I just returned from a day at the Texas Renaissance festival, during which I watched Shakespearean improv, ate several legs of turkey, saw all the lords and ladies in their finest attire (while I was wearing my Dragon Age II T-shirt, like a boss), and capped the day off by watching brave knights joust and duel to the death in a combat so obviously choreographed it almost took the fun out of it. Almost. Anything’s fun after enough mead and meat. I actually had to miss my weekly gaming session just to make it out for the festival’s closing weekend. Thus, between mouthfuls of shaved ice (classic 17th century fare) I was thinking about my campaign. My group commonly plays in a home-brew world similar to that of Forgotten Realms, minus a bit of the magic. Small side note: home-brew worlds have always been an interest of mine; having the artistic freedom to create something as grand and fantastic as an entire world is such a huge and fascinating undertaking. Anyways, I began to think of how awesome the Renaissance would be as the basis of a home-brew campaign. Here are a few of the reasons why:
1. Technological Blending:
The Renaissance features a wonderful mix of medieval and modern (for the time) weaponry coexisting in a way unique in history. The rise of firearms clashed with traditional sword, pike, and armor, and no clear victor arose for several hundred years. Game mechanics-wise, it would allow for great character diversity in fighting styles and equipment choices, and provide some particularly interesting combos when infused with magic (everyone beware the wizard and his enchanted cannon). The Renaissance also saw science advance in leaps and bounds, with the development of the scientific method and the ascension of many great thinkers and inventors. The schematics of Da Vinci can be the basis for many period-appropriate machines and wonders; combined with magic, of course Da Vinci’s helicopter flew!
2. Political and Social Upheaval:
There are plenty of interesting events which can be literarily plundered for questlines (black death: disease spread by rats or evil scheme of the dread sorcerer?). The political backdrop of the rise of the lower classes against the aristocracy and the increasing conflict between science and religion are just begging to be featured in a campaign. Corrupt religious leaders, discovery of the new world, and witch hunts (which would be made all the better if people were hunting for actual witches) are but a few of the interesting events which a campaign could incorporate. Creating a realistic and immersive world would be made much simpler with such a rich historical palette from which to paint.
3. Magnificent and Infamous Characters:
The time period was also home to fascinating historical figures which can be used to create the great heroes and villains of the campaign. Leonardo Da Vinci would do well as the basis for either an ally (see Assassin’s Creed II) or villain in a roleplaying tale. And who wouldn’t want to do quests for someone like Ivan the Terrible? Many of the prominent figures of the time are great artists or musicians, whose personal lives can be best summed up as salacious (see Pope Alexander VI for reference). NPCs who have a true depth of character and tangibility are hard to create out of thin air; basing them off historical figures can really make their creation easier.
The Renaissance would make a great setting for a roleplaying campaign. And why shouldn’t it? Technological, political, cultural, and social upheavals abound, wrapped up with intrigue and fancy clothes. In what other time period would it be appropriate to be attacked by both sword- and musket-wielding peasants flying in unstable wooden flying machines (thanks Da Vinci) spouting nonsense about humanism and reliance upon observation and inductive reasoning? My home-brew creation is still a work in progress but you’ve found these ideas interesting. Cheers!
- Jake is a lover of turkey legs, jousting, and bawdy old time comedy. Translation: he’ll be returning to the Renaissance Festival again next year, eager for more.
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