DM: So you take a table in the corner of the tavern. The barman puts down some plates of food.
George the Rouge: Ok let’s see what treasure we got! I empty the bag’s contents onto the table.
DM: You have an art object and a few gems.
Talnor the Wizard: I cast detect magic.
DM: Nothing magical
George the Rouge: Well that’s useless.
Talnor the Wizard: I guess we can sell the gems for something… somewhere?
George the Rouge: Maybe there is a thieves guild?
D&D has many approaches to making a kingdom. The basic approach is to list a Name, its Rulership type, Ruler name, population, and probably the biggest City where the ruler lives. Therefore much of D&D relies on not only what’s expected from a D&D world but what we expect about our world to appear in it. So when making a kingdom I also want to know the day-to-day experience of living in that kingdom and what makes it different from the next besides the name of the ruler and creature on their flag.
When making a kingdom we can easily fall into endless detail as we can list details that are almost as complicated as real life. But on the other hand, we would like enough details that a player does not feel they have to constantly check in with the DM about reality and have made a character that fits organically into the setting. For me I want some detail, so let’s try pulling some headings from Wikipedia on a real country and add in a magic section and a law section and we get the following. Where I have not named something yet I just put an X to flesh out later.
Here we give the Kingdom a name and describe some kind of flag or crest to represent it by as well as a short description of what the physical area the Kingdom encompasses is like overall.
Sebal the Kingdom on the Silver Bowl. Its crest is of a white pearl sitting in a ring of coral on a blue field. Sebal is a sovereign kingdom on the south of the continent consisting of the lands encircled by the X mountain range and several small islands off of the coast into the X sea. The land is marked by intensely dense patches of forest and sudden streaks of arid flat land.
Prehistory: Here we want to outline what people believe the area was like before any historical records.
Little is known of the time before foundation. Remnants of a former civilization turn up as spots of stone rubble, broken pottery or old rusted weapons. Many of the art objects depict horned snakes. Bards poetry talk of great monsters walking the lands having destroyed the former civilization.
Current history: What is known about the kingdom’s history? A short statement on how old the kingdom is thought to be and any formative or interesting events that have happened in that time.
The Kingdom was established in the Year 01AF (after foundation) on the coast of X sea. It has steadily grown with new villages across the area over the 300 years.
Geography and environment:
General Characteristics : Describe the geography of the kingdom.
The south coast is populated by extensive coral reefs and a few small islands with a high consistency of coral. The landmass has large patches of old-growth forests with more dense jungle near the rim of the X mountain range. A few small hills and stark arid patches are scattered across the kingdom. The centre of the kingdom is split by the Hax river that flows from the X mountain range as the great Maiden’s falls waterfall. The river parts into two legs surrounding the capital.
Geology: List some natural resources the kingdom has and possibly known for and possibly fantastic substance.
Silver, Iron, chalk, amber and the rare substance X.
Climate: Describe the climate of the area. Its normal range across the seasons.
Sebal has a climate of high humidity and warmth with hot dry summers. Winter and autumn months are also cool temperate during the day with frosty nights. Snow is a rare utmost unheard-of event although in cold periods it can be seen clinging to the peaks of the X mountain range that circles the kingdom.
Biodiversity: List the common animals found in the kingdom both wild and domestic.
Sebal has many species that are unique to the area including the platypus, echidna and marsupials like thylacine and the kangaroo and giant versions of all. Sebal has a very high number of snakes and lizard species and parrot species. Domesticated animals include chickens, sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys, Giant thylacine, thylacine and cat. Every town is built around a nesting area of a giant horned version of a creature such as a wombat, a boar etc, these creatures are very rare and are feed by the town believing that their presence discourages other monsters.
Government and politics
Describe the system of government and for what reason, it claims to rule.
