Dragons Conquer America Interview with Designer, JC Obal

Spanish company Burning Games have a reputation for great quality, not to mention good looking, games. They have been nominated for ENnies for two years running (Best Production Values in 2017, and winning a Silver ENnie for Best Free Product in 2016), were Golden Geek Game of the Year Runners Up with Faith: A Garden in Hell in 2016, as well as multiple nominations in other awards. This year they are gearing up to relaunch their Dragons Conquer America RPG Kickstarter, set in 1519 as two worlds collide, with the Spanish arriving in the Americas. We catch up with writer and designer, JC Obal, to find out his inspiration behind the game.

Could you explain to our readers what Dragons Conquer America is about? What are the main themes behind the game?


Dragons Conquer America (DCA) is a classic fantasy roleplaying game, with high adventure, monsters and the epic struggle between the mortal and supernatural world. As other fantasy settings, the struggle between human kingdoms plays an important part, too; however, this particular setting veers away from the typical anglo-saxon medieval environment to explore a much less known world: the culture and mythology of pre-conquest Mesoamerica.

As opposed to other Mesoamerica-based RPGs – some of them quite recent – we didn’t build our setting with fictitious places or ‘lookalike’ cultures; the game is supposed to take place on our world, on historic Mesoamerica during the European invasion. We slapped some dragons and magic weapons on it – well, a lot of them – but it’s supposed to be the real world.

The main theme, however, is still speculative; our goal is still to offer a ‘what if’. In this case, ‘what if’ the Mexica, Maya and other tribes had magic and divine spirits to counter the Spanish invasion and maybe, just maybe, change history, or even turn it around?

So, you may interpret DCA as a fantasy RPG with pyramids and feathered serpents, or as a historical fiction RPG where you have the chance to kick the conquistadors back to Europe with badass magic. Either way’s fine.

What are your goals, as writer? What do you hope people will get out of this game?

My focus has been on developing a somewhat honest and accurate depiction of the Mesoamerican world, which has been tragically lacking in pop culture fantasy, and even in serious History studies.

Once I achieved that – to whatever degree I could – I focused on giving a fantasy/ action/ thriller twist to that world.

This means this fantasy world cannot be ‘D&D but with chaneques instead of elves’, or ‘LOTR but with jaguar warriors instead of rangers’, because chaneques and Mesoamerican spirits had a very different role to the ‘humanoid’ races in anglo-saxon fantasy, and Mexica jaguar warriors were a different social class, with different social functions, to the knight orders of feudal Europe. I had to build a fantasy world out of what Mesoamerican mythology meant to the Mesoamerican people, not to its European revisionists or to the European standard by which we have learned to measure and build classic fantasy.

That’s what I expect people will get out of this game.

What kind of adventures can players expect in the core book? What kind of places will they be able to see? What types of monsters will they be able to hunt down?

The core book contains only one adventure, where players take the roles of a mixed party of mercenaries from both the Spanish and Mexica armies, looking for a lost temple rumoured to hold a gigantic gem. It starts out as your classic trap-filled ‘Aztec pyramid’ scenario, having to outrace both the fanatic priests and the greedy conquistadors, but then it twists in a different direction. You’ll see.

The book also gives tools to build your own adventures and places, which are exactly as varied as in any fantasy setting you’ve seen before. You can play Mexica heroes out to protect their land from European invaders; Tlaxcalteca rebels out to protect their land from Mexica conquerors; a group of Maya explorers looking for the ancient secrets of a spirit cave; a band of intrepid conquistadors, lost in the jungle and surrounded by hostile tribes; the agents of a rich pochteca merchant-spy, out to learn the secrets of a rival city-state through intrigue and dark magic; or a mixed group where every player comes from a different Mesoamerican – or European – tribe, with equally disparate goals and backgrounds.

What are your favourite aspects of this new setting?

The conquistador nuns that ride catholic dragons into battle. No, seriously.

That, and what I already said; the fact that the setting is based, not on anglo-saxon structures and European narratives ‘but with Aztecs’, but on actual Mesoamerican tropes and myths, developing its fantasy and epic elements from there.

How did you approach the research for the various cultures and myths of the game?

Thoroughly.

I’ve read hundreds of pages of papers and studies by the best Mexican Historians, Conquest-era chronicles, language books, mythology books, religion books – everything I could find.

