Thursday, October 6, 2011

Serendipity Squared

The world is a better DM than I am.

I don't know how much value my non-players will get out of this post. I know that I feel I should write it, if only because it demonstrates to the nth degree the extreme unlikeliness of the world. Unlike most who are limited only to their own imaginations, or to what they can scour from purchased modules and adventures, I have this world that keeps surprising me again and again with its combination of unexpected fact and marvelous continuity.

Here is the story, as concise as I can make it. Some long time ago, about four years in fact, the party went through this adventure that resulted in reuniting an Amazon princess with her Father (see, I can do traditional), a quest which involved a certain amount of unreality and inter-plane contact. In turn, the party was granted the privilege of having reality slightly altered so as to give them a single-hex piece of land all their own, anywhere within the area I had mapped up to that time. After a great deal of discussion, the party agreed upon Transylvania, and I parked them in a wild bit of territory in eastern Transylvania, part of modern Covasna.  The map upon which I based my world did not have any significant town in the hex, so that made it a wilderness land, not administered strongly by the Transylvanian Kingdom.  I wrote generally about the hex in this post, two years ago.

After a long time looking around for any additional information about the hex's geography or history, I had come to the conclusion that there wasn't much of anything - frustrating as that was.  So I've been faking it for quite awhile.

The party went off and did this and that, journeyed into the far north to regain two comrades lost due to a bad incident involving a Deck of Many Things (love that item), returned, fought a large army of hobgoblins, goblins and a few drow elves (who dwell deep, deep under the Carpathian mountains, the party discovered), and got settled into their little fiefdom.  Destroying the hobgoblin/goblin army was seen as a great boon to the King of Transylvania, and the designated owner of the party's fiefdom, the mage, was made a land graf over the same area, essentially the least significant of minor nobility.

Then I began starting the adventure the party is on now, the crux of which at this point revolves around their finding a way to contact and return the Avars, who 'stepped out' some ten centuries ago into another plane of existence, to aid them in fighting some other creatures helping the God Xalmoxis accomplish some nefarious purpose.

And now, a piece of information comes to light that is marvelously unexpected.

It is important to understand the time frame.  Fief given 4 years ago.  Circumstances leading to seeking the Avars begun about 9 months ago.  Choice of Avars as the missing race in question chosen entirely at random.

A couple of days ago, I am looking through old folktales looking for inspiration on how to bring about the awakening of the Avars, which I'm not entirely clear about yet.  And in the process I stumble across a reference to the son of Attila the Hun, Csaba, and his relationship to a Hungarian tribe, the Szekelys.

Well, I know that Transylvania is occupied mostly by a Hungarian-Romany peasantry ruled by a German aristocracy, so anything Hungarian is of interest to me, so I click on the link and look at the Szekelys.  And I find the wikipedia page.

Now, on this page I find the description that they "are a subgroup of the Hungarian people, living mostly in the Szekely Land."  Now, I've never heard of the Szekely Land.  And I am a major geographical buff ... I know all kinds of worthless junk about all kinds of places in the world, and for something to get through the cracks is very unusual - as anyone who knows me can tell you.  Moreover, I've been reading shit about Romania for four years, and I can't recall ever having heard ANY reference to Szekely LAND.  I might have stumbled across the peoples before, and paid no special attention, but that word LAND would have rung a major bell with me, as that is a huge fascination of mine.  But nope, never heard of it.

Guess, just guess, where Szekely land is.

Yep, extending from Covasna through Harghita and into Mures and Neamt.

Who fucking knew?

On the map above, you can identify the Carpathian and Southern Carpathian mountains by where the areas marked off by the white lines get much larger , in a sort of backwards L through the center of modern Romania.  The area above and to the left of those larger subdivisions is Transylvania.

Well fuck, I am thinking.  The party has been there for four years and I'm only learning about the Szekely's NOW?  I could have been building campaigns all this time ... should have been building campaigns.  I feel sheepish and more than a little stupid.

