Modifications to Match Setting

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 could be misremembering some historical details, so I welcome insights from more historical experts.

You’ll need to get rid of steel and horses and the economies that center on them. No knights or cavalry or master of horses, lifepaths etc. Armor is quilting. Weapons were wood and glass.

Cities and waterworks and agriculture and trade are all in play, but no large ocean going vessels or transoceanic trade.

Steel, Resources and Circles should stand in fine as mechanics, but you might adjust their Obs to better represent the cultural values.

You’ll be well served by using the expanded Faith rules in the Codex and limiting spheres of divine intervention. In fact, the absence of certain gods might help explain the fall.

The food situation is fantastic. Way better than Europe at the time. Chilies and chocolate!


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.[26] A water jar shaped like an avocado, dating to AD 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan.[36]

Trading in avocados and chilies would be my entire campaign.


Earn a Deeds point by discovering Portugal and hawking spices there.


Also, this is juicy:

It probably coevolved with extinct megafauna.[31] In 1982, evolutionary biologist Daniel H. Janzen concluded that the avocado is an example of an “evolutionary anachronism”, a fruit adapted for ecological relationship with now-extinct large mammals (such as giant ground sloths or gomphotheres).[32][33] Most large fleshy fruits serve the function of seed dispersal, accomplished by their consumption by large animals. There are some reasons to think that the fruit, with its mildly toxic pit, may have coevolved with Pleistocene megafauna to be swallowed whole and excreted in their dung, ready to sprout.

There could still be avo-eating megafauna out there in the jungles. Ground sloths—megatherion—are just incredible.


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.

Is a good starting place.

Serpent Sun does not make the cut.

No disrespect Luke, but Serpent Sun was a pretty limited release.

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