Is D&D set in the Bronze Age or the Iron Age?


Off-Topic Discussions


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My friend plays D&D like it's happening during the Bronze Age.
I don't completely agree with this and lean towards running
games set in the Iron Age.

Now, I may be over complicating things, but I'm pretty sure there was no magic in the Bronze Age.

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There was no magic ever. D&D is loosely modeled on medieval Europe. Bronze age is ancient Greeks and Trojans. You could easily set a campaign there but if you made it authentic you'd be missing many familiar weapons and armor since bronze doesn't hold an edge as well as steel and is somewhat soft.


D&D as a base is set in an amalgamation of Medieval and Renaissance periods. The Iron Age ended approx 1000 years before that. Of course the game can be adapted to take that into acount but you need to strip a fair bit of equipment out of the game and I suspect some skills.

Shadow Lodge

Depends the setting you play in.

My games are neither, and are closer to late Renaissance with heavy Industrial Revolution/steampunk elements.


Vaellen wrote:
There was no magic ever. D&D is loosely modeled on medieval Europe. Bronze age is ancient Greeks and Trojans. You could easily set a campaign there but if you made it authentic you'd be missing many familiar weapons and armor since bronze doesn't hold an edge as well as steel and is somewhat soft.

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Yes, this is to my way of leaning. The Bronze Age is shallow on weapon
archtypes, plus you have to push well into the later Age of "Iron & Beyond"
to possess Magic. And this makes story development more realistic.

However, this is a good name for a new RPG --> "Iron & Beyond". <-- it's
got Iron for weapons; and Beyond for Magic; and beyond Beyond can be
science fact. (that's where spaceships and robots and lazer guns come from.)

My friend is a good writer, I have to say, but his head is stuck in the Bronze Age.
In fact, he doesn't even know how to make a lazer gun from steel.

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It's set in the steel and sorcery age.


This is a really interesting discussion to me. Around twenty years or so ago I ran a 1e homebrew campaign set in a late bronze age world where divine magic was commonplace, but arcane magic was generally unknown to the world. Demi-human races were largely believed to be fairy tales, and humans either lived within the bounds of a great Empire or outside it in more-or-less stone age tribes.

The Imperial government, temple priesthoods, seagoing merchants, and educated nobles of course knew that all the above existed but the average citizen had no clue.

The adventuring hook was that a wizard from another continent had arrived in the far north, taught barbarian tribes how to mine iron and refine it into steel, and was raising a horde to invade the Empire. Because the Empire had no wizards to counter this and no steel either, they had to first find and then somehow convince the Elves to lend them some magical aid, and likewise the Dwarves to get steel and learn how to make it.

Took a lot of work on my part to customize the game for a late bronze age aesthetic. I have to echo the above opinions that D&D is absolutely iron age in feel and flavor.


All my games are set in the "modern" age - that is, on the worlds they are set on, it is happening in the "now."

I have never set a game in the past of Earth.


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Back in 2000, when I was first running 3e, I decided that that masterwork weapons were iron and/or steel, whereas normal weapons were bronze, just cause I thought it was cool. When I finally read the low tech weapons section of the DMG, I was all, "D'oh, that's worse than I thought!"

Not to come off as a dingus, but D&D is a rules system, not a setting; could be either, could be neither.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
This thread title wrote:
Is D&D set in the Bronze Age or the Iron Age?

Yes. No. Maybe. None of the above. All of the above. It depends.

Seriously, that's like asking, "Is fantasy literature set in the Bronze Age or Iron Age?"

Grand Magus wrote:

My friend plays D&D like it's happening during the Bronze Age. I don't completely agree with this and lean towards running games set in the Iron Age.

Now, I may be over complicating things, but I'm pretty sure there was no magic in the Bronze Age.

Um, as much as I hate to be the one to tell you... magic does not, in fact, exist, and did not exist in the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age... or ever.

As for what technological age you're running, it completely depends on the setting. A baseline, setting-neutral D&D game generally assumes a technological level akin to that of the European Middle Ages.

The original litary inspiration for D&D included early medieval sagas such as Beowulf, late medieval chivalric tales such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or The Song of Roland, late 19th and early 20th-century pulp fiction such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan" or "John Carter of Mars," and the slew of fantasy and swords-and-sorcery fiction from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, including such works as Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings," Andre Norton's various fantasy series, Michael Moorcock's "Elric Saga," Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser" series, Ann McCaffery's "Dragonriders of Pern" series, and Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" series.

Note that some of the above sources mix in science fiction elements into their fantasy. Others can't be placed neatly into historical settings.

As for the setting in a modern D&D game, it really depends on your world.

You can run a game in the Old Stone Age, or in the glory days of Ancient Rome. Or maybe in a science-fantasy world with magically-powered starships. the D20 Modern rules set the game in the early 21st century.

In short-- you can use the OGL rules to run a game anywhere!

But the baseline, setting-neutral rules assume that your game is something like Tolkien's Middle Earth: akin to the European Middle Ages.


In 3.5e at least your using steel weapons for the most part.


The sort of default flavor of the technology in the core rules is early Renaissance, but even there it's generally full of anachronisms (Golarion even moreso.) You can't really put an exact timestamp on it.

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