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 Post subject: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:21 am 
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I have a degree of fascination for medieval Islamic history and culture. I would really like to set a campaign in an environment that had all the authentic touches that would make such a setting so very different to a western European setting.

This thread will be a moderated list of sources, covering history and culture, for such a setting. The next few posts will be dedicated to listing sources for particular aspects of the gaming environment -- both history and culture. If you have something to add then feel free to post it and I'll add the details into the relevant section of this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:22 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:23 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:24 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:25 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:26 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:28 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 7:58 am 
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Hm, before anything, we should make sure that we're all on completely the same page here. Mind that I'm no expert, but I'm assuming that by persian-inspired setting you mean a strictly persian-inspired setting as opposed to arabic-inspired setting? Is this assumption correct? If so, or not, how much crossover do you see as acceptable?

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 8:22 am 
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higgins wrote:
Mind that I'm no expert, but I'm assuming that by persian-inspired setting you mean a strictly persian-inspired setting as opposed to arabic-inspired setting?

Maybe Ian's choice of words is the direct result of an offhand remark I made in a recent PM to him:
Grettir wrote:
In fact, Persian culture did totally subvert Arabic culture in the same way the Chinese culture was completely adopted by the conquering Mongols of the Yuan dynasty; what we regard as medieval Arabic culture is in fact a continuation not of the ancient culture of the Arabic peninsula but of the culture of the Sasanids, and when one reads Arabian Nights one is transported into pre-Islamic Persia of around 600 AD.

So one could say that medieval Islamic culture does not equate pre-Islamic Arabian culture plus Islamic religion plus a few pre-Islamic Persian cultural elements but rather pre-Islamic Persian culture plus Islamic religion plus a few pre-Islamic Arabian cultural elements. This becomes especially true from about 750 AD onwards, after the Abbasids oust the Ummayads from the caliphate. The Ummayyad dynasty had its roots in Syria and was drawing cultural inspiration mainly from the west, from the Greco-Roman world, but the Abbasids were rooted in modern-day Iran and drew their cultural inspiration from this area. It is no coincidence that the Abbasids did almost immediately relocate the residence of the caliphate from Damascus in western Syria to newly-founded Baghdad in Iraq, only a few miles from the capital of the Sasanids and the Parthians before them. That's a rather conscious shift in cultural orientation towards Persia.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:06 pm 
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higgins wrote:
Hm, before anything, we should make sure that we're all on completely the same page here.


Clarification is always a good idea.

higgins wrote:
Mind that I'm no expert, but I'm assuming that by persian-inspired setting you mean a strictly persian-inspired setting as opposed to arabic-inspired setting? Is this assumption correct? If so, or not, how much crossover do you see as acceptable?


It isn't my intention here to look at how to set a game in a real world, historical setting. Rather, I am interested in providing the sort of source material a referee would need to create an authentic-feeling but ultimately fantasy gaming environment, inspired by medieval Arabic/Islamic/Persian culture. I emphasize the Persian aspect partly as a result of discussion with Grettir and partly because it is more easily recogniseable (to us Westerners at least) as synonymous with long ago.

If this thread is successful and/or if people think it is a good idea then I'll create other similar threads (Roman, Greek, Norse, and so on). I think it would be good to have a one-stop starting point for the research on setting information.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 5:56 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
It isn't my intention here to look at how to set a game in a real world, historical setting. Rather, I am interested in providing the sort of source material a referee would need to create an authentic-feeling but ultimately fantasy gaming environment, inspired by medieval Arabic/Islamic/Persian culture.
Aha, I had some doubts that it may be so, but the mention of Islam specifically (and the word "campaign" instead of "setting") made me think you might want to compile materials for a historical game. Nevertheless, I think it would be most useful to provide actual sources viable for a historical game and then explain how one could deviate from them to generate a fantasy setting... otherwise we'll fall into the pit every victorian era RPG has fallen... the market is full of victorian era games that are filled with dwarves, centaurs, magic, goblins, undead, space travel etc... but not a single one displays a historical setting where one could make the adjustments he likes. And this would be the best way to go IMO. :)

As of the sources... what I've bought recently (but not yet received) is Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times. True, it focuses on modern times, but it gets good reviews all over the board and is considered a great introductory "course" to the culture. I'll elaborate on it further when I actually have the book in my hands. What I've also considered purchasing is Arab Seafaring: In the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times.

Of RPG resources, GURPS Arabian Nights is a good read, but as for all books in the GURPS historical line, it's probably just a fun book of trivia for anyone more familiar with the subject... And we all know how RPG books should be (dis)regarded when doing serious research. :) Then there's Tales of the Caliphate Nights which explains some of the concepts more clearly and in a different angle than the GURPS book but the actual quantity of information is much smaller than in the tightly-packed GURPS... and being a d20 book, it mostly consists of useless rules. I'm not familiar with Al-Qadim.

P.S.
If I should happen to fall inactive, it's not because of me being uninterested (I've been fascinated by the subject too), but probably because of my current post-surgical state.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 9:52 pm 
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Quote:
I think it would be most useful to provide actual sources viable for a historical game and then explain how one could deviate from them to generate a fantasy setting.


The issue I have with this approach is that as soon as you state that something is real world or, worse still, historically accurate it becomes an academic exercise. You get responses like "Why are you listing Abbasid sources when your thread says it is about an historical campaign set in the Ayyubid Caliphate?" and spend your time defending what you've posted. The other side of the issue is that you have to be specific. Persian/Arab/Islam campaign? No way, too broad, too wide a swathe being cut. Better to state Seljuq or Khwarizmshah or whatever because each people is different-- and then it becomes difficult to find the relevant sources.

Anyway, all I'm going to do here is list the sources. If anyone want to start a thread on how to actually create a campaign from the sources then that would be much appreciated.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:27 am 
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This is of course true that Persian/Arab/Islam is too broad for achieving any historical authenticity... Persian with a century attached to it might however have been viable. At least we're almost definitely on one page now. :)

On that account, GURPS Arabian Nights is a good sourcebook for these purposes as long as you have a glossary of terms at your side... As I read it, I really wished I had one as it would have made the reading much more easier and comprehensive.

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 Post subject: Re: Creating a Persian-inspired campaign.
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:52 am 
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Well, I've been reading Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times now. Okay, it's a good book with nice comprehensive examples, but then again it's for modern times indeed... almost 80 pages are dedicated to the anti-americanism, the muslims in the west and to the differences between different arab countries. I'm sure it's all very useful stuff, but not for our purposes here. Then adding the fact that the last 50 pages of the book consists of references and whatnot, even less than the half of the book is directly useful, but that in itself is an excellent read itself.

I'll not go into detail what chapters I found most relevant in the book for our purposes, as the table contents in amazon (search inside the book) makes it pretty evident... most on pages 13-113 is good stuff IMO, except that I don't really care much on the occasional statistics on what year females gained the right of election and what the literacy rates are.

Now, one interesting fact... the book I read has been updated numerous times and the author criticises a book called The Arab Mind, which is supposedly written in 1930s and 40s, heavily based on bedouin ethos and not really relevant in modern context as it's not been revised from the time of it's first printing. That criticism made me go like... Damn! I bought the wrong book! :) So, I'd be happy to hear if anyone has read The Arab Mind and what did he think of it.

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