Best historical settings?

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SJB

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I'm in the process of rejigging this for Mythras as the area and period fits people fleeing from the fall of Constantinople. The convrsion is not a exact one but more taking the flavour and plot and revising it for Mythras.
What a fantastic idea!
 

SJB

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Off the top of my head, some of my relative successes have been:

  • A long-running 5e game set in pre-flood Doggerland that used a bunch of old D&D and AD&D scenarios for adventure content
  • An AD&D game where the party were stalwart Holy Imperial types trying to protect the borderlands and coastlines from waves of Celtic-themed goblin invaders, while heathen cultists ate away at the Empire from within and a great horde gathered in the corner of the map
  • A Lamentations of the Flame Princess game set in the Transylvanian region around the establishment of the Unitarian Church, which I pitched as "sort of like Ravenloft"
  • A 3rd Edition D&D game set in a Europe with place names either reversed or with the letters scrambled; north of the alps was subject to dark elf and undead raids from the Hellands, south of the Alps were two competing devil-worshipping empires with Renaissance level tech; it took over a year for the players to realise where they were and what was going on
  • A Mythras game set around a fantasy-version of the Black Sea, where that was the whole setting, just a big inland sea with land around it and competing factions
  • My current Burning Wheel game, which is set in the north of a country recently harried by the forces of a conquering king from across the mountains, with the new king's country of origin gearing up for war in the south while giants and elves help the Druid King resist in the Western Wilds
  • My Dark Sun expy, which is set in the Holy Lands and the "Great Endless Desert" (Sahara/Arabian desert), which is kinda-sorta Bronze Age/Old Testament mashed up with Dynastic Egypt and bits out of pre-Islamic Arabia, the Abbasid Caliphate & pre-sacking Baghdad
My failures have been too numerous to mention. I'm also a big advocate of the map-generating idea from LotFP's "Broodmother Skyfortress": take a real country or region, turn it on its side, and pick a period of that region's history. Et voila! A fantasy setting!
I’m in awe of that level of productive imagination!
 

SJB

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All brilliant. I think I’m right in saying that both Paul Mitchener and Mark Shirley are UK university academics. I’d add in Mark Shirley’s Mythras supplement Perceforest. (Published under his own Aeon Games imprint) It’s based on a late medieval text from the Low Countries and is quite the most original and exciting take on an Arthurian RPG in decades.
 

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The last two historical games I ran were set in 1600s America, using the Savage Worlds Solomon Kane book, and late 19th Century Texas, using Call of Cthulhu. Both were horror-based, but historically very accurate outside of the supernatural bits. The players were running realistic characters from the time period, rather than adventurers or magic users. I did a ton of research when developing both of them, including going through small town/settlement census data and other records, but (to be honest) a lot of that was for my own enjoyment, since I love doing research. I gave the players a general overview of the social realities and technologies of the time periods, with illustrations, broken down into easy to digest quick-fact sheets (sort of like the pages in kids Eyewitness books). Between whatever history they remembered from school and that stuff, they had enough to go on to keep them from feeling overwhelmed by the historical aspects.

I'm working on a campaign right now that is set roughly 10,000 years ago in the Ancient Near East. I will probably run it using a version of OpenD6, because I want to introduce some of the players to that system. My next historical one after that will be roughly 300,000 years ago, most likely using OpenD6 again or some version of BRP/Mythras, with the option to run characters from a couple of different human species that co-existed (and seemed to have interacted, from genetics studies) in that period. I probably won't run either of those until next year, though, since I'm still deep in the research and have another really long-term campaign to finish out first. The next one after those (probably a couple of years from now) will probably be something in ancient Africa or Polynesia.

I always use an "alternative history" approach to games like that. I pick a specific place and time and model it as accurately as I can and try to blend in whatever supernatural or magic elements (if I'm using those) fit into to the belief systems of the time, or at least work well with the setting. I tend towards low or subtle magic, if I'm using it at all. Where things go from there is up to the players, though. Even in a strictly realistic, no-magic game, the events of that world proceed from what happens in the game, not what ended up happening in the real world.
 

