Lets Build a World: Part Fifteen: Rivers, Lakes, Races and Cultures

Having complete the weather and terrain for the region, we move on to rivers, lakes and other waterways.

Except for in the harshest of deserts and barren regions, each hex on the regional map will contain waterways of some form; creeks, streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. They are too small to be represented at the regional level though. Major lakes, inland seas and river systems do show up, and it is these we are looking at. These are things like the Nile, the Amazon, the Dead Sea, the Great Lakes, very large and prominent bodies of water.

Inland seas and lakes are fairly similar, with the exception that while both have inflows, only lakes have outflows. Inland seas tend to form in warm, arid regions where evaporation is in equilibrium with inflow. They also tend to form in low laying regions, depressions and basins and the like which traps the water in them. Lakes can form anywhere, even in mountainous regions, and generally in humid regions where there is plenty of water to feed into them and then spill over into an outflow.

For our map, we lack large arid regions that can result in the creation of inland seas. It is suggested that a region would have 1d6-3 (0-3) inland seas, of 2d8 hexes in size.

In general a region will also have 2d6 major lakes, each one of 2d6-2 hexes in size. We kind of lack much room for large lakes given the limited amount of land we have. It is humid enough that they could though, if we have more space.

I will be doing an example of a more land-based region in the future so that we can use lakes and inland seas on it.

What we can do is add some rivers. The suggestion is for 4d6 major rivers per region. We have less, for the aforementioned reason of lack of land. The ones that we will have will also be fairly short.

Rivers start at higher altitudes, in mountains and highlands and major lakes, and flow downhill following the path of least resistance. So on your map, start with connecting lakes to nearby seas or oceans, and then connect mountains to nearby bodies of water, whether seas or lakes. Rivers don’t cross mountain ranges (unless something very unusual is going on). In especially humid regions, a number of short rivers can parallel each other from the mountains to the sea.

Using these guidelines, I sketch in a few major rivers, mostly on the large island in the southwest, as seen below. And with that the waterways are done.

The final part of the regional map is to work out the Human Geography as the book calls it, by which they mean the people and cultures that call it home. It has several parts that can be rolled for, or chosen; races, cultures and kingdoms/states, as well as their locations on the map.

The first step is to work out what races are present in sufficient numbers to form states. Solitary monsters, non-intelligent creatures and those that don’t organise into political or tribal groups are not considered at this stage.

Firstly we work out how many races to roll for – each region has 0-2 (1d3-1) dominate races, 3-6 (1d4+2) major races and 4-16 (4d4) minor races. A dominate race makes up 25%+ of the sentient population of the region, a major race has 5-20% and the minor races are less than 5%. Some races, such as dragons, may skew these numbers, as they may be few in number but rule over a subject population.

Our rolls come up with 2 dominate, 3 major and 10 minor races. Table 19 in the book has a lot of races to roll from, all taken from 2ed. Some are well known, but others are more obscure, such as Tasloi or Wemics. While all races listed can be minor ones, there is a limited number who can be major, and even more limited as to who can be dominate. Of course, as with anything, you can change all that.

We start rolling up, sticking to as is listed. The rolls for dominant races come up with 28; giants and 15; dwarves. Giants are one of those races who can be of a more limited number but who rule over subjects.

The rolls for major races give us humans, tabaxi and giants again. Duplicates can either be rerolled or can represent a variant group. I go with a reroll and get bullywugs. The rolls for minor races give us kobolds, thri-kreen, orcs, ogre-mages, gnomes, aaracokra, tasloi, grell, beholders and ogres.

Given both giants and beholders can rule over subjects, I roll for each to see who they are. The giants end up with ogre subjects, which means there are two groups of ogres, some free and some subjects, which will make things interesting. The beholders end up with lizardmen slaves.

Each race has listed for them habitat types, where they can live. Some, like humans, can be anywhere, but others are limited. Yetis can only be found in mountains or arctic regions for example. If you roll up a race that has no appropriate terrain for it you are meant to roll again. To my mind, I prefer not to – if you just stuck with races being in their normal habitats we’d never have gotten the glorious setting that is Dark Sun. Thri-kreen are meant to only be found in arid tropical and sub-tropical regions but if I want to stick them in a jungle, where they hunt with blowpipes, springing from tree to tree and building mysterious stone temples deep in the jungles, then I should be allowed to. Actually, that sounds like a good idea that I am going to use with the thri-kreen we rolled up.

In addition to land based races, you can also roll from subterranean and marine races. Normally I don’t but in this case I will, because this region has a lot of water for marine races and also as a example of doing so. The seas have 0-1 dominate, 1-3 major and 1-4 minor races while subterranean sees 0-1 dominate, 1-4 major and 1-6 minor races.

