Lets Build a World: Part Eighteen: Government Form and Social Alignment

In the small part of the world we are concentrating on, we have worked out the cultural archetypes, racial makeup and technology of the realms we are working with, resulting in an interesting mix, ranging from the more advanced socially and technologically tabaxi to the rather more backward giants.

Our next step on the path of building the world is to look at how the realms are ruled. Each culture can have a number of realms in it, each with differing forms of government. For this region we have five thri-kreen realms at the heart of it. Studying the maps, I have decided that there is room on it for 1 giant, 1 tabaxi and 2 human realms as well.

We start with the giants to the east, rolling a 1d100 on the Government Form table. The dice come up with a Dictatorship – a supreme ruler holds absolute power, but not necessarily dynastic. For their social alignment we roll another 1d100 and get chaotic evil.

From what we previously knew of the giants, this all fits together. The nation is ruled by the principle of ‘might makes right’, with local strongman bosses and their warbands obeying those above them out of fear, and at the top being the most dangerous of the lot. They may call themselves a king or warlord or by another title. Treachery and violence are an acceptable route of promotion, with one strongman taking down another while being on the lookout for other rivals. Beneath them are the slaves – ogres, orogs, orcs and humans, keeping society running. They are kept in check by the neogi slavemaster, valued and respected parts of the realm. And then there are the dwarves, living a precarious existence where only their valued skills keep them from being enslaved.

Next we come to the tabaxi. They roll confederacy for the Government Form, where individual cities and towns govern themselves but contribute to a league or federation for the common good of all, and neutral good for the social alignment.

Initially we were meant to have three tabaxi realms in the region, including an area across the water to the southwest. After this I decided to collapse them all into this single confederacy and model it in part on the Hansaetic League. The tabaxi are a confederation of mostly independent mercantile city-states that have banded together for mutual trade and protection, where their traders travel far and wide and brought back wealth and knowledge. They believe the well-being of all comes before the rule of law and the rule of individual liberty, and they extend that to all who live among them, regardless of race.

All in all, a place that stands starkly different to the land of the giants.

Moving on, we turn to the first of the human nations. They turn out to be an oligarchy, a small group of absolute rulers who share power, and the social alignment is lawful neutral.

For this I picture a feudal nation that is nominally a kingdom, but the king is weak and ineffective, and the true power in the land is a small group who form the King’s Council, ruling the land in the name of the king. They do it for what they perceive as the good of the nation, ruling through a slowly growing bureaucracy, where law and order is paramount and everyone is treated the same, regardless of circumstances. They see it as necessary to bring peace and stability to the land and to preserve their feudalistic system in the light of outside dangers.

The other human nation rolls up a hierarchy, a feudal or bureaucratic system of government which proceeds through different levels of a religious institution. Basically a highly stratified religious government, with power being concentrated at the top in the form of High Priest. The roll for social alignment also turns up as chaotic evil, which at first I don’t think would work with the stratified nature of the nation, but on second thoughts can see it working if there is a lot of infighting within the ranks of the religion, with frequent assassinations, blackmail, treachery, corruption and the works.

Given the nature of the place, I can see which of the gods they worship, that being the lesser power of fire and war we rolled up back in the deities section, a chaotic evil goddess who reveled in the destructive aspect of war, of burnt offerings and sacrificial victims set aflame. Not the most pleasant of neighbours.

Finally we come to the thri-kreen, with their five small nations that are in effect little more than city-states in the jungles. Given their small size and that they are all of the same culture, it is probable that they are fairly similar in the way they are governed and their outlook. They won’t necessarily be all the same, but I can’t see their being any extremes in differences, which we will have to keep in mind as we develop them.

Rolling up for the first one, we get a militocracy, where military leaders rule under martial law, while the alignment comes out as chaotic-neutral, a place where there is no central authority and no law. At first I consider throwing this out but after some reflection I can see how to make it work. A CN country can be one in the process of disintegration, such as through an invasion. Given the neighbours around them, this seems a good choice – the city-state has been invaded, the rulership fled or dead and the army is all that is left, trying to hold the nation together. It also makes a great place for adventures for players, to try and help stabilise and rebuild in the face of an aggressor army.

