One of the things I have always been certain about with my world is that it is not a Standard Medieval Setting. In fact, the first version I worked on was maybe 300 years in the future of the current version, with arcanotech and clockpunk elements. (That’s still the future. I’ll get to it eventually.)
The problem is that not all areas of the world are at the same tech level, so when someone asks me about it, I can’t give an overall summation. There are some cultures still using stone tools yet situated right next to others wielding magically-wrought steel; there are some cities sitting on abundant resources that won’t access them because of religious reasons, while their neighbors are perfectly happy to exploit less-productive sites.
To add to that, Halci has some handicaps to industrialization for the areas that would be thinking along those lines. There is very little coal, no petroleum or natural gas (for various spoilery reasons) , and no rubber trees. Old drafts had cannons in use, with the requisite gunpowder, but I changed my mind in terms of the Empire’s access — though the world does have gunpowder elsewhere and it will be more widespread in the future.
Anyway, lack of oil and rubber cuts out a lot of modern transportation options, and limited coal and gas is problematic for such basics as home-heating. Since I also have no sea mammals (thus no whaling for oil), I have to look at other options — and also the impact those options have on the cultures that use them.
Below is an idealized power-source map:
I say ‘idealized’ because many of these options are projections rather than actual current-use sources. More like ‘power source access’.
Going from the top, the orange Peat/Coal areas are already being exploited, though not necessarily to the marked degree. The red Geothermal areas are also being exploited, though by goblins rather than humans (and there are other geothermal-usage spots active underneath human civilization in various places, I just didn’t want to muck with the map too much). Animal/Plant Oil in magenta covers some oilgrass crops, but mostly the harvesting of eels (those magenta rivers) and oilfish similar to the golomyanka (the coastlines).
Purple and dark blue (tide/wave and hydro) are also currently in use along their ranges, though not to potential capacity. Tidal power mostly captures incoming water in tidal pools and then generates energy when the tide goes out again; wave power uses ocean currents and requires a bit more work; hydro captures the energy of waterfalls and rivers. Tide and hydro are both commonly used to power mills in their areas (for flour, lumber, paper and metalwork).
Wind power is spotty. Windmills are in use through much of the central corridor for milling grain and pumping groundwater, but the light blue bands elsewhere (especially along the southwest coast) are mostly possibility, not actual. Current wind technology along the southern part of the central band is nearly up to the level of the turbine, just lacking an electrical system into which to feed.
Wood is fairly self-explanatory. Problematic is that many of the wood-producing areas are under the control of skinchanger tribes or wraiths who do not want their lands exploited. In that regard, the green bands just represent the penetration of logging into forested areas for the purpose of power production.
Next, in tan, is solar power — though not yet in the modern electric sense. Mostly the use is as solar ovens, stills, home and water heaters and disinfectors, and also as combination salt/solar ponds in the northeast corner — the Faded Sea salt flats of Riddian.
Last are the yellow arcane spots, which could tie all the potential sources together but have not managed it yet. Arcanotech’s most promising aspect is that it can make batteries — not chemically but through channeling and binding energy into objects, usually specially-prepared glass or wraith crystal. (Okay, there is a bit of chemistry involved.) Arcane ‘batteries’ already power all magical items; the spells bound into those items slowly decay as the energy initially imbued into them is depleted by use, until they are either recharged or become mundane. The leap not yet taken is to create an energy-distribution network, rather than relying on battery-type enchantments, to circulate excess arcane energies throughout the land for electricity-type purposes.
Some progress has been made toward that end in Gejara (center north) and Yezad (center south), but Yezad is slowly lapsing into theocracy and Gejara has problems with focusing on the practical. Conversely, the idea of networks exists within the Empire (mid-northeast) but the capacity is not yet there, especially with the fractious nature of the local mage organizations.
Even without networks, life in arcane areas tends to involve arcane lighting, temperature control, transportation and sanitation. The Psycher Weave in the Empire also supplies information storage and retrieval — and probably a bit of entertainment for those authorized to access it. However, arcane communities are very insular, so do not extend their benefits far from their own walls.
