N A T I O N B U I L D I N G
When we last left off, we had identified the composition of our world's population(s), but stopped just short of figuring out exactly what sort of countries and nations said people had arranged themselves into over the vague timeline of Dragonsgate. Again, we must plot forward without knowing much about the history of our little brainchild, but fear not, we will get there eventually.
So, what now? We have 7 proto-nations to develop. Right now, they're little more than occupied sites. We need to pay attention to the characteristics of the regions we've already identified (1-7) and also factor in the population choices we decided upon last time. A couple of the proto-nations already have a rough identity associated with them and now all we need to do is hammer out those details. The more defined proto-nations would therefore be the most logical starting point. If we need to make adjustments to their identity/characteristics after fleshing out the remaining nations, then it's a fairly easy process to make minor adjustments/modifications.
Here are the nations we know we have:
- Anglo-Saxon nation
- Teutonic nation
- Iberian nation
- Middle-eastern/Mesopotamian nation
- Orc/Goblin/Troll nation
This technically means that we have five figured out (roughly), but the remaining two will also have to be figured out, unless it's determined that they're some form of dominion of one of the other five (which is possible). We also know that we have a tiefling city/state to place somewhere as well as a fairie/fey, forest-kingdom to set up, and the location of those areas will be largely determined by the identity of their surrounding neighbors (I believe the the tiefling city-state should be established around the regions labeled as 6 or 7, probably up in the mountains, since they, you know, guard the secrets of magical power and such. The forest between Regions 4 and 6 has my eye as being the potential location for the Fey Kingdom. I'm also thinking that a collection of druidic tribes and other exiles from civilization might have made their home in the large forest the west of Region 4
Also, once we have these nations finalized, we can start naming specific regions and locations so they're not simply referred to by such vague terms as “the northernmost woods” or the “northern sea” or “the large river that runs through the southern desert”. That will make things significantly more interesting, but it's still a little ways off. Climb one mountain at a time and such.
Region 4 is going to be the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. I'd like to keep the Anglo-Saxon kingdom and the Teutonic kingdom in as high a latitude as possible, and therefore, Region 6 is the Teutonic kingdom (and the tieflings will inhabit the long mountain range just to the South). Region 2 is going to be the Iberian nation, and at this juncture, I'm very certain I'm going to model it after Spain, just after the Reconquista. Therefore, Region 2 is going to be modeled after the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba (or the kingdoms of Al-Andalus) (with its capital modeled after the city of Córdoba itself, (and likely Granada as well) thereby giving it a distinct fusion of Moorish and European medieval aesthetics).
La Rendición de Granada, Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz, 1882,
That leaves us Regions 3, 5 and 7. I think Region 3 is a good location for the Orc/Goblin/Troll nation, as it is isolated from the other nations, and it is not too hard to believe that human settlements would distance themselves from such monsters and that such a xenophobic sentiment might be mutual from the orcs/goblins/trolls. Nevertheless, it would also be highly entertaining if this kingdom had a significant degree of diplomatic or trade power to exert on the rest of the civilized world. Maybe they even helped form a treat between the belligerent countries of 1 and 2 at some point. These are some rare chances to add some flare and flavor to your campaign setting – that is to say, finding ways of turning stereotypes (particularly fantasy tropes) onto themselves. You never know how you might create an interesting story element for your campaign setting just by thinking of a simple way to shake things up. It doesnt have to be cleverly inventive; the simple tricks often work the best.
Now, regions 5 and 7. I think that Region 5 should be a seafaring kingdom/mercantile nation that sould be heavily influenced by its larger neighbor to the North (2), but should retain a considerable amount of autonomy due to its economic power. Alternatively, it could long ago have been beset by Nation 2, representing an irresistible opportunity to gain power and wealth (as most economic centres of the world are wont to become). Regardless, the mountains between 2 and 5 are going to be sheer and treacherous and any protracted military campaign across their summits will be expensive and likely to meet in catastrophic failure, so it's a good bet that Nation 5 is independent and safe until 2 can figure out a way to get across the peaks. Right now, Portugal sounds like an excellent precedent to loan to Region 5, and I'll work with that for the time being.