Following that up we roll up lawful good feudalism for the next state, a fairly standard state for a fantasy setting, if one that is someone unusual in its racial makeup.

The third is a chaotic good monarchy, one with less laws and more freedoms, which makes it less stratified and lacking the peasants the previous city-state had.

The fourth is another lawful good state, but this one another hierarchy – basically feudalism but with priests in place of nobles. Interestingly there is only one lawful good deity in the pantheon, the sole demigoddess whose portfolios are war, redemption and guardianship. Given who some of their neighbours are, including one that worships the evil goddess of fire and war, I can see how one city-state may have taken to worshiping her.

The last thri-kreen city-state is a neutral-good republic, where government is in the hands of representatives chosen by electors. This is an interesting place, having thrown off the shackles of the old style feudalism that was once common to the thri-kreen and instead embracing new ideas coming from their tabaxi neighours.

All of this does make the concept of giant slaves a bit hard to work in as good societies tend not to have them. What I am thinking is that the giants are actually captured raiders made into indentured servants and prisoners, not quite free but not true slaves either.

The final step of this part of the chapter is what is labeled situations – elements we want to introduce into the immediate area. This is one we don’t roll for but make up, and a number of suggestions are made.

This can range from typical things like raids, famines, wars and the like, to more unusual things like unusual laws, technology, the way magic works and even racial roles. Maybe only gnomes are allowed to be bards or maybe only red-heads can use clerical magic.

We have already come up with some as we designed our small nations – the main one being the invasion of one of the thri-kreen city-states and its fight for survival. The best fit for this is that the neighbouring giants have launched a large invasion. The other thri-kreen are aiding them in the fight, and most likely the tabaxi as well. Meanwhile the humans are not involved, though the evil human nation is probably involved in some raiding for victims to take off for sacrifice, and if keeping an eye out for weaknesses to exploit should the situation arise.

I would like to add some more unusual elements to the tabaxi at some point – it sounds an intriguing place and deserves more fleshing out.

Next time we return to the map and the physical cartography of the region.

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.

Lets Build a World: Part Sixteen: The Culture Map

Previously in our world building exercise using the World Builders Guidebook, we started to sketch in the locations of the dominate races on the map. This time around we shall fill in the rest of the races, the major and minor ones.

For some we roll for locations as we did with the dominate races, but for others we just squeeze in where we have room. Given this is a mostly water map, there is a shortage of land and so we have to make do with what we have for the many races that we have.

hat we get is a map that looks like this;

  • 1 – Giants (3 cultures, 6 realms) – Ogre slaves
  • 2 – Dwarves (4 cultures, 9 realms)
  • 3 – Humans (3 cultures, 8 realms)
  • 4 – Tabaxi (3 cultures, 7 realms)
  • 5 – Bullwugs (3 cultures, 12 realms)
  • 6 – Kobolds (1 culture, 1 realm)
  • 7 – Thri-kreen (1 culture, 5 realms)
  • 8 – Orcs (2 cultures, 7 realms)
  • 9 – Ogre-mages (1 culture, 5 realms)
  • 10 – Gnomes (2 cultures, 5 realms)
  • 11 – Aaracokra (1 culture, 1 realm)
  • 12 – Tasloi (2 cultures, 6 realms)
  • 13 – Grell (1 culture, 5 realms)
  • 14 – Beholders (2 cultures, 5 realms) – Lizardmen slaves
  • 15 – Ogres (1 culture, 4 realms)

From studying the map and locations of various races, we can start to form ideas as to what they are like. Some of the cultures are obviously sailors and mariners, coming from the dwarven, human, tabaxi, bullywug and orcish races. The free ogres live alongside one of the giant nations, who keep ogre slaves. The second group of giants is not too far away from them either.

