Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No-Man's Land

Here's another cool idea for an RPG setting.

I was reading this month's Strategy & Tactics article about the Reconquista. It recounts that as the Christian kingdoms collapsed and re-consolidated after the 8th century Muslim invasion, the city of Leon created a buffer zone between itself and the Muslim-controlled lands. I have always thought the idea of no-man's land was intriguing, but this provides interesting details with strategic context. This got me thinking about plot elements that could be drawn up from this scenario.

  1. Before it was made into a no-man's land, the location had to be depopulated. Numerous stories can unfold as the local ruler forces people out of their villages and farms in order to relocate them. Some people may not be happy to leave their ancestral village. Some may be grateful to be evacuated, while others who wanted to be liberated now see that opportunity slipping away as they are forced into the service of a hostile lord.
  2. This buffer zone was well over 100km from city (north) to frontier (south), and it stretched for several hundred klicks from east to west. That is a lot of wilderness replete with ruins of all types. That is also a lot of area to get lost in, and any remaining maps will be severely outdated.
  3. Not only can there be plenty of wilderness encounters, but there are sure to be scouting parties from both great powers, coming from the north and the south. Should the PC's be trying to find them or avoid them? There will also be loners--individuals, families, tribes--that have taken to living on their own in a largely desolate space. These people probably make it a custom to be avoided.
  4. What happens when the strategic utility of the no-man's land is at an end? Large armies will cross the territory. Roads will be rebuilt, trade reestablished. New populations will be relocated to the area. Will the descendants of those that were displaced press their claims or will it be forgotten? What about those loners?

It was an interesting piece that captured my imagination. The game associated with the article also seems like it would be fun. Although the more I thought about it, the more it seems like George R. R. Martin has already covered this territory pretty thoroughly. While I'm not so worried about being derivative (The horrors! A derivative RPG!), it does earn him yet another "Well played, sir."

Well played, sir.