Last night, I found myself thinking about a new campaign world, something that was both new and old with some interesting twists. A million unclear ideas came to mind, twists on existing nations from other worlds, from the real world, campaign plots and subplots, adventure locations and unique NPCs. I tried to make some sense out of it all and come up with a way I could quickly separate them from one another. Before getting into the hot and heavy of everything, I needed locations. I needed countries to set my world.
My next step was to come up with a way to break down into a few sentences what I would like to do. Since I did not plan to write a whole gazetteer from day one, I could only define those elements I needed and work from there. The point-of-light theory that WotC used to talk about in the early days of 4e is the path I wish to take when defining this world, build from small to large, adding adventure locations, villages and other towns. The big towns are just dots on the map until they are needed in an adventure.
For now, I am not worried about a pantheon, a cosmology or even a game system (although I do have one in mind). I am only worried about defining a few nations in my world.
The 10 Questions
Describe your country/region using as few words or sentences as you can.
- Using a base human culture (ie: Vikings, 13th Century France, Ancient Egypt)
- Using an earthly location (ie: Himalayas, South American jungle)
- By its main villains (ie: undead lord, humanoids horde)
- By its ruler(s)/government (ie: feudal monarchy, council of nobles, druidocracy)
- By the major alignment of the government
- By the major alignment of the population
- By the major races to be found in your country
- One strange/unique law
- What to do in that country?
- Give it a name.
Example 1: Amoran
- Byzantine Empire (about 10-11th Century), the central authority is seen by most citizen as important, but a series of weak rulers has eroded its actual power. Provincial governors and an endless stream of viziers really control the bureaucratic government.
- Aegean Sea (Archipelago of smaller island surrounded by bigger landmasses)
- Humanoid hordes: the kingdom is threatened by roving bands of goblinoids. Though not united, the goblins are lead by 3- a tightly-knight group of shamans. Many oultying provinces have been lost to the goblins.
- The government is a traditional feudal monarchy ruled by King Alexos III. The king is a sickly young man of about 20. Although his health is failing, he wants to restore his prestige and power. Real power is in the hands of the many Viziers, local prefects and ministers.
- The king is N(G) but the many administrator make the government as a whole a CN state. Provincial government' alignment cover all of the neutral alignments (LN/NG/N/NE/CN).
- As a whole, the population would be described as N.
- Humans, half-orc and halflings mostly. Elf, half-elf and gnomes uncommon. Dwarves are rare (usually foreign mercenaries).
- Permits have to be obtained for any excavation or exploration of any dungeon or crypt. Those permits grant the state a 40% share of any loot found AND first pick of any treasure found. Fines for "smuggling antiques" are very steep. However, the many ancient crypts and ruins are often filled with treasure which makes the permits a good idea for most adventurers.
- The King is seeking to redress the country and regain the power the crown once held. The Viziers & governors wish to keep their power.
- The Kingdom of Amoran
Example 2: Dwarven Lands of Enmel
- Early Celtic Ireland: scattering of clans and tribes linked together through a complex system of alliances.
- Switzerland: hilly valley separated from the world by tall mountains
- Foreign Influence: a neighboring power is attempting to invade the valley. The foreign power tries to take over by any means they can.
- One of the clan leaders is elected by the other kings as High King for 10 years. The High King is King Kernan, a lazy hedonist with no redeeming quality.
- The government of the high king is clearly CN. Most clans lean towards N, NG or CG.
- The people are of the same alignment as their local government: N, NG or CG
- Dwarves and Gnomes are most common. Humans and Halfling are rarely seen. Elves, half-elves and half-orcs are rarely encountered
- Family legacies are traced through the mother. Thus the eldest woman (or the one with the most children) holds the effective power in a clan. Her word is law to her children.
- There are few ruins and crypts, but there are many ancient mines and tunnels. Many of which are controlled by derro and other creatures from the Underworld.
- The Lands of Enmel
Example 3: Selimen of the South
- Ancient Egypt: central government on mostly docile people
- One could hardly think of an Egyptian-style country without the desert and a large, Nile-like river. As a twist, the country is composed of a land of many lakes of varying sizes, mixing to Minnesota and Venice together. Around those lakes would be a vast desert.
- The main villains here would be dark creatures from the desert, the Aredjim. They would be a mix of genies and undead, a race of creatures that in the long-long ago ruled the land. They now wish to sink the country beneath the sands.
- The God-King is Horemheb, an aging king who was a great warrior in his youth. Most of his sons have been killed fighting against the Aredjim or invaders. Only a few are left and there is much discussion as to which one he will chose to succeed him.
- The government is strongly LN.
- The people are LN, but LG, LE and N are also very common.
- Humans composed the near totality of the population, most other races are rarely found here.
- Every citizen must serve as a slave in one of the great building project every 10 years. This service is unpaid, but they are fed, clothed and sheltered. The only way to avoid this service is to join the army.
- The desert is full of Aredjim ruins hidden in the sands.