Monday, November 22, 2010

Bottom up world creation, part 1

The next few posts on this blog will be about creating a game world from the smallest units, namely villages and steadings. It is probably best to start with a few definitions so we’re all on the same page. This will likely only be of interest to people who are modeling their cultures on NW Europe during the a rather broad section of the middle ages(900 AD to 1300 AD)

Types of Divisions

  • Hide: A hide is a section of land capable of supporting one household. The size of a hide varies, because the hide is not a measurement of area, but a measurement of assessment, and will be discussed further in the articles on economics and taxation.
  • Household: A household is a family, usually 2 adults and any associated dependents. Dependents include ancestors of the 2 adults, siblings, the families of siblings, and children. The key here is that everyone is living in the same space, using the same utilities, and working together for the survival of the household as a group.
  • Acre: This corresponds to the modern unit of measurement.
  • Bushel/stack: The basic measurements of agrarian production.

Types of Settlements

  • Steading: A steading is usually only a single household, but sometimes it’s actually a handful of households clustered together. A steading is usually not self sufficient in terms of food production and requires the people living there to either trade, raid, or hunt/fish in areas beyond the steading.
  • Village: A village is like some steadings in that it’s a number of households clustered together. The major difference between steadings and villages is that the village has more households, resulting in greater self sufficiency. Villages are the basic unit of feudal societies and are almost always agrarian in nature.
  • Town: A town in D&D is generally defined as any settlement with between 1,000 and 10,000 people. A town in a historical sense(and that which will be used here) is actually defined by economic character instead. A town is thus a settlement in which the majority of the population will derive their living from industry, trade, or service as opposed to agrarian pursuits. We will be using the historical definition, with a population between 1,000 and 8,000
  • City: In traditional D&D, a city is usually defined as having a population of more than 10,000 people. The historical definition is mostly synonymous with a town, except that a city usually had a royal charter and a Cathedral. For the purposes of these articles, we’ll instead use the Medieval Demographics Made easy definition of more than 8,000 people.

Types of Climate

  • Super-Arctic: This climate is not found in a traditional earth-like world. It represents places generally too cold to support human life for extended periods of time without the aid of magic.
  • Arctic: This climate is generally found at extreme northern or southern latitudes, or on glaciers in most earthlike worlds. It is possible to survive in these areas, but generally organized crop based agriculture is impossible without magical aid as the ground is usually to cold to support most known types of crops. Generally this band only has 2 seasons; winter and summer.
  • Subarctic: This is the first climate band warm enough to support normal organized crop based agriculture. Winters tend to be long and summers short. Spring and Autumn tend to be shorter still.
  • Temperate: This is the climate band most players are familiar with. It has 4, relatively equal length seasons
  • Subtropical: This band is ideal for the growing of crops. It will tend to have either long growing seasons and mild winters, or possibly even 2 growing seasons in a single year.
  • Tropical: Tropical climate bands tend to have a dry season and a wet season, neither of which are particularly great for the growing of crops, but it’s still possible.
  • Super-Tropical: Like Super-Arctic, Super-Tropical generally doesn’t exist in Earth-like worlds and humans(as they appear on earth) generally can’t survive in them long term without some form of magical help or adaptations. Much of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting is probably the best example of a Super-Tropical climate.

Types of Terrain

  • Grassland: Grassland tends to be any relatively flat(or very gently rolling hills) in which shrubs and grasses grow. This also refers to areas in which crop or pasture based agriculture is maintained. Also known as perpetual meadow and agricultural meadow.
  • Light Forest: This consists of forest which have been previously cleared, and are starting to regrow. Trees tend to grow in bunches amid thickets, and are easily cleared. Also known as transitional meadow.
  • Medium Forest: This type of forest is characterized by heavy undergrowth. Like Light forest, it's a result of deforestation(natural or intentional). Also known as Secondary Growth Forest.
  • Heavy Forest: Heavy Forest is land in which meadows are either small or incredibly infrequent. Heavy forest consists mostly of Old Growth Forest.
  • Hills: In the context of this series of articles, hills are considered to be steeper than the rolling hills, prairies, and traditional farmland of grassland terrain.
  • Coastal areas consist of any area in which a settlement sits on the shores of a body of water that gives the settlement access to trade and/or supports a large enough population of water-dwelling life to support the settlement.
  • Mountain: This type of terrain is steeper and generally more rocky than that found in Hill terrain. It represents smaller mountains and areas of larger mountains below the tree line. large scale crop farming is generally(but not always) impossible in these areas without the use of terraces.
  • High Mountain: This terrain represents the parts of mountains above the tree line. large scale crop farming is almost always impossible without the aid of terraces.
  • Desert: This type of terrain is characterized by a lack of precipitation. Large settlements are nearly impossible unless found near sizable sources of water.
  • Wetland: This type of terrain consists of Bogs, Fens, Marshes, Swamps, etc. The ground tends to be submerged in water requiring the people living there to either perform major acts of engineering or turn to other forms of crops/subsistence.

Types of Soil Quality

  • Barren: This consists of area with no soil at all(areas of stone), or soil that can't support any but the very hardiest of plant life. This makes farming almost impossible. This includes areas that have been salted or have been completely leeched of nutrients.
  • Poor: Poor soil can be rocky, mostly clay, or the result of slash and burn farming techniques, or those areas that have been farmed for long periods and the use of crop rotation and knowledge of fertilizers.
  • Average: Average soil is exactly that, average. The farming techniques used here generally include at least 2 field crop rotation or perhaps basic composting usage.
  • Good: Good soil is generally the result of skilled farming techniques(or technology) over many generations on average land or the result of average or poor techniques in areas that were once fertile.
  • Fertile: This is very rich land, the result of yearly flooding(like on the nile), volcanic soil, or some means of magical boosting of soil quality.

Next time: Size of steadings and villages.

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