View Full Version : Avoiding Fantasy World Cultural Nuances in my Campaign World

2007-01-17, 03:41 PM
One thing that has consistently cropped up in a number of fantasy worlds i've roleplayed in is the use of portals via magic that can span conceivably any distance, even into other planes of existence. But there could be two neighboring states with little to no land barrier between the two and yet they have vastly different cultural upbringings, languages, currencies, etc, and the only explaination for it is 'lawl MAGIC'. Nevermind that these places could be land locked together, is it so inconceivable that these peoples might share ideas, religions, cultural trends? The pull of currency is a strong one and is almost always the root behind why anyone travels to anywhere. So I find this excuse of 'lawl MAGIC' to be as lazy as it is retarded. Yet I find myself doing it every now and then and have to smack myself for it :smallmad: ..

Might I also add that it also unnerves me when I see milennias old ancient races predating all mankind greatly mirroring said younger race that they predate yet giving no hint that either one of them engaged in trade and sharing of said ideas, etc, and in fact they may even hate each other. These milennia old ancient races might even be very isolationist or even xenophobic, yet they mirrior their neighbors so much it's sickening. What makes these milennias old ancient races preadting all mankind at all different from them? Well they sometimes live in trees, have enlongated facial features, have some funny way of sleeping and can see magical doors.. :smallannoyed:

This is all things I am trying to avoid doing when writing my own fantasy campaign setting, yet this same fantasy setting also utilizes magical portals, albeit not in quite a similiar fashion! In the setting I am working on the main continent does have magical portals, but they aren't the kind any Wizard casts. I think the best example I could give would be the Stargate from the movie Stargate, or it's long running TV series SG-1, but nothing nearly so fantastic as to cover the entire uncharted universe. So yes any way we have these magical portals that span roughly a half of the mainland continent that most of the setting will take place. The current denizens of this world have not lost the knowledge to use them, but reverse engineering them has taken decades, if not centuries. The peoples of this world have surmised that they were used by an empire prior to the current time line to cut travelling times for trade and military bodies right out of the equation. In effect, they used it to keep the unity of this emprie together and it made supression of things such as rebellions much easier. As a result, the roads predating this gateway technology slowly began to stagnate, as only the poor would be found on them, and became overrun with the atypical monster scheme. This further compounded things when the empire eventually collapsed as the gates became a bid for power, local principalities and kingdoms arose in it's ashes. Furthermore, it completely changed the way mainlanders fought wars. In some cases, it became their own saving grace, in others they had damned themselves it their strategic hubris when the longranging plains hordes struck them swiftly and from nowhere, with no easy way to strike them back through the uncharted wilderness.

At any rate in the current timeline the political climate is almost cold war in feel. The gateway, much like an atomic bomb, has found it's use as both a weapon of war and one to lessen the burden on humanity. But not only is it a tool by which logistics have become easier ( or more difficult depending on how you look at it :smallwink: ) but it has also been found that tampering with their structural integrity produces cataclysmic results; a resulting explosion that scatters the area about in entropic energies ( chaos, not the decaying kind ) around for miles, annihilating or horrifically reshaping all life there and creating an unstable pocket zone in which doorways to other places, even planes, open up or even blur into one another.

To further conflict the use of these gateways the easterlings ( I'm keeping this as a placeholder name for now ), largely isolated from the rest of the continent untill recently, are clamouring for this same 'technology'. The gates are also maintained by various wizardly Orders and Guilds ( i'm deeply considering Artificer for this, or lumping them into two competing entities trying to outbid the other ), some of them national entities that are state-controlled, others of which declare themselves as non-national organizations, but all of them are important to maintaining and building these new gateways. While some kingdoms will gladly sell these easterlings this technology and in turn gut their treasuries for it, others are having their own internal conflicts with their magely proprietors (sp?) who are against the idea of selling such a valuable asset to foreign powers, much less other, non-human races! ( durr, forgot to mention the Easterners are a mixed stock of 'shortfolk' and 'elves' :p ).

All this crazy gate technology also helps me reinforce the idea and feel of the campaign, one where the outside world is a very scary place. So while we may have dignitaries and officials from the other side of the world traveling within seconds from one end to the other to talk politics, thus achieveing one aspect of Fantasy Generica, in the same token most people are terrified of stepping outside of their own cities, villages, etc, capturing the other feel to it, that of the old evils and entities of cultural folklore and the dangers of travelling.

So now that I think i've finally gotten this ranting tangent out of my system...

How do you handle this kind of silliness?

