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    Default How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    One of my long standing observations of fantasy / quasi-historic RPGs is that they almost all focus on a quasi-Europe based on some mashup of the years between the fall of Rome and the "early Renaissance", quasi-Japan, or quasi-China. Those that don't, in turn, focus on something entirely fantastical or mythological.

    This leaves a lot of time and many places in our history completely untouched. What would a setting based on the earliest civilizations be like, something inspired by Sumeria and/or the Harappan culture? (Egypt has IMO been done to death as "a thing".) What about Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica? And so on.


    The setting that I'm working on right now would be based on the 4th century BCE, more specifically Eurasia at the time. Not just the Greeks and Persians that might be most familiar, but anything I feel like pulling out and using -- as long as someone had a technology, weapon, food, item, etc, in that century and scope, I'm OK with using. This is the end of classical Greece and the fall of the Persian Empire, the rise and fall of Macedon, the start of the Hellenistic period, the time of many states across the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, the height of Carthage and the age of Greek colonies, the heart of the warring states period in China, the period of classical Sanskrit and perhaps the founding of Buddhism in India, and so on. The Scythians and Sarmatians control the Pontic Steppes and beyond. The iron age is firmly entrenched across most of Eurasia, as well.

    For the main region of focus, I'm thinking of something a little different: a north-south running coastal area of Karst geology occupied by a series of small states, each centered on a main major city. There will be some major roads, but with all the rivers and bays and inlets, travel and trade will be much faster by water. Island from this area will be the accompanying highlands and low mountains, and then the dry steppes, with many passes and breaks connecting the regions.


    What sort of weapons and armor would you expect to see? I'm thinking that horse warfare will be on the tipping point between the chariot and true cavalry, with the stirrup making its way across the region thanks to its use by "horse nomads".

    What sort of cultural concepts and norms would be novel to the players and perhaps to RPGs?

    What sort of social structures would you expect to see?

    What would you most like to see pulled in from the more exotic (to RPG) parts of the world included in this scope?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Assuming your "horse nomads" are huns/mongols, you will see shortbows and light to medium cav. With the exception of Hoplites, you won't see heavy infantry of any kind, in both weapon armor. Slings are an incredibly popular weapon, used more than longbows for infantry. Elite troops are probably sword and board, spears for infantry.

    Ship combat is a lot of ramming and boarding vs ballistas or shooting arrows.

    I think it would be cool to see war elephants and camels over horses for cav, at least in some areas.

    Overall, the idea that groups/tribes/lands are more nomaidic, and that giant city castle states are less common, to the point that one would be a great sight few have seen. I could see a social structure based on tribes and clans, or families within a larger group. maybe even Dothraki from game of thrones.

    I would love to see a Central American(pre west expansion) setting in this time period, or at least a culture within a world in this time period.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    The horse nomads I'd had in mind were more the Scythians, Sarmatians, and the like.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    If you want to stress the difference of the period, you could have sacred kings being sacrificed, quite ordinary people hearing the voices of gods from everyday objects, and descriptions given in such a way that it's really hard to separate the metaphor from literal meaning. Recommended reading: Mary Renault, particularly The King Must Die and The Last of the Wine, but all her ancient Greek stuff is pretty good for atmospheric purposes.

    Bows of any sort will be rare, and not very powerful unless in the hands of an elite bowman (i.e. one who's spent years training for the job). Slings are a very popular alternative, and for most people just as effective.

    Armour will be partial, and mostly solid plates. Chainmail may be just about starting to appear, but it'll be confined to the elites at this time - mass produced chainmail is probably still some way away.

    Spears are by far the most popular weapons.

    Money is not nearly as important as it later becomes. An awful lot of trade doesn't involve money at all - who you are, who your friends and family are, is more important than how much arbitrarily-designated metal you've got jangling in your pouch. If you're from the right family or the right patron, everything is pretty much free to you anyway.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    If you want to stress the difference of the period, you could have sacred kings being sacrificed, quite ordinary people hearing the voices of gods from everyday objects, and descriptions given in such a way that it's really hard to separate the metaphor from literal meaning. Recommended reading: Mary Renault, particularly The King Must Die and The Last of the Wine, but all her ancient Greek stuff is pretty good for atmospheric purposes.
    The religion I have in mind is layered, with animism (object and place and animal spirits), ancestor spirits, local deities, and regional deities all at once, with a "hidden history" that explains why they all exist. So the idea of some people hearing voices from everyday objects fits right in. I want the magic to subtle, and strange, and based mainly on speaking to the spirits of things and ideas and places.

