Posted in World Building

WB04.2 Kingdoms and Sociology (Physical Cartography)

Kingdom size

You may have already generated the borders of kingdoms, if not this list is from table 26  Random Kingdom Size. If you already have borders there is no need to regenerate new ones.

  • City-State
    • 1d8  hexes on a regional map ( regional map hexes are 100 miles across on an earth size world)
    • 10d10 miles approximate diameter
  • Small Kingdom
    • 3d6 hexes
    • 10d10 x 5 miles
  • Medium Kingdom
    • 4d6 hexes
    • 10d10 x 8 miles
  • Large Kingdom
    • 6d6 hexes
    • 10d10 x 10 miles
  • Empire
    • 8d8 hexes
    • 10d10 x 20 miles


World size and Kingdom size

Medieval kingdoms are severely limited  in their maximum size by lack of efficient overland communications and reliable sea travel.

No matter how much land a world has, kingdoms generally remain about the same size. If a world is unusually large  or has a great deal of land area kingdoms will generally increase in number before increasing in size.

If you are using a system that has advanced technology and/or magic then this guideline may be irrelevant.

Coasts, Seas and Lakes

First sketch out the coastlines and any major body of water within the borders. Here’s a list from table 27.

  • Archipelago-Kingdom is scattered across chains of fairly small islands, each are within a day’s sail 25-50 miles
  • Major Islands-Kingdom occupies most of one or two major islands, bordered on all sides by the sea
  • Coastal with offshore islands-A major portion  of the kingdom border is a coastline, may have inlets, peninsulas and offshore islands under control of the kingdom.
  • Coastal, no islands-A major portion  of the kingdom border is a coastline with no significant offshore islands.
  • Multiple coastlines-Kingdom borders on two or more major bodies of water, with coastlines on several sides.
  • Landlocked with an inland sea-Kingdom has no exterior seacoasts but includes a major body of water. The inland sea is 6d8 hexes in extent on the kingdom map.
  • Landlocked with major lakes-as above  but kingdom features 1d4 major lakes each 4d6 hexes in size.
  • Landlocked, no significant water-No major bodies of water exist although minor lakes (1 hex or less) and rivers may be common.

The sections below will be updated later with additional information, there are links to other sections with information on the topics.

Mountains, Hills and Topography

  • Mountain Ranges
  • Foothills
  • Rolling Hills and Tablelands
  • Depressions and Gorges
  • Plains and Plateaus

Refer to WB03.1 for more information on  geography concerning the above topics.



  • Climatology-For more information see WB02.2
  • Prevailing winds and humidity-see weather patterns in WB03.2 for information.
  • Terrain and Ground Cover
  • Rivers and drainage


Posted in World Building

WB04.1 Kingdoms and Sociology (People and their culture.)

WB04.1 Kingdoms and Sociology, people and their culture.

There are four basic steps for describing a kingdom, we will be breaking this down into 3 parts and combining steps 3 and 4.

  1.  Detailing the people and their culture within the kingdom (Part one)
  2. Charting the physical boundaries and terrain within the kingdom (Part two)
  3. Describing how the people live in the terrain and where they have changed it, built cities or farmlands etc. (Part three)
  4. Populating the region with monsters, fantastical ecologies and adventure possibilities (Part three?)


Detailing the people and their culture within the kingdom .

Who lives in the area? What are they like? How do they get along?  These are some of the questions we will answer as we create a culture for the kingdom.  Culture  in reference to the guidebook is a broad generalization of several gross characteristics  which include:

  1. Race
  2. Language
  3. Technology
  4. Government
  5. Social Alignment
  6. Situation
  7. Class and kit biases

Cultural Archetypes

It may be easier to use existing preconceptions of certain cultures  then to completely invent an imaginary one from thin air. Use any cultural model that you think fits your need but the guide book has a table (table 21) and descriptions  with the following cultural characteristics.

