murdered the Zoroastrians until there were but two enclaves of them remaining: one in the swamps of the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates, the other in the mountains of Kurdistan. There in Kurdistan where the Annunaki first descended from Heaven is where the race makes its final stand.
Native Language Choices: Aramaic, Kurdish, Neo-Aramaic, or Tigre'

Goliath (aka Half-Giants)
The Annunaki were not the only beings to take Humanity under its wing. In the time when Giants ruled the Earth, Humanity was enslaved. But instead of teaching them civilization, the Giants taught them only cruelty. The Giants and the Annunaki were constantly at war for the soul of Humanity. At last the forces of Heaven won out and the Giants were forced out of the Mortal World. But the Frost Giants left Humanity a little gift. Occasionally, when recessive genes line up just right, a Goliath is born. These huge brutes respect those who embrace them as leaders. More often they bring terror, well, at least until some peasant kid hits them in the head with a sling stone.
Native Language Choices: Goliath, Greek, or any Semitic

Dragonborn (aka The Shang)
According to myth, it was Yellow Dragon and Green Turtle who first tamed the Yellow River to give rise to the Chinese Civilization. Descended from the Celestial Dragons, the Dragonborn tamed first Middle China. They then spread their culture to surrounding Human tribes through conquest. The Dragonborn ruled China sometimes as a united empire, and other times as divided, warring kingdoms. Whatever the political situation, everyone knew that it was the Dragonborn who ruled and Humans served. Only when the Monguls invaded and founded the Yuan Dynasty did this status quo change. The fall of the last Yongle Emperor returned power to the Dragonborn. The Ming Dynasty has brought a new golden age to China. While still xenophobic, the Ming have restored trade with the West.
Native Language Choices: any Sino-Tibetan

Orcs (aka The Monguls)
The Monguls began as nomadic warriors roaming the plains of Central Asia and present-day Mongolia. They had divided themselves into warring states that limited their terror to themselves and their closest Human neighbors such as the Tatars. For a time they had been conquered by Turkic people but that only lasted 50 years. In 1206 the Monguls were united by a shaman-warrior, Ghengis Khan, who conquered the most expansive empire known to mankind. They took over half of China, spread their seed into western India, and clashed with the Russians and the great Arabian Empire. In so doing, however, they swallowed the seed that would lead them to become a civilized people: Buddhism. Following Ghengis Khan's death, the Mongol Empire continued to expand under the rule of Ogedei Khan, conquering Iran, the Caucasus, Syria, and parts around the Black Sea. The founding of the Yuan Dynasty in China by Kublai Khan spelled the beginning of the end. The Mongol Empire fragmented into four Oirat. They Yuan Oirat has since fallen, and the Western Oirat is quickly losing ground to the Russians, the Turks, The Ming, and the Mughals.
Native Language: Khalkha

Half-Orcs (aka Mughals)
When the Mongols descended on new conquests they would cement their claim on the land by interbreeding with the Humans they conquered. After three generations of expanding the Mongol Empire, much of the horde of warriors had become half-breeds, including rulers such as Kublai Khan. One Oirat, Mughalistan, continued to grow, and in the process become less Mongol and more like the people they conquered. Starting out in the mountains of Afghanistan, the Mughals then captured Persia from the Western Oirat. They now have their sights on Northern India. Culturally, the Mughals can no longer be called Orcish, but rather Persian having adopted Islam as their state religion.
Native Language Choices: Farsi, Mandarin, or Russian

Kenku
Mysterious of all the races of the world are the Kenku. Heralding from the mountains of China they have both followed the expansion of Humanity and shied away from it. The bird-like people are exceptionally skilled at copying, never coming up with their own things. They are able to speak for themselves, but prefer to use other peoples' words because those sound so much more elegant than their own squawking speech. Most Kenku prefer to remain high in the mountains, isolated from other people. Occasionally, when they see someone with exceptional skill or potential they will invite them up to their mountain strongholds to learn from or teach respectfully. Stories from the East say that the most accomplished swordsmen in the world are Kenku because of their ability to copy anybody's fighting style and then employ the best counter to whatever style their opponent is using.
Native Language Choices: any Sino-Tibetan
This message was last edited by the GM at 00:21, Fri 29 Mar 2019.
Setting (read first)
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World Religions
Hinduism

Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world. Some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond Human history. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion with many gods who each have two or three aspects. There are several different holy texts, or Vedas, six philosophies, and two teachings. Of all the world's relgions, Hinduism has the most diversity. At the same time it creates a sense of unity for the Indian people. Hindus do not seek converts, nor do they accept them; you have to be born Hindu.

Buddhism
Beginning as an off-shoot from Hinduism, Buddhism is a philosophy created by Siddhartha Gautama, aka The Buddha. Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life, and do not worship gods or deities. They believe that life is an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Through spiritual enlightenment they seek to cut this cycle, and attain Nirvana. Part of this involves following a strict code of moral virtues: no killing, no stealing, no lying, abstain from sexual misconduct, and abstain from intoxicants. Buddhists try to get along with everyone around them, including those who follow completely different religions. Buddhists will acknowledge the existence of gods in order to get along with other people. They accept any willing converts but are not actively seeking any in Europe.

Zoroastrianism
Arguably the world's oldest religion, Zoroastrianism barely remains active. Having grown out of the old Babylonian religion, it has become a monotheistic faith, centered in a dualistic cosmology of Good and Evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra), it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as judgment after death, Heaven and Hell, and free will may have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Zoroastrians do not seek converts; becoming one is almost certainly a death-sentence as there is great persecution against them, particularly from Muslims.

Judaism
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the Covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. They follow 13 Principals of Faith and 10 Commandments. Chief among all of these is the belief in one, and only one true God. That one belief is the only one they will never renounce. Judaism does not seek converts, however they will accept a convert who follows all the requirements of the Covenant.

