Thursday, October 29, 2020

Meaningful Minutia

In yesterday's whiny "return-to-blogging" post, I happened to mention I've been spending a lot of time on world building theory. Just in case anyone wonders what exactly that looks like, it means I've been spending a ton of my (limited) free time, reading and researching stuff to use in building one's fantasy campaign world...and most of that time has been spent reading one particular blog.

Bret Devereaux describes himself as a "professional military historian," whose interests "focus on many of the practical concerns of life and battle in the ancient world." Despite specializing in the Roman army of the middle and late republic, Devereaux draws on a broad base of knowledge to explore the intersection of life, economy, and warfare in premodern times.

It's fascinating stuff. His blog, A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, spills a ton of virtual ink dissecting and analyzing fictional "ancient world settings" (things like Tolkien's Middle Earth or George Martin's Game of Thrones) on the basis of how they stack up with regard to historic accuracy, as academics understand history (and with annotated references!). As a reference for individuals wishing to create fantasy settings that are somewhat grounded in reality, it's a fantastic and deep source of information. As a nerd interested in history and pop (nerd) culture, it's a pretty tremendous piece of blogging. 

And "tremendous" isn't a bad word just to describe the sheer quantity of information in Devereaux's blog (though I meant it in terms of quality). When I say I've been spending weeks reading through his archives...he only started blogging in's because there's so much there to read and digest, even without going back and looking for his sources. My lack of employment gives me a skosh more free time than some people (because of swaths of time when I can do nothing but read...sitting in cars during soccer practice or waiting around for kids' classes to dismiss or what have you), but there are hours worth of reading to peruse. I only wish I could podcast his essays while driving.

Since I can hardly offer more than meaningless minutia myself, I would direct anyone interested in fantasy world-building (especially of the typical D&D "vanilla fantasy" variety) to Mr. Devereaux's excellent blog; the best place to start is his aptly named collection of Resources for World-Builders. I've read most of these posts, though I do sometimes get side-tracked by things like war elephants. Me being me, I don't give a damn about how well video games model the ancient or medieval world (or their warfare), but the discussion of logistics and how they shape both battle and civic development is just tasty, tasty stuff. Most of MY readers will probably want to start with his posts about the Siege of Gondor or differences between Got and the real "middle ages." However, tasty as these subjects are, I think you'll find a bit more world building "meat" in the Lonely Cities posts. And regardless of your feelings on Frank Herbert's Dune (and its screen adaptations), you really shouldn't miss Devereaux's essays on The Fremen Mirage.  

Pictured: Highgarden.
Not Pictured: gardens, towns, villages,
fields, or the normal scenes of medieval life.

All right, I wish I had something more cool to give folks then a bunch of links, but right now A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry is just about the coolest thing I have to offer. Enjoy!
: )