Saturday, July 28, 2018

Worldbuilding and Seaward Overview: Steel, Ships, Schnapps

  D&D has led me to some interesting side hobbies, such as an intense interest in mining, metallurgy, and smithing as a teen. My goal was for an internal consistency to Seaward, a world that made sense inside its own context. My players seems to notice this (hooray!) but sometimes be confused, so here is my thinking.
Seaward as a whole is roughly the High Middle Ages, around 1200 AD, give or take. But that is just a touchpoint. Here is where it differs.

In Real Life blast furnaces were only introduced to Europe in the 16th Century, but they were about 1,500 years old by that time, having been used in China that long before. Smelting is a LOT older, as in 6,000+ years.
Seaward has pretty advanced metallurgy with sophisticated blast furnaces (hot blast blast furnaces with water- or spell- powered forced air, distillatory venting, and the use of raw anthracite), a wide range of fluxes as well as ore washing, roasting, and reduction steps throughout. The dwarves are masters of this, although all races do at least base smelting.
This means 'full plate' armor, better tools, improved alloys, etc. are also "earlier". The humanoids are still in the 'age of mail' while the good guys have reached the 'age of plate'.

My thinking/justification: The odd thing (to me, at least) in real life is that bits and pieces of smelting technology were scattered here and there but rarely combined until fairly recently. Water-powered forced air on southern Europe; blast furnaces in China; sophisticated fluxes in Spain, etc. My simple assumption is that long-lived dwarves with different cultural ties were more likely to share and combine these technologies leading to a slightly faster development of metallurgy so that Seaward is about 4 centuries 'ahead' of Europe in mining, smelting, etc.

In Real Life the Medieval Period by about 1200 AD saw the development of the cog, knarr, and hulk in the West and the very sophisticated Song Dynasty junk in the East.
Seaward lags far behind in ship technology. The only common boat is the simple fishing boat with a square sale. The only real military ships of Seaward and Eastford are a few trireme galleys. Trading vessels are simple flat-bottomed roundships with a single square sail. The most advanced ships are those of the Mariner Elves who have the equivalents of longships and simple knarrs.

My thinking/justification: In real life the fact that ancient humans got into boats and sailed out of the sight of land might be the boldest thing our species has ever done - and we did it a lot. The Medieval Period had more population, an improvement in other technologies, an increased need and desire for trade, and seaborne raiders. all of which led to rapid development of ship technology that had otherwise been stagnant since Hellenistic times.
Seaward is still stagnant, as is most of the world around it, for three reasons. One, the oceans of Seaward are much more deadly than the real oceans, which is a terrifying concept. Sea serpents, dragon turtles, weresharks, kraken, sahuagin, koalinth, scrags, etc., etc., etc. mean that there are areas of ocean that are impassible and the rest is much more lethal. There are very good reasons to not go to sea. Second, magic allows you to skip some of the ship technology. A spell here and there makes any ship more seaworthy, so if you must go to sea the simpler ship can do more in a pinch. Third, things like Teleport, Carpets of Flying, etc. mean that the powerful or wealthy can travel much faster and more safely, removing some of the impetus for development.

Alcoholic Spirits-
Archaeologists have evidence that the Babylonians were making simple distilled alcohol by 1200 BC and distillation of alcohol was spreading in both the East and West in the 1st Century, so liquor is fairly old. But it wasn't until about 1500 AD that distillation was more than a novelty or tool of alchemy.
Seaward is about 400 years ahead here, too, allowing for a very wide range of liquors. Pot still are the norm, but both fractional distillation and reflux are well-known and used improving quality and consistency.

My thinking/justification: Essentially the same as with metallurgy.

Seaward has the alcohol, armor, and metals of the 16th Century and the ships of the 7th with a few elves carefully guarding their 11th Century ships and Liung Diguo having a few early junks far, far away. The lack of reliable sea travel makes the world effectively larger and forces more overland travel. It also makes magic items and spells with strategic travel capabilities much more valuable.