Fantasy Byzantine Setting Brainstorming

Mikeythorn

Explorer
For my current campaign I altered history. Julian the Apostate won and is Julian the Just and Fair. Constantinople is Julianopolis. Instead of Christianity, the Roman pantheon is followed.
I have always wanted to read Gore Vidal’s novel about Julian, but it seems impossible to get hold of. Such a fascinating figure.

In terms of the game, here are some other thoughts that you could squeeze in:
  • Automata
  • Greek fire and organs used to make noises to terrify the enemy
  • an emphasis on ceremony that is heavy on the incense and chanting
  • mutilation as a form of punishment
  • holy icons with powerful in game effects.
 
Who are the Varangian guard?

Traditionally they were vikings and later largely Saxons, but they could be anything that fits what you want - Goliaths? Minotaurs? Dwarves? Orcs? Whatever you want.

The Byzantine empire was a hotbed of religious debate as well. The two main topics of conversation were chariot racin and theology. So definitely have some kind of religious schisms and heresies and the like. I'd probably steal the idea of gods having 'masks' from the Midgard campaign setting and then have the whole place a hotbed of debate and discussion about which gods are really the same god, which gods should be worshipped etc.
 
I mentioned this thread to some friends of mine, and they recommended the Legion of Videssos books by Harry Turtledove. Also Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay. I haven't read any of the books, so I pass on their comments without endorsing them. :)
Sailing to Sarantium and it's sequel Lord of Emperors are amazing books.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Who are the Varangian guard?

Traditionally they were vikings and later largely Saxons, but they could be anything that fits what you want - Goliaths? Minotaurs? Dwarves? Orcs? Whatever you want.
Considering the VG were made up mostly of assorted viking/Northern European warriors for so long, and there that whole “horned helm” misconception involving norsemen, they’re just BEGGING to be minotaurs in a fantasy setting.

Hmmm...the names could be a source of levity, though, depending on the players. Auroch the Red? Moolaf?
 
Considering the VG were made up mostly of assorted viking/Northern European warriors for so long, and there that whole “horned helm” misconception involving norsemen, they’re just BEGGING to be minotaurs in a fantasy setting.
Minotaurs have the dual advantage of being horned and of theologically suspect origins. Strangely, so do tieflings. Use minotaurs if you want to play up the Varangians as bruisers, or tieflings if you want to play them as shrewd political operators of uncertain loyalty. Or subvert expectations by having minotaur political operators or tiefling bruisers.
 
Minotaurs have the dual advantage of being horned and of theologically suspect origins. Strangely, so do tieflings. Use minotaurs if you want to play up the Varangians as bruisers, or tieflings if you want to play them as shrewd political operators of uncertain loyalty. Or subvert expectations by having minotaur political operators or tiefling bruisers.
Now I'm imagining a caste of Minotaur court eunuchs (steers?).
 

Samloyal23

Adventurer
Take a look at the 2nd Edition Historical Reference series, they included books on Rome and Greece. The books on the Celts and Vikings could give you help developing the Varangians. Besides what we call Christianity and the Roman pantheon, there were many religions at play in the Eastern Empire, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, various mystery cults, Christian variants like Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Arianism, and more.
 

Len

Prodigal Member
I have always wanted to read Gore Vidal’s novel about Julian, but it seems impossible to get hold of.
It's available from Amazon (paperback & ebook) and from the publisher (VintageKnopfDoubledayPenguinRandomHouse - the last publisher standing!) It looks fascinating, I think I'll pick it up.
 

Mikeythorn

Explorer
It's available from Amazon (paperback & ebook) and from the publisher (VintageKnopfDoubledayPenguinRandomHouse - the last publisher standing!) It looks fascinating, I think I'll pick it up.
I am based in New Zealand, and for some reason the ebook is not in our Amazon storefront, and the paperback only seems available via third party services that don’t ship here. Although, I see that the audio version is now available. So maybe that is something I can listen to while we are in lockdown!
 
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