Transylvania, Anno Domini 1818

In my last post, I talked about the Transylvania game (still wanting for a name) that I plan on running in WARPLAND. I mentioned that the game will take place "in the Age of Napoleon," but that's pretty vague. Are we talking during the Napoleonic Consulate? The French Empire? The 100 Days? Well, the nice thing about Transylvania's remoteness from the front line of the Napoleonic Wars is that, for the most part, the only important dividing line is the Congress of Vienna because, after that, the Holy Roman Empire no longer exists. And Transylvania was tucked nicely into that corner of the HRE that is today called Hungary. After the Congress of Vienna, though the Holy Roman Empire no longer existed, the Hapsburg Empire of Austria did (literally the same group, just minus the "Holy Roman" name and clout). Other than a name change (and the corresponding loss of clout and move toward an ever-so-slightly more secular claim to power), life in Transylvania moved on as it had for generations, no matter how many Austrians and Prussians and French and English died fighting each other. 

Which, of course, isn't entirely true. Someone had to actually do the fighting and dying, and the Hapsburgs proudly ruled over a multinational, multiethnic empire that drew fighting men from throughout its borders. In fact, the Hapsburgs routinely called up regiments of a specific ethnicity or nationality from their territory to occupy other parts of their territory; far better, say, to ensure the loyalty of the Croatians by installing Hungarian troops within Croat borders, than Croatian troops who would be sympathetic to the (potentially rebellious) local population. That Transylvanian soldiers featured among the dead in the fields of Austerlitz and Wagram is less a matter of conjecture and far more a nearly mathematical certainty. 

Thinking about this fact, I realized that I really liked the idea of the game taking place in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. War-weary peasants, itinerant former soldiers, disaffected agents of a now-defunct regime... this era has many of the levers I like to pull in a game. Though it will have little effect upon the adventurers in the game, the game wants itself to be staged during the Bourbon Restoration. Excellent. 

But that sounds all neat and tidy, right? You already know the year I've chosen -- 1818 -- because it's right there in the title of the blog post. In fact, I can't entirely recall how much of what I wrote above was my actual process and how much is retrofitted historical revisionism because I connect one other major event with the decision to set the game in 1818: that's the year that Mary Shelley published her novel Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus

While there are other, older "gothic" novels (and I need only direct you to Jack Shear's work to look at those), Frankenstein is when the genre really arrives. And since contextualized gothic horror is really what any exploration of Transylvania needs to be, contextualizing with the historical markers of gothic horror really couldn't be more apropos, at least from my vantage point. 

On the historical footing, Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich's conservative "balance of power" scheme has set in across Europe. Consolidating power in as few hands as possible,  Metternich's grand scheme creates the last stable period for Absolutism and Autocracy in Europe, with that continent being carved up into various spheres of interest that all paid homage to one or another Absolutist ruler. Contrast that system of peonage and international vassalage with the semi-Liberal meritocratic autocracy of Napoleon's Empire, not to mention the displaced and disheartened Revolutionaires displaced on 18 Brumaire, and you have a very broad field of the oppressed. My favorite kind of field to sow. Add to this mix the background of the rise of the despair, bleak nostalgia and sinister undertones of gothic literature and what's left is a very fertile field indeed. 

What should I plant?