7 is going to be the tricky one. The area is filled with sounds, fords, lakes and other large inlets from the sea, which immediately conjures imagery of a Nordic society; however, as I've already decided that I want 4 and 6 to represent the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic countries, 7 doesn't really get that option. And I want the Teutonic country to abut the Anglo-Saxon country, so that doesn't really leave too many options. You know. That gives me an idea. Perhaps the Sea traversed by Teutonic settlers from Area 7 and led to them settling in Region 6 and eventually Region 4 before being thwarted moving downward in droves by the mountainous barrier between the northern latitudes and the more temperate central region of the land. That would mean that 4 and 6 were really part of one kingdom, but could reflect two sub-kingdoms, much like the real Anglo-Saxon era England was. I like that notion. It creates opportunities for petty lords and sub-kings to wage their own wars with one another while the King himself struggles to maintain order in his squabbling territories. This also gives the Teutonic kingdom some degree of isolation and could magnify the importance of the mysterious tieflings in their culture. In fact, the more I look at it, there is a large unoccupied island in the middle of the northern sea. This might be the perfect location for the tieflings and their mystical well of magical energy.
So it looks like I've successfully mapped out my kingdoms and regions. Now it's time for some political boundaries, which means more map-making. So, I open up our trusty map again in Photoshop and select the “Overlay” layer that we established a while ago. Firstly, I'll run Edit > Stroke on the inside of the layer. I choose a somewhat conspicuous color – purple in this case (hex 7a2a97) set at an opacity of 70% and a thickness of 5px. It's also important to create a new layer before applying the stroke; I create a new layer titled “political boundaries” and apply the stroke on this layer (we just used the overlay layer to get the correct region selected).
Our layers so far.
The stroke will probably look a bit jagged and unappealing, so just run a gaussian blur filter over it (set to 1px) and that should take care of the problem. Now, it makes the most sense to have 4 be bounded by the rivers surrounding it (rivers have always been important historic borders), so I color those in using the brush, essentially just tracing over the rivers. I decide the southeasternmost boundary will run all the way to the most distal artery of the river, literally abutting the fringe of Nation 2.
According to my settlement map, this area is very heavily populated and as such, we can conclude that this area is perhaps hotly contested between the nations of 4 and 2, with some of the most economically viable cities of 4 located on one side and the likely seat of the government for 2 located on the other side. Perhaps this border is even a site of continuous battle. Maybe the settlers on either side of the river have seen the land change hands far too many times to be concerned with issues such as “nationality”. It's a possibility. I'll move onto 2 now, as they present an interesting problem – there is no definitive boundary between 2 and 1, which leads to the question of how and why did they determine to have an arbitrary border between the two countries? Otherwise, the borders for 2 are delineated by the mountains that surround it. That's when it hits me; 1 will be a tributary state to 2, much like the real Caliphate of Córdoba became after the Christian kingdoms of Northern Spain beset it. 1 will retain a significant degree of autonomy, but ultimately defers to 2 in political and commercial matters. This also considerably expands the resources available to 2 as a kingdom and is starting to give the impression that it is the dominant power in the Theatre of the Realm here (particularly as 5 serves as a de facto trade outpost/ally to 2 and is all but entirely out of the reach of 4. 4 will likely rely on a steady trade relationship with the Merfolk kingdom that I had mentioned in the previous post. 6 probably trades regularly with 7 and 3 might risk trade with 1; or perhaps there is a trade agreement between the dwarves in the mountain range between 3 and 1, part of an intensive effort to maintain peace and stability in the area (particularly if I continue with the idea of making the Orc/Goblin/Troll nation one of consummate diplomats). For the time being, even though 1 is a tributary state to 2, I create an artificial border between the two regions, mainly for my own purposes at understanding the outermost limits of 2.
After drawing these borders, 5 is already contained within its boundary against 2, 1 and the ocean; and 6 has also been locked into its borders between 4, 2 and the sea. I finish by drawing a border along the river that straddles regions 7 and 3, making that the border that defines those two countries. Looks like our political mapping is done. I make the political lines thicker by running a 5px stroke on the boundaries layer.
