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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    This is a parallel universe Earth, the continents are the same, the flora and fauna is the same. This Earth is a copy of our Earth taken 10,000 years ago, this is before the earliest civilizations arose on the fertile crescent. The Earth 10,000 years ago is modern Earth before human civilization was established, the neanderthal are extinct, this is after the last ice age. Modern humans live with rudimentary agriculture, animal husbandry, and then we dump a bunch of fantasy races on them 10,000 years ago.

    About 5000 years ago, the first civilizations develop in this magical world, these aren't the ancient civilizations we're familiar with, some of them are elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, some are human, and some are races such as orcs, ogres, giants dragons and so forth.

    At the present time, this world is technologically similar to Renassance Europe, these aren't nations we know from the history books. Across Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, a common language is spoken. This is the result of an empire that broke apart and collapsed 300 years ago, they worshipped their own pantheon of gods, not any that we are familiar with. The inhabitants of Europe look like Europeans, but they belong to no familiar culture, other than it is vaguely European, there is feudalism, there are kingdoms.

    So what would you put on this blank slate?

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    This is a parallel universe Earth, the continents are the same, the flora and fauna is the same. This Earth is a copy of our Earth taken 10,000 years ago, this is before the earliest civilizations arose on the fertile crescent. The Earth 10,000 years ago is modern Earth before human civilization was established, the neanderthal are extinct, this is after the last ice age. Modern humans live with rudimentary agriculture, animal husbandry, and then we dump a bunch of fantasy races on them 10,000 years ago.

    About 5000 years ago, the first civilizations develop in this magical world, these aren't the ancient civilizations we're familiar with, some of them are elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, some are human, and some are races such as orcs, ogres, giants dragons and so forth.
    Historically the first human civilizations were very much developing circa 10,000 years ago. Jericho existed by this point, and other town sites such as Catalhoyuk show occupation from a few centuries thereafter. So unless the sudden appearance of fantasy races set civilization back significantly (not implausible) by 5,000 years ago you should have fairly significant early civs. The Near East was transitioning into the Bronze Age by 5,000 years ago (3,000 BCE), with writing by 4,500 years ago.

    More broadly, in this scenario, if you assume all fantasy species emerge from a standing start 10,000 years ago in a roughly equal position, if you really want a blank slate you need to make choices about the contours of your history. This greatly depends upon which edition of D&D you are using. In 3.X D&D in particular whichever species wins the race for magic and hits high-level spellcasting first (and to some extent it's not even a matter of species but which specific individual) is in a position to ruthlessly dominate the world and reshape it according to their desires. At the same time, the lack of technologies and the lower population densities they enforce as a result from the beginning of agriculture vastly inflate the advantages of intelligent monsters to dominate lesser humanoids, especially before magic (and magical items) become commonplace.

    The possible outcomes are nearly limitless, since you can tweak events according to your desire, but the chain of events intended to give you a shared language across multiple continents vaguely European feudal structure from this scenario is extremely unlikely to occur by chance.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    I would definitely go with having an individual with powerful magic have created a vast empire at some point. This gives a good basis for having a shared language. If you go with a close resemblance to actual history, in that population density stays low and long distance travel is rare, you would need a reason for them to not have many different languages. Language would develop and change in small areas, but the formation of an empire would give reason for a common language. I would then write in the fall of this empire as others developed magic and could break free from the control of the emperor. Possibly even simply from his death. Power struggles would inevitability ensue if the one powerful person keeping everyone in line died.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Information that would help clarify this picture:

    Your timeline is...insert fantasy beings into "the Earth" during the time when the Ice Age is over, sedentarism is becoming possible because of domestication, but populations haven't developed the imbalance of population growth versus food supply that leads to the unstable expand-crisis-collapse cycle of conquest and social control that drives formation of politics and warfare, and thus "civilization?"...then advance five thousand years and there's a Renaissance-y Europe? Is that correct?

    Your timeline is not right w/r/t when sedentary life starts, but I'm going to go for the feel rather than the chronology.

    So...basically what happens at the start is really important and requires thought.

    One, it matters what the fantasy beings bring with them. Both their knowledge economy--metallurgy, agriculture, science--and their material goods, but especially any magic--no matter how basicaly or mild in power. All of the above are technological (yes, magic is technology in that it provides functional advantage, even if it's not understood how it works) advantage relative to the present Stone Age peoples. In particular, knowledge that increases available calories or improved mortality rates is a killer app. Given the specific scenario, military tech also matters since this kind of mass migration would like end up in conflict in at least some hot spots. But "peaceful" tech like anything that improved ease of movement--wheel designs, cart/chariot design features, saddle design, animal training--would be an advantage.

    One and a quarter, non-sapient fantasy critters are invasive species completing with established flora and fauna. Which could potentially go down about as well as...dingos versus thylacines, or anything versus the dodo. Trying to wedge all the fantasy apex predators into an actual food web makes me want to drink. This is so big it merits it own post, but you've asked about geopolitics so I'm not going to belabor it. Fantasy domesticated animals and plants fall in the category of "technology," though. A thing that can be grown or raised to create calories in a hostile environment is an advantage. Ditto thing that can be trained to labor.

    One and a half, chonky magic beings like ogres and dragons are basically a new megafauna, and would immediately impact where ever the settled...and the bigger the critter, the more drastic and rapid the impact. Whole ecosystems are built around the big herbivores, and new big critters would being to alter the landscape if they were concentrated...if for no other reason than how much they eat and excrete. "Smart" megafauna in particular would have a disportionate impact on the environment...and anybody that got in their way.

    One and three quarters, long-lived-compared-to-people races would begin to be an advantage in the knowledge economy pretty quick, particularly in a pre-literate period where information was retained by memorization and communciated by practice of recitation. Over a five-thousand-year arc, that advantage would compound like interest as one prolonged expert took that time and care to explore and communicate the full extent of their knowledge.

    Two, rate matters, both in terms of head count per arrival and numbers of arrival events per year. Extra humanoids with the same needs as humans turning up en masse are effectively a mass migration, landing in a location that has subsistence-level agriculture and thus no means to supply. If the Monster Manual drops all in one go, it's a massive food crisis that taxes both forage and cultivated food resources...and keep in mind, that sedentary "civilization" at this time developed in a few key locations because of domesticate-able grain, but the world was populated throughout by foragers, pastoralists, and mixed-subsistence peoples, so this problem wounds all heels everywhere. If the rate is slower than "everybody arrives in one go" then maybe it's manageable, but there'd still be flash-fires of localized conflict. If the rate was very slow, then the arrivers (particularly the humanoids and small critters) would be in a position of vulnerability.

    Three, location matters. This dovetails with rate of arrival: where these critters drop on the planet sets the tone of what happens next. Density increases the likelihood of things going wrong...food crisis, warfare, epidemic...and since we're talking about a Werther's Original Assortment of critters and dudes, different kinds of critters and dudes all bunched up in one location is a tinder box. Nonsapient critters are will die, adapt, or move to favorable locations tout de suite, in a roughly Darwinian fashion. Sapient creatures, however, will adapt or move in a manner dictated by culture as much as by biological need...meaning they have choices that critters don't like trading with the locals or trying to assimilate; acquiring local knowledge to plan travel to a site that seems right, planning a democide to replace an existing population,

    And since we're using a real Earth geography, specific location matters because it determines (1) what's around to subsist on, (2) what conditions you're trying to survive, (3) how hard it is to move around or move to another location. Things that land in region that's easy to live in for them (and in the "easy" weather season) will survive. Things that drop into a hostile place--or hostile to them--won't. So humanoids landing in between the Caucasus Mountains will likely do better than ones that arrive in, say, the Rubh al Khali, all other things being equals. Specialized make-no-sense fantasy critters and dudes represent a special case, since they're an invasive species in a shallow ecosystem. So an ice dragon in the Arctic Circle or up in the Himalayas is basically just winning from the get-go, since the only thing they have to fear is other ice fantasy creatures and coronary artery failure from a diet of seal, reindeer, and reindeer herders.

