Some time ago I wrote an article about world building for an RPG and the initial idea behind it. Back then I didn’t want to write too much for two reasons. One, I didn’t know if anyone would read it and two, I didn’t want to spoil the plot twist for my players. While I still don’t think anyone reads this, my players figured out the great mystery behind their origins, kinda, so I can now more freely describe the world as they see it.
So first of all, the initial magically post-apo’ed world they came from is still canon and in fact, the same world they are in right now. The question was never “where are they” but rather “when are they” with all the time travelling shenanigans that this brings to the game. But I will talk about that in the next instalment, right now I want to focus on the world itself.
And I’m pretty proud of it. It’s in no way original, it’s a blend of several worlds from fantasy settings, but I didn’t want to make it too typical. And also, I wanted to have a manageable workload with making shit up, so I limited myself to one continent and one continent and a big reset event about a millennium ago.
So here are some of the world’s characteristics with a bit of explanation why it is like that.
- The continent is about the size of Europe, because it’s a size we know people in mediaeval societies were able to travel through without too much of a problem. On top of that there are multiple kingdoms of various sizes and the bigger ones are divided into smaller regions with local rulers, since that’s how it usually went. Also, half of the continent is very sparsely explored and populated, for reasons I’ll get back to later.
- Most of the mainland countries are similar, and, at least on paper, friendly to one another. There are some cultural differences inspired by real life countries, like The Roman Empire, France, Portugal, Sweden, Prussia or Poland, but most of them use one common language (actually two, common human-ish and elvish) to make my players’ lives more bearable. Other states include some countries in far-away lands behind natural obstacles like deserts and mountains as well as an island nation with strong imperial ambitions which is currently in the process of taking over the world.
- The continent is on the southern hemisphere in a moderate climate range, there are some cold Scandinavia-like regions far south, two decently sized bays/seas providing a lot of sea access and warmer regions up north. There’s lots of rivers too. So basically everything civilizations need to survive.
- I’ve mentioned geographic barriers for the playable world. There’s a huge mountain range going north-south through the middle of the continent separating western, sparsely populated and rather arid region from the pretty green and significantly more populated east. There are hot deserts in the north and ice-covered wastelands south while going east means ocean and angry looking invasion fleet. That still gives my players an area of around third of Europe to play with.
- On top of countries there are also other things to worry about. There are subterranean Drow cities and Dwarf fortresses, various guilds, orders, criminal organisations and other things that fill the world.
And then there are various races. To explain that I have to go a bit deeper into history. Aeons ago this continent was inhabited mainly by elves and dwarves. They had their thing going on, you know, wars and stuff, probably millennia of history, but then a huge invasion occured, humans and beasts and dragons and orcs came from beyond the sea on huge ships, you know, the standard “old world collapse”. The twist here is that dragons were the main bad guys on top and everyone else were slaves, a mere canon fodder. The war lasted for centuries forcing the elves to hide in thick forests or underground. Their glorious cities were reduced to ruin and they were forced to build fortresses, watchtowers and a network of underground roads to survive and continue the fight. The elves eventually won after deploying a magical superweapon thich EMP-ed magic, killing untold numbers of magical beings, dragons included, pissing off a fair number of gods and turning almost all magical artefacts inert. That pretty much wiped out most of their own wartime magic-tech infrastructure and knowledge storage, which forced them to start from scratch, now with millions of ex-slaves roaming the land above.Slaves, who were living there for centuries, countless generations of warriors and low level commanders, but also workers, smiths, farmers, bakers and so on, previously kept in check by their dragon overlords. Needless to say, the beginning of this new era was pretty messy, but eventually things sorted themselves out. Orcs retreated to the west, where the climate suited them best. Humans, halflings and gnomes organised a couple of their own kingdoms with the beast folk mixed in. As for the elves, now severely outnumbered and without the edge of super-powerful magic weapons, they decided to peacefully coexist, since in the end, those newcomers were also just victims of war and they’d been living there for generations, anyway. Well, most of the elves at least. Some elves decided that living in their underground cities was preferable to mixing with the lower races and over time they became the Drow, bitter enemies of all surface peoples… or at least not interested in joining them on the surface.
So that’s how humans got to live with elves and other races in one place. Over time, a social and political structure crystallised, new breeds of men and elves emerged and new cultures bloomed from the mixture of old, based on the region and peoples who made their home there. And of course new conflicts and tensions arose, much more complicated than “elves good defenders, everyone else bad invaders”, but that’s part of the fun, right? I could describe each country, their culture and society, but I think I’ll leave it for later.
Well I hope the three of you who read that enjoyed it and I’m open to questions and further discussions.