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What is The Elephant & Macaw Banner Roleplaying Game?

The world of The Elephant & Macaw Banner is based on sixteenth-century Brazil, the beginning of Portuguese colonization, and adds to this world fantastic elements of magic and folklore. 

The information in the game book (including maps, available goods, peoples, prices and so on) is based on the historical situation of Brazil in the year 1576, the same year that  adventures recounted in the stories of The Elephant & Macaw Banner series begin. Brazil at this time offers a real feast for those in search of adventure. It is an exciting time because of the convergence of cultures on the coast and the vast territory still unknown to the settlers. 

Who are the player characters? 

Maybe the best way to explain this is to look at the main characters of the original stories: 

Gerard is a Dutch mercenary in search of adventure – to quote his entry on the EAMB website: "He grew up in Flanders and France in what we now call the Renaissance period of European history. Gerard speaks six languages and is an expert with both the harquebus and rapier, the latter of which he studied in Bologna. Although he received a classical education, he doesn’t trust his wits in a pinch and leaves most of the planning to his trusted companion, Oludara."

Oludara is from the Kingdom of Ketu in west Africa. "Even though he was only twenty-five when his adventures with Gerard begin, his people consider Oludara wise for his age.  Even the oba (king) of Ketu consulted Oludara on how to slay a monster with guile, monsters that fifty soldiers could not defeat by force."

The two of them meet and form the "Elephant & Macaw Banner" company in the first story because they want to explore the jungle, but only official companies (with a banner showing their emblem) are allowed into the interior by the Portuguese authorities. So they draw an elephant and a macaw on a cloth and successfully argue that two people would be technically the smallest company possible!

These two are the constant protagonists of the stories but they are often accompanied by recurring characters such as Arany, a Tupinamba woman who rescues Gerard and Oludara when they first rock up to her village, Cabwassu, a warrior from the same village, or the shaman Yandir. 

A typical Elephant & Macaw Banner story involves Gerard and Oludara arriving in a new community such as an indigenous village or a Portuguese colony town, low on food and money, and making friends with people there. Sometimes a villainous rival is also present and/or trying to kill them. the community is being hassled by a monster of some sort, which turns out to be something from Brazilian folklore. Our heroes' initial encounters tend to go poorly but after nearly dying once or twice, they figure out what they need to do and then either slay or drive off the menace. Everyone celebrates, our heroes bid farewell and set off towards their next adventure! 

This is a pretty good model for what you do in the RPG too. The introductory adventure in the core book, "The Fires of Bertioga", has a similar setup - the PCs start off looking for a missing friend and run into apparitions, magical creatures, maybe a monster, probably some Portuguese soldiers and almost certainly a pirate along the way as they knock about in the mini sandbox setting. 

But what if you don't want to play a character who's an outsider? 

Well, the good news here is that it's not like there's only one indigenous culture – far from it! So if you choose to play a native Brazilian, while your PC will naturally know plenty about where they come from, once you set out on your adventures, you'll get to do just as much exploring and discovering as those from Africa and Europe.

You can find information about a number of Brazil's indigenous cultures, certainly enough to start playing the game with, in the Player's Guide PDF (which you can get for free here).


OK, that's enough for now - coming up next, Character Creation 

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