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D&D 5E Fantasy Appalachia

On another thread, it got me thinking. an Appalachia game could have serious potential. The Hat Fields and the Mccoys, giants (that might be where Paul Bunyan originally came from), witches, and trickster anthropomorphic rabbits in a keep on the borderlands environment could have serious potential. then you add the cultural mixing of the north, south, African mythology, and Cherokee and other tribes and whammo, a seriously unique environment. However, feel seriously underqualified in this environment so throwing it out there to see where it leads.
 

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J-H

Adventurer
I've been reading Paul Bunyan (the Wadsworth version) to my boys recently, and he's actually from Maine.
I know the Appalachian Trail runs into Maine, but it's not usually considered part of Appalachia from a cultural/historical perspective.

If you're just doing a "non-coastal America" pastiche though, he's fine. The version we're reading has several unusual monsters:
The Agropelter (hides in trees, throws a club to kill people)
Gumberoo (round, very hard skin, carnivorous, always hungry - but extremely vulnerable to fire)
Whirling Whimpus
 


Carlsen Chris

Explorer
I've been reading Paul Bunyan (the Wadsworth version) to my boys recently, and he's actually from Maine.
I know the Appalachian Trail runs into Maine, but it's not usually considered part of Appalachia from a cultural/historical perspective.

If you're just doing a "non-coastal America" pastiche though, he's fine. The version we're reading has several unusual monsters:
The Agropelter (hides in trees, throws a club to kill people)
Gumberoo (round, very hard skin, carnivorous, always hungry - but extremely vulnerable to fire)
Whirling Whimpus
Not to be pedantic, but Bunyan might be from Maine in the Wadsworth version but there are many versions of his tale. He basically has as many different birthplaces as there are tales about him. Scholars have noted that one of the contenders for the inspiration for him was French Canadien.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Ap·pa·la·chia | \ ˌa-pə-ˈlā-chə , -ˈla-chə, -ˈlā-shə \

It appears there are several acceptable pronunciations.
So you say. There is the acceptable pronunciation of many locals of the region and there is the "acceptable" pronunciation that outsiders have attempted to exert on the locals that reeks of classism and regionalism. The pronunciation is political, and it says a great deal to inhabitants about who you are and how you view them when you choose one pronunciation over another.
 

J-H

Adventurer
I've never heard of Appalachia being pronounced with a T in it before... but I'm from Texas. Regional pronounciations are fun. Try watching someone who's not from Louisiana, East Texas, or neighboring areas, and doesn't speak French, try to pronounce the bois d'arc (osage orange) tree's name... Or even just cities like Mexia (mey-hia) and Nacogdoches (it's actually pretty phonetic).

There's definitely room to have a lot of fun with names and how things are said in such a game.
 


jgsugden

Legend
My advice: Don't let anything in your campaign world be recognizable as a homage to something specific in the real world. You can use real world lore for inspiration, but always mix it heavily with something else to make sure it is distinct and does not end up being criticized for insensitivity. You may still get it, but you can say you are intentionally distancing it, at least.
 


embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
On another thread, it got me thinking. an Appalachia game could have serious potential. The Hat Fields and the Mccoys, giants (that might be where Paul Bunyan originally came from), witches, and trickster anthropomorphic rabbits in a keep on the borderlands environment could have serious potential. then you add the cultural mixing of the north, south, African mythology, and Cherokee and other tribes and whammo, a seriously unique environment. However, feel seriously underqualified in this environment so throwing it out there to see where it leads.

Appalachia is a big place. Kentucky does not equal West Virginia and Western Pa doesn't equal Tennessee. On the video game front, Bethesda (of all people) did something right by limited the setting to West Virginia. That's the scope you'd need.

Also, you need to expand the First Peoples beyond just the Cherokee. Play up the fact that many of the geographic names are loan words from First Peoples. Many of our rivers come from native languages (Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehana, Patuxent, etc.) Then, lean into those features. Tennessee came from the word "Tanasi," possibly meaning "River of the Great Bend." Potomac means "river of swans" (or honking geese). Kentucky means "meadow or prairie."

And culturally speaking, what do you consider culturally Northern that you would find in, say, western PA, that you wouldn't find in Virginia? I would actually take the exact opposite tack. The borderland is the area around the Mason-Dixon Line.

