After reading Tony Dowler's PRINCIPIA, I've thought of creating a hack called ATTIKA, centered around ancient Athenian politics. Spanning the Classical Age (508-322 BC), the game would be a close historical simulation of life and death in the Athenian social and political arena. Players would create a citizen of Athens, a member of a circle of friends of the same age group who would aid one another in their triumphs and their tragedies -- or perhaps grow resentful and seek to do political harm to their one-time friends. War, commerce, politics, back-stabbing, prosecution, ostracism, exile, redemption . . . it would cover the spectrum of ancient Athenian aristocratic life. Would you risk exile to avenge yourself against an enemy? Would you seek wealth and court disfavor by dealing with foreign powers? Would you go to war against the Thebans, the Aegintans, the fearsome Spartans? Would you attend the great religious festivals and broker for power in the shadows, or expound your convictions from the couches of the wealthy at exclusive symposia?
Currently, the game idea presupposes two things: 1) that the characters are all male, and 2) that the characters are all sons of citizens in good standing with the Athenian polis. This seems narrow when judged by the standards of the hobby, where ancient gender bias is often overlooked, but if ATTIKA seeks to recreate accurate history then it must also recreate all its warts and flaws. But, there were some quite influential women in the Classical Age, such as Pericles' mistress, Aspasia. How might a game of political dealings take advantage of women's roles, when women were forbidden from taking part in the process (and, indeed, most were forbidden from leaving the house without a male family member as escort)?
And what should come first? Should a game like this launch directly into character creation, or should it begin with an overview of the city and the times? Is there a way to combine the two by weaving the history in with the mechanics? I love the system used in PRINCIPIA, but I'd also add a way to determine a character's name, father's name, deme and tribe. What gifts might the gods have graced characters with? A silver-tongue, a sculptor's eye, a lion's courage? And, how will these gifts be used? How can delivering a rousing speech before the Assembly or staging Aeschylus' new drama for the City Dionysia become an exciting facet of the game?
Would IAWA-style oracles be a good way to set the scene for players who may not have a deep grounding in ancient history? Or the scene-setting tables from FIASCO? Or is there another way to impart very location-specific information to players so they might help bring the scenes alive?
Finally, should an unstated goal of ATTIKA be the teaching of Classical history? I recall Samuel Goldwyn's advice to writers: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union!" Should the same hold true for games?
My thanks in advance!