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Bows of any sort will be rare, and not very powerful unless in the hands of an elite bowman (i.e. one who's spent years training for the job). Slings are a very popular alternative, and for most people just as effective.
    Would you consider this wrong -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...ry#Middle_East

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Armour will be partial, and mostly solid plates. Chainmail may be just about starting to appear, but it'll be confined to the elites at this time - mass produced chainmail is probably still some way away.
    I thought mail dated to as far back as 500 BCE in Persia, and conceivably 1000 BCE with the Etruscans (although not in the same pattern as would appear closer to 200 BCE in Europe).

    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Spears are by far the most popular weapons.
    Yes -- I was thinking variations on the spear, especially for organized warfare.

    A lone adventurer might find more use from a sword or even dual-purpose axe, given how either can be made easier to carry than a spear in many cases.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    [QUOTE=Max_Killjoy;21107991]Would you consider this wrong -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...ry#Middle_East[QUOTE=Max_Killjoy;21107991]

    I'm no expert, so no, I wouldn't try to gainsay Wikipedia. On the other hand - it's possible that the archers referenced there were dependent on long-term, fairly intensive training - like, later, the Mongols, or English/Welsh longbowmen - and it's not a skill that's easily open to just anyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I thought mail dated to as far back as 500 BCE in Persia, and conceivably 1000 BCE with the Etruscans (although not in the same pattern as would appear closer to 200 BCE in Europe).
    Again, no expert, but my understanding (such as it is) is that it was pioneered in Persia in the 5th century, but took a while to catch on elsewhere, and by the 4th century there were probably still only a handful of smiths who knew how to make it. Of course I could be completely wrong. But I like the idea of chainmail being considered a high-level artifact.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A lone adventurer might find more use from a sword or even dual-purpose axe, given how either can be made easier to carry than a spear in many cases.
    But a spear is so much more useful! It doubles as a staff for walking or leaning on when you're tired, or for propping things open, or for prodding for traps. You can attach a sack to it for carrying over your shoulder. And it's underrated as a weapon - I've always thought the humble spear was sadly undersold by D&D, it's at least as deadly as a sword or an axe. Yes, it's a bit on the bulky side... but coming from an adventurer whose inventory contains a 10' pole, that criticism rings a bit hollow.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Do you want a fantasy setting or a historical setting?
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Do you want a fantasy setting or a historical setting?
    I want a historically plausible setting, but not one that's strictly historical or a series of "expies" of real-life cultures. If the Chinese or the Greeks or the Persians or someone in India or really anywhere in Eurasia had something at that time, it's OK to include here.

    It will involve elements that people in that time period would have believed were real, but that we'd consider "fantasy".
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2016-08-16 at 06:23 AM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Close to that period, I have for some time "thought" about (but never developed) an adventure taking place in a world similar to Orkney in the 2-1century BC, surrounding a Irn Age Broch. There is some dispute as when they appears, but some suggest something like 4th century BC, while others think they are slightly later.

    The Brochs appear all over Northern Scotland, but only in Orkney do broch-villages exist (such as Broch of Gurness). The houses are really close lying around a central tower, and some evidence support that the "streets" where also covered, so you have people living in small "dungeons". There is walls and ditches around them and they are placed on very defensible promontories (in beautiful sceneries).

    One of the fascinating things about the Classic and early Roman period is the very diverse social structure in Europe, from developed city-states and empires (the Persians and later Rome), to really small tribal communities. Some communities (as in Orkney) with very defensive settlements, while others (in Scandinavia) with almost no defensive structures (relying on open battle instead of defence?). This is very different from the Medieval were the "tech"-level is more spread out. So perhaps something that you might go with is the contact (which was quite direct with both trade and warfare) between developed areas and more loose tribal societies.