While those two groups of giants live in the warm southern parts of the map, far off in the cold north lives another giant culture. Given the distance, it would seem unlikely that they also have ogre slaves. They may not even have slaves at all.

Meanwhile in the center of the map you have a widespread human culture made up of 2 realms spread across many islands, the center most one of which is the most important in the world. Every since placing it on the map the idea was that it tied into the mythology of the world, except at the time I didn’t know who would live there. It is First Land.

If you can remember back when we designed the pantheon for the world, we came up with Father Earth, the Lord of Volcanoes, whose birth to Mother Ocean resulted in a volcanic eruption that turned into the first island and the first land in the world.

This is that island, the holiest site in the world for followers of Father Earth, where his temple is built upon the volcano there.

But with all the cultures filled in, we move onto the next part of the book, Kingdoms and Sociology. For that we zoom in again, creating a home region and work on the kingdom, or kingdoms, there, making a place for the players to adventure in. Fleshing it out, seeing who lives there, exactly how they are organised and more.

And I have region picked out, which I will reveal next time.

Lets Build: Pantheon #2: Expanding on the Pantheon

Previously I rolled up a new pantheon utilising the World Builder’s Guidebook, which resulted in an interesting mix of deities.

I felt that it would be fun to expand on what had been created, and even utilise them for a future project. So I started to write up a bit more about the deities, and the people who follow them. This is still a work in project, and names are not finalised.

Skokaya, The Glorious Queen, The Radiant Empress of the Heavens and Earth, Creator and Destroyer, She Whose Right Hand gives Life and Left Hand brings Death.

(Chaotic Evil Greater Goddess of Death, War and the Sun.)

Skokaya currently stands as the most powerful of the gods, though it was not always so. She rose to the top through the deaths of millions, for, as with all the gods, her strength is tied to that of her chosen people, the Uskaya, and for now they are ascendant, a brutal and expansionist empire that have crushed all that have stood before them.

Skokaya is a cruel goddess who feeds upon death and war and who preaches that the strong should rule the weak simply because they can. Compassion and understanding are seen as weakness by her. Lives sacrifices in her name give her power, and to those who perform the sacrifice in her name, the blood split fueling prolonged life.

Yet she masquerades as a bringer of life, a radiant being whose glory shines upon the earth in the guise of the sun, without which none could live.

When the Uskaya began their march to dominance over their neighbours, Skokaya was seen to manifest and to lead her armies to war, taking on a more active role in the world than other deities had in the past. In the capital of the Uskaya Empire, a temple-palace has been built for her, one as large as any city, and she has been known to manifest there, to lead vast sacrificial offerings in her name, for she says that without due reverence to her that her radiance would be withdrawn from the earth and all would perish.

Ever hungry for war and sacrifice and conquest, she looks upon the lands of all other nations with envy and greed, and she preaches that in time all will bow down to her and she alone will rule the heavens and earth.

Aman Ala, The Hearth Goddess, Queen of the Fields, Mother of Civilisation

(Chaotic Good Intermediate Goddess of Fire and Agriculture)

One of the oldest of the gods, Aman Ala was the one who first raised her people from their simple tribal nature into the first civilisation. She instructed her people in the matter of establishing villages and fields, of agriculture, herding, of brewing and cooking.

Hers is the bounty of the fields, and the fires upon which they are prepared, and the feasting that follows.

While her people, the Irhalan, are many and numerous, they never established great kingdoms or empires as others did, for they are scattered across many smaller nations and tribes. She values freedom above all, of co-operation rather than rigid rules, laws and hierarchies. It is more at the level of village and towns that her culture functions and flourishes, giving respect to any kings over them only if they deserve it.

For long years have the Irhalan been sheltered behind the Rhikari and Zhurqavi from the Uskaya, but those days are no more and now the Irhalan stand open before the expansionist empire.

Qasari Rhun, Queen of the Mountains, The Divine Protector, The Stalwart Shield, She Whose Hands Spill Forth Gold.