Christianity
Once a persecuted off-shoot from Judaism, it has become the most powerful faith in Europe. Created from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (who some argue took his ideas from Zoroaster), it only greatly started to spread after the death of Jesus at the hands of the Roman Empire. Despite persecution by the Romans, it continued to gain strength in secret among Rome's slaves, and ironically the soldiers whose job it was to enforce the anti-Christian laws. Recognizing that most of his army was secretly Christian, Emperor Constantine inspired his army to victory by promising to change Rome's state religion to Christianity. Christianity then quickly became the dominant religion of Europe. When the Roman Empire split in half, however, so did Christianity. The Western Roman Empire adopted Roman Catholicism while the Eastern Empire became Eastern Orthodox. Today the two Christian Churches barely acknowledge each other. Christianity actively seeks converts, as in, "Why are you not Christian? We shall have to torture you until you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior."

Islam
Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is the final messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion. Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muslims consider the Quran in its original Arabic to be the unaltered and final revelation of God. Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches of a final judgment with the righteous rewarded Paradise and unrighteous punished in Hell. Islam actively seeks converts. While they tolerate people of the other two Ahrahamic faiths as fellow People of the Book, they prefer it that they accept Muhammad as the Last Prophet.

Paganism, Dead Religions, and other such Heresy
Greek/Roman Pantheon

The Greeks once believed in many gods who resided on Mt. Olympus. These gods were sometimes cruel and fickle like nature itself. This religion spread to Rome where the Romans changed the names of the gods, and made it their state religion. It remained so until early in the 4th Century Emperor Constantine I changed it to Christianity. After that it went into steep decline. Following the Crusades these gods had a brief and secret comeback with the Knights Templar. After the destruction of the Templars these beliefs secretly spread into the Masonic Order of Scotland. It continues to be secretly worshipped by a secret society calling themselves The Illuminati. Although that group is only an urban legend.

Celtic Pantheon
Comparable to other Indo-European religions, the Celts believed in a pantheon of deities. These gods could be divided into six categories: Antlered, Healing, Solar, Water, Horse, and Mother Goddesses. The Roman conquest of Gaul spelt the end of this religion as all Celts were forced to accept the Roman state religion. It remained in Ireland and Scotland until Christian missionaries such as St. Patrick finally drove it underground in the 5th Century.

Norse Pantheon
The German peoples had their own distinct pantheon of gods and goddesses divided into two groups: The Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir were Giants, gods of nature, and The Aesir were gods of men. Their struggle represents the eternal struggle of man against nature, with man finally conquering the elements. They speak though of an End of Days, Ragnarok, when nature will finally have its comeuppance on the gods. And for a time the followers of this faith were terrors of Europe, having brought down the great Roman Empire and set the people of Europe into a Dark Age. At last in the 14th Century the last Scandinavian king accepted Christianity. Now the only place where this faith remains in the open is far-off Iceland.

Egyptian Pantheon / The Coptic Church
This is a faith based on maintaining harmony with an understanding that one's actions in life affected not only one's self but others' lives as well, and the operation of the universe. People were expected to depend on each other to keep balance as this was the will of the gods to produce the greatest amount of pleasure and happiness for Humans through a harmonious existence, which also enabled the gods to better perform their tasks. This faith was strong in Egypt until the invasion of Alexander the Great. Even after Egyptians continued to perform rituals to the old Egyptian gods. When Christianity took over the Roman Empire those who still performed the old rituals were forced to convert. The Coptics then made an interesting re-interpretation. They claimed that the old Egyptian gods were actually Angels sent to spread God's message, only the ancient Egyptians mistook the messengers for the message. The Coptic Church then emerged as a Christian faith that includes the old pantheons of Egyptian and Babylonian gods as Angels. After all, if the Roman Catholics can have their Saints, so can the Coptics.

Druidism
Not to be confused with Celtic priests that went by the same name, this religion is also known as Wicca. Wicca is a nature religion that is duotheistic, worshipping a Goddess and a God. These are traditionally viewed as the Moon Goddess and the Horned God, respectively. These deities may be regarded in a henotheistic way, as having many different divine aspects which can in turn be identified with many diverse Pagan deities. The Romans, and later the Saxons and Vikings tried to kill off this religion. What they succeeded in doing was only to drive it underground. They remain that way thanks to persecution from the Catholic Church who call them "Witches" and "Devil Worshippers". In the British Isles peasants are able to perform Druidic rituals in the form of "folksy" celebrations and pageants.

The Knights Templar
When the Knights Templar departed for the Holy Land in the Crusades they thought they would return with riches beyond compare. What they actually brought back was riches far greater than gold: knowledge. They learned about the true origins of the Christian faith: Zoroastrianism, and the religions of the Greeks and Egyptians. These all had their influences on the Christian Faith, but the Catholic Church would never admit it. They kept their additional faiths hidden from the Church. But that was not the source of their downfall. It was money lending. The King of France, and high members of the clergy owed the Knights Templar too much in back loans. So the Templar was wiped out. After 80 years though, rumors persist that they continue on as the Illuminati.

The Cathars
The Cathars were a Christian sect native to the south of France. They believed that Jesus never ascended to Heaven after The Resurrection but instead ran away with Mary Magdalene to Egypt and then to southern France. There they raised a family whose bloodline continues to this day. The Cathars had close associations with the Knights Templar, thus when the Knights Templar were declared heretics by the Church, it came to the Church's attention that the Cathars had heretical beliefs of their own. After their brutal slaughter though rumors persist that some still live in the Forest of Peyrolles-en-Provence.

Gnosticism
Beginning in the 2nd Century, some early Christians began to diverge from the Judeo-Christian norm. They believed that the material world is created by an the works of a lower god (The Demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the Human body. They consider the material to be "evil" and the spiritual to be "good". This divine spark could be liberated by Gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Thus Jesus was someone who learned how to unlock his divine spark, and likewise anyone else could learn how. That's what Jesus was trying to teach his Apostles, but only John and Mary Magdalene caught on. These beliefs came in direct conflict with that of the Catholic Church. Gnosticism thus spread eastward; first to Persia and then all the way to China.