SJB

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The last two historical games I ran were set in 1600s America, using the Savage Worlds Solomon Kane book, and late 19th Century Texas, using Call of Cthulhu. Both were horror-based, but historically very accurate outside of the supernatural bits. The players were running realistic characters from the time period, rather than adventurers or magic users. I did a ton of research when developing both of them, including going through small town/settlement census data and other records, but (to be honest) a lot of that was for my own enjoyment, since I love doing research. I gave the players a general overview of the social realities and technologies of the time periods, with illustrations, broken down into easy to digest quick-fact sheets (sort of like the pages in kids Eyewitness books). Between whatever history they remembered from school and that stuff, they had enough to go on to keep them from feeling overwhelmed by the historical aspects.

I'm working on a campaign right now that is set roughly 10,000 years ago in the Ancient Near East. I will probably run it using a version of OpenD6, because I want to introduce some of the players to that system. My next historical one after that will be roughly 300,000 years ago, most likely using OpenD6 again or some version of BRP/Mythras, with the option to run characters from a couple of different human species that co-existed (and seemed to have interacted, from genetics studies) in that period. I probably won't run either of those until next year, though, since I'm still deep in the research and have another really long-term campaign to finish out first. The next one after those (probably a couple of years from now) will probably be something in ancient Africa or Polynesia.

I always use an "alternative history" approach to games like that. I pick a specific place and time and model it as accurately as I can and try to blend in whatever supernatural or magic elements (if I'm using those) fit into to the belief systems of the time, or at least work well with the setting. I tend towards low or subtle magic, if I'm using it at all. Where things go from there is up to the players, though. Even in a strictly realistic, no-magic game, the events of that world proceed from what happens in the game, not what ended up happening in the real world.
They sound like fantastic games. As in most disciplines confident mastery of the sources is what allows one to effectively reify for everyone else.
 

Lofgeornost

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I wonder if part of the issue is that many people new to tabletop were 'trained' by video games first, and I don't think there are many medieval fantasy video games that lean into feudal hierarchy.

That could be, but I don't think it's the only facet. I can remember trouble with getting people to play characters that have to 'respect the chain of command' in FASA Star Trek games in the 1980s.

I suppose I've had a bit more luck with 'historically inspired' settings than historical ones. Something along the lines of Guy Gavriel Kay's books where the geography and cultures are obviously based on particular historical analogues, but with the fictional layer allowing for whatever changes the author or g.m. desires. You do give up the 'name recognition' and premade details that an actual historical setting gives. But you can draw on the social history of the given period, which may be more useful for gaming than the politics and movers-and-shakers anyway. And players can find it less intimidating.

The most successful such campaign I ran was set in fictionalized Renaissance Italy. One reason I preferred a variant version to reality there was that I wanted to mix elements from the 15th century (largely the setup of rival city-states) with the martial technology of the later 1500s-early 1600s (rapier and dagger fighting, etc.). I also wanted to avoid the Reformation, since I knew with that particular group of players it would lead to religious arguments.

That was a long time ago, though, and now I might be more attracted to a more historical approach. The thread by raniE raniE about a game set in Rome in 1559 was inspiring, to me at least. If I were to start such a campaign now, I might just steal his concept.
 

Malakor

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I only do "Alt-History", but I like anywhere from mid 19th through mid 20th century for that.
Part of my definition (even if doing a game set 'now') is that the history you know might be the 'official' history, but it is not necessarily the 'real' history.
 

Ravenswing

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Reading threads like this just reinforced my complete conviction that over the decades, I've either had a truly extraordinary bunch of players, unusually committed towards immersion in a non-standard, dense setting, or that I (a) scared all the rest away, and (b) had so many people signing up that I didn't really notice.

Granted, one of my Session Zero staples is the explanation that I don't do Lowest Common Denominator Fantasy, and people whose speed taps out at playing Joe The Lawful Good Cleric, who follows meh-whatever-who-cares-what-the-gods-name-is-he's-lawful-good-okay? are encouraged to seek out campaigns more to their liking.
 

AsenRG

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Reading threads like this just reinforced my complete conviction that over the decades, I've either had a truly extraordinary bunch of players, unusually committed towards immersion in a non-standard, dense setting, or that I (a) scared all the rest away, and (b) had so many people signing up that I didn't really notice.
I'd like to note that those two options don't contradict each other. In fact, they reinforce each other, IME:shade:.
 

AsenRG

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Absolutely agreed, although I tend to shy away since my day job is the study of violence in the twentieth century. I think the only red line should be the conjunction of “Cthulhu” and “Nazis”. Ugh.
Shouldn't knowing an important part of the subject matter make it more of a strong side for you?
Or is it "too close to work"?