As we move forward, I'll drop the opacity on the political boundaries so they don't obstruct the image on the whole; but for now, we need it to visualize how everything is fitting together.
To finish today's post off, we'll start brainstorming fitting names to match with our countries. I've already brainstormed a few that sound quite usable, but even if it comes down to only two potential choices, it still makes it incredibly difficult to pick what an entire nation should be named. I'll attempt to do my best for now, but I'm incredibly picky when it comes to names, so this may be a bit more intensive than you might initially think.
- Our Caliphate of Córdoba knock-off/tributary state to Nation 2: we need something that has a Moorish or Muslim flare to it but without overtly plagiarizing a real-world source (though obscure ones are acceptable). So far, I've come up with Marad, Arahim, Vasir, Jaffa and Jetar (the latter two of which have a soft 'j' sound as in bonjour). I'm leaning toward Jetar at this point. Though, Marad does also have a very appealing sound to it. I'll go with Marad. In this invented language, I decide that it translates as “Sea of Sands”. The Emirate of Marad? The Caliphate of Marad? The Caliphate of Marad. Done.A view of how I imagine Marad to be. I'll search for imagery and scenes that depict the various areas of Dragonsgate later on. Probably in a "World Tour" post of sorts.
- Our post-Reconquista Spanish nation: I've invented a couple of names that sound fitting – Andujas (I like the resemblance to barajas) and Terrego (I like the use of terra as a root), both of which have an appropriate sound. Also, I like the idea of making the name of the capital city Alatriste, a nod to the infamous Captain Alatriste, main protagonist of the works by Arturo Perez-Reverte (which, if you like swashbuckling adventures, I highly recommend). Not to sound biased, but Andujas/Terrego is already sort of becoming my favorite. In fact, I'm going to name the country Andujas, leaving Terrego to become a prominent city in the land. In this world, Andujas means “Burning Winds” as the hot siroccos from the deserts of Marad and the wastes beyond the oases that sustain the desert kingdom roll over the Kingdom, creating its characteristic temperate, dry, chapparal climate.
- The Orc/Goblin/Troll nation (which I am getting very tired of referring to it as) desperately needs a name. But that's a lot of different monsters to reconcile with one another, so I might go with a name that can be easily translated into the “Common Language”, something that they would likely always be referred to as by outside nations but would probably disdain themselves (after all, they are, if anything, poorly understood as a nation). After considering this for a while, and remembering that the Region 3 sits upon rapidly escalate to a cold plateau, I decide to call the region Pazu, which literally means “the Plateau” in Orc (yes – I just made that up right now. I don't know orcish. However, there are Tolkien scholars that do).
- The Anglo-Saxon kingdom needs a name that sounds very Medieval and quintessentially English. As such, it might be a literal name such as Wessex or Sussex – literally West Kingdom and Southern Kingdom respectively. I like the name Windmarch, and I reason that the name alludes to the oceanic breezes that pass over and through the mountains that converge at the peninsula of Windmarch.
- For our pseudo-Portuguese trade hub, I have it down to the names Ferrago and Contão. Both sound Portuguese, or at least vaguely so. Ferrago sounds the stronger of the two, but I think that Contão should still see service as another city.
- Following the logic for Windmarch, we'll employ a name that fits to the geographical identity of the country. Seagate sounds like a good name, and appropriate given how important the northern sea is to the relationship between Seagate and the Teutonic nation.
- Finally, we have only to come up with a name for the Teutonic nation. For some reason, Eindhoven comes to mind. It sounds good and seems to fit with the rough regional identity. Eindhoven it is.
Now we have our country names and we can really start jamming ahead with this campaign setting. Everything from this point is finer details that will serve to enhance the clarity of the setting and make it more servicable for active Campaign Duty. Next, we'll start delving into the history of Dragonsgate and investigating the nomenclature utilized for the rest of the geographical features, such as the woods, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas and sounds.
The current map looks very bleh, in my opinion. But that's mainly because it's meant to illustrate a few crucial pieces of information at this point, all of which are easily hidden or removed as necessary. Anyway, here's what we have so far:
Cheers until next time!