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Thread: Fantasy population centers, motives, and history

  1. #21
      rshall89 is offline
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    I've had this problem with my own story, I don't like heavy magical worlds my worlds are more like Tolkiens, long drawn out with few very powerful magical entities. But finding help with pre-medieval demographics and lifestyles are much harder because so many fantasy are commonly medieval in sense.

    My current story I am trying to work out involves a post-neolithic hunter/gather tribe as the first people to enter a land between 2 large mountain ranges. I wonder how they would culturally and demographically develop by themselves culturally and demographically before more groups are introduced in my story. I want to spread them out over the valley over a few decades to maybe a couple centruries and create cultural tension between themselves as they prosper economically and agriculturally while creating a social system beyond a nomadic life.

  2. #22
      rshall89 is offline
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    Do any of yall have any ideas on tribal demographics and anything related to pre-dark ages when people have started settling down but are still hunter-gathers even though they practice forms of agriculture.

  3. #23
      Ascension is offline
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    I think the easiest thing would be to just make it a matter of math and numbers...scale things down or back or whatever.
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  4. #24
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Probably easiest example would be to look at current Bedoin Tribes. They'd be of the kind of scale you'd expect from ancient tribal groups.
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  5. #25
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    Being myself a historian (although a recently titulated one) I wanted to re-create a world as the people in the XIIIth Century though it was. Ancient history is semi-mythical, and becomes more realist the closer to the present date you come. There's magic, there are dragons, faeries, banshees, vampires... but all in small doses. Magic is so restricted that all the mages in "Europe" are like 100. And they have to hide most of the times, from the Patriarchate (the Counsil of the Temples, some kind of decentralizated Church). Fantastic creatures are not common, although they were in the past (as many people though back then). And many times, magis is there, but hidden. I don't want any mages throwing firebolls from their eyes, I want them to be subtle, their magic to be something etherial, and far more powerful than the power of casting a fireball or destroying a wall.

    But this world is also a pseudo-historical one, so everything has a far relative in actual Middle Ages. There's the remain of a once great empire, decaying slowly in the east; there's a dynamic region in the south-west, there's heresy, there's a schism between the Northern Temples, the Western Patriarchate and the Imperial Temples; there's an invading once-nomad dynasty, threatening "Europe", and, of course, I try to make everything to follow a due historical path. Everythin has their cause and every was has its origins.

    Usually, fantasy tries to explain everythis as if it was a myth. Tolkien did it because he wanted to create a myth, but many other just followed his boat in the river, without considering that a was is not automatically casted when two countries have kings who are enenmies, and some don't see that a war's winner doesn't really need to become a great power. Maybe that victory feeds only the most powerful, thus deepening the social troubles and economical disparities, making the way for a full-blown rebellion, a loss of militar manpower, huge emigration...

    Take the Byzantine Empire in 1204 as an example: It was in deep crysis, and one of those crysis was the problems betweent the capital, Constantinople, and the provinces. When the Western crusaders assaulted, sacked and took Constantinople in 1204, it looked like the end of the empire, which scattered into three different empires. Far from it, one of those successor states succeeded in recovering Constantinople, stronger than before 1204 because the conflict capital-province was gone (since the capital had been lost).

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  6. #26
      Bladesake is offline
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    Nice. I feel like this thread has made me feel at home on these forums when I otherwise have little else to do on it besides look at some awesome maps (which is okay in itself).

    I have absolutely got to think things through in my head as I make a world. Often, this simply means using rational thought and comparing my world to the countless others I've seen and played in. Sometimes, I even have to do some calculations. But one of the things that helps me most, is finding an inspiration for the PEOPLE in the world, because that is what is going to be driving it.

    Well, not the only thing that's going to be driving it, but among the animal, monster, plant and divine lifeforms are the humans and other sentient beings who are stuck trying to make a nice living there. What do they do? Their crops are being eaten by a mysterious swarm of bugs. How does this culture handle that? If a mage became too powerful and unhappy became a threat to the community, what would they do then? I ask myself questions like these as I draw up the world in my head. Then, I like to map things out (which is what brought me to this site), and it is the map that usually seals the deal for what goes in and gets left out of my world.

    I can usually do a fantasy/medieval world rather easily, especially if I have a good measure of magic and divine intervention to rely on. The current world I'm doing is a far future fantasy combo that is really testing my world-building skills. I can't rely on the deities because there are none in existence (although the people don't know that). The little magic that is present is not really magic, but based on the world itself and is therefore quite limited. it can be very powerful, but it is kept in check by it's source. The technology based on the magic is rather advanced,which means that travel, communication, health and everyday life is rather high end, so even large distances don't mean as much as they would otherwise, but I've kept those things in check by making the world very hostile. Meaning, that the world was practically destroyed once.

    It was on life-support, in a manner of speaking, and the inhabitants had to cease their destructive ways and hole up in the only stable spot they were able to find. With the means to build a rather nice community there, albeit relatively small, they prospered, but dared not stray too far outside it's borders. Meanwhile the planet was recuperating, as it were. Finally, after so-long-many years it was through and ready to impart it's power to the people again, but only if they used it responsibly. The people finally got the message and decided that staying cooped-up within a large and otherwise impressive city was rather boring when there was a newly grown-over world out there to explore and take pieces of as their own. They did, and the Age of Venture came about. This is the age in which the players find themselves.