    Integrating "rate" and "location," this process of appearance-from-elsewhere is going to trigger the same geopolitical problems that mass movement has caused always, filtered through conditions of Who Has More Power, Who Is Desperate, and Who Is Most Cruel.

    Four, culture matters. Okay, so...[pours glass of brandy]...fantasy being cultures aren't very welled rounded and are quite often Making No Damn Sense At All because they're literary constructs notable in how they are different, or different-but-reflective-of, the (human) culture of (story) origin. They lack all the boring mundane bottom-up stuff that actually sets the tone of a culture like environmental determinism, kinship rules, subsistence economy. With centuries of folklore and a century of literary fantasy, fantasy beings cultures are also effectively tropes such that "elf" immediately lends itself a cluster of assumptions about "elf culture"--trees, bows, emo-ness, nature-loving--rather than "elf culture" adapting to different environments. In the Watsonian frame, this is because a lot of fantasy humanoids are special divine creations with pre-assigned qualia; in the Doyleian frame, it's because fantasy humanoids are generally literary devices and thus their character and culture is by design gestural and nonspecific. Individual authors have done more or less to try to round the out, but it's basically impossible to create top-down what forms bottom up, resulting in a lack of nuance, regional character, and in-culture vocab that results in all dwarves being one culture, etc, etc.

    This doesn't mesh well with...reality...and thus impacts this scenario.

    (while I finish this brandy please note that I am not saying Thing Bad, but rather that the gritty bits that make a culture aren't really your prime target for fiction writing. Most people do not read about a Dwarven inside-a-mountain city and think about where the excreta goes and what the air circulation is like, but culture is made of visceral details that add up to a worldview. )

    If dwarves are tropic mountain-and-cave dwellers that form clans (no full explanation on how they feed themselves--fungus I guess), fantasy caves aren't really a thing on Earth, and mountain range tend to be chock full of hill and valley past people (an especially fighty group, forever)...so where do dwarves go, given a choice? Is it preferable to keep migrating until they find ideal conditions, or do they merge into a local community by providing labor and/or a new set of skills? If an elf ends up on the Mediterranean coast among the olive groves, is that an acceptable way to live and eat and be, or are they going to bee-line for a proper forest?

    My take when I world-build is that fantasy humanoids are cultural, and I go out of my way to make them cultural...in which case, there's no right answer and over five thousand years there will be many fantasy humanoid cultures developing in parallel under different conditions. But if you want them to be associated with their tropes, then the map should reflect that.

    Four and a half...intersectional culture matters too. Fantasy beings tend to be written with the assumption that they exist alongside human culture, and are at least somewhat familiar with it, and in many cases fantasy humanoids and critters overlap such that, say, dwarves and elves have working knowledge of what one another are, and both have working understanding of what a dragon is, regardless of whether they've interacted with one personally.

    For example, elves are not just sylvan, but consistently depicted as a dying elder race in relation to the short-lived but more prolific and vigorous humans...in an established setting where most of the land is held by humans and transformed by humans. Set elves down in a world where there's very little agriculture or development of land...who are they?

    This is especially important with the Mostly-Antagonistic types like orcs...who are they when they can win, because they're not up against a fully-developed nation-state? Given the chance to settle and labor with humans, or settle and rule over humans, who would they be?

    This openness gets especially weird when you look at early men interfacing with things that are bigger/older/scarier than them. Some fantasy beings...like dragons or the fancier varieties of giants...are beings that aren't on a human scale at all, to the point that they're worthy of worship, or at least appeasement.

    Again, none of this needs to have one answer, and IMO it's better if over five millenia there is more than one answer and they are contradictory. But it's not my scenario.

    This is getting long, but I'll probably be back with some specifics.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    One and a quarter, non-sapient fantasy critters are invasive species completing with established flora and fauna. Which could potentially go down about as well as...dingos versus thylacines, or anything versus the dodo. Trying to wedge all the fantasy apex predators into an actual food web makes me want to drink. This is so big it merits it own post, but you've asked about geopolitics so I'm not going to belabor it. Fantasy domesticated animals and plants fall in the category of "technology," though. A thing that can be grown or raised to create calories in a hostile environment is an advantage. Ditto thing that can be trained to labor.

    One and a half, chonky magic beings like ogres and dragons are basically a new megafauna, and would immediately impact where ever the settled...and the bigger the critter, the more drastic and rapid the impact. Whole ecosystems are built around the big herbivores, and new big critters would being to alter the landscape if they were concentrated...if for no other reason than how much they eat and excrete. "Smart" megafauna in particular would have a disportionate impact on the environment...and anybody that got in their way.
    The various sapient monsters are more like whole new species than megafauna, the way I see it, especially ones with anything like a normal reproductive rate. Dragons might have a weird life cycle, but something like a Centaur, Harpy, or Minotaur faces no such restraints and has abilities considerably in excess of the LA +0 racial baseline.

    Ultimately I think you need to make a list of the monsters that meet the following conditions:
    1. form strong social groups
    2. reproduce rapidly
    3. inherently aggressive

    Then you have to decide which one of these inherits the Earth or, if they don't, what is stopping them from doing so.

    Oh, I also think that a bare minimum this scenario mandates the following cheat: no outsiders or undead to start. They can't show up until summoned/created. Otherwise life either goes extinct or falls under the complete dominance of an extraplanar faction more or less instantly.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The various sapient monsters are more like whole new species than megafauna, the way I see it, especially ones with anything like a normal reproductive rate. Dragons might have a weird life cycle, but something like a Centaur, Harpy, or Minotaur faces no such restraints and has abilities considerably in excess of the LA +0 racial baseline.

    Ultimately I think you need to make a list of the monsters that meet the following conditions:
    1. form strong social groups
    2. reproduce rapidly
    3. inherently aggressive

    Then you have to decide which one of these inherits the Earth or, if they don't, what is stopping them from doing so.

    Oh, I also think that a bare minimum this scenario mandates the following cheat: no outsiders or undead to start. They can't show up until summoned/created. Otherwise life either goes extinct or falls under the complete dominance of an extraplanar faction more or less instantly.
    Eh, I don't think the scenario can be cheated because there's basically infinite outcomes. The total annihilation ones come into focus first, because fantasy settings are basically built around the premise of a clown car's worth of Mutually Assured Destruction scenarios co-occurring at all times, yet there always being a Chosen One or band of plucky adventurers. Drop the queued-up existential threat conga line into a "realistic" history and cynicism says everybody's dead thrice over.

    Really it's just about finding justifications that feel whole and functional for the state-of-play as you want it to be. For all of my talk about population and ecology and migration timing, it's just an armature to reify available choices, and in this case to provide a scaffold for a story about why the desired outcome is the versimilitudinous outcome.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The various sapient monsters are more like whole new species than megafauna, the way I see it, especially ones with anything like a normal reproductive rate. Dragons might have a weird life cycle, but something like a Centaur, Harpy, or Minotaur faces no such restraints and has abilities considerably in excess of the LA +0 racial baseline.

    Ultimately I think you need to make a list of the monsters that meet the following conditions:
    1. form strong social groups
    2. reproduce rapidly
    3. inherently aggressive

    Then you have to decide which one of these inherits the Earth or, if they don't, what is stopping them from doing so.

    Oh, I also think that a bare minimum this scenario mandates the following cheat: no outsiders or undead to start. They can't show up until summoned/created. Otherwise life either goes extinct or falls under the complete dominance of an extraplanar faction more or less instantly.
    One idea is to dump most of the fantasy creatures in the New World. In the Old World, an empire develops, it's Capitol happens to be located in what would be Denmark in out world. This is a vast empire, towards its end, it develops the means to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and that's when disaster happens. A plague is spread through this contact killing off 90% of the population on both sides of the Atlantic. THE COMMON EMPIRE collapses and breaks up into a number of nation states as a result. Many cities are abandoned and fall into ruins.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    One idea is to dump most of the fantasy creatures in the New World. In the Old World, an empire develops, it's Capitol happens to be located in what would be Denmark in out world. This is a vast empire, towards its end, it develops the means to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and that's when disaster happens. A plague is spread through this contact killing off 90% of the population on both sides of the Atlantic. THE COMMON EMPIRE collapses and breaks up into a number of nation states as a result. Many cities are abandoned and fall into ruins.
    The 5000 years ago timeline means that fantasy races dropped into North America could have seriously impacted the migrations if indigenous peoples into the Americas. How it was impacted would be a pretty solid thread all on it's own.

