Why would anybody go lengths to adventure into unpaved and dangerous jungles? Riches of course. Civilisation seeking the riches of mystery and treasure. Nowhere will you find more awe and wonder than in places you haven’t been before. Or at least, that’s what most adventurers think.
Most who are zealous enough will gather groups and teams to adventure with. But just as with the Californian Gold Rush in the 1840-50’s, those who made the greatest riches were not the adventurers. The ones selling shovels made the riches that built cities.
Crognar’s Rock is a peninsula with a vast jungle vegetation. What is defining are the mountain formations and the thick forests making it difficult to traverse with ease. At the same time, the naturally given land formation gives many opportunities for secret places. With monsters and animals inhabiting greater parts of those jungles, it doesn’t seem appealing to venture in there.
We established that in the last posts. Now, the question is, how can we populate this peninsula that seems more and more hostile. People go in for the riches, that’s what we came up with so far. The real work begins with looking over time what could have happened to make Crognar’s Rock habitable.
Today’s task is exactly that. We create civilisation! Populating the jungles, plains and mountains with people who have found their niche.
“Wait, you said civilisation? Weather doesn’t strike me as a valid cause for civilisation!”, you might think. And you’re right. Weather by itself doesn’t drive civilisation. But it enables it. The story coastal line with difficult waters will create opportunities for the few land routes. The idea behind considering weather is past the random weather table. It’s more about understanding the reasons for civilisation.
If people decide to build a city on the mountain top, despite the tormenting storms, there must be a good reason. What we do with today’s task is to raise awareness of our own map. Instead of doing a lot of research to justify how the weather is regionally made, we focus on what we want. It helps to know more about the world. It always does.
The difference now is to create our own narrative. Coming up with reasons why things are the way they are. Again, this is not about writing a scientific article about the biodiversity and geology of Crognar’s Rock. By the end of the day, we want to create a world that is engaging for our players and ourselves.
Defining the weather is one of the first steps to add diversity to the picture of cities we want to create. It also shows us how the flora and fauna changes depending on the altitude and region.
One quick example is jungle as a setting. The jungles are humid, thickly vegetated. Naturally, there will be rain due to evaporation. But how does that look like with dry forests close to the mountains? Or strong winds from the “falling” air over the mountains that blow the humidity of the jungle onto a city nearby?
Keeping factors like this in mind makes it more engaging to paint a coherent picture. it enables us to understand our map a bit better. additionally, it makes us ask questions about the coherence of our map. Let’s say, the desert in Section 8, which you can find right here, is geographically not possible. Then why is there a desert? A magic incident turned the vegetation into dust over the course of hundreds of years. Could be one explanation. Due to sudden changes in air currents because of early deforestation that region turned into a desert. Could be another.
We will keep scenarios like this in mind when we populate Crognar’s Rock.
We’re getting there. Of cities and great places where the wayfarers met. With the weather in mind, we prime ourselves for creating reason for interesting cities. An interesting city is in my eyes the first visible point on the map. I want to understand why they’re there. No matter the hardship getting there. If people live there something is working for them.
When we look at our main map we can already see structures of land, sea and constellations that stick out. On Crognar’s Rock, the mountains and the jungles are prevalent. They are the defining aspects. Besides those, there are also sub-tropical forests, plains, bodies of water, islands, prominent coastal lines and even a desert. Actually, quite a lot of things to consider.
So, how do we reason with cities and civilisation? I found it to be most helpful to create a little narrative around it. Imagine it as a broad recollection of history classes. I know, it sounds boring. Hell, it was many times extremely boring. And yet, you’ll remember something about history. The accidental discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. You might don’t know the detail what happened and why. Most importantly, you know that something happened.
We do the same thing with our map. Come up with some explanation. It’ll likely sound familiar as soon as you speak it out loud. Building context with arbitrary reasoning.
“Putting people on the Island”
“The first adventurers came from the north. Our people always stayed close to the mountain-side. It gives our people protection from the dangers of the jungle. The griffons atop the mountain don’t attack our kin if we don’t provoke them. Kollia has been good to us. But I couldn’t ever grasp why the humans would want to venture deeper into the jungle…”, said Krogmill, chief of the gnomish tribe at the foot of Kollia mountain.
“You know why I came here? My great grandfather ventured into the heart of the Crognar jungles. He came back with gold and rare idols, never before seen by any man. My grandfather always told me the stories he heard from his father. I idolised him. I wanted to be like him! Heck, when I was old enough I packed my belongings and ventured to Crognar myself. Now I’m here with a band of people I can call my family. It wasn’t easy to traverse the jungle to get to the City of Golden Cows, I tell you!
Do you want to come with us? We’re just planning a mission into the deeper heart of the centre!..”, Barthan said, when you asked him where he came from.
