Saturday, January 26, 2013

Detailing the Kingdom

I have some more details to work out before getting to the actual mapping part of the Kingdom I'm working on.  Per the World Builder's Guide, I now need to think about how the races are inter-related. I've already covered most of that in the previous post, so I'll skip rolling on the table.  The Dwarves I'll say live among the humans, but are separate--keeping to their own ways and their own kind.

Next, we need to worry about Languages.  Language can really help to make a world "pop" and it also helps to link various places together.  Now, alas, I'm horrible at languages myself, and so as such I'm going to do a bit of a cheat here.  I'm going to use real world languages, or a close approximation there-of, for my fantasy world.

The conquerors are obviously inspired by the barbarian conquerors of Rome, who were generally described as Germans (yes, it was a lot more complicated than that, but I'm sticking with general themes here), so I'll use German as their root tongue.  For the conquered people I'll use English, since it makes life easier.  Elven would probably remain the language of the educated and international trade, so I'll use a mish-mash of Tolkien like Elvish and Latin to represent that tongue.  Finally, I really like the idea of Dwarves as the Jewish analogues.  Isolated into their own communities, exiled from their own land, focused on preserving their ancient culture in the face of a hostile and changing world.  However, I do have the Complete Book of Dwarves, so I'm not going to bastardize Hebrew in this case.  I'll use the names and location guides from that book for Dwarvish.

So, what's the name of this Kingdom?  I want to avoid anything obvious, but I also want something easy to remember and pronounce.  I pop over to Wikipedia to see what states constituted the Holy Roman Empire to get some ideas.  Nothing really makes me go "wow" however.  I poke around a bit on line and see that both Poland and Spain have an area called Galicia.  That sounds pretty cool.  Easy to pronounce, but also somewhat exotic sounding, at least to my American ears.  So, I'll call the Kingdom Galicia, the overlords are Galcians and their language is, big surprise, also Galician.  The conquered people are based on England, so a bit more poking around comes up with Umbria.  Now, Umbria is a part of Italy, but there was a medieval England kingdom called "Northumbria."  The two aren't actually related; the English Kingdom refers to it's southern limit as an estuary called "humber" but I like the sound of Umbria.  So, the local people are Umbrians, which is also the name of their language.  Dwarven is just called Dwarven, at least among the dominant Humans, Orcish is Orcish (aka the Dark Tongue--scholars note that this is a bastardized form of Dwarven, but most people are amazed the beasts can speak at all).  The other group of Humans are still undefined, so I'll ignore them for now.

Next, I need to determine the general tech level--I get "Middle Ages"/Crusade.  A bit more advanced than a true Dark Ages, but it allows for Plate Mail and Long Bows and all the other neat stuff in the PHB, so I'm fine with it.  I'll just make a note that some of the more advanced gear is still "new" and therefore needs to be custom made by particular craftsman.  So, yes, the Fighter can get Plate Mail, but it's not available at most or any village, and most of his foes won't be wearing it.  You have to get, and pay extra, for someone to make it.

Following Technology, I come to government type.  I have my heart pretty much set on the whole feudal thing, but I roll to see if anything inspires me.  I get "Dictatorship"--which is much more central and organized than I like.  One thing I do take away from this, though, is that Dictatorship is not hereditary.  I like the idea of an elected King, and that any noble COULD become the King, so I'm going to use that.  Otherwise, we're back to the feudal system.

Finally, we come to Social Alignment.  I'm actually not a huge fan of Alignment in most cases--not because I don't see its values, but because there is so much debate over what is and is not "Lawful" or "Chaotic" and the like.  I've seen three different people all propose equally valid, well  thought out, reasons points as to what "Chaotic Neutral" means, and none of them remotely agreed with each other.  But, I'll roll on the table to see what I get.

Lawful Good.  Huh.  Can't say I love it.  I want a bit more dingy, dark world, with the rulership being full of prideful, self-important assholes who don't particularly care about "their" people.  But...what if the average person is actually a basically decent human being?  So, they're Good.  The rulers are Neutral--they don't actively try to be "Evil" and would balk at most truly heinous acts, but have no problem whoring, war mongering, looting, etc.  They're neutral.  The whole society maintains it's precarious balance by maintaining  an adherence to tradition and worked out relations among and between rulers and ruled.  The lord may be a self-important, pompous ass who will go to war over the slightest perceived insult, but he wouldn't just cut off the head of a peasant who's late on his taxes--it's not something one does after all.

Last thing is to look at "unusual situations"--this is purely a creative thing, with no tables or the like, just ideas.  I think I have a semi-decent grasp of the setting, but it is missing a hook--something to make it memorable and interesting in and of itself.  This may not be a bad thing, as I'm going for a generic setting where the players can drive the game.  In this case, having an obvious "big bad" or situation happening might hamstring them.  On the other hand, is there anything here to really make this setting stand out?  To make the players really remember it?  I'm going to skip this part for now, but I'll need to think about it as we progress.


  1. I like your adaptation of the dwarves as medieval Jews - it is in fact quite similar to how Tolkien thought of them. It also raises the question of plural societies. We like to think of nations as being grafted onto places and people, where Germany is the land of the Germans and they gaze blearily over the border into the French land of France, with maybe a lost kingdom of Flanders or Burgundy in between.

    But this hasn't been the case in many places. Ethnicity, nation, "race" have been malleable and changing - X group lives in the forest, Y group lives on the hills, Z group lives in the valley and only Z are subject to the state. But the trick is that X, Y, and Z often mix, move back and forth, etc. A group of Y come down from the hills, pledge allegiance to the Z king, and become subjects. A group of Z decide to ditch the state and move up to the hills and blend in with the Y.

    This is difficult to adapt to a biological version of "race" as we have it in D&D. Dwarves-as-Jews is a nice adaptation of European urban society, and I do think it works well. But what other options can we think of?

    Just a thought experiment: what if "elf" and "orc" were sort of possibilities, instead of absolute peoples? Elves could have become human once they lost sight of the Light of Elsassar (or whatever). Humans could become Orcs over too many generations in the Broken Lands (or whatever).

    Putting that aside: let's think about the political ramifications of the kingdom here. Some basics:
    1) Who are the king's subjects within the kingdom? Are there others within the borders over which he has limited jurisdiction (dwarves, forest people, etc)?
    2) What are the freedoms that people have within the kingdom? Slavery doesn't have to be what Americans think of it - we can have people selling themselves to get out of debt (debt-bondage), indentured servitude, and, of course, serfdom. Can a person move from his hometown to a far-off place freely? Can a person choose his profession? Can a woman do the same as a man?
    3) Building off the last point but more apropos to adventurers: what is the legitimate source of violence? I mean: who can carry weapons and use force? Can anyone carry a sword? Does one have to be the "man" of some particular noble (in my mind, the most interesting option) in order to carry lethal weapons and metal armor? Is this restriction only in cities (again, that's how I would do it)?

  2. I do like the idea of race shifting as culture and identity changes, but I think it'd be on a long enough scale that for the average person the Orcs are a purely alien race. Among the various groups of humans of course, this malleability is far more pronounced--which of course means that they speak all the more loudly of the sacredness and inevitability of blood.

    You have some great questions on the political ramifications of the various races in the kingdoms, and I'll like to go into more detail later on. Off the top of my head, I'd say we're dealing with serfdom rather than chattel slavery, though some slavery still exists, but on a small scale. I'd imagine one would either need to be a noble or be the follower of a noble to carry and use a weapon. As they become more settled who is and is not a noble is starting to become a source of greater concern for the Galt's.


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