Somewhere, waaaay in the way back past, I remember learning in some history class or other that until relatively recently (maybe the last century or two?) the vast majority of human beings lived the entirety of their lives within a ten mile radius of the place of their birth.
Or something like that...I don't remember the exact quote (and I really am feeling lazy today, as I mentioned in my A-Z post). But while I thought to myself (at the time) sure, that makes sense, I never really considered the implication for my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Because, hey! This is D&D we're talking about! People wander all over hill and yon! They're like Conan! They travel to The Isle of Dread! Or whatever!
But that doesn't have to be the case. I mean, I really need to get out of my 21st century mindset here. Yes, I have personally traveled thousands and thousands of miles in my life. I've been as far west as Japan, as far east as the Czech Republic, and as far south as Chile-Argentina-Paraguay (I'd have to look at a globe to see which city is the closest to the pole...and I'm feeling lazy, remember?). But within my own major metropolitan city? There are definitely areas and neighborhoods within ten miles of my home that I've left unexplored over the decades I've lived here. And without my access to modern transportation (buses, bikes, cars), I probably would have explored even less.
And what if I was living here five or six hundred years ago, when this was still just "seven hill" region with multiple tribes (towns) of indigenous people divided up with miles of wetland, thick forest, and mountain.
[heck, if I wanted to walk a bit and see a volcano, Mt. Rainier is less than 100 miles from where I live. Per my map of Middle Earth, that's a shorter distance than traveling from the Shire to Rivendell (imagine Mt. Doom smack in the center of Eriador!)!]
Given a truly unsettled area with a low population density, one really wouldn't need much territory to detail a huge amount of adventure. We've been watching this show on the History channel Lost Gold of World War II (because it's about treasure hunting and WW2, both subjects being right in my son's wheelhouse), and it's fascinating to watch just how difficult it can be to find specific sites (like a filled in mine of treasure) in an undeveloped wilderness, even when you know the general location (in this case, a specific mountain in the Philippines). Such secrets can stay buried for long, long periods of time...even from people living right down the hill.
Oh, sure, we like the idea of "traveling to far off lands" but it's not especially needed...and "far off" is really just a matter of perspective. Man, just trying to get to eastern Washington on horseback (let alone on foot) would be a hell of a trek with the Cascade mountain range between my region and the "Inland Empire." Hell, if only our region was a little warmer, I could easily set the jungles of "the Forbidden City" out on the Olympic Peninsula...it's still a pretty dense rainforest out there.
[maybe after a century or two of global warming]
Yeah, how much space do you really need? How many baronies could be carved out of a 10 or 20 or 50 mile radius? How many kingdoms? Washington State's about the size of Great Britain, south of Scotland. Seems to me that land had several rival monarchs at one time. I suppose your campaign setting only really needs to be as big as the Known World or Oerth if you have easy access to flying transportation (airships, griffon mounts, whatever).
Wasn't Terry Brooks's Shanarra series all set within the boundaries of post-apocalyptic Washington State? I'm sure I read that somewhere (I haven't read any of those novels myself, so someone will need to explain that to me). Seems like a pretty good idea for a D&D campaign setting.
Then again, Karameikos is about the same size as Washington State, too...
|What scale hex map should I use?|