Role-playing history with Rolemaster
Copyright © Alain Bonet 2002
ICE's range of historical supplements (including the old RM2 supplements as well as the new RMSS ones) allows a tremendous variety of historical role-playing possibilities. It is possible to play 3000 years of Egyptian civilization, the Viking era, the European Middle Ages of Robin Hood or the near-east Middle Ages of Arabian Nights. It is possible to play among the musketeers and pirates of the 16th to 18th centuries, in the Wild West of the 19th, in the Pulp period, and up to the contemporary history of Black Ops; to say nothing of the less historically-oriented but still interesting Mythic Greece (which you can combine quite well with Mythic Egypt) or the Oriental Companion. The Vikings and Robin Hood companions alone theoretically allow nearly 500 years of uninterrupted play and can extend into the Arabian Nights setting – and to top it all, there is the time-travel campaign setting Time Riders !
However, the idea we often have of history is only distantly related to reality – or at least, reality as reconstructed by historians. Most historical games are akin to a Hollywood movie on King Arthur: mentalities, weapons, society and events are happily distorted; anachronism and the most delirious imagination are the rule. There is nothing wrong with that way of playing, nothing wrong with having fun, and fun is what we're here for, mainly. Many quality movies, and a few masterpieces (like Excalibur) have been made that violate their source material (such as the legends of the Round Table) as much as the historical facts; in the same way, great campaigns can be played where history is only a pretext.
But what is it a pretext to? After all, who needs historical references when one can visit other universes at will, unlimited by mere historical reality, and where no one will wonder about fifth-century Britons wearing plate armor, or ninth-century Vikings attacking twelfth-century castles? The answer, I think, lies in the richness, the coherency and the prestige of these legends. Doesn't it sound more satisfying for a character to be a Knight of the Round Table rather than a tenth level paladin in the hire of the Emperor of Somewhere? I still fondly remember the unforgettable circumstances in which one of my players met Agamemnon in Mythic Greece; others take glory in having spoken to Rameses II, fought by the side of Erik the Red – and even of having been sent to Boot Hill by Billy the Kid. Few imaginary worlds can claim such a rank; Tolkien's Middle-Earth is one of them, and I think it safe to suppose that one of its main attractions is precisely that sense of history. It is probably no coincidence that one of the most interesting of its peoples is the Rohirrim, strongly inspired by the historical Mercians of Great Britain.
Another reason is that such worlds are part of our common culture. We know about them and can begin playing in them without needing a crash course in history or civilization, as is the case for other worlds, like Shadow World, or Middle-Earth if you have not read The Lord of the Rings and its appendices. But at some point, enjoying a simple game can begin to clash with historical veracity and coherency. It becomes difficult to play in a setting claiming some historicity without a few efforts. From a historian's point of view, many campaigns take place in simplified, often anachronistic settings, and offer a distorted view of history.
Some claim that such efforts are not necessary, that game enjoyment is paramount, or that "true" history is often far less interesting than its legendary counterpart. There is no arguing the first point. There is also some truth to the second. The historical view of the Trojan war makes it look like a mere looting raid; the cycle of the Round Table stems from skirmishes between Celtic and Germanic tribes; Robin Hood probably never existed and Errol Flynn would have been promptly skewered among historical pirates.
But even history needs heroes, and where heroes have a place, players have one too. The precise fact that heroism is not as strong an ideal in the real world as in legends gives more weight and worth to the characters' actions. History may forget them, but they have forged it nonetheless. The true history of mankind is at least as strange, fascinating and complex as that of the wildest imaginary world, and much pleasure can be derived from as close a meeting as possible with our past, our reality, their mysteries and their splendours. The more one tends towards history, the more these aspects are developed – and satisfying.
Let me digress for a moment about the possibility of "teaching" through role-playing games. A few years ago, a role-playing game product was issued that dealt with the period of WW2 and gave guidelines for fantasy role-playing in a setting that included Nazi Germany and the concentration camps. It was received, at least here in France, by an outcry. That context was not considered suitable for playing, and the supplement was dubbed an insult to the dead.