My approach was very critical; I took everything with a grain of salt, even – or especially – our own native sources, because Mesoamerican history and lore was not only muddled by the ravages of the Spanish Church, but also by the conflicting interests, mixed heritage and outright lies of the locals. I treated any indigenous, honest sources I could find as a treasure, because they are exceedingly rare, and even these contradicted, far more than they confirmed each, other.


Could you share with us one cool historical or mythological bit you've encountered so far?

I was very engaged by the story of two characters, one on each side of the conflict, which probably decided the war – and thus world history – at different moments, on different circumstances, and almost unnoticed by History. At least I was unaware of their importance until I did this research.

The first was prince Ixtlilxóchitl, half-brother of the king of Tetzcoco, by far the strongest ally of the Aztecs. Most modern Mexicans don’t know who Ixtlilxóchitl was, and those we do are taught that he was a footnote, some local noble that kinda betrayed the Aztecs and sided with the conquistadors in exchange for power. But the fact is, Ixtlilxóchitl was one of the few local lords that wanted to attack the Conquistadors, establish a common front against them and kick them back to Europe; most of his peers preferred to appease the invaders and dissuade them from war with gifts and bribes. And yes, Ixtlilxóchitl ended up siding with the conquistadors, but it was mostly an ironic twist.

You see, Ixtlilxóchitl was the rightful ruler of Tetzcoco, but Aztec interests had forced him to abdicate in favour of his brother Cacamac, who was easier to control. Tetzcoco became a divided state, with half the cities accepting Cacamac’s rule and the other half siding with Ixtlilxóchitl; when the Spanish arrived, civil war was about to erupt. Ixtlilxóchitl wanted to rally all Tetzcoco under his banner and against the Spanish, but again the Aztecs blocked his campaign. So, when Cortés arrived and offered Ixtlilxóchitl the rule of Tetzcoco if he turned coat, he didn’t see it as a betrayal but as the best deal for his people, which he had spent years trying to liberate from Cacamac and Aztec rule. If the Aztec Empire had allowed Ixtlilxóchitl to rule Tetzcoco, the Spanish would have never reached Tenochtitlan alive.

The other character I discovered was Francisco de Montejo, one of the most important captains of Cortés’ expedition, who seems to be nothing special at first glance, but if you examine his story and deeds, he comes out as a shrewd manipulator, and perhaps the very orchestrator of the actual colonisation of Mexico.

In 1514, when the ‘New World’ was nothing but a few islands in the Caribbean, Montejo was a rich Spanish hacendado and a close friend of the governor of Cuba, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. At this stage, Montejo used his money and influence to promote the exploration of the mainland; in fact, he took part on, and financed, the first two expeditions to mainland America in History. He took good care never to be the leader of these expeditions, and I firmly believe it was to avoid the social consequences of the risk of failure. He also avoided a spotlight in History, but when Hernández de Córdoba mounted the third expedition under Cortés’ command, Montejo was there too.

It’s a well-known historical fact that Hernández de Córdoba changed his mind about the expedition and tried to stop Cortés; it’s less well known that Montejo seemed to be very influential on said decision. It is also known that, after Cortés rebelled and left for the mainland anyway, he kept Montejo by his side, despite knowing his friendship to Hernández de Córdoba; he even named Montejo as co-ruler of Vera Cruz, the first European city founded in America. What is not at all known is why Cortés trusted Montejo so much.

History also tells us that, after his first victories, Cortés sent a ship to the kings of Spain with one of his most trusted men, pleading for the kings to accept Cortés’ rule and override Hernández de Córdoba. The expedition had strict orders not to stop at Cuba or warn its governor in any way.

Well, guess who was on that ship. Montejo. And he wasted no time commandeering the expedition, stopping at Cuba, waning the governor, and then sabotaging Cortés’ message to the Spanish crown. Cortés’ other messenger died in jail, while Montejo returned to America as a governor in the name of Spain, with the first actual, official permit to settle the Americas for the Crown.

He was named the ruler of Yucatán – the first land the Europeans had found in the mainland – and led the subjugation of the Maya people, which went on 300 years after his death.

The main street of Yucatán’s main city still bears Montejo’s name.

How does DCA fit into the cultural appropriation issue?

Well, since we're white men making a game about an extinct indigenous culture, we have to come out and say that yes, DCA is indeed cultural appropriation.

I could say it is a honest, respectful work, made by a Mexican - me - and a group of madly talented people, who are genuinely interested in discovering, understanding, and bringing the actual, mostly unknown, Mesoamerican culture to mainstream pop culture. That's true.

