I was thinking on some of the ideas I have had for a new campaign setting, and the idea of numbers of major groups of various player character races crossed my mind. I was thinking how to use the dice chain for something else, and this idea just jelled.
Below is how I am considering using it for this specific campaign setting. There is nothing to stop you from using a dice chain with all the various dice you have. One could also mix in story cubes to get a back story for each “nation”. If you don’t have gnomes in your world, skip them. If you want some races to be even more rare, use different dice to represent them, or make their enclaves smaller and further apart. There are so many other tools that one could use to build details. Tables, cards, dice, PDF’s, novels, TV, and movies each have something they could inspire.
One does not have to go into great detail, just make a note about that race with the number. For example, below I have the four shires, meaning four groups of halflings. They could be in a federation or confederation arrangement for mutual defense and trade.
For the dwarves, the idea of a lost kingdom sounded appealing, so in common parlance, it is the seven kingdoms of the dwarves. This gave me the idea that dwarves would call mithril and other hard to obtain things as rare as the eighth kingdom. This generates an air of history, mystery, and legend without much effort at a complex list of names and dates and charts. It leaves room to add them later, but they are not needed at the start.
Multiple groups of each race brings up the possibilities of rivalries, historic ties, and intrigue between members of each group. This would be in addition to any such things happening with the various groups within each kingdom. Add into the mix relations with other races, and it’s politics where ever you go.
Politics and factions arise in groups of all sizes. Families, neighborhoods, villages, baronies, kingdoms, regions, continents, etc. Families go from the basic unit to extended families, to descendants of the children of a common ancestor. Neighborhoods have those that are older and established vs. the newcomer, or other such division. Villages, towns, and cities have competing factions whether by neighborhood, guild, or class. Baronies have divisions between townsfolk and rural folk. Such divisions scale. Baronies more distant from the seat of the king are seen as backward and uncouth. Newer kingdoms more recently cut from the wilds are seen as inferior to long established kingdoms and empires.
Enemies over trading rights become staunch allies when faced with invasion by a mutual enemy. It can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. It is far simpler to have one simple rivalry and one simple commonality between each neighboring “kingdom.” Let the course of play reveal an increase in the number of conflicts or points of mutual interest. Or the initial single point of interest and conflict might be broadened and deepened during the growth of the campaign through play.
As is evident, in my case, a relatively simple idea has sparked my creative juices, and I see all kinds of possibilities. My goal is not to get mired in the details. While I might have four halfling shires, and seven dwarven kingdoms, I don’t need their official names, names of rulers, or location at this time. Adventurers need not be educated about the scope of the world, or even access to maps of the world. They only need a general idea that the four shires are in the east, for example. Unless they are a halfling, they won’t know more than that.
All of this is just a framework or placeholders for ideas. Not all ideas will work into play. Only those ideas that come into play are worth expansion. The most work and detail needs to go into the starting location and surrounding region. This concept easily transfers to any set of rules or genre. For science fiction, it could be how many star systems, star bases, capital ships, etc. a given group has. Narrow the focus to a city and it indicates number of neighborhoods with each group in the city. Use a roll of the die assigned to a given group to generate a random number for whatever place in the setting it is needed. I think that it is a simple enough concept that you don’t need a table, other than as an example or reminder. If you forget and use the “wrong” die, it won’t hurt.
Dice Chain for Number of Nations/Enclaves of Each Race
Original D&D Dice Chain, as I knew it: (One can roll the dice, or take the maximum from each die, or any number that makes sense for your vision of your campaign.)
d4 – Halflings – The four Shires.
d6 – Gnomes – Burrows for dwellings and grouped in clans.
d8 – Dwarves – The Seven Kingdoms of the Dwarves, the 8th Kingdom is lost in mystery.
d10 – Elves – Ten major enclaves of Elves. Could be wood, valley, high, grey, or other groupings.
d12 – Humans – 12 major nations/peoples. Nations with “fixed” borders, or groups of nomads with claims on seasonal lands.
d20 – 20 other groupings of Humanoids, potential other player races.
Half-elves and Half-Orcs would tend to be mixed in with one of their parent’s communities, or isolated communities where they settle.
There are six dice in the above dice chain. Use a d6 to determine which die to roll to determine number of clans in a dwarven kingdom, or how many tribes of orcs. These could always be those that are known. The world is a big place and magic, interdimensional portals, and the like can explain away any sudden appearance when it is “known” that there are no more X in the world.
What die to roll for number of factions/groups/divisions at this level? (d6) (Level can be city, kingdom, continent, etc.) For example, how many major guilds are in the capital city? Of course, if you roll 20, you may be re-thinking the work that would involve, so as always, change it to suit your needs. A good one would be, how many regiments can be mustered, if you don’t want to calculate detailed population metrics. If you roll a d4 and a 1, or a 1 on any die, what story would you come up with to only have one regiment that the king can count on? Rebellion, civil war, invasion, natural disaster, dragon?
DCC style dice chain (d14) or d16