Have you ever given Rædwald for The Fantasy Trip a go? The players start as outlaw scum (wælwulfen) and have to work their way into society by successful murder hoboing. I believe a new version for a different system is under construction.

The Holy Roman Empire is fertile ground for murder hobos. In 1309 the Holy Roman Emperor Albrecht von Habsburg was murdered by a group of desperate men. This was neither an act of war nor a political coup but seemingly one of revenge. Despite the best efforts of the Habsburgs some of the murderers got away and disappeared into new identities.
The new edition is called Wulfwald. It’s just been successfully kickstarted by Paolo Greco of Lost Pages. The system is Old School Essentials. I knew the name of the designer and still had a bit of trouble tracking it down - so perhaps it needs a signal boost.
Interesting. Is the new edition improving on the adventure itself (i.e. other than changing the stats, art and layout:shade:)?
 
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SJB

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Shouldn't knowing an important part of the subject matter make it more of a strong side for you?
Or is it "too close to work"?



Interesting. Is the new edition improving on the adventure itself (i.e. other than changing the stats, art and layout:shade:)?
I did once quote Ron Edwards at work. I hope there were no Pubbers in the audience.

I don’t know much about Wulfwald: I thought Rædwald was impressive: it’s much better than Wolves of God in my opinion.
 
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SJB

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Maelstrom is my absolute go to for this. So far the periods covered are early medieval (1086 in Britain), Tudor England, the Roman Empire and the Victorians. Lots of really useful historical detail as well.

Although if we're mentioning Rome, it would be remiss not to mention Mythras Rome which I'd recommend as a historical supplement regardless of whether you play Mythras.

Beat to Quarters is fictionalised Revolutionary War/Napoleonic period but it's reasonably sober about how it handles that and isn't full of mermaids and sea monsters.
What’s the appeal of Maelstrom? Although I was doing RPG stuff for Puffin at about the time it came out the original edition passed me by. I only came across it decades later and with no sense of nostalgia. I couldn’t really see the point. On the other hand, I loved Fantasy Wargaming.
 

Agemegos

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Reading threads like this just reinforced my complete conviction that over the decades, I've either had a truly extraordinary bunch of players, unusually committed towards immersion in a non-standard, dense setting, or that I (a) scared all the rest away

I become ever more convinced that I am in the same shoes. I find it weird that the players I get nowadays baulk at reading ten pages of setting material. My gang at uni used to swallow thirty at a gulp and ask for more detail.

(Also, I used much smaller type back then. Which is one change that isn’t a mystery.)
 
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Black Leaf

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What’s the appeal of Maelstrom? Although I was doing RPG stuff for Puffin at about the time it came out the original edition passed me by. I only came across it decades later and with no sense of nostalgia. I couldn’t really see the point.
That's two questions in one to an extent, because of there having been two editions.

1st edition: While certainly not the only historical RPG on the market at the time, it was one of a handful from UK designers and the only one of those with real visibility in the market. It had enough historical detail to fill in the gaps of an 80s schoolboy education. Of particular note was the herbal appendix, which is still imitated in other games to this day. It was also one of the first RPGs I'd come across where the default was playing normal people (like fishmongers or beggars) as opposed to heroes; this was two years before WFRP.

There were also major flaws. The combat system was borked in places, especially some of the advanced rules that required too much bookeeping to ever be feasible. The whiff factor could be a real issue unless GMs were generous with the bonuses. Worst of all for a book published by Puffin it gave you absolutely no ideas or support for what to do with the game. The two provided adventures weren't much help. One was a very average CYOA solo about an assassin (I assume put in there to attract the gamebook market). The other adventure was actually pretty good; it was a road trip from St Albans to London with adventures on the way. It would work great as a convention game, but it very much felt like a one shot. So you ended up with all this material and nothing to do with it.

The second edition has smoothed over the mechanics (including introducing an excellent lifepath character generation system), given some ideas of possible campaigns (the default now is a supernatural investigation group, but the rules are flexible enough you can do with that or ignore it). Much more support with supplements; my favourite is probably the Beggar's Companion, which gives you more information on beggars in Tudor times then you could hope for. It's also able to run anything from grim realistic history to a Blackadder style game.
On the other hand, I loved Fantasy Wargaming.
Heh, I found it fascinating and I love the astrological correspondences table (which I still use as a sourcebook) but I don't think I ever managed to make a character. It was all a bit much for a 12 year old!
 

