High-Level View of the Sandbox

A-Z 2014 HUntil now, most of the work done has been pretty random. The hex map was randomly generated and the graph of interesting locations was mostly randomly generated. Even combining them had only minor intervention on my part, and that was simply shifting the node locations a bit so they landed on land, rather than on water.

Now it’s time to start providing some explanation of the setting. I don’t know what all the nodes represent yet, but I have some ideas.

First, a bit of basic demographics. The hex map uses six-mile hexes, each a little more than 31 square miles. According to how I scale things for demesne play, a six-mile hex is nominally a barony-size chunk of land. At 24-mile hex might be an earldom or county, while a 96-mile hex is the nominal size of a duchy. According to my sanity check yesterday, each node in the graph might represent approximately this much territory. A kingdom under this scheme might be about a 384-mile hex. I could reasonably consider this entire region a single kingdom, or split it into two, or even have it be where three or four kingdoms meet.

That doesn’t feel right, though. I’m getting a strong “small kingdoms” feeling from this — individual fiefdoms, not quite bound tightly enough to be considered full-sized kingdoms as envisioned in the demesne system. That may come later, and there may be some smaller (2-4 duchy?) kingdoms formed, but I think for now there will be a bunch of separate states here.

I will note that while this region does not have one or two major nations, odds are good that in a real sense it’s not that large an area and probably shouldn’t have a large number  of distinct cultures. Naming should largely fit within two or three general linguistic themes unless there is reason to do otherwise.

I don’t know what all the subregions are yet, but below I describe what I am thinking of so far.

Small Kingdoms

These are small kingdoms as I see them now. There are some that basically stand alone, others that are banded together, and a few that used to be together but are no more.

I’ve added the updated map at the bottom. The boundaries are crudely drawn, and a rather harsh color, but I wanted them to stand out. They are subject to change, and had I done this on paper I would have used a sharpie. Good enough for now.


Per GreyKnight’s suggestion on yesterday’s post, I’m moving T down to the mountainous island and making that ‘Sturmhame’. This used to be a larger kingdom (S and X were part of it, N and possibly A may have been, but I don’t think J or R were). GreyKnight’s description, “The island is named Stormhame. The ancient line of the Thunder Kings once harnessed the potent magical energies of the skies in this place, and kept the surrounding areas under their rule. Although Stormhame’s influence has waned since the end of the Thunder Kings’ line, they are still a big player: they are active in the political arena, and the island also remains the home of the Shrine of Ferocity and its priests.” sounds pretty workable. I may also update Storm Mountain and include it here.

It would be easy to aim for something that feels like Vikings, but Storm Mountain as originally written is about monks. I could see an arcane monastic tradition happening here.

The area formerly under Sturmhame’s control still shows signs of this, with artifacts and other cultural effects lingering.


Another one from the vaults, the meraelves are sea elves living at B. They have for centuries dominated sea traffic using their windships (lightweight catamarans) and stormkites (ship-launched hang gliders piloted by wizards with wands of lightning). Most marine cultures in this region have come to accept their presence, their overbearing attitudes, and their demands of passage fees as part of doing business on the high seas, and as insurance premiums in case help is needed. The meraelves will help mariners in distress and hunt down ‘real pirates’ and other threats to mariners, that they will order ships to strike sails so the meraelves can collect their dues should not be considered piracy at all.

The meraelves have recently received something of a shock from the dampfwerg, though. perhaps their dominance is coming to an end, we shall have to see.


I went to Google Translate to see what it thought ‘steam dwarf’ would be in German. I find ‘dampf zwerg’ a mite troublesome to pronounce, so I simplified it a bit to ‘Dampfwerg’.

for some time I’ve been digging on the idea of dwarves cruising the high seas in steampowered ironclad. It looks like now is my opportunity. Dwarves don’t like wooden boats because they break easily and dwarves don’t float well, a steel-hulled ship is heavy but pretty durable… and recent developments have improved steam engines used in the mines so they are light enough to be viable as ships’ engines.

Dampfwerg is at E. The sea between this land and the one to the north is fairly shallow, enough so that the dwarves have successfully built below the sea and have settled both sides of the water.

Pirate Isles

They’re not called this official, of course, but areas around F, V, M, G are reputed to be home to a larger than normal number of pirates and freebooters. Corserebae (node F) has the most legitimate-seeming face to everything, with no open piracy or pirates evident… but many things plundered by pirates and still identifiable have been successfully recovered by knowing  where to deal here.

