Okay, so I’ve bragged about my ability to pull this setting together. Let’s see how this can happen. First, let’s set the scene.
In the year 271 AD, The Roman legions pull out of Dacia for the last time. This province contains the lands that would become Transylvania and Wallachia, both are words any scholar should know infinitely well in connection with Vlad Dracule in the 1400s.
The population was instantly depopulated of anyone who could leave. The wealthy, the fit, and the numerous Roman citizens.
Those left behind spoke Romanian, a highly Latin-inspired language. For centuries it remained unwritten, until the deepening faith from the Greek Orthodox Church gave them the Greek alphabet. Much of this culture took to the hills and deep woods of Transylvania, eschewing the cities and trade routes dependent on the rivers, and hid themselves there.
Wave after wave of invaders passed through the old province of Dacia, drawn by the immense gold and silver wealth in the mountains and the promises of taking (but never holding) better, wealthier land.
By 271 AD, those with landed titles might be pulling out, but they are unlikely to simply leave all that they own and know in the province. The Roman army has already pulled out before in 260 AD, reinvesting itself into this province when political and military winds changed again in their favour. It is still possible that the nobles could dig in their heels hoping for such a reversal, though it never comes.
In any case, they would hardly risk their necks when cheap bondsmen could do the job for them, which leads to a key fiction – that the nobles are themselves safe, but paying handsomely for adventures to return to the villages and villas where treasures wealthy and sentimental were left behind, where minor advantages against the invaders can still be obtained by spies and scare-tactics.
Who’s in charge?
In Dacia, very few leaders can be found. Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (Aurelian) is the nominal emperor, and he has bigger concerns protecting Italy from Gauls and Zenobians. He orders all civilian and military leaders back to the Danube frontier, making the Governor of Moesia the closest person to appeal to in cases of urgent need. And he would not have more than city watches and his own personal guards, as every other fighting man at arms is now in Aurelian’s service.
This leads us to the question of who’s in charge of the invaders. For the most part, we are talking about Goths, most likely Visigoths, but that is unclear. The distinction between Visigoth and Ostrogoth becomes politically relevant a hundred years from now. Other barbarian invaders included the Alamanni (the All-men), and the Vandals, who together would remain a dangerous force to be reckoned with throughout the next century. These fractions German speakers have a fragile unity.
For our puposes, we can refer to the invaders as Goths. I do this for numerous good reasons, chief among which is that I’m still picturing a gaming universe where the Player Characters need an enemy to build their strategies around. Our inability to inclusively identify the invaders, moreover, naturally mirrors the Romans themselves, who give us all of our sources. But we do know something of early Germanic cultures, at least enough to build their motivations as enemies. Their chief god is Woten, who in Nordic traditions is Odin, a one-eyed, sorcerer god who is known as Lord of the Rings, mainly due to the magical ring on his finger, that once a day, duplicates itself. Rings are powerful symbols of wealth for northmen, for Norse, German, and English alike. They also can represent bonds and oaths, such as our modern Wedding Rings. Where Woten binds his infinite servants into alliances with gift rings from his magical ring, we can apply this self same model to the Goths with ease; masters held power for so long as gifts, especially rings, were plentiful. When they become scarce, Ringlords were expected to find more wealth. This creates a lot of bottom-up pressure on Ringlords to lead their followers to battle with the wealthy and the weak, and increasingly that perfectly describes the Romans.
I love this idea for more gaming centric ideas, anyway. Making the Goths wealth hungry is only historical; making them “ring-hungry” turns the whole pyramid of Gothic warriors into a loose association of treasure seekers, indeed, adventurers. They are excellent opponents for adventurers, indeed a mirror image and everything the civilized world hates of adventurers. And you’ve just taking a contract to go back into Transylvania looking for lost treasures. How exactly are you any different? That question can be on the lips of every merchant, soldier, guard, and patron NPC in the game, pressuring player characters to be on their best behavior, most of the time anyway.
Drac – ul = Dragon – the; Vlad the II was a member of the Order of the Dragon who distinguished himself mightily in battle with the Turks. Vlad II was named “The Dragon” or Dracul (Dracule?). The word has an interesting double entendre with “The Devil.” Vlad Tepes the III took the name and slew any of his Wallachian nobles who might oppose his claim to the name, earning it indeed.
- ulea in Romanian means “the son of,” and so his title may well mean “The Son of the Devil Dragon.”
The last name Tepes is pronounced [tse – pesh].