Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part VI

Part V

This is the sixth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the following step.

16. Write a Half Page background describing the region and it's history.

A thousand years ago this island emerged from the Cataclysm as a bare expanse of rock and soil. Whatever existed here was obliterated in the chaos. It took a hundred years for it transform from an barren expanse to a weed choked landscape and finally back to it's original wooded condition. During that time survivors, both human and animal found themselves washed up on it shores. The humans were originally from Nemedia, one of the Five Kingdoms of the Eainans. They established several fishing hamlets in and around East Bay. In the chaos of the time they manage to carve out an oasis of tranquility due to the island's isolation and the Midland Sea's plenty.

This was all shattered when scouts of the Lich Tavaras discovered the Isle of Piall. Tavaras was one of those charged by the Dark Lord to chart the islands of the newly created sea. Tavaras decided to claim Piall as his own. In 110 AC (After the Cataclysm) he landed on the shore of the Bay of the Dead with his undead army. He quickly subjugated the fishing hamlets and enslaved the populace. He used them to build the Sable Port.

From there he explored the island taking particular interest in Mount Devon. It was originally just a rocky outcropping but the Cataclysm stripped away the surrounding soil leaving the rocky core. Within the mountains was a extensive network of caves; now dry because of the drop in the water table. There Tavaras decided to establish his stronghold More slaves, and materials were shipped in through the Sable Port and up into the mountain. On the North Downs Bone Keep was established at the center of several latifundas setup to feed the growing slave population.

Tavaras ruled Piall as his personal domain for nearly 200 years. He survived the fall of the Dark Lord and collapse of the Dark Empire. He became one of the numerous petty lords striving for mastery in the shattered remnants of the Five Kingdoms. His downfall came with the arrival of crusaders from the United Church. They brought overwhelming force and besieged Tavaras in his stronghold for nine months. In the end they were able to breach the mountain and bring down the lich lord.

After the downfall of Tavaras, Piall was incorporated as part of the County of the Isles. The Isles were part of the Grand Duchy of Nemedia a province of the Eainian Empire. When the Eainian Empire split apart around 500 AC, Piall was briefly the capital of Arwold III, one of the pretenders to the Eainian Crown. After the Civil Wars it was incorporated into the Kingdom of the Isles and granted to the Gevon family. Markon Gevon was made the first Baron of Piall in 553 AC.

It was Baron Markon Gevon who invited halflings, the Hightower family, to settle the rich bottomlands west of The Sands. A hundred years later, the friendship of Baron William Gevon with the Dwarves of Kharan led to the Darkiron Clan to establish Hawth Hold to mine Southpoint.

Over the centuries Bone Keep, and Sable Port remained abandoned. The wars that led to the foundation of the Eainian Empire did not leave much time for the crusaders to scour the island of Tavaras evil. Enough remained to make the northern half of the Isle of Piall dangerous to the unwary traveller. The Barons of Piall have kept up patrols. But since disappearance of Baron Andrew Gevon 150 years ago in Mount Devon nobody has returned to explore any of the old ruins.

Today (1000 AC) the Isle of Piall is starting to emerge from relative obscurity. The nearly Empire of Po is expansionist and Piall is on the border between the Kingdom of the Isles and Po. The King has appointed a Sheriff to survey the island and to strengthened the island's defenses. The Gevons welcome the additional gold but not sure they like a royal officer in permanent residence.

Most of the peasantry are not free having been reduced to serfdom in the wake of their liberation from Tavaras. There has been several peasant revolts on the island. 20% of the human population is free; a mix of yeomen, craftsmen, and merchants.

The human inhabitants of Piall worship Veritas. There a temple in Mikva and shrines in the other villages and hamlets. The Dwarves of Hawth are devout worshipper of Veritas in his aspect as the Soul Forger. The Halflings of Sandpoint follow Dannu the goddess of the Hearth, and Healing. They pray to her to bless the crops and their homes.

Maybe there a little more than a half page there. Then again I get carried away with this part of setting creation.

I am a history buff

It helps by making you aware of the different situation people found themselves in over the century. But not necessary to write your own fictional history.

The key elements are being aware of the time line you created and extrapolate from the initial premises.

From my general history I now the Isle of Piall was effected by the following events in following Order.

The Cataclysm
Dark Lord & the Dark Empire
The Fall of the Dark Empire
The Eainian Empire
The Civil Wars
The Kingdom of the Isles.

The Cataclysm is a bit of cop-out as it greatly simplifies the original history of the island. Simply it wiped everything was there before. I could left something in Mt Devon and may use that option later on.

Since I want a central dungeon for this mini-setting the Dark Empire sequence provides me with a convenient hook to use the cliche yet useful lich lord.

The remaining stuff up to the Kingdom of the Isle is an example of probably what not to do with backgrounds. What I call Tolkein's 1,000 year stretch. If you ever looked at the timeline in Return of the King there are hundreds of years where literally nothing has happened. Indeed remember when you watch the LOTR film trilogy that nearly 3000 years happened between the death of Islidur and Aragon. And they act as if happened a few generations ago both in the book and film.

I found that you can really flesh out about 500 years with good stuff useful for your setting. More that then you either need to writing about your setting a really long time or just have huge gaps. 500 years is equivalent to the span of time from the fall of Rome to the start of the High Middle Ages. I did think of some interesting stuff with allied Dwarves and Halflings coming onto the Island to plug the time gap.

When I come to the Kingdom of Isles I pick some idea again. I figured the freed slaves would be eventually become serfs in the feudal society that rose after the fall of the Eainian Empire. This can be used to create tension within the setting. This is an example of extrapolating from the premise.

The rest of it comes from looking at the last overall map I did with all the Kingdoms. The Empire of Po is a much larger realm to the east of the Kingdom of the Isles. Po not being one of the original Five Kingdoms it must be an expansionist empire. This could provide some external tensions to the Island.

I probably should come up with some "sea" menace. I am fairly good with coming up with human cultures and getting them to clash together to generate adventures. Not so good with the sentient monster stuff. I will try to take of that oversight in the locales and Geography Section.

That it for Part VI, next is Part VII.


Unknown said...

I'm not really good with monsters, either. I think that man is the most interesting monster.

Love your blog, btw. Great article.

GragSmash said...

I've always found the idea of human kingdoms interacting with merfolk attractive, but it always seems to end up with excessive use of magic on the human side.