“We accepted this as our new home and built C’oan hundred years before the first humans arrived. They’re like flies… Although, I deeply admire the tenacity of flies. Our history tells us of the surprise, meeting the first humans here. They somehow survived the travel from the west to the east. Though, I also pity their reckless behaviour. They seem obsessed with the depths of the jungle. The slightest rumours about treasure and mystery will make them return into the thicket. I don’t know if it’s really about treasure or just the sense of danger that drives them.”, Mi’rla, an elven council member of C’oan, lectured you with these words.
The Fabric of History
Inspiration comes when you set start rolling the rock. By “putting some people on an island” you train to accept the whim of creation. We don’t want to articulate into extreme detail what’s happening and why. We’ll do that in a later step, anyways. No, what we want right now is to get a general sense of our civilisation.
We introduced three little snippets of story that tell us a little bit about the regions. Apparently, the jungles up north around Kollia mountain are quite vicious. It also seems that the biggest problem for travellers is to get through the initial jungle. It could be due to the unrelenting thickness of those woods or simply because there are none up north. In comparison, the City of Golden Cows sounds like a place humans would want to go to. Mi’rla also made it pretty clear that humans are a reckless folk, seemingly loving the danger of the jungles.
With these insights, we can build our first cities and place some clues on the map. Actually, you can do something like this with every region. Starting to name them and giving them more and more flavour. Following these steps, we create context. furthermore, it creates a sort of culture. We already know that people actually came back with treasures. That means there is something to the adventuring. It also tells us that human ingenuity made the west somehow hospitable outside of the thick forests.
Adventurers and their survival can make tiny cities into greater hubs for exotic commerce. Recruiting people for missions, selling rare ingredients and even relics found in the depths of the jungle. Apparently, there is enough treasure hidden for those cities to thrive on that for a while. At least in the beginning.
A living world
I always find it a good idea to start these cities from a mundane view. Instead of showing their high-time of adventure I want to understand how they progressed. How the sense of initial adventure died down. Showing how farmlands and timber replaced the dangerous lifestyle with calculated security.
Opposite to popular belief, I think it’s important to show the boring side of those cities. Additionally, showing common travel and trade routes. Besides the mundane everyday life, the adventure becomes suddenly more important. Especially, when adventuring it not sought after anymore. Despite adventuring for a hundred years, the greatest mysteries have not been uncovered.
Try it for yourself. Introduce the setting to your players from a basic view. Give them little hints and hooks to make them understand that there is something in the thicket worth exploring. Create mystery around the jungles and how people grew anxious and tired of adventuring. Since there are books filled with history in the libraries of the world they will eventually encounter the secrets they want to uncover.
While we talked a lot about possible cities and people, we now put it to practice.
Crognar’s Rock is inhabited mainly by a decreasing amount of humans. The jungles are dangerous and the elves on the east coast are not interested in dealing with the dangers of the jungle. Monsters and animals adapted to wilderness. The greatest riches are actually in the hunt of their hides and bones. At the same time, dwarves and other people with a keen eye for the riches between rocks and soil band together to mine. The initial adventuring spirit was replaced with the profit thinking of calculatable resources. Thus, the main income of Crognar’s Rock is either in mining, farming or fishing. If you stay out of the jungle you have a greater chance for a comfortable lifestyle. Either in the city or in village communities throughout the peninsula.
Drawing in the first cities will tell you a lot about the map. As you can see with Crognar’s Rock, a lot had to be changed to make sense. Forests got expanded and trading routes add logic to the site.
What we did today, is to think about the reasons why a civilisation would consider inhabiting a peninsula that is not only hostile but also geographically difficult to traverse. Establishing an adventuring culture shows us that there are things to discover. Introducing several tribes and races teaches us of differences with how people deal with their environment. Letting the “adventure-boom” die down reveals the calculated and mundane riches that make most of the world.
I think the beauty of creating a map and campaign like that, is to get fully immersed into its creation. This makes me understand Crognar’s Rock a lot better since when we started from only a vision. I also realise the limitations of my art style and approach.
This leads me to want to become better. Wanting to learn because I see that the map is subpar compared to the pros. This is hunger. Not to condemn what I’m doing but actively seeking ways to make it even better! A great big “Thank you!” to @HalflingGypsy on Twitter, for explaining in great detail how to draw better continent maps.
Also, a thank you to @ElvenTower and @DysonLogos for interacting and being literally the best dudes!
Please check out their pages, the content they provide is fascinating and gorgeous! Some of the best I’ve ever seen. Teaching me a lot about how I want to create maps in the future!
In the next article, we’ll start naming what the civilisation created. Our regions and cities! Stay tuned.
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