    Focusing on semi-realworld Europe, for the moment, there is a rather import question that was mentioned above. What is the tech level of the new additions? Dwarves without forging and elves without bows and magic would be little better than humans. Orcs, gnolls, and ogres would be quite deadly as stone age brutes. This might easily flip the traditional dynamics between races. I would expect that this fallen empire would have been a kingdom of monsters rather than magic. Magic, or metallurgy would probably have been the cause of its downfall. The psychological scars of generations of slavery by evil humanoids would be great justification for an isolationist dark age after the fall.



    Alright. Time to start answering some of the important questions (several have already been asked but I haven't seen answers.)

    1. Where do the fantasy races appear.


    2. Do they appear at once or in waves?


    3. What is their tech level?


    4. Do they have any direction. I.e. "go forth and multiply."
    Last edited by redwizard007; 2019-08-28 at 07:02 AM. Reason: Adding questions

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by redwizard007 View Post
    The 5000 years ago timeline means that fantasy races dropped into North America could have seriously impacted the migrations if indigenous peoples into the Americas. How it was impacted would be a pretty solid thread all on it's own.

    Focusing on semi-realworld Europe, for the moment, there is a rather import question that was mentioned above. What is the tech level of the new additions? Dwarves without forging and elves without bows and magic would be little better than humans. Orcs, gnolls, and ogres would be quite deadly as stone age brutes. This might easily flip the traditional dynamics between races. I would expect that this fallen empire would have been a kingdom of monsters rather than magic. Magic, or metallurgy would probably have been the cause of its downfall. The psychological scars of generations of slavery by evil humanoids would be great justification for an isolationist dark age after the fall.



    Alright. Time to start answering some of the important questions (several have already been asked but I haven't seen answers.)

    1. Where do the fantasy races appear.


    2. Do they appear at once or in waves?


    3. What is their tech level?


    4. Do they have any direction. I.e. "go forth and multiply."
    The Americas were the last two continents to be occupied by humans, i believe that was 18,000 years ago. Before that, there were humans elsewhere but not in the Americas. Since the Americas were inhabited the least, it would be the least disruptive if fantasy races were to appear there.

    About 5000 years ago, there was a kingdom called Myth Drannor in the Forgotten Realms, lets say a gate opened up between there, and the shore of Lake Michigan in what would the the site of Chicago, of course there was no city there then, but elves and other fantasy races poured through and then the gate closed. The fantasy races had medeaval technology, the native americans suffered from plague upon first contact, their population diminished and then stabilized, the elves set up a kingdom in the heart of North America and it spread to the east coast all the way down to Florida. The elves stayed east of the Mississippi, while the native American humans were pushed to the west. Dwarves moved to the Appalacian mountains. The elves and the dwarves weren't much interested in the great plains of the desert.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    If the "fantasy races" show up anywhere 5000 years ago with "medieval tech", the world becomes unrecognizable long before present.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    If the "fantasy races" show up anywhere 5000 years ago with "medieval tech", the world becomes unrecognizable long before present.
    Assuming progress is inevitable. Most of the technological advancements before the 16th century were accidental. Gunpowder was invented long before there were any guns. The Romans could easily have invented the printing press but didn't. Elves have very long lives, so 5000 years for them is more like 1000 years.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Assuming progress is inevitable. Most of the technological advancements before the 16th century were accidental. Gunpowder was invented long before there were any guns. The Romans could easily have invented the printing press but didn't. Elves have very long lives, so 5000 years for them is more like 1000 years.
    No, "assuming" that medieval technology is a game-changer in a world that's not even firmly in the bronze age yet (which it absolutely is).

    And not assuming that innovation is generational such that longer-lived species innovate more slowly.

    In fact, one of the issues that causes invention to happen in fits and starts until a certain point is the lack of accumulated knowledge and lack of shared knowledge. An being that lives 1000 years is more likely to personally come across and accumulate all the necessary the necessary knowledge and experience to put the pieces together and come up with something novel.

    On the specific example of gunpowder, you have it backwards, maybe because of the name. Gunpowder wasn't just sitting there waiting around for the gun, there were already other things being done with it... the gun was invented to take advantage of the properties of gunpowder. The gun probably wouldn't have been invented in the first place without gunpowder or something like already being known.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-08-28 at 04:57 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Well lets drop some elves with medieval tech levels....So they have horses, wheels, iron and even steel....

    Okay they are the new PIE speakers that blow out and expand at their neighbors expense...just for example.


    and I'd agree that with 700 years of adult life an elf is MORE likely to innovate than a human with 35 years because they are more likely to have a wide range of experience...They have enough time to master a field and have time after to push the boundaries of new knowledge..they also have the time to collect wide ranges of knowledge and learn how to combine them.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Assuming progress is inevitable. Most of the technological advancements before the 16th century were accidental. Gunpowder was invented long before there were any guns. The Romans could easily have invented the printing press but didn't. Elves have very long lives, so 5000 years for them is more like 1000 years.
    It's not just a function of progress of technology--fantasy humanoids plus medieval tech plus magic arriving in a Stone Age world is going to end up becoming colonialism. Ranging according to circumstance from "old-fashioned empire building through horror and death emptying out the land" to "completely destroying the natives' way of life so that they can better function as labor in your economy, regardless of your nice intentions."

    The locals, be they primitive agriculturalists or nomads...and there would be a lot of the latter in the places that are anything but flood plains with an edible grass...are screwed in ways readily demonstrated by historical examples of contact where the arriving group with the advantages want the kind of resources that maintain a sedentary, monetized economy with an agricultural base supporting specialist manufacturing labor.

    Basically, there'd be a lot of places with no people, because of a lot of little genocides of forest-dwellers and hunter-gatherers who were just in the way. And a bunch of places where people were...concentrated...to function as labor, but also to free up land because medieval standards of living presume and require hierarchy and division of land holding within the hierarchy. "Humans breed fast and live comparatively short" makes them excellent replaceable chattel. And maybe a bit of divide-and-conquer where one group of humans was raised up to be almost-as-good-as-elves so long as they smashed down all the other groups.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    At the present time, this world is technologically similar to Renassance Europe, these aren't nations we know from the history books. Across Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, a common language is spoken. This is the result of an empire that broke apart and collapsed 300 years ago, they worshipped their own pantheon of gods, not any that we are familiar with. The inhabitants of Europe look like Europeans, but they belong to no familiar culture, other than it is vaguely European, there is feudalism, there are kingdoms.

    So what would you put on this blank slate?
    What blank slate? You specified a lot of history in your final paragraph—the slate ain't blank.

    Anyways, I'm not sure how much things would change. It depends in part on what edition we're basing the rules off of and how common mid-level people are, and in particular how common (or extant) spells like remove disease are in this world.
    Perhaps more importantly, it depends on how much innovation is determined to affect what magic is available. If all magic in the core rulebook, from prestidigitation to miracle, was available from the Mesolithic, one would expect the world to develop more "evenly," with productive agriculture arising rapidly all across the world thanks to druidic efforts, technology being developed to supplement magic, etc. On the other hand, if inventing new spells and spell levels required full-time specialists making discoveries in their field, we would expect to see global stratification increased, as societies who could feed higher proportions of specialists would have even greater advantages over their neighbors, while those societies' leaders would have more tools to enforce their power over the lower classes.
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    Ah, thank you very much GreatWyrmGold, you obviously live up to that name with your intelligence and wisdom with that post.
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Well lets drop some elves with medieval tech levels....So they have horses, wheels, iron and even steel....

