History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Historical Fiction

Cover art for Unfixed TimelinesAt Rustycon, I was on a couple of panels about historical fiction or using history for writing and gaming ideas. We talked about interesting historical fiction we’d read and written, as well as ways of using history to come up with neat story or gaming ideas.

If it wasn’t already apparent from the name of my website, I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I love coming up with events and occurrences that may already have a historical explanation, but that can be twisted just a little bit, mixed with some speculative ideas, and come out with something new. I don’t write much of the “what if” version of alternate history, in which you start with an event that would change what happened over the following years and follow it out to its conclusion, but I enjoy reading those types of stories and books.¬†Arguably some steampunk could fall in to the latter category, but the steampunk I tend to write is normally not set in our world.

The stories that I included in Unfixed Timelines all share the theme of having just a little tweak applied to reality. An archaeological dig that winds up uncovering alien artifacts. Zombies in the aftermath of the Battle of Vicksburg. An annual beauty pageant ruled over by an otherworldly entity. Magic and Greek gods intervening in an Old West dispute. A Nereid rescuing her daughter from pirates. Nothing huge in any case, though the impact on the stories and the history is profound.

When it comes to using history in gaming, the most often method is to take a real event and file off the serial numbers, particularly if you’re operating in a non-real world setting. You might not want to have Civil War generals showing up in your game, but if you tweak their names and have the conflict similar, you could use the details of a Civil War battle in your game, whether it be fantasy or sci-fi based. If your game is a historical game set in the real world, you don’t even have to file off the serial numbers. In my old Victorian Era Buffy the Vampire Slayer game, wherein the characters were the Slayer of that time’s assistants, Jack the Ripper was a demon who ultimately dragged the Slayer off to a hell realm, leaving her helpers to try to retrieve her. So there are plenty of options for playing with history in a gaming setting as well!

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