This is a little worldbuilding exercise for a roleplaying game I’m running next week. Worldbuilding tends to be my favorite part of planning stories, and it’s so easy to get caught up in placing all of the little pieces on my imaginary map that I strictly limit how much I let myself do. Being able to cut loose for a few days has been tremendously enjoyable.
This is incomplete and subject to change, but I felt like sharing it because I rather like how it turned out. There are also a few things that I would probably change if it wasn’t an RPG setting, but whatever. Bonus points if you can figure out which historical civilization it’s based on.
Welcome to Kadath. Though it has long chafed under the bonds of its conqueror, peace and freedom are finally within reach. For the first time in two generations, the king-in-exile will set foot on his own soil, and the oppressor will reign no more. During this delicate transition, hardened insurgents see one final chance to strike at a hated symbol of the occupation: the foreign ruler’s chief of security, who is about to escape the insurgency’s reach for good.
63 years before present day, Kadath was conquered by its much larger neighbor to the east, Rafat. The Rafati absorbed Kadath as a full province, with its government and economy were firmly in Rafati hands. There was substantial unrest, and several violent uprisings, but the last of these were ended thirty years before present day, with the Night of Torches.
However, a new government has come to power in Rafat, and they find maintaining the conquests of the old, corrupt leaders to be distasteful and uneconomical. They have decided to grant Kadath and all of its old lands independence. The transition process has been difficult, full of starts and stops, but at long last, true Kadath independence is only days away.
The world of Kadath is similar in many ways to our world, in 2011. There are cars, computers, cell phones, LCD screens, and a space station. In many other ways, it’s different – there are a much larger number of smaller nations, each forming powerful but temporary alliances, usually along cultural lines. In the so-called Middle World, of which Kadath is at the center, the average nation is the size of Vermont. The alliances between these nations can shift suddenly and violently, and small wars and skirmishes are frequent, although substantial conquest is rare the wars rarely affect civilians or infrastructure.
In the medieval world, Kadath was a collection of loosely-allied principalities and city-states scattered along the eastern edge of the great Inland Sea. They had little wealth and military power, but they had some influence from their agricultural and fishing industries – nations would often import food by the ton from Kadath for their soldiers and sailors.
In the year 610, the six greatest city-states of Kadath were united under one king, Amit I. Though they shared a cultural heritage and now bowed to one king, the city-states were not by any means homogenous. Most families – the basic political unit in Kadath culture since ancient times – identified with their city more than broader Kadath culture, and the cities maintained a great degree of autonomy under the new king.
In the early modern era, Kadath maintained influence and wealth disproportionate to its size. Though its food was still in high demand, demand also grew for its high-quality weapons, the like of which were unknown elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, their traders maintained busy factories in nearby nations. Even in the midst of the nationalistic fervor that was sweeping the civilized world and the ever-increasing power of the Kadath king, the city persisted as a strong political entity.
By the time Calder IV took the throne in 1213, well into the modern era, Kadath influence and wealth was fading. Modern agricultural techniques had substantially decreased demand for Kadath food, and her tanks and helicopters were not as popular as their muskets and swords had once been. By 1266, the year of the conquest, Kadath was considered quaint for maintaining its powerful king and College of Mayors, and largely rejecting the democratic reforms that had long since become ubiquitous elsewhere.
In the modern era, the government of Kadath is divided between the Royal House (that is, the king or queen), and the College of Mayors (elected by the cities). The six administrative regions of Kadath (each with a great city at its center) handle most of their own local affairs – emergency services, education, and most infrastructure development are handled at the regional level. Only international affairs and those of universal internal significance are handled by the king and college.
During the occupation, Kadath was ruled as a Rafati province, with a provincial governor holding near-supreme power. The college of mayors persisted, but only as a feeble echo of its former power. This was unpopular with the strongly independent Kadath, and government mandates were often flouted. By the end of the occupation, the latest governors maintained a largely hands-off method of governing, deeming it the path of least resistance.
As mentioned above, the people of Kadath have traditionally been strongly independent, preferring local and city government to the king’s laws. These feelings have waned through the modern era, but nonetheless persist even to this day. In a sense, the occupation provided one benefit for Kadath – its people could not help but grow more unified, given the outside threat.
The Kadath are largely conservative, not feeling the need to jettison traditions just because they are ancient. Though there are many wealthy Kadath, the simple, unadorned life is often portrayed as the most desirable one. That is not to say that the Kadath are not at home with modern technology – computers, smartphones, and electric cars at just as common in the six cities as elsewhere in the civilized world.
The religion of Kadath, just like the religion of Rafat, is based on ancestor worship. The Kadath venerate their family ancestors as intercessors with the omniscient force – the Unknowable – that controls the universe. The Rafati do not believe in this force, instead worshiping (not just venerating) the souls of their dead emperors; the Kadath view this obsession with other people’s ancestors as laughable.
Kadath is shaped somewhat like a crescent moon, with the inner part of the crescent – to the west – defined by the Inland Sea, where much of Kadath’s trade occurs. Almost the entire eastern border is shared with Rafat, and has been in an almost constant state of flux for centuries. The border villages are often strongly cross-cultural. To the north and south, Kadath borders Atlantia and Errachidia respectively. These states are culturally similar to Kadath, and have long been good trade partners.
The six cities of Kadath are as follows:
- Kadath itself (often called “Kadath City,” but only by outsiders) is by far the largest city, with a population of 15 million. It is right on the coast and has long been a focus of international trade; it’s also the home of the king and college, and is arguably the cultural center of the nation.
- Gana is an insular city – visitors rarely receive a warm welcome, even if they attend the prestigious Gana University. Gana is also the smallest city, with a population of just over 500,000.
- Ashkelon produces more weapons than any other Kadath city, and in the modern era is particularly known for high quality personal weapons. Before the occupation, openly carried firearms were ubiquitous in the city; the ban on sidearms during the occupation severely depressed Ashkelon’s economy.
- Dyar controls the most arable land of any Kadath city, and produces sixty percent of her food. Dyar did extremely well during the occupation, since her food was in much demand throughout Rafat, which has little arable of its own.
- Netanya is known for its religious mystics. Religious expression is extremely common throughout Kadath (throughout much of the Middle World, in fact), but rarely is it treated with such formality as in Netanya. People from Netanya are commonly the butt of jokes for their supposed dull-headedness.
- Rishon is known for its strong martial tradition. The Kadath preferred to facilitate other’s wars rather than fight its own, but Rishon has produced many exceptions to that rule. If one sees a Kadath mercenary or a Kadath fighting in another nation’s army, they’re probably from Rishon.
Kadath’s terrain is almost exclusively high desert, with scrubby forests of short pine and wide, grassy plains. Her beaches are wide and sandy, and are popular spots for domestic tourism. Substantial irrigation is required to make the land arable, but the Kadath have long been masters of farming, and their production per acre is unrivaled even in the modern world.