29 November 2010

Vikings vs. Khazars, courtesy of Michael Chabon

Standing off beyond the shallows, dragon prows surveyed the despoiling of the walled town.  Fair-haired northmen in jerseys of barbarous red poled out to their ships on wide barges heavy-laden with bales and casks, with kegs and casks and huddled women, and handed them up to their fellows on the decks, and poled back to the wharves again for more.  The red-shirted men swarmed in the streets, and a dozen of them were at work with irons, prying loose the golden sheeting that clad the domes and minaret spires of the great mosque.  They worked quickly, and without their usual piling up of booty on the shore for their elaborate rites of their thievish creed, probably because some lookout not distracted by rape or robbery had chanced to gaze down from the shattered walls of the city and see the company of horsemen charging hard for the town gates.
                                     --- Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road

Thinking about Game of Thrones

Yes, I took Thanksgiving off from blogging, as we traveled out of town.  No, I didn't tell any of you, which wasn't very nice of me.  Sorry. 

I'm still mentally on vacation a bit, with gaming thoughts hard to come by.  But I was struck today by the new trailer for the upcoming Game of Thrones series from HBO:




That, combined with this awesome map of Westeros, has gotten me more excited about Martin's fantasy epic than I have been for a long time.  Granted, I am of the camp that's disappointed with the delays in the books (though I agree that "George R.R. Martin is not my bitch") and think that the latest installment of the series was not as well written as previous books.  This is not the post for detailed analysis of that, however.

What I am thinking about is what, if anything, from GoT feels right for my own project.  Not specific ideas, of course, as there are already several iterations of GoT role playing games.  Rather, what larger themes, plot devices, tropes (or their reversals), and/or elements make sense in a quasi-historical Mediterranean world?

23 November 2010

Kahn!

In a land of harsh deserts, feared bandits, and worse, few sites are as welcome as the kahn or fundaco.  These stops on noted trade routes provide welcome respite from the hazards of travel.  Though varrying in size from hundreds to tens of thousands of square feet, most are similar -- a tall, broad gate, big enough for camels and horses to pass through, opens into a square open-air courtyard.  Fresh water is always provided, as are bedrooms on the upper level.  Numerous stalls and doorways surround this courtyard, where traders and locals set up shop, hawking food and trade goods to the traveller.  Whether staying for the night or for a month, the visitor to the kahn can expect rest, entertainment, and information on the road ahead.



Rulers build and maintain kahns in order to facilitate trade along their roads, but recent events such as the disintegration of the Abbasid Sultanate have left many of these stops in isolation.  Rumors persist of a ghostly kahn that does not appear on any map, but rather materializes out of the desert for the weary traveler.  Lured in by the promise of fine food and shelter, the traveler (or entire caravan!) is tempted by delights of food and flesh, only to awake in the middle of the desert, miles and miles from where they thought they were.  Some are said never to return at all.

(I'm fascinated by the idea of the caravanserai.  This seems like a RPG staple that I've never seen really developed, aside from the standard roadside inn.  Historically, these things played an vital part in trade and would seem to serve as a wealth of adventure seeds.)

22 November 2010

Forgotten Songs Retrospective -- "Forgotten Songs"

This is the DM recollection/commentary of Risus Monkey's "Katja's Diary".  It covers his first entry.

Getting the PC's together is always hard, especially when exactly half the party had decided to play characters that wouldn't be immediately welcome in a small  hamlet on the edge of civilization. Rather than hand-wave the fact that three PC's were semi-monstrous away, I decided to make their outsider status an important part of the early game.  I am not sure this was the best course of action, as figuring out an in-game reason to actually let these PC's into town took awhile.

Risus Monkey can talk more about Katja's backstory if he wants; honestly, it's hard to remember all the details at this point.  But a big part of the game was the uncovering of lost lore, much of it related to gods that weren't worshiped any longer.  The Temple of Oghma was a big part of that, but so was Katja.  I had always thought of druids as being really mysterious and a little scary (this is likely a holdover from 1st Edition), so the forces at work with and through Katja weren't always, well, nice. The poem Katja hears in her dream speaks to that a little; it directly foreshadowed the upcoming wolf-fight and the mysterious red-eyed creature Katja sees afterwards.  Similarly, the "words in the woods" had direct and indirect references.  Indirectly, it referred to the Oghma temple and the forgotten lore.  More directly, it referred to both the standing stones in the White Grove and, well, something that comes up later.

