Lazy Links Post: Trading Incense, Spices and Everything Nice

No, it’s not about human trafficking. Albeit slave trading is an underused topics in both modern and fantasy RPGs compared to its prevalence in real-life, D&D has two campaigns about the topic: Scourge of the Slave Lord and its kinda-followup Slavers. They’re fun to play, and Slavers belongs to the Greyhawk renaissance of the very early 2000s, which made me hope WotC weren’t going to dump the setting like a corpse like they did later.

This post instead consists of a series of links about spice trading in the Mediterranean and middle east, and some related topics. I’ve been trying to focus on pre-Islamic topics for ease of adaptation to a more generic fantasy milieu (of course they’re valid also for

  • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a classical account of trading opportunities. I’d just redact it a little bit to make it conform to your campaign, print it and, when your players find a “treasure map” just throw the redacted hardcopy at them. Full text here.
  • Frankincense is quite a thing. Also Myrrh. They were brought as gifts to an avatar about 2014 years ago by a party of three Magic Users so badass towers and dungeons were not enough for them, so they got themselves kingdoms, the myth sayeth. Also Blue Lotus. Make a list of magical effects for all the varieties.
  • Of course there should be a trade route for incense and a list other such niceties.
  • Iram of the Seven Pillars looks like an epic place to visit, possibly not only before (for trading), but also during (for emotional distress) and after the disaster (a plausible explanation for treasure hunting!).
  • Petra is the most famous Nabatean city (featuring in the last Indiana Jones movie does that), with its weird-ass facades carved in stone. But I think that Hegra is even more weird. Did I mention the Qur’an reports it’s been cursed and destroyed by an earthquake and lightings raining all over the place? I wonder about all the riches hidden in the vaults under Nabatean ruins!
  • Other notable cities are Shibam (skyscrapers made of mud!), Palmyra (the Bride of the Desert!) and, of course, Carthage.

Giving Up, Giving In

It’s been a while since my last post.

I haven’t posted because I stopped finding roleplaying games interesting. Now and then I opened the RPG folder in my feed reader but nothing really captured my attention (except a few things). Eager to play, my attempts of forming a new group unsuccessful, I ran a couple of games of AFG for two different groups (once with people i’ve never met at a convention), but the sessions never really ‘clicked’, mostly due to me not being a good M.C.. This happened in a period where I had to face the fact that I never had chance to be a PhD student, had horrible problems with girlfriends (polyamory is complicated) and, after I accepted a very good job offer, the employer changed his mind: despite having some savings and living on a small budget life, this was really the last straw and really broke my spirit and sapped my will to do pretty much anything. Weeks went by, eating frozen pizza and brooding in a wee dark room.

Then, at a vegan dinner party I spent a couple of hours cooking for, a couple of guests mentioned that they wanted to play D&D, and that they liked it; a close friend, knowing well I wanted to run some good Old School, starts telling them that D&D is garbage, all the rules are horrible and, all the times he had fun paying D&D, was “despite” of the game, then proceeded to enumerate the virtues of Forge-bourne games. I was trying to have a good time and decided not to challenge him (I really couldn’t be bothered challenging his dogmatic perspective, knowing too well that I’m not bias-free), but I noticed that one of the maybe-players (which as sitting on the couch next to me) started to answer with arguments that were uncannily close to those of the OSR orthodox perspective, despite the very, very scarce experience and exposure to tabletop fantasy gaming of said player (whom I never met before). Note that said friend also spontaneously offered to run AFG, and despite facing my way he completely ignored me for all the lengthy discussion: the whole really, really soured me and, when my friend decided it was time to pull me in the discussion, I just walked off. And given up RPGs.

So I started playing Magic again. Elder Dragon Highlander is terribly funny and a very, very different game from the macho, ultra-competitive standard, legacy and vintage scenes, where your opponent shouts angrily at you when you make tactical errors. I also manage to play a lot of Innovation, Le Havre, Sit Gloria Romae, Automobilism, Once Upon a Time, 7 Wonders, Dominion and the new Civilization boardgame (they’re all strongly recommended, by the way). Turns out that, surprisingly, the Germans have enough oomph to win a conquer game fighting on two fronts, and it tastes even better when the other players spend half of the game reminding you that we all know what happened the last two times Germany tried that. Deutschland Über Alles, my dear readers. I thought I was going to give up on roleplaying games, but a group of friends in Milan wanted to play so, on my 32nd birthday (the day after James’s Raggi, I recently discovered), I ran AFG, and we all had a good time. Also not only PC died, but they all gained a level! And a friend that rolled 7,8 and 9 on 3d6 for is now kinda bragging about getting to level 2 with stats so low. We are going to play again tomorrow, after a pizza (om nom nom).

This morning I realized that, yes, I have given up on RPGs after all. This doesn’t stop me from, now and then, indulging again in the vice, like the occasional drag from a cigarette ex-smokers are either really longing for or really familiar with. There are a few things I want to do, such as finishing the writeup of AFG, working on the OSR Conservation Project (I wrote more code this morning) and submitting my One Page Dungeon entry. I’m not sure what I’ll make of this blog, but unless I’ll grow ashamed of it I’m not going to delete it.

Oh, in the meantime I was awarded a Master in Research. The scroll says I’m now a Magister Inquisitorum or something similar. 🙂