Saturday, 28 December 2019

2nd Ed Green Series History Campaigns

I'm going to go through my shelves bit by bit to highlight some favourite game items. As I'm not playing much its hard to justify prepping more when I'm a few years ahead and only playing Cthulhu.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
Historical References Series (Green Books)

So on my want list for a few years I have had these books and i managed to grab them all recently. So I thought I would have a closer look at them here. They mark pretty much me quitting dnd for 20 years and they were probably the last series of works they did i enjoyed.

At this time the D&D world gazetteers were drawing more from history and a number of forgotten realms books did also. At this time I was getting more into RQ3, BRP and Cthulhu than DnD and I only lasted a bit into 2nd Ed which I felt were dropping in art, design and writing standards. I liked the first few complete character class books which added a lot to the game and kept up playing a while. There are ideas in these books I still like. The Necromancer book was the final release I looked at and decided I was over mu ten year love afair with TSR. So other TSR books were getting a history inspired vibe and I was starting to study and reading the classics. After reading Herodotus I think I decided reading classics made me a better person than knowing everything about the forgotten realms. I still read mostly non fiction and history now. I really struggle to read any fiction now but mostly wierd fantasy, horror and sf when I do. probably rpg books I read are the main fiction and rules are not why I read them.

I still like history inspired gaming and ive been back into dnd a bit over 12 years again and still play some BRP if I can but struggle to play anything where I live now. I have to say Iron crown dice good history supplements and GURPS too. Id like the castles & crusades culture-history books too for 2020 when I can find a affordable supplier.

I guess a things that got me into history books vs gaming books was price and actual knowledge I could use at uni. And if game companies were gonna slap 5000 years of history together on a map with little consideration how that might work then I can do that myself. Also with history you can get fabulous cheap 1/72nd scale minis usually 42 in a $14 buck box and all your monsters look bigger.

Oops realised I don't have A Mighty Fortress or Crusades book in series so on my wish list now...

Each book features a removable map (im missing my Age of Heroes One). A history timeline, names, birthrights/gift tables, notes on dnd character classes, new classes, social status, language, non humans and monsters, magic, equipment, everyday life and beliefs. Fighter follower tables for setting are good. A brief gazetters detailing what is on maps too and mythical places. None are complete but they are a good introduction. Lots of the information is system neutral (like real history books). Id rather ignore the class restrictions to make more creative uses for those classes than ban them. These books give you a taste and using setting within dnd rules and you can research more yourself. This series was out a few years - mine have 3 TSR logos on them so they did ok but I seldom saw any magazine articles or anything on them in media. I like the art in all of them.

Ive always liked this book and I used it in my 3 Viking BRP/Cthulhu games too. The timeline is from 800 AD to 1100. Good birth gifts for humans give them special abilities. Trollborn race are interesting and a Runecaster and Berserker class for more flavour. Useful mods for monsters add local flavour too. Good diagrams of houses, settlements and boats too. The character classes stuff takes up a bit of space with rune magic. Seasonal life is nice.

I used this with RQ3 vikings box, Harn viking like area has great weather and encounter tables for sea, Cthulhu monographs with viking adventures are good. BRP Iceland book is good too. There is so much good info and media on vikings out there they are a good choice to play or stick in a setting.

Charlemagne's Paladins

Als they dropped the timeline format in other books but covers 711-987 so good overlap with vikings. The character section uses more of the other brown class books and discusses how standard dnd knights are much later and not period. A kit for western priests for c;lerics is good though they made them less able in combat. The poor priests get penalties for using miracles in a petty or selfish manner. Extra notes on consecrated areas. Recommendation thieves are clerks comes up twice. Lots of good stuff on buildings with handy maps. Good notes on church and social class system. A bit on Saxon religion and paganism and monster changes. Big section on stories of Charlemagne and adventure on the Saxon frontier. Having adventure in this is good and the maps in it are good.

The best thing about this is that it focuses on bronze age europe while other books stick to ireland or the uk. It jumps back to the cool visual time line and goes from 600bc to 900ad letting you overlap with Greeks or Romans or Charlemagne or Vikings books. Personally I would have quit when Christians moved in. It recommends a book by Stuart Piggott which i cant take seriously as most books on this subject are fantasy or speculation. Like vikings book it has a gifts table that is cool. While it recommends a human centric game and i hate half elves i might consider them here. Bards are a priest class not rogue based. Druids are changed quite a bit. Their is a seer class but it is not made very appealing. There are bizzare heroic feats as proficiency mentioned in fables. There is a nice magical island table, lakes, springs, wells, fortresses and stuff I like. Monster notes a bit more detailed than others and notes on faerie folk. There are 2nd ed page format descriptions of monsters. I like water horse as 1st ed fiend folio really did a poor job on this (FF full of trick monsters with deceptive appearances).  Seasonal life is nice with bit on hill forts and culture. Mentions women more than other books. Talks about the second ed legends and lore books and celtic gods in that book (identifying them as mostly irish). A brief gazeteer and maps are handy with some fairy worlds. There is a honour point system too and a diagram of a chariot and little about them in text.

