Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mayan RPG For The New Long Count

Cover art by Gustvo Lira
Image copyright. 2007-2010
by Obsidian Serpent Games
Now that the Mayan apocalypse is behind us - the real one started in 1517 anyway - perhaps we can look at some positive alternatives. I have been thinking a lot this week about Chad Davidson's Heirs to the Lost World, an indie RPG with a great world and some really fun gamist dice-based resource management mechanics. Heirs was the first free-standing RPG to take Aztec and Mayan cultures seriously in their own right. I have run this game many times. As someone who used to teach Latin American and Caribbean area studies, the setting hits my sweet spot.

Heirs to the Lost World is an alternate history 17th Century RPG set in Mexico and the Caribbean. In the game world, the Aztecs used magic to defeat the Conquistadors' armies and to treat European diseases. While the Spanish have some footholds in Northern Mexico and in the Caribbean (as do other Europeans), the Aztec civilization remains more or less intact, as do the Mayan city-states. You also have maroon colonies of escaped African slaves, pirates, the squicky Mayan underworld of Xibalba, the gods, and much, much more.

Play can happen anywhere in the region, but you are given the more or less open Mayan city of Xicalango in the Yucatan as a default multicultural setting for starting games and introducing players to the setting. This combines with the Order of the New Dawn to give PCs a narrative structure to plug into in the game. The Order of the New Dawn is a secret society which traces itself back to Dr. John Dee.

The Order of the New Dawn has several goals:

  • Establishing a free, democratic society in the New World
  • Abolishing slavery
  • Establishing peaceful and equitable relations with the native peoples of the New World
  • Ensuring freedom of religion, including freedom to practice magic, which is largely banned (and pursued by the Inquisition and numerous Protestant freelance witch hunters) in Europe. 

The New Dawn counts native peoples and Africans among its members and allies as well. This enables party diversity, as a PC group may include an Aztec Jaguar or Eagle Knight, a pirate or smuggler, a maroon priestess of Voudoun, a Mayan sun priest, and much, much more. So like I said, a pretty rich setting, with some straightforward ways into the game. I have a hankering to start playing some Heirs again, using either the existing game system, which has great rules for stunting, or using the setting to test drive the new FATE Core (maybe you have heard about the latter, yes?).

For more on Heirs to the Lost World, check out the Obsidian Serpent Games website.

You can also see the in-depth interview I did with Chad Davidson over on the Hereticwerks blog, here.

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