holism in the attic

Creating Worlds

Recently I have found again the will to do some worldbuing. The starting points this time are a read and an app.

The former is the curious and (to me) excellent free RPG that goes under the evocative name of Mazes & Minotaurs. The latter is the amazing Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator.

M&M starts with an uchronic assumption: what if Gygax and Anerson decided to use Ancient Greek mithology as inspiration instead of Lord of the Ring to create Dungeons & Dragons? Now the world (of role playing) would be so different! Someone build an entire ruleset on this assumption that is fun to read (and to play I guess) on something different to your “elf & dwarves stuck in a underground dungeon” usual campaing.

So, I speculate about that a bit. LoTR was a strong influence on the early RPG designers, that became a de facto standard when from RPG some campaing logs developed into full lenght novels. After D&D fantasy was not the same for better or for worse.

Here in Italy it is quite usual if one goes to liceo (the oldest and respectable form of high school) to grown up absorbed in greek and latin literature. Personally, not only I attended liceo scientifico (scientific subjects oriented high school) but I somewhat grown up with greek mithology since my mother brought me a children book on that subject. Then in middle school we studied Iliad and Odissey with all their connected lore. My literature teacher saw I was passionate about the subject and she assigned to me a greek mithology anthology that summer. Long story short: I know my mithology.

Thinking about LoTR, Tolkien based his worlbuilding and writing heavily on nordic mithology. Why southern europe mithology did not have the same impact on fantasy? Greek and Roman mithology are not the base of any mainstream fantasy series published in the last thirty years. Well, when I was in my teens there were Hercules and Xena on TV, but after that? I did not really read anything about Percy Jackson but having seen the movie I found it more a urban fantasy than anything.

My idea is to create a high fantasy setting based on the culture and mithology of Classic Civilization.

Here Azgaar’s Map Generator comes handy. It is the most useful procedural generator a world-builder might desire: it makes a map in seconds, but the result can be tweaked a lot. In the default sets it has also ancient world namebases that starting from toponyms use a markov generator to build a random list that sounds like a specific language, but is not.

I generated many maps until I found a geography that stimulated my imagination, then I relocated the pre-generated culture and tweaked expansion setting for each of them. Then I generated states to popolate the map. Here is the first rendering I am proud of: