So today I’m going to talk a little about how it is that the known lands of the setting have no empire anywhere on the map. This isn’t uncommon in fantasy settings, but there’s actually a reason behind it here.
In many settings, as observed by my wife, there’s a tendency to place nations that have existed for ages with no drive to expand; while this makes it incredibly tidy for the people developing it as they can just refer back in time without worrying about anything other than the occasional reference to a war, it’s not particularly reflected in human history, particularly the European history that most fantasy worldbuilding grows out from.
In this setting, however, the last empire fell just under two hundred years ago; the details of the fall are unclear, with multiple stories all contradicting each other. There’s a very real possibility that the world broke and took the empire with it, taking who knows what along in the process. Regardless, nations have redeveloped and grown in the time since then, and they’re starting to push into direct conflict in many places.
The so-called Baronies of the Silver Hills are one such place; while many of these are little more than town ruled over by a would-be warlord, some are well-established and have been preparing to go to war on their neighbors. It’s possible that the next imperial power in the known lands could result from the conflicts here. The fact that they’re bordered on the east by the Dreaming Desert means any such power would find it much more enticing to head west, toward the Fellwood.
The south has more than a few small kingdoms with inhabitants already hardened to the prospect of violence by their frost giant neighbors; the giants have spent the last couple of centuries trying – and occasionally succeeding – to conquer the more hospitable northern valleys where the humans and dwarves have their farms and mines. As such, it isn’t a particular stretch for these kingdoms to have an ambitious young monarch looking to annex more territory – be it by killing giants to build new mines, annexing their neighbors to get their farmland, or by pushing north along the rivers into the quasi-wilderness.
Any and all of these are ripe to occur, and the only reason there aren’t any current imperial powers in the making is the mysterious aftermath of whatever wiped the last one from the world with little more than ancient-looking ruins here and there to show for it. For all the caution counselled by those who remember the empire but can’t remember how it was lost, there are plenty of ambitious and eager expansionists sure that they won’t run afoul of whatever happened.
History doesn’t make heroes and fortunes, after all – action does, right? And that’s without counting if any of the so-called monsters have ambitions to rule.