All of this suppresses the general tech level to a wooden-wheeled, windmill-horizoned, peat-burning pre-industrial situation, even if there are bright spots here and there. But energy production is not the only measure of technology…
As mentioned before, there are Stone Age cultures living alongside barely pre-industrial ones. The reason for this is metals access. Several cultures will not mine their land out of respect for the elemental spirits (for example, the Corvish) and so sit on deposits of ore that lure other cultures into attacking them; other cultures are on good terms with the local elementals and are thus gifted metals willingly by those elementals.
The orange sections on this map show areas that either have no access to metals or refuse to mine/use them due to cultural reasons. The red sections show cultures willing to mine/use metals but with no access to iron, either due to local deficiency or active elemental resistance. The magenta areas are in trade-relationships with an iron/steel provider; the purple can get limited amounts of steel as gifts or through their own work; and the light blue has easy and widespread access to iron and steel.
Additionally (and generally as a subset of the light blue Widespread Steel option), there are goblin-controlled places where clockwork technology is being advanced or has even come to the surface into common use. Likewise, the tan Artificing spots indicate a confluence of metals-access and arcane magic, capable of producing the enchanted items and arcane batteries mentioned above.
Next: Education Access.
Education being a huge factor of advancement in technology, it helps to know who has access to what. Halion reckoning splits the stages of life into several six-year segments, and this is generally true with its education schema. Orange is the most basic of education levels: first language, numbers and letters, shapes and colors, and practical abilities suited to the culture, which are usually taught by the parents between the ages of one and six.
Age seven is the beginning of primary education — the ‘apprentice’ stage in arcane parlance, featured in red. This may cover a military education as in Trivestes, an actual apprenticeship to a mage or a skilled professional, or a more general education by priests/priestesses or tutors. Literacy, early math, philosophy, history and sometimes an introduction to theology, ethics or logic are the defining features.
Most of the ‘civilized’ world has an access-level at least one step higher; only fringe or unstable territories like Kerrindryr, Szari-Nak, Krovichanka and the Garnet Mountain Territory provide this as the average. For Kerrindryr and the GMT, survival counts more than knowledge; for Szari-Nak and Krovichanka, raiding and war take precedence.
Age thirteen begins secondary education for those afforded it. ‘Journeyman’ education (in magenta) can involve the specifics of a trade, a continued general education, officer training in military schools, vocational training for priests, or selection for arcane study — as most mentalists ‘manifest’ around this age. Journeyman-level education is a requirement for tradesmen, merchants, managers and theologians, so is considered the norm in the mercantile kingdoms and territories.
Age nineteen begins tertiary, or ‘Adept’, education. In dark blue, it is the level of scribes, librarians, most practical mages (including necromancers), trade specialists, high priests and priestesses, and professional advisors. Nineteen is also the age of majority throughout most of the known world (except the Empire, where it has been dropped to eighteen), so any Adept is considered a full adult, and all Adept-level education is voluntary. The more knowledge-based kingdoms tend to have Adept-level averages, though rarely throughout their entire area. Gejara and Averogne stand as one Adept-level bloc, with Padras, Yezad and Zhangi-Uru as another and Ciritheen as a third; central Xiroacer also has a high education level, though mostly in theology and necromancy.
Finally, Master level ‘starts’ at 25, though that is just a traditional number due to the rule of sixes. In truth, Adept level can last forever as practical learners expand their skills, while Mastery only starts when the practical is abandoned for the theoretical. No Master-level civilization currently exists, but Master-level enclaves dominate all of the university-, mage- and wraith-cities. The vast majority of Master-level students are mages of some sort, though there are pure scholars (particularly in Taradzur) and pure theologians (in Serinhur and Temakish) as well as a few theoretical scientists in Gejara.
Last, there is some gender bias in certain territories. Jernizan does not educate its women beyond the practical basics, but it does train them for combat. The Risen Phoenix Empire has instituted a ban on female education which is somewhat obeyed. Xiroacer does not educate its males, though again they are trained for combat; likewise with the matriarchal Ibe-Wum lizardfolk of the Forest of Cloud Serpents.