    Okay they are the new PIE speakers that blow out and expand at their neighbors expense...just for example.


    and I'd agree that with 700 years of adult life an elf is MORE likely to innovate than a human with 35 years because they are more likely to have a wide range of experience...They have enough time to master a field and have time after to push the boundaries of new knowledge..they also have the time to collect wide ranges of knowledge and learn how to combine them.
    Elves would develop differently than humans would. I'm assuming they come through a magical gate, and then some incident or accident closes that gate forever. Elves live longer and have fewer children, so the population grows more slowly, they also prefer the forest, and on the continent of North America, there is more forest to the east than the west, so i think they will expand in that direction.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    Elves would develop differently than humans would. I'm assuming they come through a magical gate, and then some incident or accident closes that gate forever. Elves live longer and have fewer children, so the population grows more slowly, they also prefer the forest, and on the continent of North America, there is more forest to the east than the west, so i think they will expand in that direction.
    or just take over the humans in the forested areas of Europe, Iran, North Africa, and the shadow of Tien Shan etc (and form a dominant noble system or hunt the humans out of existence)...

    It was more to point out just how huge an impact dropping a few people with 7-9th century tech in a bronze age world would do.
    and its not like they couldn't take both forest and steppe routes since the elves could easily five animal nomad their lifestyle pretty easily (less sleep, good sense, sword and bow) makes a good nomad ...esp since they would be less likely to slash and burn the american west. A lot of the Middle east was scrub forest even in the year 2000bc so they would be very happy there. heck New Mexico had lots more pinyon pine forest in a area we now just call desert....so did a lot of the american west...which if the elves moved into would be subject to less human messing with etc. so even the very climate of places would be different.

    I'm mostly pointing out that

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    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    ...esp since they would be less likely to slash and burn the american west.
    What? I'm pretty sure slash-and-burn agriculture is only practiced in rainforests, where various nutrients are almost entirely bound up in the trees, meaning that you can't grow anything new without destroying something. The American west doesn't have that problem.
    Now, Great Plains Amerindians sometimes set the plains on fire, but they were basically just setting off controlled versions of the wildfires that are a critical part of the savannah ecosystem. If the elves weren't practicing modern forestry techniques (specifically, the "don't let any wildfires burn more than they need to, even if this leads to an unnatural, potentially dangerous buildup of deadwood and flammable saplings and whatnot"), they'd have no reason not to do the same...and I don't think those techniques are officially used by any D&D elves outside the Order of the Stick setting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    What? I'm pretty sure slash-and-burn agriculture is only practiced in rainforests, where various nutrients are almost entirely bound up in the trees, meaning that you can't grow anything new without destroying something. The American west doesn't have that problem.
    Now, Great Plains Amerindians sometimes set the plains on fire, but they were basically just setting off controlled versions of the wildfires that are a critical part of the savannah ecosystem. If the elves weren't practicing modern forestry techniques (specifically, the "don't let any wildfires burn more than they need to, even if this leads to an unnatural, potentially dangerous buildup of deadwood and flammable saplings and whatnot"), they'd have no reason not to do the same...and I don't think those techniques are officially used by any D&D elves outside the Order of the Stick setting.
    Slash-and-burn is used far more broadly than in rainforests, and can actually be used in grasslands, since it ultimately refers simply to using fire to clear out the existing vegetation for the purposes of crop planting. Prior to the development of modern plows, it was often almost impossible to prep an area for tillage without using fire due to extensive root systems.

    As to elves, the whole 'elves live in forests' trope has always been problematic because elves have to eat, and they have cities, so they need to have agriculture, but it's never been well established how the elves grow their crops in forests (Tolkien was absolutely unconcerned with that particular issue). Intensive forest-based cropping systems are possible, but they still require a fairly dramatic transformation of the forest from its natural state.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Slash-and-burn is used far more broadly than in rainforests, and can actually be used in grasslands, since it ultimately refers simply to using fire to clear out the existing vegetation for the purposes of crop planting. Prior to the development of modern plows, it was often almost impossible to prep an area for tillage without using fire due to extensive root systems.

    As to elves, the whole 'elves live in forests' trope has always been problematic because elves have to eat, and they have cities, so they need to have agriculture, but it's never been well established how the elves grow their crops in forests (Tolkien was absolutely unconcerned with that particular issue). Intensive forest-based cropping systems are possible, but they still require a fairly dramatic transformation of the forest from its natural state.
    I never heard of urban elves. Perhaps the problem is in putting elves in cities. Native americans didn't live in cities north of Mexico, they had villages but not cities. They lived off the land. Forest can provide food for low population concentrations, basically you hunt and keep on moving to whereever there is game to hunt. Hunting is less destructive to an environment than agriculture, if done in moderstion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    I never heard of urban elves. Perhaps the problem is in putting elves in cities. Native americans didn't live in cities north of Mexico, they had villages but not cities. They lived off the land. Forest can provide food for low population concentrations, basically you hunt and keep on moving to whereever there is game to hunt. Hunting is less destructive to an environment than agriculture, if done in moderstion.
    Without going into too nuch detail, there were sone "urban" civilazations in what is now the US, but they had collapsed by the time Europeans started exploring.
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Which D&D edition? 3.5? 5? 4? 2?
    What levels are "high level" in the setting? 6? 9? 12? 15? 18? 20? Epic?
    How many species rolled in? What were their numbers?

    There are kingdoms and feudalism, though, so there are probably Sorcerer rulers. If it's 3.5, high level is probably six? I don't know the other editions well enough to know when it just starts wrecking all historical societal models - In 3.5, an Everful larder costs 15k and feeds about 75k people a day and in 4, there are teleportation circles. I don't know enough about 5 to say.

    Honestly, Clerics (even under the Eberron model) wreck most societies even at level one. Paladins are even worse. Why would you obey the strongest thug when you can obey people who are bound by holy obligation to serve the gods and are evidenced by miracles? Why serve an evil god's devotees when you can serve the devotees of hallowed light? Even if the only requirement is that they not do things which they believe would make them fall and that they truly believe in their god, the sheer amount of leash that represents is a huge benefit to any society that abides by it. 4e Clerics/Paladins are exceptions, but 5e Paladins are not.

    EDIT: Also, dragons don't dominate the whole world why?
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    Quote Originally Posted by White Blade View Post
    Which D&D edition? 3.5? 5? 4? 2?
    What levels are "high level" in the setting? 6? 9? 12? 15? 18? 20? Epic?
    How many species rolled in? What were their numbers?

    There are kingdoms and feudalism, though, so there are probably Sorcerer rulers. If it's 3.5, high level is probably six? I don't know the other editions well enough to know when it just starts wrecking all historical societal models - In 3.5, an Everful larder costs 15k and feeds about 75k people a day and in 4, there are teleportation circles. I don't know enough about 5 to say.

    Honestly, Clerics (even under the Eberron model) wreck most societies even at level one. Paladins are even worse. Why would you obey the strongest thug when you can obey people who are bound by holy obligation to serve the gods and are evidenced by miracles? Why serve an evil god's devotees when you can serve the devotees of hallowed light? Even if the only requirement is that they not do things which they believe would make them fall and that they truly believe in their god, the sheer amount of leash that represents is a huge benefit to any society that abides by it. 4e Clerics/Paladins are exceptions, but 5e Paladins are not.

    EDIT: Also, dragons don't dominate the whole world why?
    I use 3.5, 1st edition Pathfinder rules could also be used. I kind of wish they would just work on the setting instead of constantly "improving" the rules!

