Reply To: Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim, 16th Century

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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