When I was young, I was a voracious reader with a love of fantasy and science fiction. Much to my parents’ dismay, I eschewed reading the classics and instead dove into books like Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, or Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar saga. I loved stories of magic doing wondrous and terrible things, and stories of heroes rising from unlikely places.
As I started writing the setting that would become Eiridia, all of these themes started surfacing in my work. All of my favorite things about fantasy would eventually find a place in Eiridia. It started with dragons.
The Rise and Fall of Dragons
The first version of Eiridia had twelve different player character races of dragon. I think my favorite of them was the moon dragon, a Chinese-styled dragon with a primal connection to magical energy and a mysterious nature.
Before Silver Gryphon Games published Ingenium, we cut dragons as player races. They were far too powerful compared to the other races. I didn’t want to include an “auto-take” race in Ingenium, because Palladium Books’ Rifts had taught me how those kinds of things can be exploited by gamers that choose mechanics over friends.
I didn’t want to encourage people to ruin their own fun, so we got rid of dragons as player races. As time went on, I put them further into the background. Instead of being an active part of the game world, dragons became Dragons – legendary villainous monsters that no one had seen for generations.
Because of this change, the world of Eiridia underwent a sweeping but necessary change. The focus went from a world revolving around draconian influencers to a world conflicted. Multiple sentient races waged war against each other. After that, the world further evolved into cultures warring against each other rather than races.
Creating Coherent Cultures
Culture is something that is missing from fantasy role-playing games these days. Most mainstream RPGs put a strong focus on segregation of races, with cities and entire kingdoms set aside solely for one race or another. The concept of unique cultures is absent. Ingenium’s Eiridia is not that way. Instead, I focus on telling an interesting story for each culture.
Yes, some of the races have nearly universal cultures, and keep to themselves. The elves in Eiridia are like this. However, the majority of Eiridia’s races live together in both urban and rural communities. Bigotry is not completely absent from Eiridia, but it’s also not a theme of the setting either. I tried to focus more on the interesting cultural divergences present throughout the game world.
Nardora is a land in the grip of a corrupt theocracy. Jur’gaan is embroiled in perpetual civil war. Tantris is a desert wasteland with pockets of nomadic civilization. Rekellia is a formerly continent-spanning empire that dreams once again of greatness. Redami is an upstart kingdom that broke away from Rekellia. The Jutar Wilds is a jungle filled with life, passion, and chaos.
All of these have their own cultural undercurrents. In some cases, more than one culture vies for dominance in each region. What kind of culture do you imagine for your own character?