Friday, March 28, 2014

World Building in 30 Days - Recent History 5A

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

― Winston Churchill

Continuing on with the world building excercise we strive to answer the following:

Who lives where, and what wars and conflicts have they had? Who keeps the peace? How do borders stay in place? What happens when power shifts? What major resources are considered necessary to staying in power? As you answer these questions, you'll find that patterns emerge. A necessary resource is close to the boundary between two cultures. The peace-keeping forces don't always stay in power. Shifts in power result in conflict and war.

The Exercise:

Spend 15 minutes outlining the major historical events of the last 100 years before your novel begins. Include in your timeline:

Dates when power shifted in your civilization(s) (through coup, death of a monarch, revolution, election, etc.), and whether the power shift was smooth (as it might be when a monarch dies and their offspring takes their place)

Dates when a natural event reduced or increased the amount of natural resources (food, usually, but also water, timber, and other resources).

Dates when an unnatural event (such as a magical or technological event) changed the resources as well.

Each of these factors (power shifts and resource shifts) puts pressure on the civilizations. At the high-pressure points, write "battle/conflict"-- those are points at which violence may have erupted between cultures (or, if you have non-violent people, perhaps conflict that's expressed in other dramatic ways).

Events may also be interrelated-- a technological event might give the edge to one power group, which forces other groups to respond, often with confrontation.

The last dates to write on your timeline: Date your novel begins, and the date your character was born (so you know what part of history he or she directly remembers).

So WTF is going down in the 5A

  • 1359 5A - Kursus Rodemus infected with Lycanthropy. The Rodemus Mercenary Company takes over Akhban Village. A priestess attempts to enter the Wyrm Prince's Crypt. Duchess Reyifor of Riddleport is kidnapped. Gullaga dwarves begin their cycle as rulers of Kuln.
  • 1359 5A - Beginning of FPR campaign
  • 1358 5A - Riddleport merchants begin over charging for shipments after raids by Minotaur League privateers.
  • 1356 5A - Kuln goods sailing from Alkabra are seized by Riddleport ships. Alkabra and Kuln cease relationship. Kuln signs trade accords with Riddleport for export of wares.
  • 1354 5A - Duchess Reyifor's adopted daughter Bremer marries Arkhosian Prince Draez. Draez has been gifted the title of Duke of Reyifor. Bremer is officially recognized as Duchess of Reyifor by Arkhosia. Riddleport takes over shipping for Arkhosia.
  • 1351 5A - Xial assumes control of Odanis. Villages nearby are reported empty by her scouts. Arkhosia and Minotaur League break off relations after Emperor Drax offends Kordek III by wearing a sword to dinner.
  • 1347 5A - Pirate King Jax Darkhallow is slain by assassins. Duchess Reyifor forms an alliance with the Auri-Kai of the Underrealm.
  • 1342 5A - Arkhosia ends its war with Omarond, after the death of Amberin Melatar. Omarond is declared a protectorate of Arkhosia.
  • 1339 5A - End of KO and TB campaigns. An assassin kills Anthan Reyifor. The Duchy passes into Arkhosian hands. Former Duchess Reyifor marries Jax Darkhallow. Pirate fleets from Riddleport attack Minotaur shipping of tribute from Omarond.
  • 1338 5A – A force of Arkhosians aided by nobles of the Omarond Empire wrests control of the Duchy of Reyifor from the Empire. Anthan Reyifor slays his brother Dythan. Duchess Reyifor flees to Riddleport. Anthan takes over Duchy and moves his seat of power from Frandor's Keep to Depidu.
  • 1337 5A - Beginning of Knight's Order and Thundertop Boys Campaigns
  • 1299 5A until 1309 5A* Wailing
  • 1289 5A until 1313 5A* Spell Plague
  • 1289 5A - End of Monster Hunters Campaign
  • 1288 5A - Woods Crossing sustains fire and flooding damage - a plague spreads across N Ovelesk
  • 1287 5A - A zombie invasion destroys Wroat
  • 1286 5A - A water shortage in Kaleland
  • 1286 5A- Start of Monster Hunters Campaign
  • 1214 5A* Founding of Foon Takel
  • 1174 5A* Princess Kastya is married to Amberin her first act is to found the Flaming Fist
  • 1163 5A* Amberin Melatar assumes control of the Omarond Empire
  • 1162 5A - End of DragonSlayers and Black Hand Campaign
  • 1104 5A* Lazore awakens as a Rhakshasa
  • 1102 5A* Empress Frick seizes control of the Omarond Empire through trial of combat. The dragons and Dragonborn present proclaim her Empress, she immediately declares war on the Aberrant Threat and forms an alliance with the Minotaur League and the dwarven Thanes of Thak Tarkas.
  • 1101 5A* Gulohg the Usurper slays Orcus and Kordek I slays Ambeoutin XI assuming the mantle of King of the Minotaur League
  • 1100 5A* The Night of Falling Stars the dragons return from the Astral Sea.
  • 1098 5A* Kordek and Company invited to meet Armic Starr. Begining of Search for the Black Hand Campaign
  • 1097 5A* Kordek is booted from Thak Tarkas
  • 1079 5A* Kordek family is slaughtered and they flee to the the dwarves of Thak Tarkas
  • 1078 5A* The Tor Siri and Vampire Council break off relations
  • 1019 5A* The Great Enemy seizes control of Northern Ovelesk during the Great War. The Tor Siri are dominate power on Ovelesk. Institute the Magus Accords requiring all magus to register. Marcus flung into the Far Realms. Kyle the Black Hand begins search for his brother.
  • 989 5A* The town of Riddleport is founded during the Great War to stop Tor Siri shipping. Tartash begins gathering a new Seven having discovered the flaw in his plan beforeThe Great War erupts between the Tor-siri and the Gray Council many peoples and all magic users are drawn into the conflict


