It is post apocalyptic.
Some people don’t like that assertation of my opinion and have made the argument that it is really historical fantasy, or pre-historical fantasy, or alternate universe fantasy or some other sort of explanation. “Because that is the way it is played or presented in the vast majority of campaigns.”
I can see some people thinking that way. But it starts becoming an issue when people start looking at things closer than “it’s fantasy!” To some people fantasy implies a historical placement which can be flat out wrong. Here is a short list of things that cause me to look at the whole thing as post apocalyptic:
These are so anachronistic that some Gm’s disallow them in their campaigns because they “have no place in a European fantasy society”. I agree, in a strictly historical campaign they would have no place. Gary Gygax certainly was skilled enough at the time to where he would not have overlooked such a logical inconsistency, if he was presenting a strictly historical campaign. But he was looking for something else. What I do not know, perhaps an open place where anything could go as long as it was overseen and tested.
There is a reason the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) has a 900 year range from 600 AD to 1500 AD… the equipment was relatively stable and standardized in the heavy arms and equipment area in this date range and suits well the medieval flavor apparently wanted by players of fantasy RPG’s.
Examples of straight historical inaccuracies is right in swords section with the Khopesh, which was last used in 1300 BC right next to the Falchion, a weapon developed in 1300 AD. There is also no guidelines or suggestions for correcting this ‘oversight’ of including items millennia apart in creation and use.
Also in the equipment is the Jo Stick and Bo Stick which are two Asian weapons, at least in name, included in the weapons list. Making a showing in a list that has staves and clubs it seems extraneous to add more weapons to the list that are already covered by other weapons. Perhaps the argument about Gygax’s near fanaticism about polearms could be extended to weapons in general but it does not match.
This appendix does have fantasies set in Prehistorical, real historical, and post apocalyptic settings in the books listed. Many spells actually come across as super science (ray of enfeeblement, for one), Magical items (Ioun stones, which according to their original story are harvested by digging for them in a dead star that gets sheared partially by the edge of the universe), The Council of Eight is inspired by Jack Vance’s stories which are far more post apocalyptic than not.
Dragon magazine also published things, especially in the early run, that were either gonzo OR more proof that things were not straight historical fantasy. Look up the Recycleasaurus. Note that many a mage written about in those pages was smoking cigars (which did not hit Europe until after the new world was ‘discovered’).
Heck the fact so much was based upon what turns out to be called Gonzo elements (which is now derided by so many who seem to aim for historical accuracy) has to be eliminated for “Historical Accuracy” reasons
Deities and Demigods
This is not quite a part of the big three really needed for AD&D gameplay (PHB, DMG, & MM) but it certainly predates much else and has plenty to do with the early campaigns. This book has so much inside; new monsters, magic items etc… and it can help differentiate between a Japanese Samurai and a Tribal (Central American) Warrior both of whom are of the Fighter class, at first. Eventually finding the treasures in the dungeon would force a homogeneous appearance. Which can spoil the effect.
Hmm perhaps a house rule of: magical items (including arms and armor) takes on the appearance of the characters Mythos no matter the rule setting the device elsewhere. Thus a Shoshone Fighter could have all the stats of Field Plate while keeping to his preferred fringed and beaded buskins. Might work.
There are things that are decidedly not magical. the Beholder is an alien, the Bulette, the Rust monster, Illithids, dopplegangers all of these are more easily explained by being alien than magic even when Arthur C. Clarkes rule of Science and Magic is applied. Then look at the section on Dinosaurs, does not fit inside the Historical accuracy box. Cavemen, Neanderthals… Irish Elk most recently carbon dated to about 7,700 years ago. Even the myths are a hodge podge, such as the Petryon which is a Roman Myth (which does not really appear in the Deities and Demigods except as a footnote to the Greek Gods).
I could go on but however it unfolds, in the end, just because people want to squish things inside a little box and ignore all the signs that point to something bigger that may have been outside of the real grasp but not reach of the predecessor of many more historically accurate games does not make the game inside the box without cutting away too much. A version of Historical accuracy is within our reach but not our true grasp, but as history marches on and so too do discoveries of and challenges to previous understandings any simulation even for joy becomes more inaccurate.
So take it as it is, a game for romping that doesn’t need to be accurate and the shelf life becomes incredibly much longer than any of the historical accuracy aims. Meanwhile, has anyone seen my Deities and Demigods or my Oriental Adventures? Darn things might have disappeared in the move!!