Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim, 16th Century

Home Forums History Military History Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim, 16th Century

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #1731
    Hans Hellinger

    Pacific Rim, 16th Century. Her are some of the players.

    The Portuguese are the first Latinized people to make it into the Pacific Rim area. They capture Goa by 1505 and make it into a permanent base, which is incredible, they had Macau by around 1555, and are in Japan by 1544, and by 1580 they had control of Nagasaki and a major portion of Japans international trade.

    The Spanish arrived in the Philippines in 1521, with Ferdinand Magellan killed by the Moro chieftain Lapu Lapu that same year, setting off what would become centuries of conflict. The Spanish establish their permanent Pacific HQ in Manila by 1570.

    The Japanese are in a brutal civil war in this period and are eager to buy guns, armor and other military kit from the Portuguese. They are also beginning to focus aggression toward China and Japan by the mid 16th Century. The Portuguese are also their main supplier of silk because they are banned from most of the Chinese ports. Their warriors are considered excellent and are armed with superb weapons, they are in high demand from all polities in the region especially the Dutch East India company and Chinese pirates.

    The Ottomans are reaching into the Indian Ocean with substantial military assets and clashing with the Latin Europeans.

    The Mamluks (who were being helped by the Venetians) are also extending their power into the region.

    The Chinese are in the middle of a Golden Age of the Ming Dynasty. They are trying to avoid conflict with an increasingly aggressive Japan but this would eventually break out into war focused on Korea, which the Chinese would ultimately win.

    The Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand (with multiple fascinating, sophisticated city-states at war with each other and everywhere else), Indonesia and Malaysia

    And then the Dutch, the French and the English are not far behind, arriving around the end of the 16th Century or early 17th, to rob, plunder, and plague one another and everyone else!

    In addition, the Dutch used large numbers of Japanese Ronin (as in tens of thousands) for muscle in Indonesia and elsewhere. The Spanish used Irish Gallowglass, German Landsknechts and Native Americans from Mexico as muscle in the Philippines and elsewhere. The Portuguese used African, Indian, and Basque mercenaries as well as their own people. I recently learned the Spanish operated a major fencing school in Mexico city where they trained tough guys from all over their vast far flung empire. The Chinese Waco or Wagu pirates also had large numbers of Japanese Ronin on their pirate ships, and were repeatedly clashing with the Spanish in the Philippines and the Chinese and Koreans among others. Several mercenaries and privateers from just about anywhere you can think of in the world went on their own wacky expeditions and private wars. Some of them wrote books which have been translated into English, including at least two Spanish rogue conquistadors. The Ottomans and Portuguese have African soldiers, including Tuareg, Malinese, and Sudanese.

    Basically it’s the most incredible historical kaleidoscope / tesseract you can imagine. You take what is essentially still medieval Europe, and then go plunk those people down somewhere along the coast of India or China, or in Japan, or on some island in the Philippines or Indonesia. You get in a boat or just stay where you are, and you are liable to run into dangerous folks from almost anywhere you can imagine, with fabulous wealth in silk, spices, art, precious metals, and (for the Europeans) all kinds of exotic artifacts and treasures. Weapons systems and martial arts you have never encountered. Potential alliances and intrigue beyond your wildest dreams.

    Just as one example, one of the rogue conquistadors I mentioned was captured by Thai pirates, who then decided to bring him back to their city-state to fight as a mercenary for them, but he then managed to foment a mutiny among the Chinese crew, went to the city-state anyway, joined them in a war against another rival city-state in Cambodia, defected to that place, and then after 2 or 3 years somehow managed to get back to Manilla where he tried in vain to interest the Spanish into invading Thailand. They did however eventually invade Cambodia in 1593. And the guy wrote a book about all this.

    Of course a lot of it is incredibly evil. Some of it is politically sensitive. You would have to tread carefully. But I think it could be made into a very very interesting historical campaign supplement, or more likely a long series of them.

    To me it’s one of the most unbelievably dynamic zones of adventure you could possibly imagine, with so many fascinating cultures, and types of characters, and adventure scenarios as to literally boggle my mind. Imagine being in the middle of dangerous drama in Lisbon, Nuremberg, Venice, Alexandria, Aden, Goa, Bangkok, Manilla, and Nagasaki all in one lifetime. It’s way more interesting and complex than any fantasy genre world I ever heard of.