ORtrail

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Well, in theory a Time Travel RPG should have some historical material, right? The Time & Time Again RPG went for a more realistic tone when it came to time travel. So much so, that the GM was supposed to stop the PCs from doing anything to change history -no matter what.

The one supplement for for T&TA was Holy Warriors, which covered the crusader period in good detail.

On the other hand, the Timemaster RPG adventures were generally useful too, with less concern about historical details and accuracy.
 

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I'm heavily biased, but I will say Gangbusters every time.

I think it does the setting right for a historical game: a fake city that touches on major elements of the broader setting. ( I actually really love the, for-me recently encountered, Boot Hill 3e advice for creating a setting for Old West games that does something similar to GB's pre-made setting.)

It also tends to give the PCs something core to do and doesn't really attempt to do other things in the same setting. You can DIY other stuff to do, but you're also voiding all warranties if you do. :grin:
 

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I have a soft spot for Flashing Blades. Black Vulmea Black Vulmea, a former regular here, has taken it to a fine art on his blog.

It's a favorite of mine too. It's amazing to me that the designer created it as a teenager, and according to an interview with him I once read, didn't even stick with RPGs as an adult (he later became a professor). Just something he did in his youth and moved on.
 

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There is a lot of potential for all sorts of variants on this theme, but my best experiences with historical settings have been:
- Flashing Blades (for my money, still the best of the best for swashbuckling/piracy)
- Behind Enemy Lines (original edition of this is my one-and-only game for WWII settings)
- Edo period Japan (though I've never been a stickler for period authenticity). Bushido is good, but my GURPS campaign was probably better
- A home-brew game of debauched nobility and secret societies set in 16th century Europe; used The Fantasy Trip as rules.
 

Lofgeornost

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- A home-brew game of debauched nobility and secret societies set in 16th century Europe; used The Fantasy Trip as rules.

I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Upthread a number of people mentioned the 17th century, but the 16th seems to get less love.

There does seem to be a very new 16th-Century historical game for the Cepheus Engine: 1520: HRE 2D6 Adventure in the Holy Roman Empire. I've not seen it and the price ($20) is a bit off-putting for an unknown quantity.
 

AsenRG

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I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Upthread a number of people mentioned the 17th century, but the 16th seems to get less love.

There does seem to be a very new 16th-Century historical game for the Cepheus Engine: 1520: HRE 2D6 Adventure in the Holy Roman Empire. I've not seen it and the price ($20) is a bit off-putting for an unknown quantity.
It seems right up my alley. I might take the plunge next month...but my reading list is only growing bigger:shade:.
 

AsenRG

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It's a favorite of mine too. It's amazing to me that the designer created it as a teenager, and according to an interview with him I once read, didn't even stick with RPGs as an adult (he later became a professor). Just something he did in his youth and moved on.
...well, it does actually become less surprising with this detail:thumbsup:!
 
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DeadBob

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There is a lot of potential for all sorts of variants on this theme, but my best experiences with historical settings have been:
- Flashing Blades (for my money, still the best of the best for swashbuckling/piracy)
- Behind Enemy Lines (original edition of this is my one-and-only game for WWII settings)
- Edo period Japan (though I've never been a stickler for period authenticity). Bushido is good, but my GURPS campaign was probably better
- A home-brew game of debauched nobility and secret societies set in 16th century Europe; used The Fantasy Trip as rules.
I always wanted to play Behind Enemy Lines. I've found a couple substitutes but haven't gotten to try them yet.
 

Moonglum

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I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Upthread a number of people mentioned the 17th century, but the 16th seems to get less love.

There does seem to be a very new 16th-Century historical game for the Cepheus Engine: 1520: HRE 2D6 Adventure in the Holy Roman Empire. I've not seen it and the price ($20) is a bit off-putting for an unknown quantity.
Yah, I love the 16th century because it contains all sorts of technological and social innovations, so it is much richer and more complex than the peak of Europe's feudal system, yet hasn't quite crossed the threshold to the age of empires and coherently governed nation states, and thus feels more 'medieval' and less 'musketeers and pirates'.
 

Moonglum

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I always wanted to play Behind Enemy Lines. I've found a couple substitutes but haven't gotten to try them yet.
BEL is a really fantastic game - the core system clearly draws from classic Traveller, but is sharply focused on the game's setting. And the original boxed set comes with really playable scenarios and other support like comprehensive encounter tables. But if you dip into this make sure to find an original FASA copy and not the revised edition, which introduced another layer of system cruft that I disapprove of. One of the charms of the game is that you are almost sure to get blown to smithereens by any of the many very dangerous things encountered in combat, and that extreme lethality hugely impacts the way people play. The revised edition mistakenly tries to mitigate risk to PC's through some sort of hit point mechanic, and it sort of guts the whole vibe of the game. It would be like trying to make a movie about the Somme where all the main characters lead charmed lives and never get more than a scrape.
 