Also, as I said earlier, we're not trying to fit Mesoamerican cultures to the European standard and criteria so they'll work as a D&D campaign; we have actually bothered to ask how Mesoamerica really was, how its people really thought, and developed our setting from those questions. Plus, half my grandparents were pure-bred indigenous Mexicans from Nahua tribes, and I learned the culture as I grew up, so there's that.

The problem is, Mexico's indigenous population has been oppressed and discriminated from the very moment the Spanish landed, and remains so today, 500 years later. Most of the non-white descendants of the culture we're honouring and homaging from our white-man standpoint will be unable to access, let alone afford, our game. That's what makes this endeavour a complex subject, and that's why we must call it what it is - yes. cultural appropriation - despite our respectful approach, our good intentions and my somewhat-indigenous upbringing. As long as social circumstances don't improve for abused ethnicites all over the world, the best we can do as members of the privileged demographic is act as a voice, even if it's an unauthorised one, say 'this is their world, their culture, their situation', and share it with whoever we can reach. And respect it as best we can, which is what I'm trying to do.

-----------------

JC Obal was first professionally published in 2001 in Dungeon Magazine, going on to write some articles for Dragon Magazine before becoming a staff writer at Mongoose Publishing for a year. He largely left the RPG business to become a full-time storyboard artist, although kept his hand in with sporadic freelance work, including an adventure for Wizards of the Coast when 5e came out. JC Orbal lives in Mexico and is the main writer of Dragons Conquer America.


You can download a free, 110-page, introductory PDF, Dragons Conquer America: The Coatli Stone Quickstart, on DriveThruRPG.
 

Comments

Eltab

Adventurer
I'm putting this on my Christmas/Birthday Present list.
As a reference document, as well as a playable game.

Hidden beneath the unnecessary groveling of the final paragraph are the signs of a seeker after truth.
 
Is there a magical demarcation line between the Old World and the New? Will spells and magic work of MesoAmericans, Aztecs and North American Indians if they go to Europe? What about other European countries besides Spain? I believe Portugal is settling what will be Brazil. What about pirates of the Caribbean? What about Jamestown, and the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts? That is a century later, but what will they find there?

As this is a role playing game, what if players choose to play English Pirates, and one of then, after looting a few Spanish Galleons decides to take his pirate ship north? A player character might decide to start his own "Jamestown colony" a century ahead of the history books. I bet the Spaniards won't like this, they won't like it one bit, and might decide to pay the upstart English colony a visit to express their displeasure.

Native Americans of the east coast of North America aren't quite as advanced as the Aztecs, they would likely have their own magic and spells, some of the dragons might migrate north as well
 
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Derren

Adventurer
An interesting concept.
I wonder if the Temeraire novels also served as inspiration. (The novels have basically the same setting. Real history + dragons. Except the novels happen at the beginning of the 19th century and apart from dragons there are no supernatural elements, so no magic. Even that dragons only accept woman as captains are in there but only for certain breed for dragons. And the only major deviation from history at the beginning of the novels is that the Inca still exist as their dragons were able to fend off the conquistadors).

I am not completely convinced about the starting adventure or rather one of its outcomes. That would complicate any followup adventure.

Also I am not convinced that the living setting will work, especially if it would result in a crushing Spanish victory, a direction I think the devs don't want to go.

I do wonder how the rules for dragon combat will look like, both human vs. dragons and dragon vs. dragon. Will they go "Eragon style" meaning 1 dragon, 1 rider or "Temeraire style" 1 dragon, 1 captain and as many musketmen as can fir on the dragon.
I also wonder how deadly combat will become once cannons enter the field.

I will certainly keep an eye on the system, even if only to to use it for an Temeraire RPG.
 
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An interesting concept.
I wonder if the Temeraire novels also served as inspiration. (The novels have basically the same setting. Real history + dragons. Except the novels happen at the beginning of the 19th century and apart from dragons there are no supernatural elements, so no magic. Even that dragons only accept woman as captains are in there but only for certain breed for dragons. And the only major deviation from history at the beginning of the novels is that the Inca still exist as their dragons were able to fend off the conquistadors).

I am not completely convinced about the starting adventure or rather one of its outcomes. That would complicate any follow up adventure.

Also I am not convinced that the living setting will work, especially if it would result in a crushing Spanish victory, a direction I think the devs don't want to go.

