Very slowly, with my mapmaking, I am making my way around the northwest bulge of Africa. This includes the Cape Verde Islands, about 350 miles west of Mauritania and Senegal, a group that I'm sure aren't nearly as well known as the Azores, the Madieras or the Canaries. This is because the Cape Verde lie in the doldrums and, though tropical, are much more desert-like than other groups in the subtropics. They're not lush, not especially productive; the population has a very sad history.
|1 hex = 20 miles or 32 km|
For two centuries, including the time my world takes place, Portuguese slavers would dump slaves from all over Gambia and Guinea on the islands, where they would wait - often starving - before being taken by another ship to Brazil. There is no 'native' population; the islands were uninhabited prior to the Portuguese use of them. Today, the people are the offspring of multiple backgrounds, many of them tracing their lineage to slaves that escaped and hid in the back mountain country on the various islands.
I haven't decided if that's how I intend to depict them - though I'm leaning in that direction because it would be a tremendous opportunity for a party to seize the islands and right the wrongs being committed there. If this was the case, then the slave population, being temporary, wouldn't count in the island's population. In terms of trade, this would leave the remaining European population being industrious, diligent entrepreneurs and artisans.
I do recognize that it's a lot easier to leave real evil behind with a game world. I wrote a post about that. Still, there's something to be considered about actual human behaviour and actual human history: unhappiness is a part of fantasy. The Brothers Grimm certainly understood that; and perhaps there's something in my being Russian, as well. Cold brutality often figures in Eastern European fantasy - while the West in general has a long, unpleasant history with merchandising misery, as the Cape Verde testifies.
I'd love to run a campaign where a party seizes control of the islands, fights off a Portuguese fleet (perhaps with the help of others) and ultimately establishes a peaceful culture. But . . . and this is important . . . I believe in the player's agenda. If they wanted to run a game where they bought one of the islands and used it for the exact reasons the Portuguese used, then I would play that game too. Not because it's right or wrong, but because no one is being hurt and we're all adult and mature enough to understand the difference between exploring a thought and living it.
The historical masters of those islands lived it and helped create the horror that continues to pollute large parts of Portuguese colonial culture. I doubt I will ever have players with the stomach to even pretend to live it. But having the opportunity to make a group with the idea then feel the consequences of their actions, rubbing their noses in it, would be an interesting campaign. A very interesting campaign.
A much more proactive opportunity, I think, then simply denying adults that chance to explore it.