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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Classic Rant: Handling History in Dark Albion

So Dark Albion is doing quite well, and getting some rave reviews. Included in this is praise for how thorough the historical detail is in the game.

Said detail may in fact be more than some readers guess: obviously the timeline/chronology is historical, the NPCs are also historical; but what some readers might not immediately grasp is that the historical detail doesn't end there. You might pick up that a lot of the information in the gazetteer of Albion and the lands of "the Continent" are full of historical detail, but it may be less obvious that the chapter on Law & Justice is based on real medieval concepts of crime and punishment, that the section on currency and equipment tries to be as accurate as possible based on known price lists of the period (which leads to what seem like some odd choices compared to the standard price lists of D&D equipment), and of course that the section on demonology is based on real ideas on medieval demon-summoning from the grimoires of the period.

Now, some people might be concerned that all this history is a bit of a double-edged sword. In particular, at first glance the lengthy and detailed year-by-year history, and the chapter full of the noble houses and important members of those houses might seem a bit overwhelming, in terms of just how to manage it all as a DM.

(even the crests are are based on real history, and not just greyhawk-style stuff)

So, assuming most of you aren't blessed with a History degree, I'm going to give you a step-by-step set of pointers for how to manage all this without really having to get befuddled with too much historical detail:

1. look over the NPC section. Pay attention to the families with a lot of entries: the Lancasters, Yorks, Nevilles and Percy being the most important ones.

2. If you're playing in a specific region of Albion, read the Gazetteer section, and check out which nobles are important in that region. If you are playing a game where you're travelling around Albion, whenever the PCs go somewhere new, check out the names associated with that area.

3. If you're playing a game that moves along in the chronology, pay attention to the entries in the chronology and look up any names that you weren't already familiar with.

You do NOT need to learn every character from the NPC section, especially since depending on which year you're playing in some of them won't even have been born yet (or will already be dead)!
Just use it as a resource to look up as you go along.

If you're using the PDF, you can also presumably search the PDF by region in the NPC chapter, to catch any extra details.

Remember ultimately the NPCs are there to add flavor, not to get hung up on with their various subplots, unless you're running a campaign where the PCs are constantly hobnobbing with the nobility. Conversely, if you're running a game where the PCs are mostly low-lifes (at least, for now), you won't need to know anything except the royals and the pretenders and your local lord's family.

So there you go, it's pretty simple really: use what you want to use. Don't sweat the rest! Happy Albioning!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + Argento Latakia

(Originally posted July 24, 2015)

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