    A bit closer to the "Greek" world is the Talaiots of Mallorca/Minorca. Though there are differences to the Brochs, some of the same traits are there. An adventure with Greek-styled explorers travelling into an island realm with small "tower"-settlements could be interesting.
    Last edited by Tobtor; 2016-08-16 at 07:43 AM.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobtor View Post
    Close to that period, I have for some time "thought" about (but never developed) an adventure taking place in a world similar to Orkney in the 2-1century BC, surrounding a Irn Age Broch. There is some dispute as when they appears, but some suggest something like 4th century BC, while others think they are slightly later.

    The Brochs appear all over Northern Scotland, but only in Orkney do broch-villages exist (such as Broch of Gurness). The houses are really close lying around a central tower, and some evidence support that the "streets" where also covered, so you have people living in small "dungeons". There is walls and ditches around them and they are placed on very defensible promontories (in beautiful sceneries).

    One of the fascinating things about the Classic and early Roman period is the very diverse social structure in Europe, from developed city-states and empires (the Persians and later Rome), to really small tribal communities. Some communities (as in Orkney) with very defensive settlements, while others (in Scandinavia) with almost no defensive structures (relying on open battle instead of defence?). This is very different from the Medieval were the "tech"-level is more spread out. So perhaps something that you might go with is the contact (which was quite direct with both trade and warfare) between developed areas and more loose tribal societies.

    A bit closer to the "Greek" world is the Talaiots of Mallorca/Minorca. Though there are differences to the Brochs, some of the same traits are there. An adventure with Greek-styled explorers travelling into an island realm with small "tower"-settlements could be interesting.

    Yes, definitely -- one of the things I want to include is the contacts between the people of the "large city states" along the coast, and the tribes of the remote areas and "beyond the mountains".
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    with the stirrup making its way across the region thanks to its use by "horse nomads".
    I don't know to what extent you care, but, at least according to Wikipedia, the stirrup did not appear until the 4th century CE and did not reach Europe until the 6th or 7th century, and even stirrup-like features are only known to have appeared in the 2nd century BCE.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Aeson View Post
    I don't know to what extent you care, but, at least according to Wikipedia, the stirrup did not appear until the 4th century CE and did not reach Europe until the 6th or 7th century, and even stirrup-like features are only known to have appeared in the 2nd century BCE.
    I'm pushing that one back to that very earliest date, because I like the idea of writing the contrast / transition between chariots and mounted fighters.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    You can still have mounted fighters, you just don't get heavy cavalry that work with charges, more light to medium cavalry, mostly suited to fighting skirmishers and such-like.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll View Post
    You can still have mounted fighters, you just don't get heavy cavalry that work with charges, more light to medium cavalry, mostly suited to fighting skirmishers and such-like.

    Yes, a bit of additional digging around at angles I hadn't before, seems to reveal that mounted archers had already been transitioning in at the expense of the chariot for a few hundred years already at this point. The fact that certain Celtic peoples (in Britain in particular) and others were still using the chariot in warfare as late as the the 1st century CE tends to cloud my mental timeline on this.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Here's a bit of concept armor that for some reason I really like the look of -- I have to wonder if there's historical precedent for this sort of metal-reinforced leather lamellar armor.



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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    I'm pushing that one back to that very earliest date, because I like the idea of writing the contrast / transition between chariots and mounted fighters.
    Chariots as primary cavalry units were going out of style well before the introduction of the stirrup, and maybe well before the introduction of stirrup-like saddle features. All you really need to get into the transitional period is a large enough body of sufficiently-skilled horsemen that forming units of horseback cavalry becomes practical.