I may need to shift a few relationships. The meraelves are almost certainly involved with Corserebae somehow; I think I may break Z-L and make a triangle of F-Z-B.


… for lack of a better name. The meraelves were originally stationed where they were to act as a buffer to keep the younger races from bothering their elders. If B is the outright ‘elven frontier’, P is the ‘public-facing elflands’, and C is the actual home nation — likely hidden deeper in the forest.

Unknown 1

I have no idea right now what this one makes, but J, D, O, and possibly I could be another small kingdom, or the remnants of one. I don’t know what they’re called. J controls a narrow bit of land between two larger bodies of water, so I picture either a busy transshipping arrangement or possibly a canal. I’m leaning more toward a canal system at the moment.

Unknown 2

Similarly, Q and W could be another small kingdom. Q is certainly in the wrong place, it should be somewhere in that large bay nearby.

Unknown 3

Z and R are too close together and too closely linked (with R having no other external links) for me to think they are not somehow joined. I known nothing else about them, though.


This still leaves some that have no strong binding. K, H, L, and Y are not closely tied to any of the others, and there are some more than could ‘come loose’. Still, it’s a high-level view, I don’t need

Closing Comments

I have some ideas about what things are and how they relate, but I know very little detail at this point. That’s okay, it’s all subject to change as things get fleshed out, and at this point a mere idea is sufficient. Right now, as long as I can get the shape of things I’m in a good position.

20140406 New Campaign, Merged third step
20140406 New Campaign, Merged third step

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  1. Frendle

    To me this map suggests shipping lanes.
    It has two main channels:

    East west from Dampfwerg-Meraelves-Z-U which can split at Meraelves to go southwest to Corserebae –V.

    North South from S- Sturmhame -U- Corserebae -V or M-G.

    A secondary, perhaps newer, lane at O-J-Sturmhame-N circumvents the haughty Meraelves. Which suggests a secondary north south of N-A-U-K doing the same to Sturmhame.

    G-M-L can become a smugglers route with an extension L to Y and Aelvenhame to Y giving the elves a quiet avenue to wider markets but still keeping the younger races at arm’s reach.

    • That is an alternate interpretation. One of the great things about these techniques is how many ways the intermediate results can be used.

      The trade routes idea mostly works for me, except I don’t see meraelves-dampfwerg being a viable route right now, at least until the current contention is settled. However, I do see meraelves-D-Q-dampfwerg being a viable-but-expensive option.

      The other three you mention sound like there is the basis of a trade war in the making.

      The smugglers at G-M-L works quite well, I think I might keep that.

      I like it! Thanks for the ideas.

  2. If P is the public “heartland” of the elves, and Aelvenhame is the hidden real heartland, then Y looks pretty interesting. Who are they and how much do they know about Aelvenhame? Are they a trusted ally who has been let in on the secret? Or a malicious party who’s got the elves over a barrel by holding this knowledge over them?

    “Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone about it. After all, we’re good friends, aren’t we? Oh, by the way, we’d like to renegotiate the trade agreement to double production on your end… that shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

    I might be getting off-task here though, I think you want to demonstrate how to zoom in on just the one region that the players are currently investigating?

    • No worries. One of the reasons I like this methodology is that it allows me to wander around a bit as ideas strike me, or someone else. In fact, by going big first I have places to hang ideas as I get them.

      And yes, that could be the relationship between Y and the Aelvenhame, or it could be something else. I find it interesting and perhaps telling (of what I am not certain) that the chain goes Aelvenhame-Y-L-M-Corserebaie before getting to the Meraelves. That’s a long way to go, I wonder why it might be.

      • Oh, that is a good question. It’s related to the missing “expected edge” between L and P, and I think those two nodes are a big part of the question. Why are they so geographically close but so socially distant? L and Y are further apart than that, and have a large sea between them, but they are more closely linked.

        • Both are colonies of their homelands? Or perhaps there isn’t the blackmail relationship you suggest, but… hmm, bastardness coming.

          Aelvenhame has P as a public face, with the meraelves on the other end of it. Aelvenhame wants to cut ties with their public side and is working with Corserebaie — by way of L, etc. though they’re mostly ignorant of the situation because they’re being set up to take the fall for this — to tank P. This breaks the public facing, P gets strung out, the meraelves are left to twist (but perhaps not too badly, they’re in a pretty good position themselves, Dampfwerge aside), Aelvenhame can recede into the background and fade into history.

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