Witchcraft
This doesn't describe only the Druids but is rather a catch-all phrase for all forms of magic that the Catholic Church does not like. Warlocks no matter what their Patron (even Celestial Patron Warlocks like Joan of Arc was burned as a witch) will feel the sting of the Inquisition's whip and be burned at the stake as a witch. Wizards and Sorcerers likewise fall victim to the Inquisition accused of worshipping Satan. Pagans are also declared "Devil Worshippers". Heretics meet the same fate. Even respected scientists must be careful not to contradict what is written in The Bible. Suffice it to say that if you're European, practice magic that isn't Divine, and are not a Cleric or Paladin then you can be declared a Witch. Bards though are an exception but they need to keep moving to stay a step ahead of the Inquisitors who would take a close look at them.
This message was last edited by the GM at 08:05, Mon 01 Apr 2019.
Setting (read first)
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The Roman Catholic Church
Started in 380 A.D. by an edict from Emperor Theodosius I, it must not be confused with the Christian faith. The Church was created as a state religion for Rome. It's purpose was to keep the empire united by having a single faith that all people must adhere to. It was built on a strict hierarchy of clergy leading up to the Pope, their direct contact to God. And it did its job well, even after the fall of the Roman Empire. Throughout the Dark Ages and the Medival eras it continued to unite the peoples of Europe. For a time the Holy Roman Empire united the many principalities of Germany and Italy. But now its direct control over Europe is waning as sectarian rulers are gaining more power.

Despite the goodness of the Christian faith, and its good intentions, the Church has become an instrument of evil. The First Crusade marked the beginning of a descent into corruption and evil. Now tens of thousands of people can be murdered with but a single word from the Pope. The Church's coffers contain more gold than all the kingdoms of Europe. Such absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the most corrupt of Italy's elite are drawn toward the Church.

That isn't to say that good people do not serve the Church. Those good people who stick close to the teachings of Jesus do not seek wealth or power. Such individuals try not to rise high in the Church hierarchy. They like to stay at a low rank, close to the people where they can do the most good.

The current Pope is Pope Innocent VIII from a noble family in Genoa. There is a saying about Popes named Innocent, "An Innocent Pope is anything but." Giovanni Battista Cybo was elected Pope in 1484 by bribing the Cardinals with promised benefits. He began his career by trying to make peace with the Ottoman Turks. Her offered huge rewards to the Ottomans for the return of sacred relics including the Holy Lance. All the while his bounties paid were being spent by the Ottomans on their invasion of the Balkans. It was then brought to his attention that witchcraft was a serious problem in the German states by his Grand Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer. With the "success" of the German Inquisition, he appointed Tomas de Torquemada Grand Inquisitor of Spain. The Italian Inquisition had now gone international. What a show! That is if you like public executions. There are rumors that Pope Innocent suffers from a rare blood disease. His treatment, it is said, is to drink the blood of 10-year olds. Who knows how long he can live on such an unorthodox treatment.

And imo biology would definitely affect culture in some way. Even something as "mundane" as darkvision would result that the ones with it would in time develop some different habits than those without. No completely different culture but likely a noticeable difference. Like a East Coast / West Coast thing.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Good grief, I doubt any Saxon today has any problems with a fantasy game using fantasy races to represent Saxons from 1000 year ago. Thats about as accurate as the representation of (human) Vikings in media compared to the real ones.

I did find the Venice setting I spoke off before

Never got to play it, but its certainly an interesting read. Disclaimer, that was not written by me, just to be sure.
(I also copied it into a spoiler below, just in case it gets deleted there or if you do not want to change sites)
Setting (read first)
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Races of Europe
The Little People (aka Halflings and Hobbits)

The first of the modern races to colonize Europe 12,000 years ago were the Little People. These people were forced to live on the edge of the ice sheets having lost out in the race for better hunting land by the larger people of Asia. Not 2000 years after establishing themselves across Europe were they forced again to the edges by Human and Elven migrants. By modern times only three pockets of Hobbits remain in the Basque Lands of Northern Spain, Ireland, and Wales. There they are distinguished by the Stout (preferring to be called Halflings) who inhabit the cities and town, and the Lightfoot (preferring to be called Hobbits) who live out in the countryside.
Native Language Choices: Basque, English, Irish Gaelic, or Welsh Gaelic

Gnomes (aka The Alpine Folk)
Rather than be pushed westward, some of The Little People retreated up into the Alps and the Pyrenees. Isolated from their Halfling cousins they evolved and adapted to life in the mountains where you needed to be inventive to overcome the challenges life gave you. Forest Gnomes grew at home in the alpine forests that blanket the valleys. Meanwhile, Rock Gnomes taught themselves to make more use of the land, to invent new things, and establish trade with the lowland peoples. In modern times it is the Rock Gnomes who inhabit the cities and towns while the Forest Gnomes prefer to live in the countryside.
Native Language Choices: Basque, French, Spanish, or Swiss

Humans (aka The Mediterranean Peoples)
Around 10,000 years ago Modern Humans began to move in around the Mediterranean Basin. The lives of these early colonists was tied to the sea. As the coastal populations grew and became fruitful, they moved ever inland pushing the Little People up into the mountains. Villages grew into cities, cities grew into Empires. It was through empires such as that of Alexander the Great, the Carthaginians, and finally the Roman that they pushed their populations to populate vast distances. Now every land settled by the Romans contains purebred Humans.
Native Language Choices: Nearly any national language of Europe and Asia.