    A very, very rough timeline based on Wikipedia articles:
    - 3000 BCE: Cavalry appears
    - Early to mid 2nd Millenium BCE: Chariots are developed or introduced in the Near East, become dominant cavalry (Hittites 18th-17th Century; Egypt 16th Century, Greece 15th-14th Century; Northern Europe 14th Century or late 15th Century)
    - 12th-13th Century BCE: Chariots reach China
    - 9th Century BCE: use of horseback-mounted warriors starts to emerge once more among the Assyrians or in Mesopotamia; scuptural evidence from c. 860 BCE suggests mounted Assyrian archers operated in pairs, with one rider holding the reigns of both horses while the other shot
    - Late 8th Century BCE: Saddles or similar devices start appearing in depictions of horseback-mounted Assyrian warriors, and mounted archers stop being depicted as having a companion to manage their horse while they're busy shooting
    - Mid to late 7th Century BCE: Armored (heavy) cavalry appears; early Assyrian heavy cavalry in the reign of Ashurbanipal (668-627BCE) was equipped with metal helm and breastplate, some form of cloth armor, thrusting spear, bow and arrows
    - Early 5th Century BCE: horses of a large breed are reported by Herodotus to have been raised in part of the Persian Empire by this time; chariots have reached British Isles by this time; scythed chariots appear in India and reach the Eastern Mediterranean by the end of the century
    - Early to mid 4th Century BCE: Traditional heavy cavalry appears in Macedonia (Companion cavalry) and some think it employed shock cavalry tactics (i.e. traditional cavalry charge) against massed infantry; chariot cavalry is largely supplanted by horseback cavalry among the major Mediterranean civilizations towards the end of this period
    - 2nd Century BCE: Early stirrup-like saddle features appear in India
    - 1st Century BCE to 1st Century CE: chariot cavalry disappears from the British Isles
    -2nd-3rd Century CE: Chariot cavalry falls out of use in China
    - Early 4th Century CE: Stirrups appear in China
    - 5th Century CE: Stirrups enter widespread use in China
    - Late 6th to early 7th Century CE: Stirrups reach Europe
    - 8th Century CE: Stirrups begin entering widespread use in Europe

    Last edited by Aeson; 2016-08-16 at 04:10 PM.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    One of my long standing observations of fantasy / quasi-historic RPGs is that they almost all focus on a quasi-Europe based on some mashup of the years between the fall of Rome and the "early Renaissance", quasi-Japan, or quasi-China. Those that don't, in turn, focus on something entirely fantastical or mythological.

    This leaves a lot of time and many places in our history completely untouched. What would a setting based on the earliest civilizations be like, something inspired by Sumeria and/or the Harappan culture? (Egypt has IMO been done to death as "a thing".) What about Pre-Colombian Mesoamerica? And so on.
    I doubt I can add much to the scholarship on the subject, but I'll just say this sounds like a fascinating project.

    While I'm sure cultural inertia takes a large portion of the blame/credit, my theory is that settings like Dark-to-Middle-Ages Europe, the Wild West, the Nuclear Apocalypse and various periods of political disintegration/re-consolidation in pre-modern China/Japan have a particular grip on the imagination because they allow for toying with relatively advanced technology in combination with a relatively primitive social order and nebulous territorial control. (i.e, where "The Adventurer" can make a degree of sense.)

    Chatting about the logistics of chariot armies is neat and all, but I think what you need to scope is whether there's a well-defined niche for, e.g, the peripatetic murder-hobo. Vigorous urban empires with centralised bureaucracies, disciplined armies and well-defined borders don't easily lend themselves to that type of play.

    I might suggest taking a look at this essay on wringing emergent stories out of a setting-based premise (the relevant tips start on page 5, if you can bear with it, with the short version being "**** the adventurer".) But I don't know what system you plan to use or what kind of campaign you intend to run, so this might be completely off the mark.
    Last edited by Lacuna Caster; 2016-08-16 at 05:38 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    I doubt I can add much to the scholarship on the subject, but I'll just say this sounds like a fascinating project.

    While I'm sure cultural inertia takes a large portion of the blame/credit, my theory is that settings like Dark-to-Middle-Ages Europe, the Wild West, the Nuclear Apocalypse and various periods of political disintegration/re-consolidation in pre-modern China/Japan have a particular grip on the imagination because they allow for toying with relatively advanced technology in combination with a relatively primitive social order and nebulous territorial control. (i.e, where "The Adventurer" can make a degree of sense.)

