Whether you’re about to write a novel or begin a fantasy role-playing campaign you’re going to want to start with a map. Some sources will tell you to start with a world map and work your way in while others prefer starting with a town and working your way out. I prefer starting with a single country. Then I will add a neighbouring country followed by another and then another. The map above represents the country of Orithia. I don’t know if it’s a kingdom or a republic at this time. I drew this map in a little over an hour using inkarnate.com. It’s free to use (at the time of this writing) and very easy to learn and as you can see the results are very impressive. If you want to use another tool or hand draw your map that’s completely your choice. I’m going to be building my world for my upcoming Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
Building the Country
What do we need to know about the country? You may want to blurt out everything, but we’re not going to know everything; not for awhile yet. First is to list some of the facts that the map tells us.
- 1 capital city
- 4 fair sized towns
- 4 villages
- 1 temple
- 1 tower
- 1 set of ruins
- 1 keep
- 10 miles per hex (210 miles wide, 140 miles tall)
Being located around a large inland bay the people of Orithia know how to build and sail large sailing ships and galleys. Their navy may be larger (or at least as large) as their army. With winds travelling west to east (for the most part) then the country gets a fair amount of rain as the clouds hit the eastern mountains. Forest and grasslands are lush.
Building the Country
Most fictional worlds are based on the European Middle Ages with castles and knights and lords and ladies, but that is not the only options available. I will be using a copy of the World Builder’s Guidebook, published by TSR, Inc published in 1996. It’s not my only source, but it’s a great starting point. Again the great inland bay has me thinking of either Rome or the Vikings as both cultures were strongly linked to the water. These two cultures are similar in that they both conquered other nations, but they each did it very differently. Another option is trade. A nation that controls the waterways can control the trade routes. Write these sort of thoughts down as we will circle back around shortly.
Since my world is for D&D I need to consider race as the game has several races the players can be. So I need to consider who are the races the call Orithia home vs the races that have migrated to the land. The WBG allows for rolling dice to randomly determine various aspects of my country. Considering Orithia as a moderately size nation I rolled 1 primary race and 3 secondary races. Not all of these races are naturally from the area, but I can expand the races into the eastern mountains (dwarves) as well. Are there 8 races because it is a wealthy nation because of trade routes, or are the secondary races conquered races? See how the culture question starts to connect to the other answers.
- 50% High Elves
- 22% Humans
- 15% Dwarves
- 12% Half-Elves
- 1% All of the other character races
How do the races intermingle? The primary race, the high elves control the government of the nation. The dwarves live in the mountains to the east, the half-elves are scattered loosely around the nation and the humans for the most part live within the capital city of Stroversai. The elves have learned over the years that the humans are very strong and can do a lot of the grunt work if you pay them. Both the elves and humans look down on the half-elves and often treat them poorly. The dwarves rarely leave their underground kingdom is large groups. All of the other character races are scattered around the nation. The official language is elvish and any character, regardless of race, who grew up in Orithia knows elvish at automatically. The elves speak High Elf which is reserved only for the rich and powerful elves.
What sort of technology does the nation have? The elves are a smart race and in many ways are more advanced than most of the other races the surround them. I have decided to use the Late Middle Ages. Here is the quote from the WBG.
“The technology of muscle-powered weapons and heavy armor reaches its height. The feudal system of lord and vassal begins to break down as the merchant class grows in importance. Guilds and leagues of craftsmen who practice a trade appear, allowing increased production and advancements, while concentrating wealth and power in towns instead of the noble estates. As towns grow in size, more land is brought under cultivation to support the increasing population.”
It looks like Orithia is a merchant nation, or at least a nation where the merchant class is growing in power. This is a good point to determine our government. I like the sound of a oligarchy where a small number of absolute rulers share power. Maybe the various merchant houses send representatives based on their power. The five most powerful families rule the nation while the remaining representatives act like lords, controlling individual locations such as towns or villages. How many merchant houses are their in Orithia? A quick die roll comes up with 17 houses where 5 are the most powerful and meet in the capital and the remaining 12 are the lords of the land, ensuring the laws are followed as intended. Two houses in each town and 1 in each village. This gives me something to create, who are the 5 powerful houses and what has made them so powerful? Maybe own of them owns the mining rights of the nation while another is a ship builder. Both would be seen as powerful. The WBG suggests rolling for national alignment so I rolled up Chaotic-Good:
“The people of the land are distrustful of big government and restrictive laws. Although there may be a strong central authority or monarch, most communities prefer to manage their own affairs, and may take the law into their own hands in times of danger. Furthermore, the existing laws tend to protect the rights of the individual over the social contract.”
An example would be Britain’s bread law that protected the citizens when buying bread know as the Assize of Bread and Ale from the 13th century. This law laid out standard prices for a loaf of bread or ale. This eventually led to the Weight & Measures Act. Orithian law will focus on helping the customer get what they ordered. It is important to the government that the nation does not become known as a land of crooks.
Finally the WBG talks about unusual, fantasy elements of the nation. One thing I’ve been playing with is a group of elite soldiers called the Orithian Order. These men are above the standing army and are used when the nation is facing true danger. I like that idea that it as evolved over several decades. Maybe it was originally a leaders personal protection and then became the nation’s elite force.
There is a lot of information here. Next time we will start to put together a Gazetteer of information about Orithia. This will include names, numbers and details about the land.