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Along the Way to a Review – The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1

16 June, 2022

To adventure!So, I visited the University of Georgia’s Science Library and on their shelves of new arrivals was The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1 (Ancient Egypt through the First Global Age), Stephen K. Stein, Editor.  How could I not check that out?  And, as an aside, it was really cool to borrow a physical book from a library, it seems like forever since I last did that.

Full review once I have finished the book, but here are a few ideas for adventures, or even campaigns, pulled from the book so far:

Restoring Maritime Power– Ancient Egypt was briefly a major maritime player in the Eastern Mediterranean, we think, but then fell into internal conflict and when they emerged they had a lot to catch up on.  So, campaign idea, land recovering from civil strife, now trying to restore trade, the player characters are the crew (or at least the officers) of a ship sent to explore, trade, and rebuild the nation’s place on the maritime stage.  Lots of chances for exploration, adventure, trade, and even politics (if your group likes such things)!

Voyage to Punt- The Egyptians traded with the people further South in Africa, an area they referred to as “Punt” which covered modern Eritrea, maybe Somalia, and sometimes Yemen, probably.   The area was reached by the Red Sea, which meant that wood, supplies and people had to travel over the desert to the coastal strip, construct the ships, sail down to trade and then make it back, dismantle the ships and drag it all back to the Nile valley.  They cut caves and storage slips into the side of the coast and some supplies were probably left there between trips.  Obviously, such a major undertaking could only be financed by the Pharoah and were almost certainly partly done purely for prestige.  But what an adventure!  Besides the obvious challenges of getting the ships together, there is the danger of the travel itself, having to negotiate with the people you are hoping to trade with and then the trip back.    You could easily add political intrigue and even sabotage to the problems faced on the expedition.

Defending the Thalassocracy–  Thalassocracy (“Rule of the Sea”) is the name given to the time when the Minoan civilization was dominant in the Aegean Sea, their ships sailing and trading near and far.  It is said that their King Minos used his navy to sweep the Aegean free of pirates.  The player character could be assigned to a ship on anti-piracy patrols, but in a fantastic world, they would also have to chase off sea monsters and other supernatural problems.  And have to deal with merchants and traders, local and foreign, and possibly agents of other polities.  It would be easy to adapt this sort of idea into the Sea of Stars with the player characters members of the Imperial Navy tasked with routing out pirates and creatures dangerous to trade while not offending the local factions in the area they were assigned to.

All of this makes me think of what Ken Hite always says “Start with Earth.”

Notes: Photo from NOVA on PBS and used without permission.

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