Elves (aka The Celts)
At around 4000 B.C. the Greeks began to write accounts of horse-riding warriors coming out of the plains of the Ukraine. The earliest accounts actually referred to Centaurs but later, more accurate, accounts described The Celts. The Celts swept across into Central Europe for the most part. Although a group did break away, built boats, sailed across the Black Sea, and settled in Central Anatolia. But the main group settled the lands north of the Balkins, north of the Alps, all of what is today France, Western Iberia, and crossed into the British Isles. Covering a vast territory they remained fiercely tribal until one by one they were conquered by the Roman Empire. Over time they adapted to Roman life... a bit too much. Now the only Elves to remain purebred and speaking their native Gaelic tongues can be found in Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Native Language Choices: Breton, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, or Welsh

Half-Elves (aka Your Typical Western European)
The Celts interbred with the Romans, sometimes forcefully but often by choice. Half-Elves have thus become the most common race to be found in Western Europe; dominating England, France, and Portugal. Pockets of Half-Elves can also be found living in Austria, Ireland, Northern Italy, Romania, and Turkey.
Native Language Choices: Any Romance language, English, German, or Turk.

Goblinoids (aka The Huns)
Originating from the Volga Region of Russia, the Goblin peoples swept into Eastern Europe attacking anyone who got in their way. Sensing a potential ally against the German peoples, Rome made motions to welcome the Huns into their territory provided they serve Rome as mercenaries. After successful raids against Germans, the Huns discovered that Roman towns had little defense. Lead by Attila the Hun they plundered their way through Pannonia and into Italy itself. Unable to defeat Attila in battle he had the Roman Empire on its knees until he was suddenly murdered by his wife. Afterward his Ostrogoth allies turned on the Huns, forcing them to retreat back to Pannonia to defend their claims. It is there that they remain in the Kingdom of Hungary. Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears are all members of the same race. Goblins are the children, Hobgoblins the adults, and Bugbears are the old.
Native Language: Magyar

Dwarves (aka The Vikings)
It is unclear just when Germanic people moved west into Europe as they do not accurately retell their own history. They prefer to tell it like the ice sheets melted away during the last Ice Age and they were thawed out. In any case they remained isolated, developing their own language, culture, and religion until met by the Roman Empire. With first contact came a culture clash that led ultimately to the Gothic tribes crushing the Western Roman Empire. Only about three centuries later the Norse tribes got into the act. Sailing out from their fjords in Viking Longboats, these Vikings became the terror of Western Europe throughout the Dark Ages. Viking traders went everywhere that water went from Russia, around Europe to Turkey. The Vikings settled anywhere they could wrestle control of the land from the local people. But they weren't the murderous savages depicted in the history books. After settling down the Norse showed their cultured side, which turned out to be more civilized than the native Celts. Outside of their homeland of Germany and Scandinavia, Dwarves can be found in Austria, England, Italy, Northern Ireland, Normandy, Spain, and the Netherlands.
Native Language Choices: Any Germanic, Baltic, or Gothic language, or English

Half-Dwarves (aka Goths)
Not to be confused with people who dress in black and wear pale makeup, but they do usually have black hair. After the German tribes, and later the Norse, raged across Europe they settled down, took up native wives, and built what would become the cities of Medieval Europe. The majority of people in Western and Central Europe outside of the Germanic homelands are Half-Dwarves. Having interbred with Humans they tend to be short for Humans averaging 5'2" tall. Their hair ranges from all degrees of color from blonde to black. Unlike Latin peoples they grow heavy facial hair like Dwarves. These are the people who rebuilt Europe in the Medieval Era. Their architecture can be found everywhere, particular on Catholic cathedrals.
Racial Ability Score Increase: Your Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom all increase by 1.
Alignment: Most Half-Dwarves are Lawful, believing in the benefits of a well-ordered society. They tend toward Neutrality with a strong business sense.
Size: Half Dwarves stand between 4'8" and 5'6" tall. Your size is Medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Dwarven Resistance: You have Advantage on saving throws against Poison, and you have Resistance against Poison Damage.
Skill Versatility: You gain Proficiency with any two skills.
Tool Proficiency: You gain Proficiency with any one set of Artisan Tools.
Native Language Choices: Almost any language of Western or Central Europe.

Kobolds (aka Skraelings)
Claiming descent from Dragons, Kobolds look rather like a lizard crossed with a dog. They're short and ugly. They have patches of scaly skin separated by hair. They are, in truth, the native people of Scandinavia who lived there since before the last Ice Age. They survived the Ice Age by living underground. With the melting of the glaciers they move out to inhabit the land. That is until the Norse began to move in. While Alexander the Great was busy conquering the known world the Norse were busy conquering the Skraelings. The Norse made them slaves, so while the Vikings were out plundering the Skraelings were busy working their fields. (The Danes though believed that having a Kobold aboard their ship was good luck so they often brought one along on their voyages.) The Viking Age though brought salvation to the Skraelings in the form of Christian priests captured in Viking raids. The enslaved priests spread Christianity to the Skraelings. When the kings of Scandinavia finally adopted Christianity the Skraelings were freed because a Christian is not allowed to hold a fellow Christian as a slave.
Native Language Choices: Kobold, or any Germanic language.

Firbolg (aka The Children of the Vanir)
In the days before modern people the world (aka Midgard) was ruled by Giants. Most powerful of the Giants were the Vanir, gods of the forces of nature. According to Norse mythology, the Vanir were defeated by the Aesir, gods of Dwarven-kind. While the more evil Giants such as the Frost Giants were wiped out, other Vanir joined forces with the Aesir. Their descendants are the Firbolg. The Firbolg are peaceful people of nature holding fast to their ancient Vanir religion. Persecution in the last century from Christians though has forced the Firbolg into hiding. Now they are shy about going into settled lands. They will always use their natural magic to disguise their Giant heritage.
Native Language: Firb

