Lets Build a World: Part Seventeen: Realm Culture and Technology

Previously we finished up Chapter Three: Continents and Geography in the World Builders Guidebook. Now we are moving on to Chapter Four: Kingdoms and Sociology.

For this we pick a kingdom or region of the continent map and zoom in on it. For us, given the small size of kingdoms on the map, we will go with a region which contains a number of small kingdoms, though in reality a lot of them will probable be more like city-states.

Like all parts of the guidebook, you could jump in and start here, designing a kingdom before going up or down in size.

For the part we are working on I have chosen this part of the world;

What really got me intrigued was the jungle-dwelling thri-kreen, and so it is there that we will be concentrating. To flesh it out a bit more, we will also include some of their neighbours – giants to the east, humans to the north and tabaxi catfolk to the west. Certainly interesting neighbours.

The first step of the process is not actually working on the map but detailing the people and their culture. There is nothing stopping you doing the map first if you want, as with anything in the guidebook, but we are following the book as it was written.

Each culture has a cultural archetype. There is a list you can roll on but it points out that it isn’t an exhaustive list and that you can come up with your own if you want. I have decided that I won’t roll for the thri-kreen. Instead I am going to chose a Mesoamerican archetype for them, based on cultures like the Aztecs, Incan and Mayans.

For the humans we roll Middle Ages European. Basically your standard fantasy setting then. The giants get Dark Ages Europe. This is a pre-feudal setting, where chieftains and their warbands rule. The Anglo-Saxons are a good example of this. The tabaxi roll up Renaissance Europe, where arts, literature and technology are flourishing and a wealthy merchant class has risen up, resulting in mercantile city-states.

The next step is to work out who lives in the nations. Realms can have any number of different demihuman, humanoid and even monstrous races in them. The number varies, with small kingdoms having less than empires. For this I am saying the thri-kreen are a small kingdom, with 1d2 primary and 1d4+1 secondary races, while the other three are moderate kingdoms, with 1d2 primary and 1d6+1 secondary races. Primary races generally have 25-50% of the total population, while secondary ones account from 1-10%, though there are exceptions where a small group of overlords are a primary race but rule over a more populous secondary race. The giants we rolled up may fill that role.

Rolling up we get;

  • Thri-kreen – 1 primary, 4 secondary races
  • Humans – 1 primary, 6 secondary races
  • Giants – 2 primary, 5 secondary races
  • Tabaxi – 2 primary, 4 secondary races.

For the exact type of each race we can roll up for them on the race table we used earlier when determining the cultures of the region previously. We can also assign or change things up as we see fit.

For the thri-kreen, they are obviously the primary race. For the secondary ones we roll up humans, giants, orcs and goblins. Humans and giants are neighbors and orcs live not far away so it makes sense that they may have communities within thri-kreen lands. Goblins are a new race though, one not powerful or large enough to have their own lands.

The humans are the primary race in their culture, with orcs, giants, dwarves, orges, goblins and kobolds as secondary races. Once again orcs, giants, dwarves and ogres are neighbours or near neighbours. The goblins turn up again, so a pocket of them seem to be spread between the human and thri-kreen lands. It may be that their homelands may have been conquered at some point, something we will have to explore. The kobolds are another new race that has turned up.

For the giants, we make the giants and their ogre slaves the two primary races. For secondary races, we start with humans and dwarves. Then we roll up orogs, who are an ogre-orc cross. From that I decide to add orcs to the mix, to facilitate that. Lastly we get neogi, a race of spiderlike creatures who are generally slavers. We might make them slavers who work for the giants, capturing or trading slaves for them. The other races, including humans and dwarves, may have been captured in slave raids along the borders.

Lastly are the tabaxi. They are one of the two primary races. For the second we roll up gnomes. While there are gnomes on the continental map, those are a long way away so these may be a different type of them. The secondary races are humans, ogres, thri-kreen, again all local races, and yuan-ti, normally depicted as jungle dwelling snakepeople, so they fit the region.

Now we know who lives in each realm, we need to know how they fit in, their status and position in relation to the main race. Once more you can roll, pick or do both.

For the thri-kreen, the humans, orcs and goblins all live among the thir-kreen, though in their own districts but the thri-kreen are the dominant race. It means that they may not be seen or treated as equals to the thri-kreen, may not have the same rights, may be seen as children to be protected or one of a number of other options. In a surprise turn of events, the giants turn up to be slaves to the thri-kreen. That is something we will have to work out how happened, but it certainly puts a new spin on relations with the giant neighbours.

For the humans, the goblins live in human communities in their own districts and are treated as equals to the humans. The dwarves are also treated as equals, but live in their own communities. The others, the giants, orcs, ogres and kobolds, have their own communities but aren’t seen as equals.

For the giants, the orcs, ogres and orogs are made slaves rather than rolling. The humans roll up being slaves as well, but the dwarves aren’t. The live in their own communities, though are seen as beneath the giants yet somehow have preserved their freedom. The neogi turn out to be seen as equals by the giants, living among them, no doubt valued for their slaver ways.

For the tabaxi, the first two rolls see the gnomes and ogres seen as equals, so on a whim I decide that the tabaxi are more enlightened due to their renaissance ways, and treat all others as equals. The gnomes live among the tabaxi, while the ogres, thri-kreen and yuan-ti have their own separate communities.

The next section is on language. There is nothing to roll here, just a short bit on language as social distinction, the common tongue and literacy. We could, if we want, go into depth on working out how it functions, but we will for this example, keep it simple.

There is no common tongue, as such, due to the fragmented balkanised nature of the region. Giantish, dwarvish and human tend to be more dominant due to their spread and size. Among the thri-kreen, they speak their own language. The humans, orcs and goblins who live alongside them do have their own languages but favour thri-kreen in day to day use. The giants are given no choice – they are banned from speaking in giantish and must speak thri-kreen.

Lastly, in this section of the chapter, is technology. The technology used during ancient times was different to that of the middle ages. It is something that we can roll for, or select depending on what we rolled up for cultural archetype earlier, though just because a nation is culturally of the dark ages, it doesn’t mean their technology has to be either. For the giants, humans and tabaxi though, we will do that. The giants have dark ages technology, without much intensive farming but plenty of animal husbandry, with crude warbands and levies as standard military units. The humans are feudal, with kings, vassals and peasants, and the start of the merchant and specialised craftsmen class. The tabaxi are at a renaissance level, with such things as the printing press and waterwheel and improved sailing vessels able to undertake long voyages. They may even have firearms and cannons.

For the thri-kreen we don’t have an indication so we will roll for them. The roll for them comes up as late middle ages, between that of the humans and tabaxi. The feudal system is beginning to break down as the merchant class grows in importance and trade guilds increase production and importance. Power moves away from the nobles into the towns. If firearms are allowed, the first crude ones show up here.

Next time we will move on to looking at the governments of the nations, how they are ruled and what their social alignments are like.

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