I do wonder how the rules for dragon combat will look like, both human vs. dragons and dragon vs. dragon. Will they go "Eragon style" meaning 1 dragon, 1 rider or "Temeraire style" 1 dragon, 1 captain and as many musketmen as can fir on the dragon.
I also wonder how deadly combat will become once cannons enter the field.

I will certainly keep an eye on the system, even if only to use it for an Temeraire RPG.
Muskets are inaccurate at long ranges, and there would be cannon as well. I'm not sure the Spaniards won't get a hold of some dragons and domesticate them for their own purposes. The World political situation is somewhat beyond the scope of individual PCs, unless the PCs carve out their own countries and become political players themselves. I mean who really cares about the King of Spain or the chieftain of the Aztec Empire? I think the PCs are likely to be out for themselves and follow their own agendas tangential to either power player. I think if I was a PC in this setting, I would play an English privateer, you see the English don't have any colonies in the New World at this time.

1514 was the time of King Henry VIII, England was quite busy at this time, but there were some pirates.

England was too busy to sponsor colonies, but that doesn't mean some individuals couldn't do it.

Many factors contributed to Britain's tardiness. England was not the most powerful European nation in the 16th century. Spain was most influential. Along with Portugal, Spain dominated New World exploration in the decades that followed Columbus. France, the Netherlands, and Sweden all showed greater interest in the Western Hemisphere than England did.

From this web site:
http://www.ushistory.org/us/2.asp

"Late Expectations


One of England's most adventurous sea captains, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a charter in 1584 to seek out new lands.
A voyage by John Cabot on behalf of English investors in 1497 failed to spark any great interest in the New World. England was divided in the 1500s by great religious turmoil. When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in 1533, decades of religious strife ensued. Finally, under Henry's daughter Elizabeth, the English were prepared to stake their claims.
Although England was an island and therefore a seafaring nation, Spain was the undisputed superpower of the seas in the 16th century. Many of England's adventurous sea captains found that plundering Spanish ships was a far simpler means of acquiring wealth than establishing colonies."

The English had no colonies in 1514 and thus are not a part of the conflict between the Spaniards and the Native Americans, other than to plunder Spanish ships laden with gold. So how does dragons and magic affect this situation?
 

pogre

Adventurer
Given the writer's sensitivities about cultural appropriation, the depiction of women in the art is surprising.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Muskets are inaccurate at long ranges, and there would be cannon as well. I'm not sure the Spaniards won't get a hold of some dragons and domesticate them for their own purposes.
Yes, but dragons are a but target and within 100 yards quite easy to hit, even with a musket. Granted the idea came from the novels where they were armed with rifles instead (although the author is a bit unclear about that). Still, a large dragon could have 30 musketmen/riflemen on it, so volley fire was a thing. The idea was not to land a very unlikely killing blow on the enemy dragon, but to slowly whittle it down and also to kill its crew. I don't see why this tactic couldn't be used in DCA (also by the natives with archers. They have the bigger dragons after all).
Cannons were to large and unwieldly to put on a dragon, but they were still a big threat to them. A round of grape or star shot would kill or ground any dragon hit in it. And the scattering makes a hit more likely.

In DCA though technology is of course far below than in the novels. But here I still imagine cannons would pose a big threat to dragons, at least smaller guns like sakers.
What I wonder is how dragons will be integrated into the game. They are prominently featured and also not monsters but NPCs. One idea would be that every player has two characters, a rider and his dragon. Although the gender restriction complicates that.
By the way, the Netherlands do not exist yet when DCA happens.
 
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VoraciousG

Visitor
I dig the interview. Thanks for directing the insight to what matters to you and such. I don't have a problem with the art it's brilliant and I'm looking forward to this. I haven't heard of the card and/or dice system being used.

I'm going to watch for this without a doubt.

Salvadoran here so I can dig the theme for that reason too.
 
Yes, but dragons are a but target and within 100 yards quite easy to hit, even with a musket. Granted the idea came from the novels where they were armed with rifles instead (although the author is a bit unclear about that). Still, a large dragon could have 30 musketmen/riflemen on it, so volley fire was a thing. The idea was not to land a very unlikely killing blow on the enemy dragon, but to slowly whittle it down and also to kill its crew. I don't see why this tactic couldn't be used in DCA (also by the natives with archers. They have the bigger dragons after all).
Cannons were to large and unwieldly to put on a dragon, but they were still a big threat to them. A round of grape or star shot would kill or ground any dragon hit in it. And the scattering makes a hit more likely.