I cannot help but see in that reaction a lack of ambition concerning role-playing – if not, maybe, role-playing games. I happen to take role-playing very seriously, and while I do indeed enjoy a good, uncomplicated game, I think the medium has the same potential as most other art forms as far as transmitting messages is concerned. Now literature and cinema both can be entertaining. They are also able to deal with very serious subjects – and indeed, some of the most powerful works about the Holocaust were transmitted through that last medium. Nowadays, not many people would protest against Schindler's List being filmed, just because other films are made with only pleasure and fun as their objective. These are two different uses, not to be mixed lightly (but consider Chaplin's The Great Dictator, or Lubitsch/Mel Brook's To Be or not to Be...) I also share the opinion that fantasy in any medium can and does deliver messages about the real world.
I hold precisely the same beliefs about role-playing. I have occasionally used my game to deal with real subjects, even (in a limited way, because that's how my players and I preferred it, not because I think the medium itself is intrinsically limited) to transmit some kind of message. As such, I am not at all shocked about the idea of a fantasy game supplement about Nazi Germany. I have not had the product in my hands, though, and cannot say if it was indeed a mockery or not; I am only addressing the principle of the thing.
To end this digression: the capacity of role-playing to deal with our reality, past or present, is only one more incentive to explore this field of historical games.
Anyway, too strict a difference should not be made between truly historical and non-historical games. There can be no truly historical game (or movie, or book), since we are forced to reconstruct and invent events that maybe never happened, or most probably happened differently. On the other hand, no game can be completely non-historical, since the civilizations of even the farthest universes we can dream of can only, in the final analysis, derive from past and present human civilizations. What we have is a spectrum along which we can move at will. The goal of this article is to point to a few problems that arise when one moves towards the historical pole.
One of the first problems faced by a GM wanting to set up a historical campaign is the room allowed to legend. For a very long time, human cultures made no difference between the two – or more exactly, there was for them little if any difference between History and Myth. The GM can opt for a similar choice, and consider that historical events coincided with supernatural phenomena. In a medieval campaign for instance, this could consist in accepting (and letting players have access to) miracle workers, lycanthropes, sorcerers, or fairy races. I will call that the median choice.
Secondly, we can consider that, when legend and history conflict, we follow the legend. That is the choice made by ICE in the Mythic Greece companion, as well as the Retid period in Mythic Egypt. I call that the fantasy choice.
The last, historical choice considers legend to be exactly that, and allows no supernatural phenomena. Once again, however, there is no real separation between these types of game, only gradations.
Let's start with the median choice, probably the most difficult. Supernatural phenomena should be of a sufficiently restricted scale so as not to fundamentally contradict what we know of history. If, for instance, we consider magic to be real, or to have been real in a given period, and that it was relatively potent and widespread, it is probable that magicians were rapidly recruited by the political powers. Centres of learning and teaching would have developed, technological development, philosophy and scientific theories would have been different, or would have progressed at a different pace. History would rapidly have been modified. The same goes for supernatural beings: their existence would rapidly have been proven... and dragon skeletons would have been dug up since (a Reign of Fire RPG, anyone?).
Most of ICE's historical supplements allow a median choice, and often give guidelines . The GM must take special care to limit the frequency and power of supernatural phenomena. The first measure might be to forbid players from having access to supernatural races and professions. This does not even require magic to be codified; it can remain mysterious, with only Merlin-type NPCs displaying incomprehensible powers. This, however, can prove frustrating for the players.
Another solution consists in having them buy an expensive Talent or Background option to gain access to magic (maybe only at non spell-users costs even then). Pulp Adventures has a system for allowing and controlling player access to magic, which can be adapted to other periods. In any case, be sure to apply experience rules such as access to tomes, teachers, etc. High-profile spells (Fireballs and a lot of others) may simply be inaccessible in a given setting.
The matter of religion must also be settled. Is magic only the domain of Essence/Mentalism types, or do religious (Channeling-type) characters also have access to it? Do their powers emanate from the same source? Is there any reality to the concept of divinity? Do pagan/heathen gods exist? Are they evil? Are there conflicts between divinities? Are these powers conscious, interventionist, well-meaning, neutral ? Arabian Nights discusses the subject at some length.
Supernatural beings should keep a low profile. Dragons, hybrid, or other very visible creatures should be excluded. Humanoids are mostly OK, if they are few and far between and they are discreet. A few giants can be envisioned; they only need to be slightly taller than average to qualify as such. A few fairy creatures like elves can dwell in times and places where deep woods still exist. The Little Folk are a problem; you can either come up with some kind of explanation as to why their remains cannot be found today, or use one of the more-or-less convincing theories that argue that they have actually been found but not recognized by the establishment .
