Some of you are probably tired of my maps, but that’s okay. You don’t have to read about them!
For those that like them, I have some…uh…interesting ones this time.
First let’s tackle the dull stuff. Grain and textiles!
One of the criticisms of epic fantasy that I see a lot is how empty some of the worlds seem. Castles, armies, enchanted forests, sure — but the farmland and pasturage required to support complex societies? Not so much mentioned.
Tolkien and GRRM are two writers I’ve seen knocked for this. Now, I really don’t have an opinion on it; I don’t mind a bit of lacking veracity when the main point of the story is epic battles or…political backstabbing or whatever. For my own information, though, I want to know this stuff about my own world: what crops are where, what resources each kingdom has, what they trade to each other and what they fight over, where the regional ‘breadbaskets’ are and what the famine-prone areas might be. Since I plan to hold onto this world for a while (and have run several pen-and-paper games within the setting), it is to my benefit to know what the regional stresses and benefits are.
Plus I’m obsessive.
So. The grain map tells me where the high-producing grains are concentrated (the light yellow and goldenrod-colored ones) and where the grassland is mainly composed of low-producing or difficult-to-harvest grains (orange and dark green). Also, this only measures the potential growing range for those grains, not their actual distribution; not all of this territory has been cultivated.
As for the textile map, my world has a lack of: sheep, silkworms, flax, cotton and hemp. Therefore the textile options are different. Goats take the sheep niche; spider-folk cover somewhat for silkworms; several less-than-ideal plant-based fabrics are used in the goatless areas; and wolf-kin regularly brush out their wolf relatives to card their excess fur into wool. Also, the southern clans weave cloth from the fur of the taear (the ‘whales of the desert’). This creates some large gaps in good fabric availability (namely the green, grey and pink areas, plus the orange areas just show where goats are, not necessarily where they’re reachable), thereby driving trade.
…the cannibalism map.
This one is a request from my artist, who is sometimes kinda creepy. Also, if she eventually comes over here and kills me for making her redraw the cover a zillion times, I fully expect to become steaks. I bet I’d be delicious.
Anyway, a lot of these aren’t strictly cannibalism because they’re not same-on-same, but I decided that sentient-on-sentient devouring was close enough. Since my world’s background involves beast-folk becoming human through crossbreeding with each other, there’s already a lot of predator/prey dynamic in the stories, and though most of the outright eat-your-enemy stuff is in the past…obviously not all is.
The purple is mostly feral goblins eating anything they can catch; they and the lizardfolk are the closest you’ll come to outright monster races on Halci. Civilized goblins don’t do such things.
The red areas are places where skinchangers (or beastfolk) dominate the population and continue to raid/harass/eat each other in their war for territory. In the distant past, the red area would cover the entire map; it’s become restricted to these spots because of the decline of the skinchanger/beastfolk clans, not because of any change in behavior among them.
The blue areas are, in general, borderlands between skinchanger/beastfolk tribes and human cities. In the northeast, this means the conflict zone between the wolf-clans and the human kingdom of Trivestes; in the southeast it’s the depredations of the spider-folk of the Forest of Eyes upon the surrounding human populace; in the center-south it’s a mixture of lizardfolk, toadfolk and scorpionfolk against the Zhang; and in the center-north it’s more wolf-clan against the Jernizen plains-dwellers. The one stand-out is in the west, where an entire land is considered a blue zone. That would be Xiroacer, where the ruling beastfolk keep human slaves for sacrifice and sometimes for dinner.
Green zones, with what some would consider ‘true’ cannibalism, are largely a creation of local pressures. They come about when there are pro-skinchanger/beastfolk humans among the skinchanger/beastfolk forces attacking human settlements — for instance in the northeast, where human wolf-kin are perfectly happy to eat what their skinchanger brethren bring home no matter what those kills are. In the southern desert, competition for food and resources is such that sometimes the human tribes use cannibalism as a last resort; in Xiroacer to the west and the White Isle in the center-east, human slaves eat what they are given, whether they like it or not. Finally, the spot in the upper middle indicates the psychotic swamp-folk, who may or may not know what they’re doing.