But what the heck, I know now.  And it doesn't destroy the continuity, since the party is in league with the German aristocracy, and was never in league with the peasantry anyway.  Good enough, I'll start bringing the Szekely culture into the picture, now that I know.

So who are these Szekelys?  Well, there's a lovely link on the wikipedia page, History of the Szekely peopleGood place to start.

But then, you go down that page to where you find "Speculations and theories today," and there's a huge bomb right here, tailor-made for my campaign and the party itself.

Theory number 4 for the origins of the Szekely people:  "Szekelys were descendents of the Avar people, whose Kaganate was liquidated by Charlemagne and Khan Krum in the early 9th century, who relocated to Transylvania in the 12th century."


Now, I said in the linked post above about the Avar campaign that I wasn't using the real world time frame, and that the Avars were disappearing in the 7th century.  But it's reasonable to assume that some Avars disappeared in  the 7th century, and that the remaining Avars were then destroyed in the 9th, and so on.  I did say, after all, that the information the party had about the "last Avars" was a myth.

What this means, for those who haven't jumped forward into the future, is that the party has the opportunity to return the forefathers of the very people over which the party has nominal authority, gain the adoration and respect of the Szekelys, possibly unite them, establish themselves as religious and secular leaders over a whole group of people occupying a 5,000 square mile area, sue for autonomy from the Transylvanian King (probably not independence), and then use an army raised of Szekelys (I estimate casually between two and five thousand fighting men) to carry out further adventures.

And people say the End Game in D&D is boring.

You know what?  You go to the store and buy another 32 page piece of shit from a vendor.  I will stick to running world history.  It is just too fucking amazing.


Oddbit said...

That's actually pretty awesome.

Imon Fyre said...

Serendipity kicks serious amounts of ass some days...

Good going on you and the party for doing whatcha do.

Eric said...

And the players wouldn't just have any army- they'd have a highly experienced and mobile force:

"During the 17th century, Székelys continued to be one of the most important components of the Transylvanian army. They could be mobilised quickly, and were under arms in a couple of weeks, at the disposal of the Prince."

Alexis said...

We have really got to teach you how to embed a link in html, Eric.

Worse, since it's the same link I put in the post proper, you've just given the url for the 16th-17th century tab on that link.

But I had to publish this; you're dead right. The numbers of Szekelys given for war parties numbers between 13 and 26 thousand, but I always feel that historical numbers are drastically modified upwards. I have yet to meet any person ever who, without actually knowing it from the data, came anywhere close to properly estimating the size of a population centre they'd just entered.

There's a lot of information on that page, including a rather sudden lack of information between the battle of Kronstadt in 1603 and the 18th century. That is typical; the Thirty Years War destroyed a lot of records, and most of what we know about pre-reformation cultural history depends still upon German scholars. I could never be a proper historian because I don't read German.

Picking between the lines, I'd judge the Szekelys are fairly disaffected and mistreated by the present Transylvanian regime, which is very much in the Turk's back pocket following the decimation of Hungary and the loss at Kronstadt. Poland has weakened considerably as an effective European power and the Ottoman Empire is now firmly entrenched ... much more so than the mid 16th century, which is what most of the references to the Szekelys on that link refers to.

Eric said...

Heh, I assume by default that links aren't permitted in most blog comments. I'll add HTML in future.

Google Translate does German-English pretty well, but it can't really handle Hungarian:

"Székelyföld leírása", an encyclopedic description of the Szekely Land

Same document through Google Translate

Translate anything from German Wikipedia, and you'll see what I mean- the German-English translations come out much more readable.

Silvius Volundr said...

That is simply amazing. Sounds like you must be having as much fun running/creating/researching this world as your players are playing it.

In your campaign world, Alexis, do player groups ever encounter one another or do their deeds send ripples to the other involved parties (PC's, I mean).

Alexis said...

I have had that happen. Though right now, it would be difficult, but while the online party has just killed the crab on Neuwark Island, the offline party, describing events as I ran them in real time five years ago, is in the middle of a siege in Saratov on the Volga River, an outpost of the Grand Duchy of Moscovy.

So, not likely to meet.