Green men and other mysterious beings can also be integrated without too many problems. Undead and lycanthropes are OK – after all, they only leave human remains. But contagion and numbers should be limited to a minimum; insist on exceptional circumstances for the creation of Undead. There is no way a necromancer can produce armies of them. He must find a suitable body (a burned man, a decapitated man, an unavenged murder victim, etc.) to cast his spells upon and produce the appropriate undead. Lycanthropes should be the result of some kind of sin, pact with darkness or family curse. Remember Psychopompos, the poem by Lovecraft, and its were-wolf / were-snake team ?
Never forget, however, that in an age where mass ignorance bred credulity, religious or superstitious ways of thinking held the day, from the common people to the elite. Many "magic" feats can in fact be duplicated through skills. Historically, many "witches" were burned for no better reason than having a good working knowledge of herbs. Many natural things were thought to be supernatural: will-o' the wisps, eclipses, comets, epilepsy, schizophrenia (thought of as demonic possession); alchemy, while showing the beginnings of modern science and chemistry, was widely considered to be magical, religious or devilish in nature. In The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, the mysterious events at the abbey are considered by most of the characters to be signs – whereas the more "modern" detective-monk sees clues. Well-chosen elements may still allow a "magic" presence in a campaign and remain well within a realistic approach; there may well be the appearance of the supernatural, and the players may have to determine the part of reality and illusion. We tend then towards a historical approach.
The Fantasy choice can, in my opinion, be glossed over quickly. It is my experience that such campaigns end up quickly diverging from "true" history, to the point that it quickly becomes unrecognizable. Unless the GM severely limits the time-span and the scope, there is little chance, for instance, that a campaign set at the time of the Retid dynasties in Mythic Egypt will give birth to historical Egypt. Mythic Greece fares a little better in this respect, set as it is at the twilight of the heroic age – but the GM should then take particular care in slowly restraining supernatural occurrences and powers, while keeping a strong hand on the geopolitical steering wheel to safely bring back the campaign within the folds of history.
So no surprises there: the more you try to stay faithful to real history, the less fantasy elements you can introduce. I prefer to think of such legendary or mythic campaigns as alternate realities where I can play fantasy within a specific atmosphere distantly inspired from our history, not as even remotely historical campaigns.
Beginning GMs should opt for prudence and history. There will still be time later to introduce small doses of unreality into the campaign, either independently of your players' actions (for instance, Dragons suddenly wake up in a world that has never known/forgotten them) or because at some point in their development the characters actually cause or come across previously hidden/disguised magic. Such events may provide characters with new opportunities and dangers.
Anachronism and atmosphere
Once the part of the unreal is established, there remains the question of the game's fidelity to real history. There are several points worth addressing: places, dates, people, technology, mentality... However, it is impossible to exactly and totally recreate a historical period. Not even the best historian could pretend to do it, and in the case of role-playing games, it is not even desirable. At most we can tend to some degree of authenticity. What is desirable is to clearly delineate the kind of game one is reaching for. Most of the time, only the atmosphere of a given period is truly important. However, if the game is used as a teaching instrument, errors are to be avoided as far as possible.
There is no need to be able to write an entire thesis about the period in question. Taking the Middle Ages, for example (Vikings and Robin Hood), it might be necessary for the GM to have some general knowledge about that period, maybe a little more than simple schoolboy learning: the Middle Ages lasted for a thousand years, and their beginning and end are in no way alike. Even the period covered by the ICE supplements, from 780 to 1216 AD, experienced many drastic changes.
The first step is to target a specific period and geographical setting. Most of the time, it is only necessary to study history over two generations: twenty to twenty-five years before the start of the campaign, and the next twenty to twenty-five years. The scope of the setting can vary, especially if you think of the enormous extent a Viking campaign can take, from America to Baghdad, from Greenland to Africa... In a Robin Hood campaign, it would be necessary to have a detailed knowledge of the region where the campaign will be centred (Sherwood Forest), general knowledge of the country (England) and at least a vague knowledge of larger geopolitical units (Western Europe).