    Chatting about the logistics of chariot armies is neat and all, but I think what you need to scope is whether there's a well-defined niche for, e.g, the peripatetic murder-hobo. Vigorous urban empires with centralized bureaucracies, disciplined armies and well-defined borders don't easily lend themselves to that type of play.

    I might suggest taking a look at this essay on wringing emergent stories out of a setting-based premise (the relevant tips start on page 5, if you can bear with it, with the short version being "**** the adventurer".) But I don't know what system you plan to use or what kind of campaign you intend to run, so this might be completely off the mark.

    Given the setting I have in mind, with border marches, wilderness, remote tribal areas, strange peoples, lost ruins, and so on, between and beyond the many small states, due to the nature of the geology and geography (see the link to images of Karst geography I posted in the OP), scheming elites within the cities, neighboring states looking to get a leg up on each other, a layered web of competing religious interpretations and cults and heresies, ancient secrets that even the gods want kept from mortals... there's plenty of room for the intrepid independent adventurer.

    (I'm pretty much dead opposed to the "murder homo" meme as used to broad-brush characters who travel and do dangerous things to make their living.)

    The exact sort of campaign I would run, depends on hypothetical players and their characters. The setting I have in my head would have room for many different campaign types.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2016-08-16 at 11:24 PM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    1) Cut the bull with the archers already

    You need maybe five or six onths to train a really good archer. If you have any doubts about that, look into how much training people in archery competitions that are not at the very top/olymipc level have, and consider that it's very likely not their day job. Archery is skill like any other, and starting with someone's grandfather makes no bloody sense at all.

    Next up, ancient bows weren't necessarily weaker. I have yet to see any really in-depth study into their draw weights, but the literary refenreces clearly say they were substantially powerful since the time of Homer - Odyseus had a bow so strong only he could string it.

    Now, where reality comes in is that to train a good archer, you need six months, and you just don't have that kind of time in most cases. Farmers need to tend to their fields and good luck making them practice on their own (Englis managed to do it, though), so your only possible archery units are drawn from eother hunters or full-time soldiers. Hunters are unlikely to have great equipment (hunting bows aren't all that strong), elites could very welll be more useful as shock infantry, so you have to decide what you want to go for here. For what it's worth, Persians decided they wanted both and Immortals/Apple bearers were born.

    Next thing is that you can actually use hunting bows in ancient warfare and be somewhat effective - armor is either non-existent or has a lot of gaps that you can hit, so if you get enough arrows in the air, even weaker bows will do significant harm - this principle was used even when bows became stronger, because so did armor.

    2) Equipment available to players

    For all equipment, first question is bronze, iron or steel? Iron is usually the worst of the three, but cheap and easy to create (no mixing of two base elements), bronze is better but takes time to create and is expensive (copper and tin are rarely found colse together, so one has to be imported), steel is the best by far but very, very few know how to make it, and if so, it's not steel by modern standards. I'd go so far as to make steel be only available for magic weapons.

    As for equipment types, there are ome similarities, but the exact design of a weapon, and especially armor, will vary a lot between cities, let alone nationalities.

    FIrst of, we have all kinds of knives and daggers. Their exact shape is more of a function of symbolism and fashion than anything else, as long as you keep the basic requirements.

    For swords, you have three general types. First one is kopis, and it basically looke like Sting from LotR and Hobbit. It's primarily a stabbing sword with added cutting capacity, used as a backup for when your spear is lost or ineffective. Second type is makhaira, and it's more or less an oversized kukri, or, to get another Hobbit reference here, Orcrist. Third type is a long, triangular balde with fine point that can't cut worth a damn, but is good for stabbing.

    These three types have a ton of variations on each other, with more or less curvature, different hilt designs and angles etc etc Honestly, googling or looking into Osprey books for exact specifics is your best bet, there is not that much general info that can be given about them.

    Two handed swords don't really exist, the most you have is dacian falx, a long scythe-like blade sharpened on the inside of the curve on a long-ish pole.

    Polearms are almost exclusively limited to spears, though the length varies, as does the buttspike presence.

