Miscellany: A Different Kind of Campaign Trail, Part 2
My D&D campaign is now coming on to its second session, which is always where the real fun starts for a DM. After all, in the first session of any tabletop roleplaying game, you have to get all the background stuff out of the way. You tell the players about the setting and the plot, but until they actually start stepping in and messing up events, the game doesn't really come alive.
I decided on using a mutated version of the Eberron campaign setting. It's set more than two hundred years since the Last War, and I'm using the unexplained disappearance of magic to explain why I'm jumping the technology level of the world to something analogous to the Renaissance period. The problem with making such a drastic change to the setting is that you have to start using real world research, a la "Call of Cthulhu."
One nice resource I've found at my local games shop is the Osprey line of military history books. Unlike a regular RPG supplement, these books won't give you any stats or gameplay tips, but they do provide a wealth of historical detail and accurate photos/illustrations. A lot of things that existed in the real world, like the street fighting in the French Wars of Religion and the island city of Tenochtitlan, are as interesting and evocative as anything some fantasy writer has cooked up. Unfortunately, at the MSRP, they're kind of expensive, but my games shop was sellling them at 50% off.