Shifters (aka Wesen)
One group of Humans, the Slavs, migrated north into Eastern Europe while the rest of Humanity spread west. These people followed an Animist religion that worshiped animal spirits rather than gods. Settling in what is now Bulgaria, Belorussia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine these people were challenged by countless invaders: Celts, Norse, Romans, Huns, Mongols. For protection they prayed to the spirits. The spirits answered by melding animal spirits with their Human spirits. The result was shapeshifters. Legends about the Shifters distorted the truth. The legends call them Monsters-in-Man-Form, or Wesen. Other legends say that they are the offspring of people who were cursed with one of the many forms of Lycanthropy, and can themselves spread the cursed disease. Shifters now live alongside other people, but they keep their Wesen side a carefully guarded secret. In recent decades they have been spreading into the German states. This is what has gotten them into hot water with the German Inquisition. An Inquisitor who specializes in hunting Wesen is known as a Grimm.
Native Language Choices: Any Slavic language, or German or Romanian.
This message was last edited by the GM at 11:26, Tue 23 Apr 2019.
Setting (read first)
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Races of Africa
Tabaxi (aka The Children of Bast)

When Upper and Lower Egypt was united it was by a race of semi-divine cat beings. The Tabaxi ruled Egypt during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The Hittite "invasion" brought a change in the line of the Pharaohs. No longer were the Tabaxi the rulers. Humans from the east had migrated into Egypt and accumulated great wealth. By popular demand Humans ascended the throne. Tabaxi remained greatly respected and served Egypt as priests and defenders. It wasn't until Alexander the Great invaded Egypt that all Tabaxi were finally ousted from their place of power. They then began their migration eastward across North Africa where they settled anew in the Canary Islands. After the Roman Empire took over Egypt their path of wandering opened to the east and north. In the matter of three centuries, Tabaxi could be seen anywhere in the Roman Empire often as entertainers or gladiators. When the Gypsies (actually people from India) arrived in Egypt, Tabaxi were allowed to join their caravans. Now a days Tabaxi are almost exclusively associated with Gypsies.
Native Language Choices: Coptic or Romi

Races of Asia
Aasimar (aka The Annunaki)

When Humanity was but a child-race, wild and uncivilized, a race of minor Celestials descended from the Heavens. They were on a mission from God to teach Humanity law and the ways of civilization. The Annunaki took their task too seriously. "Better the stick than the carrot." was their motto. They enslaved Humanity and forced them to mine gold. The Annunaki succumbed to the vices of the Mortal World, and grew selfish. But Humanity learned the lessons the Annunaki were sent to teach. When the time was right for Humanity to stand on its own, they rebelled against their Annunaki masters. After which, the Annunaki began to atone for their crimes. They became priests and advisers to the Mesopotamian kings. Zarathustra was an Annunaki philosopher who founded Zoroastrianism. Its philosophy became the founding principals of Christianity. Following the rise of Islam, however, tolerance for Zoroastrians disappeared. The Muslims hounded and murdered the Zoroastrians until there were but two enclaves of them remaining: one in the swamps of the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates, the other in the mountains of Kurdistan. There in Kurdistan where the Annunaki first descended from Heaven is where the race makes its final stand.
Native Language Choices: Aramaic, Kurdish, Neo-Aramaic, or Tigre'

Goliath (aka Half-Giants)
The Annunaki were not the only beings to take Humanity under its wing. In the time when Giants ruled the Earth, Humanity was enslaved. But instead of teaching them civilization, the Giants taught them only cruelty. The Giants and the Annunaki were constantly at war for the soul of Humanity. At last the forces of Heaven won out and the Giants were forced out of the Mortal World. But the Frost Giants left Humanity a little gift. Occasionally, when recessive genes line up just right, a Goliath is born. These huge brutes respect those who embrace them as leaders. More often they bring terror, well, at least until some peasant kid hits them in the head with a sling stone.
Native Language Choices: Goliath, Greek, or any Semitic

Dragonborn (aka The Shang)
According to myth, it was Yellow Dragon and Green Turtle who first tamed the Yellow River to give rise to the Chinese Civilization. Descended from the Celestial Dragons, the Dragonborn tamed first Middle China. They then spread their culture to surrounding Human tribes through conquest. The Dragonborn ruled China sometimes as a united empire, and other times as divided, warring kingdoms. Whatever the political situation, everyone knew that it was the Dragonborn who ruled and Humans served. Only when the Monguls invaded and founded the Yuan Dynasty did this status quo change. The fall of the last Yongle Emperor returned power to the Dragonborn. The Ming Dynasty has brought a new golden age to China. While still xenophobic, the Ming have restored trade with the West.
Native Language Choices: any Sino-Tibetan

Orcs (aka The Monguls)
The Monguls began as nomadic warriors roaming the plains of Central Asia and present-day Mongolia. They had divided themselves into warring states that limited their terror to themselves and their closest Human neighbors such as the Tatars. For a time they had been conquered by Turkic people but that only lasted 50 years. In 1206 the Monguls were united by a shaman-warrior, Ghengis Khan, who conquered the most expansive empire known to mankind. They took over half of China, spread their seed into western India, and clashed with the Russians and the great Arabian Empire. In so doing, however, they swallowed the seed that would lead them to become a civilized people: Buddhism. Following Ghengis Khan's death, the Mongol Empire continued to expand under the rule of Ogedei Khan, conquering Iran, the Caucasus, Syria, and parts around the Black Sea. The founding of the Yuan Dynasty in China by Kublai Khan spelled the beginning of the end. The Mongol Empire fragmented into four Oirat. They Yuan Oirat has since fallen, and the Western Oirat is quickly losing ground to the Russians, the Turks, The Ming, and the Mughals.
Native Language: Khalkha

Half-Orcs (aka Mughals)
When the Mongols descended on new conquests they would cement their claim on the land by interbreeding with the Humans they conquered. After three generations of expanding the Mongol Empire, much of the horde of warriors had become half-breeds, including rulers such as Kublai Khan. One Oirat, Mughalistan, continued to grow, and in the process become less Mongol and more like the people they conquered. Starting out in the mountains of Afghanistan, the Mughals then captured Persia from the Western Oirat. They now have their sights on Northern India. Culturally, the Mughals can no longer be called Orcish, but rather Persian having adopted Islam as their state religion.
Native Language Choices: Farsi, Mandarin, or Russian