That said, change the English names to some of the older names. Instead of Virginia, "The Old Dominion." Instead of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, "Cumberland" and "Allegheny." Or take the reverse; in Kentucky, use "Pennyrile," a corruption of Pennyroyal. Call Tennessee "The Watauga Association."

Names have history. They tell stories and describe things. I'd lean into that.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So you say. There is the acceptable pronunciation of many locals of the region and there is the "acceptable" pronunciation that outsiders have attempted to exert on the locals that reeks of classism and regionalism. The pronunciation is political, and it says a great deal to inhabitants about who you are and how you view them when you choose one pronunciation over another.

Dude, it isn't like residents of the area even pronounce it the same way. It is a large area, with many different sub-cultures.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Dude, it isn't like residents of the area even pronounce it the same way. It is a large area, with many different sub-cultures.
Please don't "dude" at me. App-puh-LATCH-un reflects the original naming from the Apalachee Indians and phonetic spelling on a lot of older maps. App-puh-LAY-shun was an invented pronunciation of the early 20th century because New Englanders thought it sounded better pronounced that way for the name of the Trail. But due to education, class, and regionalism regarding the Appalachian sub-cultures, the later version has been subjected on us about a century, particularly when Robert Kennedy did his whole "Appalachian poverty tour." And because we are "uneducated mountain nobodies," people naturally assumed that our native pronunciation is wrong, and a number of people have followed in this using this foreign and artificial pronunciation against the one that many of those sub-cultures belonging to the core and southern regions of the Appalachian Mountains, aka the region that never knew them as the Alleghany Mountains because it has always been the Appalachian Mountains for 300+ years.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I've never heard of Appalachia being pronounced with a T in it before... but I'm from Texas. Regional pronounciations are fun. Try watching someone who's not from Louisiana, East Texas, or neighboring areas, and doesn't speak French, try to pronounce the bois d'arc (osage orange) tree's name... Or even just cities like Mexia (mey-hia) and Nacogdoches (it's actually pretty phonetic).

There's definitely room to have a lot of fun with names and how things are said in such a game.

California:
Sepulveda (suh-puhl-vih-duh)
San Pedro (san PEE-dro)
San Rafael (San ruh-FELL)

Massachusetts:
Worcester (wuh-stir [actually wuh-stuh])

Maryland:
Annapolis (nap-PLIS)
Baltimore (bal-murr)
Wicomico (WHY-cahm-mick-oh)

North Carolina:
Corolla (cuh-RAH-lah)

New York
Houston Street (HOUSE-stun)
Ronkonkoma (RAWN-CAWN-kuh-muh)
Canarsie (k-NAHR-see)
Yaphank (yeah-PANK)

Nevada (ni-VAD-duh)
 

I'm from the very southern end of Appalachia.

Some things I would consider essential to capturing the mood of the region, in a D&Dish fantasy context, in my opinion, would be:
•The forests are dense. This is something that people who haven't been to the region won't understand. The trees aren't often very large (poor soil), but they grow nearly as close together as grass in a field. Between the thick foliage and the mountainous terrain, a laden party of adventurers on foot will be lucky to travel 4 miles in a day.

•Everything is isolated. In a fantasy setting with no highways or telephones, you can really play this up. Towns are far apart from each other. There are homesteads sprinkled across the mountainsides many miles apart, sometimes populated by families who aren't aware of their nearest neighbors' existence.

•Hospitality is important. It's not like Deliverance. If strangers come to your door, you let them in, you feed them, and you find out what their story is. There aren't going to be a lot of inns for the party to rest in between towns. They'll need to either camp out or rely on the generosity of whatever locals they meet.

•That said, don't abuse your host's hospitality. Everyone is armed. In real life, that means a lot of people enthusiastic about the 2nd Ammendment. In a fantasy world where you probably don't have guns, I might have some NPC's who are proud of their old family sword or axe.

•Farming sucks. Poor soil. Hunting and fishing are comparatively efficient ways to feed your family.

•There are a lot of caves, and the caves get pretty big. There are also ruins, of a sort: abandoned homesteads, bootleg distilleries, and mines. Plenty of places that could become dungeons in a world with monsters.
Please for all that is good and holy, just promise me that you will pronounce it properly: "apple-at-cha."

Sincerely,

An Appalachian Native
Hear hear! The "i" is silent and the "t" is invisible.
 




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