Finally, as an addendum to the education levels, the Text Access Map!
Proper education requires proper materials…mostly. The uncolored areas have oral traditions.
The orange areas preserve their writings in clay or stone tablets, and/or use slate and chalk for non-permanent writing.
The red bands use beeswax tablets and styluses for non-permanent writing.
The magenta bands use paper (usually made from bark, reeds, veilgrass/shroudgrass, razorgrass/needlegrass, or rarely wood pulp) and ink as either disposable or permanent writing material. Paper may be collected in book form or as scrolls.
The dark blue dots indicate cities where illuminated texts are commonly drawn and compiled. These places will include general scribal services and bookbinding as well.
The light blue dots indicate cities with at least one active printing press. The Phoenix Empire discourages printing (and literacy in general) but the Citadel at Valent and the Hawk’s Pride will not be denied, and the Trivesteans just ignore that mandate. Gejara is a hotbed of printing activity, and Yezad — as the former stronghold of the Goddess of Knowledge — has been printing books for thousands of years. Its influence extends to its neighbors and former vassals.
The green dots indicate cities with active newspapers or regular newspaper delivery. Yezad has let its newspaper tradition decay in the past century, but Zhang and Gejara both have active newspaper business which deliver beyond the reach of their physical presses. Gejara even has niche markets.
The tan dots indicate the presence of public libraries within the indicated cities. Yezad and its former lands predominate due to their religious history, but all of the mage cities and a few associated communities (including the Trifold enclave of Turo in the Phoenix Empire) stock and staff libraries for the sake of the public.
Finally, the yellow dots indicate the presence of a formal university — either a mage academy or a research institution. The yellow dot on the upper right is the Citadel at Valent; slightly left of it is the Hawk’s Pride. All can accommodate a Master-level education, though the Hawk’s Pride is dragged down somewhat due to being a military-mage academy rather than one for theoretical magic.
As a side-note, while the education levels superficially resemble mage-titles, mages do not ascend the ranks by age but by skill and testing. Mage ranks go:
Apprentice, Journeyman, Adept, Magus/Title (Warder, Summoner, etc), Master Magus/Title (Master Warder, etc), Archmagus.
Edit: Argh, I forgot to add this map! Here, have it!
But wouldn’t regions trade fuel sources with each other? It’s not so difficult to get a bunch of horses and cart some coal or cart some charcoal to another region. This vast distribution is utterly unrealistic — there would be more similarity due to trade — don’t you think?
As mentioned, not all of it is active distribution; some is just potential. Looking it over: peat can be exported, coal generally isn’t due to low availability (or else it’s hoarded by the higher classes). Animal/plant oil does get shipped around, this is mostly about where it can be harvested. Wood is a contested resource, so areas that can log do export, but exports most often are in the form of furniture, beams for ship- and house-building, and other non-burning uses. Geothermal, wind, tide/wave, hydro and solar can’t be exported per se. Arcane energy centers on the yellow points but in battery form it can go wandering.
Certainly there is overlap in some areas, like in that upper-right light-blue area where there is actually a lot of uncontested forest which isn’t shown due to it mostly being (low hills and) farmland. And there is plenty of trade, so resources can be distributed widely. But since the only things that can be distributed are the coal, peat, wood and fish oil, and those sources can’t be relied on to consistently produce enough for trade, these are the fall-back options.
But you wouldn’t transport wood — you’d transport charcoal — as is done in Haiti and other impoverished regions 😉 And, if you are able to actually make hydro etc then you would indeed export to other countries! Look at Ghana with its damns and Togo etc — these countries are energy exporters due to the their lakes.
Picky picky. Yes, charcoal. And hydro-as-watermills, as mentioned in a different comment.
Well, too often one reads a novel and one little thing bugs the crud out of you 😉 Also, many areas of the world DID build vessels from ONLY imported lumber — Ancient Egypt for example. They transported lumber from Lebanon….
