Saturday, 21 May 2011

Living in the shadow of ones ancestors

Unless one's campaign is archeological in bent (literally digging for gems), or underland in scope (my try at an Old School name for Underdark as compared to overland for wilderness adventures), dungeon delving almost always requires the construct that there was more in the past than there is now. Very Tolkeinesque.

Grognardia's Dwimmermount campaign builds on this concept as does FrDave in his recent exploration of Holmes and Cook, which I like alot.

I've been fascinated by this topic for a long long time. If I ever finish my 20 year in the writing fantasy novel you will see how much.

Since the Renaissance, we have built higher and looked further than our ancestors. But for nearly 1000 years (roughly 400-1400 AD) we could only look back in awe.

I never finished this book by Christopher Woodward, yep another unfinished project, but the opening chapters are superb.

Just listen to this.
page 5
"London in Queen Victoria's reign was the first European city to exceed ancient Rome in population and geographical extent; until the Crystal Palace was erected in Hyde Park in 1851, the Colosseum remained the largest architectural volume in existence. Any visitor to Rome in the fifteen centuries after its sack by the Goths in AD410 would have experienced that strange sense of displacement which occurs when we find that, living, we cannot fill the footprints of the dead."

page 6, following the fall of Rome
"The public buildings on the Capitoline Hill and the Forum were abandoned while a new city, Christian Rome, rose around the outlying sites of St Peter's martyrdom and the Popes' palace of St John Lateran."

page 7
"Four-fifths of the vast area enclosed by the old fortified walls of Rome became a wasteland scattered with ruins, vineyards and farms."

page 8
"From the fall of classical Rome until the eighteenth century the only houses in the Forum were the cottages of the lime-burners, and the hovels of beggars and thieves."

Tell me that this doesn't seem like a fantastic campaign stetting.

I was on holiday in Cornwall and visited St Michel's Mount.

Inside amongst all the old photographs was this one.

Lanceston (Launceston) Castle Cornwall.

Wow. Look at that farm, in the shadow of its ancestor.

This is a photo of the castle now (I didn't visit this trip but looks a fine example of Motte and Bailey)

I'm inspired, I hope you are as well.


  1. I grew up in Cornwall. Between Truro and Falmouth. Now I'm in France trying to get the family to visit Mont St. Michel, which pretty much serves as an index of the relative joy and impressiveness found on the two sides of the channel, I reckon. Don't get me wrong, I love 'em both.

    Looking at world history our current moment, since 1750, is an extremely weird one. I kinda want my fantasy world both ways: one part optimistically thrusting forward, 1830 style, the other part fearful of the giant ruins around them, Greeks in Egypt style (and maybe going as far as ancient astronauts) but I don't think I can pull off both movements for the same people. Which is funny because that's basically Napoleon.

  2. Ironically I'm just looking up holiday options for summer in France. Shame we couldn't all meet up with Alex in Switzerland and game.
    My brownie points alas, don't stretch that far.

  3. where are you normally? I wind up in London a couple of times a year. Right now I'm about half an hour outside Paris.

  4. I wonder if any of us Europeans are going to London Dragonmeet 2011 26th November.

    Is Raggi?

    Maybe an OSR table?

  5. for the first time in my life I might actually get to one of these. I wonder if Ken Hite's going.

    richard (google ID's not working for me today, dunno why)

  6. London is another fascinating story. For years (a century? more?) the saxons wouldn't live in the ruins of Roman London, though apparently the Danes did.