DM Daniel here, and it is time to expand your background building. Coming at this from a novelist perspective, there’s so much we can do here! So let’s take a deep dive into the idea of world building – country and culture edition. Click beyond the line to learn more.
Last time we discussed the pitch and the background ideas. Today we’re moving beyond to flesh out our ideas.
So while you want to avoid making and recording ALL the details about ALL the cultures, especially since you’re not always sure where the PCs will spend their time, you do want some guidance and framework for constructing a culture. Many DMs, and other fantasy writers/creators use analogies – cultures in our world that we can transplant into the game. For example, Games Workshop used the Medieval French as their basis for the Bretonnians army in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Harry Turtledove used Byzantines as the framework for the Legion of Videssos book series (and culture within).
One thing that I’m looking to do is not to use the most common cultures as analogies. Obviously, from the novels I write, that means I can’t use the Romans or Byzantines as analogies for my city states. From a DM side, this means that I can bridge out and explore different cultures than those usually in my compositions.
So let’s consider our nation-states from the campaign.
- Kingdom of Telin: the main bit – defensive, lots of knights and castles, large standing army. I’ll be looking heavily at the medieval Spanish kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, and Navarre for inspiration. Especially considering the elements of Andalusia, which was a massive melting pot as far as cultures and communities go, but reduce the extreme amount of, oh-I-don’t-know, Inquisition flavored murder.
- Panometian Kingdom: The esteemed antagonists. At first, I was thinking about a Song or other Chinese type of analogy, but now I’m leaning towards the massive empire that was the Tumerids, especially since it’s collapse was precipitous and created a variety of successor states. Tamerlane also directly or indirectly caused the death of over 20 million people, so that’s a bad guy for ya.
Supporting Cast: The Kingdom of Telin’s main allies
- Republic of Ormbo: For this Republic, I’m actually thinking the sort of Romano-British states left behind after the retreat of the Roman Empire. Civilized, capable, and wary of their northern borders. Only difference lies in the source of their worry – not the Picts but the horse tribes of Shamol. Add in a healthy dose of mythical powers and perhaps some inspirational foundation stories and you’ve got a nice little constitutional republic going on.
- The Seritidian Kingdom: More knights and castles, but a reliance on lightly armored horsemen: A perchance for expanding and a massive nobility battling it out in both court and on the field. The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth comes to mind here.
- Shamol: A tribal based kingdom that is never at peace. The warring tribes constantly skirmish across the open plains. Sythia meets Crimea meets Mongolian tribes.
- Port Yan: This city state is currently occupied by the Seritidian Kingdom. For me, the best analogy is one loosely based on Amsterdam. A port city with lots of trade access but not much control of the territory around it, and surrounded by various warring principalities. Perhaps more Venice and northern Italy then.
- Republic of Laurentia: I’m actually leaning Andean in this case – a mountainous and forested nation with highly civilized Dwarves and Elves, leads to an intricate nation which relies on the terrain for defense and communication.
So there you go! Don’t always stick with your ‘traditional’ bad guys or good guys, and do some digging. As far as resources go, here’s a few that I’ve been cultivating that are really useful for additional information. (Affiliate Links FYI)
- The Fall of the Roman Empire – Peter Heather
- Empires of the Silk Road – Christopher Beckwith
- Lost to the West – Lars Brownworth
- Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond
- The Birth of Classical Europe – Simon Price and Peter Thonemann
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