So how does an otherwise relatively normal individual decide to spend dozens if not hundreds of hours into constructing a brief snapshot of a history that never was? I’m the person who did just that and even I’m not sure, but this four part series looks to deconstruct the genesis of a new project as well as the way ideas translate into scale reality.
With precepts, concepts and even rules hammered out I was finally able to flex my historical muscle and develop the overall scenario –as well as hammer out some tasty morsels of flavour (not to mention start mixing my metaphors like a hack).
Even though I finally had the general idea of what was going to happen, specifics were far from pinned down. Yes, there were men who led and men who followed. They had an island which designates the general terrain over which they will fight and die. But what was going on?
I’ve never been able to let an irksome question rest. Everything always has to be resolved and answered in order for me to be satisfied with the outcome of a project – and few things matter more than the political motivations. Looking over history had yielded the strange delights of Japanese pirates called Wokou, including one who was not only a pirate but also a samurai and a ninja, but they were eradicated at the very beginning of the Seventeenth Century and it seemed like lazy writing to hurl them sixty or so years into the future, so instead I looked for where things were headed at this time. A lot of gamers who fail to be interested in historical gaming view research as something boring that you must suffer through, and no doubt would be groaning at some of the texts and documentaries I devoured. These people are to be pitied, because above all else they are being fed poorly-actualised settings. No fantasy writing team, no matter how passionate, is going to be able to model history. History modelled every last button on every last coat and then wrote an essay on those. Even the most organic and complete fantasies won’t have regional dialects of Elvish, or any of the other organic features that can and will enrich any history table. There’s no shame in detail delving, and it lets you zoom in or out, being as involved or uninvolved as you want.
It is for this reason that I discovered with great joy an event that happened just prior to (and was potentially responsible for) the closing of Japan. An invasion force of 10,000 was raised to strike at the Spanish East Indies but it had to be cancelled due to mounting problems and pressures. But what if it had gone ahead, and then been a spectacular failure on every level?
No Seventeenth Century invasion force from a still fractured Japan would give up its power so easily as to just head home and then disarm. The Emperor would have had virtually no authority to impact on the soldiers that had left, except through his vassals and officers. If they had turned, then suddenly becomes chaos. This era of Japan was never a stable society and another war would have seen the power balance blown sideways. This collapse would even have come as China wrestled with the invasion of the Manchurians and end of their native Ming dynasty, meaning that the two East Asian powers would have been in a power vacuum and there would have been large forces afloat now under their own steam. Cue ‘its a pirates life for me’.
While it’s true that this setting would never have been a sustained or ongoing conflict, it would likely have led to a few years of relative piratical anarchy. Where the dust settles is completely unclear, as with this force of eye-patched Samurai afloat you would have had large risks to the fleet used to invade Formosa for its real-life collapse. There would likely be serious commercial opportunities for the Dutch to exploit, as well as a shifting series of alliances that suit a broken down system. To make this even better for everyone but the Dutch, they were the European backer of the invasion both in real history and my pulp timeline – so who would vengeful Samurai blame for dishonour and disgrace? Why those orange-coated bastards who fed their lords lies and led them into disaster, naturally.
I do not contend that any of these outcomes are realistic and no doubt my dates are somewhat off-kilter. But I set out to make a pulp setting and this is the one that captured my attention by corrupting what had originally been a relatively serious and historically accurate idea.
(These posts were finished quite a while ago, but I haven’t made much progress with miniatures but especially this project since then. I will however be trying to paint up starting forces for the games this month as part of a monthly painting pledge challenge over on that website of dubious quality, Reddit. For those of you who want to find the subreddit, try here http://www.reddit.com/r/taleofredditgamers/ but for those with more sense than that, I’ll be putting up a post detailing the ins and outs of who and what I’m painting that will be at least as fun. Also it will come with the long-promised progress report.)