Historical Campaigns

Does anyone have any historical campaigns they would like to regale us with? I am very interested in these!

I’ve played a few!

Way back during Burning Wheel Classic (2004?) I played in a campaign in which we played agents of the Inquisition during the Hundred Years’ War.

A few years later I ran a campaign set in Galicia in the immediate aftermath of Roderic’s defeat by Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711 (and the subsequent end of the Visigothic kingdom).

When we were working on Burning Wheel Gold, Luke ran a campaign in which we played knights in Norman Sicily set right before the Holy Roman Empire’s conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily.

Finally, for several years I ran a campaign in which the players were the surviving members of a mercenary company that got wrecked in a private war in the immediate lead up to the Thirteen Years’ War. We started with the PCs finding each other in Danzig in 1454 and trying to round up other survivors. They wound up experiencing a number of battles and sieges, helped establish the groundwork for the Prussian Confederation and were influential in uncovering the conspiracy in Torunn.


Wow! Several years! That is fantastic. I assume you were getting the updates for the Baltic book? I have split it into two volumes (for cheaper printing) and Vol II is going to be released this year hopefully. It’s been much improved over the last 10 years or however long it’s been.

I love all of those settings by the way. Did you keep a lot of notes? Were you the gamemaster / referee? (what do you call it in BW?) Seems like any of those could make great settings books.

I have a new idea which I think could be outstanding, possibly the best historical setting EVER, but it will be a major research challenge and I have only done a tiny bit of preliminary research. Only enough to realize how truly epic it could be.

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Yeah. We played from 2012 to 2014. I was using the PDF of your book, so I did get updates when they were available.

I did take a lot of notes but they’re scattered through several notebooks. I was the GM for the Reconquista and Thirteen Years’ War campaigns and a player in the others. I just remembered that when we were working on The Blossoms Are Falling we played a campaign set in the Heian era of Japan in which we journeyed to Goryeo Dynasty Korea and back. It had magical elements though.

You’ve definitely caught my attention with that last bit!

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Well there is a lot to get into in more detail to really sell it, but the gist of it is this - Pacific Rim, 16th Century. Her are some of the players.

The Portuguese are the first Latinized people to make it into the Pacific Rim area. They capture Goa by 1505 and make it into a permanent base, which is incredible, they had Macau by around 1555, and are in Japan by 1544, and by 1580 they had been given control of Nagasaki and a major portion of Japans international trade.

The Spanish arrived in the Philippines in 1521, with Ferdinand Magellan killed by the Moro chieftain Lapu Lapu that same year, setting off what would become centuries of conflict. The Spanish establish their permanent Pacific HQ in Manila by 1570.

The Japanese are in a brutal civil war in this period and are eager to buy guns, armor and other military kit from the Portuguese. They are also beginning to focus aggression toward China and Japan by the mid 16th Century. The Portuguese are also their main supplier of silk because they are banned from most of the Chinese ports.

The Ottomans are reaching into the Indian Ocean with substantial military assets and clashing with the Latin Europeans.

The Mamluks (who were being helped by the Venetians) are also extending their power into the region.

The Chinese are in the middle of a Golden Age of the Ming Dynasty. They are trying to avoid conflict with an increasingly aggressive Japan but eventually this would break out into war focused on Korea, which the Chinese would ultimately win. With rockets and giant repeating crossbows and stuff.

The Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand (with multiple fascinating, sophisticated city-states at war with each other and everywhere else), Indonesia and Malaysia

And then the Dutch, the French and the English are not far behind, arriving around the end of the 16th Century or early 17th, to rob, plunder, and plague one another and everyone else!

In addition, the Dutch used large numbers of Japanese Ronin (as in tens of thousands) for muscle in Indonesia and elsewhere. The Spanish used Irish Gallowglass, German Landsknechts and Native Americans as muscle in the Philippines and elsewhere. I recently learned they operated a major fencing school in Mexico city where they trained tough guys from all over their vast far flung empire. The Chinese Waco or Wagu pirates also had large numbers of Japanese Ronin on their pirate ships, and were repeatedly clashing with the Spanish in the Philippines among others. Several mercenaries and privateers from just about anywhere you can think of in the world went on their own wacky expeditions and private wars. Some of them wrote books which have been translated into English, including at least two Spanish rogue conquistadors. The Ottomans and Portuguese have African soldiers, including Tuareg, Malinese, and Sudanese.

