Given that this was my last weekend before leaving for Gen Con I was looking for something fun to do with my kids on Saturday. My wife suggested the Colonial Plantation, which I’d never been to in spite of it being only about 15-20 minutes away from our house. It was not an event weekend, so I didn’t expect to get much out of it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
With hardly anyone else there, my family had the full attention of the people who worked there. They were all very knowledgeable about colonial farm life in Pennsylvania and they showed us how they grew crops, raised animals, lived, cooked, wove clothes, preserved food, and fired muskets. In short, it was a crash course in a slice of life on a colonial farm, and I was fascinated by the facts I’d learned. In the end, of course, a Game Master is a Game Master and Gnome GM even more so, so when we were leaving I turned to my wife and said “now I’m inspired to run a colonial-era campaign.”
If I ever do get around to running that campaign you can bet that, although it’s likely to have the preternatural involved, I’ll have that farm in mind when painting a mental picture for my players. And if I don’t, I’ll still be able to apply some of what I’ve learned in other genres.
All of this, of course, I could have gotten from a decent book or web crawl, but it just wouldn’t have been the same as actually standing in front of the farm house and surveying the grounds, watching the people work, and talking to people that could actually demonstrate facets of life in the 1700s.
So how about you? Have you ever gone somewhere that really inspired you to develop a campaign about it? Did the knowledge that you’d gained help immerse the players, or was it a case of too many of the wrong details? Has going to a particular place ever hammered home how wrong you’d gotten it in a previous campaign where your new knowledge would have mattered?
Reminds me of the old fort in St. Augustine FL. Fewer reenactors, but the materials presented give you a good idea of the politics, issues, and different factions. My brother also got a kick out of all the different uniforms. Between that and the pirate museum (also in St. Augustine), I can’t imagine NOT having all you need for a full fledged campaign.
I whole-heartedly agree that traveling to historical sites is a huge boon in terms of D&D inspiration. If you ever get the opportunity, traveling to Mexico and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza is incredibly impressive and hugely inspiring.
My work often takes my to Africa, and traveling through the villages in the different countries there has hugely inspired my D&D, from something simple as naming to using some of the folklore as starting points for adventures.
It’s definitely interesting to glean bits of insight into how people lived in other cultures and times. When there are good reenactors around it’s easy, but even visiting preserved buildings or ruins can teach a thing or two. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration on architecture that way. What does a commoner’s abode look like? What does a village look like? What does a tribal chief or noble’s property look like? These are very different across different historical cultures.