RPG Evolution: The Sea Peoples Campaign

Want to shake up your campaign world? The Sea Peoples obliterated Bronze Age nations in 150 years.

1280px-Bronze_Age_End.svg.png

Map By Alexikoua - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, File:Bronze Age End.svg - Wikimedia Commons

From the devastating effects of climate change to the rise of the Sea Peoples and the consequential fall of ancient civilizations, this campaign offers players a unique opportunity to shape history.

The State of Affairs

At the height of its powers during the Late Bronze Age, Egypt was a dominant and prosperous civilization in the eastern Mediterranean region. The period commonly known as the New Kingdom (1550 BCE to 1077 BCE) marked Egypt's peak in terms of military might, political stability, and cultural achievement. During this time, Egypt was ruled by powerful pharaohs such as Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, and Ramses II, who conducted successful military campaigns, expanded Egyptian influence, and amassed great wealth and resources. The Egyptian army was renowned for its advanced chariotry, making it a formidable force in the region.

The Hittite Empire, centered in the region of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), reached its zenith during the Late Bronze Age. The Hittites established a centralized state with a strong monarchy, led by powerful kings who held significant political and military authority. The Hittite army was formidable, equipped with advanced weaponry and chariots. They engaged in territorial expansion, conquering neighboring regions and establishing vassal states to consolidate their power.

The Mycenaean culture flourished in the Late Bronze Age in ancient Greece. The Mycenaeans, named after their most prominent city of Mycenae, established a powerful civilization that exerted influence over the Aegean region. The Mycenaean society was characterized by a warrior aristocracy ruling over a hierarchical society. The king, often referred to as a wanax, held a central position of authority and commanded a formidable military force. Mycenaean warriors, known for their use of bronze weapons and advanced military tactics, played a crucial role in the defense and expansion of the empire.

Any one of these cultures provides a wide range of potential character classes and species (I created 5E RPG: Ancient Adventures which provides some examples). These three superpowers were fully capable of defending themselves, but by the end of the Late Bronze Age, only one would survive.

A Recipe for Disaster

No one knows what prompted the massive invasion of the Sea Peoples, but there are theories. There is evidence of climatic fluctuations, including droughts, crop failures, and ecological disruptions. Climate change could have resulted in food shortages and resource scarcity, prompting population movements and migrations in search of more favorable conditions. This pressure, combined with overpopulation and the resulting economic disruption, gave the Sea Peoples no choice to not just attack, but stage a full scale invasion in which they took over nations, obliterating entire cities in the process.

In the earliest stage, PCs might witness the onset of climate change and its disastrous consequences. As resource scarcity and environmental disasters grip the world, they can assume the roles of survivors, soldiers, and emissaries tasked with unraveling the causes of the calamity and seeking solutions. Their actions may involve gathering ancient knowledge, locating hidden artifacts, or studying celestial phenomena to understand the unfolding crisis.

The Invasion Begins

The Sea Peoples were a confederation of various groups who conducted maritime raids and invasions in the eastern Mediterranean. Different ancient sources mention different groups, and their identification and categorization can vary, but scholars have identified up to nine different tribes: Peleset/Philistines, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen/Danuna, Weshesh, Sherden, Lukka/Lukki, Ekwesh, and Teresh. These tribes were all known for their seafaring and military prowess, and in some cases employed as mercenaries by the other superpowers.

Egypt came into conflict with the Hittites over control of Syria, and fought them at Kadesh in 1286 BC. The Sea Peoples were there too, employed by mercenaries for both sides: the Lukka and the Dardanians, both from the south coast of Anatolia, fought for the Hittites, while the Sherden fought for the Egyptians. The battle proved inconclusive, so the superpowers signed a peace treaty in 1268 BC.

The first recorded incident of a Sea People invasion was 1028 BC, when the pharaoh Merneptah repelled the Sea Peoples. It would not be the last.

In a fantasy campaign, the identity of the Sea Peoples can be literal sea monsters like aboleths, koalinth, locathah, merfolk, merrow, sahuagin, sea elves or tritons. Or they could be other seafaring nations from terrestrial species, with enough different groups to accommodate a wide variety of enemies.

