A whole new World
To hide in gems on hilt of sword
Oh boy, I’ve come to realize that I have done myself, and by extension everyone, a great disservice. Earlier on I skipped out on world design to jump right into some low-level starting action. However, now that I’m looking at investigating the systems involved within the next tier of play I’ve realized that I need a bigger sandbox to play around with than a single 24 mile hex. While working on this unpacking ACKS project for #OSRtober I’ve also been reading another of the designer’s books which has provided some additional insight as well.
Specifically I am referencing the Top Down, Zoom - In method from Chapter 7. So having drawn up a suitable and highly original map, I’ll then start off with a one paragraph high-level summary of the state of the world.
The might of the Empire was unquestionable, unmatched only by the Eternal Emperor’s ambition. Under his thousand year reign the Empire grew from a single city state along the great inland sea to a massive world spanning state. Some say the Emperor ruled with the favor of the Gods of Light and mourn his passing. Others claim that the he had made deals with the forces of darkness in order to unnaturally sustain his life and power. What is unquestionable is that following the Great Betrayal the great magics that sustained the Empire have failed, and the Beacons holding back the forces of darkness have gone out. Fractured Kingdoms wage war over the Empires carcass as invaders circle from without.
Not too much there, but a few bits of information about the existence of a former central power, plenty of questions to explore, and a establishes a few major players vying for the crown. All pretty standard stuff. And here’s a map!
So next up would be a quick sketch of the state of the greater setting (major regions, cultures, allegiances, wars). I think a slightly uglier marked up map might be handy here, so I’ll drop it in below this list so there’s some additional space between big ugly pictures. The boundaries aren’t precise, but give a general idea of the location and territory of the major players on the “world” stage.
The Frozen North - A hard land of even harder people. Having never been brought to heel by the Eternal Emperor, the folk of these lands have a strong sense of kinship and independence among their own. They live in a state of constant war either defending against the giants from the Frozen Peaks in the north or raiding settlements across the outer seas. (It’s Vikings, I mean obviously)
The Westerlands - During the height of the Empire the farms of the Westerlands produced enough food to sustain the empire three times over. Following the loss of the Emperor and the protection of the Beacons, once bountiful fields oft sit fallow as the remaining folk seek protection near the few remaining Imperial fortresses. Isolated and cut off from the greater remnants of the Empire little hope remains for outside assistance and many adventurers seek fame and fortune within.
The Imperial Court - Long ages of special treatment within the Imperial structure has made its people arrogant and dismissive of the concerns of those on the rebellious periphery. Home to the most powerful institutions of the Empire, it has also felt the death of the Emperor more than any other region as political factions within the Senate wage clandestine war against each other for the Platinum Throne.
The Ibis - Ruled by the reclusive and authoritarian Scarab Lord, this ancient empire predated the rise of the Eternal Emperor. Formerly a lush land, it is rumored it was robbed of it’s vitality and withered into desert during the Emperor’s conquest. Its people mostly live around the capital, but a small contingent of the Ibis are desert nomads seeking a way of life outside of the Scarab Lord’s control.
The Eastern Steppe - Nominally allied with the Empire during the Final Days, the nomadic steppe tribes count among their number some of the finest horsemen in the world. The tribes are slowly on the move westward from their ancient eastern lands fleeing the forces of darkness growing there since the death of the Emperor which is causing increasing pressure between them, the Imperial Court and #9 below.
Remnants of Karthas - Following the Writ of Destruction imposed upon ancient Karthas by the Eternal Emperor remnants of the Empire’s proud rivals fled inland to the west to escape his wrath. Obsequiously subservient to the Empire, rebels have worked within to undermine it since the nation’s inception. Following the death of the Emperor they seek to reclaim Karthas now that the scourging is no longer sustained by his hatred.
The Forbidden Jungles of Talavosh - Possibly one of the most unknown regions in the world. Somewhere deep within the jungles lies what the Emperor considered the greatest threat to humanity. Whatever it was that frightened the Emperor so remains a mystery.
The Blasted Waste - As the Emperor was marching his Great Host toward the Forbidden Jungles the Great Betrayal occurred resulting in a cataclysmic disruption of unknown origin or purpose. The result of which was a blasted land where no creature survived. None of the Great Host survived, and attempts to explore the Blasted Waste are only undertaken at great peril.
The Eastern Sea - This area was the last region subjugated by the Empreror. Following his death and the withdrawal of most Imperial garrisons they have returned to a loosely affiliated tribal structure of clans and Imperial remnants banded together against the coming darkness.
The Elven Deepwood - The ancient Elven kings fearing the source of the Emperor’s power withdrew into the ancestral forest and enacted a powerful ritual obscuring the lands in a thick mist befuddling travelers and attempts to scry or map the region. With the death of the Emperor the elves have begun to emerge from their seclusion.
Also have a few notable sites, but obviously not the only ones.
A. The Pillar of Fire - Isolated upon the inland sea little is known about this geometrically perfect cylinder of strange metallic alloy that projects up out of the water into the sky.
B. The Lost Bastion - Deep within the Sardun Mountains the Dwarves once delved and hoarded their great wealth. Covetous of their wealth and might the Emperor sought to bring them into the Empire and did not take the refusal of the Dwarves lightly. Some say the deadly gasses and cries of the Dwarven young still linger in the deep halls.
C. Eternium - The Imperial Capital houses some of the greatest architecture and institutions ever built by man. Now little more than a pale shadow of their former glory the Imperial Senate wars over the dead heart of the Empire while opportunistic swindlers and mercenaries extract whatever they can for their own personal gain.
D. Old Karthas - Trapped within the perpetual magical maelstrom brought forth by the Writ of Destruction centuries ago the once majestic city of Karthas was thought to be completely annihilated. However, in the years following the Emperor’s death the Maelstrom has begun to recede and rumors tell of surviving structures and creatures within. If true, perhaps the fabled library of Karthas may contain within arcane secrets lost to the ages.
E. The Eye - A large mountain (approximately 2.5 miles high) within a crystal clear lake, topped with shrines to the each of the Fourteen Gods. Said to be a sacred site beyond worldly concerns, a series of islands connected by great stone bridges leading to the 19,600 stair pathway up to the summit. Especially devout followers of a deity may seek favor here, and within the Empire it was once considered a great honor to have conducted a pilgrimage with suitable offerings to the summit.
So now I’ve got a map and a roughly one page write-up covering (super original) major notable features to accompany it. Next steps would be writing up a basic history covering (recent, modern, classical, ancient, and forgotten history) which would also be of note in the given starting region. So the next step I think is actually to pose the question to you, dear reader, where should our starting region be? What do we want to zoom in on and flesh out for the starting campaign area? Toss your suggestions in the comments and tomorrow I’ll get started on that area.