    The cities are far apart with towns sprinkled between. There were already tensions (as one could imagine) forming among the groups while they were stuck inside the city, but they managed to get along in view of their mutual limitations. Out in the wilds, however, it's every man for himself, trying to build cities and make a name for himself. So I stuck to ancient wars that were fought, leading up to the period where the players find themselves today. A council has been formed to prevent such things and while it seems precarious at times, it's kept a relative level of peace long enough for people to feel comfortable again.

    I have deliberately kept the number of races small. There are two. Well, those two and the technologically-enhanced versions of both of those races, which at times may be drastically different than nature intended. But they are unique enough to be a race of their own design (literally), and even have representation on the council.

    Then there's the rare, ancient, yet amazing technology that has been unearthed that seems almost magical in nature. No one record knows where these devices may have come from. Perhaps a third race? Who knows? I sure don't.
    Last edited by Bladesake; 01-30-2010 at 04:30 AM.

  7. #27
      Davros01 is offline
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    Although not a historian in any sense of the word, i do read and watch alot of hisotry programs. I love the early years of our evolution. From what I can gather, there are defininetly periods in our history that correspond to what you are looking for with respect to stable populations that still have a hunter/gatherer populuation componenet. If you look at some of the early mezo-american civilizaitons, they practiced a slash/and burn farmology while having a strong hunter/gather component to their farming. In addition, they conducted considerable trade even in these early times. when the land ceased to be productive, they simple moved to another location and simply moved to another spot. the jungles of the south and central american basin were such that the land quickly regenerated itself rather quickly.

    If you are looking at a more european feel, then you have a very similar tribal structure very early in our development, short lived towns that served as bases for hunting and gathering. Even a limited amount of farming with wild seeds and berries. these would susstain them for a season or two before they were forced to move on to a new area.

    hope this helps,
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  8. #28
      AutumnRain is offline
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    Great topic! It's important to balance fun fantasy with realism - and it's difficult to measure realism in a world that doesn't exist! (I love reading about this stuff, though! I think about it when I'm working on my stuff; it's encouraging to see others care just as much.)

    I've been taking an evironmental class for my degree, it has helped a lot. I would suggest buying a book or watching a program that covers environmental science (the study of people and other living things interacting with the environment). We've discussed some the topics you all have brought up in my class.

    One thing I've learned: nature is the boss. No matter what religion people practice, no matter what they believe, or far they have come with technology - nature can sweep through with just about anything. High population = a greater risk of using up resources. With increase in technology (and magic) this could only get worse. So, when I'm plotting, I always make sure nature plays a part.
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  9. #29
      macbeth is offline
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    I'm just beginning to design my first world right now (just drew up the continents today) and I definitely plan on making sure I know the "why" and "how" things are where they are and making sure things make sense. I want my players to be able to use magic and have casting characters without too much predjudice against them, but I want magical items to be a bit rare.

    To make this make sense, I'm planning on a world where magic users are pretty common, but magical artifacts and tools are not so much so. However, magical items were a bit more common during a past civilization that had fallen, and even more powerful ones were more common in a civilization before that where the ruins are harder to find, and when found, much less often are they unpillaged.

    To explain this, I'm imagining something along the lines of what has been said in many of the early responses to this thread, a waxing and waning of the power and knowledge of civilization through some force, whether it be gods, the irresponsibility of powerful civilizations, etc. One path I was thinking of following is along the lines of while the goodly civilizations gain in power on the surface, those of the Underdark do as well and every few millennia become powerful enough to invade and almost totally wipe out the surface dwellers, while also overreaching themselves and being beaten back into submission by those that remain.

    It doesn't have to be the same thing every time either. One time it could be that the civilization was conquered and overrun, another it could be that they over reached their bounds with magic and were punished by the gods and had it, and the basis for their advanced civilization, taken away for a few generations (I like that idea, thanks Bladesake). I know one of my catastrophes, probably one of the most recent two, will be a plague that only targeted elves and wiped out 95% of their population. This is how the humans managed to become the dominant race in the world over a race that is much longer lived and much more wise and knowledgeable than they are.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. But yeah, every decision I make to place a city or to populate a general area is going to have to make sense. The hard part is trying to figure out what extra factors come into play in a fantasy world. I know I'm going to have to have city states where the population huddles close to the city because of the nearby goblin infested mountains, and that city state won't be able to advance how it would have in the real world.

  10. #30
    Guild Apprentice Kaiser MacCleg's Avatar
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    For me, the "why" is the most important question to ask yourself when creating a world. Take my fictional country, the Kingdom of Nebūr (part of a larger world but the rest of the world isn't really fleshed-out enough for me to use it as an example). I've made sure I know every reason behind the way the Kingdom developed, and why it came to be in the first place. Nebūr is isolated from the rest of the world by a vast desert, and the only reason it can exist are the prevailing winds which deliver a hot but wet climate to the region. The water vapour carried from the ocean by the south-westerlies condenses as it rises over the mountains of Arkam Medīl, at the heart of the Kingdom, from which many rivers spring which feed the farmlands of the Kingdom. At the same time, the mountains create a extensive rain shadow which is the main reason behind the existence of the deserts to the North and East. The mountains themselves are the result of ancient tectonic forces, and although Nebūr itself is no longer on a plate margin, many active faults still criss-cross the mountains, which is what gives Nebūr it's mineral riches and why it's cities are constantly threatened by earthquakes.

    In the same way, although I haven't actually developed a language, I've made sure the names I've used have a certain consistency, and that I know the meaning behind them. Akadhrazūn, for instance, means "The Dying Land", from Ak, "land", and Drazūn, "dying", and it's named as such because desertification is leading to the abandonment of farmsteads, villages and whole cities. Everything has a reason.

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