So, it would be quite easy to fill of a boat with charcoal… Or peat or something like that.
When there’s a surplus, for sure. I think combining this map, the trade routes map and the conflict map give the best view of what can go where, because there are situations of ‘we won’t sell to people like them’ being enforced by kings and armies sometimes, so it doesn’t fit neatly into supply and demand.
Not that there isn’t a huge amount of smuggling going on. One of the religious is almost completely about smuggling. So yes, stuff gets around, just not as much as it would if the kingdoms would stop fighting/the resource-controllers would stop defending them so fiercely.
Or cow dung, which makes GREAT fuel… 😉 haha
I would immediately buy a fantasy novel that discussed how effective cow dung was as fuel….
Damn, that’s something I could have used, actually. It didn’t even occur to me. Now I’m sad. (Even though it would be goat dung instead of cow, I see that’s still practical.)
It’s very practical — just dry it in the sun — voila! Think of the Nuba people in Sudan…. It’s the only way they are still alive. And, the smoke is a sort of mosquito repellant!
While I’d love to edit that into book 1, I think I can say that it was there, just not directly mentioned. I don’t like doing info-dumps anyway; I tend to touch on things briefly as they come up, usually through character thoughts, then move on with the story. But it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind going forward. Thanks!
Think of the US! How MASSIVE the country is and how far the energy is often shipped — and coal. If you are really able to make hydro damns and massive coal mining then you’d have railroads etc and ship this stuff everywhere. The only way your plan would work is if the land mass is MASSIVE and the countries all utterly decentralized — but then you wouldn’t have hydro etc. I find the technology level way too high for this sort of lack of interconnectedness…
Forgot to reference two of the earlier maps that should shed some light on this: and .
As mentioned, there is no massive coal mining. The hydro I speak of is not hydroelectricity but waterwheels and their ilk. Also as mentioned, much of this is potential; it is not active, it is not built or in use. As not mentioned but I probably should have, all the technologies that I’ve referenced (minus solar and geothermal — which have specific reasons being here — and wave which is mostly potential), have all been applied in the real world pre-Renaissance.
“have all been applied in the real world pre-Renaissance.” — Of course, I’m a medieval historian 😉
But was rather perplexed by the inclusion of geothermal….. Unless this is some civilization that has regressed technologically except for a few pockets — that’s normally how such fantasy premises operate.
Well, I find the entire thing fascinating. Hopefully the actual story doesn’t get overshadowed by the detailed world building.
Actually, the world has been moving forward in fits and starts — there hasn’t been a great overall regression. The geothermal spots are outliers and not in use by the human populace, but by one of the other races, which basically puts all its time and energy into scientific research and isn’t interested in sharing it with topsiders. The goblins who live in those hotspots do have electricity, and in one spot they’re in some trade negotiations with topsiders for energy as well as support, materials, etc, but none of their work has fully bled up into the human situation. (They’re also the ones with clockworks — basically they’re clock/electropunk hiding out underground.)
I guess my only point is that this technological variation is possible if the place is similar to Africa — drastically different technological levels, wealth levels, centralization, corruption etc. Or else, all this extremely high level energy technology would simply be exported to nearby places — oil pipelines across entire continents, trains across vast distances, tankers, etc.
“petroleum or natural gas” — oops forgot about that bit
Yes, there are drastically different tech, wealth, centralization and corruption levels. I have a lot of maps detailing this stuff, heh — some of which are in this post, some of which I still have to figure out how to display. This shows me that this map isn’t terribly effective in conveying the point it was meant to make, alas. I’ll have to consider how to fix it.
Also, most of the kingdoms/countries/empires are actively trying to kill each other, so there’s that.
You don’t necessarily need a map. I found that notecards for each area which major points will work nicely….. At least to keep in mind when you write.
I have big files of various bits of setting information that I really should get around to integrating properly, but I like having the visual reference too.
Thanks for all the insightful questions, by the way. It really helps me to know where the holes in my work are, and the opportunity to explicate the reasons for certain trends and behaviors allows me to understand them better myself.