Katja and Bix head off to the grove, meet everyone else, and fight some nasty wolves.  Sunny is knocked unconscious, which is merely the first time someone in the party almost dies.  This seemed to happen almost every combat session, especially early on.  Granted, the party was less-than optimized for melee combat, but I think it also illustrates how wonky the CR/EL rules were in 3rd Edition.  They presented themselves as a way to create appropriate challenges, but there were all these assumptions built into the math that simply didn't apply to the group.  The party was above average in size (six), and way below average in combat ability if you don't count Kreed.  He evens things out a bit, but that meant if he went down the party was screwed.  It also meant that, if planned tough combat encounters, there was a good chance of some other party member getting killed or seriously injured while Kreed defeated the monsters.  This plagued me for, well, the entire time Kreed was with the party.

I think I threw the micro-dungeon in there at the last minute.  I realized the party had a tough encounter but had little to show for it, so I put this abandoned hollow there to give the PC's some needed coin.  I also remember the PC's getting mauled by bugs and failing a bunch of saving throws.  I wonder, though, if there wasn't something else down there I wanted the party to find.  I'll need to check my notes (but I think they're in the attic).

This post also reminded me I was kind of a stickler initially.  Note that not everyone speaks the same language.  There was no "common tongue" and you had to buy extra languages with skill points, which is why folks are translating for other PC's all the time.  That may have been a little mean.

18 November 2010

Forgotten Songs Retrospective -- Player Characters Part 2

Orion was a fairly straightforward elf wizard.  The character background was simple -- recently finished with his training, Orion was sent by his wizard master to investigate rumors of a lost temple of Oghma. Orion's player was a rather new gamer and fiance to the guy who played Boaz.

Boaz taught me a very valuable GM lesson -- do not make a significant portion of the campaign arc depend on a single character.  He was a half-orc cleric of Oghma, the only cleric of Oghma anywhere, for that matter, since the god had not been worshiped in hundreds of years.  I thought his background was pretty clever.  Boaz had been turned to stone by some hideous monster or evil wizard and recently restored to bodily health.  Confused at first, he dedicated himself to restoring his church.  Thus, Boaz provided much of the motivation for the temple's exploration; he was a central character in the story, a protagonist in the sense of "he who moves the action forward."  Despite voicing initial enthusiasm for this role, Boaz's player never really embraced it.  Thus, I was faced with a priest of Oghma who never seemed very interested in exploring the temple of Oghma.  That, coupled with in-game events, led to the game almost being totally derailed a few months in.  It did lead to a significant departure from the game's original premise.

Kreed was another half-orc, though his player went with the traditional barbarian.  A min-maxer, Kreed's player manipulated my character creation system a bit to come up with an insane array of ability scores.  I take full responsibility here -- I should have said something up front, but I was also a little worried about the party's overall combat effectiveness.  A really good fighter-type, I thought, was needed.  Thus, the uber-effective melee combatant that was Kreed.  I still kick myself for not having a little more backbone during this character's creation, as having a PC that was significantly better than everyone else in combat led to a host of problems in the future, as did the player's penchant for optimization and rules-lawyering.  On the upside, many of the issues that Kreed brought to light were issues with the game itself, as they were changed when the 3.5 rules were introduced.  One magic item in particular stands out, but I am sure Katja's diary will get us there in time.

I'll add at this point that I think all of these issues came to be well known by the gaming group in retrospection; they are things I think we all talked about at some point after the game ended (or had to address as the game was ongoing), so I don't feel like I am violating any confidence here.  I hope any of the former players that happen to stumble on this blog feel the same way.

17 November 2010

Forgotten Songs Reflections -- The Player Characters Part 1

Katja's first entry tells of the meeting of the PC's, so I thought I'd write a little more about them and what I remember about their origins.

I can't remember if we all sat down together to roll up the PC's or not.  I am thinking not, given how they all turned out.  Most folks had a clear concept that drove character creation, which made for some memorable PC's but also led to some problems down the road, especially in terms of PC tactical viability.