Additionally, there used to be a practice of totemic cannibalism in the northeast, before the coming of the Risen Phoenix wiped it out. That area was once heavily shamanic, with even the human clans worshiping a totem animal spirit, and in order to move between clans–including to marry into a new one–it was necessary to show allegiance by renouncing the totem of the former clan. Individuals moving into a prey-clan just had to defeat an effigy of their former spirit, but those moving into a predator clan had to kill and/or eat the renounced animal…so if one was moving from Snake Clan into Wolf Clan, one had to eat a snake during the ritual dinner.
This is cannibalism because that snake is probably related to its eater–however distantly. If the totem spirit is alive, then every ‘animal’ it’s connected to is actually a skinchanger, capable of taking on a human form at any time. Even if the totem is dead, its clan is still distantly related to all the animals of its type.
Joining a predator-clan was thus mostly something for prisoners-of-war, stolen brides and sociopaths.
On to a brighter topic!
Quick definitions for the less-known terminology:
Stratocracy = rule by the military. Not in the manner of a military dictatorship or junta, but in that the entire political structure is the army, and their rule is considered legitimate.
Anocracy = rule by competing factions. Sometimes these factions might cooperate, sometimes they might war with each other, but they are balanced enough that none has gained full rule.
The absolute monarchies are easy: they claim a divine right to rule without responsibility to mortal law. Jernizan in the west and Imperial Daecia in the east are the active ones; Wyndon (also in the east) is under Imperial Daecian control but pretends to just be allied with it.
The constitutional monarchies are technically ruled by kings and queens, but in practicality by oligarchies of judges or nobles or merchants, with the monarch as a figurehead. The Brother Isle of Graviena is ruled by a council of captains under the aegis of the Queen; the mountainous land of Hjaltar is ruled by a mix of governors and judges; and Amandon (within the Empire) takes its cues from its council of lords rather than its Imperial Regent.
Some of these political systems are caught within the magenta area of the Imperial Hegemony, but the Empire doesn’t mind them. The Empire is based in Imperial Daecia but manages a hegemony of power; it allows its vassal states some level of self-governance with the understanding that it can and will come in and take over if necessary. The Emperor is an absolute monarch but doesn’t send out many decrees.
Next, in purple, are the democratic republics. These are cohesive countries (or city-states) with elected officials required to abide by the codified rules of governance. Some have primary officials, such as the Lord Governors of the Illanic city-states, but others like Zhang and Gejara are ruled by elected councils with no one official as the face of the government.
Similar but more schismatic are the dark-blue federal republics, which are not cohesive but rather collections of smaller states that submit to one elected governing body for large decisions, but retain some autonomy in dictating their own local laws. Ciritheen and Haaraka are the most stable federal republics (Ciritheen under regional dragon rulers and Haaraka nominally under the Thorn Protector but ruled in practice by local governors), with the city-states of Padras still in transition from theocratic rule.
In light blue are the two stratocracies: the young and combative nation of Szari-Nak and the old military-dominated Imperial protectorate of Trivestes. Szari-Nak is embroiled in a permanent war with Xiroacer and thus has adopted an entirely military structure, while Trivestes uses military rule as a way to instill and enforce discipline upon its behaviorally-challenged populace. Trivestes also exercises itself against nearby Riddian and the Garnet Mountains, because military discipline can only help so much.
The theocracies are Xiroacer (formerly and still partially in service to Death), Yezad (the Shade Mother and Sun Father), and the Shadow Temple city-complex in Hjaltar (Kherus Morgwi). Ruled by priests and priestesses of various levels of devotion and sanity.
Finally, the anocracies. In the far north are the nomadic ogre tribes and the semi-independent human cities with which they sometimes collaborate and sometimes clash. Just south of them are the Corvish clans, who don’t often fight each other but certainly don’t let other clans dictate laws to them. To the northeast are the varied skinchanger/beastfolk clans of the Garnet Mountain Territory, who veer from allying against the Trivesteans to killing and/or eating each other. To the far south are the desert tribes of humans, scorpionfolk and Nythalla, which can’t seem to hold together any alliance for more than a few seasons at a time. Finally are the haelhene of the White Isle (there in the center of the eastern inner sea), with their constant inter- and intra-House politics and attempts to dominate each other.
Whew. I think that’s enough for now.