    Shields are either wood covered by a metal plate, enirely metal, or leather with branches wowen through it. Greek hoplite shield is the most famous, but all shapes and sizes were used. One interesting caveat is that these shields mostly were strapped to the forearm, which is a feature that is useful in formation fighting, but hinders you in skirmishing and duels.

    Ranged weapons have bows, both made of one stick and composite - there is little difference between them, composite bows are harder to make but can be used on horseback a lot easier, and that's about it. Arrows are ahrd to judge, but there's a good chance some folks used arrows with stone or even no tips is the bronze or iron were scarce. Bronze was rarely used, since it was valuable and usually in short supply. Slings are still a major military weapon in this period, using either rocks or cast lead bullets as ammo, and have range and power comparable to a bow. Staff slings are also a thing for a slinger wishing to increase his power and range at the expense of rate of fire.

    Thrown weapons are well an present, aside from being able to throw your spear (you do have a backup sword, after all), there are also dedicated javelinmen. Javelins have range problems when compared to bows, but are easier on your logistics - also, they double as a shortspear when you threw all but the last one.

    Slings and especially javelins can also be used with a shield, which is a huge advantage - while bow can sort of be used too, you can't actively use a bow while you're using shield to block.

    Armor is a tricky subject, since we know so little about it. First sur[rising thing is the lack of a gambeson - while there are some peole who claim that's what linothorax was, it was used in a different role. A lot of combatants will only use their clothes for armor, with some added thick leather bits in certain places. That isn't to say these aren't protective at all, but the protection they offer is not great.

    For heavier armor, aside from the mystical linothorax, you have bronze plates with lots of gaps... aaand that's it. Even helmets are rare, especially metal ones, many will only have a thick cap.

    3) Mystery of linothorax

    We just don't know what this was. It's clear it was a form of lighter armor than the bronze one, and that it worked rather well, and we have some visual depictions, but that's about it. Was it metal? Glued fabric? How protective exactly it was? How affordable? Who knows.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Aeson View Post
    Chariots as primary cavalry units were going out of style well before the introduction of the stirrup, and maybe well before the introduction of stirrup-like saddle features. All you really need to get into the transitional period is a large enough body of sufficiently-skilled horsemen that forming units of horseback cavalry becomes practical.
    You also need enough horses that are big enough to handle riders and a decent amount of gear well. Horses (and for that matter other domestic animals) didn't exist in their modern forms yet, and in the cases of those that were bred more heavily were often fairly different even from high or late medieval animals. Horses being smaller is probably the most pertinent example for PCs, but others include sheep that don't produce as much wool, smaller chickens*. Then there's the matter of 1000+ years of plant domestication.

    *As far as I know this change is mostly recent, but it's not an area I'm that well informed in.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Aeson View Post

    A very, very rough timeline based on Wikipedia articles:
    - 3000 BCE: Cavalry appears
    - Early to mid 2nd Millenium BCE: Chariots are developed or introduced in the Near East, become dominant cavalry (Hittites 18th-17th Century; Egypt 16th Century, Greece 15th-14th Century; Northern Europe 14th Century or late 15th Century
    Cavalry in 3.000BC? Many researchers still argue whether or not the horse was really domesticated at this point....

    There are many indications of Horses at that time, true, but they have butcher marks and no or little (skeletal) evidence of being used for riding or pulling stuff. General use as meat-animal is more likely.

    It is true that there are relative recent suggestions that the Boltai used horses for riding as early as 3.500BC (though thier main evidence is for a. milking, and b. meat production), but the people I meet an conferences etc (both people working with bones and people working with DNA), hold a more conservative view of riding OR charioting beginning at around 2.500BC-2000BC (depending on researcher).

    Cavalry (as in horse borne warriors) on the other hand is generally believed to appear around 1.000BC (as you also note).

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Next up, ancient bows weren't necessarily weaker. I have yet to see any really in-depth study into their draw weights, but the literary refenreces clearly say they were substantially powerful since the time of Homer - Odyseus had a bow so strong only he could string it.
    I generally agree with you on archery, though I disagree on draw weights. I am not inclined to use Homer as a reputable source for anything. It is a legendary, mythical work. Perhaps Odyseus did have such a bow? Or perhaps its as likely as the stuff Achilleus do?