(Lawful Good Intermediate Goddess of Prosperity and Guardianship)

In the mountainous regions that border the lands where once the Rhikari dwelt live the Zhurqavi, the dwarves, under the protection of their goddess, Qasari Rhun.

Qasari Rhun values law and order, honour and disciple, and rewards those who adhere to that with wealth and prosperity. She, and her people, have long tended towards the insular, shut away in their mountain holds and lands, defending them as needed and not getting to involved in the affairs of lands not their own. Yet their traders and artisan are well known in the world, and well regarded, traveling far and wide in the pursuit of wealth.

Recent events with the Uskaya, and their wards of conquest have shaken up Qasari Rhun’s views and she and her people have started to take a more active role in the affairs of the world.

Karhi Zel, The Fortunate One, Lord of Magic, The Trickster, Father of the Land.

(Neutral Good Intermediate God of Earth, Magic and Fortune.)

Karhi Zel remains one of the more powerful of the deities, despite recent set backs, though his power is fading, for his people are scattered and conquered, the most recent victim of Skokaya’s rampages. Most others would have fallen far but he clings on, for he has plans and stratagems and more than a few tricks that remain unknown to any but him. Time is not on his side, and unless his plans come to fruition soon it may be that he fades as others have before him.

He has long been a force for good, a caring and compassionate god, the most active of the deities in this regards. He sought to thwart Skoyaya as she rose to dominance, and it may be for that reason his people were so ruthlessly targeted by the Uskaya, subject to death and enslavement.

While a believer in the need for laws, even ones for the gods as well, he has no qualms in breaking them should they prove unjust or conflict with the need for good, and in this his people have long followed.

It is in the lands of his people, the Rhikarians, that his greatest strength resides, in the earth, for the magic he wields and provides comes from the earth. As long as the Rhikari dwell in the lands he provided for them, they are blessed with good fortune, though to interlopers upon it falls a curse that hounds them.

With the Rhikari scattered, though, and Karhi Zel himself in decline, the magic and fortune that the lands provide is fading.

Iren Issa, The Silver Goddess, She Who Inspires, Giver of Knowledge

(Lawful Good Lesser Goddess of the Moon and Wisdom)

Iren Issa is a goddess who values knowledge and wisdom, understanding and the uncovering of mysteries. Just as the moon follows an ordered path across the heavens, so too does she value order.

Long has she stood in opposition to Skokaya with all her might, for even though she is a peaceful goddess, Skokaya stands for all that is wrong in Iren Issa’s view; war and death over knowledge and understanding.

Alone, she and her people could not hope to stand against the evil of Skokaya and the Uskaya, but she seeks to bring the free peoples of the world together in common cause.

Her people, the Selanysa, are not overly warlike, being a creative people, with a deep understanding of the world, and their progress and inventions have made their lands a beacon of knowledge and development.

Zhor Tal, The Warbringer, The Celestial Tactician, Marshal of the Hosts of the Heavens

(Neutral Good Lesser God of War and Fortune)

Zhor Tal is a warrior god, but not simply a mindless brute who fights to fight. He values life and peace and prosperity, but understand that to defend that requires a willingness to fight. As well as being a skilled fighter he is also a master tactician. As long as they do not involve cruelty or attacks on the innocent, Zhor Tal considers all ruses, tricks and stratagems in war open to him.

His people, the Zaratai, are a warrior people, though they only form a small nation. Man for man they are the finest warriors to exist, and are blessed by their god with good fortune in battle and war. Likewise, those that fight against them seemingly experience mishaps and bad fortune.

Oriansa, Lady of the Clouds, the Skyborn Goddess.

(Chaotic Neutral Lesser Goddess of Wind.)

Every mercurial, the Skyborn Goddess rules aloft, favouring the form of an ethereal, mist-like dragon when she manifests. Hers are the wind and the clouds, the gentle rains as much as the fearsome storms that can rage in destructive might.

She dwells not in the realm of the gods, but in a city in the clouds that drifts above the world, never settled in one place. There her children dwell also, not just the drakes, but also the Cloudborn, humans that have adapted to living in the city she has provided for them.

