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Alternate History RPG's and RPG settings where world history has changed
Warren Sistrom
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NSW
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I was looking through the alternate history genre and found a lot of games were simply historic games with a bit of supernatural or anachronistic technology thrown in, things that make us think things may have happened a different way than the history we learnt. That is interesting, but when I think of alternate history I think of stories where something went different, maybe in a small way, maybe in a big way, but really changed what happened in the world in the long term.

So I am creating this list to gather a list of RPG's and RPG settings that are based on our real world and history but with a twist. This list is for things historically based but did not go the same way as our world did either for mundane or supernatural reasons, leading to a world that is fundamentally different from ours, or at least diverges from ours for a significant period of time that remains obvious in thats world's history. But at some point in the past we share a common history before that point.

Please add to the list any that you know, I would prefer to see RPG's or Settings rather than items were possible, though in some cases items may be appropriate. If you could add a brief comment on how this world is different to ours too that would be great.

I was hoping to keep the description of what I was trying to make this list positive, but in the end I could not really define it that way and feel to stop this becoming too broad adding some things not to put on this list. All things below are fine ideas, and may deserver their own geeklists, they just don't belong on this list
* No games where the alternate elements are all hidden to most people and make no real change in history as we know it if they happened or not. e.g. no Call of Cthulhu
* No games where it was simply that the mythology or folklore of the day was true but no real change to what happened in history.
* No fantasy worlds based on a particular culture or historical period but no link to our real world. e.g. no generic steampunk, but if there is a specific divergence point and develop of the world different from ours then do add it.
* No alternate futures, even if they have by now become or will become alternate history soon. e.g. no Twilight: 2000 or other late C20th world wars, apocalypses etc.
* No alternate modern worlds that only varied recently. I know history can be recent events but when I am thinking history I am thinking something older, probably before living memory of many people alive now. e.g. no Shadowrun etc
* No Time Travel games even though some of these may visit alternate histories.
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1. RPG: Aces & Eights [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:105]
Jamie Herbert
United States
Cedar Rapids
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While certainly not the radical change in history that Deadlands touts Aces & Eights also has an alternate frontier setting, though it is much more downplayed and far more easily divorced from the game.
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2. RPG: Castle Falkenstein [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:44]
William Hostman
United States
Eagle River
Alaska
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Gaming in Greater Anchorage area, Alaska since 1978. Looking for Indy-willing RPG players in Eagle River (or willing to drive to Eagle River). Geekmail me if interested.
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The Shattered Imperium
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Ok, so it's changed by being a parallel earth which can be reached by the use of powerful magics.... But it is a close parallel.

Aside from the Inner Sea making Bayern coastal, the Pterdodraconis sapiens, the færie, magic working, Nemo actually having built the nautilus, the US not having consolidated the west due to the power of the Ghost Dance, Emperor Norton being recognized as head of the Bear Flag Republic...
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3. RPG Item: The Day after Ragnarok (Savage Worlds) [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:284]
Warren Sistrom
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The world is an alternate history that follows very similar to our own until near the end of World War II. When the Nazi's try to recreate the world by initiating the Norse apocalypse Ragnarok by summoning Jörmungandr, , the USA uses it's limited atomic bombs not to attack Japan but to kill the giant serpent.
Three years latter the giant body of the Midgard Serpent still lies across Europe and Northern Africa. There is a President of the United States in California, but he is not fully recognised by Texas or Utah. Only a few city states still exist in North America east of the Rockies, the lands poisoned by the Tsunami of salt water and venom from when the serpents head fell in the Atlantic. Stalin has pillaged what is left of Europe East of the serpent wall. What's left of Cornwall and Wales still swear to King Henry IX in Sydney, the now capital of the battered British Empire. All around strange creatures have emerge and technologies strange to us have been developed.
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4. RPG Item: Deadlands [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:133]
Jaime Lawrence
Australia
Sydney
New South Wales
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Jingle Bells, Cthanta Smells, I will kick his ass
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My knowledge of frontier America is by no means extensive, but I'm fairly sure there were no zombies... Deadlands is another very cool alternate history game - frankly, you can just spend time looking at the alternate map of America included in the book and going 'wha?'.
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5. RPG: Fvlminata: Armed with Lightning [Average Rating:5.67 Unranked]
Warren Sistrom
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Historical Role-Playing in a Rome that never was...

In AD 7, Vesuvius erupted and buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under tons of ash. In our world, a young boy decided to stay at home and was killed in the disaster...

In the world of FVLMINATA, that boy lives to discover the substance that changes the course of history: an explosive black powder that he names Terra Fulminata, or 'Earth armed with lightning.'