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    As to elves, the whole 'elves live in forests' trope has always been problematic because elves have to eat, and they have cities, so they need to have agriculture...
    Depending on your definition of "city" and the local environment, that's not necessarily true. There have been a fair number of societies in unusually-fertile areas who managed a settled hunter-gatherer lifestyle (for instance the Pacific Northwest Native Americans). Even without getting into the blurry line between hunter-gatherer and farmer, there's plenty of room for elven settlements, especially once nature magic comes into play.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kalbfus View Post
    I use 3.5, 1st edition Pathfinder rules could also be used. I kind of wish they would just work on the setting instead of constantly "improving" the rules!
    The setting works perfectly fine for what they want it to do. It facilitates a wide variety of adventure ideas and obstructs as few as possible. I'm not happy with that being the be-all end-all of their design goals, but it works.
    (Also, didn't 4e catch a lot of flak for, among other things, messing with traditional lore?)
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    Okay, so I think the important thing is to try and reach the end-point of the design--that the state of play is a Renaissance Europe split between a mix of human natives and transplant fantasy beings, and while I love, love deep dives into deterministic patterns into what makes a society have its shape...

    ...that kind of discussion runs aground when trying to contrast the Makes No Sense ecology and economy of fantasy relative to the very stodgy and accountancy-heavy features that make Earth cultures march along. Integration in a way that feels logical isn't actually possible, nor is a way that actually obeys population rules and geographic determinism would require enormous effort most of which would never turn up on the page if this were a novel or a game.

    I know this because I have been the guy who did all that background and discovered that most of it just doesn't wedge anywhere. Lore is allowed to be a pleasant diversion to create verisimilitude. Even Tolkien's deep history setting was mythopoetic not an anthropological survey. And I'm an anthropologist who digs him some Tolkien. When I drop big wodges of text it's in an attempt to provide the semblance of order and process to what's going to be a big creative endeavor that could spin out with too much detail, not saying "no the setting can't happen."

    With that in mind, I would propose something to both the querent and the quorum:
    • With this type of query, it is more important to capture the "feel" than depict the "realistic." Fantasy is always about versimilitude...even the super detailed stuff that I like and create...not veracity. Working backwards from the conclusion is pretty much necessary.
    • To launch the project, forget about the formal timeline of "x millennia ago relative to modern dating methods." Keep time deliberately vague and speak instead in terms of ages and major events. The querent has described that the arrival event starts during theNeolithic Revolution, but that the state of play is five millennia out, but has a specific end point he wants--Renaissance. That's doable, because technically everything's doable.
    • World design is very complex and invariably pulls in several sphere of information--history, geography, anthropology, mythology--but it is ultimately still a creative project where it is perfectly okay to discard "reasonable" projections and speculations, as long as you create a good story for it.
    • The only way not get mired in analysis (he said, mired in analysis like a mastodon in a tar pit) is to make bold choices and use that crunchy "realism" to ornament it.
    • I make one exception to this, which is dealing with highly delicate subjects, in which case it's important to fully tease out what a sensitive subject...like slavery, or colonialism...means and thus how to avoid jamming your foot into something gross. There's nothing wrong with having terrible of uncomfortable things in a setting, it just takes delicacy.


    That said, here's what I propose for this setting. There's literally no formal logic for these choices, I just think they're cool, and nobody has to agree, including the querent. If I were going to run with this premise:

    1. I would create a story about what the Arrival Event is, even if that story only explains the situation to myself.

    Here's my story.

    There's a fantasy planet that's going to die because one of the villains actually scored a home run and initiated an extinction event. A consortium of magicians and clerics attempt to save everyone living with an immense spell.

    It doesn't work as planned, and the result is the whole world's life web popping up on an a thinly-inhabited Earth.

    I choose this because it streamlines things. Now, the various fantasy people will at least somewhat know of one another, although since it's a planet's worth of dudes and critters not everyone will have familiar and customary relations with one another. Rather...elves will know roughly what dwarves are about, both will know what a dragon is. Furthermore, the arrivals are more like refugees--fleeing with a few things packed up--rather than colonists, which adds both drama and complexity to their creation of a new life.

    ...but mostly it's a time saver.

    2. I would set up a narrative excuses for why the various arrivals don't immediately dominate the locals.

    The easiest way to do this is have The Arrival Event be something staggered across time, widely distributed, with small groups arriving together, with a great deal of randomization.

    This products these effects:

    -a bunch of stuff...critters and dudes...die immediately because they're in the absolutely wrong place. This serves to thin out how many people's arriving so that they don't immediately overwhelm biomes or settlements.

    - this also breaks up communities and kingdoms such that the arrivals can't just step back into their old lives as Medieval peasants/knight/kings/whathaveyou...another way that an arriving group would immediately break the world.

    - it also creates a temporarily flattened field of competition between Neolithic natives that aren't in the agricultural belts...who know how to survive without metal and a house and a horse...and the largely sedentary, tech-dependent arrivals. I like this because it's an explanation for why there would be instant genocide and displacement, basically everywhere.

    - this slows the technological advance of the world, again meaning that the arrivals don't instantly overwhelm the natives. Technology depends on circulation knowledge and collaboration between individuals with different skillsets--scattering means industry and science develop slower as missing pieces have to be filled in.

    3. I'd put a soft cap on magic, at least in the preamble of the world.

    Magic means enormous vortices of power obtainable by comparatively low effort and high speed, contrasted with how societies have to labor, generation after generation, to make crap work, ultimately arriving at Tippyverse post-scarcity or a smoking hole in the cosmos.

    I'm not saying no wizard kingdoms, but I am suggesting that a rationale for why everything isn't wizard kingdoms would be useful.

    And there's a second thing: if fantasy arrival clerics can contact real deities but native religions can't, and fantasy arrival druids are magic and native medicine workers are just dudes with herbs, there is a very basic metaphysical *thing* that feels skewed and begs questions.

    My proposed solution is that...magic has to reboot, slowly returning to the casters that arrived and turning up for the natives for the first time. This doesn't occur at a consistent rate nor is it evenly distributed, so individuals do become sorcerer-kings, and some societies do develop enough magic to have it in their infrastructure...but not everybody has all the magic right from the get-go such that the history of the Earth is just a continuation of whatever plans the arriving folk with the most magic already had.

    That gives the world time to develop the necessary Thwarting Wizards infrastructure that is implicit to fantasy settings and about 50% of the adventurer economy at any time.

    The thing I have no idea about is...religion and divine magic as a manifestation of religion. The natives would have their traditions and pantheons, the arrivals would have theirs, but I kind of don't want to just have the default "everybody's beliefs are true, there's no tension" thing. And since we're mostly dumping fantasy races into a human world, racial pantheons are a cultural anchor. I kind of like the idea that whatever snapped during the process of transplanting a world also breaks divinity...such that new syncretic religions have to replace what was before, featuring that are chimeras of values and worldviews.

    I think a block on interfering outsiders...one that is initially hard, but softens over time and in an inconsistent fashion...is a good idea for the same reason as the magic cap.

    4. Chop up the five thousand year history into a series of descriptive phases rather than a timeline.

    I like the idea that first there's an era of shock and discovery as the arrivals come to terms with the new environment and the locals get used to the new arrivals, in the places where they interact. Since it's all isolated pockets of confused people coping, that creates many many permutations of interaction that in turn could become many different cultures (with different combinations of human natives and fantasy races with different dynamics) that flower into the kingdoms and empires of the setting at state-of-play...and don't necessarily look like your trope-standard one-race one-biome fantasy realms.

    I also like the idea that dragons would get a head start in building large communities and forming cities and kingdoms. They're basically biological tanks, inherently magic, and they've got needs that they address by interacting with squishy bipeds. They like to horde, they like to dominate, and they like to manipulate. Even the Good ones tend to take point in directing the bipeds to be better. I particularly like this idea because dragons are embedded deep in human mythology such that it kind of makes sense they'd assume ancient overlord positions. It makes sense because in the new-made chaos of critters and roving jerks, dragons have the mix of intellect and raw power to just say "hey, I can protect you and you be my serf, or I can help those ogres smash your hut."

    The fancier varieties of giant are another group that make sense as getting ahead in the business of forging empires from disparate, confused people. Again, strictly because they've got a basic physical edge plus the wits to leverage it.

