Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

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How numerous are monsters in your campaign?

Very numerous and aggressive, therefore civilization can work only by constantly fighting them
2
14%
Numerous, but not so aggressive, most of the time communities try to leave them alone
11
79%
Present but not so numerous. People know of them but many have never seen one
1
7%
Rare and mysterious, people may doubt of the existence of some creatures
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 14

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Sturm
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Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Wed May 16, 2018 11:48 am

How dense are monsters in your fantasy (or also non fantasy if appliable) campaign?
In my recent UnKnown World Trail Map series of articles in Threshold issue #13-20 for example I assumed quite dense non-human populations in the wilderlands. Let's try to create categories:

Hypothesis 1 - Your campaign has lots of very aggressive monsters and humanoids in the wilderlands
Does this means communities, particularly the smallest one, are often besieged and attacked (a sort of points of lights setting) and it's hard to maintain roads clear? In this case adventurers are probably wanted and well paid.

Hypothesis 2 - Monsters and humanoids are numerous but not always aggressive
Maybe communities prefer to pay them, trade with them or give them food than fight them, if this strategy works. In this case adventurers may be more of a nuisance than a resource, if they disrupt the status quo.

Hypothesis 3 - Monsters and humanoids are present but not so numerous
Attacks and raids may occur but are not so common to endanger vast regions. Cities are generally safe and only adventures tipically encounter them because they dwell in the wilderlands and ruins

Hypothesis 4 - Monsters and humanoids are rare
All or some of these creatures are considered legends or stories. Attacks on communities are very rare and people may not always believe the stories told by adventurers

I suppose most D&D world could be considered between 2 and 3, but really no setting IMO goes into great details about this, which is a pity as I think this is for a DM a very important element of the setting that probably should be decided right from the start. I began my career as DM considering mostly hypothesis 1 but now I consider more realistic that in most cases hypothesis 2 should be the more common one.
Possibly Nentir Vale could be considered Hypothesis 1, and maybe Dark Sun too. Glantri in Mystara seems to be hypothesis 3, as there is a Guild of Monster Hunters but does not seem the country is ever in danger from monsters attack.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by shesheyan » Wed May 16, 2018 1:42 pm

I apply all four hypothesis to my settings.

Large urban areas are at H4. The treat level rises from H3, H2 then H1 as the characters move away from high population density. If you are using a hex grid map you can make a extra lawyer indicating the treat level of each hex. When several adjacent hexes are of the same level it makes that larger area even more civilized because of armies OR even more dangerous attracting larger monsters like dragons and large humanoid war bands.

Of course you can make exceptions like Minas Tirith with Mordor on its door step with only Osgiliath in between. A more believable world will have «varied pleasures» imho. ;)
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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Wed May 16, 2018 2:40 pm

Yes indeed you can also use all :) Still you have to decide how the general relations are between civilized lands and wilderlands. I mean, if people in area H1 are constantly menaced by monsters do people in area H4 support them or dismiss them?
Or, turning things around, people in H4 of the same nation are annoyed that people in H1 continue to bother "monsters", thus pushing them to attack?

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by shesheyan » Wed May 16, 2018 3:03 pm

Sturm wrote:
Wed May 16, 2018 2:40 pm
Yes indeed you can also use all :) Still you have to decide how the general relations are between civilized lands and wilderlands. I mean, if people in area H1 are constantly menaced by monsters do people in area H4 support them or dismiss them?
Or, turning things around, people in H4 of the same nation are annoyed that people in H1 continue to bother "monsters", thus pushing them to attack?
That is called a Game of Thrones! :lol: :lol: :lol:

It becomes politics (role-play). Ambassadors, representatives, spies, assassins, mercenaries and heroes can be used to solve the problem. What I find is lacking in most settings is a behavioral AI for groups, sects, kingdoms and ennemies. What is the red-line-in-the-sand for each? What are their agendas and goals (short, mid and long term)? It would make a sandbox game much easier to run.
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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Wed May 16, 2018 8:03 pm

Yes indeed Mystara Imho was better on these aspects, but still lacked details on the relations between wilderlands and civilized lands.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Zeromaru X » Wed May 16, 2018 9:39 pm

I guess H1 and H2 are my kind of campaign, as I "grew up" as a DM with PoL-type worlds, with H1 in the wilderness and H2 in more civilized lands.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by zontoxira » Thu May 17, 2018 11:03 am

The (homebrew) campaigns I visualise are H3, but I end up running official settings, which tend to be about H2.
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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Thu May 17, 2018 11:11 am

Yes H2 is more or less my choice too. Many published settings seems to be purposely unclear if they are H1, H2 or H3, while I think the option should be given, or ar least the three options presented.
H4 would be quite low fantasy. Maybe Lankhmar and Conan could be considered H4, but tending to H3. Middle Earth is not clear, there are not so much monsters as in D&D but Tolkien never clarified the status of whole regions. I had the impression Eriador was quiet before the war, to the point that hobbits never saw an orc before the Scouring, but it was quite different in Rhovanion..

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Havard » Thu May 17, 2018 10:28 pm

I typically have tons of monsters.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Mike » Fri May 18, 2018 12:30 am

What a great question, linking various factors together. I have not thought through this as much as I would like, so have not voted yet. I think the monster level may vary regionally.

