The idea of Volkerwanderung has always interested me. Imagine, if you will, entire nations of barbarians relentlessly marching toward civilization’s heartland, their return cut off by some catastrophe, hell-bent on gaining new lands or die trying. Add the haunted ruins of past civilizations, scheming sorcerers, and increasing monster infestations, and you’ve got a heady sword and sorcery brew.
(Note - All illustrations below are merely to illustrate my intended flavor for the campaign; I make no claim that they’ll be used should I release this commercially – much as I’d have loved to commission Frazetta)
In Tribes of Bronze, I’m setting this Volkerwanderung on a fantasy world that’s still in the Bronze Age, a Chariot Age, with the pre-Classical Mediterranean Basin as my peg for civilization. The campaign’s premise is that all the PCs belong to a tribe, which the players get to create together, and their goal is to ensure the tribe’s survival.
Each tribe will have, among other distinguishing details, a Signature Weapon and an Expertise in which characters of that tribe have bonuses. For example, if you want to model a tribe after Howard’s Cimmerians, you could give them swords as their Signature Weapon and Mountaineering as an expertise.
In addition, I’m thinking of creating a Cold War-like split between the dominant civilizations of the world, so that tribes get pitted against each other constantly in proxy wars and shifting, polarizing alliances.
Some adventures I’m thinking of for this include:
1) A powerful monster or colony of monsters is denying a vital resource to the tribe. Maybe it’s occupied the river, thus preventing fishing, or it’s driving off the game, etc. etc. Only the heroes can deal with it – everyone else is just too frightened. (REH fans will probably recognize echoes from Valley of the Worm here …)
2) The tribe has been attacked by another, formerly friendly tribe. The new enemy is numerically superior or has some other powerful advantage on its side. Our heroes must find a way to ensure the tribe’s survival against this new threat. Finding out the cause of the attack will likely lead to more adventures.
3) The tribe encounters an abandoned city in its wanderings. The heroes are elected to explore it, possibly after others have tried, but failed to return.
4) Slavers have kidnapped members of the tribe. Our heroes have to get them back.
5) Imperial envoys arrive, bearing rich gifts and promising more if the tribe will mount an expedition against another tribe.
6) A sorcerer is gathering a barbarian horde by a combination of tempting promises and threats backed by his armies and his command of demonkind. He regards anyone not with him as against him. Now his envoys are visiting the tribe, demanding total submission.
The campaign will celebrate the achievement of epic, history-making milestones for the tribe, such as:
1) Eliminating another tribe, by either complete extermination or absorption.
2) Conquering a province of either of the world’s two empires, and keeping it for the tribe, whether as a truly independent state or as a vassal or ally of an empire.
3) Sacking an imperial city, or destroying an imperial army in battle.
4) Elimination of a titanic-scale monster.
5) Establishing a kingdom, and gaining its recognition by all neighboring tribes and at least one of the civilized empires. While anyone can declare themselves king at any time, it really matters only if you can take on all challengers and make them say ‘Uncle.’