    Estimates on the numerous Mesolithic bows are in the range of 40-50pounds, but of course that is hunting bows. Bow appear in some quantities in the Iron age bog finds of northern Europe (here entire military sets of gears where deposited, with weapons and personal belongings of thousands of soldiers). The bows appear rarely before 200AD, and the ones appearing after this point have weights of 55-65 pounds, thus considerable weaker than later medieval bows. Now we do have some recourve bows slightly stronger from Eastern Europe/Asia (but not as high draw weights as later), but I think that if you what a classical period archery, you should remain in the 50-70pounds range,

    It should in this context be mentioned that a 60pound bow is quite sufficient in killing a man. Stronger bows is only needed if you want a) to shoot very far, but then you also have a greater chance of missing, and you are spending more arrows, or b) need to penetrate good quality armour.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Horses being smaller is probably the most pertinent example for PCs, but others include sheep that don't produce as much wool, smaller chickens*. Then there's the matter of 1000+ years of plant domestication.
    While chickens had been known from some time in India (and perhaps Egypts?), they were quite new in Greece in 4th century BC (generally introduced around 500BC or slightly earlier).

    However, the chicken would be equally small in the medieval period. Most animals would be very small by modern standards (cows, pigs, to a lesser extend sheep). Modern breeds are generally very much bigger, modern cows giving more milk etc. Most of these modern breeds are from the 18-19th century or later, and underwent serious breeding programs.

    In general the breeds go down (from wild animals) to a minimal size around the early Iron age and stays small until the 17th century or so. Horses are an exception, as some breeds were bred with a different role.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Given the setting I have in mind, with border marches, wilderness, remote tribal areas, strange peoples, lost ruins, and so on, between and beyond the many small states, due to the nature of the geology and geography (see the link to images of Karst geography I posted in the OP), scheming elites within the cities, neighboring states looking to get a leg up on each other, a layered web of competing religious interpretations and cults and heresies, ancient secrets that even the gods want kept from mortals... there's plenty of room for the intrepid independent adventurer.

    (I'm pretty much dead opposed to the "murder homo" meme as used to broad-brush characters who travel and do dangerous things to make their living.)
    Well, the point I was trying to convey (or rather, that the essay does), is that you don't particularly need to have PCs packing their knapsack and traipsing around to get a rich story out of a setting. You just pick a place on the map with some unstable combination of religious/economic/political/military interests, and create the PCs as pre-existing residents with plenty of investment in the locale- homes & businesses, vocations, families, social standing, affiliated NPCs, etc. Then light the fuse on whatever religious/economic/political/military powder-keg you specified to begin with, play the NPCs and let the players do their thing.

    The other reason why I mention this is because certain campaign-styles (and even system mechanics) can require adapting/improvising/inventing aspects of the setting on the fly (or at least per-session) specifically to cater to the PCs' hot-buttons or tactical exigencies. I don't know how much detail you plan to cram onto the map or the city-states' dramatis personae, and I say this as someone who positively loves fantasy maps filled with micrographia, but it might or might not be useful to a particular group.

    Do you have any ideas or speculation on the competing religions/philosophies of the setting, what the states specialise in economically, their political structures and the like? (My main exposure to the period would be Gore Vidal's Creation, which does manage to have it's protagonist traipsing from Ecbatana to Qin and back again to Athens, but he kinda goes out of his away to avoid military entanglements.)

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Lots of good stuff here -- will answer more a bit later, but for now:


    Linothorax

    Steel -- by the concept of the setting, it's being made somewhere in that region and before/during that time, so actual steel of some sort is fair game. I realize it's not identical to later steels or made in great quantities.

