Campaign Design: Seven Realms Ecology 2
Campaign Design Log:
Seven Realms Ecology 2
Last time I talked about dragons. This time I am going to talk about some of the staples of fantasy gaming which are just outright banned or seriously scaled back in the lands of Arn. Unchecked abominable vermin, magical insectoid hive mind creatures, and untamed hordes of self-replicating undead cannot exist. Or rather they could exist, but the fantasy world in which they exist should not last as is for more than a century after they are introduced. Follow me on this thought train.
Assuming you had large single-cell organisms, a.k.a. blobs or slimes, puddings or what have you in a world infused with magic, what would be the true limit to their expansion? I can’t think of a good reason such a creature wouldn’t grow to encompass the entire continent eventually unless destroyed, and by the time you realize it’s a serious threat to the world, it’s too late to effectively destroy it. So I didn’t include any such mindless amorphous creatures.
Next up are magical insectoids and hive critters. In a world that functions under D&D logic, this is fine because the hive doesn’t function like a true hive would. In other words they don’t ceaselessly expand and claim resources to bring back to the every growing hive. In real life history, great swarms of locusts were referred to as plagues. Imagine what happens when the locust is as large as a human. So, the logical result of magical insects and hive mind creatures is that the human nations are eventually overrun by millions of vermin or humanoids which can’t be played against one another. The idea of crustaceans or spiders works better as they don’t function as a hive, but the idea of numerous insects that are large dog or human-sized just won’t fly in Arn.
Aside from just banning certain staples of fantasy gaming, I have introduced variants of creatures in certain parts of my world that would have evolved due to the introduction of a similar creature by man to their isolated environments, modeling them on real world examples where possible. This is responsible for the Buncalope (giant rodents), elgen (large deerlike creatures) and korries (large flightless birds) the former being a prime food source and the latter two serve as working domesticated animals in the area they call home. I’ve also renamed mundane creatures where possible so as to give them a seven realms flair. Obviously you could call a cat an ocelot or a jaguar, but if the language that word comes from never had an analogue in your fantasy world, then it becomes less believable than jungle terror as a moniker.
Lastly, I didn’t give in and make a hundred different kinds of undead or alien horror infested creatures. There are undead and there are abominations linked to alien life from beyond the stars, but there are a limited variety of them, not all of which have game statistics. Most importantly there are reasons for them other than Undead/Horrors are cool.
Some, like the Nilferjar, a form of barrow-wight, are based on the same legends the cultures are. Others such as the Ishkal, life-stealing undead, are spun of whole cloth. Likewise, demons in this world are sufficiently alien that they can stand in for cthulian horrors (although such abominations aren’t barred from existing here either, but they certainly aren’t common).
Demons are truly immortal entities which came into existence, they were not born. Thus they have never learned at the feet of a parent or mentor, they haven’t experienced emotional frailty and they can’t understand why humans and the like do. Easily more than half of the powerful Bane Lords take on mortal devotees to study them rather than because they are pursuing an agenda.
Most of the undead in Arn come from the influence of the Shadowed Veil on the Mortal Realm. When the plane that symbolizes Death seeps in, dead stuff sometimes gets up and begins walking. There are also enough necromancers roaming around (of various kinds) that the number of rank and file meandering corpses gets bolstered every decade or so. The last way in which undead are birthed is when someone with great purpose or emotion dies in pure anguish, usually because of betrayal, or after suffering emotional turmoil before being murdered.
All of that being said, there is one area of Arn where the Shadowed Veil falls heavily on the land and the dead often walk. It is surrounded by harsh cultures which don’t have much time for the game of thrones because they have to stand against whatever decides to wander out of the dead waste. So the Margin Expanse, the greater region where this waste exists is home to some of the least frivolous cultures on the continent simply because of the presence of the focused undead threat.