Most of the time, the information contained in ICE's supplements is not enough for a truly historical campaign. They allow more of a "Hollywood" style of play, assembling a setting from characteristic elements that were all true at some point and in some places, but were in no way permanent or universal. If you are only looking for atmosphere, they can be used on their own. If you are looking for realism, they are better thought of as starting points for your own research (using the bibliographies in each supplement).
What kind of information is necessary, what is useful, what is superfluous? Playing in a historical setting allows for a tremendous profusion of elements to be gathered and used – but this turns out to be both a help and a hindrance. No imaginary universe can ever be as detailed; but imaginary times and places allow us to invent without restriction or "errors" in case of need.
The following information is crucial:
- Geography. Man changes his environment. He cuts down woods, re-routes rivers, drains marshes, builds dikes, gains land on the ocean, builds and destroys cities. All of these are the consequences of political choices, and entail political, social, and technological modifications, which must be taken into account.
- Events and dates. Historical events happen as the consequence of social phenomena, and though it cannot be predicted, history obeys its own logic. Chronology cannot be modified unless you also modify the chain of causes and consequences. As far as possible, the PCs must adapt to history, not the reverse.
- Actors. History may be mainly determined by the actions of masses, but individuals can play crucial parts at given moments. In a game, the actions of a leader, a bishop or a king will probably be of great importance. It is therefore important to have some knowledge of the rulers and their lives. The level of detail depends on their place in the hierarchy of power and the involvement of that power in the life of the players. If the PCs limit their actions to a small region, the local lord or sheriff can have more importance than the king, whose actions only indirectly affect the PCs. On the other hand, the more powerful the character, the easier it is to find information about him, whereas under some power level, the GM will be forced to invent. Conflicts and alliances between different sources of power are to be studied closely.
- Technology. This is an important point, often underestimated in fantasy worlds where the existence of magic tends to lessen the impact of technological change. The real world is very different. Important technological differences, especially where weapons are concerned, can cause the rise or fall of civilizations. Ship-building, metal-crafting, horse mastery are often mentioned, but weaving, pottery, architecture or administration can also ensure the military or trading domination of a country. Every historical GM must have access to a history of inventions. The GM must also be able to answer such questions as how many knights a country possesses, or how many men a medium-sized battle could gather. Introduce a hundred longbow archers, or a small but well-trained cavalry force in the English army at Hastings, and you can probably send William the would-be-Conqueror back across the Channel!
- Mentalities. It is a truism that our ancestors did not think the way we do. Very often we are somewhat deluded about that when thinking in terms of imaginary universes where modern mentalities seem to coexist with primitive technology. Marion Zimmer Bradley's feminist view of the Arthurian cycle in The Mists of Avalon contrasts sharply with Gene Wolfe's torturer in The Shadow of the Torturer: the latter, very realistically for a pseudo-medieval system, unambiguously justifies torture and duel as instruments of justice! The very notion of adventuring and adventurer groups has to be carefully considered. Such groups usually exist at the margins of social systems, which allows them to operate relatively independently, and live a nomadic existence. They remain ostensibly aloof from most powers. The European Middle Ages knew such groups, like actors or gypsies – not to mention mercenary bands or groups of outlaws. Almost all of them were considered reprobates, if not outright bandits. If the group also includes women, the problem usually gets worse. His outlaws follow Robin Hood because he's a rebel Saxon, but also because he is (or used to be) a noble, and they feel the need for some kind of moral, religious guidance, even one as uncharacteristic as that of Friar Tuck. Defying or opposing political power leads to jail or execution; defying the Church can lead to the stake. The GM cannot afford to ignore the predominant ideologies of the period. This does not mean that the characters have to follow every distasteful custom! For instance, anti-Semitism was widespread throughout Europe during most of its history. This does not mean that the PCs have to hate Jews, only that they know that is the predominant view, and that they may have to face the consequences should their behaviour paint them as "Jew-lovers". Be very careful also about introducing new or contemporary ideas, for which the basis may not exist in the historical period. Most people during the Middle Ages did not wonder whether having a King was a good or bad political system. All they cared about was whether the King was a good one or a bad one. However, there may also be good surprises. Ancient civilizations had their good points too!
