Friday, October 12, 2018

Re-Approaching The Middle Sea

A few years ago, I published a few articles on a world I called the Middle Sea World. You can find most or all of the posts at the Middle Sea tag here. Anyway, I sort of let it fall aside as I was doing too much worldbuilding for the original idea, in part because I had no group to play with at the time.

A few days ago, as I picked up my copy of Lords of the Middle Sea (the original inspiration for the map, if not the setting), it occurred to me that the setting of that wargame was pretty interesting in itself. Also, it makes a thematic parallel to the Sundaland setting I mentioned in the last post. Sundaland is set in the distant past, when the sea levels were lower than today, while the Middle Sea is set in the future with sea levels that are much higher.

As a quick aside, Lords of the Middle Sea was inspired by a story titled "The Great Nebraska Sea", the text of which can be found here along with a map that was inspired by the story. Obviously, there are differences between the inspiration and the Chaosium wargame.

Map used in Lords of the Middle Sea
Anyway, in the game there are six factions, four of which are player positions. These are the resurgent Aztec empire of the Nahuas; the remains of Catholic Mexico, pushed further to the North; the horse-riding nomads of Transwyoming stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the peninsula above the Nebraska Sea; the seafaring, warlike petty kingdoms of the Wardoms of Appalach, recently united under a single king; the small (and neutral as regards the players) nation of Centerline from the land formerly in southern Wisconsin up into the former Minnesota; and the great seagoing Arks of the Salvar clans based out of islands that were once San Francisco and the Ouachita Mountains, also neutral in regard to the players. Each faction has a different advantage: the Nahuas have large cities and so can recruit more troops from them, the Transwyoming peoples can maintain larger forces of light cavalry, the Wardoms of Appalach have larger numbers of warships available and more access to large, submerged cities to ransack for lost technology if they can hire the Salvar Arks, and Mexico—holding onto the remains of North America's helium reserves—has not only the only source for building dirigible airships, but also the single largest source of victory points at the very start of the game.

Each of the player factions also has a King, who can travel either with a small military retinue of around 600 elite soldiers or incognito. Each has its benefits and hazards, and the King can change from one to the other in various circumstances. As Kings gain experience by performing quests, winning battles, and so forth, they can "level up" to become a Hero-King or even a Sorcerer-King. Hero-Kings may choose one special ability from a list, while Sorcerer-Kings can use any ability on the list—but only one per turn. Quests can also lead to lost Libraries, which give special benefits to the faction that possesses one. Similarly, salvaging lost technology provides benefits ranging from permanent increases to all of a faction's combat statistics through an increase in the faction's treasury and other bonuses.

A really rough version of the map of the Middle Sea
world—notice the difference
For me, I don't much like the Nebraska Sea part of the setting. There is the wonderful image of the Godwall, a thousand-foot cliff along the coast where the land collapsed to create the sea, but it's not enough to save the idea for me. I like the simple plains sloping gently up out of the Middle Sea toward the Rockies. It gives me the option to place more factions/kingdoms too.

I can combine this with some of the deindustrialized future ideas I have, too. Drawing on the concept from GURPS After the End where higher technology exists but is increasingly more expensive, while a Renaissance level of tech is more easily sustainable, that lets me include even more exotic ideas like enormously expensive alcohol-fueled aircraft—maybe biplanes!—mounting machine guns fighting helium-filled dirigibles carrying smoothbore guns and sailing ships armed with anti-air black powder rockets. Characters will probably carry flintlock or matchlock guns, with swords as sidearms to meet opponents who survive the gun volley, though some might spring for the expense of a black powder caplock revolver instead, or perhaps even take on the continuing expense of cartridge ammunition.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, hm. I forgot to talk about how I was going to try out a new magic system. Ah, well, gives me something to post about later.