From the cloud city, the Cloudborn, riding the drakes, descend on the lands that they pass over, sometimes to plunder, sometimes to trade, or to simply explore, depending on whim, for they are as mercurial as their goddess.

Once Oriansa held greater power than she does now, for she has diminished in strength. In the past ages there were few that could challenge the might of her drakes and most were helpless their marauding ways. As the land dwellers grew in numbers and gained new weapons and powers, though, they were able to stand against the drakes and many were felled until now few remain, and those of a lesser kind compared to their ancestors. For the Skyborn Goddess, patience does not come easily but she has little choice if she is not to fade away like mists in the light of the sun.

Erissan, The Shrouded, Lord of Dreams and Nightmares.

(Chaotic Neutral Demigod of Darkness.)

In the mist shrouded lands of the Alassan elves dwells Erissan, the ancient and immortal lord of Alassa. It is by his will that the lands lay in perpetual gloom and darkness, and by his whims that dreams and nightmares afflict any who trespass into it.

His people, the pale and ghostlike elves, are a sombre people, but as fickle as their ruler, caught within the dreams, a shadow of whom they once more, much as their god was.

Erissan was once a true god, but he had descended into the ranks of the demigods, walking the line between god and mortal, neither fully one nor the other. He has largely closed his people and himself off from the wider world, seeking to preserve the power that remains to him least he join the ranks of those that have fallen and been forgotten.

Hutuata, the Cruel Tide, Reaver of the Seas.

(Chaotic Evil Demigod of Oceans.)

Hutuata is the vicious ruler of the Ahuaga fishmen, a cruel and heartless people who live int eh seas and who launch raids upon the shores of the land dwellers, seeking and prey. Hutuata is not a true god, though his people worship him as the Shark-God. He is semi-divine, on the cusp of true godhood, feeding on the death and destruction his people cause in an effort to elevate him to the status of a true god.

He has no allies among the existing gods and none, not even Skokaya, wish to see him rise to join them, for most abhor his cruel nature and the carnage he inflicts on their followers, even Skokaya’s. In him, Skokaya sees him as one who seeks to rival her in her domains, though for now she sees him as an irritant and not a true threat.

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.

Lets Build a World: Part Fourteen: Weather and Terrain

Now that the physical landscape of our region has been mapped out, we turn to the next stage, giving the region its weather, and through that, its terrain.

To begin with, we need to know the climate of the region. On a normal world, you have tropical regions at the equator moving through to arctic at the poles. Of course, various factors may make that differ. On ours, we have less of an axial tilt resulting in a smaller arctic zone. For worlds starting out at this design step you can roll for what climate bands are present. Given we are taking ours from the world map, we can work it out for this region from the world map. The polyhedral maps that come with the book have the climate bands marked on, and from that we can judge where they would be on our map. They end up looking like this;

It is quite a range of climates we have, from the cold subarctic in the north to the warm subtropical in the south, though it is mostly temperate.

Altitude also plays an effect on climate. Higher elevations are cooler than lower ones around it. A mountain range and its foothills, the highlands, drop one climate band, so that in a temperate zone they would be subarctic. The peaks themselves would be two climate bands lower, so in this case they would be classified as arctic.

The following map shows those regions on the map, with the highlands (one band cooler) in orange and the peaks (two bands colder) in grey.

Combining the climate bands, the altitude and the prevailing winds (which we have already mapped out) we can now work out the types of terrain that are present. For each block of terrain, usually between natural boundaries like mountains and seas, we roll to see what the predominate terrain is, based on the climate band and whether the prevailing winds are humid or arid. Arid winds are one that form over large land masses, which we don’t have, so the prevailing winds here will be humid.

The predominate terrain for each area isn’t the only type that will be present, it is just the most prevalent. For example, arid sub-tropical regions could have barrens, deserts, scrub/brush or grasslands. One will be predominant, such as scrub/brush, but the other types will be present in patches throughout it.

