I am getting my head together to run a game that has been burbling around in my head for years. I want to run a game set in the middle of the Terminal Classic period of the Ancient Maya. Probably on the Rio Usamacinta. I reckon I will plant the flag about the year 860. What is commonly termed the Maya Collapse was kicked off in the late 700s and got a full head of steam with a 9 year drought from 810 to 818. Between 800 and 850 the population of Tikal decreased by 85%. The setting at 860 is positively apocalyptic. I can not stress this enough.
Most of the cities have passed an event horizon, they are all going down the drain, they just don’t know it yet. The “lucky” ones are going to keep the lights on for another 60 years or so. The core of the classic era kingdoms are already fallen to ruin and a being reclaimed by the jungle. This is not to say that there are other places that will rise after the giants have fallen, for example Chichen Itza in the north will rise over the next few centuries. But it is nothing like Tikal or Calakmul.
I am thinking the game will be about trying to reopen a trade route that used to cross the heart land of the classic Maya kingdoms. In addition to this activity, there is the old chestnut of murder-hoboing in the greenery clad ruins and the magics that they contain.
My question is what do I need to modify to reflect the post-apocalyptic nature of the game?
I woke up with this question in my skull: When was the avocado cultivated? Answer: Avocado - Wikipedia
The avocado tree also has a long history of cultivation in Central and South America, likely beginning as early as 5,000 BC. A water jar shaped like an avocado, dating to AD 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan.
Trading in avocados and chilies would be my entire campaign.
I think I am going to have to look into the tropes of the post apocalypse and apply them to a magical Meso America. Cause life after the fall and fossicking through the dangerous ruins is what I am after. It almost has a Torchbearer feel, but I like the openness of Burning Wheel.
There definitely have to be avocadoes and megafauna just beyond the torchlight.