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I’m a great admirer of your work. I’d be all in for Wandering Heroes of Porta Capena, complete with ancient fighting styles! However a new edition of Gaius would be great.


Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. I don't know if I can do another book the size of Ogre Gate (just finished my last 400 page supplement, the Lady 87 Book, and those things slowly kill the writer lol). Maybe one day some kind of ancient Mediterranean WHOG would be doable (Sertorius is largely mediterranean-inspired, and WHOG basically comes from the Sertorius spell system). Right now I am working on a modern horror setting for the Strange Tales System.
 

AsenRG

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Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. I don't know if I can do another book the size of Ogre Gate (just finished my last 400 page supplement, the Lady 87 Book, and those things slowly kill the writer lol). Maybe one day some kind of ancient Mediterranean WHOG would be doable (Sertorius is largely mediterranean-inspired, and WHOG basically comes from the Sertorius spell system). Right now I am working on a modern horror setting for the Strange Tales System.
I'm glad to see you're working on stuff, though:thumbsup:!
 

Sloth_in_a_bowl

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Don't forget All for One
The characters are 17th century musketeers, fighting the enemies of the king including various monsters of the night.

It uses HEX as its base and there are several source books in the line.

I have also used it for a short campaign where the PCs were part of Queen Elizabeth's private army of the night.
 
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chuckdee

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My favorites are:
Napoleonic (Beat to Quarters/Duty & Honor)
Feudal Japan (Bushido, World of Dew/Sound of Water)
Victorian England (Castle Falkenstein- not strictly historical, but it is my favorite)
World War II (Godlike- not strictly historical, but the way they blend history with supers fascinates me)
 
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Toadmaster

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BEL is a really fantastic game - the core system clearly draws from classic Traveller, but is sharply focused on the game's setting. And the original boxed set comes with really playable scenarios and other support like comprehensive encounter tables. But if you dip into this make sure to find an original FASA copy and not the revised edition, which introduced another layer of system cruft that I disapprove of. One of the charms of the game is that you are almost sure to get blown to smithereens by any of the many very dangerous things encountered in combat, and that extreme lethality hugely impacts the way people play. The revised edition mistakenly tries to mitigate risk to PC's through some sort of hit point mechanic, and it sort of guts the whole vibe of the game. It would be like trying to make a movie about the Somme where all the main characters lead charmed lives and never get more than a scrape.

Agree FASA's BEL is a great WW2 game, nicely balances between an RPG and a small unit war game.

"Back in the day" I bought the Companions version which had recently been released (1980s). It really has nothing to do with the original beyond the title and both are WW2. I'm actually not sure the two games are related, as there is absolutely no reason anyone should have paid a licensing fee. The later version was more like a knock off D&D system used for WW2. The only thing positive I can say about it is the use of military style manuals was a nifty idea.

Finding hard copies now can be expensive but the original core rules are available on Drive thru RPG. I guess somebody bought the rights, it is from a publisher I've never heard off and seems to be their only product. As far as I can tell it is a reformatted but otherwise unmolested copy of the original rules.

Edited to add, Drive thru no longer has BEL for sale, Mystique Enterprises was the publisher.
 
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Torque2100

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A setting / game mashup I have long wanted to run is a Cthulhu Mythos game set in Medieval England, France or the Holy Roman Empire. The issue with how Call of Cthulhu handles people going mad from the revelation is that there is no allowance made for differing worldviews throughout its historical eras. The idea that the universe is vast, hostile and uncaring might be a bitter pill to swallow for someone from the 1890's or the 1920's, but for a modern person from the modern era that's just normal.

I would love to examine the collision between the Medieval world, motivated as it was by Faith with the terrible revelation of the Cthulhu mythos: that Gods do exist but they are terrifying alien monstrosities from beyond space and time who are either hostile to us or for whom we humans are simply beneath notice. Watching a Medieval person trying and failing to reconcile the Christian worldview with the reality that prayers to Jesus and Mary do nothing against a Shoggoth sounds delicious and does seem like something that would fit with the Sanity mechanic.