  • Aboriginal
  • African
  • Arabic
  • Aztec/Incan
  • Barbarian
  • Central Asian
  • Egyptian
  • European
    • Renaissance
    • Middle Ages
    • Dark Ages
  • Indian
  • Oriental
  • Persian
  • Roman
  • Savage
  • Viking


  • Race  besides human, kingdoms and realms can be built by demihumans, humanoid or monstrous races.
    • Number of Races, primary and secondary races, who are they?
      • Small kingdoms
        • 1d2 primary and 1d4+1 secondary races.
      • Moderate kingdoms
        • 1d2 primary and 1d6+1 secondary races
      • Large kingdoms
        • 1d3 primary and 1d8+1 secondary races
      • Empires
        • 1d4 primary and 3d4 secondary races
      • Primary races comprise 25-50% of the total population
      • Secondary races account for 1-10% of the population
      • Sub-races can be substituted for different races.
    • Race Status and position, how do they get along?
      • Table 22 lists possible situations
        • Completely intermixed
        • Common communities, separate districts; one race is dominate over the others
        • Common communities, separate districts; one race is dominate but secondary race is considered equal
        • Separate communities, one race is dominate over the others
        • Separate communities, one race is dominate but secondary race is considered equal
        • One race enslaves the other
    • Good vs Evil races
      • Normally good races find it easier to cooperate together, share a realm and get along.
      • Evil races seldom run together unless when command to do so by a more sinister power.


  • Language – how do they communicate?  this is an important marker in cultural boundaries.
    • Language as a social distinction
      • When one race subjugates another language can be a mark of distinction between rulers and subjects.
    • Common tongue
      • This can be the tongue of the dominate race in the region and thus can change  from region to region or you can have an actual universal language that is common.
    • Literacy
      • Possession of a written language is a key characteristic of a culture.
      • In the absence or a written language a strong oral tradition of memorized epics can serve as an alternate for recording tales.


  • Technology – what level is it?
    • Four basic categories in AD&D following a European model
      • Ancient
      • Dark ages
      • Middle ages
      • Renaissance
    • Kingdom technology level (table 23) also breaks down additional levels
      • Stone age
      • Savage
      • Bronze age
      • Roman
      • Dark ages
      • Crusades
      • 100 Years war
      • Renaissance
    • Other technologies
      • If you are referencing a specific cultural archetype you can also pull from their technology level or as always create what works best for the story or campaign .


  • Government – who runs the kingdom?
    • Table 24  provides some possible options
      • Autocracy
      • Bureaucracy
      • Confederacy
      • Democracy
      • Dictatorship
      • Feudalism
      • Geriatocracy – reserved for the old or very old
      • Gynarchy -reserved to females only, paired with another type
      • Hierarchy
      • Magocracy – wizards
      • Matriarchy
      • Miltocracy – military leaders, martial law
      • Monarchy
      • Oligarchy
      • Pedocracy – scholars or sages
      • Plutocracy –  wealthy
      • Republic
      • Satrapy –  conquerors and representatives of another govt.
      • Syndicracy
      • Theocracy


  • Social Alignment – like individuals a city or kingdom can have an alignment describing the way people get things done. Can affect the laws of the land  and unwritten codes.
    • Table 25 provides these options
      • lawful  good
      • lawful neutral
      • lawful evil
      • neutral evil
      • true neutral
      • neutral good
      • chaotic good
      • chaotic neutral
      • chaotic evil


  • Situation
    • This is a catchall for any kind of scenario or fantastical element you want to add into the immediate campaign or story.  Examples could be:  disorder, unusual organization, unusual laws, mature of magic, persecution, plane-walking and spell-jamming as examples


  • Classes, Races and Kits
    • Are there any special character considerations to be aware of?  Examples: if you have no oriental cultures the samurai or ninja characters would be travelers from a far away land, or if only one human kingdom in the world knows the secrets of magic then human mages should be from that kingdom.
    • Look at all the classes, races and kits and determine what would be considered native to that kingdom.


Next part we will look at the physical cartography of a kingdom.







Posted in World Building

WB03.3 Reginal Continents and Geography ( “Human” Geography)

“Human” Geography

For our purpose this will include demi-human, humanoid or monstrous geography.

There are several basic  components for this:

  • Races
  • Culture
  • Kingdom and States
  • Monsters and Ecosystems

This week will be mainly looking at Races and Culture.

