Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dealing With the Real World

Working on an area that is analogous to a region in the real world certainly presents its problems for what's basically going to be a fun, loosely historical game for one of the world's most popular elf-simulators. The region that I've set Sharafkhaneh is very roughly based on the region of northwestern Iran/Armenia/Azerbaijian and eastern Turkey, around the real-world Lake Urmia and Lake Van. Here too lies sacred Mount Ararat (and according to legend, Noah's Ark), and further west is Gobekli Tepe, a 12,000 year-old set of monoliths built before humanity built their first cities.

Here too, lies real conflicts, real people, and real pain. Armenians vs. Turks, Armenians vs. Azeris, Persians vs. Turks, Persians vs. Greeks, Turks vs. Greeks, Arabs vs. Persians, Arabs vs. Turks, Kurds vs. Turks, and so forth and so on. This is a lot to take into consideration when you're trying to craft a setting that's really, really is for fun and games. That's a lot of very real Not Fun to have to take into consideration. What to do with that?

Fortunately, fantasy can provide a way through. This world is obviously analogous to ours but with crucial distinctions that anyone familiar with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons knows. Geographical locations can be changed, histories differ, human ethnicities are now replaced (or at least somewhat alleviated) with conflict against tribes of ogres, hobgoblins, and horrible tentacled things that lurk underground. Conflict adds spice to a role-playing game, but it is vital to avoid having all spice and no food (gods, I hope that analogy works). As I note that I have had some readers that may in fact have family or come from the lands that I am modeling, I offer this: I am in no way working to make light of your people, culture, or history. It is the same sort of cherry-picking that gamers have done for decades, originally with Western European history that has been distorted so much that it is now its own aesthetic, detached from their real-life analogues. I do invite my readers, if they are Greek, Turkish, Iranian, Armenian, Azeri, or anyone that I have missed to share and enlighten, point out legends that I don't know about, heroes and villains that can inspire conflict, OH! and anything with pictures, especially landscapes and food, food, food (because I loooooove food).

To sum: The lands of Al-Thughur is a blender for many of my nerdtastic passions to play through: the glories of the Byzantines and the Persian empires, both tragically overlooked and little known, the history of Islam and the legends of the Arabs. I am inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Anatolia, the Caucasus, and the Caspian, giving myself permission to move my Dungeons & Dragons games further from northern/western European pastiche further south and further east. The orientalist fantasies of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith get play here as well as contemporary author Saladin Ahmed and his fantastic Throne of the Crescent Moon.

I cannot ignore these creative impulses to work with what I love any longer.

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