Building A World: The Free Wilds

It’s time to talk about Seliit some more!

The campaign I’m currently running, Under Iron Skies, begins in a region called the Free Wilds. The Free Wilds are a loose conglomeration of small kingdoms, settlements, and city-states that do not share any single governing body. Basically, it’s just a big mishmash of several smaller countries that are all lumped together because it’s easier than listing them all out individually.

The concept of the Free Wilds was very important to me when creating Seliit. You see, one of the reasons I fell out of love with my previous setting, Kanvarr, was that I had been fairly meticulous in planning out each individual country there. While I initially thought that would be useful–it would give me a lot of background to draw on–it ended up making me feel stifled. It felt like there was nothing new in the world. There were no places left to explore. If I had an idea for a cool new type of society, what could I do with it? Where could I put it? I’d already filled up the map.

That’s why, when I started working on Seliit instead, I knew right away that I wanted to leave myself some wiggle room. I wanted to have an area that was vague and undefined, somewhere where I could plop down whatever weird new idea might occur to me and it wouldn’t feel too out of place. There are a few regions like that on Seliit, but the Free Wilds was the first one I settled on.

Located south of the massive Rehledar Empire, the Free Wilds features numerous different societies that, to be frank, I haven’t put a lot of thought into. That would defeat the purpose, right? However, there are a few specific places and pieces of lore that I have worked out so far, so I’ll touch on those briefly.

First off, the Free Wilds serve an important purpose in that they are the home of the Earth Crystal, one of the four major arkicites. The location of the Crystal itself is a secret that is closely guarded by the wildfolk who revere it; these people have built the hidden city of Garrovar to protect the Crystal from invaders. Children in Garrovar are taught the importance of the Crystal from a young age, and those who grow into promising warriors are made Wardens: protectors of the sacred Crystal and guardians of Garrovar’s borders.

Another important aspect of the Free Wilds is the Eight-Nations Alliance. As I said earlier, the Wilds lay directly to the south of the Rehledar Empire, which is always looking to expand; the Eight-Nations Alliance is a group of Free Wilds kingdoms that have banded together to for a defensive line, preventing Rehledar from pushing further south. I’ll be honest–I don’t have a lot of ideas about the individual nations, save one: a place called Moratel. Moratel is famed for its long service to the Alliance, and it is often said that the Free Wilds have no greater defenders than the so-called Shield of the South. It is also notable for having a royal family that actively fights in the war; the current monarch, Queen Cyrra Thask, is young but proven in battle.

Finally, I want to mention a small, nameless settlement that no longer exists. It was a peaceful, agrarian village near the border with Rehledar, notable for only one thing: a huge shard of arkicite in the center of the settlement, which locals venerated. Unfortunately, the Empire learned of this large crystal and razed the town, ripping the arkicite from the earth to use in their own machines. The only survivor was a young man who had been out searching for a lost sheep when the attack happened. I didn’t come up with this part of the Free Wilds; this was the backstory that one of my players created for the campaign I’m running. I love it, and it perfectly illustrates why the Free Wilds are important to me from a narrative standpoint–it’s a great place to let players run wild with their backstories. If they want to have a set of quirks or mores that don’t mesh well with any existing culture, bam, they can create a society of their own design within the Free Wilds.

What are your thoughts on the Free Wilds as a sort of ‘catch-all’ for small fantasy cultures? What kind of town or kingdom would drop into this region? What questions do you have about places like Garrovar and Moratel? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

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