As stated before, I don't want this setting to depend too much on political boundaries. I've done that before and become bored with it -- I don't know why, but I tend to lock myself into a creative straightjacket when I do that, and that's Not The Point.
That said, there's a need for cultures and societies. To work around it, I'm going to create a few kingdoms, baronies, etc., and rather than pack them all together and draw borders between them, I'm going to cast them out like islands of organized society in a sea of wilderness.
F'r'ex, let's say that you're adventuring in the Barony of Serovan, which is a pretty vanilla FRPG kingdom with a main capital city overseen by Baron Auldrec Autumnis. You're running around in the feudal area, between orchards and towns and the city of Serovan proper and so on. Well, Serovan's "borders" only stretch so far out, so when you go off to do something in the neighboring Kindom of Maur, you're gonna have to pass through a few score miles of wild, untamed land full of monsters and mysteries and crazy dangerous stuff. Their borders do not abut.
Believe it or not, this common-sense approach to world-building is something I've never really done before.
Hat over my eyes.
I don't like to lock myself in to things, so rather than say, "Okay, I'm going to detail x kingdoms and they are named A, B, C, etc.", I'm going to make a list of possible socities and choose a few good ideas out of the mix. Brainstoming, y'see, writing stuff down as it occurs to me.
Okay! Here it goes...
- Elven nation built on the ruins of the human nation they conquered 1000 years ago
- Greco-roman kingdom by the sea, decaying as political infighting erodes the nation's purpose and focus
- The Troll Lands, a big chunk of wilderness dominated (if not actually "ruled") by trolls, orcs, goblins etc.
- A landmass to the south which is populated by dinosaurs and megalithic mammals, separated from the rest of the continent by a wide chasm.
- Vanilla-FRPG feudal kingdom of chivalry and sorcery -- basically, medieval European stuff as painted by Clyde Caldwell, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easly and Keith Parkinson
- The Horse Tribes, nomads who wander the steppes and wear those cool Mongol helmets
- A barbarian tribe in the north -- Conan meets vikings, worshipping a frost giant
- A kingdom expanding its borders towards an arid land full of savages -- basically the American Old West, with forts and homesteads, but swords instead of rifles and real savages instead of, you know, Indians*
- The Dells, where the halflings live, eat, sleep, garden and are basically dull
- The Plains of Mak-Nar, name which I stole from a locally-produced one-act play, and which has all your blasted wastelands and your umpassable mountains and your howling orc tribes and your undead, black-armored, fire-shooting-from-the-eyeslits-of-his-helmet guy with a bigass sword and stuff