Thursday, March 27, 2014

World Building in 30 Days - Economics and Politics

Fighting for peace, is like f***ing for chastity

― Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis

Northern Ovelesk

New Arkhosia is the blossoming power of the last sixty years. It rises from the ashes of the Byzantine Marsonite empire that was weakened by the Great War and a series of plagues and disasters. The Dragonborn who rule it where the remnants of an Arkhosia that collapsed after the war with Bael Tuarth towards the end of the fourth age. New Arkhosia controls most of the lands west of the Molsomarc Mountains. In their minds they have just successfully freed their kinsmen from the tyrannical rule of the Gith in Omarond. The combined might of Omarond and New Arkhosia is in its manpower. Omarond is rich in minerals and timber. Arkhosia has the solid infrastructure of the Marsonite Road and Waterways. In addition it has access to moderate climate and rich soil, perfect for agricultural endeavors which the slave population of Teckla and conquered species work.

North of Arkhosia the Great Plain is inhabited by wild barbarian tribes of humans, orcs and goblins. They trade furs, hunted meat and woven items with Arkhosia. Their forces raid Arkhosia and utilizing viking fleets along the coast.

In the Akiesh Desert at the Northern Western edge of the continent, wild lizard men tribes compete with Khemblin dwarf miners. The Khembin export glass, and in the years before the Spell Plague residiuum.

Torvin is the last city of the Marsonites. Its association with the Khazad Dwarves located nearby make them a center of trade east of the Molsomarc. Minotaur League ships and Blue Elf Calivornias dock here, trading with the Zehir further east, the Amon Ka of Gaidan and Kinder of Kinderland.

Alzehir is a grouping of agriculture towns and small villages joined under a loose confederacy. The ruling council is comprised of elected representatives from each of the towns. Wine and oils are their major exports. Humans and Kinder are the primary species in the area.

Southern Ovelesk

Kuln exports metal working, stone work, glass and gems. Its nearby villages support the city with livestock and grown goods. Timber is taken from the mountain slopes near Neebo and Redfalls. A council of Thanes rule the four dwarven clans located here. With the High Thane chosen on a fifty year cycle.

Riddleport was ruled by a Pirate King until recently. It is now loosely associated with Arkhosia. Riddleport is mainly a commerce center, with its outlying villages supplying incense and wine for export.

Odanis is ruled by a magocracy. Its main export is magical wares. The cities main purpose is to support the Citadel's magical studies. The surrounding villages provide food and sustenance for the town.

East of the mountains large swamps and two deserts are infested with wild elves. The pixie eating Grell and canabalistic elves of the desert compete with wilder and more dangerous fare. The city of Kahlandryl supports forays into this wild area. The land is littered with the remains of the Daganti peoples. Treasure hunters brave the wilds looking for lost magical artifacts.


The Yew, Green and Werewoods are strictly protected against foresting. The Elven and Shifter inhabitants live on the land. Their xenophobic response to outsiders keeps most visitors away. Foon Takel and Cosdol are Gith and Elven settlements providing training in the magical arts on Yathe.

Minos produces wheat for export. Their naval forces protect the sea ways and enforce their dominance of the sea. Gullaga dwarves beneath the mountain at Taldras supplies weapons and arms to the Minotaur League.

Thak Tarkas is the primary source of minerals and metal working on Yathe. The dwarven clans here owe allegiance to the High Thane of Karnin. Their alliance with Minos remains intact though they no longer support Omarond.

The mud plains of Gnot Arc are inhabited by goblin kin. They eek out an existence on the scrub and insect population. Raids into other territories are common.

Ille Torassis is an island kingdom off the coast of Yathe. They compete with Riddleport and Minos for shipping. The fast and light Elvish vessels called Calivornias are the quickest vessels on the sea.

Stygia and Gehenna are both regions of danger for travelers. Stygia is the land of the undead. Its vampiric rulers have experimented with mass manufacturing and farming to little success. The Council of 13 rules the land. Zombie and ghoul slaves see to their masters whims. Food is brought in from the human farms north of Gehenna. Here humans that worship the vampires are raised for food. They lead a miserable existence on the edge of the arctic circle. The remainder of Gehenna is now the plague lands that was once the homeland of the giants. Only a few giants survived the spell plague. They are a scattered people. Adventurers willing to risk it can find many treasures both of the giant kin and the old Qal Met empire.


