Posts Tagged ‘History’

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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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Review – Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World

9 February, 2022

FPotAWIn Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World, Philip Matyszak looks at forty ancient civilizations that are mostly forgotten in the modern world. While ranging from Northern Europe to India, most of them were in the Middle and Near East, the cradle of civilizations.

This book is popular history and there is nothing wrong with that, each culture receives just a brief overview usually with some of the interesting events or important historical contributions highlighted. Each section ends with a “future echoes” piece showing how something from that civilization is still with us today, though some of them seem quite a stretch. But an enjoyable, if light, read.

Looking at the book as a resource for world builders, both in fiction and games, it is an excellent source, giving you just enough information about a group to know if you want to delve more deeply into their culture for your purposes. It also teaches an important lesson, cultures are not static monoliths, unchanging over time but are in constant flux as they interact with their environment and, more importantly, their neighboring cultures. As much as a culture might think it remains the same (and promote that idea), people, ideas and technologies arrive and cause changes all the time. It may not be the constant flurry of new ideas and technology that swirl around us today, but things were continually changing even in the most apparently static cultures of the past and this is good to keep in mind when trying to build cultures for fiction and games.

Notes: The link is an Amazon Affiliate link and if you purchase through it, this site will get a small sliver of money.

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Four Fantastic Places visited on my Vacation

18 December, 2017

On my most recent vacation, taken with my lovely wife, we headed up to the Washington DC area and then down to Williamsburg, VA, for a brief stay.  These are the places we went that were both new to me and a worthwhile visit for just about anyone.  In the order we visited them:

Unusual WeaponsThe National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.  An amazing collection of weaponry and organized to tell how the firearm intertwines with the history of the United States, primarily through wars but also hunting, exploration, law enforcement and sports.  There is even a room with weapons that have shown up in movies and other media.  If you have any interest in guns, you will find things to interest you here, from Gatling guns to flintlocks, six-shooters to automatics, they are all in the collection.  Usual and unusual weapons, common and unique ones, a brilliant and fascinating collection.  Full disclosure, this museum is located in the NRA HQ but it is free, so visiting it is not a political statement (unless you want it to be).

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall which is impressive and still, a year after its opening, amazingly popular requiring reserved passes to get in (so check before you go, we only got in because someone else in line had spare passes).  We only had time to make it through the extensive history section (3+ floors!) before it was time to go, so we will be back.  The history section starts with the transport of enslaved Africans to the Americas and that is not a cheerful journey.  Then through the slave-holding era and the vast cruelty of that system and its end in the fires of the Civil War.  One ascends through the Jim Crow years to the triumphs (if still incomplete) of the Civil Rights era.  As mentioned, we did not even really even get to explore the culture section at all but we will.  The Restaurant here is quite excellent as well.

Filipino WeaponsThe National Museum of the Marine Corps covers the history of the US Marines from their founding during the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War (later periods are in process).  A short movie introduces the Marines through the people who have served, we arrived at a quiet time, so it was just Laura and I in the theater  The earlier periods have lots of good historical artifacts and interesting history, naturally with a pro-American, pro-Marine basis, but that is expected.  Once you get to the Great War, they start really using technology to give you a feel of some of the major events; A mock clearing and a video loop of advancing across the field into German gunfire for the Great War.  The Korean War area has a literal cold room to step into when they are discussing the Chosin Reservoir and the retreat from there during the bitter winter.  In the Vietnam section, you get to exit from a “helicopter” into a fire base.  All very effective for helping to imagine what being there must have been like.  Their are a few pieces on display for the -in process- modern galleries for Iraq and Afghanistan and the number of fascinating artifacts from buttons to tanks, backpacks to aircraft is overwhelming.  The onsite restaurant (and bar) is the Tun Tavern, styled after the birthplace of the corps, and serves excellent food.

Old CapitalOur last stop was Colonial Williamsburg where we did not have nearly enough time but we still managed to visit quite a bit.  The idea behind Colonial Williamsburg is to recreate the past through restoring the historic building and having people, well, roleplay as people from the colonial period many of whom have mastered skills of the time: wig-maker, silversmith, weaver, tailor and in all cases are well versed in what role their persona would have played in the colonial period.  So much to learn and experience from Colonial-era hot chocolate to watching a cannon drill, meeting flocks of heritage sheep and seeing a wig being made, just fabulous.  The College of William and Mary works with Colonial Williamsburg to build and maintain the skills, history and physical structure of the place.  For anyone interested in history, well worth the journey but try to have more time than we did, two days is probably sufficient, one is not.

So, a wonderful history filled trip.  All photos by me unfortunately the ones I took in the Smithsonian did not come out well.

Have you visited any of the places above?  What were your impressions?

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Samurai in Georgia (USA)? Yes, Indeed

10 December, 2015

Go see it!The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, GA, has a small but very impressive display entitled Samurai: the Way of the Warrior.  It features artifacts from the Florentine Stibbert Museum including multiple full suits of armor (four of which are staged with weapons as well, including a beautiful naginata), a dozen of so helmets, swords and bows, and more.  It is not a huge exhibit but what is there is very impressive and worth the time to view if you are in the area.

The rest of the GMoA’s collections are pretty neat as well and the museum is free.  So, if you are out Athens way, drop in and take a look.  The exhibit runs through 3 Jan.

Photo from the GMoA site and used without permission.

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Wandering the Web [12]

3 September, 2011

A medley of curious bits of information that I have encountered recently.  Hope you find them as intriguing as I have.

The ancient Romans were clothes horses, who knew?  (Well, most students of Ancient history suspected.)

Tomb in Germany containing a chief buried with a great amount of wealth opens interesting questions about the world of 3,800 years ago.

A sympathetic look at current Dungeons and Dragons players from the mainstream press.

A exhibition of historical forgeries, including mock dragons and ancient bronze horses.  Apparently, people have been producing forgeries almost as long as there has been art.

Fading London, finding signs of London’s past among its ever-changing present.

Amazing photo of the Eiffel Tower with lightning, would make a great scene from a superhero game.

It seems I have totally failed to share this wonderful video as well, it is called Space Girl and is a tribute to SF heroines, go watch and enjoy.

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Wandering the Web [11]

20 July, 2011

A variety of interesting bits of information that I have encountered recently.  Hope you find them as useful and thought provoking as I have.

Brilliant re-envisioning of modern technology if it was produced in the 1970s, look at Alex Varanese’s Alt/1977 with the Pocket Hi-Fi, the LapTron64 and MobileVoxx.  Brilliant and inspirational for retro campaigns, especially supers.

Wearing armor is, unsurprisingly, very tiring University of Leeds proves (though one suspect that someone used to wearing armor day in and day out would be less effected).  Also, a nice video showing someone getting into one of Henry VIII’s suits of armor.

Those interested in ‘small wars’ (i.e. guerrilla warfare and other ‘low intensity’ conflict), should know there is an online journal devoted to such, the Small Wars Journal.  Primarily useful for modern, historical and science fiction gamers I suspect.

Take a look the military side of modern fantasy with Myke Cole who has an interesting site supporting his books.

And for something lighter, a video with the complete (two minutes long) theme for the Big Bang Theory performed by the Barenaked Ladies (and some info about BBT moving into syndication too).

Edit: just read this and need to add it, Snape Lust: 10 Reasons Snape is Hotter than Harry.

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