    The expansion and collapse of these most-ancient institutions are a way to explain a sudden explosion of smaller (still ancient) kingdoms from which cultural touchstones...myths, half-remembered histories, common elements of language...as the world advances towards state-of-play. The tales of the age of dragons and giants...and the stories of those who overthrew the tyrants and slew the beasts...is the equivalent of foundational myth-histories like "The Epic of Gilgamesh," or the Hellenic heroes that slew monsters and founded cities.

    [Though I think it would also be cool to have at least one "secretly run by the same dragon, always" modern kingdom or city, or have the giants kind of off in the hinterlands trying to assemble a force to get back their rightful holdings.]

    After that, you've got an era of squishy biped lands bouncing off one another, experimenting with different social orders, and warring for awhile. Think of the era a place where some cultural identities begin to solidify...for example, the bases for world religions would begin to accrue in several different places as cultures got big enough to be concerned about existential questions.

    But what's necessary for the scenario is: 5. We need at least one Rome.

    I say "Rome" because the querent described a region with a common language and pretty much the exact geographic range of Rome (plus a little extra Northern Europe), not because it has to be from the Italian Peninsula, feature legions or caesars. It's just a placeholder word. So here's my choices:

    [Note: since the scenario is primarily focused on Europe and the Mediterranean, the focus will now shift just to that region and start mentioning geography.]

    The duergar strike me as perfect because they've got the kind of mix of ambition, cruelty, and planning skill to just...build roads to everywhere, organize conquered people into functional units, and just generally create a bureaucracy that is efficient but also routinely awful. Also, they're consistently underrated antagonists.

    There are a lot of good starting points, but I'm choosing North Africa because...vague Carthaginian things and I dig North Africa...but also because it's a place with lot of iron ore, a Mediterranean coastline, and pretty good agricultural output, so it has the things required to start a conquest and is proximate to likely conquest targets that "make sense" to control.

    So this empire starts in the Atlas Mountains--Algeria and Morocco--and its founders are duergar. Its past is tied to one of those dragon kingdoms, in which the duergar are the stodgy, banally obedient servants of a Lawful-Evil-ish dragon with typical dragon motives. At some point the dragon dies, and the foundation of the duergar nation-state is the myth of the guy who worked the hardest and did the most for the dragon taking over and ensuring that The Work Does Not Cease.

    It's first subjects are...everybody else dominated by that dragon...(sad trombone noise)...which amounts to the coastal peoples who grow food and the desert peoples that have goats and horses. They expand east and are repulsed by the Nile Delta peoples (don't know who they are yet, but think they should be important), so instead venture west through Morocco. Purely opportunistically they try a naval conquest of Sicily, but can push no further into the Italian Peninsula because locals, but continue to cling to the island itself. After some consolidation of their league...I don't see these guys as either a republic with client states or a hereditary monarchy a la the Julio-Claudians...they push across the Straits into the Iberian Peninsula to confront a fairly well-organized and armed population of goblinoids--their local rivals who have held Gibraltar and the southern coast.

    Ultimately the two militarist square cultures come to an understanding and celebrate by taking the Nilotic delta civilization by surprise...really kicking off the point where they're the premier power and just start gobbling up region after region. Eventually they reach the hard limits of expansion and bounce off other regional powers they can't bring their force to bear on, so the process of infighting and collapse starts.

    Part of their legacy is a common language and writing system of simplified Draconic plus Dwarven that inflects future linguistic development empire-wide and creates a common lexicon. Another part is that forced migration within their empire creates new enclaves that, post-collapse, become the basis for new regional cultures and thus ultimately lead to a bottom-up assembly of kingdoms that eventually...roughly...form into modern nation-states.

    But that's a long journey and...6. We need some disasters. Plural. Many disasters.

    Collapse and disasters spice up the scenario. They force migrations, make people do crazy things because omens and wonders. In fantasy, they leave behind ruins and tombs that makes up 50% of the adventurer economy ("thwarting" and "ruins pillaging" are overlapping task descriptions).

    But I've already decided that magic has to reboot, and I like the idea that's an imperfect process with results for the landscape as well as the people. So how about some major environmental phenomena that fall into line with that idea? The land becomes magic, and the process results in strange places and devastatingly rapid changes. As such there are disasters that are mostly a matter of divine, natural, or arcane forces becoming a part of the background function of the world.

    Also, there's going to be at least one unstoppable giant monster that just wrecks kingdoms at random. And it's probably going to crawl out of the Thera because I will not be denied my deep cut references.

    7. So, how about we actually talk about the setting...

    I've tried to explain my "logic" and preferences about the setting's past to fulfill the conditions the querent made, but ultimately to create a present for the game I just have to make declarations.

    For example, I want a fantasy Europe that might be heading into Renaissance tech, but the not be in the same position of teetering towards being a globe-dominating power. So the overland spice route and silk route hasn't been totally supplanted by passage around the Cape of Good Hope because sea monsters, and trans-Atlantic crossing has not yielded empires built on the shoulders of pandemic survivors and slaves. Rather, wealth and quality of life are generally better because state-sponsored magic and alchemy fills in some key infrastructure and wealth-generation needs. Conversely, there's no Ottoman Empire holding Eastern Europe and/or collapsing, so fantasy-Europe regional conflicts are not pivoting around as central massive body that affects everybody's ambition.

    I do these handwaves because it means I can also not worry about fleshing out every other continent just to explain one.

    Another thing that I kind of feel is "logical" but can't fully justify is that most nations and regions would, as a consequence of centuries of migration and ownership transitions, would include more than one variety of fantasy sapient, such that the typical mode of "one fantasy race, one culture" would not apply: many different sapients could share a culture (because the same skills and knowledge are required to survive an environment), and any given sapient fantasy races would be distributed across multiple cultures. Especially given five thousand years of adjusting to regional conditions.

    I've already established dwarves and goblinoids as part of the setting's "Rome," so it makes sense that they're widely distributed throughout. PHB/Tolkien-y races tend to very plastic in where they can live and how, so they're probably pretty well salted throughout. Creatures with rarefied needs...aquatic, obligate carnivores,...would likely be off on their own or kept liminal somehow. Creatures that arrived and maintained a consistent policy of general aggression towards other sapient would end up not making it five millennia or exist out in the empty places, almost isolated: personally I think some extinctions aren't a bad thing (and nothing actually has to stay dead). Magical creatures might have unusual relationships with communities, exchanging their power for...whatever they needed...and while in the old days that might turn into a full blown local religious practice, even in a "Renaissance" period there would still be places with people who needed healing, or a boon, and were willing to treat with a fairy or smart magical beast, even without religious trappings.

    The status of humans is actually the trickiest thing. I like the idea that there are Earth places they are not, and places they've been wholly supplanted. Cancel the Indo-Aryan migration and the world is different to a degree that I don't know how to handle, so I feel it's generally best to just hand-wave that people are people and not worry about how much of fantasy Norway is Finno-Ugric versus Germanic, or who people in Europe were before the Celts. It's all cancelled. What proportion they are of the any given settled location is also tricky, since it's not just birth rates, it's whether lived conditions are conducive to healthy birth and low infant mortality, so that's another handwave; pick a location, pick a percentage, tell a story about why.

    Personally I think the percentage in this setting should be comparatively low overall. Where usually they're well over 60% of the setting population (it seems), I'm going to peg them at exactly 50% overall. I kind of like the idea that that half include the half-elves, half-orcs, and partly-humans and such, so really it's less. Even with all the limits I've put on the arrivals, Neolithic humans would tend to get pulled into their cultures, particularly since the latter would be the ones with the methods for coping with a world full of monsters. As such humans have been yanked around the world in ways that makes them not fit, at all, into real-world categories.

    This is long, but next post I'm just going to start describing regions.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2019-09-01 at 12:41 AM.

