Welcome to today's #WorldbuildingWednesday post! For those of you new to this series, I'm @oblivioncubed. In this series of posts I break down what Worldbuilding means to me, how I build a setting, why I choose to build what I do, and hopefully provide you some inspiration to use in your Worldbuilding.
My world - Trothguard - is a setting I've created as a catch-all location for any tabletop RPG games I run, so everything I build is filtered through a lens of 'how will this improve the game for myself and my players?'.
Today we're looking at some of the influential characters and groups within Trothguard, starting with the highest, most abstract, group...
There are 8 officially recognized Kingdoms within Trothguard. My approach to each of them has been to flesh out some broad strokes without going into too much detail. For my tabletop game, I need to know only some basic, high-level information about each.
Who rules? Is this a monarchy, or some other system of government? Who are their main allies? Who are their enemies? What is something notable about this area? What are some of their main trade items?
Questions like this help me to provide a realistic baseline and will help to inform further decisions when I need to dive into greater detail. Each Kingdom will be the focus of it's own #WorldbuildingWednesday post in the future, so, for now, I'll keep this section limited to the name of the kingdom and a very short blurb about it. For reference, here is the old map, since the map redesign is in-progress!
Esphar: The central Kingdom on the continent. Esphar City is one of the greatest trade hubs on the continent. Once was the seat of power for the now-dead Emperor.
Shea'Han: the least political of the lands of Trothguard. Located in the top North East of the land, it is lead by Queen Laahl. Shea'Han is exclusively ruled by a Queen. It is the number one producer of fine jewelry within Trothguard, and a member of The Three. (An alliance of eastern kingdoms).
Doth'Domar: a land ruled utterly by the Church and is located in the lower southwest. Named after a legendary hero (Doth'Domar Eveal), run by Bishop Yearel and his wife Larissa, who are known for being extremely corrupt and heavy-handed. The Kingdom is haunted by misdeeds of the past.
Arabeth: is a land found in the very North West of Trothguard, this land is ruled by a powerful Warlock named Kaman. It is the predominant grain exporter on the continent. Known for several very powerful Kingdom-sponsored mercenary groups.
Sallivanoss: The largest Kingdom, situated in the north of Trothguard. Ruled by Asacul, a survivor of the Wizard Wars. They recently conquered a neighboring kingdom.
Cahl'Lagh: The backbone of The Three, and funds both the Sun Eagles and the Death Crusaders mercenary groups. It is the home of the Merchants Guild and is known for the quality and quantity of salt and glass it exports.
Aaval: The smallest of any Kingdom, and the last of The Three. It is home to one of the preeminent magic schools on Trothguard.
Mach'Lithe: Historically, this was a hub of magic learning and practice. In the Age of Emperors, this Kingdom supplied now-mythical airships to the rest of the continent. Seven schools of magic (some of which are now lost types of magic) existed there. The current status is unknown. After the death of the Last Emperor, Mach'Lithe was shut off from the rest of the world, and no-one returns from their fog-enshrouded borders.
There are a plethora of influential groups, factions, and guilds within Trothguard. Some span the continent, some influence only a kingdom, and some are localized to a particular region or city. As in any good TTRPG setting, some of the factions I've created are secret societies, and some are cults.
Each faction I build I try to approach from a narrative standpoint. They can't simply be names unmoored to any of the fiction. If they are a group with history, I try to think up a few notable events for them and ensure that they're ready for when (or if) a player does something that will allow me to drop the information on them which will in some way help them, or provide them more information about the world itself. If they're a currently active group, I try to consider how they're actively influencing the world. Beyond that, I try to make sure that at some point, the party will knowingly cross paths with an agent of that faction - perhaps even join it!
As with Kingdoms, a future post will dive into more Factions in greater detail. For now, however, an example of a continent-spanning group is:
The Curators: A secret organization that aims to collect and store powerful arcane relics. They have eyes and ears spanning the continent always looking for artifacts that could pose a danger to society. Due to the nature of the group, they often come across items that are not potential threats to the world, and those they often will sell to the highest bidder in secret auctions. Access to this group comes with many benefits, foremost among them being a steady supply of discounted magic items and equipment for purchase by its members.
One more example that I'm particularly fond of are the Dwarven 'Holy Divers'.
