Digression Girl

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In this edition of Homebrew How-To, I’m going to talk about a staple in many works of fiction and roleplaying games: a fantasy setting, often an entire world or a notable realm of that world.

As mentioned in my prior post, this fantasy world is named Wrald. Now, this world is home to a fantasy setting, complete with magic, mythical beings, the supernatural, and pseudo-Medieval technological development. But we also need to establish what sort of planet it is, and a few details about its cosmological reality. This set of details is akin to what you may be concerned with for a science fiction setting, but they play just as much importance with the everyday elements of the world as weather patterns, political alliances or magical events would.

With that noted, let’s try to imagine what the planet of Wrald would be like. Since this is a fantasy setting, we can see it as being Earth-like in form and function. However, we don’t necessarily need it to absolutely conform to Earth in every detail. Let’s play around with the numbers a little bit.

First off, a bit of quick research (a.k.a. Wikipedia) tells me that the Earth has an equatorial circumference of 24,901.461 miles while its meridional circumference is 24,859.734 miles. Since I’m not going for total accuracy, but rather ease of math, I’ll say that various forces and material strengths of planet Wrald enable it to remain a more or less true sphere while orbiting, and as a result its circumference is 24,000 miles (or 8,000 leagues, to be archaic and in character). So Wrald is slightly smaller than Earth; it’s actually a bit larger than Venus, to be more precise.

Next, I’ll say that Wrald, like Earth, orbits only one star and has only one natural satellite. I’ll even say that Wrald orbits its sun in the same number of seconds as Earth, but it only rotates exactly 360 times instead of 365 (and some change) times. Since I’m not envisioning timepieces accurately measuring time down to minutes much less seconds in this setting, I’m fine with days lasting a bit longer on Wrald than they do on Earth. And there’s no need for a calendar with leap years or any other stuff like that. I’m also going to say that Wrald is the fourth of nine planets orbiting this particular star. (The number of planets will play a role in other elements for Wrald that I’ll work on later.)

Now, as for the surface of the planet Wrald, I’m going to declare that 73% of its surface is covered in water: about 2% more than that of Earth, comparatively. So only 27% of the surface is dry land. Like Earth, Wrald has a broad range of terrains and climates. I could go on about geological and geographical details, but I’m not going to since I’m not going to attempt to make a map just yet.

So with the ratios I’ve mentioned, I envision a world smaller than Earth (yet still bigger than Venus) with a bit more water. Since I’m going with the typical fantasy tropes of humans living with magic and beings such as elves, dwarves, goblins, dragons, giants, and the like, I plan on a broad distribution of terrain so that I don’t have them all crowded onto a couple of massive continents shoved up in a particular hemisphere of the planet.

By now I have the basics for my setting. I know what the overall environment for this world is like, and what expectations I can make going forward. How so?

  • With knowing the lay of the land (and sea), I can envision where certain groups, cultures, nations, travel patterns, potential conflicts, and all other aspects of a living world can play out.
  • With knowing some of the more cosmic elements of the world, I know how time can be counted and measured, and how that influences cultural practices and traditions related to them (solstices and equinoxes, seasonal celebrations, etc.).

Some of these things, like the calendar and even the map, I can generate rather quickly with an online utility like those found at donjon.

However, in preparation for additional aspects of my fantasy setting, I need to take stock of who lives there. I’m not envisioning this planet being packed to the gills with peoples like our modern Earth, but I see it having a slightly higher than average population compared to Earth in its medieval period due to the additional presence of mystical creatures and peoples. So, let’s say that overall, this planet has around a billion sentient beings on it (compared to Earth, which apparently didn’t crack a billion until the 1800’s). But what’s the makeup of this world? Since this is meant to be used with games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, I have a general idea of what types of folk compose the global population:

  • Humans (dominant peoples)
  • Dwarves
  • Elves
  • Gnomes
  • Halflings (a.k.a. generic hobbits)
  • Goblins
  • Orcs
  • Reptilians (kobolds, lizardfolk, troglodytes, etc.)
  • Various merfolk
  • Giants
  • Dragons
  • Miscellaneous folk not yet categorized (fey, monstrous humanoids, mixed heritage folk, unique beings, etc.)

I can get into more specifics when I start work on cultures and nations. But for now, I’d say this is a pretty good start.


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