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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Peanut gallery here! Love your analysis and the principles you built it on. (Though I'd argue that worldbuilding for worldbuilding's sake, using an as-close-as-is-practical approach to veracity as your primary structure, is a valid passtime if you don't have anything in particular to build the world for.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Now, the various fantasy people will at least somewhat know of one another, although since it's a planet's worth of dudes and critters not everyone will have familiar and customary relations with one another. Rather...elves will know roughly what dwarves are about, both will know what a dragon is.
    Is this intended to influence how the races would initially react (with suspicion and misinformed assumptions), or how they'll eventually interact (ie, after establishing societies)? The latter would be served better with accurate information that decays over time as memory turns to legend and the cultures in question drift.
    Related, do you imagine this world ending up with solid fantasy-population blocks (some dwarves here, some goblins there, some elves next to them, more dwarves across the river) or mixed-race tribes descended from whatever groups of locals and immigrants in a given region got along well enough to form a greater whole? I can't think of a way to get anything in the middle.

    The thing I have no idea about is...religion and divine magic as a manifestation of religion.
    I have strong opinions about the kinds of gods that work best in which kinds of fictional world, and I'm gonna inject them straight into your idea!
    I'd go with something of an American Gods approach, where gods take form because of how people believe in them, except with the obvious trickle caveat associated with the premise. Some fantasy gods would still be worshiped, some local gods would still be worshiped, and all the gods whose followers didn't convert to something else or die out would slowly start to form as magically-empowered belief, worship, and sacrifice accumulated over time.

    Which doesn't mean "everything's true and there's no tension". It means everything's true(ish) and there's plenty of tension, because beliefs about what symbols are best and what traditions should be followed divide people even when everyone agrees that all those symbols exist equally. Look at nation-states; people fight and die for a mere idea that permeates everything from flags to history books.

    (Outsiders would presumably form the same way. Souls/Ideals/Whatever forms the outer planes start to congeal into new Planes, with new outsiders.)

    I also like the idea that dragons would get a head start in building large communities and forming cities and kingdoms.
    Makes thematic sense, given how many cultures used dragons as a symbol of power (even ones where they were also considered akin to demons), but why only dragons and giants? There are plenty of other fantasy monsters of great power and intellect with at least as much incentive to try.
    Or is it only dragons and giants?

    [Though I think it would also be cool to have at least one "secretly run by the same dragon, always" modern kingdom or city, or have the giants kind of off in the hinterlands trying to assemble a force to get back their rightful holdings.]
    I'd probably have the monstrous overlords (or their descendants) there semi-openly, struggling to maintain their grip on a society evolving beyond the point where it needs or wants them. That way, they could serve as a metaphor for institutions, traditions, and cultural elements that have outlived their usefulness. (Which means the monster-slaying heroes would probably be slaying other nations' monsters, which makes the monster-slaying an accidental metaphor for the harm done by colonialism, which might be something you'd want to avoid...on the other hand, killing the local dragon-king would basically be a Communist revolution or the like, while mortally wounding the dragon-king, forcing him into hiding while he recovers, would be more of a French Revolution.)

    We need at least one Rome.
    I'd suggest multiple, partly because having an entire empire spreading across the entire continent doesn't sound like fuel for an interesting political situation post-collapse, and partly because the disasters you describe in point 6 reminds me of the Bronze Age collapse and I think that was neat. Aside from the widespread death and destruction of social institutions, of course.
    Maybe there was one big original empire that split, like Rome did a few times (possibly plus some meaningful independent development and expansion instead of coming back together after a short-on-historical-timeframe separation or having half of the empire crumble while the other half struggles not to follow suit). Or maybe there were multiple groups that put together big empires one way or another. (Dwarves build roads across central Asia, orcs build ships and conquer northern Europe, etc etc.) Heck, maybe some of the empires were founded by nations who were inspired by the conqueror's martial/bureaucratic philosophy and possibly pushed out of their old homes, like the Zulu or Vandals (or countless other examples that exist but I could only name the other Germanic tribes that coup de grace'd Western Rome and set up new kingdoms).

    Another thing that I kind of feel is "logical" but can't fully justify...
    I can!
    Even in the absence of big population shifts (famines, conquests, rumors of unimaginable wealth free for the taking), and even in the presence of clear borders (an incredibly modern invention), populations intermingle naturally. Two cultures can't exist within a month's travel without exchanging some people and ideas; there are just too many people with too many motives for leaving home; trade, exile (self-imposed or legally-enforced), "I really hate my family," etc. You'd need absolute, mutual bans on migration and intermarriage to even have a chance of maintaining segregation, and even then you'd probably still have a trickle. Really, you'd need a concrete reason for such distinct racial groups to remain so distinct over distances of less than a continent.

    ...Or the races just didn't fall down in big blocks to begin with. Not every dwarf would be willing to work with the orcs, elves, and humans who happened to appear/already live in their immediate vicinity, but if there weren't many other dwarves around, the survivors would be disproportionately drawn from those who were.

    Personally I think the percentage in this setting should be comparatively low overall. Where usually they're well over 60% of the setting population (it seems), I'm going to peg them at exactly 50% overall. I kind of like the idea that that half include the half-elves, half-orcs, and partly-humans and such, so really it's less.
    How many fantasy people were dropped in? Considering the high mortality rate of new arrivals, you'd need to get basically everyone on the planet through (though most end up a hundred feet above ground or underwater or whatever) for that kind of ratio to be reasonable.
    I'm the GWG from Bay12 and a bunch of other places.

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  27. - Top - End - #27
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Is this intended to influence how the races would initially react (with suspicion and misinformed assumptions), or how they'll eventually interact (ie, after establishing societies)?
    Honestly, I did it to trim down the preamble. One world, with all its bits transplanted for one reason, just makes things go smoother. It also firmly closes the door on the Wherever Else they came from.

    I actually kick around a teleport diaspora setting in my head, and it gets extremely complicated and the past lore eats the present.

    Related, do you imagine this world ending up with solid fantasy-population blocks (some dwarves here, some goblins there, some elves next to them, more dwarves across the river) or mixed-race tribes descended from whatever groups of locals and immigrants in a given region got along well enough to form a greater whole?
    Different in different places.

    In areas that used to be "Empire" there's a historical pattern of forced transport to serve imperial needs, so there's more mixed-species social systems with greater variety. Lots of little pockets of species that don't have anywhere to return to, basically finding it easier to merge into a continental post-Empire culture that everyone sort of inclusive-by-apathetic-default. Post-Empire regions regions are also the most likely to have relative egalitarian laws, for the rather dark reason that duergar don't discriminate more or less in their harshness...though I'll probably arrive at exceptions to that as I keep going.

    I've got ideas for other combos outside the Empire. There's already a large homogeneous area, and several areas where humans have been removed completely for a very long time.

    I have strong opinions about the kinds of gods that work best in which kinds of fictional world,
    I'm going to have to deal with religion and divinity separately. Not having the expected religions as a backdrop to a fantasy European history is a pretty big stumbling block on visualizing how societies would behave. I also don't really want the boilerplate racial pantheons because they're basically a powerful, active cultural participant telling each species what to be, which is the opposite direction I want to go with societal development. I have basic ideas, but I need to let them ferment a bit.

    The two things I'm sure of is that the big gods will be comparatively non-interventionist and syncretic, and that there will be small gods...things that have a touch of divinity, elevated heroes, etc. Oh...and that nothing will match actual ancient religions.

    Or is it only dragons and giants?
    Not literally.

    Part of it is that I'm trying to think of Arrival Year Zero and the millennium after not as documented history, but as something recalled through stories that are half-allegory, from fragmentary sources and oral tradition. So "dragons and giants" is an in-world invocation of a before age when the squishy small folk were lost.

    I'd probably have the monstrous overlords (or their descendants) there semi-openly, struggling to maintain their grip on a society evolving beyond the point where it needs or wants them.
    So the thing that's hard to balance out is time scale. Five thousand years is an enormous amount of history, even when I'm tapping the brakes on development by inventing crises and just assuming that everyday monsters beyond the pale deters population growth.