Kenku
Mysterious of all the races of the world are the Kenku. Heralding from the mountains of China they have both followed the expansion of Humanity and shied away from it. The bird-like people are exceptionally skilled at copying, never coming up with their own things. They are able to speak for themselves, but prefer to use other peoples' words because those sound so much more elegant than their own squawking speech. Most Kenku prefer to remain high in the mountains, isolated from other people. Occasionally, when they see someone with exceptional skill or potential they will invite them up to their mountain strongholds to learn from or teach respectfully. Stories from the East say that the most accomplished swordsmen in the world are Kenku because of their ability to copy anybody's fighting style and then employ the best counter to whatever style their opponent is using.
Native Language Choices: any Sino-Tibetan
This message was last edited by the GM at 00:21, Fri 29 Mar 2019.
Setting (read first)
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World Religions
Hinduism

Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world. Some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond Human history. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion with many gods who each have two or three aspects. There are several different holy texts, or Vedas, six philosophies, and two teachings. Of all the world's relgions, Hinduism has the most diversity. At the same time it creates a sense of unity for the Indian people. Hindus do not seek converts, nor do they accept them; you have to be born Hindu.

Buddhism
Beginning as an off-shoot from Hinduism, Buddhism is a philosophy created by Siddhartha Gautama, aka The Buddha. Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life, and do not worship gods or deities. They believe that life is an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Through spiritual enlightenment they seek to cut this cycle, and attain Nirvana. Part of this involves following a strict code of moral virtues: no killing, no stealing, no lying, abstain from sexual misconduct, and abstain from intoxicants. Buddhists try to get along with everyone around them, including those who follow completely different religions. Buddhists will acknowledge the existence of gods in order to get along with other people. They accept any willing converts but are not actively seeking any in Europe.

Zoroastrianism
Arguably the world's oldest religion, Zoroastrianism barely remains active. Having grown out of the old Babylonian religion, it has become a monotheistic faith, centered in a dualistic cosmology of Good and Evil. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra), it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its Supreme Being. Major features of Zoroastrianism, such as judgment after death, Heaven and Hell, and free will may have influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Zoroastrians do not seek converts; becoming one is almost certainly a death-sentence as there is great persecution against them, particularly from Muslims.

Judaism
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the Covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. They follow 13 Principals of Faith and 10 Commandments. Chief among all of these is the belief in one, and only one true God. That one belief is the only one they will never renounce. Judaism does not seek converts, however they will accept a convert who follows all the requirements of the Covenant.

Christianity
Once a persecuted off-shoot from Judaism, it has become the most powerful faith in Europe. Created from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (who some argue took his ideas from Zoroaster), it only greatly started to spread after the death of Jesus at the hands of the Roman Empire. Despite persecution by the Romans, it continued to gain strength in secret among Rome's slaves, and ironically the soldiers whose job it was to enforce the anti-Christian laws. Recognizing that most of his army was secretly Christian, Emperor Constantine inspired his army to victory by promising to change Rome's state religion to Christianity. Christianity then quickly became the dominant religion of Europe. When the Roman Empire split in half, however, so did Christianity. The Western Roman Empire adopted Roman Catholicism while the Eastern Empire became Eastern Orthodox. Today the two Christian Churches barely acknowledge each other. Christianity actively seeks converts, as in, "Why are you not Christian? We shall have to torture you until you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior."

Islam
Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is the final messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion. Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muslims consider the Quran in its original Arabic to be the unaltered and final revelation of God. Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches of a final judgment with the righteous rewarded Paradise and unrighteous punished in Hell. Islam actively seeks converts. While they tolerate people of the other two Ahrahamic faiths as fellow People of the Book, they prefer it that they accept Muhammad as the Last Prophet.

Paganism, Dead Religions, and other such Heresy
Greek/Roman Pantheon

The Greeks once believed in many gods who resided on Mt. Olympus. These gods were sometimes cruel and fickle like nature itself. This religion spread to Rome where the Romans changed the names of the gods, and made it their state religion. It remained so until early in the 4th Century Emperor Constantine I changed it to Christianity. After that it went into steep decline. Following the Crusades these gods had a brief and secret comeback with the Knights Templar. After the destruction of the Templars these beliefs secretly spread into the Masonic Order of Scotland. It continues to be secretly worshipped by a secret society calling themselves The Illuminati. Although that group is only an urban legend.

Celtic Pantheon
Comparable to other Indo-European religions, the Celts believed in a pantheon of deities. These gods could be divided into six categories: Antlered, Healing, Solar, Water, Horse, and Mother Goddesses. The Roman conquest of Gaul spelt the end of this religion as all Celts were forced to accept the Roman state religion. It remained in Ireland and Scotland until Christian missionaries such as St. Patrick finally drove it underground in the 5th Century.

Norse Pantheon
The German peoples had their own distinct pantheon of gods and goddesses divided into two groups: The Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir were Giants, gods of nature, and The Aesir were gods of men. Their struggle represents the eternal struggle of man against nature, with man finally conquering the elements. They speak though of an End of Days, Ragnarok, when nature will finally have its comeuppance on the gods. And for a time the followers of this faith were terrors of Europe, having brought down the great Roman Empire and set the people of Europe into a Dark Age. At last in the 14th Century the last Scandinavian king accepted Christianity. Now the only place where this faith remains in the open is far-off Iceland.

