Today is the Feast Day of the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus: Sts. Thaumasius, Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus and Philemon. They were part of a small Christian community in the largely pagan city of Cyzicus, which was located on a peninsula on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara in what is modern day Turkey.
They were from all walks of life, and all ages and were arrested and tortured for boldly proclaiming Christ. At the end of the third century A.D. they were all beheaded and buried outside the city. When the Roman Empire became Christian, their relics were uncovered, a church was built in their honor and many miracles occurred through them.
The inspiration I get from these saints is not primarily from their lives, but rather from where they are from. Just the names of Cyzicus and the Sea of Marmara are evocative. In addition, the geography of the area is awesome. Take a look at this map I threw together based on the actual location:
From very early on, this hobby used maps of real places as the basis from which to build entire campaigns. My guess is that even without changing the names, most people would be unable to recognize this map as being a real place. Taking inspiration from real places adds to the realism of the campaign. If nothing else, the geography of a place makes sense because it is based on reality. From this firm foundation, it becomes very easy to create living, breathing campaigns.
For example, there are two historical realities from this area that could be immensely useful for a FRPG campaign:
- There was an ancient megalithic culture in the area that has left plenty of ruins to explore. For an FRPG, this is the perfect excuse for dungeons, an explanation for the origin of arcane magic and lost magic and/or an excuse to drop science fantasy elements into a campaign.
- The city at the top right of the map just south of the Black Sea is Byzantium. It is destined to become Constantinople, capital city of the Christian Roman Empire. Therefore, there is a built-in Civilization vs. Wilderness feel to this area with very serious end-game implications.
You're so right about the utility of real-world maps, Fr. Dave. I've sometimes traced from USGS topos (the 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 maps are great for this) and then raised the water level to a certain elevation -- voila! Instant campaign area. (Working in a map library helps. :) )
I like that map you drew, btw.
I admit, I had never heard of the Sea of Marmara before seeing the map. Good old Wikipedia to the rescue. There's always more to learn about the real world.
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