Basically it’s the most incredible historical kaleidoscope / tesseract you can imagine. You take what is essentially still medieval Europe, and then go plunk those people down somewhere along the coast of India or China, or in Japan, or on some island in the Philippines or Indonesia. You get in a boat or just stay where you are, and you are liable to run into dangerous folks from almost anywhere you can imagine, with fabulous wealth in silk, spices, art, precious metals, and (for the Europeans) all kinds of exotic artifacts and treasures. Weapons systems and martial arts you have never encountered. Potential alliances and intrigue beyond your wildest dreams.

Just as one example, one of the rogue conquistadors I mentioned was captured by Thai pirates, who then decided to bring him back to their city-state to fight as a mercenary for them, but he then managed to foment a mutiny among the Chinese crew, went to the city-state anyway, joined them in a war against another rival city-state in Cambodia, defected to that place, and then after 2 or 3 years somehow managed to get back to Manilla where he tried in vain to interest the Spanish into invading Thailand. They did however eventually invade Cambodia in 1593. And the guy wrote a book about all this.

Of course a lot of it is incredibly evil. Some of it is politically sensitive. You would have to tread carefully. But I think it could be made into a very very interesting historical campaign supplement, or more likely a long series of them.

To me it’s one of the most unbelievably dynamic zones of adventure you could possibly imagine, with so many fascinating cultures, and types of characters, and adventure scenarios as to literally boggle my mind. Imagine being in the middle of dangerous drama in Lisbon, Nuremberg, Venice, Alexandria, Aden, Goa, Bangkok, Manilla, and Nagasaki all in one lifetime. It’s way more interesting and complex than any fantasy genre world I ever heard of.


Here is Goa in the 16th Century, just to help set the mood.

This is one battle between the Spanish and Wagu pirates

Here is an (apparently real) Chinese or Korean giant, pintle-mounted repeating crossbow used in the wars against Japan in the late 16th Century.

I’m reading Jean Henri’s book now. It seems like Foreign Languages and various ethnicity Wises could get a lot of play!

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You’ve essentially described my goals for 1648…


1648 being the setting for Miseries and Misfortunes, an RPG inspired by Basic D&D and the writing of Alaxandre Dumas. (I think.)

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Ah, that is another interesting era - after the arrival of the Absolute Monarch. I’d place this setting about 100 - 150 years earlier, maybe 1500 - 1620 (starting with the arrival of the Portuguese in the Pacific and ending with the beginning of the apocalyptic 30 Years War which destroyed half of Europe and then led to the big big Big Treaty of Westphalia in 1648)

The second half of the 17th Century is the time of the establishment of a new order, the rise of the Sun King and the increasing ritualization of fighting - court intrigue, secret agents, the seductive dance with poison hidden in the jeweled ring… all kinds of great stuff. The basic parameters of the new order have been defined, and the rest of the Century was spent testing and establishing the new boundaries.

The 16th Century is far more anarchic, weird, people facing the unknown. Medieval Europe (and the Middle Eastern and Central Asian Muslim world) encountering and mixing it up with all the cultures of South Asia and the Pacific Rim. Wildness! So open ended. I’ll post a couple of examples of specific characters from this era who I really like and who I think help define it.

I can also give you one really good one from your era, albeit toward the end of it (end of the 17th Century and into the early 18th)

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Got my MA in history focused on pre-Mongol nomadic Turks, but can still confirm - this later period is a super fascinating time in global history. Maybe there could be a 1648 adaptation for 1548 :slight_smile:


Heh. I doubt it would be 1548. I suspect 1648 was chosen specifically for the treaty of Westphalia. We’d probably want a similar Big Date for the 16th century option. :grin: :thinking:

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Inception of the Fronde, Ming Rebellion, Khlementsky’s rebellion, etc. etc. Lot going on in 1648.

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Yes yes, and the Deluge. It’s just as interesting, just in another way. It is another world at that point.

Well I’m not telling anyone here to make a book, this is something I’m doing and I’d be glad to explore it together with y’all here. Of course, you would be free to do your own version as well. I just enjoy exploring historical periods / places like this.


Thor, do you recall what starting Beliefs were like in the 13 years war game?

It was almost nine years ago! I’ll see if I can locate my 2012 notebook.


So here is a character for your ‘Three Musketeers’ campaign - she’s toward the end of the era, but since Louis XIV reigned for so long, there is a certain amount of continuity. She could have existed earlier. Quite a character, do you know her? There have been numerous books and films about her but almost all in Europe.

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It’s been a bit since I read it, but I think the bit in the Count of Monte Cristo about Eugenie Danglars running off with her music teacher, Louisa d’Armilly, was inspired by Julie d’Aubigny.