    Hans Hellinger

    Here is Goa in the 16th Century

    This is one battle between the Spanish and Wagu pirates / Japanese Ronin
    1582 Cagayan battles

    The 1582 Cagayan battles were a series of clashes between the forces of Colonial Philippines led by Captain Juan Pablo de Carrión and wokou (possibly led by Japanese pirates) headed by Tay Fusa. These battles, which took place in the vicinity of the Cagayan River, finally resulted in a Spanish victory.AB This event is a recorded battle between European regular soldiers and sailors against Japanese pirates. The battles pitted musketeers, pikemen, rodeleros and sailors against a large group of Jap…

    Hans Hellinger

    Here is an (apparently real) Chinese or Korean giant, giant pintle-mounted repeating crossbow used in the wars against Japan in the late 16th Century.

    Hans Hellinger

    Here are a few interesting characters from the 16th Century / Pacific Rim area

    Timoji, a South Asian pirate and privateer who allied himself with the Portuguese

    Tomé Pires a Portuguese apothecary who lived in Malacca, and later as the first Portuguese diplomat in Ming China. He wrote a detailed book about his experiences, unfortunately beyond my current budget. He makes for a cool character archetype (he’s an apothecary!) but his description of the city of Malacca, where 84 dialects were spoken, is the most interesting thing about him. That book will be a fantastic resource for any campaign set in this era, eventually I’ll find a copy.

    Lapulapu was a Filipino chieftain or Datu who is mainly known for having slain Ferdinand Magellan at the battle of Mactan with his Kampilan sword. He was a pirate, originating in Borneo, who settled and controlled the island of Mactan. Much of his life is semi-legendary.

    Antonio Pigafetta was a Venetian scholar who was assistant to Magellan during his famous voyage. He was one of the 18 survivors who made it back to Spain in 1522, out of 240 who set out in the expedition. Born in 1480 in Venice, though he died at the age of 40, he lived to see the wonders of the Pacific and many other parts of the world. Like Tomé Pires he wrote a book, his was called Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo, and it contains many beautiful maps and illustrations.

    Map of Borneo from Pigafetta’s book

    Duarte Fernandes was a Portuguese tailor who was part of one of the first Europeans to visit the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), in 1511. After taking part in a mutiny, he was spared due to his ‘amiable nature’ and later send as an ambassador to Siam, where he was successful in his mission and helped establish friendly relations with the Portuguese colony in Malacca. He took a specific interest in Chinese shipbuilding and was fascinated by the Chinese junk.

    Diogo Veloso a Portuguese sailor and merchant, he is known as the first European in Laos. He became personal friends with a Cambodian King named Satha, and was then involved in intrigue between several Cambodian city-states. Together with his friend the Spaniard Blas Ruiz they attempted to restore King Satha to power in Laos, but upon learning he had died, they managed to foment a rebellion, though it ultimately failed.

    Blas Ruiz, a Spanish sailor and possibly a minor noble, in addition to being part of the above adventures, he instigated the ill-fated Spanish invasion of Cambodia, in another attempt to restore their friend King Sathah to power. Interestingly, the Spanish sent 3 ships with Spanish, Filipino Japanese and Mexican soldiers. Blas Ruiz was probably killed by Malay mercenaries in the hire of King Satha’s son and rival.

    Finally – this isn’t a person but another source. The Códice Casanatense is a Portuguese illustrated almanac of the world as it appeared to them from the Red Sea, down the coast of Africa, across India and to the Pacific Rim. It gives us kind of a snapshot of what the world looked like to them. Here are a few of the many fascinating pictures from it:

    Abyssinian / Ethiopian warrior and wife

    Turks from the Red Sea area

    Swimming pool in Gujarat, India

    Women hunting on horseback in Patna

    Warriors from Ceylon

    Hans Hellinger

    More to come!

    Hans Hellinger

    A Moro tribesman with mail-and-plate armor and his lovely barong–armors-tribal-warrior.jpg

    Hans Hellinger
    Hans Hellinger
Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.