It’s not every day that you get to change history. The powerful and victorious write the history books, which usually leaves the rest of us voiceless. Well, what if you were different? What if you had a chance to make history? This seems to be the thought process behind the creative genius of Zac Angel who developed the upcoming Pathfinder campaign setting: Chronica: Age of Exploration (AoE), which is “first and foremost an alternate historical fantasy setting.” I, your humble journalist was privileged to interview Zac about his Kickstarter-funded endeavor. Below is my list of 5 reasons you need to get excited about history (kind of) repeating itself.
Reason 1-- Chronica: AoE is a historical campaign setting that appeals to everyone who enjoys tabletop Role Playing Games (RPGs)
“My world building process was all about planting the seeds of civilization and seeing where it ended up” - Zac Angel
Chronica gives you history buffs a chance to shine in an arena designed to showcase historical knowledge. Here’s your chance to describe how your armor is historically accurate to a captive audience, instead of to the usual rolling eyes of relatives and cornered colleagues. A word to the wise: historical tidbits which are pertinent to our world’s 16th and 17th century are going to give you a leg up for those much coveted “uhm actually” superiority trump cards in this setting. For you Game Masters [GMs], it’s your chance to incorporate knowledge and anecdotes gained from all those years reading history books while the other kids went to play outside. Wait no longer! Your brigantine ship has come in!
The game developer insists that the existing RPG community has been looking for something like Chronica for a long time. This campaign module will “open the door for…history enthusiasts and ren-folk who would be otherwise turned off by the typical high fantasy setting.” Here’s how Zac describes what a typical campaign could look like:
“Chronica focuses heavily on the interaction between multiple regions and religions. I’d think that in a typical game, the party would be an adventurer's guild from (different regions), or a special force put together by (an) organization. There is room for a lot of traditional dungeon crawling in the New World, but most of the dangers of the setting come from rival regions and factions.”
Reason 2- Chronica: The Adventure Continues…
Depending on fan contributions and funding, Chronica is not going to be a one-and-done campaign setting either. You, dear readers have a chance to become immortalized, in the community of Chronica: AoE. As your adventures are told and retold in the community forum, Zac and his team will be reading and selecting the cream to become canon and influence the evolution of future ages of Chronica. These ideas will inform future books in the Chronica series. As Zac details:
“One of the things that I'm most excited about is my next book. It's a bit early to be thinking about it, but it's worth mentioning that I'll be keeping a close eye on the community. When it's delivered, I'll have a form that can be submitted by GMs that will allow me to craft the next era, or even an event based on your experiences. There will still be "fixed points," kinda like in comics, except they're applied to history.”
[Insert pictures of gamers everywhere salivating…Chronica’s fantasy past’s future can in part be shaped by their epic adventures].
Reason 3- Chronica: AoE stands out in the sea of RPG’s vying for gamers’ attention
“I tried my best to make the defining characteristics of the heroes and villains to be less about race and more about region. Race is still important, but I just love the idea of the same elf build turning out different depending on what word she uses for bread” – Zac Angel
This to me Chronica’s strongest point, is that it takes the fantastical role-playing world of elves, magic and such, and grounds it in the real world. This influences gamers who now don’t have to look very far to find maps of the world to inspire their imagination, or famous battles and historical events that they can recreate. To me, what is most fascinating, is that the real monsters in the game might not be the ones that go bump in the night…the most terrifying monsters might in fact be the ones our characters would see in the mirror…
To the GM’s, Zac talked about possible ways to prepare your gaming sessions:
“I imagine that GMs will find a way to combine external and internal threats in a way that calls back to history. The order is going to be largely affected by party composition. If the players are all citizens of allying regions, the game can very quickly move to a European land war. If they’re all hated enemies, the common enemy will have to be introduced first. I think that it’s this polarizing effect that makes this setting so interesting.”
[Indeed, its what makes our world’s history so endlessly fascinating]
Reason 4- Chronica: AoE brings history alive (in about "3 paragraphs to describe what the region (is) about”)
“Chronica: AoE can offer a mid-high fantasy setting depending on what your party wants out of the game. It can just as easily be game about convincing a rival kingdom to marry into yours through any means” – Zac Angel
Chronica’s regions are based on historically prevalent civilizations. These are iconic places, which the average reader probably will have some knowledge about. The exception is of course Atlanteans and the Gold Empire (see below), but even these aren’t as much of an imaginatory stretch, being based on Greco-Roman and an aggressive totalitarian society respectively. A budding adventurer starts in “one of 11 regions, which (have) different mechanics based around their specialties and their values…player options (are then built) from that...”
To get your imaginations fired about possible regions to choose from, here’s a taste: “The British are sailors and diplomats, the French are tough, Atlanteans are soaked in anti-magic, Egypt has all the books, The Gold Empire is pretty much modern North Korea, The Holy Roman Empire is all about magic and education, Mongolians have great respect for horses and camaraderie, Olmecs are mysterious and old (not to mention entirely misunderstood,) the Ottomans are masters of black powder, Spaniards are conquerors, and the Russians are innately knowledgeable about monsters.”
If you read the PDF preview here, you may come away thinking that the region descriptions listed there are a little light. You are right, and Zac pleads with you to be patient:
“Please understand that (the PDF preview) is only a minimal product intended to introduce players and GMs to the game. The (Kickstarter core) book goes into greater detail about how the regions interact and details the interactions they've had in the past that shape what they look like now. There's also an entire section devoted to the [e]ffect of magic on their development and another one on factions.”
[Not to mention the addition of more regions as time goes on…]
Reason 5- Breadcrumbs & Easter Eggs:
Below is written a cryptic email I received from Zac when I asked for a sample of his famous breadcrumb puzzles/riddles. To the uninitiated, it may seem like a refusal, but look closer, and you’ll see a hint in the answer that is the key to a cryptography cipher to be used for encoding or decoding at least one password hidden in Chronica: Age of Exploration:
Very much, I would like to help you but
I cannot. The puzzles are quite involved and
giving them away here would not make sense
enough for your readers. I can tell you that
none of them will be easy. They'll include
èncoding methods, well known historical texts,
riddles, and finding clues in Chronica: AoE.
Even if I did list something here, it wouldn't do the real trials justice.
Chronica is a fresh look on historical fantasy fiction, developed for the Pathfinder game. Zac mentioned that he would be open to eventually porting the game to 5th edition, however, this would be a future project. If you are interested in this game, consider backing Chronica on Kickstarter. The funding goes to art, editing and production, with stretch goals of more of everything (books, regions, spells, characters etc.) For those considering Kickstarting, here’s some advice from Zac: “Go in with friends! Many of the higher tiers put you in the book in a creative way (influence designing new regions, having characters based on you, etc). Splitting the cost will give you and your friends a chance to be a part of Chronica history!”
Until next time,
Dustinopolis, Devourer of Cheese
Dustin (@devourcheese) is a regular blogger and senior journalist at HLG. He is a part time actor with Blind Prophet Media, a future social worker, and a current event wherever he goes. He has a bachelor of arts degree, specializing in philosophy, psychology and drama. He recently witnessed tigers fighting at the zoo. You can read about how to incorporate some social justice elements into your game if that's your thing here.
As a reward for reading to this point, here’s a clue for the cipher mystery: look at the first letter of each line to spell out a word…
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.