Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Pillars of History Part Two

As you can see, taking a historically detailed approach is a great deal of work but also a great way to unearth adventure worthy details. The biggest hindrance is time. It can literally take hours to flesh out minor aspects of the adventure. And some people just don't enjoy the research. If donning the historian's cap isn't your cup of tea try some of these other aporoaches or techniques.

CHUCK HISTORY OUT THE WINDOW: If you have seen Inglorious Basterds you know breaking away from history, using fact as a springboard to more interesting things can be great fun. Under this approach you might keep some of the very basic, well known details of history, but invent everything else beyond that. As a rule of thumb, you never pause to research and only retain historical components you know of the top of your head. The great thing about this aproach is your players have no idea what to expect.

DEVIATE FROM HISTORY IN KEY PLACES: One of the major problems inherent in historical RPGs is your players (if they know their history) have knowledge of the future. They know the major battles of the Revolution, the key figures of Caligula's assassination and the outcome of the 1453 siege of Constantinople. Even if they don't metagame and use their player knowledge in-game, they won't be surprised by significant events.

This can be remedied by altering history in ways to retain a measure of unpredictability. Your players all know Vesuvius erupts in 79 AD, and therefore Pompeii is on their "do not visit" list that year. Throw them off by delaying the eruption, or having it take place a few years earlier. Or in the case of something like the assasination of Abraham Lincoln, stir things up by taking out Booth and putting Mrs. Lincoln in his place.

RE-FLAVOR HISTORICAL FIGURES: Redeem the wicked and besmirch the good. Try playing around with your players historical expectations by recasting historical characters in new roles or imbuing them with new personalities. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson is a master vampire bent on creating a nation of chattel, or maybe Ben Franklin is an irritating fool who knows a good deal less than history gives him credit for.

LET PLAYERS DO SOME OF THE WORK: If one of your players knows more than the period than you do, don't be affraid to ask him for key information during or prior to play. This can be a handy resource when your are running things off the cuff.

(continued in Part Three)

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