The Holy Divers ('Divers'): Many Dwarven tales feature the Underdark, which they believe is a freely-moving dimension, layered within the world on top of the Prime Material plane. They believe it acts like a slow moving fog, or cloud, and is limited in size. This theory springs from the changing nature of the Deep Tunnels, which sometimes may suddenly become corrupted by the Underdark - leading to dangerous new places, and cutting off access to whatever the tunnel used to lead to. Over time, the corruption may pass and make available a tunnel that had been closed for months, years, decades, or even hundreds of years. Because of this, Dwarven clerics often accompany any groups delving beyond a certain depth. These specialists maintain a connection to their deity so that when they slip into the Underdark, they feel the sudden distance between themselves and their divine source, which indicates that they've moved out of the Prime Material plane. These specialists are known as 'Divers' ["Holy Diver, you've been down too long in the midnight sea..."]. New 'Divers' have a high mortality rate, though after the first year of service, their life expectancy greatly rises and many Divers enjoy a long career - provided they don't get too comfortable and dive too deeply into the Underdark.
The Curators are designed to be a faction that is not immediately known to players but will end up being important as the game progresses. The Divers are meant for when players reach certain Dwarven communities, or as knowledge for if a player creates a Dwarven character.
When I chose how this setting would work, I knew I wanted to have my party be members of a Mercenary Company - which act as monster hunters, peace-keepers, escorts, and now-and-then even private armies.
So, I created two groups. The first was the one that my players would be part of. The second was an adversary (or at least competitor).
The Amused Kings (TAK): A fairly newly created mercenary company operating out of the Greater Rondid Area of Esphar. While only being five years old, they've made a name for themselves as being reliable and fair. This is the group designed for the players. TAK provides quests and resources for the party and also grants them the ability to fortify their camp if they're sleeping in the wilderness. Their motto is 'Forged In Adversity'. To see how I break this down in my own records, this is part of my document on TAK:
As a brief aside, I wanted to show off a prop I created for my players! I whipped up a quick badge for TAK members, which you can see here:
Kommado's Marauders: Komodo is a Dragonborn paladin, whose mercenaries take every effort to complete a job. They cost a lot to hire, but if they take your job it will be completed. The core of this group is made entirely of exiled Dragonborn, though they'll recruit any race. Their motto is "At Any Cost", and their symbol is a flaming war hammer on a black triangle. Their company colour is red.
My intent with Kommado's Marauders was to slowly pit them against the players/TAK, slowly increasing the rivalry unless the players themselves stepped in to smooth it over, or things blew up between the two companies.
These are only 4 of many factions I've created, but I hope it gives you an idea of my process behind creating a group.
Individuals of Note
Most TTRPG settings include at least a few widely notable individuals. Mine is no exception. The notable individuals I add are generally just to illustrate that the world has heroes beyond just the party and their group, or to add a bit of lighthearted fun to spice things up.
Most of the notable individuals I add come from past games or are inspired by people I have known in real life, or represent a trope I really enjoy.
Some notable individuals:
Azazel Jones 'The Devil of Avensol Isle'. Az was originally played by my friend Grayson, in a 1-on-1 game we did through Discord. He's a Tiefling who ended up befriending and later leading a group of Kobolds. In Trothguard's current history, Az and his Kobold friends (The Chromatic Crew), have formed a mercenary group whose main gig is protecting merchant caravans on the wild and dangerous Avensol Isle. As with all my former-player-character NPCs, I was given permission from Grayson to use Azazel, and will occasionally check in with him if I'm not sure what this character would do in a situation.
Durnan - Inkeeper of the Yawning Portal. Those of you familiar with D&D will immediately notice that this is a character and location that I've lifted from published material. I loved the idea of a megadungeon that tempts players with riches and dangers, and so - I tweaked it a bit and dropped it into my setting as a bit of a honey-trap.
At some point in the future, I plan to make a character based on my father, who passed away in November, 2019. I may feature that process of creating a unique and notable NPC as a full post in the future.
This post has gotten VERY long, so I'm going to end it here. Thank you again for joining me and reading!
Next #WorldbuildingWednesday we could look at Myths & Legends, Important Events in History, or Lost Magic & Ancient Artifacts.
If you have a preference, vote in the comments!!
If there's something else you'd like to ask me about, please do so! I will make every effort to answer it next Wednesday.
Thank you for reading, and happy Worldbuilding!!