There’s a hidden little kernel of truth in the new campaign I am running for the boys. If possible I would like them to learn something while they are having fun with the game. If I look back that is one of the reasons I fell in love with D&D in the first place. I could justify reading, and learning while having fun.
It is not just learning the game, and developing their role playing skills, and imagination. Although I think that those are important things to learn and hone. But if you play it right, and run it right, you can learn some really interesting things while you are at it.
For example, the boys haven’t really run up against it yet, but there is a real, historical reason why they will not see a lot of armies of guys in heavy armor running around. And why certain weapons are far more common than others in the campaign. Because this campaign setting is in a rough equivalent of late Middle Ages. When the weapons and skills of certain groups made the traditional heavy knight obsolete. I just think that is a fun fact, and they will learn it in this game.
So today I was on another of my favorite web sites, The Mad Adventurers Society, and decided to listen to a brief podcast called GM Word of the Day. I hadn’t listened to these before, and I immediately subscribed to it on iTunes. But today’s word was Salt. And gave a brief talk on why salt is important to humans, and therefore why it became such a treasured commodity.
This led me down an interesting train of thought. The reality is that while gold, silver, gems are precious items, in many cases people have not waged wars over them. People have moved, settled, built cities, and waged war over resources. Like salt, which up until recently was a relatively scarce resource, something we now take for granted.
(An aside, one of the original themes behind the TV series Jericho was that the town had a salt mine nearby. And one of the lead characters remembered this fact, and planned to use this control of this resource to keep their town viable.)
Anyway, if you look at your history, another example is spices. The Spanish did not go to the New World in search of gold and treasure initially. They went in search of a source of spices. Like salt, spices are one of the things we now take for granted, but were once a hot commodity and resource.
Well I plan to subtly teach the kids some of this as we play this campaign. When they go out to search for things, it isn’t so much gold and silver that the merchants who sponsor them want. It is resources, something that they can actually sell back in the older lands of the Kingdom. I like that idea, teach them a little while also having fun.
For example, they find a cave, and while exploring it they find some gems embedded in some other rock. When they bring those back the merchants don’t give a damn about the gems, it is the ore that excites them. It could be salt, or iron ore, or something like that, which is a resource that could be used in trade. And more importantly a resource that is worth fighting a war with the native population, or fighting off marauding monsters for.
I am looking forward to this. Letting the boys have their fun of course. But at the same time, maybe they will learn a little.