Starting on the large island, we roll for the mountain peaks, which are either humid/subarctic or humid/arctic, depending how you read the rules in the guidebook. As these are medium mountains in a temperate zone, at one point it says that they are treated as humid/subarctic while in a temperate zone, despite it only being one climate band down. We will go with that, which gives us options for marsh/swamp, light forest, medium forest, moors or glaciers. Of the options given, swamp/marsh is not allowed in medium mountains, but the rest are (though there might be some small patches of swamps in valleys.) On a 1D8, we roll a 5, which gives us Light Forest. The mountains are dominated by needleleaf evergreens, like in taiga forests. There might also be medium forest, moors and glaciers around as well.

The foothills to the east of it are humid/subarctic as well. On a 1D8, we roll a 6, which gives us medium forest, denser broadleaf evergreens. The interior of the island is turning out to be one larger forest, one that thins out the higher you climb.

We continue on doing the same for the rest of the map, resulting in plenty of forests, but also regions of marshes and moors and even some tundra, glaciers and steppes. The final map looks like this;

Next time we move onto the rivers and lakes of the region – and the inhabitants.

Lets Build: Pantheon #2 with the World Builder’s Guidebook (AD&D 2E)

Time for another one off world building exercise with the World Builder’s Guidebook, rolling up and designing another pantheon.

For this one I am skipping the first step – the type of pantheon it is. It may link into the previous one that I designed or it may not. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Starting with the size, we roll Small, and the number of deities in it comes out as 1 Greater, 3 Intermediate, 3 Lesser and 2 Demi-powers. 9 all told. A decent number to be working with.

The organisation itself rolls up as Racial. This means that each race (or culture) has one deity who embodies the virtues of that people. So the God of Oceans and Trade will be worshiped by a people who are sailors and traders while the God of Dwarves, if of the traditional variety, would have the portfolios of mining, crafting and war. A good literary example of that is The Belgariad. This sounds an interesting option. We can roll up a bunch of different portfolios for the various deities and work out what kind of people their worshipers are from that.

Our roll for the involvement of the pantheon comes out as Moderate. Basically an average level of involvement. Sometimes they are involved in their own affairs and sometimes they are looking after their followers. Their most important followers get guidance and help and while avatars aren’t common, they won’t hesitate to manifest in times of danger or opportunity. So they are around, as needed, but not all the time.

Now lets see who makes up the pantheon.

Greater Deity; We roll up 3 portfolios for them and get War, Death and Sun. An interesting mix. It has some Aztec vibes about it. It is made even more interesting when rolling up their alignment and gender. They come out as a chaotic-evil goddess. Chaotic-evil believes in might makes right, with strongmen ruling by fear. If the most powerful deity in the setting believes this, and she has the domains of war, death and sun, the neighbours of their culture had best be watching out.

Intermediate Deity #1: They have two portfolios which roll up as Agriculture and Fire, and they are a chaotic-good female deity. Agriculture and fire make it sounds like a civilised community, of growing crops and cooking food, and being chaotic would indicate a less centralised society. Shades of The Shire by the sounds of it.

Intermediate Deity #2: They have two portfolios, Prosperity and Guardianship, and they are a lawful-good female deity. Much more centralised than the previous deity, they value guarding what they have and building a well ordered, peaceful and prosperous society.

Intermediate Deity #3: They have three portfolios, Fortune, Earth and Magic, and they are a neutral-good male deity. Thinking about this, I can see a way to work them all together – the earth, or more specifically, the land, gives the people who follow this deity both magic and good fortune. Outside of that geographical region the effects of it are not as strong.

Lesser Deity #1: They have the domains of Moon and Wisdom, and they are a lawful-good female deity. In effect they stand in opposition to the Greater Deity, but they are much weaker, both the goddess and her people. In addition, they value knowledge and understanding over war, but unlike the greater deity and her followers, they have friends.

Lesser Deity #2: They have the domains of War and Fortune, and are a neutral-good male deity. His people are warriors and are seemingly blessed with good luck in battle. Things just seem to go right for them, or wrong for the enemy, which helps offset their smaller size.

