Whether we’re new to world building or a pro, the following case studies can give insight into how the material in this volume can help our efforts. They demonstrate what can result from learning the contents of this book: how land features and map making can lead to decisions on allies and enemies, trade routes, and what types of sovereign powers could exist. Concepts are alluded to here but not explained; world builders can revisit these case studies as knowledge of this book’s content is assimilated. The maps are also available online at http://www.llurien.com/continents/llorus/, where it might be easier to see what’s being referred to.
Each case study will use my setting, Llurien, because I know what I was thinking while creating it, as opposed to someone else’s world. It’s a fantasy world with knights, magic, gods, and seven species of my invention instead of the staples—elves, dwarves, and dragons.
Case Study 1—Two Straits and a Sea of Enemies
The first case is the effect two narrow straits have on access to a sea and how this affects the relationships of several sovereign powers. If following along with the maps online (instead of the one below), expand the following sovereign powers sections to see the maps: Erizon, Kysh, Marula, Niora, Pell, and Rone.
The Sea of Fire and Straits
On the western coast of this continent lies the Sea of Fire, which is accessible from the ocean to the west via two straits (two narrow channels) that flow north or south of the large island there (see the map below). The northern Strait of Erizon is not particularly treacherous due to its width. Technically, it’s too broad to be considered a strait; even on Earth we sometimes use the wrong word, so world builders can, too. The southern Strait of Niora is narrow enough to fit the definition of “strait” better due to being narrow, so I decided it is treacherous to differentiate it from the northern strait (variety is good).
The equator runs through the center of the sea, which means almost all the woods near the sea are rainforests. The equator’s location also means the prevailing winds are from the east (i.e., blowing east-to-west). When drawing a map, we should know where land lies in relation to the equator, as this impacts forest types, skin color of inhabitants, wind direction, and where rainfall occurs, which in turn affects vegetation or the lack thereof.
Above the Strait of Erizon lies Erizon, a wizard-centric oligarchy, where personal liberties are fewer. It lies on the northwestern corner of the continent by the ocean, which suggests that Erizon is a seafaring power. Given its naval might and the proximity to the Strait of Erizon, it seems obvious that Erizon would want to control access to the Sea of Fire via the strait. This becomes the dominant factor in its relationships with every sovereign power to the east.
The Kingdom of Kysh is the heart of the Empire of Kysh. An empire requires stability, which suggested power not rest with a single person, so I decided the Kingdom of Kysh is a constitutional monarchy ruled by parliament. The king/emperor is a ceremonial head-of-state, not head of government. In other words, this is not an absolute monarchy where the leader is all powerful.
Kysh and Erizon have philosophically different forms of government, setting them up as potential ideological enemies, so I made this true. Erizon has resisted annexation by the Empire of Kysh partly because powerful wizards are in charge.
Kysh controls the difficult Strait of Niora just north of its capital. Since no one gets through there without Kysh’s cooperation, powers adjacent to the Sea of Fire might want to be on friendly terms with Kysh. Otherwise, to reach the ocean, their only option is the Strait of Erizon and Erizon’s ships. With Kysh respecting personal rights far more than Erizon, it is a potentially better ally. Both powers clash on the sea, whether in the Strait of Erizon or open ocean.
The island Kingdom of Niora separates the straits and influences both. The larger Erizon and Kysh have each conquered Niora more than once over the centuries. Both have left a lasting impact on culture and architecture. Niora seldom had time to develop a constitutional monarchy (i.e., a bigger government) that lasted very long. I therefore decided it’s an absolute monarchy, partly because it’s small enough for one extended family to remain in power when independent. It is currently part of the Empire of Kysh, giving the latter more control over the Strait of Erizon. This is another reason that a sovereign power inside the Sea of Fire might prefer an alliance with Kysh over Erizon.
That brings us to Rone Kingdom, which lies on the right of the Sea of Fire, across the Bay of Rone from Kysh. For reasons explained in “Case Study 2—Stopping an Empire’s Expansion,” Rone prevented the Kingdom/Empire of Kysh from expanding farther north and is therefore Kysh’s enemy. That leaves Erizon as Rone’s only ally regarding these straits, but what’s in it for Erizon? For one, enmity with Kysh implies friendship with Erizon, so Erizon will help Rone for a price, such as escort fees or high taxes on sold goods. Rone has also access to lands and resources to the east and south that Erizon doesn’t, causing some mutual benefits to an alliance. This tense partnership has fallen apart more than once. Finally, I made Rone a constitutional monarchy to distinguish it from Marula, its neighbor.
To the northeast of Rone is the very hot Marula Kingdom, located at the equator and with some of the darkest skinned peoples (see the next map). The Marula Mountains to the east block the westerly prevailing winds, causing a rainforest on the eastern side of them and a rain shadow and desert on the western side where Marula stands. A desert normally can’t form near the equator due to heavy rains, but the tropical climate in Marula is really a temperate one due to high elevation, and this combination allows for a desert. Its people worship the sun and life-giving Alura River. Lacking many resources (like forests) and surrounded by enemies, it feels vulnerable, hence the ruling family’s insistence on holding onto power, resulting in a brutal, absolute monarchy. Marula has a small stretch of coastline and can be easily cut off from the sea and everything beyond, so it became Rone’s reluctant ally to gain aid on the sea and to prevent Kysh from conquering it next if Rone fell. The alliance is tense.
Marula and Erizon surround a common enemy (the Pell Republic) and are also philosophically compatible, making them allies. This gives Marula two allies on the Sea of Fire (Erizon and Rone) and two enemies (Pell and to a lesser extent, Kysh).
Between Marula and Erizon stands Pell, a federal republic with great freedom for its citizens, putting it at philosophical odds with those neighbors (see next map). Pell became an ally of Kysh for protection and access to the ocean. Pell has another ally to the north, a larger federal republic called Siara, who has encouraged Pell’s transition from constitutional monarchy to republic. Siara and Erizon are enemies—they share a border—and Siara is another seafaring superpower with a small fleet stationed at Pell, its ally. Erizon tries to thwart Siara from sailing around it and entering the Sea of Fire, so Siara responds, in part, by just building ships at Pell. See “Case Study 3—Mountains and Murder,” for more about this relationship and how geography suggested it.
The sea’s location at the equator and the often-heard command to “fire” during the frequent ship battles on its waters suggested a name: the Sea of Fire. Manowar Bay also received its name from the ships-of-the-line that sometimes blockade access to the sea.