Monday, September 17, 2012


I agree, there has been a lot of personal content on this blog.  I don't see that as exactly wrong, but I'm sure it drives a set number of readers away.  Then again, when I work to put content on this blog, and shake up the world with looking at the game of D&D a new way, the readership does not spectacularly change.  In fact, it falls off a bit.

I think what people are really looking for in a blog is a way to help them with their campaign.  Specifically, they want adventure ideas they can plug and play with their people come the end of the week.  With regards to this, I have always been selfish.  I don't share campaign ideas - not many - on this blog.  I keep them to myself, so I can run them in my campaign.  If I write my ideas out publically, how can I expect to surprise my players?  If I spend time make up new campaigns just to please the readers, what will I do when I run out?

Still, it's mostly an example of laziness.  History has all the campaign ideas you could ever possibly want; but you have to actually read it, and history - especially at the beginning, when you don't know anything - is boring.  It is. 

China and Japan are rattling sabres at each other just now, and most of the people who chance to hear about it (not in the forefront news yet here in Canada) will think mostly, "now what?"  The general attitude is bound to be that people just can't get along, anywhere, and isn't that just a shame.  Some will hear that the conflict over the Senkaku Islands is one about natural gas, and that will just convince them that states are petty and squabbling greedy children, run by fatcats.

I've heard about six different versions so far of how the islands got into Japanese hands, none of which actually mention the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 ... in which Japan kicked the holy hell out of China using modern weapons.  The war really only ended because there were other states in the Yellow Sea that Japan didn't want to offend (not China) - and after the war, Japan forced a treaty that gave them most everything they could claim that hadn't already been claimed.

D&D Campaign:  the party encounters a countryside which is being plundered by an army using swords against defenders using farm tools.  The defenders are falling back, and appeal to the party to help them escape, preferably paying them a few potables and whatever jewelry that belonged to their mother to have the party simply fight the squad of twenty men hot on the refugees' trail.

The bigger picture with China was that the Japanese conquest was on the tail end of a long period of conquests by several European powers, acts of pure unmitigated bastardly colonialism by Britain, France, America, Russia and others.  This period was the after effects of floodgates that were opened by the First Opium War of 1839-42.  There was a collection of Brits (and others ) selling excessive quantities of opium to Chinese traders, in order to make piles of money they way  Colombian drug lords do.  Britain did not give two shits in a teacup about Chinese authority, and when the Chinese tried to interrupt their trade (with very complicated circumstances involving the complicity of a member of the royal navy), the Brits showed up with ships to open that trade up again.  The event inspired the first "Unequal treaty" imposed on China by Europeans - there would be many more.

D&D Campaign:  the party stumbles across a large city that has fallen under the control of a dozen different invaders who have broken into hundreds of factions, plundering and getting drunk, getting killed by others who again plunder the plunder, and all the while there is streetfighting and a state of scattered chaos.  There are no authorities, but there are things to steal, blocks to occupy, inter-street treaties to be made and blood to be spilled.

D&D Campaign:  the party must slip aboard a ship in harbor and destroy the cargo of intoxicants by any means that are practical, magic or otherwise, in order to assure that the product will never be sold to innocents.

D&D Campaign:  the party finds themselves aboard a perfectly innocent ship that is seized and held illegally by a petty despot claiming to be operating in the best interests of the crown - but if word can be gotten out to the despots superiors, that's to be the end of him!

The Opium Wars themselves had grown out of what was called "the Canton System," implemented in 1757, in order to restrict European traders to one port upon the coast of China, to have access to silks, porcelain and tea - this last a very valuable export.  The trade was controlled by a monopoly of Chinese merchants called the Cohong - and these 13 merchants would be the only ones authorized by the Chinese government to trade with the foreigners.  At this time, international trade had not reached considerable levels, though there was an increase in British and European shipping picking its way along the Chinese coasts.

There had always been Chinese trade with the West, particularly along the Silk Road ... and the new Mandarins at Canton were eager to buy western goods - which they could sell at considerable prices into the heart of China.  Furs and silver were highly prized.  But there was a resistance to foreign goods that undermined Chinese ethnocentrism ... which of course reduced the import of guns and artillery that China would ultimately need to preserve itself.

D&D Campaign:  the party gains access to one particular merchant in this mercantalist arrangement, so that the part becomes themselves intermediaries between outsiders and the buyers of goods.  Knowing this, the party is seized and forced to take assassins to the merchant's house - if the party agrees, the merchant will die.

D&D Campaign:  the party encounters a merchant from the concealed kingdom that is NOT one of the accepted merchants ... and this merchant wants to buy weapons, all the party can provide.  There's a great deal of money to be made - he will pay twice the value of any weapon the party provides; will the party turn all that easy money down?  To tempt them further, offer to have the party meet the lord of the land where the trade will take place, and hear from his own mouth that the party will not be arrested (then DON'T arrest the party once they agree ... let them make a bundle!)

One such city that had existed before the Canton system on the coast of China was Macau, which had been settled by the Portuguese in 1535.  The Portuguese rented the peninsula, paying an annual tribute and importing 5,000 slaves to enable their small number to properly manage the area.  More than 20,000 Chinese would also settle there, so that Macau became East Asia's first peaceful multi-cultural city.

On June 24, 1622, the Dutch would try unsuccessfully to seize Macau.  There had been three raids previously, but this was an all-out assault.  The Dutch had learned that Macau was not well-defended; they moved to seize the city upon gaining this information with a fleet of 8 ships.  Once they had gained Macau they planned to force the Chinese to trade with them.

From Wikipedia:

"On June 8th the fleet sailed into Cam Ranh Bay or firewood and water, where it incorporated four Dutch ships encountered off the coast of Indochina and detached a ship with dispatches for William Janszoon, admiral of the Anglo-Dutch Fleet of Defence blockading Manila. So when the fleet set sail again from Cam Ranh Bay two days later, the fleet was composed of eleven ships. A few days later, the fleet encountered a Siamese war junk carrying 28 Siamese and 20 Japanese people. The Japanese asked to join the Dutch expedition, and their request was granted. The landing force now amounted to about six hundred, with some Japanese, Malays, and Bandanese among the numbers."

Read the rest of the entry here, and ask yourself if you really need me to come up with adventures for you.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Well done. Teach more history!