As tensions escalate, PCs can become central figures in the great nations' efforts to defend against the full-scale invasion. They may be generals leading armies into battle, commanders defending strategic locations, or advisors influencing key decisions. PCs will face critical choices that will determine the fates of their nations and the outcome of battles as the Sea Peoples attack.

Descent into Darkness

As the Sea Peoples' onslaught intensifies, PCs may find themselves amidst the chaos of crumbling civilizations. Their roles might involve leading rescue missions, safeguarding vulnerable communities, or venturing into occupied territories to gather intelligence and mount guerrilla-style attacks against Sea Peoples' forces.

In the span of just 150 years, the Sea Peoples wreaked havoc on the mighty Late Bronze Age nations. By the end of the thirteenth century BC, the Hittite empire collapsed and disappeared. A culture which thrived in Anatolia for nearly a thousand years, the Hittite empire was so utterly destroyed that it was forgotten until modern archaeology uncovered evidence of its existence. The Levantine cities of Emar and Ugarit were razed, as were several sites in Palestine. The civilization of Mycenaean Greece was obliterated. In Egypt, Ramses III and his army fought a desperate battle against the combined forces of the Peleset, the Tjerkru, the Shekelesh, the Da'anu, and the Washosh. Though they prevailed in 1178 BC, the Egyptians lost their holdings in Syria-Palestine and much of their land in Nubia. Although the mightiest of the Late Bronze Age nations survived, Egypt would never again reach the same level of influence.

In the final stage, PCs might witness the aftermath of the Sea Peoples' invasion, focusing on a diminished Egypt and the reshaping of the political landscape. Their roles may involve uncovering hidden truths, navigating the political intrigues of a fragmented world, or working towards restoring stability amidst the ruins. PCs will have the opportunity to influence the fate of nations and shape the future as new powers emerge from the ashes.

From the early stages of climate change to the final remnants of shattered civilizations, a Sea Peoples campaign is an opportunity to reshuffle your campaign world's powers. Whether as survivors, diplomats, warriors, or rebuilders, PC choices and actions can determine the fate of nations and leave an indelible mark on their world.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Hussar

Legend
I admit, I LOVE the idea.

The only problem, from a practical perspective of a D&D game, is that most games simply don't last that much time in game time. An event that's spread over 150 years isn't really all that useful, unless everyone's playing an Elf. 150 years is many human generations, so, the events of the beginning of the invasion are pretty much completely forgotten by the end.

I mean, think about it this way, how much of an impact does the Crimean War have on most people's every day lives? Or even the Napoleonic wars for that matter. Yes, yes, from a historical and political perspective, it's a huge thing that still reverberates to this day. But, the average person couldn't name three battles from the Napoleonic wars. It just isn't connected to them in any real way.

To do this in a D&D game, you'd have to truncate the time down to a single decade or even less.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


MGibster

Legend
Just for the record, I'm a Sea Person, and if I can be honest with you here, we were just bored. I still remember how it got started.

Me: If I've got to pull one more net full of sardines out of the Mediterranean, I'm going to kill the next Kemetian or Hittite I see.

Belshazzar: You're big talk, Mr. Tough Guy. You couldn't even stay awake for a week knowing immortality was the prize. There! You see? There's Kussara right there! Go kill your Hittite, big man, or shut up and finish up with those sardines.

I would have finished with the sardines too. But Enheduanna was there. She was sitting there in her wool skirt, gold and silver bracelets jangling as she played with the water. Was she attractive? To put it mildly, she frightened cattle. But she knew how to brew a mean batch of beer and as her father owned many oxen, sheep, and grew fine wheat her dowery was quite large which made her attractive. Anyway, I'm losing my train of thought here. To the decendants in Egypt, Mycenae, and those Caananites I apologize. Phoenecians? I'll never forgive you for your alphabet.
 

Hussar

Legend
My players get enough of this with Dark Sun. Still, playing as the sea people might be fun
The flip side of that though is you might want to be really careful on that. Playing the invaders rather than defenders can be very uncomfortable. It's something I'd want to discuss with my players before hand and make sure everyone is on the same page. I'm not saying it can't be done. Obviously it can. But, it could be a very loaded situation, depending on table dynamics and whatnot.

