Lately, we've been talking about doing a new AD&D2E campaign, and I've been casting around for a new setting. I have done (and love) both Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms many times over the years, as well as (most recently) the Judges Guild world. And I think that returning to Ireland. This also coincides with some of my recent Dark Ages wargaming activity. It also coincides with the work I have done in my Judges Guild game, related to the Tuatha De Danaan and the realm(s) of Faery.
I have been thinking, however, of *which* Ireland do I use. Purely historical? Purely fantasy (where I retain a map, but that's all)? Mythical? And I think that I will set it in a sort of pseudo history that is promoted by the Pendragon game, of approximately the 6th century, but a 6th century where the civilized areas (Arthur's Britain, for instance) is similar to a very typical AD&D 14th century Europe. The further you get away from those civilized areas, the closer you get to a mythical version of dark ages Europe. That is what I am after. With the addition of the standard tropes of the AD&D rules, chiefly these two - (1) non human races are present in the physical world, as well as in faery; (2) magic users and clerics exist that can get and expend spells in the Vance-ian mold.
One useful source, immediately, is Pagan Shores - the great supplement that was produced for Pendragon, that details the mythical period Ireland that might exist in Mallory's world. Pagan Shores provides a lot of good things, including some really useful basic maps of Ireland (and The Pale - the region that is partially settled by Arthur's Knights).
|Ireland from Pendragon|
One of the excellent items that it introduces is the presence of Nordic invaders on the coast of Ireland, forming the cities (such as Dublin) which in the real world did not exist until the Vikings came and formed them. Can't use Vikings, in the 6th century, without really twisting history, but Pagan Shores presents a nice solution - it introduces a people, Nordic in nature, that have invaded the coastal areas and formed the cities that would (in history) come later. These are called the Lochlanach - and are a mixture of Vikings and Saxons. This is an element I definitely want to lean on, as a point of friction in the setting to base scenarios on. Treating the Lochlanach as the coastal invaders who harry the Gall Gael over in Scotland, as well as being a general Saxon-like scourge (from a Pendragon perspective) is something that works well. It also allows for a nice cross-irish sea mixing of both Irish and Pictish cultures (mingling, not merging).
|Pictland/Scotland from Pendragon|
The broader world includes the Pict culture over in Scotland, Arthurian England (Logres), Moorish/Christian (contested) Spain, Mallory's version of France (Aquitania Ile de France, Brittany, etc), Rome, Byzantium. No Vikings, but they will be represented as the Lochlanach.
|The Broader Pendragon World|
|Ireland, in the Fantasy Map style by Maxime PLASSE|
|Ireland in the 17th century style by Maxime PLASSE|
I am planning on a map of a small clan based area on the border of the Pale, so that local groups will be the Si', Arthur's knights, the Lochlanach, as well as all of the Irish elements (clan warriors, druids, bards, etc) and some mythical aspects (the surviving descendants of the Fomorians, for a start).
One other thing is the handling of Faery, an important part of the Celtic world, and of Ireland. I think that I plan to use the distinction between the Summer Fae (light elves, seelie court) and the Winter Fae (dark elves, unseelie court). The Summer Fae will be located in Ireland, and the Winter Fae will be located somewhere in Scotland. Not physical locations, but sort of the "otherworld" aspect of the realm of faery. These will have their own internal divisions and struggles, such as the different barons and baronies in the realm of the Elves from "The Broken Sword" by Anderson. The Faery can travel extremely fast between realms, almost like the Amber concept of walking pattern. When they have to travel across our own realm, they will use airships that look like dragon boats, and of course elfin horses that travel as fast as the wind. In order to distinguish the high magical nature of Faery as compared to Elves and regular magic that is encountered in the physical world in a D&D campaign, I think that they need to remain extremely special and *other* in nature. That is part of the lure of the setting.