World Building in 30 Days - Languages

Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.

― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Anyone can speak Troll. All you have to do is point and grunt.

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The father of modern fantasy JRR Tolkien had an affinity for languages. I can see why. He jokes in a letter to CS Lewis that the whole history of men leading up to the sinking of Numenor was a etymological pun for Atlantis.

Etymology is a curious subject. It ties us to our past bridging centuries and millennium. English itself is a hodge podge of German, Latin, French, Greek and another half dozen languages. If you want to delve into this subject more I recommend the History of the English Language pod cast. Personally I can't get enough of the stuff. I use it a lot in naming things. I use it in puzzles for my players, and high brow tongue in cheek hints to character motivations in NPC names. Did I mention my family calls me the pun master? If you're stuck for naming someone or something boil them down to their essential trait and look up the etymology of a synonym, or the meaning in a foreign tongue. You will find a word to use that will sound right to you.

Our real world contains plenty of examples of the evolution of language. Experts are starting to believe that the Tower of Babel may not be as much a myth as many folks believe. A judge in India demonstrated that most western language originates from a Proto Indo-European base tongue. Others in the field have since demonstrated twenty-seven words common in all languages spoken on earth, though opponents strongly dispute the methods. The Proto-Human ideal is still a facinating concept and one I embrace in my fictional world.

RPG Mechanics

When playing an RPG there are two things to consider. How much do you want to bog players down in simulation of real language? How much flavor do you want to add to roleplaying scenarios? Balance your rules on the subject carefully.

In theory I like the idea that my players start out only speaking the language they grew up with. This seems plausible. I even like the idea that only certain classes read those languages. As a player these rules suck. It makes every roleplaying moment a pain to play out, like a Han > Threepio > Ewok situation. In an OSR game with a single leader or caller this could actually simplify some things but it does leave most of the table with nothing to do. I further like the idea of a fluency indicator, a 1-5 or percentile rating of a characters ability to speak a language. 1- pidgin or halting speech, 2- able to read some words and speak coherent thoughts, 3- able to read most words and form complete sentences, 4- read and write as well as good speech, 5- perfect fluency, accent and can extrapolate to similar languages and dialects. But this is a lot of book keeping for minimal gain.

In practice, my players get their hereditary language and one of two common trading tongues based on where they were born. Players wanting exotic races are thus at a disadvantage, but this can be overcome. In addition if a player opts to speak to a NPC in its own tongue, they get a bonus to a skill check in newer games (3.5, 4E etc) and an adjustment to the reaction roll or roleplaying attitude in my OSR game. Players can buy, via time and money access to as many languages as their intellect will allow, screw the fest tax. NPCs usually speak the appropriate common and if not a peasant a second racial language. Sages, royality and priests usually speak at least three languages. Lastly, known languages give PCs a chance to muddy thru a situation where an unknown language may be encountered. A language in the same dialect will communicate 90% accurately, in the same family will give the speaker 70% chance to communicate effectively. Outside the same family it falls to 25%.

Major Language Families in Ea-reth

  • Common
  • --Eastern Trading Tongue spoken in Ovelesk
  • --Western Commerce Speak spoken in Yathe
  • --Thieves Cant - available only to thieves and assassins

  • Ancient - Proto Ea-reth language
  • -Yae - runic script of the dwarfs and giants - Old Norse, German and Slavvic as real world inspiration
  • -Drae - pictographic language of dragonkin - Egyptian, Sumerian, Arabic as inspiration
  • -Fey/Vai - flowing script - Finnish, Quenya, and Sindarin
  • -Tor - pictographic language - Mayan, Chinese, Japanese
  • -Gawds - symbols as words - None
  • -Mae - Latin alphabet - English, Latin, Romance languages as inspiration
  • Yae
  • -Dwarven
  • --Khazad
  • --Khemblin
  • --Kohle
  • --Gullaga
  • -Giant
  • --Goliath
  • --Minotaurian
  • -Goblinoid
  • --Tribal Dialect
  • --Norgathi

  • Drae
  • -Draconic
  • --Arkhosian
  • --Omarondian
  • --Qal Met
  • -Dragon
  • -Draegarian

  • Fey - Vai
  • -Elven
  • --Green Elves
  • ---Desert Elf
  • ---Grell Elf
  • --High Elven
  • --Blue Elven
  • --Grey Elven
  • ---Gnomish
  • ---Deep Gnomish
  • -Black Speech
  • --Orcish Tribal Dialects
  • Tor
  • -Torrian
  • -Pey
  • -Tanni (Deep Speech)
  • --Infernal
  • ---Tuarthian
  • --Abyssal

  • Gawds
  • --Supernal
  • --Primordial

  • Mae
  • -Common
  • --Marsonites
  • ---Kalesh
  • ---Akhabarian
  • ---Barbarian Tribes
  • --Daganti
  • --Dogan