Location Matters with Kingdoms - The Art of World Building
Sep 062018

The adage that “location is everything” applies to an entire sovereign power. This determines climate, neighbors, and what natural resources are available (and which are not). The form of government will have little to do with location, however, as anything can exist anywhere.

Despite the latter, creators sometimes allow landscape to influence or characterize a power. If we desire this, then mountainous areas are good for an authoritative state and an impregnable fortress or city. An island nation lends itself to being a seafaring power that raids other lands, but it can be democratic or authoritarian. A desert’s foreboding landscape can be good for authoritarian states, but then so can an area heavily forested enough that travelers must struggle through the vegetation.

If none of this seems definitive, that’s because we can make a case for anything if we characterize it right. When we desire a desert dictatorship, just claim the harsh landscape inspired it. Imagination gets us whatever we want and helps avoid oversimplified clichés. If we’ve already decided on our government type, we can consider this, or not, when choosing a region to place it in.

Having a map while inventing a sovereign power is advantageous (mapmaking is covered in Chapter 12). This allows us to place the capital somewhere and know where borders, other settlements, and land features are. If we don’t have a map yet, then use a piece of paper to sketch regions as ovals marked with the land feature type, like “forest.” We can also draw an arrow off the page and indicate an ocean or a dictatorship lies that way. Colored pencils can help; drawing a jagged coastline isn’t much help if we can’t remember which side the water is on. Use blue for water, green for forests, yellow for desert, and brown for mountains.

Having a sense of the sovereign power’s overall disposition (benevolent vs. domineering) can lend ideas for the land features we might like there. This includes how those land features are characterized. A foreboding forest or mountain range might suit one need while a pleasant, coastal savannah with numerous islands offshore might suggest another use. If you have a map, look at it for possible areas to include within the borders and what features might be contested by neighbors. If you don’t have a map, you can sketch it using the same mindset.

Decide on the overall territory and where current borders are. Leave room on a map for other sovereign powers, being aware that the more land this one takes, the less there is for everyone else. This is a greater issue if our map already exists and we don’t want to alter it. Country boundaries on Earth make little sense to most of us, suggesting we can do as we please, although major rivers often form boundaries, as is the case in the United States with the Mississippi River.


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