This is the third part in a series documenting the creation of “Panzoasia“, a new Old-School fantasy campaign designed to be suitable for all-ages play.
Also see the first part of the series (“Because What the World Needs Now is Another Fantasy Setting…”), and the second part (“An Overview of Panzoasia and the Ultimate West”).
What follows are are four of the lists I created as quick introductions to the distinctive features of each realm on the map of “The Ultimate West”. As with the other informative lists I distributed to players, they were printed on 4″ x 6″ index cards. Each player was able to look through the cards, and was given the one corresponding their character’s realm of birth.
Ten Things to Know About Auddisland
“The Iron Union”
- Auddislanders are famously skilled armorers.
- The realm is inhabited mostly by Dwarves, Gnomes, and Humans.
- The People were formerly oppressed by Giants, which is why small, highly detailed things are especially treasured.
- Auddisland was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Untiring Lord”, who in life was a Dwarf.
- The son of The Untiring Lord is King of Auddisland.
- There are enormous deposits of high-grade iron ore in the uplands.
- Many Dwarves across the West consider Auddisland as their true homeland.
- Auddisland is also protected by 9-foot tall armored automatons created by the Gnomes.
- Kobolds from the Underworld remain a constant problem – sometimes burrowing into people’s basements!
- Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to late-medieval Austria and Hungary.
Ten Things to Know About Bythebia
“The Golden Republic”
- Bythebans are famously skilled military tacticians.
- The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Halflings, with a consular class of Gold Dragons.
- The People were formerly oppressed by Red Dragons, which is why the color red is considered especially evil and unlucky.
- Bythebia was freed with the help of Gold Dragons, rather than an Immortal Hero.
- The People elect a Senate, which in turn elects one of the Gold Dragons as High Consul for a 6 year term.
- The original language spoken by the inhabitants of Bythebia was used as the primary basis for the Common tongue of the West.
- The laws of Bythebia are mostly fair and just, but Depredators and their allies are zealously pursued (often by bounty-hunting adventurers ).
- The Bytheban Golden Circle teaches magic in the Draconic tradition throughout the Ultimate West, and is an alternative for those not wishing to be caught up in the intrigues of the Seven Orders of Magic.
- Bythebia has the largest gold deposits in Panzoasia.
- Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to the Byzantine Empire.
Ten Things to Know About Corthis
“The Platinum Magiarchy”
- Cothisians are famously skilled conversationalists and wits.
- The realm is inhabited mostly by Elves, Humans, Gnomes, and Halflings.
- The People were formerly oppressed by stupid Ogres, which is why mental acuity is so valued.
- Corthis was freed by the Immortal Hero called “The Peerless Lord”, who in life was a Human.
- Magic-users and Elves bear non-hereditary noble titles, such as Baron, Comte (Count) and Marquis, but day-to-day government is administered by a class of hereditary Chevaliers (Knights).
- The nobility of Corthis are known to hire agents (often Edisterian) to steal magic items (or information) from other nobles.
- The Seven Orders of Magic are headquartered in Corthis.
- Almost any excuse is used to hold a costumed parade or procession in Corthis.
- Besides producing platinum, Corthis is also a major exporter of food.
- Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to France under Louis XIV (except for the absence of gunpowder).
Ten Things to Know About Edister
“The Pewter Commonwealth”
- Edisterians are famously skilled spies.
- The realm is inhabited mostly by Humans and Halflings.
- The People were formerly oppressed by sneaky Bugbears, which is why Edisterians learned to be stealthy themselves.
- Edister was freed by the Immortal Heroine called “The Clever Lady”, who in life was a Halfling.
- The Clever Lady is also honored by the Thieves’ Guild throughout the West.
- Edister is the only realm of Panzoasia whose Immortal patron is actually Chaotic (albeit good).
- The realm is traditionally ruled by a Queen elected by the titled aristocracy (many of which are descended from wealthy adventurers who bought their titles). The current Queen was once the daughter of a fishmonger.
- Edisterians (both Human and Halfling) are well-known for their strange senses of humor.
- Although they are renowned for their skill at stealth and espionage, Edisterians are also accomplished merchants.
- Otherwise, a visitor from Earth would see many superficial resemblances to Elizabethan England.
When a Campaign world is assembled from preexisting cultural components, players understand expected in-character behaviors much more quickly. So, each realm of Panzoasia is assumed to be similar to some specific real-world culture in many ways, but fundamentally different in certain others. Accordingly, the last listed fact about each realm is the society (or societies) which it superficially resembles, and which can be used as a rough guide for creating background details for such things as clothing styles, food, architecture, etc.
I don’t feel it is necessary to present every aspect of a fantasy culture with perfect fidelity to the real-world culture that inspires it. It fact, one probably shouldn’t, because it’s fantasy. It can be a pleasant surprise when something that at first looks familiar and mundane is suddenly revealed to be fundamentally strange. Naturally, however, I urge anyone who takes a similar route to avoid portraying any fantasy culture in a way that inflames prejudice against real world groups. But if, on the other hand, the fantasy version of a culture sparks a desire to learn more about its real-world inspiration, so much the better.