2007-01-17, 03:55 PM
Two states, no land barrier, vastly different upbringings: Generally, they shouldn't happen. If they do, the only explanation is an Iron Curtain (or similar phenomenon) wherein trade and travel between the two is completely restricted by one or both powers (potentially to avoid war). You only get this if you have two equally powerful nations with insufficient allies to tip the stalemate between them. The nations must trade with someone, though, so they cannot be the only nations around. Even in this situation, there will be black market trading.

Given your Cold War climate, it should be possible to create an Iron Curtain situation, provided you can somehow block travel between power blocs through the gateway system.

Portals: If you have constant, regular portals between places (that can be used by laymen without problems) then you will get trade between them, regardless of where they are geographically. Expect cultural intermixing.

Millenia Old Ancient Races: If they mirror humans, chances are the humans are mirroring them. They're probably trying to emulate what they see as a superior people (in this situation they are usually dominated by these people as well). Even if they hate each other, there will almost certainly be -some- trade.

Easterlings: Will probably benefit from the cold war immensely. Despite the lack of trust and unwillingness to give them gates of their own, neutrality will probably allow them limited access to both sides, bringing them a massive boon in terms of trade. As the third party who can tip the balance of the cold war either way (usually in whichever way favours them) they stand to benefit greatly.

2007-01-17, 04:21 PM
There is an 'Iron Curtain' effect going on in my campaign world thanks to the catastrophic explosion of a number the portals, seperating North and South.

As for the portals, yes, that was my intention. While there will be regional differences and the fact that the tithes and taxes for going through the portals are high enough that only aristocrats, government officials and merchants of the upper echelons would be able to afford going through them regularly -- in fact this is going to be a very big catalyst for a lot of internal tension in a lot of areas and a reoccuring theme, that of lower castes being muscled out of opportunities for business by bigger players or their own government.

I am also giving thought to the rise of disease, plagues and ultimately a creater fundamental understanding of biology and other sciences in this world as well as state-funded organizations to prevent them from reoccuring. Many diseases, plagues, etc, took time to spread because of the land distances between different peoples and even now some people from different extremes in environments suffer while in each other's environment, contracting illnesses they had never had before. I imagine with such an influx of bodies it would not be difficult for a full blown plague to hit entire regions with surprising frequency, and while the merchant from across the world may not be feeling any adverse effects the germs he might have brought on his person along the way could and would wreak(sp?) havoc on the locals. Just a thought. :smallbiggrin:

As for milennia old races; I sidestepped that entirely by having Humans be the first and oldest race as well as completely isolating most non-humans from said humans. Whether or not they view each other as the superior or inferior varies from place to place but neither is willing to sully their relationship with the other in favor of importing and exporting exotic goods that are high in demand, all while taxing the heck out of 'em!

And yes, the 'foreigners' will benefit greatly from the political state of their human associates.

On a last note, many of the coastal nations have taken up to sea exploration and setting up colonies; again, colonies were an issue in our own history because of the weeks, if not months, of travel involved by sea and it's totally possible for nagivation to end you up in the middle of nowhere. However in this world setting up a gate, again, cuts the middle man right out to some extent. I plan on playing on this idea more, too, especially given how esoteric natives can be from the mainlanders.

2007-01-17, 05:56 PM
Hmm.. try look for books and movies about how a country treats another. I can't name one right now, but movies about 2nd War usually have something like that. Movies about dictatorships, like the old China can work too.

mabriss lethe
2007-01-18, 01:27 AM
Gate tech as a form of currency:
if you want to limit it, make some arbitrary cap for them, say, for example, that they can't coexist within a certain distance of one another. They create too much interference and "Bad things" happen when their spheres of influence overlap. but but they must be within a maximum range of another portal in order to function. This gives you a window of limitations to operate from. It would also still keep the idea behind "distant colonies" valid. They might go so far afield in search of new resources that they outstrip the range of the portals. (maybe the portals themselves are manufactured using some rare natural resource and the colonies are primarily harvesting operations for said resource. Sure they could set up portals in the new colonies, but they could only be used to travel to other nearby portals. They wouldn't have the effective range to allow transport between the motherland and the colony. It would keep sea trade valid. The colonies are denied access to the experts and equipment needed to manufacture their own gateways, They just collect the raw materials and ship them back the good old fashioned way. The established kingdoms then send back finished goods and items like the gates.

there might be a sort of arms race in creating transit routes via interspersed gates. Imagine all the intrigue involved in nations trying to be the first to create an intercontinental portal bridge, hopping from island to island or burying pylons deep into the seabed to make an "oil rig" that funtions as gate platform when no landmass is availible. Ah the sabotage, the espionage, all that jazz.