The Glory of Rome
Back to the nice timeline from 750 BC to 500 AD with brief history. I have always found rome intimidating even though i have read 50 plus history books and did classics I found it hard. I dont know if I will ever feel able to run it as well as I liked. Cthulhu Invicticus various editions are good. The birthright table is great but more social and less magical than Celt or Viking versions. Class and wealth are significant to setting. Has obvious roman jobs like gladiator and legionary but also politician (fighter class), charioteers, etc. Ilike sugestion paladins worship Mithras. I like notes on wizards as mostly charletan but witches a big deal. Philosopher wizards are a good idea too. Some interesting priest types for state cult, christian, mithra, mysteries, and even druid from Gaul. I recommend female characters play Eutruscans because they could drink and have parties while husband away without risk of death. Some nice new spells. A bit on military and enemies, blood sports, politics, city life and a very brief gazetteer. I recommend reading The Golden Ass - one of best fantasy books ever written and feels very modern.

Age of Heroes

So this skips the diagrammatic timeline  but covers 2200 BC to 279 BC so includes Crete and Mycenean and Alexander. The free BRP rpg Warlords of Alexander is fantastic and I used some bits in my Rome Cthulhu game. Really what most think of as greek is Athens over a brief period plus all the greek myths we know. Has a bigger reading list than other volumes here. Like most volumes has lots on warrior kits including a companion for macedonians or a hero with boon and flaw table. Lots on classes, no skills and sadly no birthright table. Culure section that morphs into encounters briefer than on other books. Good spread of illustrations of everyday items and another page of armour and a trireme. A short section on gods and and a short adventure section. This book spends more time on classes than other books. I wish series had been more consistent. I cant say I learned much from this book but I probably know the subject well.

These Two I don't own and flipped through a friends....(if you have spare id love them)

A Mighty Fortress
This is Elizabethan age which 
I'm still a novice on and I'm only just getting into Shakespeare at 49. Possibly a good sourcebook for things like musketeers or Lamentations games. Timeline here 1500 to 1649 without line diagram format i liked in some volumes. Art in this book is real world historic period illustration mostly. Good list of dynasties of Europe. Daily life, religion, society all covered with religion. A bit on alchemy and a good section on games. The class kits are great. A large list of period thief specialities is good and lots of courtly types. I have seen the anti wizard vibe in lots of settings but id tone down what is here. If nobles and the queen can employ wizards and supernatural beliefs are common having classes opposed to them limits other players choices.  It has good region of origin tables and discusses religious intolerance - i know from experience players getting into this causes problems. I had a catholic player play a priest who wanted to be nice and other players tried to goad him into burning witches and killing heathens and heretics and he quit. Honour, duelling and disgrace are dealt with a detailed status table based on class. Good info on military, arms, armour and fighting schools. Having just watched Oliver Reed 3 musketeers films again I see lots of things dnd does not simulate. Lots of interesting combat options i like and notes on mass combat. A whole chapter deals with 4 wars each a good campaign backdrop. Finally there are notes on adventures, the new world and supernaturalism and the map here is very good. I was surprised I liked this so much.

The Crusades

This book skips the timeline at start and goes into a chapter on the crusader view and then a longer one on on Islamic forces. It promptly tabulates kits from the complete series and details specific cultural things like Mamelukes and monastic fighting orders. Interesting detail on languages and french dialects plus names. Chapter on society of crusader territories in near east,  and here half way through the book starts a timeline from 1098 to 1187 AD. It could have included wars in Spain only a bit before or gone into 1291 or mentioned northern crusades but oh well. It does mention using elements of TSRs Arabian Nights setting and oddly limits on psionics. A fairly detailed section on monsters and magic then a chapter detailing crusades including one out of timeline. Final chapter on adventure ideas and a fantastic map of region. There is lots of good info here for any medieval game and it offers a fairly balanced view of history without glorifying Europe. I have seen in recent years people defending crusades as beneficial and good which is a bit sad. People still seem unhappy with Alexander and Crusaders in lots of countries. On game book about northern crusade which included my fathers homeland glorifies it all too much when the invading Christians were pretty horrible. On a quick read of this I didn't see much on Judaism which was kind around and would have good character options and possibilities and suffered attacks by crusaders on the march even within Europe. Ivanhoe features Jewish characters in reign of King Richard. Possibly I might have missed it as I couldn't read this as well as i did earlier ones.

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