In DCA though technology is of course far below than in the novels. But here I still imagine cannons would pose a big threat to dragons, at least smaller guns like sakers.
What I wonder is how dragons will be integrated into the game. They are prominently featured and also not monsters but NPCs. One idea would be that every player has two characters, a rider and his dragon. Although the gender restriction complicates that.
By the way, the Netherlands do not exist yet when DCA happens.
I can see a couple of butterflies.
1) The Aztecs have dragons and magic, if this prevents them from being conquered so easily by the Spaniards, what does this do to the English? The English have no colonies, in or history, many English sea captains lived by plundering Spanish ships laden with gold from the Empires they conquered in the New World.
2) If the Spaniards aren't so successful in their conquests, there would be not as much profit in pirating their vessels by the English.
However there is one nightmare that would greatly concern King Henry the Eight, and it is this:

Imagine a flight of dragons with Spaniards riding them over London. A Spaniard lands bearing a message from the Spanish King to King Henry, "Surrender your kingdom or we will burn London to the ground!" Now imagine these dragons swooping down on London, the cannons and muskets are all elevated to shoot these dragons down, but they are moving too fast. A dragon swoops down setting dozens of building on fire with its dragon breath. King Henry wakes up in a cold sweat, it was only a nightmare, but the King must do something about this, lest the Spaniards conquer all of Europe if they are successful in their bid to conquer the newly discovered lands to the west. With dragons, the Spaniards can have a mounted air force, these dragons come with built in flame throwers, and the cannons cannot not easily track these dragons and hit them as they swoop down from great heights and burn London to the ground. Henry summons John Cabot, he informs him that he will fund his proposed colony in the New World on the condition that he captures and trains some dragons.

Does this seem plausible to you? What do you think?
 
An interesting concept.
I wonder if the Temeraire novels also served as inspiration. (The novels have basically the same setting. Real history + dragons. Except the novels happen at the beginning of the 19th century and apart from dragons there are no supernatural elements, so no magic. Even that dragons only accept woman as captains are in there but only for certain breed for dragons. And the only major deviation from history at the beginning of the novels is that the Inca still exist as their dragons were able to fend off the conquistadors).

I am not completely convinced about the starting adventure or rather one of its outcomes. That would complicate any followup adventure.

Also I am not convinced that the living setting will work, especially if it would result in a crushing Spanish victory, a direction I think the devs don't want to go.

I do wonder how the rules for dragon combat will look like, both human vs. dragons and dragon vs. dragon. Will they go "Eragon style" meaning 1 dragon, 1 rider or "Temeraire style" 1 dragon, 1 captain and as many musketmen as can fir on the dragon.
I also wonder how deadly combat will become once cannons enter the field.

I will certainly keep an eye on the system, even if only to to use it for an Temeraire RPG.
When real people are involved and are the subject of an RPG game, that makes it risky to comment on. I could make some suggestions on what I think may happen, but perhaps I shouldn't, let me just say their is some good and some bad on both sides. I would not speculate on who's going to win, its not important anyway. the year is 1514 and the war has not been decided, this is the backdrop that the player characters are going to play in, the minute somebody wins, its over! I would think this war can go on for quite some time. For the Spaniard's part, they are building this empire in part for their own perceived self defense, before 1492, before Columbus made his great discovery, Spain was an occupied country, they don't want to be an occupied country ever again, so they want to get so big and powerful that no one will ever try to invade and occupy their country ever again. As for the Aztecs, dragons gives them an advantage which balances out their inferior technology, they have an Air Force, the Spaniards do not. Neither side is stupid, the Aztecs can obtain some gunpowder weapons, and the Spaniards can obtain some dragons perhaps. The World is a complicated place, neither side is all good or all bad. As far as the PCs are concerned, they may have some more immediate goals in mind other than who wins this war.
 
