We GMs study history and often try to use the strategies and tech in our fantasy campaigns and campaign worlds. But are we only studying the winners? How often do we consider the losers? I don’t, at least I don’t often enough. What do I mean? I think we need some examples:
- For every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, how many tech entrepreneurs bombed? What happened to them? Are they working for Microsoft or Apple or are they teaching community college computer science? Do they have a huge chip on their shoulder or intense bitterness?
- Remember all those barbarian tribes that gave Rome such a problem? Most of them were doing that because more powerful tribes were driving them out of their homelands. They were actually the losers of other wars attacking Rome because they were caught between a rock and a hard place. We all think about the Huns and the Mongols, but how many small wars did their expansions create? Where did all the refugees go?
- Irish Potato Famine - There are a ton of us in the USA who know exactly where those refugees went; they came here. Anti-Irish prejudice was rampant, and they had a horrible time trying to find work and feed their families, but a couple generations later, they were the politically powerful in areas that had been slums and ghettos. By the way - Did you know that there was enough food to feed all of Ireland being grown in the country? It was being exported. I agree that modern historians should consider whether this was a natural disaster or an evil social engineering.
OK - next two are hugely politically incorrect, but still historic and should be considered. You’ve been warned.
- We all know the Nazis killed millions of Jews and others during their reign, but right now focus on the money. When those Jews were wealthy and had great artworks, the Nazis confiscated them and individual party leaders often attempted to hide that wealth away. Later when the Nazis were put down, many of these art treasures were found, but you cannot return them to someone who was mass murdered. There are still court cases today 70+ years later. It gets really complicated - If a Jew sold a treasure for 10% of its value in order to raise funds to escape Germany, are his descendants entitled to that treasure since it was in many opinions stolen from him? Also - You now have a country with quite a few mass graves. After that many people were killed, those bodies have to go somewhere. Let’s not forget that many believe that the reparations forced on Germany after WWI are directly responsible for the rise of the Nazi Party and therefore are one of the chief causes of WWII. So, the winners and losers of WWI caused WWII by their actions. That makes the losers pretty darn important!
- After the USA Civil War, all slaves were freed (eventually). Where did they go? Many stayed put and lived lives not that different from how they lived before. Many flocked to places where they thought they would be given a fair chance, but that didn’t always work out either. Even though they were effectively the “winners”, they still created a refugee issue. And what about the South? Things were completely messed up by the loss of so many prominent citizens as well as the inflow of carpetbaggers and other scoundrels.
The point is that after a major conflict, something needs to happen with the losers, and the ramifications of that are often more important that what happened to the winners. The winners often go on living as they did before, though sometimes with vastly more territory. The losers’ lives are changed forever.
I do use these ideas in Fletnern. I already discussed the Dethebs fleeing their earthquake ravaged homeland and being turned into slaves. There was a Goblin Empire civil war that caused the orcs and goblins to flee south (to the Gold Mountains) pushing the dwarves out of their ancestral homes. The elves fled Kouluckssie (don’t let them hear you say that!) and built a new country for themselves in the Slyvanian Forest. But in the need to build a new homeland, they needed more muscle, so they brought satyr, centaur and minotaur slaves with them. Later these slaves were released due to changing moral ethics, but then they needed to go somewhere too. Perhaps the best example - The Lats of Garnock attacked Villai. They won, but lost far too many men. So they retreated and regrouped, for a generation! They stormed back out and almost took over the continent. This time when they retreated, they closed the gates of their city and lived another generation as isolationists. But the Lats held Parnania for almost a generation. When they eventually pulled out of Parnania, there were major issues of who owned what land: the owners before the war? the Yugsilantis who liberated the holds?