I had expected to start from the Uppsala end of the Farside Route, but I found myself more interested in Miklagard. I don’t think I mentioned it in the first post, but I intend to use Savage Worlds as the basic rules set, although I’m still thinking about 5150 and Stars Without Number as possible parallel universes – same setting, different rules. Stars Without Number enters the fray at this point, as the world tags are a very neat and easy way to flesh out a world.
The first thing I did was to change my mind about the name; Miklagard isn’t at all Greek, and this is the route from the Varangians to the Greeks, after all; so at least for the time being, I shall call it Lygos, the city’s original name. Historically, a lot of the time people just called it “the City” or “the Big City” (which is what Miklagard means in Old Norse).
Here’s the fruit of the second two-hour slot of preparation time. Lygos is based on early 11th century Byzantium. That gives me both tags right away; at this time, Byzantium was a military superpower, and it has always been a great trading centre.
Tags: Regional Hegemon, Trade Hub.
SWN will then give me lists of places, things, friends, enemies and complications, which I can then use with its random adventure seed table to create scenarios. More of that in a later post, for now I’m looking at the big picture.
Which I’m creating by taking interesting events from the time period and adding about 2,000 years to the date, focusing in on the last 50 years as "living memory", i.e. the parts that overshadow the PC’s lives. That gives me an initial span of let’s say 950 to 1050, translating to 2950 to 3050, with the PCs starting in 3014, and a campaign duration of up to 36 game years. That should be enough room.
(As an aside, I plan to avoid using dates in the campaign, as they lead to unnecessary complications about how fast ships travel, how far apart worlds are, and how many star systems there are in between the ones on my rough diagram. If absolutely necessary, I shall say it takes a month to travel from point to point on that diagram.)
- 2958: Basil II born to Romanos II and Theophano.
- 2963: Romanos II dies. Basil and his brother Constantine are too young to rule; Theophano marries one of Romanos’ generals, who crowns himself Nikephoros II.
- 2963: Basil II’s younger sister Anna is born.
- 2969: Nikephoros II murdered by John I, who crowns himself Emperor.
- 2976: John I dies, possibly poisoned by Basil Lekapenos, the Empire’s chief administrator and an illegitimate son of Emperor Romanos I. Basil II assumes power.
- 2979: Skleros rebellion is ruthlessly suppressed by Basil II.
- 2985: Basil Lekapenos is accused of rebel sympathies and removed from power. Most PCs are probably born around this time, plus or minus ten years.
- 2988: Vladimir I of Kiev captures the Imperial base at Cherson; he offers to vacate it and provide troops to Basil II if he can marry Basil’s sister, Anna.
- 2989: Vladimir and Anna are married. Basil II suppresses Phokas rebellion, again ruthlessly. Troops from Kiev are organised into the Emperor’s personal bodyguard, the Varangian Guard. Basil Lekapenos is exiled and his property confiscated; he dies shortly afterwards. The Emperor breaks up the large estates of the nobility.
- 3011: Anna dies.
- 3014: Campaign start date.
- 3025: Basil II dies, succeeded by his brother, Constantine VIII.
Who needs to make this stuff up? It’s all right there, in the library or on the internet. Just needs a bit of tweaking. In this case I’ve left out the various shenanigans with the Abassid Caliphate, which is off-map beyond the Lygos end of the Farside Route, and just make a mental note that Lygos has large, powerful enemies which will keep it from throwing its weight around too much on the Route itself.
Basil and Constantine are unlikely to meet the PCs, but they are movers and shakers, up to things in the background. The Varangian Guard are more likely encounters, first because some of them might be related to the PCs, and second because they enjoy fighting and have a tendency to go looking for trouble (which as everyone knows is spelt “PC”).
Emperor Basil II. Short, stocky, with light blue eyes and luxuriant sidewhiskers which he rolls between his fingers when angry or thoughtful. A dissolute womaniser in his youth, his ruthless suppression of rebellions early in his reign left him a grim autocratic bachelor, one of the finest military minds of his generation and a capable administrator, worshipped by his troops.
Constantine VIII. The opposite of his brother in many ways, Constantine is a tall, graceful, cowardly hedonist. Where Basil II is pragmatically ruthless, Constantine is impulsively cruel. He has three grown daughters by his wife Helena; Eudokia, Zoe and Theodora. So far, so stereotypical; but Constantine has no designs on the throne himself, as the paperwork would get in the way of partying. Some of the Imperial nobility, though, wonder if a more easily distracted Emperor might be better for them…
Varangian Guard. Emperor Basil II prefers to entrust his protection to foreigners, a core of troops from Kiev supplanted by mercenaries from Uppsala and beyond. They are characterised by fierce loyalty, a liking for large axes as their melee weapon of choice, and drinking to excess. The PCs are going to love them.