Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Kynthiad: The borders of the world

Over several years of game play, Kynthia has visited the far extremes of the known world, in all four cardinal directions--and even found a new home (and started a family) in one of those exotic lands.

For this campaign, the world's borders are roughly those known to Herodotus (from whose Histories I've drawn a great deal of detail and inspiration about exotic and/or legendary places and cultures), and includes all of Europe except Scandinavia, Africa as far south as the Congo, and Asia as far east as the Caspian Sea and Mesopotamia. The following legendary lands also exist:
  • Cimmeria, the westernmost region of the world, located in Iberia. The isle of the Hesperides lies off its coast.
  • Colchis, the home of King Aeetes and Medea, at the foot of the Caucasus. The palace of Helios lies to the east of those mountains.
  • Ethiopia, at the far southern edge of Africa, beyond Nubia and the land of the Pygmies (the latter also being legendary).
  • Hyperborea, at the far north of the world, approximately where Scandinavia would be. 
  • The River Oceanus, which surrounds the entire world (and thus touches Hyperborea, Cimmeria, and Ethiopia).

As a side note, I've been casting NPCs as real-world actors, so that we have an easy visual reference for each character. (This is a trick I picked up from a long-running Buffy game I played in years ago.) Hyperboreans are almost all white, apart from a handful of characters who immigrated from elsewhere (or whose ancestors did). Cimmerians are a mixture of blacks, whites, and mixed heritage (much as Moorish Spain was). And because I've cut most of Asia off the map, I'm using Indians to cast Ethiopians, and East Asians for Scythians. For most "real world" locations, I've been trying to keep my casting close to what the people there should look like, though that's often pretty loose (ala Xena or Hercules).

Kynthia is originally from Colophon, in Lydia (on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor). During her travels, she fell in love with Anahodios, a winged demigod from Hyperborea. She made several visits to his homeland between other quests, and that part of the setting definitely took on a life of its own. Hyperborea became a permanent focus of the game once she married her beloved and made it her home as well. 

Besides Herodotus, I've used ideas teased from the (often eccentric) footnotes in Robert Graves' The Greek Myths to flesh out Hyperborea. His notes point out connections between stories and themes, and often elaborate on alternate versions of stories mentioned in the main text. While Hyperborea rarely features prominently in the best-known Greek myths, there are connections to that fabulous land through many of the stories. (For example, Perseus and Heracles both visited it, or lands near it.) Hyperborea filled much the same niche for the ancient Greeks that Atlantis did for everyone after Plato: it was a distant paradise blessed by the gods, from which came many of the secrets of early civilization. This is one of the chief reasons that I decided against including Atlantis in the Kynthiad. 

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