Monday, July 27, 2009

Pleistocene wiki

For some reason, I'm on a real roll making updates today. Might as well keep striking while the iron's hot.

Every once in a while, I'll get an idea for a setting, go create a wiki, spend about five minutes working on formatting, and then walk away from it to more or less forget about it. I've got no fewer than eight setting wikis in progress, and only one of them really has enough content to be useable (which is because it was used for my play-by-post "Demons in the Mist" game,) while a second one approaches useability, if not completeness.

One of these wikis I just rediscovered while going through my old files; it had formatting and a splash page that literally said nothing more than "Coming soon..." Whoops! Six months or more later, that's kinda embarrassing.

Anyway, I added a little bit more to the splash page. It's little more than a half-page summary of what could one day be a setting Bible, but it's a bit of a start. The idea was a combination of two ideas that I already had, and thought worked better as one. The first idea was an alternate history in which Viking settlement in America was more pervasive and longer lasting, allowing for a string of prosperous and stable Viking colonies on the northeast coast of North America, interacting with such locals as the Five Nations, and late stage mound builders. The second idea was a Conan-esque Sword & Sorcery setting that uses North America before the Pleistocene megafauna extinction event. So, you've got sabertooths, mammoths, mastodons, Scott's horse, American camels, dire wolves, etc... and familiar animals too like bison, lions, deer, bears, etc. This was more overtly fantastic, being always envisioned as a sword & sorcery setting, than the alternate history one, but still... I decided that the two concepts were a match made in heaven. Here's the defining principles of the setting, as it will eventually develop, from the wiki frontpage.

1) This all takes place in North America in roughly 975 A.D. or so, during the highpoint of the so-called Viking Age of Europe. In this setting, travel across the Atlantic will probably be constrained by a brief period (a few years) of exceptionally (and possibly supernaturally formed) cycles of winter storms and other bad weather, effectively isolating North America from Europe for at least a few years.

2) First change from real history; the Viking age here is considerably more "Golden" than it really was; there were more vikings, going to more places and just generally "doing more" than they really did. They've discovered North America at least 100 years before Lief Erikson's time, and settled it successfully almost immediately, building a number of colonies on the East Coast of Canada and the Northern Seaboard that are still thriving.

3) The second change from real history is that the Vikings, being more successful and widespread than in real life, may have migrated, or caused to migrate, other European populations or refugees. Therefore, there are also population pockets in the New World of Slavs, Saxons, Scots and Irish.

4) The third (and possibly most significant) change from real history is that the extinction event which impoverished the megafauna of North America supposedly 10,000 years ago never happened. The Great Plains of North America are much like the savannahs of Africa; native North American lions, sabertooths, scimitar-tooths, short-faced bears, wolves, coyotes, pumas, "cheetahs" and dire wolves all hunt several species of native horse, ass, pronghorn, bison and even two species of mammoth (up north the Wooly mammoth, and down south the Imperial or Columbian mammoth, which is, essentially, just an elephant, as closely related to the African and Indian elephants as the African and Indian elephants are to each other) and mastodons. A handful of other fictional critters such as predatory diurnal hunting bats and whatnot, complete the scene.

5) Since we know very little of the American indian populations of 975 A.D., I'm going to assume that the historical populations from the 1600 and 1700s just get pushed backwards in time and get used anyway. Therefore, the Vikings, Saxons and whatnot can interact with the Five Nations of the Iroquois, the Algongquins, and the classic, well-known tribes of Plains Indians, such as Apaches, Comanches, Sioux, etc.

6) There are hints that the Chinese may have also "discovered" America. In this setting, they have, and also have colonies on the West coast.

7) The Moundbuilders are a nation, or group of nations, still extant in the east central part of the continent. Although some nations, such as the Cherokee and other Iroquois speaking nations, may have some link with them, they purposefully keep seperate; the mound builders are feared and shunned as dark shamans and sorcerers of ill-repute. They appear to be a hybrid culture of native american and stragglers from Atlantis.

8) As the last entry hints at; I'm not at all opposed to throwing in plenty of overtly fantastical elements into the stories. Dark wizards or shaman, ghosts, demons, malevolent spirits; all of these will feature prominently in any stories set in this setting.

1 comment:

barsoomcore said...

Okay, we need to talk. You know how DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND takes place within a tropical archipelago to the south-east of a massive continental empire?

Well to the north-west of that massive continental empire exists a vast wilderness of forest and prairie, river and mountain, cold and populated by assorted savages, giant beasts and the ever-increasing numbers of log forts supporting the fur trade in this area....

Also: Sasquatch.