    Bronze -- I wasn't aware that bronze was still in wide use for weapons and armor in the 4th century BCE. This night actually make for a good setting element. The "tin trade" would be a setting element and possible plot seed. "The secret of steel" as well.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2016-09-26 at 01:07 PM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Well, the point I was trying to convey (or rather, that the essay does), is that you don't particularly need to have PCs packing their knapsack and traipsing around to get a rich story out of a setting. You just pick a place on the map with some unstable combination of religious/economic/political/military interests, and create the PCs as pre-existing residents with plenty of investment in the locale- homes & businesses, vocations, families, social standing, affiliated NPCs, etc. Then light the fuse on whatever religious/economic/political/military powder-keg you specified to begin with, play the NPCs and let the players do their thing.
    If the PCs end up in one city or area, and have deep ties and relationships and roots, I'm OK with that, as long as it's what makes the game enjoyable for the players (GM included).

    Played and ran a lot of Vampire: TM, and one of the striking ironies of that game is that instead of the stereotypical human (and human-like) characters of fantasy gaming who have few ties and travel around leaving the consequences of their actions behind them, the PCs are immortal predators... who are usually stuck in one city, live in an often stifling ancient social network of nearly-inescapable ties, and walk a tightrope over a pit of potential consequences every night. Combat is something that most of them try to avoid (they're either very good at combat, very good at avoiding combat, or don't last long, plus there are "laws" against killing each other). So you have "inhuman monsters" who are deeply invested in the locale, and try to solve their conflicts mainly through means other than killing each other. (We focused far more on politics, mystery, and character interplay than we ever did on characters wangsting and fretting over their lost humanity.)

    Much of that was in the 90s for us. I don't think Mr Edwards hit on anything revolutionary on that particular point, he just wraps it up in high language and terms of art. ( EDIT -- so much so that each time I reread that article, I realize I've misunderstood something, and I'm about ready to open it up on the second screen here with Google open on the other. )

    On the other hand, if the players want to play wanderers or outsiders of some sort, I'm also OK with that.



    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    The other reason why I mention this is because certain campaign-styles (and even system mechanics) can require adapting/improvising/inventing aspects of the setting on the fly (or at least per-session) specifically to cater to the PCs' hot-buttons or tactical exigencies. I don't know how much detail you plan to cram onto the map or the city-states' dramatis personae, and I say this as someone who positively loves fantasy maps filled with micrographia, but it might or might not be useful to a particular group.
    After the last game I tried to run kinda flopped in part because of PC vs setting disconnect, despite my efforts to prevent it, and a very sandboxy setting, my next campaign will have a lot more PC-centric prep work.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lacuna Caster View Post
    Do you have any ideas or speculation on the competing religions/philosophies of the setting, what the states specialise in economically, their political structures and the like?
    More on this later.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2016-08-17 at 01:25 PM.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    I think people might be underestimating how much cavalry was in use in the 4th century BC even beyond the nomads. The Persians of course had a very extensive horse cavalry arm and the Thessalians were also famous for their horse. Then you have the Macedonians...

    True even the heaviest of cavalry wouldn't be hurled face on at a phalanx but they were certainly being used for heavier duties than simply skirmishing.

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    For the main region of focus, I'm thinking of something a little different: a north-south running coastal area of Karst geology occupied by a series of small states, each centered on a main major city. There will be some major roads, but with all the rivers and bays and inlets, travel and trade will be much faster by water. Island from this area will be the accompanying highlands and low mountains, and then the dry steppes, with many passes and breaks connecting the regions.
    This immediately made me think of the Dalmatian coast.
    Which was Illyria back around the time you mention.
    So:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illyri...p_organization

    and:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illyrian_weaponry

    Summary:
    bronze helmets and reinforced shield
    primarily cloth armor
    bronze breast plates or pectorals for the nobility, maybe greaves
    (boar) spears
    dagger that sounds similar to a kukri but more stabby
    axes
    bows don't show up for 2 more centuries
    chariots only for inland relatives
    awesome navy, in fact:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illyrian_Wars
    PIRATES!

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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    The Wiki link notes them using the bow and arrow from the 2nd millennium BCE.
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    Default Re: How to -- 4th century BCE setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The Wiki link notes them using the bow and arrow from the 2nd millennium BCE.
    For some bizarre reason, I read that as 2nd century.
    So . . .
    Bows. :D

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