Katja I won't discuss too much, since we'll see her arc through the journal entries.  I'll admit I was a bit concerned that Risus Monkey would make a purposefully sub-optimal character, stats-wise.  There was lots of grist for the role-playing mill, but I was coming to realize the 3rd Edition had a fairly low tolerance for characters that weren't "well-built" (less of a tolerance, anyway, that earlier editions, IMHO) and I didn't want Katja to, well, suck.  But I new RM well and knew what he was after, so Katja was a Ranger with an 8 strength.

Bix was a bard.  In many ways, the consummate bard.  Cthulhu's Librarian played him very much AS a bard -- a charismatic rogue who dabbled in everything.  Again, I was a bit concerned with tactical effectiveness here.  But a bard was a supporting character who could help everyone out in some way, so making a "well-built" bard wasn't terribly important.

Sunny was actually Ruyen Sunfinder, a half-drow.  Like most of you, I wanted nothing to do with Drizzit-clone drow PC's.  But Sunny's player had a very interesting concept and was interested in exploring the idea of race and prejudice in the game.  Since the player was an anthropology Ph.D. student, I figured she could do it better than R.A. Salvatore, so I said sure.  We came up with some minor half-drow abilities to go along with her character.  Strangely, I don't even remember what Sunny's class was; I think she was fighter/rogue multi-classing, with the eventual goal of doing an Upright Guide prestige class.  The Upright Guides were an organization who worked to free slaves or people in trouble and get them to safety, a combination of the Underground Railroad and the Harpers from the Forgotten Realms.

I'll get to the other three PC's in the next entry.

16 November 2010

Reflections on Forgotten Songs -- Prelude

I want to diverge a bit from the scattered work on the Pirates vs. Vikings setting to comment on some posts from my good friend Risus Monkey.  A long time ago, RM was a player in a longer-term 3.0 edition game I ran when we both lived in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Now, having uncovered his player logs from that campaign, he's posting them periodically to his blog.  This has brought back a lot of memories and prompted a lot of reflection on my part.  I thought I'd repay RM's kindness in writing and posting these stories by adding a "commentary track"; I'll post my own DM's Screen take on Katja's diary as time and energy warrant.

A couple of preliminaries, however.  Risus Monkey pays me high compliment when he says:
Professor Pope's D&D3e Forgotten Songs campaign ranks among my top role-playing experiences as a player.
Honestly this is pretty flattering.  It's high praise because Risus Monkey himself is a wonderful GM.  Not only that, my memories of this campaign are emotionally mixed.  One one hand, we no doubt had fun.  Risus Monkey and Cthulhu's Librarian (who played Bix) are still two of my closest friends today.  On the other, I remember struggling mightily with the new 3.0 system, being frustrated by many elements of it, and dealing with a number of inter-personal player conflicts that, years later, still resonate.  The later is especially keen, since I think our gaming group was, for a time, much more than a gaming group and was a close group of friends that approached family-like status.  I am sure ruminations on all of the above will show up in my commentary, but I'll try not to air any dirty laundry.  That sounds rather expose of me, I suppose.  But I can't completely separate the game from the players, since we were all so close for a time.

Forgotten Songs (FS) was my attempt to run a long-term game, somewhat epic in scope.  The Virginia group had played in a short-lived game prior to FS, but we restarted with new characters and the addition of another player.  My goal was to run a game as lengthy and fun as the 2nd Edition game I had played in before moving to Virginia.  In fact, I chose to set FS in the same world as that previous game -- Ermoon.  Ermoon was a homebrew world developed by my former DM Darren, whom I played with in graduate school in Texas.  It incorporated lots of real-world mythology, with various sections of the world having a different "feel".  The Forgotten Songs game was set in the part of Ermoon that resembled pagan Celtic lands (hence Oghma).  I was also constantly challenged and inspired by Story Hours posted on ENWorld, particually those of Sagiro and Piratecat.  Those games, which had been running for years, coupled with my own fairly recent epic game history, set high expectations for the game in my own mind, even before it had gotten started. 

Initially, I tried to follow the rules set forth in the Dungeoncraft series of articles in Dragon magazine, the first of which was start small but have secrets.  I laid out this backwoods village of Harcomb, which was near to some ruins that were supposedly a forgotten temple of Oghma, a god no one worshiped any longer.  The initial arc of the campaign would be having the players engage in small adventures near the ruins, gaining experience (both XP and simply playing with the new rules and working together), gathering some basic information about Oghma, the temple, and the socio-politcal state of things.  Then, they would venture into the dungeon, gradually exploring it bit by bit, leaving to do other things and returning at will.  They would uncover it's secrets, some of which related directly to PC's histories,  Other secrets were literally earth-shaking, threatening to upset the established politcal and religious order, unleash nasty evil on the world, or both at the same time.  The PC's would work up to that, however.  First, they had to meet each other.  Then they had to learn to work together and gain some resources before entering the temple. Katja's first entry tells of the initial meeting of the PC's.