    I dunno yet. I think there's at least one dynastic giant kingdom out there, just holding on like mad.

    Ancient dragon kingdoms are basically about inventing a personality, and then a society system bent around that personality's quirks granted unlimited power and elemental breath...generally the dragons aren't sharing with other dragons, each one is a little playground. In meta terms it's a tiny cop-out to justify the occasional weirdo society that should have never come together or impractical, labor-intensive tasks that result in cool ruins, stupid powerful magic stuff, and buried past terrors. How many make it to the modern age...some, I guess.

    I'd suggest multiple
    Agreed. In five thousand years, many empires are going to be important, and collapse, and impact the world at the frozen moment in which the setting rests until the reader/player engages with it. I just said "Rome" as shorthand because it explains a bunch of folks with one language system across a big swath of land, because the OP talked about it.

    How many fantasy people were dropped in? Considering the high mortality rate of new arrivals, you'd need to get basically everyone on the planet through (though most end up a hundred feet above ground or underwater or whatever) for that kind of ratio to be reasonable.
    I have no idea what the demographic math would be like to make this scenario work; I don't even know how to start that calculation. I similarly don't have a head count on the "present" of the setting. It's not that I'm dismissive of the math...I'm going for a feel here...massive scale, frightening and tragic, the lingering implication that the locked door of the past might have a unsecured cat flap.

    Also, just generally...I cannot underline how fast I made up everything, so it's all loose and gestural.

    So my idea is that this starts with literally the teleportation of planet's biomass. All of it (that's why there's the full set of Monster Manual critters--minus undead--and it leaves an opening for things like magic trees and fantasy diseases from the old world to turn up). It's a hasty desperation move being made by people working fast and loose while their world is dying (and dying in the process). They might have been trying to save all the people, but in the crunch they overshoot and get everything. The same fast-and-dirty process means that it's not an orderly passage through a portal to a safe landing pad. Lots of stuff dies from the landing, lots of stuff dies because it's can't survive in the biome, lots of people die alone from things simple complications that don't know how to cope with.

    In most places, that which died just got eaten or decomposed.

    But even five millennia on there's disturbing remnants. You can make a good living in the Sahara casting about for mummified specimens to sell. Ancient megafauna corpses often turn up as building materials at ritual centers, and old bones and old trinkets as relics. There are haunt phenomenon specifically associated with the arrivals that died falling...light trails from the firmament to ground, flashing over and over.

    Thanks for the feedback and the thoughts on religion...which I swear I will try to address in some more solid fashion. Hopefully. Eventually.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2019-09-01 at 01:14 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Interesting ideas. I like the idea of a dragon ruled empire. Dragons have long lifespans, and dragons tend to be not very social among their own kind, except when it comes to mating and producing offspring. Most dragons follow the usual sterotype, they live in lairs full of treasure, are greedy and seek to add to their treasure whenever they can.

    But one day a gold dragon decided that she wanted a lot more than a pile of gold and gems, she wanted a treasure of people. With that in mind she established an empire, we'll call the Common Empire, its called the Common Empire because that is the empire in which the Common language was formed through the melding of different cultures. This dragon ruler lived for well over one thousand years, and she was a good and decent ruler, she ruled wisely and loved all her subjects dearly. For over a thousand years she kept the peace with her army, her navy, and with herself, and then one day she died. The dragon named no one as her successor, dragons are very greedy and mistrustful creatures, her empire was her treasure horde, and although she had many children and mated with many male dragons, she would not trust any of them to rule in her stead, so the gold dragon empress did not designate an heir, and in truth the Common Empire was a creation of her and she was the only one that ruled it and organized it, and with her dead, there was a power vacuum at the top. There was no institutional process for choosing a new ruler, as the only ruler the empire ever had was the dragon, and she lived such a long time, there was no need. The empire, unused to changing its ruler, simply broke apart into a bunch of different kingdoms all sharing the same Common languages.

    So hows that?

  29. - Top - End - #29
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    I am also thinking of making this world parallel to a D20 Modern world set in the present. The blank slate Earth has the same physical date as our modern Earth. There are a number of gate sites which connect the blank slate world with Modern Earth, these are often marked by circles of standing stones, similar to the tv show Outlander. Certain people, when they touch a particular standing stone are drawn through the gate and to the other world at the same location where there is another similar circle of standing stones to mark the location of the other end of the gate.

    The gates are two-way, not everyone can use them, and the gate exacts a price, either in the form of a gem or some kind of sacrifice. Unlike the show however, this is not time travel. The gate transports certain people and the equipment they carry, minus the gemstone or sacrifice that is the price for using a gate. The gates appear as stone age neolythic ruins, and for most people, that is all they are, if they touch the stone, nothing usually happens. Each continent has at least one such gate. The stones aren't the actual gate itself, they only mark its location. The gate is nonphysical and invisible, the gate is activated when certain individuals meeting certain conditions touches the stone.

  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Default Re: Blank Slate Earth D&D setting: Non-historical

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Different in different places.
    In areas that used to be "Empire" there's a historical pattern of forced transport to serve imperial needs, so there's more mixed-species social systems with greater variety.
    That (and your comments later in your first post) make it sound like the setting started out with big blocks of race in the initial diaspora. Is that about right?

    I'm going to have to deal with religion and divinity separately.
    How? The two are inherently intertwined. Gods who deserve the name will need to interact with religion somehow, and religions will need to explain gods somehow. The gods which exist may not get along with the common religions, but the two can't be separated without one turning into something unworthy of the label.

    Not having the expected religions as a backdrop to a fantasy European history is a pretty big stumbling block on visualizing how societies would behave. I also don't really want the boilerplate racial pantheons because they're basically a powerful, active cultural participant telling each species what to be, which is the opposite direction I want to go with societal development.
    Which is part of why I like the "gods are what people believe them to be" angle. It turns gods from being independent actors into being an incarnation of social pressure. They aren't telling their culture what to be, but enforcing what they already think they should be.

    So the thing that's hard to balance out is time scale. Five thousand years is an enormous amount of history, even when I'm tapping the brakes on development by inventing crises and just assuming that everyday monsters beyond the pale deters population growth.
    On the other hand, five thousand years wouldn't have been that much history until the past few millennia. Oh, there were changes in dynasty and in what cultures were dominant, but at the end of the day there was still going to be an absolute monarch blessed by the gods ruling over any given chunk of land. So it was from the dawn of city-states until...arguably the Roman Republic, if we focus on Western history?
    Granted, the setting is supposed to end up at Renaissance tech levels, but the basic societal pattern hadn't changed that much yet. It was weakening, with mere lords taking power from kings and emperors, but it was there. The same monsters might not be ruling for five thousand years, but it seems more than plausible that some monster or another would. (Especially given their magical abilities and giant-monster-ness.)

    I have no idea what the demographic math would be like to make this scenario work; I don't even know how to start that calculation.
    Well, I started with a vague idea of how many humans were already there, then multiplied a vague idea of how many fantasy refugees there were by a vague idea of how many survived long enough to establish themselves, then compared the two figures and came up with "Humans would probably outnumber the fantasy races".

    So my idea is that this starts with literally the teleportation of planet's biomass. All of it (that's why there's the full set of Monster Manual critters--minus undead--and it leaves an opening for things like magic trees and fantasy diseases from the old world to turn up).
    ...
    But even five millennia on there's disturbing remnants. You can make a good living in the Sahara casting about for mummified specimens to sell. Ancient megafauna corpses often turn up as building materials at ritual centers, and old bones and old trinkets as relics. There are haunt phenomenon specifically associated with the arrivals that died falling...light trails from the firmament to ground, flashing over and over.
    Alright, I like the idea. Can't help but wonder what effects roughly doubling the amount of biomass on the planet would have...could easily be a mass extinction event, especially if its uprooted plants, beached fish, etc smothered enough little plants over a short enough initial migration.
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