Here is an attempt to refine the categories:

H1: monsters are common and threatening
H2: monsters common but not threatening
H3: monsters are rare but threatening
H4: monsters are rare and not threatening

Code: Select all

In tabular form:

                    Common    Uncommon
Threatening           H1         H3
Nonthreatening        H2         H4
  • threatening means they are aggressive and may attack even when you are minding your own business. If you are not afraid you SHOULD be.
  • not threatening means a normal person has little to fear, either because monsters are docile and harmless, or because they keep to themselves, or because they are so rare you'll never see one.
  • Example: Guns are non-threatening compared to heart disease, which is threatening.
Applying this scheme to some settings:

H1 -- The Wilderlands of High Fantasy: Pockets of civilization are separated by monster-infested wilderness, very dangerous. Somewhat integrated, and monsters may live IN towns alongside humans. The cities don't rely on wandering heroes, they have walls and capable military (or powerful resident NPCs) to defend themselves.

H1 -- Zombieland: Monsters are everywhere, far more numerous than people, and are actively hunting you.

H1 -- Typical Superheroes: Everything is blatant and in your face. The Joker routinely poisons the city. Tall buildings are demolished with startling frequency. Spider-man is often seen swinging overhead. Your city could be nuked at any moment, or you could be grabbed and used as a hostage. Oddly, life goes on, despite the continual danger, the ridiculously aggressive and malicious villains, and the ineffectiveness of the police. Possibly because there is no place to run.

H2 -- Mystara. Communities and monsters have their own areas; some monsters live nearby but are friendly or at least docile. Monsters are quite common but don't usually threaten civilization. Town guards focus on drunks and thieves, but can't handle hostile monsters. Luckily these events are uncommon and there are wandering heroes who can deal with them. Usually adventurers have to actively search for monsters, travelling into the wilderness or a dungeon to find monsters to kill.

H2 -- Harry Potter: Monsters are quite common and fulfill important roles in society. Everyone has seen and interacted with them, and they are rarely dangerous unless you are stupid.

H3 -- Van Helsing: Most people don't see the monsters, but they should be afraid of them because the monsters are predatory and attacks are frequent. Nobody is safe, they are just unaware. There may be lots of monsters or only a few, it doesn't matter.

H3 -- The Ghoul Lands: The ghouls never attack humans during the day, so it's life as usual. But they roam the streets at night, and anyone caught outdoors after sunset is devoured alive, People accept them and rarely see them, yet they are a very real threat to everyone.

H3 -- Inner City Ghetto: On the lawless, gang-dominated streets, ordinary folk keep a sharp eye out. Visitors might not even notice, but the locals know what to watch for, who to avoid, when to run, and keep their doors triple-locked and barred. Gangs are dangerous but mostly concerned with each other, so you stay out of their territory and leave if you see them approach. Predators and robbers are less visible but everpresent. Police are scarce and preoccupied with their own safety.

H4 -- Modern civilized world: There are dangerous animals and dangerous people, but they are so rare, shy, and/or remote that you're more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever encounter one.

H4 -- Mythic Europe (Ars Magica): Monsters are real, but they live in magical places far away from churches and cities, and they prefer to keep to themselves. Most people aren't sure if they are even real or not.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Fri May 18, 2018 9:37 am

Very good examination, this is harder to do for D&D worlds as the situation was almost ever left vague by designers on purpose. I will try:
H1 - Nentir Vale, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Blackmoor
H2 - Mystara, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Eberron (if there isn't a war or special event)
H3 - Spelljammer? (if you consider space is big, or H2), Planescape, depending on planes, Birthright?
H4 - Planescape in certain planes

About other worlds, supposed:
H1 - Calidar Dread Lands, Warcraft?, Scarred Lands, Gamma World, Wilderlands (as Mike said), Midgard?, Warhammer
H2 - Freeport? Talislanta? Kalamar? Aquaria? Pelinore? Oriental adventures
H3 - Calidar great Caldera and Moons, Middle Earth, Conan, Lankhmar, Cthulhu
H4 - Star Wars and Star Trek most worlds, Traveller, Councyl of Wyrms in the chain?

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by agathokles » Sat May 19, 2018 10:00 am

Birthright is similar to Mystara. While the world is mostly civilized, there are areas under the control of monsters, such as goblin or orog kingdoms. Furthermore, the Awnshegh are a threat, either latent or active. E.g., the Elf mounts raids against neighbouring human realms, and certain kingdoms are ruled by Awnshegh, making them almost Ravenloftish. Awnshegh reamls are quite common and not so easy to eradicate, so while the core regions of Anuire may look H3, on average it is more like H2.

Planescape is very variable. The Upper Planes are H4 (but people there are aware of and generally actively hostile towards the Lower Planes), the Outlands may be around H3 or H2, and the Lower Planes are definitely H1.

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by Sturm » Sat May 19, 2018 10:57 am

Should Lower Planes be H1 only for outsiders or also for residents? Maybe Baator is quite an orderly place for residents :-)

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Re: Civilization, wilderness and monsters density

Post by dulsi » Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:13 pm

Mike wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 12:30 am
H1 -- Typical Superheroes: Everything is blatant and in your face. The Joker routinely poisons the city. Tall buildings are demolished with startling frequency. Spider-man is often seen swinging overhead. Your city could be nuked at any moment, or you could be grabbed and used as a hostage. Oddly, life goes on, despite the continual danger, the ridiculously aggressive and malicious villains, and the ineffectiveness of the police. Possibly because there is no place to run.
I'd have a hard time considering typical superheroes as H1. You have to first reduce the setting to a single city. While New York has many supervillain attacks, I would say the vast majority of cities and towns are largely unaffected. Even in New York, I don't know that I would consider it dangerous. I look at it more as you have more over the top criminals but maybe not more crime.
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