15 November 2010

The Big Name

I really need a name for my fictional Mediterranean.  The sea is so big, both in physical size and importance to the setting, that 1) constantly referring to it as "The Inland Sea" just won't cut it and 2) the name is of significant importance, especially given it could easily serve as a name for the setting itself.

My immediate thoughts were to call it some fictionalized version of mare nostrum.  This made sense.  The ancient Roman-esque empire controlled much of the sea for much of the past, so that name could easily have carried over into the present.  But the more I thought and read about it, the fascist connections of the term didn't sit well with me.  Thus, I've moved away from that idea.  Although I did come across a cool-sounding board game with some associated cool art

I'm leaning toward taking a smaller part of the Mediterranean, blowing it up to mean the whole thing, and fictionalizing it a bit.  Leading candidate is mare tirreno or the Tyrrhenian Sea.  So something like Triheian Sea, Henian Sea, Sea of Tyre. . .

I'm stuck a bit here, but it seems important to get this down.

13 November 2010

Idea Summary

Periodically, I'll comb back through the older posts to compile names, places, and things I've mentioned in previous posts.  This will serve a number of functions.  Not only will it summarize what's been done for easier reference, it will also serve as a "to-do" list of sorts.  Having everything in one entry will also remind me what I need to do -- filling in gaps and fleshing out previous ideas.  When I have an idea for a full entry I often throw in other names which don't really refer to anything yet.  Putting all those in one place will remind me I need to go back and put something behind those placeholders.  Eventually, all of this will go into a wiki or some master source document, but that's not going to happen at 6:30 on a Saturday morning (my daughter does not care that it's Saturday and woke up at 5:45 AM).

Here goes:

Organizations: Unnamed snake cult, unnamed college of sorcerers, Asherite Cult of the Six Stars, The Sassarian Navy,

People: Astbury, Alejo, Marin, ibn Taram, Urols, Magnus Knarr, The Sultan of Almohad,

Places: Arms of Orum, Valz, al-Andalus, The Crown of Stars, unnamed holy city of forgiveness, unnamed holy ruined city, Muqad, Zafar, Sheng, Kingdom of the Seven Rivers, The Straits of Fire

Objects: The Rihla, Golems

Did I miss anything?

11 November 2010

Happy Birthday to the Monkey

Just wanted to wish a public happy birthday to my friend, gaming companion, and former roomate Risus Monkey, who turns 40 today.

I need cults

For whatever warped reason, I hear circa 1987 L.L. Cool J saying the title of this post.

I also think of Ian Astbury:

cult.jpg
But that's not what's going on here.  Flourishing in the back waters and alleyways of this world are cults -- groups of devoted, often fanatical individuals who have dedicated themselves to the worship of something esoteric, strange, or downright dark and dangerous.

Cults and sorecerers are often intertwined, as sorcerers may get their power from consorting with demons or other supernatural entities (genii).  Given the presence of an ancient and destroyed civilization (which I've decided, tentatively, to call Numitor), there are cults who worship the old, forgotten gods of this civilization.  Also given the swords and sorcery vibe that I'm hoping permeates the setting, there has to be some snake or reptile cult that engages in human sacrifice, dark magic, and other unpleasantness designed to bring about the return of His Dark Majesty to corrupt and destroy the universe.  That just has to be in there!

Although here's an idea that just popped into my head -- some sort of mashup between a Cult of Set and Jormungandr-worshiping Viking types who seek the destruction of the world.  Campaign-wise, I'm usually not big on "save the world" sorts of games, but such a cult could be an interesting antagonist even at a minor level.

Not all cults have to be evil, of course.  Some could just be hertectical according to the dominant religions.  There could be an Asharite Cult who believes there are actually 6 points in the Crown of Stars, for example.

What other cults could there be?

(Of course you realize there is now some cult leader out in this setting named Astbury.  His consort is a mystical woman who can control fire.  No, he does not live in a sonic temple.  That would just be silly).

