Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Working Cycles

Been doing "world building stuff" the last few days. It's slow going.

The advantage of using a real world setting is that a lot of things have been done for you: placement of natural features (mountains, rivers, lakes, etc.), lists of resources, climate maps, topography, vegetation, etc. All that stuff is "in place" and easy to suss out given access to the internet and a decent atlas (which I have).

The hard part is dealing with the people of 11,000 years ago. Not a lot of info about that period of time, and "accepted" archaeology would make the indigenous populations a bunch of tiny family units and "tribes" of neolithic cave folk.

Which is definitely NOT what I'm doing. Prehistoric: yes. Stone age: no. This is a prehistoric iron (and bronze) age, based heavily on a mix of Atlantis mythology mixed with sword & sorcery fiction. It's not Kull the Conqueror...more Edgar Cayce, MZB, and Peter Timlett's Seedbearers trilogy...the main idea based on the idea that there was a more advanced civilization that will (eventually) fall on a very hard dark age long before our (current) recorded history begins. Call it the Orichalcum Age of man. Or, perhaps, the Tumbaga Age (since tumbaga appears to be the orichalcum equivalent in South America).

[oh, yeah: plus dwarves and elves and goblins, etc. It IS D&D after all. My world has dragons...though maybe not blue ones, as lightning-breathing monsters are a little too "Friday night monster flick" for my taste]

But, of course, there's no record of communities in South America from more than the last couple-four centuries, and precious little info from pre-colonial times that would be useful to world building. Furthermore, my deliberate placement of the setting at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, means the climate (especially in the region I'm concerned with) is far more cool-temperate in range, resulting in vastly different flora, fauna, and agricultural practices.

So I'm cheating. I'm operating under the assumption that life moves in more-or-less regular cycles. Communities (towns and cities) tend to form in the same places for the same reasons (convenience of landscape, access to resources, etc.); populations are greatly reduced in number but, so far as glaciation allows, they're more or less the same as today. Livestock and crops might change over 10,000 years, but not their presence, nor placement in the overall geography. Mined resources are the same, of course, though with reductions in the amount of ore produced.

[I'm actually using 16th century gold production rates, divvied up proportionally by region based on 21st century percentages...calculates out to a bit more than 3.3 tons (107k ounces) of gold per year in regions south of Panama. This works under the assumption that the population is pretty close to the same, that Atlantean/dwarven/elven mining methods are at least as advanced as Spain's in the 1500s, and that there was more gold and gold more easily/conveniently found.  Consider that modern accounts of pre-modern gold mining generally ignores what was being done in the Americas prior to colonization, and that a LOT of gold was found when Europeans did arrive]

Names of places are a problem, of course. Wikipedia states there are about 600 indigenous languages in Latin America, and I don't see myself learning Quechua-Mayan just to make the setting feel more "authentic" (and it's doubtful that any of these languages were the same thousands of years ago anyway...). On the other hand, making up "fantasy names" for towns is a pretty ridiculous prospect. I suppose I could simply research the etymology of existing names and come up with English equivalents, but that poses its own problems. For example, Cochabamba (the 4th largest city in Bolivia) takes its name from a transliteration of the Quechua word for the region which means "Lake Plain." However, the city itself was called Llajta which just means "town." There's probably more than a few llajtas in South America.

In the short term, I'm using the modern names for places, landmarks, etc. because it would be damn near impossible to locate things otherwise using modern maps and atlases. If I told you to locate Antofagasta (in Peru), you could easily do so with an internet search; if I renamed it Salt Lake City (which is, more or less, how the name translates)...well, you can see the difficulty there, right?

Maybe I should organize communities
around language isolates.
Still, work progresses and I'm enjoying the world building (despite my complaints). And parts of it are fun (locating dwarves in a hilly region of Brazil known for its titanium deposits, for example; who needs mithril-steel!). It's just slooow going.

Okay, my kids are up. Got to go.


  1. I like the idea of language isolates.

  2. If I know these hills, I bet those dwarves are also known for their cheese breads.

    1. I must say that placing prehistoric cattle in Brazil is probably “a bridge too far.” Can you make cheese from tapir milk?

    2. Heheh I doubt so... Maybe one of llama-like camelids?

    3. You can make cheese from any milk AFAIK, although it's often not economical to do so. Lady down the road from me when I was a kid make swine cheese by milking her pigs, something I've only ever heard of in some Scottish history stories. There are fetish sites that offer cheese theoretically made from human milk, which is super illegal in some countries but not all. Tapirs don't seem like an impossible stretch, but don't expect to make dairy-farm levels of profit on it.

  3. You cold check out PBS Eons on youtube, it's a great series on deep time that explores things like how marsupials first evolved in what is now South America and other stuff that would probably be super helpful for a game set on a prehistoric Earth.