Once the historical material has been gathered, the GM can face the next problem. On the one hand, history provides him with an inexhaustible source of adventure ideas. On the other hand, he can feel limited by historical restrictions. For a guideline, let us turn to Alexandre Dumas, father of the literary musketeer d'Artagnan: "History can be abused in order to give her a child. " Since strictly historical games are impossible anyway, it is up to each GM to find his own compromise between atmosphere and truth.
Anachronism is frequently used. A relatively minor event can happen a bit sooner or a bit later in your history; some may never come to pass, or happen differently, or be supplanted by another one. Would history have been very different if the historical d'Artagnan had been replaced by his literary counterpart? More importantly, is the pleasure we get from such a violation of history worth the trespass?
Rather than exactitude, coherency is to be sought. Maybe the characters happen to discover Greenland before Erik the Red does, but eventually history will only remember him. Richard the Lion-hearted cannot die during the Crusades, nor William the Conqueror drown in the Channel; the characters cannot gain the throne of England or unify the Vikings in 780. However, we can plausibly accept the existence of Robin Hood, who after all is only an idealised patchwork of many Saxon rebels who did arise at the time; or maybe the characters themselves were the origin of the legend! Similarly, it can be accepted that a character display slightly more advanced technological knowledge than that of his normal surroundings. An oriental composite bow or a Welsh longbow? Why not? Maybe the introduction of that technique was started by that precise character – even if the actual change has to be a bit earlier than is commonly admitted. Historical novels can provide a good guide to what is acceptable and what is not.
What the Historian doesn't know cannot hurt History
Some of these problems can be avoided by setting the game in periods of history we know relatively few things about. The Dark Ages offer such possibilities. The legend of King Arthur originated between 400 and 500 AD, but the closest reliable document remaining to us only states that another Welsh chieftain was not Arthur. The downside of it is that you then have to recreate a plausible civilization, building on what came before and what came after. Reconstituting Arthur's Britain between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Angles and Saxons is a formidable task, not lightly undertaken by the most serious of historians. But we can profit from such ignorance to assert our own vision, and cast our own light on history's mysteries. We only have to be careful what kind of remains we leave to posterity.
If for instance our players try and emulate Arthur in unifying a Briton Kingdom to face the Saxon invasions, we know that this kingdom is doomed to disappear nearly without a trace. All accomplishments must therefore be perishable: no great fortifications, no important foreign trade, no coins bearing the characters' faces, no inscriptions... at least none that we have found as of now.
The historical GM faces a deadly enemy in the guise of the historian player. It is inevitable that some day a GM will introduce an error – voluntarily or not. Then a more erudite or scrupulous player notices the error... and points to it. "Abomination ! That weapon you call a bill-guisarme is actually a (name), which was only introduced in (date), in a kind of military unit called (name), composed of (type of soldiers), led by (name of minor celebrity). Its first use was at the Battle of (somewhere)... " You probably know the kind.
Now as a GM there is nothing to be ashamed of. Firstly, anyone can make a mistake; secondly, if the error was deliberate, it was (hopefully) in the interest of the game. Our detail-minded player, however, transgresses three important rules. First, stepping out of the game to talk about the game (and out of the story to talk about history). Secondly, he forgets that the GM, as the master of HIS universe, may have deliberately erred. Finally by pointing out the discrepancy, he spoils the pleasure of the other players, who probably had not noticed it.
Dearest players, please keep such remarks for debriefings at the end of the game, and if possible first bring your remark to the GM in private. GM friends, do not be afraid to acknowledge an involuntary mistake. After all, it made your game just that little bit less enjoyable to at least one player, so correcting it, or paying a bit more attention in the future can only help you be a better GM.
Now, how to deal with the situation if it arises during the game ? Depending on the type of game, the situation and the players involved, I usually bluff it through, using three different answers. The first is an aphorism from Charles Nodier : "Truth is useless". The second, a little less extreme, is a quotation from Goethe, which can apply to a rather loose historical campaign:
"There is in truth no historical character in theatre or poetry. However, when the poet wants to represent the world he conceived, he honours certain individuals, met throughout history, by borrowing their names to apply them to his own creatures."
