A step by step explanation of the design process of a section of the continent.

Well, since the theoretical point of this blog is to show people how to design their own campaign setting, I have decided to go through the steps used to develop a section of the continent in detail. In this case I am working on the big jungle along the east coast.

General area being developed.
General area being developed.

The first step is to make some basic decisions regarding the race(s) and type of culture involved. Now originally I had been thinking that I use the Rajput states for my inspiration for this area, but my thinking has evolved enormously since that post, and the “Indian” idea has been moved elsewhere on the continent, so the area was wide open.

The first step was to choose a major race, and since I was working with a tropical jungle I thought some sort of monkey-like race would be good. Since I had already created the ape-like Tsoahatha race for my Zaidan-Tai PBEM campaign (detailed here), I decided to save myself a lot of work and to go with them. (Saving yourself work is important, as you will see there is a lot of work involved, and I do mean a lot).

As far as the cultural inspiration, I decided to see what I could come up with using the Turks for my initial inspiration (as you will see, the culture that things are “inspired” by are often nothing more than vague starting points, rough ideas upon which to build). So, I did what I always do, I turn to Wikipedia and start reading up on it to get some ideas.

In so doing I came up with a few basic ideas.

  1. There are a number of “peoples” (Uzbeks, Seljuks, Tajiks, etc.) that all count as Turks, so my ape-men would be the same way, with the various nations being based on a much older tribal organization.
  2. They had a major world-power type empire (Ottoman Empire) so the same would go for the ape-men, they too would consist of one major world power and a number of smaller realms.


Rough area of the "empire"
Rough area of the “empire”

The first thing to do is define exactly what area you are working with, so looking at my over all map, I decided that the smaller tribal type nations would be in the northern part of the jungle and the “empire” would be located in the rest of the area. Then I noticed that there is a long major river running north-south just a little to the west of the edge of the jungle, and I figured that a major empire would have advanced from the natural border (the edge of the jungle) to such an obvious and more defensible border. What’s more, near the head waters of that river, there is another major river running east-west, so I had my basic boundaries – everything to the south and east of those two rivers.



Looking at my map further, I decided that the big swamp on the east coast was too good an opportunity

Final extent of the "Empire"
Final extent of the “Empire”

for something different to waste as merely part of the pseudo-Ottoman empire, so I decided to exclude it, and for reasons that are unimportant here I decided to extend the area a little to the north along the rivers near the coast, giving me the following area to work with.









The next step was to block out the rough “provinces” so I have something to work with when it comes to

Provinces of the "empire" roughly blocked out
Provinces of the “empire” roughly blocked out

designing the internal political structure of the empire. This is a very time consuming (and pretty boring) step as it involves dragging and dropping little province-sized blocks around the map, it took me something like 10 to 12 hours altogether to do it. And the end result was this map, with 638 little province blocks.







Now all I had to do was figure out how to arrange those 638 provinces into some sort of coherent structure, so once again I turned to Wikipedia. The first place I went was the page on Turkey (an obvious starting point). One of the first things I always do is find out how the “source” country is subdivided, to see if that gives ma any inspiration. Well I hit the jackpot with Turkey, it turns out it is subdivided into

A sample section of the master list
A sample section of the master list

regions, sub-regions, provinces and districts, giving me a nice four-level hierarchical structure with subdivisions of widely differing sizes. So I went to the Wiki page on the districts of Turkey (there is a page on damn near everything on there, and if not there then you can usually find it elsewhere online) and found a really useful list I could copy/paste into my spread sheet. After a little organizing and tidying up I had my master working sheet.

The only problem was that there are 977 districts I n Turkey and I only needed 638. Now in cases like this you have a number of options, you can just use enough of the list as you need, chucking out the excess regions, etc., but in this case I kind of liked the whole structure, so I decided to just reduce the number of individual districts in each Turkish province in my master list. So I do a little math (thank God for spreadsheets!) and find that I need to reduce the number of districts by a factor of 1.53 or so (actually 1.53134796238245, I know the idea of doing calculations involving that many decimal places is intimidating, but since the computer is going to do the actual math, the many decimal places does not matter to me at all, again, thank God for spreadsheets, this stuff was a HUGE pain back when I started and had to do all these sorts of calculations using a calculator and paper and pencil).

So I make myself another worksheet out of my master sheet, listing the number of districts in each province, sub-region, and region. Then I just divide those numbers by the above factor, rounding the result to the nearest whole number and I get the new number of districts in each Turkish province, so I am good to go.

Well, almost. See, there is one little problem. Due to the rounding, my new district number is 641, but that is not really a major problem as I can just remove a district from three of the bigger provinces, or just add three provinces blocks to my map. Well looking at the map I noticed three areas where I could fit a block in, so I went with that route.

So now I go back to my master list of Turkish subdivisions and start deleting the appropriate number of districts from each section of the list. Because of the method I use to generate the names for places in the campaign world (more on that later), I decided to eliminate the longer named districts as long names tend to be problematic when put through the conversion process.

And the result is my new master list of the internal sub-divisions of the ape empire. The next step is to decide what the various things on that list actually mean. Well seeing as my previous continent, Tòlanar was dominated by a relatively small number of massive empires, I have decided to go a different route with Djapar, and avoid having massive empires in favour of many small nations.

So with that in mind I decided to take my cue from the dual nature of the Ottoman Sultan as both Sultan and Caliph, and make the “empire” a religious one rather than a political one, so it consists of a number of independent nations all of whom recognize a central religious authority as their more or less theoretical suzerain, with the degree of power or authority any given sultan might have being entirely dependent on his strength and character.

Well, that’s enough for this post; I will pick up the story in a later post.










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