Sebal is a monarchy with the Vildales family being the rulers of the kingdom since its foundation. The family are credited with making a pact with a being called ‘the lord on high’ who protects the lands from great monster incursions. The royal family lays claim to all the land within the mountain range and to sea X to the south to whale tooth island. The political structure below the king or queen is currently divided into three Counts and six Barons.
Foreign relations: List any relations it has to other kingdoms. Trade, exchange of ideas, war past or present could be listed here.
Sebal has Trade relations with X kingdom to the south. To the east is a sporadic war with lizardmen tribes. Sebal has diplomatic relations with the X people of X island. They are aware of the foreign Republic to the north and the barbarian tribes to the northeast but have no official contact.
Military: What methods does the kingdom have to raise an army and what is the command structure of that army? If there is an unusual division of who can serve or not you can list it here.
Sebal has a number of trained military leaders and knights. The ranks are:
King/Queen, Grand Knight Marshal, Knight Marshal of Coins, Knight Marshal of Swords, Knight Marshall of Horns, Knight Commander, Knight, Sargent (of arms) typically trained people of lower rank, Captain, Men at Arms. Sebal does not have a standing army but Knights will conscript and raise troops from mercenaries and the peasantry. The Royal family and each of the Barons have a small number of trained permanent troops as guards- the Coral Guard (or Royal guard), the Sword Guard, the Coin guard, and the Horn Guard.
Economy: Describe the wealth of the kingdom and the general wealth level of its people.
Sebal is a mineral-rich kingdom with a high level of poverty. The majority of the population live in poor conditions living off the land directly.
Ancestry and Immigration: List here a breakdown of the races that encompasses the kingdom. Also, a percentage of possible immigrants from neighbouring kingdoms if applicable.
Sebal is a human kingdom with 80% Human 10% ½ Elf 5% Dwarf, 5% Other
Language: Language is important in a kingdom not only for communication but a specific language that may be endorsed by the ruling class and used to write laws and employed by professions. You may also want to note if it has similarities with other languages that may directly or hint at a historical connection.
Sebal exclusively uses the language ‘Seblan’. It is used in all laws and commerce. The local dwarf population also has their own language but the Halfling population also speaks Seblan but with many words and phrases unique to their kind.
Religion: List the major religions of the kingdom and what is officially sanctioned by the ruling class.
Sebal has three main recognized religions, Kara-kor the god of justice, storms and patron of sailors, Bel-orp the Blue frog god of nature and patron of farmers and the states official religion ‘the maiden of the mourning’ a goddess that promises eternal life which is the supported religion of the royal family. While these Gods are not in a Pantheon they each have fables that mention each other. Other religions are known but are few in worship.
Health: Here is what kind of life expectancy people have due to the conditions they live in. Also, you can list what expectations of aid for health issues.
Life expectancy for humans is around 60 years for the lower class and 80 years for the wealthy. Population breakdown of humans is 5% 65 +, 60% 15-64, 20% 5-15,15% Under 5.
Education: Here list what levels of education people typically have and what access they have to education.
Literacy is very low, only nobility and Artisans who need it to perform work might know how to read and write. Books and scrolls are rare and very valuable to the right people. Training is via a ‘Master and apprentice’ relationship. People have little choice but to be dedicated to one profession their entire lives.
Arts: Describe what kinds of artwork and materials are typical of the area and culture. Can also be a useful guide of what kinds of ‘Art’ treasure an adventurer could find.
Carved spires of natural rock by forgotten inhabitants are found dotted across the land and primitive symbolic paintings in a few areas. The history of why these were created and by who is not known. Sebalans have a strong oral history of poetry telling tales of historical characters as well as the landscape of the country. Very few modern sculptures are found in Sebal and those that are are simple and stylistic in approach. Paintings typically have simplistic and symbolic depictions of people and surprisingly detailed depictions of landscapes and buildings.
Media: How does information spread in the kingdom via official and unofficial channels?
Officially notifications are spread by town criers. Nobles may communicate via official messengers riding between towns. Bush poets are popular in spreading tales of current and old events.
Cuisine: List the typical foods available for the general population.
Food consists of rice and bread as stables, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, beans and some purple and white root vegetables. Food tends to be strongly salted. Meats tend to be chicken, kangaroo, pig, and rarely beef. Meals are usually in the form of a stew or curry. Sebalans have a large variety of pastries.
Sports and recreation: Sports and pastimes can be a good indicator of the values of a culture.
Tournaments with jousting, archery, fencing, hunting, forest running where people try to outrun a trained giant Thylacine.
Names: A naming system can also be different from culture and kingdom. In some cultures, people may have single names, names that mark them as followers of a certain religion or even names that change as they go through different stages of life.
Sebalan commoners and artisans usually have surnames that describe their trade. Eg Smith, Carpenter, Miller, Brewer etc. People with more usual surnames tend to come from noble families. Many serfs and peasants may not have a surname and instead identify themselves by heritage and birthplace eg Trever the younger of Townsville hill.
Law and Order
Policing: How is the population forced to comply with the Kingdoms law?
Sebal uses a tithing system wherein adults are organized into groups of ten. Each member is responsible for bringing an accused of their members to court. Judgment courts are held by Sheriffs appointed in the community.
Punishment: Which kinds of punishment is implemented?
In order of severity, public shaming, confiscation of wealth, property, flogging, banishment, hanging/beheading.
The legitimate use of violence: Which groups are supported by the kingdom’s laws and culture that claim a right to inflict violence? Are there any special groups that could enforce violence based on religion or another doctrine?
Sebals laws support violence in support of the caste system by guards in defence of property and nobility. By knights and nobles in the protection of property and securement of methods in maintaining taxation.
Magic in Society: How common is magic? What forms do people trust and how could people learn it?
Society is more familiar with magic from divine sources which even then are rare. The only known way to learn arcane magic is from the court wizards and they take one apprentice.
Magical Items: How rare are magic items? Can they be purchased?
The only magical item that could be normally available for purchase is potions of healing made by alchemists and healers. The major religious organisations have some relics passed down to their dedicated members or created for special purposes. The wizards of the Counts have been rumoured to have made single-use items for their lords.
Magical features: Does the kingdom have any well known magical places?
Hax river: The river is said to be the maiden of mournings tears. Followers express healing and clarity of mind when bathing and worshipping in the water closest to the temples of the goddess.
Anchor of the tempest: A Giant metal anchor embedded into a stone monument is known for being incredibly resistant to damage. Bards tell of the tale of the ‘Seeker’, a great ship that ran aground onto it and was destroyed and left no mark. During storms lighting that should have hit the city area instead can be seen to bend at the last moment striking the Anchor.
Now we have a fairly high-level detail of what this kingdom is like. You could use this as a player handout when people and creating characters so they have an idea of what to expect or inspire a creation that suits the world. Note that this document is a description of common knowledge that gives a player an expectation of a worldview. The reality of the Kingdom may be very different during play and the exceptions to the kingdom’s norms are reasons for investigation, intrigue and adventure.
DM: So you take a table in the corner of the tavern. The barman puts down some bowls of hot kangaroo stew with mushroom and root vegetables.
George Carpenter of Greydens lake the Rouge: Ok let’s see what treasure we got! I empty the bag’s contents onto the table.
DM: You have a rolled-up small painting of a woman, a few pieces of amber, and a piece of garnet
Talnor Valinesh apprentice of the Count of Crowns Wizard: I cast detect magic.
DM: Nothing magical
Talnor Valinesh: I look at the painting.
DM: It’s a very realistic painting of a noblewoman.
George Carpenter: Hmm well the ambers are not that unusual so we can use that for trade, but this garnet is worth something good.
Talnor Valinesh : This painting is not in a Sebalan style – far too realistic. So quite rare.
George Carpenter: Huzzah! The local tournament will be on soon -and packed with nobles that we can flog this off too!