  • Races
    • Identify the kingdom building , intelligent, races with in the region
      • Dominate Races-account for 1/4 or more of the sentient population
        • The region normally includes d3-1 dominate races
      • Major Races-account for 1/20-1/5 of the total population
        • The region normally includes d4+2 major races
      • Minor Races-account for less than 1/20 of the total population
        • The region normally includes 4d4 minor races
    • You can use the table in the guidebook or create your own.
    • Marine and Subterranean Races
      •  Marine
        • Region contains any sizable bodies of water
        • 2d-1 dominate races
        • d3 major races
        • d4 minor races
      • Subterranean
        • d2-1 dominate races
        • d4 major races
        • d6 minor races


  • Culture
    • Rough Guidelines
      • Dominate race includes d4+1 separate cultures or sub-races
      • Major race includes d3  cultures or sub-races
      • Minor race can include d2 cultures or sub-races
    • Geographic features often define borders of different cultural groups.
    • Sub-races serve as different cultural groups for the race.
    • If a race has no sub-races it may have cultural differences.
    • Races or cultures tend to have common geographical factors, or settlement patterns, linking their kingdoms and states together.
      • Hydrographical Grouping
        • Coastal/seafaring
        • Inland /nomadic
        • Riverine
      • Favored Terrain
        • Grasslands
        • Forests
        • Jungles
        • Marshes/swamps
        • Scrub lands/deserts
        • Hills/highlands
        • Mountains
      • Favored Climate
        • Tropical
        • Sub-Tropical
        • Temperate
        • Sub-Arctic
        • Arctic
      • Geographical Grouping
        • Northeast quadrant
        • Southeast quadrant
        • Southwest quadrant
        • Northwest quadrant
    • Kingdom, state or tribal federation
      • Each culture or sub-race will include d8-3 
      • Realm size for races
        • Dominate – 6d6 hexes
        • Major – 4d6 hexes
        • Minor – d8 hexes
      • They usually extend out to some natural boundary and follow terrain and geographical features.


As with everything this are suggestions and options if you have something developed  adjust your world to fit your needs.



Posted in World Building

WB03.1 Regional Continents and Geography

WB03.1 Regional Continents and Geography (World Size, Coastlines, Seas/Land-forms)

If you’ve worked through the previous  module, WB-02, then you may already have  the size of your world with continents and coastlines. This module will make it easier to focus on a single region at a time. instead of the entire world.

World Size, Coastlines, Seas

First thing is to decide what part of the region is land and what part is water.  The Regional Hydrography table in the guidebook provides us with a few options.

  • Archipelago-mostly water with chains of fairly small islands
  • Major Islands-mostly water, several major islands, numerous minor island chains
  • Island-continent-One continental mass surrounded by ocean, smaller offshore islands may also exist
  • Coastline with offshore islands-One coastline cuts across the region, may have inlets, peninsulas and offshore islands
  • Coastline, no islands-One coastline cuts across the region with no significant offshore islands.
  • Multiple coastlines-Borders on two or more oceans, with a part forming  a land border with another region. (Continental US)
  • Land with an inland sea-Most of the region is land, large inland sea or several small ones nearby, may also include archipelagos or major islands
  • Land with minor bodies of water-No bodies of water larger then 200-400 miles within the region, a large lake may qualify as a minor body of water
  • Land, no significant water-No coastlines, lakes or seas of note.

In my project, I’m starting on the region that would be considered an Island-continent. Grab what you use for a regional map and start laying out the region.

Land-forms (Mountains, Hills, Ridges, Canyons and Plains)

Mountain Ranges are the most predominant type of land forms.You can look in WB02.2 for information on seismology and plate tectonics or the nitty-gritty on how mountains are created. Or perhaps you have your own creation method.

As a crude guide, mountains tend to parallel the coastline. But you can also place them using the following guidelines:


  • Regional Location
    • Roll 1d4+1 to determine the number  of mountain systems in the region.
    • Roll 1d4 to determine the quadrant of each system, NW, NE, SE or SW
  • Size
    • Roll 4d8 to determine the length in hexes.
    • Roll 1d4 for width variance.
    • Roll 1d12 to determine direction they run on the clock face. 12-N, 3-E, 6-S,9-W etc.
  • Lesser Flanking systems
    • Roll 1d4-1 for the number of lesser systems
    • Roll 2d4 for each systems length
    • Roll 1d4 for distance away from the main mass.
  • Volcanoes
    • Roll 1d4+1 to determine the rough diameter of the volcano.
  • Mountain Characteristics
    • Options from table 11 that you can pick from, or roll for, each chain.
      • No Mountains
      • Foothills
      • Low Mountains
      • Medium Mountains
      • High Mountains
      • Very High Mountains
      • Extreme Mountains
    • A few options from table 12 that you can pick from, or roll for, each chain.
      • No unusual Properties
      • Volcanic
      • Icebound or Glaciated
      • Mountains Sink or Rise
      • Gates to another location, realm etc
      • Mountains are living, sleeping creatures
      • Home to other beings.

