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Thread: Fantasy population centers, motives, and history

  1. #1

    Question Fantasy population centers, motives, and history

    A question for fantasy RPG map makers.
    How much do you worry about "does this make sense"?

    I have been working on my main continent map. World is larger then earth. Continent is about 8000 miles wide and 6000 miles tall. Goes from equatorial to arctic regions.

    I found two posts here that go into a lot of great detail about human populations and density during the middle ages. Lots of good info I want to use. But it's based on our history, not fantasy.

    Why are the different races where they are What explains the old tombs, temples, etc?

    If the world is very old, lots of old stuff to your PCs to discover and explore, why is it there? or do you just not worry too much about the why?

    Over the thousands of years that the world has been around the races have varied alliances and enemies, at one point or other everyone has been at war with everyone else?
    One group gets too powerful and the others team up, or a plague, or a serious magic catastrophe (like a modern nuclear war) pops up and wipes things out?

    Just curious what others have done with this or don't sweat it?

  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer Tom_Cardin's Avatar
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    Ahh this is a favorite subject of mine, my favorite part of worldbuilding. I think one of the most important things to decide at the start is the level and quantity of magic, both in terms of creatures and powers, items, forces etc. This is followed immediately by the age of the world, not just the age of the current civilizations but has it been around for several rises and falls. Next is connectivity to external planes, are these running in close parallel to the world where one can just find "weak" places and step right through into an elemental plane? Those sorts of places would definitely effect your geography and your populations, especially hostile planes. Also of importance at this step is the nature of the underground portion of your world, is there a version of the underdark underlying most if not all of your landscape? And are there portions in an older world where there has been collapses of the surface creating deep chasms full of not very nice things.

    Depending on your magic content, populations can be fed with much less agriculture than in our own middle ages. There also would be a lot less disease and famine where there are divine magics to counter such maladys. This makes nice strong populations centers which you need because if there is strong evil out in the world then these are heavily fortified and magically protected so don't expect to have many outlying structures beyond a cities walls except where they can maintain their own defenses. There may not be roads connecting cities together, unless they can be adaquately protected in tracts of wilderness. Sea travel and commerce is even more viable because a ship can take its defenses with it in the form of strong magical barriers and wards, much more so than a man on horseback can. Beyond that there are many magical means of transporting goods and trades between cities. So your civilized areas may well be quite isolated, distant points on the map...unlike in our middle ages where population centers just grew outwards from initial settlements eventually ruralizing and connecting to one another. -In a fantasy world there are forces at play that prevent growth and expansion, territories of ravaging beasts, dragons, evil critters who live off of human and other races flesh. Things that would demolish and devour a full legion of well trained and equipped roman centurions, so conventional historical warfare as we know it may not even have developed in parallel to our history...those were fine to fight other countries and conquer many lands in our own history they were designed to fight people - it goes to pot quickly when an army of undead arises flanked by werewolves who can outdistance and take down your cavalry and lead by dragonmounted liches who can cut through a huge swath of the hardiest soldiers with a simple spell and then raise them up again to fight in their horde.

    All of these things and more can have a bearing on what your landscape looks like. How has magic been used to alter the natural evolution of the geography? Where are the no-mans-lands, controlled by things that shouldn't be named? Where have druids been at work creating trees of enormous size and which forests and rivers are warded by dryads and sprites? Which mountains do dwarves call home and what have they done to them to say "keep out!" to any wouldbe tresspassers? Where have mages been working with earth elementals to build great barrier walls and rise up towering pinnacles of hardest stone to erect their sanctums on?
    Last edited by Tom_Cardin; 11-11-2009 at 05:36 PM.
    My debut novel, The Final Warden is available on Amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.

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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Making sense is the main focus of my world and culture building - from the ground up. I don't put swamps in cold latitudes because that doesn't make sense to me; I don't put frogmen in deserts because that doesn't make sense either, in an evolutionary way. Explaining dungeons and mystical shrines can be as easy as saying some long forgotten and dead culture or race made them. That dead culture, if they lived in a cold area, would never have seen palm trees so I make sure that there are no palm trees in their art...I use wolves and bears and maples and firs. If all of the bits don't fit together then the whole world is just laughable to me. Just a few minutes of thought and reason can usually iron out those sorts of things, though. So, yes, I put a lot of thought into the things I do and not just put things together willy-nilly.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
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    There's a few very interesting online tools dealing with fantasy demography for purposes of roleplaying (e.g. http://www.rpglibrary.org/utils/meddemog/ ). These could be cross referenced to medieval (because these days fantasy is synonymous to medieval for some reason) demographic or infrastructure works.

    Worldbuilding is a really good term to use when searching for these online as well.

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    It is your world and you can choose whatever direction logical or illogical that you wish. Much like many published worlds and adventures often make no sense with the ecosystem. How many sentient beings can truly develop and live that close together. I digress

    Personally I prefer to start with a small area and expand outwards as that way you do not feel stuck by your own work. I generally have a good idea where I want people but as to ruins and lost places they should stay that until you decide It needs to be where the PC's are at. Nothing is more frustrating to me then choosing a place and then being stuck with my results later.

    The problem with being stuck on the macro it is not significant to the game. The players only care about what is in front of them. Some my find the history and background cool but it is more an exercise for you to enjoy your world more not them .

    Players exist and play in the micro. They only care about your world as far as it effects their character. They don't care why the creatures are placed that way they just care if they are going to interfer in their plans and adventure.

    If you are really lucky you will have players that will build a background and a good history for their character which helps give the world more life for them in my opinion.

    Just my opinion take it or leave it

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    Good points Xyll. I tend to think of writing and forget gaming so for gaming your points are quite spot-on.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)


    My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps

  7. #7

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    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.

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    Guild Journeyer Tom_Cardin's Avatar
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    ohhh "years of no sun" -

    I have a world that a group of adventurers traveled to briefly...It has no sun. It is set about 1000 years after the death of the god of the sun for that material plane. Magic and volcanism have kept the planet alive in space, orbiting the burnt out cinder of its sun. All is shrouded in night. Creatures and plants which cannot survive without daylight are no more and the landscape is rampant with fungus, rot, and creatures who would normally only be found deep within the darkest depths of the world. The PC's who adventured there did not stay long...I should dig out what maps I made for this world and scan them in.
    My debut novel, The Final Warden is available on Amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.

    Please visit my blog for more information about my writing and my art

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    The micro events will work with the macro as long as that is the plot line of you adventures. like i said it is great to have a good background but for playing purposes it is only important as far as it concerns the characters. If your characters are racing around trying to stop the cataclysm then it is important to know what it is and who is building it up if not. Then as a footnote for the world it should be brief and more time spent on what the players are likely to experience. Unless you want to create it to motivate your world and more importantly yourself.

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    If you are looking for motivation then you could always use a God of Death/Slaughter waxes and wanes in power and every thousand years the god is at his peak and go from their. With the players trying to stop its minions or in reverse trying to save the "savior" who allows the world to return back to its normal state. I think every 500 years is a bit soon as your long lived races could have lived through multiple cataclysms and the recovery rate would not be that fast.

    Another theme could be a multi part artifact/item/spell that the players are racing around trying to keep out of the wrong hands.

    Your options are endless.
    However I think the time frame should be on the milenium scale not the century scale.

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