Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spanish Victory for Cortez with help from Friends

One of my commentators to the previous post is certainly correct about the Spanish needing help from native allies. Unfortunately I think that worked out better for the Spanish. The book on pre-Columbian agriculture, I picked up highlights the precipitous collapse of the native population and a shift in farming from using all the varied habitats to just those suitable for planting with a plow or raising cattle. The collapse can be attributed to old world diseases (Guns, Germs, and Steel is a great book on this subject), but the lack of recovery may be more due to the shift in farming. It also interesting that New world seems to have several cultural collapses including the Maya in the 10th century, the Anasazi in the 13th century, and Teotihuacan, about 25 miles to the north of Tenochtitlan (and probably a bigger city as well) abandoned in the 5th century. The Spanish spend some time hiding out in Teotihuacan after being thrown out of Tenochtitlan, before hooking up with the Tlaxcalans for the final defeat of the Aztecs. Central America is certainly a more populous and complex place than the new world campaigns I have run in the past. However, when I try to add complex and interesting large civilizations to my campaign, I am roundly booed by the players for interfering with their exploration and looting of ancient ruins. Perhaps the loudest complainer is  She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed who does not see the same drawbacks in her urban based Medieval European campaigns. More on this in another post.


  1. Way cool that you're doing a campaign based on Cortez' explorations and exploitations. Especially for doing the research. Looking forward to what you'll find.

    In an attempt to plug my own research efforts in this area: have a look at the French invade Texas. It's a role playing game I wrote for a 24-hour challenge about the exploits of LaSalle, a French explorer and exploiter in the trail of Cortez, less than a century later. I had great fun doing research for it.

  2. The more research you do, the more confusing it gets. I've learned to be skeptical of information sent from the New World back to Spain.

    For the Aztecs, the deeper you dig into their mythology, and how it is cumulatively built upon earlier mythologies, you can begin to see how the differences in worldview and symbolism are too great.

    I believe the 'germ theory' only makes sense in conjunction with the 'agricultural shift' ideas. I haven't gotten far enough into it, but I'm wondering how much of a role climate change had back then (similar to the mini ice age that helped make the Black Death so devastating to Europe's agrarian societies).

    If you're interested in the mythology angle, there's some good links over at my C1 posts here. I also highly recommend Austin's book on Tamoanchan.


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