FVLMINATA is a historical fantasy role-playing game set in a world not quite like our own. It is AD 248, exactly one thousand years after the founding of Rome. The Imperium Romanum is in no danger of crumbling, but governs in strength from Hibernia in the east to the Parthian border in the west. Gladiators battle for their freedom; Senators scheme for political power; Merchants prosper under the Pax Romana; Magi plumb the secrets of the universe while Legionaries defend the frontiers with an almost invincible weapon...
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6. Family: Gear Krieg
Warren Sistrom
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The universe of Gear Krieg re-imagines World War II after a period of wonder and invention during the 1920's. These technical advances led to the war's battles being fought by walking tanks and rocket fighters.
 
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7. RPG Item: Godlike [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:379]
Jaime Lawrence
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Sydney
New South Wales
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Jingle Bells, Cthanta Smells, I will kick his ass
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WWII-era Supers, anyone? I suppose technically all Supers games could be on here, but Godlike has a focus on the details of how these beings affect the war and is limited to a specific time period. Also, it's very cool.
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Lowell Francis
United States
South Bend
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While the discussions in each volume of this series are fairly short, they do build on a classic what if of history. Volume One includes 6 settings: including William Walker's rise to power; an assassination of FDR; and a continuing Spanish power among others. Volume 2 has six more including Vikings sacking Byzantium; advanced printing press technology arising in the Caliphate; and the failure of the American Revolution. While they're written for use in dimensional crossing games, I'd think any of these could serve as a useful jumping off point for an Alternate History game. GURPS mechanics are usually pretty modest in these books, so they could easily be adapted. GURPS Infinite Worlds collects these in one volume IIRC and adds a few more, with some falling outside of your parameters.

fixed.
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9. RPG Item: Heirs to the Lost World [Average Rating:10.00 Unranked]
Chad Davidson
United States
Minnesota
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Heirs to the Lost World is set in an alternate 1665 Middle America in which the Aztec Empire never fell. Just think Aztec Jaguar Knights + pirates + voodoo = fun.
 
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10. RPG Item: Hot War [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:601]
Chad Bowser
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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Nuclear war ravages 1960s England. The world may never be the same, especially when the monsters arrive.
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11. Family: Pendragon
William Hostman
United States
Eagle River
Alaska
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Gaming in Greater Anchorage area, Alaska since 1978. Looking for Indy-willing RPG players in Eagle River (or willing to drive to Eagle River). Geekmail me if interested.
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The Shattered Imperium
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The setting is very realistic, but diverges from real history due to the presence of a powerful Arthur, King of Logres. Lots of the stuff in the timeline can be shown to be newer than listed.
 
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12. RPG Item: The Price of Freedom [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:6362]
Chad Bowser
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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This one might be too recent a diversion from actual history, so feel free to delete...

The point of diversion is a successful Soviet invasion of Amercia in the 1980s. I haven't read the RPG myself, the rating scares me off. It was most likely inspired by Red Dawn and The Russians are Coming.
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13. RPG: Reich Star [Average Rating:6.17 Unranked]
William Hostman
United States
Eagle River
Alaska
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Gaming in Greater Anchorage area, Alaska since 1978. Looking for Indy-willing RPG players in Eagle River (or willing to drive to Eagle River). Geekmail me if interested.
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The Shattered Imperium
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Set in 2300 AD, but based upon the Nazis having won WWII.

It's a decent GURPS-knock-off system, and a scary look at what nearly happened.

Erde in the 2300's is taking the hatred off-world, and subjugating a non-human race as well.
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14. RPG: Roma Imperious [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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During the rule of Constantine, pressed to defeat Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, he turns to a group of ambitious druids. They perform a ritual, calling on their gods to give victory to Constantine. In exchange for the spell, Constantine promises freedom for the peoples of western Europe. He would not keep that promise and further he would demand their secrets. The Druids, over the next four hundred years, would rise against Roma demanding their due.

Meanwhile, Rome would follow its own path, building and researching magic in their own way. As the world changes, magic becomes more common and the barbarians flounder in ancient rituals the Romans would push forward into newer and more reliable forms of magic.

The setting for Roma Imperious is one of the world but centered on Roma. In the book you will find detailed sections on the Jade Empire, Skandia, The Roman Empire and Alkasas. The Jade Empire is an empire of the far east taking up what is modern day China and some of southeast Asia. It is ruled by a Han Emperor who discovered the secret of immortality. He has ruled for nearly six centuries and brought a peace and wisdom to the Jade Empire not seen before. The Jade Emperor, a title taken by him early on, see the Romans as a direct threat.

Skandia is the pre-Viking Norse who have been forced to find other routes of expansion as faced by an increasingly magic reinforced Empire to the south and east. They have taken their ships and magic and begun to spread to the west. They now have colonies in the western hemisphere where they face demons they have brought with them and native they never expected to meet. The Skandians use their magic to aid their voyages of exploration but more importantly, to serve their gods. Odin, Thor, Freyr and many of the other Norse gods live amongst them. Day to day, the gods direct them and grant their priests a bit of their power. This aids them in their battles against the Trold, giants and the most feared Manes Atrox.