10 November 2010

Initial Magic Thoughts

Alejo sneered as he looked down at the body on the floor, then back up at Marin.  Marin's face was a mixture of disgust and fear.  The unknown body at their feat lay sprawled, limbs askew at impossible angles.  The eyes were wide, staring, and red-rimed.  There was not an obvious mark of violence on the corpse.


"Sorcery!" Alejo spat.


To call it a Dark Art would be an understatement.  Learned by the brave, foolish, power-hungry, and   deranged at secrets spots around the sea, sorcery is met by fear and disgust almost everywhere it's seen.  The obscenely wealthy and powerful will occasionally keep a sorcerer, bound by gold and script to a period of service.  These dark men and women usually learn their art at the feet of some equally deranged master, secluded in the wilderness or the depths of some pagan temple.  Rumors persist, however, of an entire college of sorcerers, perhaps hidden in the Straits of Fire or deep within the southern deserts, that not only train men and women in magic, but are beginning to hunt down and destroy all others who will not join their order.

09 November 2010

Something to pick up? Crafty Games Adventure Companion

Adventure CompanionBlog reading over lunch today (a ham sandwich, thanks for asking) led me to Stargazer's World's review of Fantasy Craft Adventure Companion.  I had not realized that the Spycraft folks had published a fantasy rules set (I know.  What kind of gamer am I?), much less one that needed a companion.  But Stargazer's review certainly piqued my interest, particularly his description of the Cloak and Dagger fantasy setting.  He describes it as "Spycraft in ancient Rome" which would fit very well with what I am developing here.  Even though the Roman Empire analog was destroyed by an apocolypse, it's legacy still looms large in this setting.  The cloak and dagger stuff would fit very well with feuding mercantile city states.

I am also intrigued by the Epoch setting, based on Aztec mythology.  I wonder if any of that could find a place here.

 Anyone have any experience with Fantasy Craft?  I am not terribly interested in mechanics at this point, but the setting elements in the Adventure Companion seem interesting.  I really don't spend a lot of money on gaming books and tend to consider my purchases carefully (sometimes too carefully).  But I am interested in checking this one out.

(Sorry about the weird formatting and spacing here.  Blogger is giving me fits today!)

08 November 2010

Inspiration -- Michael Chabon

 

Again, I am not trying to be a book critic here, but I think that if you are a gamer, you need to read Michael Chabon.  Lots of Michael Chabon, but especially the three books above.  Some interview I read described him as "the nerd Che Guevara" -- leading a geek insurgency against literary fiction.  He's certainly a geek and a magnificent writer, who tells fantasy stories that don't feel like fantasy stories (except when he's trying to make them feel like fantasy stories, which I'll talk about below).

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a fictional account of the rise of the great American comic book, beginning in the 1930's.  Game wise, it has little direct influence except for the golem.  One of the main characters is actually smuggled out of Prague with the Prague Golem.  Of course, if one were running a supers game (or a 20th Century alt-earth game), there's lots to be found here.  The protagonists of the book create a character -- the Escapist (very nice play on words there!) -- that is a Houdini-like hero who fights crime and Nazis.  A wonderful book!

The Yiddish Policeman's Union is simultaneously a hard-boiled dective novel (a la Dashell Hammett) and an alt-earth story.  Alaska has become a resettlement zone for Jews displaced by World War 2  (or at least this world's version of WWII).  There's chess, political intrigue, Jewish crime syndicates, and secret societies built on world (or at least Jewish) domination.  One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the alternative history angle is simply there; it's present as a backdrop to the setting and the characters, but isn't the focus of the book.  In my limited exposure to altaerative history fiction, I've found that authors often focus on the history and forget to tell a compelling story with interesting characters.  In other words, the focus is too much on world-building.  Not so here, as divergent events are only mentioned by the characters without explanation.  The characters don't need to explain them, because they are a common historical thread in their world.  For them to drop everything and explain exactly how the Jews got to Alaska would simply break the 4th wall of the novel.  It's a great detective story and an interesting piece of alternative history, both of which are ripe for plucking for one's game.

There is a third Chabon book, Gentlemen of the Road, that does have a direct influence on what I am trying to do here, so much so that it deserves it's own post. One will come soon!  It's also my favorite of the three. Said entry will feature Jews, swords, gender confusion, elephants, Western Asia, and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.  How does that not sound awesome!