Egyptian Pantheon / The Coptic Church
This is a faith based on maintaining harmony with an understanding that one's actions in life affected not only one's self but others' lives as well, and the operation of the universe. People were expected to depend on each other to keep balance as this was the will of the gods to produce the greatest amount of pleasure and happiness for Humans through a harmonious existence, which also enabled the gods to better perform their tasks. This faith was strong in Egypt until the invasion of Alexander the Great. Even after Egyptians continued to perform rituals to the old Egyptian gods. When Christianity took over the Roman Empire those who still performed the old rituals were forced to convert. The Coptics then made an interesting re-interpretation. They claimed that the old Egyptian gods were actually Angels sent to spread God's message, only the ancient Egyptians mistook the messengers for the message. The Coptic Church then emerged as a Christian faith that includes the old pantheons of Egyptian and Babylonian gods as Angels. After all, if the Roman Catholics can have their Saints, so can the Coptics.

Druidism
Not to be confused with Celtic priests that went by the same name, this religion is also known as Wicca. Wicca is a nature religion that is duotheistic, worshipping a Goddess and a God. These are traditionally viewed as the Moon Goddess and the Horned God, respectively. These deities may be regarded in a henotheistic way, as having many different divine aspects which can in turn be identified with many diverse Pagan deities. The Romans, and later the Saxons and Vikings tried to kill off this religion. What they succeeded in doing was only to drive it underground. They remain that way thanks to persecution from the Catholic Church who call them "Witches" and "Devil Worshippers". In the British Isles peasants are able to perform Druidic rituals in the form of "folksy" celebrations and pageants.

The Knights Templar
When the Knights Templar departed for the Holy Land in the Crusades they thought they would return with riches beyond compare. What they actually brought back was riches far greater than gold: knowledge. They learned about the true origins of the Christian faith: Zoroastrianism, and the religions of the Greeks and Egyptians. These all had their influences on the Christian Faith, but the Catholic Church would never admit it. They kept their additional faiths hidden from the Church. But that was not the source of their downfall. It was money lending. The King of France, and high members of the clergy owed the Knights Templar too much in back loans. So the Templar was wiped out. After 80 years though, rumors persist that they continue on as the Illuminati.

The Cathars
The Cathars were a Christian sect native to the south of France. They believed that Jesus never ascended to Heaven after The Resurrection but instead ran away with Mary Magdalene to Egypt and then to southern France. There they raised a family whose bloodline continues to this day. The Cathars had close associations with the Knights Templar, thus when the Knights Templar were declared heretics by the Church, it came to the Church's attention that the Cathars had heretical beliefs of their own. After their brutal slaughter though rumors persist that some still live in the Forest of Peyrolles-en-Provence.

Gnosticism
Beginning in the 2nd Century, some early Christians began to diverge from the Judeo-Christian norm. They believed that the material world is created by an the works of a lower god (The Demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the Human body. They consider the material to be "evil" and the spiritual to be "good". This divine spark could be liberated by Gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Thus Jesus was someone who learned how to unlock his divine spark, and likewise anyone else could learn how. That's what Jesus was trying to teach his Apostles, but only John and Mary Magdalene caught on. These beliefs came in direct conflict with that of the Catholic Church. Gnosticism thus spread eastward; first to Persia and then all the way to China.

Witchcraft
This doesn't describe only the Druids but is rather a catch-all phrase for all forms of magic that the Catholic Church does not like. Warlocks no matter what their Patron (even Celestial Patron Warlocks like Joan of Arc was burned as a witch) will feel the sting of the Inquisition's whip and be burned at the stake as a witch. Wizards and Sorcerers likewise fall victim to the Inquisition accused of worshipping Satan. Pagans are also declared "Devil Worshippers". Heretics meet the same fate. Even respected scientists must be careful not to contradict what is written in The Bible. Suffice it to say that if you're European, practice magic that isn't Divine, and are not a Cleric or Paladin then you can be declared a Witch. Bards though are an exception but they need to keep moving to stay a step ahead of the Inquisitors who would take a close look at them.
This message was last edited by the GM at 08:05, Mon 01 Apr 2019.
Setting (read first)
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The Roman Catholic Church
Started in 380 A.D. by an edict from Emperor Theodosius I, it must not be confused with the Christian faith. The Church was created as a state religion for Rome. It's purpose was to keep the empire united by having a single faith that all people must adhere to. It was built on a strict hierarchy of clergy leading up to the Pope, their direct contact to God. And it did its job well, even after the fall of the Roman Empire. Throughout the Dark Ages and the Medival eras it continued to unite the peoples of Europe. For a time the Holy Roman Empire united the many principalities of Germany and Italy. But now its direct control over Europe is waning as sectarian rulers are gaining more power.

Despite the goodness of the Christian faith, and its good intentions, the Church has become an instrument of evil. The First Crusade marked the beginning of a descent into corruption and evil. Now tens of thousands of people can be murdered with but a single word from the Pope. The Church's coffers contain more gold than all the kingdoms of Europe. Such absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the most corrupt of Italy's elite are drawn toward the Church.

That isn't to say that good people do not serve the Church. Those good people who stick close to the teachings of Jesus do not seek wealth or power. Such individuals try not to rise high in the Church hierarchy. They like to stay at a low rank, close to the people where they can do the most good.

The current Pope is Pope Innocent VIII from a noble family in Genoa. There is a saying about Popes named Innocent, "An Innocent Pope is anything but." Giovanni Battista Cybo was elected Pope in 1484 by bribing the Cardinals with promised benefits. He began his career by trying to make peace with the Ottoman Turks. Her offered huge rewards to the Ottomans for the return of sacred relics including the Holy Lance. All the while his bounties paid were being spent by the Ottomans on their invasion of the Balkans. It was then brought to his attention that witchcraft was a serious problem in the German states by his Grand Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer. With the "success" of the German Inquisition, he appointed Tomas de Torquemada Grand Inquisitor of Spain. The Italian Inquisition had now gone international. What a show! That is if you like public executions. There are rumors that Pope Innocent suffers from a rare blood disease. His treatment, it is said, is to drink the blood of 10-year olds. Who knows how long he can live on such an unorthodox treatment.

