I keep finding these fantastic blogs with deep and thoughtful analysis of the situation in the [insert game system] -based on AD&D’s “Implied Setting”. I have been researching this for months now, and am getting a good grip on how I want to explain the World of Weirth (TM) setting. Eventually I’ll put it down in my own words, but for now I’ll share the thoughts of those that have gone before:
From the Wandering Gamist
How Does Anyone Survive in ACKSWorld, Anyways?
This is a post that has been in the works for a long time, and one I really should’ve gotten around to writing sooner.
One of the repeated complaints of my players about ACKS is the perceived unreasonableness of having a peasant population, nevermind towns and caravans, in the midst of a wilderness as monster-infested and generally deadly as that which ACKS postulates. I think my veteran players have come to terms with it by this point, but our new players brought it up again, so I figure I had best address it after all.
The important mindset to have here is one of the post-apocalyptic. The Hill Cantons had a wonderful post back in August, when we first confronted this problem, about how the default assumptions of AD&D strongly suggested a world where civilization had just about collapsed, and mankind was on the brink of extinction (this post that he wrote leading into it was good, too). ACKS’ default assumptions are not quite to AD&D’s level of sparseness – the Auran Empire setting seems to assume a falling empire, rather than one fallen some time past. But they’re close enough to be adapted, and that is what I have done in the Shieldlands. Zahar collapsed some sixty to a hundred years ago; well outside of human living memory given medieval life expectancy, but within elven living memory (if one trusts the elves). The Shieldlands were a Zaharan territory, though largely human-inhabited, and later they became a battleground between the Myrmidians and the Zaharans leading up to the disaster which shattered their empire. With these historical assumptions in mind, let’s address more specific concerns.
First off, why are there peasant populations in the wilderness such that when we clear a hex, there are people there to swear loyalty to us? The simple answer is that those peasants are existing at a near-animal level of subsistence as a prey species for monsters, and surviving at something of an equilibrium state where births per unit time equal deaths from predation and disease in that same timeframe. They don’t form large holdfasts because those are like presenting the wyverns with a lunchbox, instead living in bands practicing crude farming or herding. They also don’t have sufficient numbers, leadership, or skill in metalworking to arm up to a level where they can fight wyverns, nor the food stores for long-distance travel to a well-defended town. It is a nasty, brutish, and short existence, but it’s what they’ve got. There’s a reason they swear fealty if you can clear a hex and have the fortress and garrison to defend it – it’s a huge step up in life expectancy, and the rules reflect this by allowing domained peasant populations to grow, while peasant populations in monster-infested hexes remain static.
I have not read any of the ACKS rules (it’s on my list, I promise), but this is an explanation for the points-of-light style setting I see in my mind’s eye.
In the Howling wilderness of Weirth I’ve already planted tribes of Berserkers, devolved Forgetters (I need a better term for that), that live off the land in a nomadic existence. This is a beautiful example of how tribes/clans of peasant-level humans could exist in the far-flung wilderlands, constantly on the run from Ankhegs, River Dragons and Wyverns.
Very cool. Thanks, John!