Learning history through Dungeons & Dragons

So I’ve been DMing a game of Dungeons and Dragons regularly for a few weeks now. It’s not my first game, but it’s certainly my most complex. It’s the first where I’ve built the world up fully myself and set up the encounters and so on throughout the game.

The setting is, basically, “ancient Yorubaland” (the quotes implying that it is in no way historically accurate), where people from Oyo and surrounds have been suddenly threatened by strange enemies that appear from nowhere and take captives away (or kill them if they resist). Fairly standard stuff. In this game there are desert elves, jungle elves, “high” elves, humans, and old, wise warthogs. My group had been wanting to ditch the European medieval fantasy tropes so it was a good opportunity to learn a bit about ancient Nigeria, and let me tell you, the Yoruba freakin’ kicked arse. At basically everything, but especially cavalry warfare. They also have pretty awesome gods (orisha), which is always important in a D&D setting. You can read quite a lot on the Oyo empire here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyo_Empire

The enemies, however, come from far away, via the Ethereal plane through portals. They are yuan-ti that hail from, basically, Tenochtitlan, which have been fighting the elvish city-states to the north (Cholula, Huejotzingo, Tlaxcala) in a highly ritualised forever-war aimed at providing the yuan-ti with sacrifices for their god.

This war is basically [SPOILERS TO MY D&D GROUP – DON’T READ THIS LINK] the Flower War which I had never heard of before and which is pretty amazing. It’s also happening at the eve of Iberian dwarves arriving to, uh, well, trade or something with the local people. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there… 😉

So basically I have been learning a boatload about historical areas I never knew much about, for a D&D game in which I mispronounce just about everyone’s and everything’s name. So my lesson for you is: go play D&D and learn about cool historical stuff!

Image is of the Great Pyramid at Cholula: “Teocalli vid Cholula, Nordisk familjebok bd 4” by Nordisk familjebok, Vol 4. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teocalli_vid_Cholula,_Nordisk_familjebok_bd_4.png#mediaviewer/File:Teocalli_vid_Cholula,_Nordisk_familjebok_bd_4.png