za3k > archive > rich burlew's articles > the new world, part 5b: politics (continued)

The New World, Part 5b: Politics (Continued)

by Rich Burlew - originally from

(My discussion on politics continued...)

Then I need what I could call the "fourth kingdom": a nation that broke away during the current monarchs' father's rule. The second emperor was not as strong as his father (the one who built the empire), so an outlying region was able to fight back and gain independence. I think this nation should be on the other side of a difficult geographic region, such as mountains; this would explain how a small region defended against the large empire's army. This nation was heavily influenced by the empire, and thus has many related cultural traits, but since leaving they have reinstated some of the older traditions of their barbarian roots. Rather than a king, they have a Council of Elders for the entire nation, though in practice they are little more than shared dictators. Still, they are relatively benevolent.

Now, the nations of the two oldest children of the old emperor (let's call them Kingdoms A and B) would both love to conquer the fourth kingdom (Kingdom D). However, doing so would expend enough resources to possibly weaken them against attack from the other. Further, Kingdom D just recently established a very public alliance with the youngest son's lands (Kingdom C), and it is unlikely that A or B alone could defeat both lands if it came to all-out war. Of course, if A and B had an alliance and fought together, they would win, but neither ruler trusts the other sibling enough. Thus, there is a delicate balance of power between the 4 kingdoms, where any shift could lead to war.

How about the barbarians? In the interest of symmetry, let's have there be three main barbarian nations that were never conquered by the empire. Though unlike the civilized nations, they are based strictly on ethnic ties rather than geography or law. These three nations would fight each other frequently before the empire came, but now they have something of a truce. They often have to deal with groups of knights riding out from the kingdoms, looking for resources or conquest, and they have to deal with gnoll attacks from the far north as well. Every year they lose more people than are born. Their druid religion is hated by the formal church, who encourages its priests to convert druids to the formal worship of the Sun and Moon. Basically, their way of life is dying and they are just too stubborn to go quietly.

It's important when making a campaign world to be certain that any potential character concept can actually be played successfully. For example, I just established that barbarians are essentially in a state of aggression with the civilized kingdoms. But what if the DM is running a campaign revolving around a particular lord's estate and one player wants to play a barbarian? I don't want to make it difficult for that character to move around the nation, and I don't want him to be attacked on sight or anything. Thus I need to put an "out" into the setting; a way in which barbarians can travel through civilized nations without always being hassled.

My thoughts are stuck on this for a while, but I think I've come up with something. The civilization that exists has only been around for three generations; not that long in the grand scheme of things. Many of the people living in the kingdoms might still maintain certain "barbaric" styles, making it less certain as to who might be an outsider. Plus, the barbarians are not going to be fantasy stereotypes with bearskin cloaks and oiled muscles. A barbarian is going to be more like the Celts or the Goths, someone who follows a different culture but is just as advanced (or perhaps a touch less so, since they will not have cities and such). So even being able to pick out a barbarian from a commoner will be difficult.

In fact, let's ditch the word "barbarian". With no D&D; class of the same name to support, I can call those nations whatever I want. I'll think on that and get back to it later.

I'll put in one last piece of the puzzle: When the dying emperor split up the kingdom, he couldn't let the seat of the two churches, Sun and Moon, lie in any of the three newly created nations. To do so would give that heir a distinct advantage in terms of public support. So he created two independent states, each one just the size of a city, each one controlled by one church. They are more or less defenseless-just a small corps of dedicated defenders-but each kingdom knows that any hostility towards either church-state would result in a large-scale revolt of their populace. Of course, the churches don't reciprocate, and constantly poke their noses into the politics of the other kingdoms.

I think I have a firm grasp on the way these nations relate to one another. Next, maybe I'll start considering geography.