There isn’t a whole lot of room on the map for subterranean races, so I only roll for major and minor races, getting 2 of each. Rolling on the subterranean chart gives up drow and duergar as the major races and grimlocks and troglodytes for the minor races. They may not have any contact with the surface world, or they may have plenty. We shall have to decide on that later.

For the marine races, I decide that there will be a dominate race, and roll up 3 major and 3 minor races. The dominate marine race is locathah, the major races are mermen, aquatic elves and giants and the minor races are tritons, ixitxachitl and tako.

So we know who the races are that live in the region and they are an interesting mix. Certainly not your typical fantasy setting, and the best part is no elves. Well, apart from the drow underground and the wet elves at sea, but no elf cultures on the surface. Maybe. They may creep in later, so we’ll have to watch out for that.

The next step is to work out the number of cultures/sub-races and realms that belong to each race. Dominate races have 1D4+1 seperate cultures or sub-races, major races have 1D3 and minor races have 1D2. Each culture/sub-race has 1-5 realms or kingdoms. Realms for dominate races are around 6d6 hexes in size, major races are 4d6 hexes in size while minor races are 1d8 hexes in size. Given we have less land than is normal and back in the world hook stage we got a very balkanised world with no large nations, we might have to adjust that a bit.

Some races, like elves or dwarves, have plenty of sub-races already, while others have none. In theory sub-races are meant to be culturally uniform, no matter where they are in the world, but this is another rule that I tend to play around with. Why would insular wood elves thousands of kilometres apart retain the same culture?

With all that we can start rolling, starting with the dominant races, working out their cultures, realms and then their positions on the map. How exactly you mark it on the map is up to you. You could only mark in where each culture is, or you could try and mark in all the kingdoms. That could result in a lot of them. As way as example, we start with the two dominant races in this region, the giants (with their ogre subjects) and the dwarves.

The giants roll up three cultures, with three, two and one realms in each culture, while the dwarves have four cultures, with four, two, one and two realms in their cultures. Thats seven cultures and fifteen realms already to place on the map. While the realms within cultures typically are close to each other, different cultures may be spread out.

The major races (the humans, tabaxi and bullywugs) each have 3 cultures, while for the minor races, the orcs, gnomes, tasloi and beholders (with the lizardmen slaves) have 2 cultures, and the kobolds, thri-kreen, ogre-mages, aaracokra, grell and ogres have 1 culture each. Between them all they have around 71 realms as well.

Table 20 lets you roll for where on the map the cultures are to be put if you don’t want to decide yourself. The settlement patterns they can follow could be hydrographical (along various water sources), favoured terrain (such as hills or grasslands), favoured climate (such as temperate or tropical), or simply a quadrant of the map.

We start rolling for the giant and dwarf cultures to see where they are. For the giants we get on a 1d100 5 (coastal/seafaring), 11 (riverine) and 18 (grasslands). For the dwarves we get 28 (marshes/swamps), 44 (sub-tropical), 73 (southeastern) and 19 (forests).

Now to fit them on the map. You may have noticed we have a lot of cultures, 30 to be exact, and even more realms, some 86 in total. The bullywugs ended up with the most, with some 12 realms across their 3 cultures, while the kobolds and aaracokra have just 1 small realm each. We also only have a little more than 200 land hexes to distribute them all across. The dominate races are meant to have realms 6d6 in size, but we are going to reduce them to just 6 hexes each. Likewise the major races will have just 3 for their 4d6 hex size realms and the minor races just 1 hex in size for their 1d8 sized realms. That comes out to around 215 hexes in total, so we can just squeeze it in, hopefully. This means there are going to be a lot of very small city-states scattered across the map, which is just fine for the balkanised nature of the world.

Starting with the giants and dwarves, we start to draw them in. The first giant culture, the coastal one, has three realms, making it around 18 hexes in size. The second, riverine culture, has 2 realms, so it will be around 12 hexes, while the third, grassland culture, has just the 1 realm, so it gets six hexes. We do the same for the dwarves. The end map for the dominate cultures looks like this;

1A is an giant culture of 3 realms, 1B of 2 realms and 1C of 1 realm. 2A is a dwarf culture of 2 realms, 2B of 1 realm, 2C of 4 realms and 2D of 2 realms. The dwarven culture that makes up 2C would appear to be some form of maritime power, with its four realms spread over four islands, and with a bunch of minor islands spread between them, which may be a point of conflict between them. From such placement on the map we can begin to form ideas.

Next time we will finish up the map, and the work on the region, by placing all the major and minor cultures, and possibly the marine cultures on the map. And that may get crowded.

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