Feel free to mix, match or use them in anyway that fits your world, campaign and story.



Steeper and more rugged then rolling hills.

  • Roll 1d3-1 to determine the width of the foothills for each mountain range.


Rolling Hills, Tablelands

Rolling hills are not part of a mountain , less rugged the foothills and can be settled and cultivated comfortably. Tablelands are hilly terrain that has been eroded, leaves steep-sided towers or mesas of harder stone.

  • Rolling Hills
    • Roll 3d4 to determine the number of hills systems
    • Roll 1d6 for the length of the system
    • Roll 1d3 for the width of the system
    • Roll 1d4 if needed for quadrant placement as above for mountains.
    • Hills may connect to or parallel nearby mountains


  • Anything that doesn’t contain Mountains or Hills
  • Variation is based on climate and ground cover.

Depressions, Gorges and Escarpments

Place as many or as few as you like within your region, roll 1d6 for a good average amount

  • Depressions
    • Roll 1d6 for diameter of depression.
    • Inland areas lower then sea level.
    • Large depressions may drain water to the center creating swamp or marshlands or a small salty lake/sea
    • In hot /arid climates seasonal  or vanishing lakes  or salt flats may appear
  • Gorges
    • Roll 1d4 for length of gorge.
    • Usually found in hilly or mountainous terrain, rarely fund in flat terrain.
  • Escarpments
    • roll 2d8 for the length,  1d4+1 for the diameter if circular
    • Marks a sudden change in elevation.


So this covers the section and I’ll be updating my project as an example. My island continent was roughly built knowing I wanted to be mostly mountainous.

Next week we’ll look at Climate/weather, Terrain types and Rivers, lakes and seas.


Posted in World Building

WB02.1 Worlds and Planets

I’ll be breaking the second module, Worlds and Planets, into the following two sections

02.1 Shape/Size and Hydrography is this weeks post

02.2 Seismology/Tectonics and Climatology will be next weeks post

First off, if you already have world components built don’t toss them away, adjust the characteristics you want for your campaign or story.

The guidebook is mostly set up to make an earth like world, complete with real world like physical laws. feel free to sub out or remove any system explanations and create your own.

Shape and Size

Now what is the shape and size of your world or how can you create it?

The world for your campaign or story can be any shape or size, for mine I chose an earth like shape and size to make mapping easier, using existing blank forms. Your world doesn’t even have to be a planet, it could be a dimension, a plane or whatever catches your interest.


One of the easiest methods is too look at you’re Polyhedral dice,  here’s a quick link on Polyhedrons. See a die shape you like, make that the shape of your world. Want something more along the lines of a plane of existence? take a pierce of paper,  use it as is or make random rips and tears until you find a shape you like.  Maybe you want something irregular shaped,  mutable even….. well grab some modeling clay, play -doh or for artists use a kneaded eraser. What ever is interesting to you for your campaign or story use it.



There’s also world generator sites that can do that for you, a few in the resource section,  or check the NASA links and get inspiration from the universe.


After you have the shape worked out now figure out the size. For an earth like planet it would be spherical, roughly 8,000 miles in diameter and have an approximate 25,000 mile circumference.

Using the tables in the guidebook shows the following

Diameter  8,000

World map hex size  500 miles

Region map hex size  100 miles

They say there are roughly 700 hexes on the blank world map in the guidebook, I’ll take their word on that.  Also it seems to be a 5:1 ratio for scaling as opposed to using a 6:1.  You could also compare your world size to existing planets in the NASA link.  If you have a non-spherical world start by determining the size and number of hexes you want to use. That will give you a miles per hex  for the world and region. For polyhedral worlds divide number of hexes  by the number of faces.

Book example:  a cubical world with 700 hexes would be divided by 6 faces for  116 (116.66) hexes per face. You could round up to make it an even 121 (11 x 11.)If your world hex size is 300 miles then each face would be 3,300 x 3,300 miles each.

Just remember  if you don’t like it adjust it or make another one….



Technically it’s the distribution and mapping of water but I’ll use liquid  since your world may not be water based.

So determine what percent of your world is liquid based. As a reference earth is 70% water.  you can roll on the table, randomly pick a percent, roll percentile dice, use  the world hook  to address it  or any other way you feel works for the campaign or story. Since my world was based on yin yang shapes it’s going to be 50%.