Unfortunately several members of my current game group are Catholics and this would be hard to do without it seeming like I'm saying "Your religion is a hollow lie! NYA-HA!" To them.
 
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Brock Savage

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https://www.yog-sothoth.com/wiki/index.php/AzathothA setting / game mashup I have long wanted to run is a Cthulhu Mythos game set in Medieval England, France or the Holy Roman Empire. The issue with how Call of Cthulhu handles people going mad from the revelation is that there is no allowance made for differing worldviews throughout its historical eras. The idea that the universe is vast, hostile and uncaring might be a bitter pill to swallow for someone from the 1890's or the 1920's, but for a modern person from the modern era that's just normal.
To be fair, the Mythos is a lot worse than regular ol' nihilism. People can accept and even thrive knowing they live in a vast and uncaring universe devoid of objective meaning. The Mythos kicks things up a few notches with existential zingers like "God exists and is a blind idiot," "space-time is in fact a predatory being," and "something much, much worse than Satan walks among man."
 

The Convenient Skill

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Anything in 'the swashbuckling era' is fine by me, although fast and loose - Sid Meier's Pirates is a good yardstick (yardarm?). Although I do like the 80s for cop games (unfortunately historical!).

Other than that various games can draw me out of that, 'good' steampunk for example.
 

SJB

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To be fair, the Mythos is a lot worse than regular ol' nihilism. People can accept and even thrive knowing they live in a vast and uncaring universe devoid of objective meaning. The Mythos kicks things up a few notches with existential zingers like "God exists and is a blind idiot," "space-time is in fact a predatory being," and "something much, much worse than Satan walks among man."
Far be it for me to stand up for Satan but I think you underestimate him. #eternaltorment
 

Torque2100

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To be fair, the Mythos is a lot worse than regular ol' nihilism. People can accept and even thrive knowing they live in a vast and uncaring universe devoid of objective meaning. The Mythos kicks things up a few notches with existential zingers like "God exists and is a blind idiot," "space-time is in fact a predatory being," and "something much, much worse than Satan walks among man."
I am well aware of all of the above. I would think that, for a modern person, the revelation that there really is something out there would come as a relief. As it is, the reality we are currently facing is that we are alone in a dead universe. That is, IMHO far more existentially terrifying for a Modern person than the idea that God is an Idiot.

I still would love to see a Medieval person struggling with those revelations. As for the specific time period, I did bring up the idea of a Robin Hood influenced game about Saxon rebels fighting the Normans and it turns out that Prince John made a deal with the Deep Ones. Many of the Normans are secretly either in league with Cthulhu's cultists, practicing Mythos sorcery or are slowly going mad from being forced to keep it a Secret.

I had the idea of our Rebels encountering a Norman Knight who's half mad and raving in French. If any of the characters speak French, they can understand his ravings. He was ordered to round up Saxon villagers and offer them to the Deep Ones. The horrible, unmentionable things he saw these creatures doing to the Peasants. It's Blasphemous, UnChristian, beyond description! How can the Prince tolerate such Blasphemy?!

Can you tell I'm a fan of Robin of Sherwood?
 
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Lofgeornost

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I am well aware of all of the above. I would think that, for a modern person, the revelation that there really is something out there would come as a relief. As it is, the reality we are currently facing is that we are alone in a dead universe. That is, IMHO far more existentially terrifying for a Modern person than the idea that God is an Idiot.

I still would love to see a Medieval person struggling with those revelations...
Probably tangential to this discussion, but I've long thought that the really horrific element of the Cthulhu Mythos is encapsulated in the statement that "the angles are wrong." Expanding on that, the rules of logic and reasoning that we have are simply human conventions used to understand the universe. Other minds might have entirely different ones that seem impossible to our brains but work for them and yield physical results that we say should not occur (i.e. magic). Putting this knowledge and way of thinking inside a human brain is like pounding the proverbial square peg into a round hole; it's not so good for the hole. Hence Sanity loss.

My own take is that the various Mythos creatures, simply as very powerful supernatural (or natural) entities, would not cause much mental upset for a pious Christian of the Middle Ages. They're obviously just demons, with all the powers that demons have. Holy words and symbols don't work against them? Well, they don't always work against demons either...

You're probably aware of it already, but there is a Call of Cthulhu variant set ca. 1000, Cthulhu Dark Ages. Both an older version and a newer 3rd edition compatible with 7th ed. CoC are still available, in .pdf at least.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
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