Lesser Deity #3: They have the domain of Wind, and are a chaotic-neutral female deity. The winds are fickle, blowing a soothing breeze one minute and destructive storms the next. So too are her followers, possibly creatures of the air who never stay in one place long, and who are regarded with some suspicion wherever they go.

Demipower #1: They have the domain of Darkness, and are a chaotic-neutral male power. The shrouded lands of the dark are a place of dreams and of nightmares, wherein dwells the one who brought it into being. Not a true god, nor a mortal either, he walks the divide between..

Demipower #2: They have the domain of Oceans, and are a chaotic-evil male power. From the oceans come reavers and raiders, who strike the shores seeking plunder and bringing death and destruction. Like the power of Darkness, they are not a true god, but seek to elevate themselves through the death their followers reap.

So there we have an interesting collection of deities, and one that I can work with. In fact I plan on expanding on it in further posts, of the powers and the cultures and races that follow them. So keep an eye out for that coming soon.

Lets Build a World: Part Thirteen: Details and Landforms

After selecting the region of the world map we want to explore and making a rough sketch of it, we come to starting to add the details to it.

The first thing to do is sharpen up the edges of the islands, to make it look more like coastlines. There are no rules for this, so just make it look however you want. In addition I throw in a bunch of smaller islands scattered across the map, forming lesser chains between the larger ones. One larger island is added as well, right in the middle of the map. I have plans for that.

Looking at the map, I also decide that I want to break up the larger island in the southwest a little as well. It is a large landmass and so I break off two smaller islands from it while still retaining the original shape overall. This is, after all, a world of islands and archipelagos and a land mass of that size stands out.

With shape given to the landmasses, and islands added, we begin to add in landforms – mountains, hills and the like. We already know where the mountains go so we add those in on the map, following the outline we previously sketched. How exactly to shape them is left up to the world builder.

If we were starting fresh with no world map to draw from, we would roll for the mountains. Each region would have 1d4+1 mountain systems, rolling 1d4 for which quadrant of the map they were in. The systems themselves are 4d8 hexes long, rolling a 1d12 for the direction they run in. Each system can be flanked by 1d4-1 lesser systems, shorter in length than the main system. But we don’t need to do that.

With the mountain chains put in, I also add the volcanoes that we had marked down early as well. I add one extra one, in the new island in the middle of the map.

Next step is to add foothills. On either side of the mountains we have added, foothills 1d3-1 hexes wide exist. On some sides the mountains can rise sheer up, while others others can extent out into rugged hills. There isn’t a lot of room on the islands for these, but we add them in as best we can.

In addition to foothills maps can contain rolling hills, much less rugged and more inhabitable. Each region would have around 3d4 of these, though given we are a mostly water map there isn’t much room for that. On a mostly land map we could add that many in. Instead we find a couple of islands where we can ad in a couple of patches of hills.

Maps can also have special features, like depressions, gorges and escarpments, usually about 1d6 in number. Again, given our lack of land, that isn’t something we can really add in on our map.

As can be seen, a lot of fun can be had rolling up landforms and experimenting with where to place them and what they look like. At some point I will do it as an example given they can’t really fit on a mostly water map.

The end result of placing all of the landforms and detailing the islands produces a map that looks like this;

The map is made with Wonderdraft.

Next time we will be working on the climate, weather and terrain of the region.

Lets Build a World: Part Twelve: Continents and Geography

We’ve finished with Chapter Two of the World Builder’s Guidebook, covering Worlds and Planetology. Now we are moving on to Chapter Three: Continents and Geography. This is probably the stage of world building that most are familiar with as a lot of fantasy is set at this level, with a continent or continent-sized region. Middle-Earth. The Hyborian Kingdoms. The Wheel of Time. A Song of Fire and Ice. Earthsea. The Belgariad. Faerun. The list goes on. It is a large area of multiple kingdoms and nations and plenty of scope to travel.