It's a bit of a higher hurdle to clear than playing as the defenders.

I agree it could be really fun. But, I'd be very nervous about the themes and whatnot. I mean, when we're talking about "destroyed cities" as in the graphic in the OP, we're talking about genocide. That might not go over very well in some groups.

((Note, I'm trying really hard not to accuse anyone of anything. I absolutely don't mean it that way at all. I'm trying as best I can to point out a potential pitfall in a campaign like this. I just hope that I'm making my point without making it sound like I'm judging anyone or anything. I'm very much not.))
 

MGibster

Legend
The flip side of that though is you might want to be really careful on that. Playing the invaders rather than defenders can be very uncomfortable. It's something I'd want to discuss with my players before hand and make sure everyone is on the same page. I'm not saying it can't be done. Obviously it can. But, it could be a very loaded situation, depending on table dynamics and whatnot.

I have to admit, when I read the OP the first thing that popped into my head was, "Oh, no. I don't think this will fly. They had slavery back then!" Just on general principles, I think it's a good idea to talk to your players have what kind of campaign is being run so everyone is on the same page. Not just to make sure everyone is comfortable with the concept, but to also make sure everyone understands the tone and expectations for game play. I've seen more than one campaign ruined because one player just couldn't get with the program.

Once in a while I like to play games where my character doesn't look at the world through the lens of modern western liberal values. But that isn't fun for everyone.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Since inevitably the Sea People will win, the goal of the adventures and campaign can't be "repel the Sea People." Instead, I could see using campaign goals like "save the library books before the city is razed," "escort the refugees through a dangerous territory," or "uncover and stop an assassination plot by allies of the Sea People."

As these adventures are progressing, the world map is changing to reflect the ongoing conquest of the Sea People. But the characters are still impacting the world.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
I have to admit, when I read the OP the first thing that popped into my head was, "Oh, no. I don't think this will fly. They had slavery back then!" Just on general principles, I think it's a good idea to talk to your players have what kind of campaign is being run so everyone is on the same page. Not just to make sure everyone is comfortable with the concept, but to also make sure everyone understands the tone and expectations for game play. I've seen more than one campaign ruined because one player just couldn't get with the program.

Once in a while I like to play games where my character doesn't look at the world through the lens of modern western liberal values. But that isn't fun for everyone.
Could it be an issue? Sure, but I think that would require either a DM with almost nonexistent interpersonal skills, or an absolutely rabid player. They both exist, but I don't think either are as common a social media would lead you to believe. IME, players who encounter slavery in games just kill the slavers and/or try to set up more egalitarian societies.
 

MGibster

Legend
Could it be an issue? Sure, but I think that would require either a DM with almost nonexistent interpersonal skills, or an absolutely rabid player. They both exist, but I don't think either are as common a social media would lead you to believe. IME, players who encounter slavery in games just kill the slavers and/or try to set up more egalitarian societies.
In my experience, when playing a fantasy game like D&D, you're absolutely correct. However, when playing a game set in the ancient world, like Greece or Rome, the players just have to accept that slavery is part of the setting.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
In my experience, when playing a fantasy game like D&D, you're absolutely correct. However, when playing a game set in the ancient world, like Greece or Rome, the players just have to accept that slavery is part of the setting.
Anywhere before the 19th century perhaps 1975 depending on how picky you are.
 

Hussar

Legend
I wasn't even really just thinking about slavery, although that's certainly a potential issue. I was more thinking about the fact that when they talk about "destroyed cities" they are talking about genocide. Plus the whole Colonialist parallels going on here as well - you have an invader, regardless of whether the invaders are "good" or "bad", who are going to utterly wipe out entire civilizations. From a modern perspective, that can get awfully uncomfortable. If you're playing the invaders, you are actively participating in this. If you are playing the defenders, you have to accept that you are going to lose.

Now, again, I'm totally fine with this. I'm not saying it shouldn't be played or there's no value or it's offensive or anything like that. Totally not. I'm just saying that the DM who wants to run this REALLY needs to be extra careful here. There's some really big potential landmines buried here that can result in all sorts of very pissed off people.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top