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Thread: Fantasy population centers, motives, and history

  1. #11
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlohaRover View Post
    Thanks for the feedback so far.

    I guess I just want some bit of backstory so that the micro events make some sort of sense.

    i guess its the concept of great evil that I need to keep in mind. I need to STOP thinking about real world events.

    My current thought is-
    Every 500-1000 years someone attempts to take over the entire world and the battles are so huge that vast areas are wiped out or in their rise to power they go just a little too far in their magic and blow everything up (think nuclear winter or meteor impact type of event) so years of no sun almost every thing dies. Small pockets of the different races start to make a come back and spread.
    Someone rediscovers an old power and the cycle repeats.
    Planetary reset...
    Good aspects: allows societies to wipe each other off and explain lots of nice ruins, etc.
    Bad aspects: It took nearly 1,000 years to get from the Iron Age to the Medieval period. "Nuclear Winter" = pre bronze age. You will reset society back to nomads.
    Conclusion: 1,000 years is too short a cycle. A 2,500 year cycle may work better (even accounting for magic).

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    2. Getting old, socially sick (think Romans) and slowly collapsing (100-200 year death)
    3. Getting scrubbed out by an unforseen tragedy (disease wipes out whole cities crippling economies, major resources propping up the empire run out, droughts cripple the populace and consequently cash flows out of the empire to buy food)
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  2. #12
      AlohaRover is offline
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    I think I was thinking too much.

    I don't intend to map this ruin is here, this one there, castle of doom goes here.

    But I do want the main population centers in place.
    I have been playing around with the ZombiNirvana videos
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ZombieNirvana

    I want a small like ,1kx1k miles area, that will be the burnt edge, rough sketch map of major things that is known to the players. no super detailed, but the dwarves are here, elves here, dont go here.

    In reading all the responses I like the idea of huge evil and huge good going back and forth. Settlements dont spread out like on earth because its so dangerous. My largest current empire is is maybe 3x600 miles, most are 100 mile circles/blobs.
    Last edited by AlohaRover; 11-12-2009 at 08:32 PM.

  3. #13
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    I think that making sense it vital to world design and adventures. Even though magic is a useful thing for DMs, I have been in situations (in my early years) where magic wasn't enough for the players and the whole make-believe was shattered like a tower of playing cards.

    I feel that maintaining a strong sense of realism in any world is critical for a successful and immersing RPG session. The players (at least the ones I've encountered) are thrilled when they found out the why's of an adventure, of a place or a villain.

    In addition to all this, we have to take into account that our experiences do not involve magic. The way we perceive the world, the way we act and think has nothing to do with magic. Although our imagination is extremely powerful, there are limitations to what we can feel as being "real". Having this in mind, helps develop a setting and an adventure that the characters can relate with and put things in perspective.

    On the other hand, it is a lot of work and sometimes it can suck the fun out of the game for the DM. There is a subtle balance which once achieved makes the game shine.

  4. #14
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Somberlain, don't forget this quote (and I've forgotten who it is originally from and I'm sure I'm doing a ghastly paraphrase).

    Sufficiently advanced technology is close enough to magic.

    So if there is a technology you'd like to include, or something "far fetched" then realistically making it magically based works within the world. Plus, thinking outside the box can make some great stuff.

    Once said that you could make hand grenades by basically having a brass shell with hard packed gunpowder inside the shell and a small glass container of alchemist's fire. Shake the ball and throw, before it blows up in your hand.
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  5. #15
      a2area is offline
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    Post Climate, region, colonization, conquest

    in terms of population centers even in a relatively young civilization, climate would be one of the more important factors. That in combination with geographic location and then having a primary population center appropriate to each nation (of sufficient age) or region and its agricultural or economic support (for that population) potential.

    If you look at the earth, almost all of our population centers are relatively recent developments.. with the exception of maybe eastern China which has been quite densely populated for a long time compared to the rest of the earth. In anything but the modern age great cities have risen and fallen at the whim of monarchs / military leaders or nature. Perhaps nowadays we have the means to combat the elements to some extent.. but if you take away the reasons for that city being there.. eventually it will wither. Many of the most opulent cities of the near east (for example) have suffered from repeated conquests and never regained their former glory (Antioch).

    So basically.. not all of your population centers have to have a very long history and man-made phenomenon like agriculturally induced desertification can play a huge role in herding populations into a relatively small region (Nile Valley). Or colonization can build huge industrial centers that burn bright and die in a cosmic instant (Detroit).
    I probably rambled but i hope i stated something helpful?
    Last edited by a2area; 12-07-2009 at 02:22 PM.

  6. #16
      Jaxilon is offline
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    Sufficiently advanced technology is close enough to magic.
    I believe is:

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

    I love that quote.