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Derren

Adventurer
When real people are involved and are the subject of an RPG game, that makes it risky to comment on. I could make some suggestions on what I think may happen, but perhaps I shouldn't, let me just say their is some good and some bad on both sides. I would not speculate on who's going to win, its not important anyway. the year is 1514 and the war has not been decided, this is the backdrop that the player characters are going to play in, the minute somebody wins, its over! I would think this war can go on for quite some time. For the Spaniard's part, they are building this empire in part for their own perceived self defense, before 1492, before Columbus made his great discovery, Spain was an occupied country, they don't want to be an occupied country ever again, so they want to get so big and powerful that no one will ever try to invade and occupy their country ever again. As for the Aztecs, dragons gives them an advantage which balances out their inferior technology, they have an Air Force, the Spaniards do not. Neither side is stupid, the Aztecs can obtain some gunpowder weapons, and the Spaniards can obtain some dragons perhaps. The World is a complicated place, neither side is all good or all bad. As far as the PCs are concerned, they may have some more immediate goals in mind other than who wins this war.
Uhm, maybe you should read the adventure and interview again. The Spanish have dragons on their own and all of Europe had them for centuries. The native dragons are bigger, but not as well organized and less numerous. Also the designers want the players to shape the setting by sending in the results of their plays. But considering how much care was spend on fleshing out the natives I doubt a total Spanish victory would be what the designers want as that would restore the historical situation.

If the Spanish are not able to plunder the riches of the New World history will look very different for Spain but also for other countries which profited from the wealth gained there (Britain) and countries which came into conflict with Spain like France and the Dutch. But that would be out of scope of DCA. The exploitation of the New World only started much later. Still, I feel the setting would be better to not limit itself to the Americas and eventually release a expansion book about Europe, the Middle East and maybe the Far East. After all the Italian War is at its height, the Ottoman and Mamelukes are headed toward their final confrontation and the Timurid Empire just collapsed.

Lets see how "shades of grey" the setting will be. After all the reports of mass human sacrifices by the Aztec were not false, only (maybe) exaggerated.
 
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Uhm, maybe you should read the adventure and interview again. The Spanish have dragons on their own and all of Europe had them for centuries. The native dragons are bigger, but not as well organized and less numerous. Also the designers want the players to shape the setting by sending in the results of their plays. But considering how much care was spend on fleshing out the natives I doubt a total Spanish victory would be what the designers want as that would restore the historical situation.

If the Spanish are not able to plunder the riches of the New World history will look very different for Spain but also for other countries which profited from the wealth gained there (Britain) and countries which came into conflict with Spain like France and the Dutch. But that would be out of scope of DCA. The exploitation of the New World only started much later. Still, I feel the setting would be better to not limit itself to the Americas and eventually release a expansion book about Europe, the Middle East and maybe the Far East. After all the Italian War is at its height, the Ottoman and Mamelukes are headed toward their final confrontation and the Timurid Empire just collapsed.

Lets see how "shades of grey" the setting will be. After all the reports of mass human sacrifices by the Aztec were not false, only (maybe) exaggerated.
I'm just being a bit careful here, trying not to offend anybody. The nearest old world Empire I would compare the Aztecs to would be Ancient Egypt, both civilizations were pyramid builders, and both sacrificed humans to their gods. In the case of Egypt, they sacrificed servants (ie slaves) so they would be with the deceased Pharaoh after they mummified and entombed him. The Egyptians were not much better than the Aztecs. One thing the Aztecs didn't have were beasts of burden, when the Spaniards arrived, they were terrified of their horses, but of course if they are already riding on dragons, those horses would be terrified of them! That alone would make the Aztecs harder for the Spaniards to conquer.

I thought Dragons were a New World thing, I didn't realize the Old World had them too in this setting, that changes a lot of things. I wonder if the Vikings pioneered the training of dragons in Europe.


Is this part of the history? Is Berk a real place in this setting?
 
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Derren

Adventurer
I'm just being a bit careful here, trying not to offend anybody. The nearest old world Empire I would compare the Aztecs to would be Ancient Egypt, both civilizations were pyramid builders, and both sacrificed humans to their gods. In the case of Egypt, they sacrificed servants (ie slaves) so they would be with the deceased Pharaoh after they mummified and entombed him. The Egyptians were not much better than the Aztecs. One thing the Aztecs didn't have were beasts of burden, when the Spaniards arrived, they were terrified of their horses, but of course if they are already riding on dragons, those horses would be terrified of them! That alone would make the Aztecs harder for the Spaniards to conquer.

I thought Dragons were a New World thing, I didn't realize the Old World had them too in this setting, that changes a lot of things. I wonder if the Vikings pioneered the training of dragons in Europe.


Is this part of the history? Is Berk a real place in this setting?
Dragons were first tamed by Saint George. See the introduction adventure which has some background information.
So it it possible that the Vikings did receive knowledge about how to tame them through the Varangian Guard.
 
