We’re rushing headlong into year 2 of the Coldforged book writing, and I’m going to hopefully tackle here as many things to get ready to have the book printed as possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch here. I’m also going to be pushing through “Completed” content as well when the time comes. Hopefully little of it needs much balance testing! This time I chat a little on the difference between the Kingdoms and the Cultures
Dividing the Continent
While Kingdoms are important when looking at how a continent and game world is structured, it is not the only, or even the most vital, aspect to look at. There are dozens of different ways to cut up a given tract of land, and making sure to focus on the essence of what makes each region different and individual matters more in telling the story of the setting.
Kingdoms are important, clearly, and many of my own home adventures focus on the two largest kingdoms of Killbarum and Tyndaria, there are multiple others around the continent, and both the larger ones have fallen into disrepair and shattered, yet they retain their importance to the setting none the less.
I’ve talked about the Kingdoms in my setting before, but I’ll quickly go over them here
Tyndaria – A once great Kingdom fracturing at its core, ruled by a despotic monarch with a tradition of excellent cavalry and shining knights. Each of 11 kingdoms fights within its once unified land for independence, power, or religion.
Nova Killbarum – The Phoenix of the Killbarum Republic, rising from the ashes of the destroyed empire, Ruled by a Magocratic Senate and home to dozens of Arcane Colleges. While Nova Killbarums reach is currently small, it is growing, and the city-states now in the corpse of the old empire have turned a wary eye to the growing power.
Brokensail – A Citystate of primarily smallfolk run by the oligarchs of the Admirals Council. Under the eye of the dragon Jet, the City-states pirate ships patrol the rivers, seas, and oceans of Tysis with relative impunity, always seeking tribute for their dire draconic master.
The Kingdom of Levisha – A plague-ridden and wildland, the once idyllic forest is now home to wandering berserkers gripped in madness and the towns and cities trying to avoid their ire. Once ruled by a council of aged and respected elders, the Council of Seasons now strains its credibility to call itself a ruling body.
The Thraxian Tribes – Less of a Kingdom and more of a unified region of likeminded folk, the Thraxians recognize that their unity is their newfound strength. Ruled by the Crones of the Lake, the tribes still war among themselves, but there is also a relatively recent feeling of coherence.
Aldashir Citadel – The Citadel that the remaining Drimmen occupy as a gift from the King of Tyndaria is the rare symbol of generosity displayed by Wanderer. Now the most reputable band of mercenaries, the Aldashir Drimmen train endlessly and fight in the wars of others in order to prepare to retake their homes from the giants.
Kingdoms are not the only divisions within the continent. In addition to the political creations that cover much of the face of the continent, there are also social groups that either keep themselves hidden from the rest of the continent, or that transcend continental groups.
The Ikoreth – The mysterious home of the gnomes, who have dedicated their entire beings to research and perfecting a specific field of study. They have crafted construct servants of all sorts to assist them with whatever they require – everything from shopping to cleaning to bathing – as the gnomes are disinterested in all things not of their focus.
The Drimmen – The primitive half-Giants who live atop the Drimmak mountains and have survived the giant’s assault on the Drimm themselves, though the threats from below have started to push them to spread out and encounter other cultures beyond their snowy peaks.
Wraithhold – The risen kingdom of the Modresti, who have recently emerged from their age-old tombs to retake the lands they once held, now that their ancient enemy the Saldi is gone.
Children of Jet – The halfdragon and other kin of the Great Dragon Jet, who not only live within the Gray Morass to the south but have spread beyond to do their inscrutable emperors will.
Hrondring – A nomadic civilization that roams throughout Tysis, with their many different forms from the animal through hybrid, and both trade with and threaten many of the towns and villages with their presence. Their arrival is always seen as an omen, though its meaning is truly unknown.
Horned Raiders – A Bestial and goat-like raider that clearly lives somewhere beyond Tysis that has taken to raiding the shores and rivers, leaving behind destroyed husks of towns and burning monasteries, treasures looted and all within slain.
Dragonborn Kalraks – While many dragonborn have integrated within the societies mentioned, a good number of them have banded together to form what, in draconic, mean Families, the Kalraks. These wagon trains are constantly on the move, searching for a place to set up and permanently take residence. Many nobles and villagers, though, are wary of the consequences of such powerful and dangerous people setting up nearby, and they are often chased away by the locals to start traveling again.
These cultures and kingdoms account for a large number of the population, some of whom can even claim more than a single group as their own. There are Kalrak Dragonborn in Killbarum, there are Thraxians in Tyndaria and there are Levishans who’ve taken refuge in Brokensail. The continent, reflecting the real world, is tangled within itself, making any single assumption or stereotype difficult to hold true over each member of the group.
I mentioned in a separate article the importance of ethnic groups, and I still find that this holds true, adding another layer of verisimilitude to the world, creating a layered structure that each character can participate in or not, at their leisure.
Is it important that a character knows they are a Photian of Thraxian decent raised in the Silentknives duchy? I would say emphatically not! A character adopting such a persona adds depth, but not necessarily relevance.
What it does, though, is give the DM more to play with on the scale of the world, especially when planning out the first few adventures. Knowing that the Photians are descendants of the Eshkin, and that their heritage is that of genocide a century ago can give motivations to villains and administrators of the area, and create adventures tying the players to the world. I enjoy these multi-level motivations and plots, so they’ll be available in any campaign setting I create, but they are also absolutely voluntary. Dungeons, ruins, and villains about in any campaign setting, and often, that is all that is needed.
Until next time!