Next it’s time to place continents major islands ans inland seas. Feel free to freehand it or use the chart form the guidebook. I already had a shape to determine the placement for my world and you can do that as well. think skull island etc is there a shape or icon that fits your campaign or story? There’s also a few links to sites that have generators for almost anything including terrain.

Not sure where to place what? the blank map in the guidebook has 20 sections(handy)… count up your sections and assign a number and roll or generate a random number.

Well that about covers the basics for this week, I’ll try to create a randomly generated world from the guidebook and post my results here.

Feel free to post comments or tag me if you have questions, recommendations etc on your world or world building. I’ll be updating my world project Harmonia based on this post.


Next week we’ll jump into the final sections covering Seismology/Tectonics and Climatology







Posted in World Building

WB01 Approaches to World Building

You may ask why use rpg material for storytelling, well any rpg campaign is a cooperative story waiting to be told and any story can be a tale of some campaign.

I’ll be using the 1996, AD&D’s World Builder’s Guidebook by Richard Baker as my primary source for the blog and my project. I’ll be supplementing it along the way with The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding and I’ll include any other additional references used.

In The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding,  Monte Cook talks about how the different approaches taken can vary by need:

World Building for a novelist is normally focused on the story to tell based on what the character sees and maybe hinting at more stories.

World Building for a game, or from a game designers view, is very different, it’s not for just one story but thousands, the world needs to be dynamic and broad.  The game designers world needs a lot broader detail too, where as a novelist can mention something for flavor a game designer needs to describe what’s there.

The GM’s World Building generally falls in between. The GM normally has more then one story to tell but doesn’t have to have as many opportunities since it can be tailored to the group’s interest. Like the novelist, the GM only has to provide the information necessary for the story at hand and has the ability to build as they go.

Players can be included in world building to make it a collaborative event.  Not only can they create their characters but also the location and society their character comes from. This could include the rules, communities and geography etc.

What is the best approach? 

The one that starts with the design feature you consider most important to your world. You can use world hook/s to help guide your approach and decisions.

World Hooks: Below are some large category headings for types of world hooks and the approach best situated.

  • Climate and land-form – The Macroscopic Approach (My Project)
  • Sites of Interest – The Microscopic Approach
  • Cultures – The Sociological Approach
  • Situation -The Situation-Based Approach
  • Historical – The Historical Approach

The Macroscopic Approach: Planet-in or Outside-in, this approach beings with broad generalizations. It’s good when you have no particular plan in mind as continents and climates can be determined with random rolls. It’s also good, as indicated above, for creating worlds with a climatic theme.

The Microscopic Approach: Dungeon-out or Inside-out, opposite of the macroscopic approach, when you have a focused setting. This approach applies when you have a fragment of a world, province, town or dungeon already prepared and work back or “out” to build the bigger picture.

The Sociological Approach: Society or culture based, create a living society first. Start by building up a cultural setting, add in specific kingdom details along with mythology and history.

The Character-Based Approach: Used when you have one or two really strong riveting characters you want to build your world around. What kind of societies, backgrounds or situations made them this way. Usually start with the society or sites of interest.

The Situation-Based Approach: Used to cover a wide range of special hooks or developments that could drive a campaign. Is there an unusual conflict or situation between several kingdoms or societies. Does magic work in a strange or unusual way.
First step is to describe the situation and how it might have been affected by, or been caused by, the world.

The Historical Approach: Related to the situation-based approach but more specific in scope. First step is to think of the great event or events that shaped the world and decide how they relate to the lives and perceptions of the adventurers. Start with history and mythology then go back to  kingdoms and sociology. Once you have the event and the land it took place on you can fill out the rest of the world or move in to work on specific sites within the kingdom.

The Literary Approach: Based off of literary genres of  fantasy and science fiction that are reflected in the GM’s world building effort. If you want to make use of a world that someone else has built , you’ll find many of the design decisions have been taken out of your hands. Mostly you’ll be interpreting  the authors vision into the campaign. Don’t try to sell or publish it. You’ll also have to overcome the role of the author’s stories and events in your world.

Even though we are using an AD&D guide we still need to think about how real our world is going to be. The closer we get to modern day the more that realism is tolerated or demanded.

Follow my progress on my world here Harmonia