Setting Spotlight: Terra Incognita

I’ve decided to stir things up a bit by doing the occasional post about a neat non-Age of Dusk campaign setting idea I had that I do not at present can/want to turn into a full campaign. I have about 5 ideas that I could definetely do a campaign post on, maybe more as I go on.

It all starts with TSR 9425 HR5, the Glory of Rome, an excellent setting book for DnD 2nd edition describing Roman Culture and History and some rules so you can stir up the high fantasy pot with some historical low-magic fantasy, complete with different wizard rules to make them more like the wizards of myth(no fireballs or magic missiles but charm person, polymorph and illusion get to stay). The premise of my hypothetical campaign is summarized thusly:

It is the year 63 AD, 9th year of Emperor Nero’s Reign. One of the player characters represents a brilliant upcoming general that has won a series of significant victories against the barbarians in the west, granting him much prestige and the loyalty of the army. Naturally the Emperor is not pleased, however his enemies are legion and since the character is a member of a powerful noble house Nero cannot afford to antagonize them by simply having the PC murdered. Thus the Emperor has concocted a cunning scheme.

The nobleman and his retainers(the other pcs, who can be anything from literal fucking wizards to gladiators or slaves or whathaveyou) together with a cohort of loyal men, are to follow in the footsteps of Pontius Flavian’s long lost expeditionary force(also of the 8th legion, commanded by the PC) into the darkest jungles of Africa and return their lost standard to Rome.
It goes without saying the Emperor has bribed several members of the cohort into ensuring that the PC’s never return to Rome.

What follows is a harrowing expedition into unknown lands, with disease, animals, starvation, savage natives and the sorcery of darkest Africa hounding you at your every step and gradually whittling down your forces. Are you a bad enough dude to conquer the unknown jungles of Africa?

So its a Hexcrawl. A hexcrawl with battlesystem rules for mass combats. A hexcrawl that would require meticulous record-keeping as well as additional rules for unit morale and morale loss, weapon degradation, foraging, and whatnot. And I think it would be fucking kickass.

Who are your adversaries you ask? Whatever the fuck you can dream up. Deepest Darkest Africa is unexplored and in addition to a veritable legion of animals, crocodiles, hostile tribes and traitors within your own ranks, you could add the following to taste:
-Lost and inaccessible plateau containing dinosaurs or similar prehistoric animals.
-Diseases. Hideous giant leeches. Sentient Fire-ant colonies.
-Giant Apes, obviously. Albino Apes too. Half-apes. Any sort of apes.
-So many goddamn snakes.
– Cannibal Antelope Women, Shapechangers and other horrors of African myth.
-Shamans and witches and cannibal pygmies. These are mandatory. Take care to put at least one witch doctor in that can control animals by riding their soul while he sleeps or something.
-Prehuman civilisation, be it lovecraftian or more in the vein of Ancient Aliens/Atlanteans.
-Pontius Flavian leading a small village based on his insane vision of utopia made ageless by the waters of the Fountain of Youth.
-The Demi-god Kamalkun, son of the Rain God, whose teeth have been replaced with diamonds and who rides a giant wooden palace drawn by a hundred elephants.
-At least one thing involving an elephant graveyard and a diamond mine.
-Creepo Antideluvian Bronze Age civilisation worshipping giant idol, possibly of real god.
-Creepo Antedeluvian Bronze Age wizard with immortality through lichdom, hopelessly insane and evil.

Naturally fighting would only get you so far. There would be options to negotiate, use gold to hire mercenaries or buy passage, arrange marriages, set up temporary outposts and watch as your cohort resorts to cannibalism and murder to survive. It goes without saying that this setting is fairly low magic, with magical treasure extremely rare, magicians all but nonexistant and knowledge restricted to a few wizards and the priesthood. Are you a bad enough dude to conquer Deepest Darkest Africa?

-DnD of some sort(the 2e kits give it more flavour though).
-The Glory of Rome(highly recommended)
-Meticulous timekeeping.
-Possibly Dark Continent for a comparative role-playing game in deepest darkest non-magical africa

Some Inspirational Reading to get you started:
-Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad(no-brainer)
-Tarzan(another no brainer) by Rice Burroughs
-King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard
-The Lost World by the Arthur Conan Doyle
-The Crystal World by J.G Ballard

Any ideas? Feedback? Recommendations that could make it better? Speak up.


3 thoughts on “Setting Spotlight: Terra Incognita

  1. Pontius Flavian leading a small village based on his insane vision of utopia made ageless by the waters of the Fountain of Youth.

    Needs a good dose of Aguirre.

    I’d also make sure to check out Pliny’s Natural History or a Medieval bestiary in order to get an idea of what Europeans actually thought about the flora and fauna of Africa, because a leucrotta is but a hyena described by a succession of tall-tale tellers who have never seen a hyena.

    Also, badass Amazons.


    1. You may have linked to a clip of Aguirre before on YDIS and it intrigued me. An expedition need not be successful to be interesting and entertaining and i will make sure to check that one out.

      Your suggestions for further reading are apt and i cannot believe i was moronic enough not to consider them. I am humbled.

      I would highly recommend using a variant of the amazons described in that link, and find it very interesting to see an actual recorded historical incident of a successful all female fighting force, since its a comparatively rare occurence for civilisations to employ female troops at all, especially with such effectiveness. It would also add to the exotic nature of Deepest Darkest Africa. So yes. Excellent suggestions.


  2. You should definitely check out Aguirre. Besides the amazing plot and the great performance by Klaus Kinski the cinematography is really beautiful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s