As you read through the World Builder’s Guidebook, you follow the process of creating a world from the start, from the initial design of the world all the way through to the creation of a single kingdom.
There is also a single one off example of a design of a single location at the cities and provinces level, an area of 40 or so miles, which in the case of the example was a tropical island ruled over by renaissance level elven pirates.
So as an example of building from the bottom up, rather than the top down, I am going to do a one off, of a small region with a handful of settlements and some places for adventurers starting out to explore.
Starting off, I roll on the World Hooks chart, coming up with subterranean initially. While I do want some subterranean elements involved, I also want a more regular above ground region as well, so I roll again, this time getting arctic. This also covers sub-arctic, which strikes me as the preferred option. Those that live there will rely heavily on herding, hunting and fishing to live and the region will have summers with long days and winters with very long nights.
Moving on to see what the region looks like, I roll up coastal or peninsular for the seas and rivers in the region, gentle hills for mountains and hills, moderate for seasonal variation, meaning much as Earth experiences and for humidity, I went with arid rather than humid.
The next step was to work out the predominant terrain of the region – the dice came up with rocky desert, a region marked by boulder fields, stony wastes and weathered bedrock, no doubt wind swept and cold, and probably forming where the hills are. There will also be regions of the other types of terrain found in the area, such as light forests of needleleaf evergreens and grasslands in the form of dry steppes. These would be where the inhabitants mostly live.
As to who lives there, a roll on the dominant race comes up dwarves, and there are also three other races, those being goblins, aarakocra and humans. For each I roll to see how they relate to the dominate dwarves. The goblins life separately, the aarakocra are completely intermixed with the dwarves, living alongside them as equals, and the humans live separately but are considered equals to the dwarves as well. The goblins aren’t considered equal for whatever reasons.
Continuing on, a roll on the Cultural Archetypes table comes up with Dark Ages Europe. This is a time of tribal warchiefs and their warbands, prior to feudalism and the landed nobility.
Rather than rolling on the tech level, I just select dark ages technology. Don’t expect plate armour to show up here.
The government of the region turns out to be neutral-good theocracy, which is interesting. In effect the region is ruled over by priest-kings. Given that religion is obviously an important element here, I roll up the primary deity worshiped, and come up with fire and sun for their domains. Given the cold of the region and the long winter nights, that fits in well, as the priests provide light and warmth and comfort during that time.
Lastly we roll on subsistence levels, to see how people live in the region. The result is predominantly by herding/grazing, keeping their herds upon the steppes. There will also by some light levels of farming, hunting, fishing and mining as well.
Working out the population density, we have a base level of 2 for grazing, +1 for the hills and -1 for dark ages, giving us a level of 2, or low density. That gives us a town and around 5-10 villages in the region, with a population of around 5000 people or so.
With all of that worked out, I made a map of the region.
(The map was made with a program called Wonderdraft)
Sunfire Keep is the main settlement, and home of the local Priest-King, with four other villages were the dwarves and aarakocra live, and two of humans, on the coast, each with a local headman. The goblins have a den up north, leading into the subterranean regions.
This is just the local starting area and later on you can expand outwards. There would be other small nations of the same culture out there of similar size ruled over by other Priest-Kings, as well as other nations and cultures and races as well. There are other aspects you could expand upon, such as the nature of the religion, the presence of the goblins and what else dwells in the subterranean regions.
But for now we leave the example here and return to the ongoing world building project.