Project Update: Ostravia in Historical Context

Ostravia is somewhat unique in terms of the games available on the market in that it is alternate history with an eye to history; unlike most games out there which are either familiar alternate history (e.g. any of the dozen or so WWI plus zombies games out there), or fantastical history (Legend of the Five Rings), Ostravia is true to history and builds its narrative around it, rather than building a history around its narrative.

The Fourth Crusade is a great point for this to happen. While it’s probably not the lowest point in European history, it numbers among them; crusaders set out on a conflict theoretically driven by ideology, then crumble and decide to just raid and plunder the countryside, lay waste to Constantinople, and essentially make the world a lot worse for their long-term ideological goals and also prove their own moral bankruptcy.

Ostravia’s set right at the beginning of this period, when the facade of the Fourth Crusade’s zeal has just been pierced. The people who have good things happening are Ostravia’s economic competitors, and Poland refrains from reconquering the splinter state for the simple reason that their king lost power; something that remedies itself quickly. In our alternate history exercise, as a kingdom Ostravia survives from ~1180 to 1207, and the action of the game begins in 1202. Needless to say, not an exceptionally positive place, which is why the rich Gothic narrative layered over it is even more interesting.

This is not to claim that Ostravia is going to be historically accurate to a pin-point; it’s got some major issues that preclude that, and it is willingly including fantastical elements to provide both additional sources for the fantastical enemies that players may encounter but also to accentuate the culture; Poland converted from paganism less than two and a half centuries before, and many followers of Svetovid remain in Ostravia, enjoying the weakness of its monarch as they establish their own parallel society. In our alternate history, they along with witches and other maleficarum pose a major threat to society, just as dangerous as a harsh winter, persistent pack of wolves, or a Hungarian raiding party. Also, the kingdom of Ostravia is principally fictional; being a region in southern Poland (Ostrava, for which it is named, is actually outside Poland) it is going to be depicted in the appropriate manner, although geographically it is going to be somewhat distinct from reality; its borders are the only thing it shares with the equivalent real region in Poland.

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