More seriously, Edmond Rostand defended his Cyrano de Bergerac in this way:
"Be assured there is not, in Cyrano, one anachronism I am not perfectly aware of: I am certain, in fact, that however exhaustive your article is, I could still point one or two more. But there are not as many as that... All this being, of course, devoid of any importance, [a poet] is inaccurate only when he wishes to be. But your study must nonetheless be very interesting and very amusing, and you were perfectly right to seize this occasion of showing such fine erudition. "
The important thing being to (diplomatically) remind the player he is only making things worse. If he persists, use your GM right to say that in YOUR universe things are like that. As always, you will know how arbitrary you are by counting your remaining players...
Historical campaigns face the same dangers as time-travel campaigns. One, players already have some knowledge of the "future"; two, what happens if their actions significantly modify history's course ?
The first of these dangers can be avoided by serious players. In contrast to time-travel campaigns, the characters themselves have no knowledge of the future (one more reason to limit divination magic), and thus have no reason to act specifically in order to change it. The second is a greater threat. In time-travel campaigns like Time Riders, the GM can act arbitrarily by explaining that since history is already written, it is impossible to change it (whence the amusing concept of time-locks). This does not go down as well with player-characters who are supposed to be creating history, and falling back on absolute historical determinism may become too limiting and arbitrary.
Once again, the answer lies first in the understanding and seriousness of the players. Secondly, the GM may avoid placing them at focal times or locations. If it should happen (and Robin Hood players may have legitimate reasons to seek out and take revenge on King John, for instance) the GM can be a little more severe than usual as far as obstacles are concerned. This does not mean giving John a hundred twentieth level insomniacs as bodyguards! It could be mere coincidence (John went discreetly out of the castle to visit a mistress that night), mundane obstacles (bureaucracy), or a diversionary scenario (a call for help from a friend or family member, a debt of honour called upon at that precise time).
As a last resort, the GM can try to save appearances as is suggested in Time Riders (or like in serials, where ever-vanquished villains always manage to survive and pop up later, with a long story to tell the heroes trapped in some death machine...) A few simple ideas: the villain falls from a cliff into a river or the sea, or from the battlements into the water-filled moat; is supposedly killed in battle or burned in a fire, but his body is never found or conclusively identified; was really a twin or look-alike (the Man in the Iron Mask?) This can also mean that the traces of the event were later garbled, or erroneous, so that the view of history we now have is false. The event to disguise, however, should not be too momentous. You can even confront the players with time agents sent especially to prevent them from modifying an already-written history. In Poul Anderson's Guardians of Time, time patrollers discover that America should have been first discovered and settled by Chinese explorers. That history was only thwarted by the time masters from another timeline, anxious to preserve the history that led to them...
And what if everything fails? Or if both players and GM, having first followed in the footsteps of history, decide to leave the trail? Why not, but then we leave historical gaming for another perilous exercise, uchronic gaming (see the recent and excellent The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson). There are two distinct approaches. In the first, limited one, the new history quickly rejoins the general stream of events (King John's nephew Arthur succeeds in wrestling power from his uncle, but then faces the same problems and events) and only a few dates and names have been modified in that parallel history. Or history can take a completely different course (Arthur succeeds in unifying Great-Britain, Ireland, Brittany and Aquitaine into a Norman-Celtic-Saxon empire that conquers Europe). Then anything can happen...
Now it is your turn to choose when, where and how to set up your campaign. From history lesson to unbridled imagination, join the company of legendary heroes. Forge the destiny of Humanity throughout the ages and across the continents; explore the treasures and mysteries of our own past; with at the end of the journey the subtle pleasure of having embraced a little closer the immense body of that history which made us what we are.
List of ICE's historical supplements in rough chronological order
Mythic Egypt (RM2) 7500 to 3100 BC (mythic setting)
3100 BC to 30 AD (historical setting)
Mythic Greece (RM2) 1500 to 1140 BC (mythic setting)
Arabian Nights (RM2) 8th century AD (semi-mythic setting)
Vikings (RM2) 8th to 11th century AD
Robin Hood (RM2) 11th to 13th century AD
At Rapier's Point (RM2) 17th century AD
Pirates (RM2) 17th-18th century AD
Run out the Guns! (RMSS Adventure Kit of Caribbean piracy) 17th-18th century AD
Outlaws (RM2) 1860-1900 AD
Pulp Adventures (RMSS) 1920-1940 AD
Black Ops (RMSS) 1950 AD - present time
Oriental Companion (RM2) No dates – Mythic setting
Time Riders (RM2) All periods and genres - Time-travel campaign.