Friday, January 27, 2012

Israel as a Campaign Setting

I think four factors make Israel an especially successful candidate for being fantasized. I might be a little biased, but please kind reader, hear me out:

Diversity: Israel is a country of dark contradictions – a land of ancient history of epic proportions and an all-too-fragile modern civilization. On the same sand where now ultramodern commandos practice techniques of assaulting the secret strongholds of darkness, millennia ago Roman legionaries made war on twisted desert demons and Jewish zealots armed with mystic wisdom and antediluvian weapons crossed blades with anyone who would threaten their religious hegemony. Even as Druzim Sheiks, Haridim Rabbis and Muslims Muftis practice ancient and esoteric ceremonies, young and vibrant subcultures develop their own brand of magic, conspiring to push the elders from their seats of power.

The War is Over
Yad Lesherion, Latroun

Religion: From the Church of the Sepulture to Al Aqsa Mosque, from the head of the Martyr Ali in Ashkelon to the Weeping Wall in Jerusalem; Israel is a land containing more sacred grounds and religious relics than any other country in the world. Heroes exploring religious themes in their games would not want to miss the opportunity to ally or exchange bullets with beings who were there when the Bible was written.

History: From Assyria to Britain, almost any major empire in history at one point or another strove to control Israel and her crucial trade routes. Fractions from these conquests still linger in the form of immortal vampires, mages who unnaturally prolonged their lives and other even less savory horrors. Crusades, Jihads, wars of conquest and other great events still resonate as loudly as on the day they occurred.

Geography: Compared to its size, Israel is one of the most diverse countries in the world, in less than 400 miles one can travel from the snowy peaks of the Golan to the coral reefs of the Red Sea. Same goes for the population that includes anything ranging from tribal desert nomads to scheming technocrats in glass skyscrapers. This means that a single day's adventure can take the hero from semi-medieval desert villages to modern cities and, finally, to mine-strewn mountains – all in a single day.

"Leading the Clouds"
Castle Nimrod

The setting “Tales from an Israeli Storyteller” draws upon the "mythology" of modern Israel as well as Jewish, Muslim and Christians traditions and, to a smaller degree, from African folk magic (with the new influx of Sudanese refugees and Ethiopian immigrants). Here are several examples of things you can find in Israel. To avoid spoilers, I won't say which ones made into the book and which one stayed on the gaming table:

Okay, that was pretty general. Next post will have specific examples. For example, did you know that a lost Roman legion still wonders the deserts of Judea? No? Then stay sure to check in with the next post!

All pictures were taken by my brother, an immensely talented photographer in my opinion. For more of his art, visit his dA page.


  1. Awesome.

    I've proposed Israel as a setting for an urban fantasy game a few times, but none of my regular crowd have ever taken the hook.

  2. Oh, I think Israel is the perfect place to set fantastic tales, better than anywhere else on the planet, really. Uri, you covered pretty much the reasons why in your post. No place else has the depth of history and connections as Israel.