    My worlds do not have magic as most fantasy rpg's go but they do have "black box" technology that will knock your socks off. Complete with nano-bots and what-nots. It's still a fantasy setting but there is a scientific underbelly of reason for what can be done. There are things not invented that can be done in my gaming world but I obviously can't explain the laws behind it because they don't exist yet and may never exist...it's called fantasy after all

    I like to have reasons for why things exist in my worlds and I spend a lot of time doing stuff my players almost never learn of.

    Most locations of civilizations have been built over the ruins of those who came before. There is a reason that site was originally chosen and probably applied to those who rebuilt there as well. (eg, Water, food, defense.) Likely there are ruins beneath every old and established city.

    On the flip side, I always find it funny to have tons of dungeons all over the place....I mean think of the effort that would take and for what? Unless it's a booby trapped entrance to a lair how far is someone really going to go? I have to admit Dungeons are still fun to romp in now and then but I have mostly gone over to smaller more realistic types of structures.

    When I first started playing many moons ago, we had dungeons everywhere and my friend and I took turns as the DM. We were pretty much out to kill one another's characters off too, LOL. We were kids, it was great. Now I like to make people sweat it out for a few rolls on the edge of their seat. If they survive they are ecstatic because they feel like they just walked the edge and pulled off something amazing. You will hear stories of that for years to come and that is rewarding as a GM. You do have to kill someone off every now and then or players won't respect you.

    [I think I'm starting to ramble so I'm done.]
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  7. #17
      CartoGeo is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlohaRover View Post
    A question for fantasy RPG map makers.
    How much do you worry about "does this make sense"?
    Yes of course, but I think it is more of a reflex and I notice it, that it is a burdon to any form of creativity, which is essentially wanton creativity and a desire to be or influence in a remote way, that is what this whole Fantasy Genre RPG thing is all about, but I find it more and more annoying that the older I get the less 'fantasy' my mind becomes.

    I tend not to worry overly if I am considering where to place mountains, I tend to just do the intuative glance and think real quck about what the 'flavor' is for those mountains on the map... what makes them, them...

    I am moving more and more away from having anything like some of the serious descusions on this board about populations and such... its fantasy, I like to keep it that way, but not too 'fantasy' and cartoonish.
    Last edited by Gandwarf; 12-12-2009 at 10:47 AM. Reason: Fixed quote

  8. #18
      Vorhees is offline
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    Absolutely Awesome Discussion guys , some very good points made, repping all involved

  9. #19
      terminal is offline
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    As far as this goes, I think it is completely paramount that everything makes sense, it is what allows your world to suspend reality.

    I have done a guide called Cartographic Demographics and Economics. I use the same method to assign each country and thus hope for uniformity at the end of it. If you stick to a system I believe you can make sure that your world is believable, especially when it comes to matters which general conform to normal statistical distributions such as settlement development.

    I think the important thing to ascertain demographics is to get the order in which you do things correct. First work out the position of your country on your planet - climate etc. Then work out the area of the country. Extrapolate the two to work out the population density, from this there is plenty of mathematical theory on how settlements develop. My guide is on medieval settlements. By using a system you work out the amount of cities, towns, villages, universities, castles, ruins, merchants etc. If you don' take this approach and simply delve into using your mind to decide mathematical matters, I find the results are generally not consistent and as complexity increases increasingly irrational.

  10. #20
      bblackmoor is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by curufea View Post
    There's a few very interesting online tools dealing with fantasy demography for purposes of roleplaying (e.g. http://www.rpglibrary.org/utils/meddemog/ ).
    I love when I stumble across links to my site.

    That being said, I honestly don't worry too much about realism, myself. I mean, I stick with the obvious things -- mountains are usually on the edges or between continents, land masses and forests rarely have straight edges, rivers go downhill and tend to combine rather than diverge, cities tend to be on coasts, in bays, at intersections of rivers, and so on -- but when it gets down to the minutiae of what's "realistic" and what's not, I really just don't worry about it too much.

    For example, in my current fantasy game, the world is much older than the civilizations currently in it. This is even part of the mythology. So there are ancient temples, ruined cities, and whatnot in places where there is no rational reason for them to be.

    Also, the centers of non-monster population (cities, towns, etc.) tend to be much farther apart than in our world. I make a faint attempt to rationalize this by saying that the world is, in general, harsher and less fertile than our world (this, too, is part of the mythology). But really, I just wanted lots of wilderness to explore, and I wanted overland travel between to be difficult. I want cities to feel isolated. So they are.

    The thing is to keep your priorities in order. Why are you putting this effort into making maps and writing up countries and histories and so on? If it's to provide backstory for a game, then as along as it serves that purpose, it really doesn't matter if anyone else thinks it's "realistic". If it's for your own entertainment, then put as much or as little effort into it as you enjoy. There aren't any "fantasy police" who will fine you if your cities are too large or your rivers are going the wrong way.

    That being said, if you enjoy making the world believable, then by all means, put effort into that. But keep things in perspective.

    That's my two cents, anyway.

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