This one goes out to all the amateur historians. If you’ve ever felt your Legend of the Five Rings experience threatened by inaccurate tax codes or your Viking game cheapened by horny helmets, you know how hard it can be balancing fantasy against the inspiration that birthed it.

Note the word “balance” though, because that’s the real trick. It may be easy to rip on anime, but at some point I understand the aesthetic. Why do we have to make sure that ever little detail hangs together? Can’t we just let awesome fantasy things be fun and awesome?

Speaking as a layman, I find it helps to think of history books as a source of inspiration rather than constraints. For example, I recently discovered that my beloved Night Watch has little to do with medieval policing. Apparently it was all about communal action, with local amateurs dealing with minor disturbances. That doesn’t mean Sir Samuel Vimes is a phony, or that including a organized constabulary in your ye olde setting is automatically dumb and wrong. Instead, it means that words like “tithingman” and “church court” are suddenly in your vocabulary. The possibility space of your setting widens rather than narrows as you plunder Earth’s timeline for all its finest knowledge nuggets. And to me, that additive framing feels a lot more satisfying than, “Um, actually, you can’t do that because it’s based on a common misconception.”

So for today’s discussion, let’s talk historical inspiration. What’s a weird tidbit from the IRL past that you’ve adapted for the table? Did it bring awesome fantasy tropes back down to reality, or did it do the opposite, transforming history into over-the-top fantasy goodness? Tell us all about your most (and least) favorite historical precedents down in the comments!


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