This is also a very good starting point for worldbuilding with the guidebook and possibly the most common too. The book covers how to do that, by rolling the hydrography of the world, ranging from a region of archipelagos all the way to a region with little to no water, draw up a rough map of the region, followed by rolling for the landforms of the regions, its mountains and hills, its plains and gorges and more and placing them on it.

We aren’t doing that though. We have a world map to work from and so we are going to select a region from that. For that you select one of the twenty regions on the world map, or an equivalent area, and roughly sketch them on a new map. As the book points out this is a vast area. If working from an Earth-sized world, one of the twenty regions is equivalent to about to twice the size as the continental USA.

As I mentioned previously, I had an idea of where I wanted to work with, as indicated on the map below.

Why that region in particular? I thought it looked an interesting spot, with the volcanic activity and the layout of it. As can be seen, it isn’t centred on any one region but is about the size of one region.

The next step was to roughly map it out on a new map, and adding to it the wind and current movement, the presence of the plates and the mountains, to produce the following map.

Each of those hexes is about 100 miles across, so that larger island is about the size of France. As can be seen, in the southeast corner, we have low mountains running along the islands there with extinct volcanoes, while to the north and west we have medium mountains, with active volcanoes present. A deep ocean trench lies to the northwest and we have wind and current patterns.

All right, so what is next? Well, now we start adding details. We will take the rough map and give it proper coastlines, followed by expanding on the mountains and hills and then moving on to the climate and terrain.

Lets Build a World: Part Eleven: Climate

Last time we worked on starting to map the world, which included working out tectonics. This time we look at the last part of the entire planet build, and that is its climate.

In a typical Earth like world, there are five climate bands; arctic, sub-arctic, temperate, sub-tropical and tropical. That isn’t necessarily the case in all worlds, and each band can have variance based on a number of factors, such as altitude, weather patterns or even more extreme things like the presence of a deity. Adding a second sun could also change things up substantially as well.

Our first step to determine the climate is to work out the mean planetary temperature. Is it similar to Earth, or is it hotter or colder? The hotter it is, the further north people have to live as the equatorial regions become to hot to live in, at least for humans and others like them, whereas the colder it is, the further south people need to live as it may resemble an ice age.

On a 1d100, we roll a 43, which results in a normal temperature, similar to Earth. Not super hot or super cold. Which means we can find people all across the globe.

The next step is seasonal variance. Seasonal variance is produced on Earth by its axial tilt. The more a world tilts, the more extreme seasonal variance is. Of course, axial tilt doesn’t have to apply to fantasy world. There could be other explanation for seasonal variance, ranging from the sun waxing and waning in strength or an eternal war between the gods. A Song of Ice and Fire is an example of a world with extreme seasonal variance.

Rather the roll on the seasonal variation, I instead choose, going with mild. This results in a world with less variation than on Earth, resulting in the arctic circles being pushed back further north, and the ice sheets being smaller. Seasons are present but reduced in strength, with the tropics and sub-tropics seeing no seasonal variation, while temperate and sub-arctic bands have warmer winters and cooler summers.

This could explain why, at least from a scientific view, the world has more oceans. The warmer temperatures in the the artic regions caused the ice sheets to melt and raise the sea levels.

Now we know what the temperatures are like, we have to work out the prevailing winds and ocean currents which drive the weather. For both, north of the equator, they move in a clockwise direction, while south of it they move counter-clockwise.

For currents, take a look at the major bodies of water and draw a circle in the appropriate direction depending on what hemisphere they are in. They will follow along the edges of land masses, which in the case of my map will be the undersea mountains and island chains. In the map below, the currents are marked in blue.

For prevailing winds, they are generated by oceans and large land masses, the latter of which we are lacking. Unlike ocean currents, they aren’t impeded by shorelines, but mountain ranges, especially large ones, will hamper them. For my world, the wind currents are shown in orange.

And that is it for the planetology stage of the world building. Next time we will choose one of the regions on the map and drill down into it, starting the Continents and Geography chapter of the book. And looking at the map, I have a fair idea where I am going to choose.