Alkasas is a kingdom of evil wizard-priests who occupy what would be northern Russia today. Alkasas is ruled by a king but, as with the Norse, their gods reside in the temples and cities of the kingdom. Hetam-munnun is the goddess of death and rebirth and her priests are a strong political force in the kingdom. Although she does not lead the gods her zeal for the Final Battle where the fate of the world will be decided through a test of arms drives here to the fore. She sees the Roman armies as the single greatest prize to attaining her goals. This puts Alkasas in direct conflict with Roman rulers, often leading to war and intrigue.
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15. RPG: Shades of Earth [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Rather than a specific alternate history, Shades of Earth (S.o.E.) is an alternate earth history role-playing game designed for creating alternate history campaigns.

You role-play characters from different periods in time with slight twists. In 1938, you might play a group of agents from the top secret Department 12 using your spell casting abilities to thwart evil German agents bent on reaping the souls of humanity for their evil master...or maybe you are on the German's side?!?!? Sail on a voyage of discovery in search of the west route to the Spice Islands. In doing so you risk encounters with the Aztecs and fearsome sea monsters. In 1066, you fight the invading elves who back the Normans as they sweep into England. Use all your cunning and druidic magics of the Britons to defeat the Normans and the Elven masters.

Alternate earths also means playing farther along the deviated history. What if a druid had offered druidic magic to defeat Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. After a quick victory over the superior foe, Constantine founds the first colleges of magic which allow the Empire to survive barbarian invasions and expand its borders. A thousand years later sees a thriving empire with legions, merchants and a powerful mage class.
 
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16. RPG: Space: 1889 (Original edition) [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:171]
 
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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This game presents an alternate history in which certain discredited Victorian scientific theories were instead provable and have led to the existence of new technologies. Thomas Edison invented an "ether propeller" which could propel ships through the "luminiferous aether" (the universal medium that permeates space, based on a now outdated scientific theory), and traveled to Mars in 1870 accompanied by Scottish soldier of fortune Jack Armstrong, where they discovered that the planet was inhabited. By the time of the game's setting in 1889, the great powers have used Edison’s invention to extend their colonies and interests to the inner planets of the solar system. Venus and Mars have been colonised by Great Britain; Germany, France, Russia and Belgium (Mars only) and Italy (Venus only), whilst Japan and the USA maintain economic and scientific enclaves on Mars. There are no colonies or bases on the Moon. Only Great Britain maintains a (scientific) base on Mercury.
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17. RPG Designer: Harry Turtledove
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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OK not a game, but as he is in the database I need to mention the "The Master of Alternate History".

As a writer he is known both for creating original alternate history scenarios such as survival of the Byzantine Empire or an alien invasion in the middle of the Second World War and for giving a fresh and original treatment to themes previously dealt with by many others, such as the victory of the South in the American Civil War (in different versions based on time travel and minor natural means) and of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. His novels have been credited with bringing alternate history into the mainstream.
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18. Setting: The Weird West
 
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Setting for the Deadlands family of RPGs (including the original/"Classic" edition and the more recent Deadlands: Reloaded (which uses the 'Savage Worlds' core rules).
I don't know much about this but I have heard it has a full developed setting world based on but varying from actual history at the point the supernatural comes into the world.
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19. RPG Item: Wild Cards [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:2754]
Jamie Herbert
United States
Cedar Rapids
Ia
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Based on George R R Martin's incredible anthologies, it is the story of our world after a plague makes part of the world superheroes, and part of the world freaks. Castro became a famous ballplayer, Winston Churchill is Immortal, and Ghandi was spared an assasin's bullet all this and superheroes!
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20. RPG: Zenobia [Average Rating:10.00 Unranked]
Warren Sistrom
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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ZENOBIA is a fantasy vision of the ancient Near East during the darkest days of the Roman Empire, circa 260 AD.

ZENOBIA takes the familiar and not so familar aspects of the ancient world and puts a fantasy twist on things. The game focusses on the eastern fringes of the Roman Empire, however - giving the gamemaster the advantage of bringing independant kingdoms, tribes and empires into the game. Epic-style conflict - something absent from most of the Roman provinces for centuries - is available here in jarfuls!

Mirroring the historical reality that it is based on, the world of ZENOBIA is dominated by the Empire, a harsh militaristic tyranny ruled by an unending number of soldier-emperors. Parts of the Empire have split off to form independent kingdoms of great power. The east is dominated by the desert kingdom of Palmyra, ruled from this oasis city by the exotic Queen Zenobia. She is determined to enlarge her kingdom and rule an empire as large as any that have yet existed. Across the desert she faces the fantastic might of the Persian Kingdom, a land of great antiquity and incredible resources. In the west the Gallic Kingdom has emerged as a serious rival to the Empire, and is faced with defending itself from the destructive raids of the northern barbarians. Between and amongst these four great powers are a number of smaller, but no less interesting lands.
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