Honestly this changes things beyond all recognition. So much of what Europe was in 1492 depended on what went on before and having dragons as flying mounts changes things too much for anything to be recognizable. For instance if Leif Erikson had dragon mounts, he could have flown over to North America without a Viking Longboat, In fact Vikings wouldn't need longboats to raid coastal villages, and they wouldn't need to limit themselves to villages on the coast, they could attack villages from the sky reining down death and destruction! the Vikings could have taken the northern route across the Atlantic, island hopping to Iceland to Greenland and then to Newfoundland, they would have had fire breathing dragons and steel weapons and armor. Dragons no doubt fly faster than any kind of sailing craft, they probably would have gotten further down the east coast of North America and stayed when they found a climate that suited them. By the time the Spaniards got there, they would have found a bunch of Vikings in the Caribbean to greet them.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Honestly this changes things beyond all recognition. So much of what Europe was in 1492 depended on what went on before and having dragons as flying mounts changes things too much for anything to be recognizable. For instance if Leif Erikson had dragon mounts, he could have flown over to North America without a Viking Longboat, In fact Vikings wouldn't need longboats to raid coastal villages, and they wouldn't need to limit themselves to villages on the coast, they could attack villages from the sky reining down death and destruction! the Vikings could have taken the northern route across the Atlantic, island hopping to Iceland to Greenland and then to Newfoundland, they would have had fire breathing dragons and steel weapons and armor. Dragons no doubt fly faster than any kind of sailing craft, they probably would have gotten further down the east coast of North America and stayed when they found a climate that suited them. By the time the Spaniards got there, they would have found a bunch of Vikings in the Caribbean to greet them.
That assumes that dragons can stay in the air for days. If not they would to be brought over by ship and longships weren't that large.
 
That assumes that dragons can stay in the air for days. If not they would to be brought over by ship and longships weren't that large.
Putting a fire breathing dragon in a wooden ship would be a big problem I think, a lot more difficult than transporting horses and cattle!
 

Eltab

Adventurer
From Spain, the easy route across the Atlantic leads you to the Caribbean. England and others looked for more-northerly routes to the westward because they did not want the explorers to run into a well-armed and escorted Spanish treasure fleet before they could find anything, or bring news back home.
It still makes good sense to try to plant a colony on an island off the coast of the mainland - that is in essence what Spain did by accident (not yet knowing the mainland was there). Raleigh's colony off the coast of the future North Carolina (Roanoke?) was a reasonable 'first step'.

If the Cortez-led invasion fails, the Spaniards still have a bunch of island bases and a fleet; the Aztecs do not have a fleet to move any invading army. Trying to drop 'paratroops' via dragons ... see Crete, 1941. The Spanish had been working politics in Italy and with the Grenada Muslims, so they could full well discover and exploit the Aztec Empire's inherent problems. The campaign would not be nearly such a thunderbolt as IRL but is not an impossible task (see also the US-Mexican War of 1848).

This would make lousy game-playing: do the European diseases come along too? (Who wants to roll 'does he catch it? does it spread?' for thousands of villages?) After a few pandemics thin down the AmerInd ruling classes and army, renewed European invasions would have an easier time.

Eventually the Europeans and AmerInds will figure out that there are rival groups of each other in the area. The Aztecs might ally (loosely) with England and France against Spain, encouraging the pirates / buccaneers and providing a safe port plus supplies. (You can imagine Montezuma hiring Drake to transport a boatload of gold to the rebellious Netherlands, just because it bothers the Spanish and gives them something else to do.) The Europeans would encourage the various tribes and nations to fight each other and pick sides.

I can see a Spanish Empire in the Americas that consists of the Caribbean islands, Central America, Venezuelan coast, and Argentina; with independent Aztecs and Inca in between.
 

Eltab

Adventurer
That assumes that dragons can stay in the air for days. If not they would to be brought over by ship and longships weren't that large.
Two longboats; one full of Vikings rowing / sailing; the other is being towed and has no mast. The dragon(s) land and rest in between flights. Until we find something, the real purpose is to be an 'eye in the sky' (literally) and seek out more islands in the vast ocean.

Professor Toynbee speculated about a Viking civilization in A Study of History (25 volumes and I don't remember where in that stack o' stuff), which might help you add some fun features to your campaign world. Imagine if the US, Canada, and Russia all had pseudo-nobilities that were distantly related.
 

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