Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Empires Rise and Fall

The break from blogging has given me a chance to work on my campaign.  Looking at my regional map I needed something to give it depth.  A history and the sense that it's part of a wider world.  Something like the maps detailing migrations in the Greyhawk Gazetteer

On a 10,000 year timeline I organized the rise and fall of severa empires/barbarian hordes. Along with some other major events.  Such as the coming of The Grey's who genetically manipulated various species and transplanted numerous humans from various cultures. And the Fey Warp which ended the Grey's meddling and "superimposed" The Land of Fairy and Magic onto the exiting mundane world.

Next I created a rough "world" map (cut and pasted bits of Google Terrain map of the eastern Med, but any rough map showing mountains, major deserts, land, and water). Then starting at 10,000 years I plotted out the rise and fall of history.

10,000 years ago: the first Toad God Empire rises from barbarism more than 17,000 years after the Ancients self-inflicted Apocalypse.  It is far from human, being mostly mutant frogs, trogs, etc.

9,000 years ago: for the Froggies of the Toad God Empire expansion is very slow. Having to clear the mutagenic horrors from every new land they enter.

8,000 years ago: changing climate and the Toad God's blessings kill off most of the megafauna in the sea and on the land.  The first Toad God Empire is quick to conquer the newly "empty" world.

7,000 years ago: the First Toad God Empire reaches it's zenith.  The Grey have arrived and create orcs whose naturally rapid population growth is magnified with Grey patronage.

6,000 years ago: aided by The Grey orcs spread like wild fire.  They quickly master technologies that will never be seen again.  The Steam Kingdoms rise "overnight" and are the end of the first Toad God EmpireThe Grey start transplanting humans.

5,000 years ago: Human slaves of Toad God Empire quickly take over after it's fall and storied Stygia is born.  Orc Steam Kingdoms conquer the world.

4,000 years ago: around 4700 The Grey mysteriously attack and annihilate the Steam Kingdoms clearing the way for various humans (Thantos, Argos, Pashtar, Stygia) and the Toad God Empire 2.0 to rise.  By 4,500 the vestiges of the Steam Kingdoms are eliminated. Orcs remain, scattered and greatly reduced in numbers. But, this millennium is the last to see an Orc nation. Around 4100 the Fey Warp ushers in a new era. Bringing powerful magic, annoying faeries, and many dangerous creatures such as trolls and dragons. It also marks an end to large scale The Grey meddling.

3,000 years ago: Argos is declining under pressure from Thantos, Stygia and Toad God Empire all of which expand.  The second Toad God Empire has more humans and orcs than froggies. This increased land power drives the Pashtar across mountains to the newly Fey Warped formed fertile crescent.  Pashtar grows powerful.  Alfar (elf vikings) start raiding from the northeast.

2,000 years ago: between Thantos expansion and Alfar raiding the 2nd Toad God Empire is annihilated.  Small parts of Argos linger on as protectorates of Stygia and ThantosStygia drives east hoping to conquer the fertile lands of Pashtar, they are stopped.

1,000 years ago: Stygia starts it's slow decline.  Thantos and Pashtar are world's huge superpowers.  Successfully driving back the Alfar they wage constant war against each other.  But from the northwest a growing threat, Hyperborians, more barbarians come to pillage and plunder.

500 years ago: Hyperborians plunder the riches of Thantos and Pashtar.  The Alfar get in on the action and create a short lived kingdom at Pashtar's expense.
  The once mighty Thantos has fallen as much from internal strife and issues as foreign barbarians.  All that remain are a few islands and numerous "emperors" with empty promises of a return to glory.

Today:  Stygia, the oldest extant "empire" is rich in wealth and magic, decadent beyond imagination, and impotent outside it's shrinking borders.  Too many factions, sorcerer-priests, ancient pharoh's all vying for power.  Pashtar is also rich and decadent.  It remains powerful but is beset by the numerous troubles of empire; barbarians, raiders, rebels, civil wars.  Unlike the Alfar the Hyperborians settled the lands they conquered.  Mixing with local populations to form new nations; Rus and Byzanthia. Rising from the ashes of Thantos and with less Hyperborian influence are the Successor Kingdoms (Dacia, Thracia, Phrygia, Lydia, Dalmatia, Phonecia, Thantia, and "The Kingdom")

That tiny blue area in the center is one of several Mythic Wilderness areas and The Kingdom's Eastern Frontier.  It is also the expected "play area" of the campaign.  Even though I hope the players never leave the area having broad-brushstroked the "larger" world really helps add depth and flavor.

Next step will be to write a paragraph or two on each of the historic and current powers. Giving each a discernible flavor, unique Art, Architecture, Language/Writing and a a couple "specials".  Specials are things like Stygian Black Lotus, Pashtar being only source for silks, only Alfar knowing secrets of flying ships.  There can be subtle layers to this but it's important that the "base" be ridiculously obvious. So, players who will never know the world as well as I can pick up on themes.  Pyramids mean Stygia. Ruins with classical columns and lots of bull motifs that's Argos.


  1. That's a great way to really get a feel for what should logically be in your wildland area.

  2. Aaaaah, fantasy realism, rising/falling empires and a relatively tiny detailed area of play in the middle. Once upon a nerdish time I'd have been in wholehearted agreement with your method. Now I just kitchen sink it and high-handedly claim that laziness and magpie-ism are design choices. ;)

    That said, unreserved GJ. "Second Toad God Empire" is a nice touch. "You mean they had more than one?!"

    Cool map btw. Is the western half coastal China or E. Aus?

  3. @Chris
    Yeah, I'm suppose to be doing it more sandboxy/as i need it. But, 1) I love this kind of stuff, it's fun for me. 2) I was working on that small area and felt I needed some historical/geographical framework to spur my creativity.

    I do struggle with "going into too much detail" I think these maps and the couple paragraphs I've written on each "power" are enough and it's time for me to move on to actual stuff like first couple levels of Megadungeon :)

    That's Greece, Turkey, Mid-east, N Africa with bits of land/alps pasted all about.

  4. Just trolling by ... do you realize, in our real world, that 10 000 years is more or less what separate now and the first hint of human cultured settlement.
    Why ever such a long time frame, where everything can happen ?

  5. @Anon 10,000 years ago hint of humans

    Toad God Empire is far from human. First human civ is Stygia, 5100 yrs old, around age of Egypt which it is a "copy" of.

    It's more or less human history; Stygia is Egypt, Argos is ancient greeks, Pashtar is amalgamation of various middle eastern primarily Persia, Thantos is Rome, barbarians are the barbarians tat "ended" Rome. Successor states are the post Rome kingdoms. Rus is viking era Russia, Byzantia isn't really like Byzantine empire but sort of fills same role.

    But to answer your question. I adore history. I adore ruins, lost civilizations, ancient languages, etc. Campaign theme is partially about decline and rebirth so needed some temporal space for the mighty to rise and fall.


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