In the Jan/Feb issue of Asimov’s author Bob Silverberg’s columns is on part two of Gog and Magog. Now while the two were fictional, they were based on real life events in which people came swooping down out of some distant land to loot and pillage and act all unsocial. As a matter of fact to the American Indian we were Gog and Magog, and we really haven’t reformed all that much.
You get right down to it Gog and Magog go back to before civilization. For instance, the ancient Sumerians came down from the North into what we now call Mesopotamia where they essentially conquered the Ubaid’s then working out the rudiments of agriculture and civilization. Even earlier the Qm as I like to call them—it’s a long story—migrated to the Nile valley from the ancient Near East, and after settling in the highlands flanking the valley proceeded to develop agriculture and with the boost in population swarmed down on the aboriginals and took over.
There are others. The Mycenae, later followed by the Hellenes. The Etruscans and Latins were originally invaders from distant lands. Heck, the Nahuac—our Aztecs—got their start as the Gogs and Magogs to the Mexica who had come before them. As you can see the trope has been around for awhile.
We like telling stories about what happened in the past, stories that quite often get “improved”. Our fantasies are especially prone to incorporating meme’s that have gone on for a long time. Robert E. Howard had his Picts, Professor Tolkein Orcs and before them Humans. There are likely others but right now I’m drawing a blank.
Still and all we’ve had a fascination with distant lands with savage peoples out to swarm down upon us upsetting our lives looting our cultures and ways of anything that catches their eye. Nowadays we call them, “tourists”.
Does this happen in our RPGs?
You have to ask?
Gog and Magog have been a huge part of RPGs from the beginning. Start with the amorphous orcish hordes and continue on to the swarms that come pouring out of some netherworld. The modrons of Planescape, the Scro of Spelljammer, all are Gog and Magog out to ravish civilized lands and worlds. The Yellow Peril has long been a source of frightful entertainment.
And going really far back you have the farmers from the Middle East who invaded Europe some ten thousand years ago displacing the natives and upsetting lives. Our stories of elves and the fair folk may go back to those day, though they would later pick up details from other encounters.
So read up on Gog and Magog. And on the QM—Egyptians to you, the Sumerians, the Cimmerians, the Hellenes, the Sea Peoples, and even the Angles and Saxons of Britain. You’ll get ideas and even a few plots to pester your players with.
And don’t forget the goblins in their bermuda shorts, print shirts, and cheap sandals; who armed with cameras and lenses and rolls of film come swarming down out of their mountain fastnesses out to get as much tourist crap and low grade snapshots as they can. And especially dread the elven anthropologists, expounding on their half baked theories on how human society is supposed to work. Theories that have more to do with their politics and ideology than with some quasi science.