04 November 2010

Valz Region Map (very simple)

Not a lot of time today or tonight (playing D&D, actually), but I did manage to play around with Google Earth and GIMP some more.  I'm slowly beginning to figure out both of them, with an emphasis on slowly.  Here, I just used the Google Earth Placemark tool to make Valz and place.  Then, I exported the map to a JPEG and added the "Arms of Orum" textbox.  Simple, I know, but I am taking baby steps here.  I'd like to find a way to make the Arms label stand out a little better against the blue ocean background.

I almost added several cities to the map, especially to al-Andalus, but I ran aground coming up with names.  I couldn't decide how Spanish they should sound and didn't have time to do a lot of research.  I don't want to name a city something that translates into "bird vomit."

03 November 2010

What's the Crown of Stars?

The short answer is I am not sure yet.

I am intrigued by the Muslim hajj -- the pilgrimage every Muslim must make to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Given that the Asherite religion is very loosely based on Islam, I wanted to include something similar.  A mandatory religious pilgrimage is rife with adventure potential.  Set routes get established, caravans set forth, bandits plague the caravans, political conflict ensues to guarantee (or possibly exploit) the pilgrim's passage, etc.  I am sure there are lots of other possibilities I haven't even considered.

My idea is to have five sacred sites or cities in the Asherite faith, with the religion requiring each site recieive a visit by each believer.  Ideally, one visits each site in the same journey -- a religious pilgrimage lasting a year or so of one's life.  The five sites are the Crown of Stars, with five being a nice number represented by the points of your typical drawn star.

What those five sites are and why they are sacred I am still trying to figure out.  I don't want to cleave too close to Islam or any other real religion, so I am wide open to any suggestions.  Got some?

01 November 2010

Valz

Many in the courts of the Muqad or Zafar would describe the city of Valz, perched beyond the Arms of Orum on the shores of the Great Western Ocean as remote, possibly even provincial.  Granted, it lacks the historical importance of the jewels in the Crown of Stars, or the wealth and learning of its northern neighbors in al-Andalus, yet Valz remains a place of import for a number of reasons.

Those learned men and women know Valz as the home of Ibn Taram, the great pilgrim, traveler, and scholar.  Ibn Taram left Valz 238 years ago, doing his duty as a devoted Asharite of some means to pilgrimage to the five cities of the Crown of Stars.  He journeyed for more than thirty years, visiting almost every place of import in the known world.  He traveled as far east as the cities of Sheng, north even to the seas of the Urols, through the dark forests of the Kingdom of the Seven Rivers, and all around the waters of the Inner Sea.  His tale, written and compiled in The Rhila, is known to almost everyone, even as there are maddening gaps in the published volumes and rumors of lost chapters.

Beyond Ibn Taram, unsavory types know Valz as a haven for piracy.  Briefly occupied by the Urol raider-king Magnus Knarr, the port of Valz was, for a time, used a base for northerner's raids into the Inner Sea.  Though Knarr was driven out by the combined forces of the Sultan of Almohad and the Sassarian navy, Valz remains a place where ships go to hide and where Urol raiders sell loot gained from northern raids to desert nobles.

Geographical Learning

One of the cool things about this setting project is how much I am learning about actual history and geography.  The book I am currently reading, which I'll fully discuss once I've completed a bit more of it, is set largely in North Africa.  In my Western-centric mind, I'd had the tacit assumption that the North African coast was fairly straight and constant-- running from Morocco to Egypt with only minimal variation in latitude and, thus, climate, vegetation, etc.  Boy, was I wrong.

As the Google Earth pic above shows, there is substantial (something like 700 miles) north-south difference between Tunis and the southern-most point of the Mediterranean's dip into Libya.  This dip thrusts the Med right into the winds and other climatological conditions that make the Sahara.  That means that, in Libya, the desert comes right to the ocean, whereas further west (which is also more northerly), there's a not-insignificant strip of fertile coastal plain where the Mediterranean and Africa meet.  This is easy to see in Google Earth.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize that.

Gaming-wise, this could mean that there are substantial cultural differences between more westerly Africa and where the desert meets the sea.  It could also mean there's significant travel risk heading south and east from my version of Tunis, through the desert -- bandits, giant scorpions, simple dehydration, etc.

(I'm going to try for two posts today -- one more this afternoon.  We'll see if the schedule permits!)