In my previous post about a new campaign idea, I alluded to a historical Renaissance setting. I figured I would flesh out the idea here a little in an attempt to sort out which setting seems like the better idea.
This setting would go to a stimulationist point of view by trying to have a historical renaissance/Early Modern Period earth married with D&D, magic, and monsters. Ultimately, it would be human-centric, with demi-human and humanoid races inhabiting the corners of the world, basically, parts of the world with very low historic human populations in the 17th century.
This campaign would require a heavy amount of research to set up the right atmosphere. Essentially, I would be creating a setting and not adventures, and the having the players interact with the setting. It is probably more work up front, but then the players dictate the course of each session. The only plot work would be the loose frame of the 30 Years War. The 30YW actually works very well in this vein since it was fought sporadically through this period, rather than constantly, and did cover a good chunk of Europe's geography, albeit centered in German lands. Ultimately, the 30YW would just be a frame for the gameworld and I would not expect or nudge players into being active participants.
However, I would have the campaign start off in Bohemia just in time for the Protestant nobility and citizenry to get upset over land seizures, leading to the Defenestration of Prague and open rebellion. Provides a great setting for all kinds of fun.
This type of game appeals to me on a very high level. It gives me an excuse for some scholarly research and application to D&D to meet my love of history. However, there are a myriad of design issues and compromises to be made between D&D mechanics and realism. Obviously, magic won't be taken out, but how do people react to it? How do Clerics and divine powers correlate to the Catholic Church, the variety of Protestant and Reformed groups, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Pagans, Animists, and even the gamut of eastern faiths?
In the end, it would be a lot of work that would probably be enjoyable in and of itself. Running the game would also be a big pay off as well. However, would it be a compelling setting for other players? Would the previous campaign idea of the doomed earth work better? Do people prefer standard, Tolkien-esque settings? Maybe any novelty is welcome and I should stick with simplicity?
We'll see what direction I end up taking...