And imo biology would definitely affect culture in some way. Even something as "mundane" as darkvision would result that the ones with it would in time develop some different habits than those without. No completely different culture but likely a noticeable difference. Like a East Coast / West Coast thing.
That looks like a well thought out setting, would have been great to play in.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Why? It's a made-up game, since as you have said there were not actually different species living in these different cultures in real life. So if in my history-adjacent D&D game I want to say, "Spartans were these clothes, speak this language, celebrate these holidays..." I see no reason why that can't be a Spartan Elf, Human, or Gnome.
Spartan Elf, Human, or Gnome is not the same as Elf, Human AND Gnome.
 


Xenophon223

Villager
At GenCon this year I spent a bunch of money on Nations and Cannons, a American Revolutionary War Era 5e setting. I initially picked it up the firearms rules, but the more I talked to the designers and read through it the more I really like how they implemented non-magic abilities that mimicked supernatural or magical class abilities. Instead of spells, they have "Gambits". The most interesting of these were rhetorical based abilities, like the interupt "Non-Sequitor" which you use to stop an enemy's action by confusing them. They replace the cleric with the Firebrand class which is basically a revolutionary who gets such cool abilities as "Tar and Feather" where you incite a crowd to expel a individual from a settlement. They also have items such as "Study Tricorne" which adds your Chr bonus to your max hit points as long as you are wearing it. That one went right into my D&D campaign. Anyway, it's a very interesting approach to running a purely historical 5e setting. I recommend taking a look at it. Nations and Cannons
 

Reynard

Legend
Well, let's unpack it.
A lot of what's going on in non-human race descriptions in D&D come from objections of using the same kinds of dehumanizing descriptions as have been used historically to dehumanize other races. There is no literal analog between those non-human D&D races and actual real-world races - just a similarity in description (brutish, savage, primitive, etc).

But the idea of making a historically campaign in which the role of a human culture, one that may have been assimilated into an amalgam culture but still has living descendants, is replaced with orcs or hobgoblins or elves or whatever is literally dehumanizing them within the context of your campaign.

I'm not saying that you're not free to reimagine history any way you want. But you probably shouldn't be surprised at Morrus's response.
I mean, I agree and wouldn't do that again -- but less because it might be offensive to a literally no-longer--existent culture and more because it just doesn't really fit the needs of a historical game. In tghe end, the best thing to do with non human species in a game (if you have to include them at all) is to put them in their mythical place in the world. That means you aren't going to have halflings in a samurai campaign or elves in an Aztec campaign (which is fine). But that also means saying"no" to players, and we know how much they love that.
 

TheSword

Legend
I used to plan history-inspired campaigns dividing the races into different cultures... But these days my philosophy has changed. I think you can have established historic cultures without forcing a race on them.

For example, I think the California Gold Rush is a fascinating time in history that I would enjoy basing a Weird West D&D campaign on. But rather than saying "Americans are Dwarves, English are Halflings, Chinese are Elves" or whatever (I picked these totally arbitrarily... other than the Halflings 😁 ), I think I would let players pick whatever race and culture they want. Why wouldn't there be Dragonborn immigrants coming to California from South America, Russia, etc? And Dragonborn belonging to California native peoples (Ohlone, Miwok, etc)?
I agree this is my preferred approach. As a DM pick the race for the NPC that best suits their personality or the character you want to create. It’s also the Forgotten Realms approach for the most part.

The only exception would be if someone wanted a conflict between races to be part of the story. Which is fine, but just be sensible about it. I actually think this works better when the status quo is diverse populations.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
When I've run historical games in DnD, it was back in 1st using the Green Books (Rome, Charlemagne, Crusades, Vikings, Age of Heroes). I would just use them mostly by the rules outlined there, and then sprinkle changes to taste. They never seemed to last very long. Most of the time the players chafed at the more mundane elements, and it was a challenge to make adventures and such that followed that 'historical' milieu.

I had more success running a 'historical' DnD game using 5e. I ran a game focused in the Moonshaes, which, according to the brief, was going to be magic lite, more gritty, and set in the 940's or so. So, historical for the realms. Waterdeep was yet to be established, the Illuskans from the north were invading the Mooonshaes; Amn, Calimsham, and other southern kingdoms were on edge with each other and expansion. Weapons were limited to simpler types: spears, axes, and swords most common, heaviest armor was chain (which I upped AC to make it truly 'heavy' for the most expensive versions, etc. I was swinging for arthurian britain with a lot of myth and mystery, though the elves still lived in the center of the isle, but mostly unseen, dark creatures existed in deep forests and mountains, towns and villages in the western parts of the isle had not been heard from in years, etc. Basically a sandbox, with a focus on the various NPC lords in their Cantrevs around the capital.

It lasted for about a year, but even with the "low magic" brief, the party either selected or rapidly multiclassed into spell casting classes because I wasn't focusing solely on combat, but including travel, RP, exploration. The only martial we had was an Arcane Archer. The all caster party was super effective in all elements of the game, making many useless (travel, exploration, RP), and overcame all the fighting I laid out due to NOVA (this style of game was NOT a 6-8 encounter day style, hence the wish to go "magic lite"). Until I threw enemies at them that were twice their level in CR did it become threatening, and then the TPK was a razor's edge affair.

I gave up struggling against the system itself to run this style of game. I'm looking forward to running something similar in OSE, or even a historical game in OSE. Were I to do it, I would step back the abilities generated by races to make them more ribbon (i.e. keen eyesight for elves only, dwarven stonecunning only for dwarves, etc., or whatever the OSE versions are), then have them all exist and live in all cultures, and their culture would better define who and what they are, their skills, etc, if I were to include other races at all.

BUT, I have also been liking Beyond the Wall and Wolves of God for more 'historical' style roleplay games using a DnD engine, although I am also trying to get a Pendragon game off the ground.
 


But those biological differences would still matter, and would still create separations within the culture.
1. Okay, and? There are always subcultures within cultures.

2. In a game that generally includes half-orcs and half-elves, I don't think biological differences are as big a deal as you suggest.
 


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