One of the hardest and possibly, most important questions to ask yourself when starting to create a fantasy world is “What is the level of technology currently available throughout the world?”, and the truth of the matter is that this will be always highly dependent on you. For the purposes of this project we had to define a range that we will be referring to as a resource.
Technology level of a fantasy kingdom
According to Wikipedia
In European history, the Middle Ages, or Medieval period, lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and theAge of Discovery.
In our experience though most Fantasy campaign settings will exhibit certain characteristics that define this period a bit further. For example most if not all fantasy settings will have Stone castles. The first appearance of stone build fortification after the collapse of the roman empire occurs during the 12th and 13th Century. Castles become slowly outmoded as artillery becomes strong enough to be able to punch through walls, roughly by the end of the 16th century, were they were replaced with artillery forts.
That would mean that the period that most fantasy or high fantasy kingdoms exist would be a time period between the 12th and 16th century (400 years), but in many of these worlds we also encounter massive sailing ships filled with pirates and swashbucklers. The age coined as the “Age of Sail” hasn’t started until the 16th century and lasted until the end of the 19th century with the appearance of the first Ironclad (in 1857), which complicates things a bit.
Stuck in the middle ages
Another very interesting fact about fantasy worlds is that they seem to be “stuck” at the same technological advancement level for a incredibly long amount of time. If you read most of the origins and backstories of fantasy worlds, kingdoms seem to exist for hundreds if not thousand of years and, in most cases, they were preceded by other kingdoms that got, lost, died out or got destroyed with also very long life spans.
To the eyes of an external observer it seems like the age of reason never came to pass. The truth of the matter is that the main difference between the history of the world as we know it and a medieval high fantasy world is … Magic!
In a world that magic doesn’t exist a lot of the issues that people faced could only be resolved by technological advances, in a world that magic exists as a form of “easily” manipulated energy, these issues can be resolved by means of spellcasting.
The effect of magic in a high fantasy world is profound and would affect every dimension of society, economy, technology and so forth. Magic wraps the timeline as we know it. Making certain technological advancements more attainable and impeding the progress of others in the same way.
In every post we will be tackling Magic (as well as issues like the existence of other races, gods which actually exist and interact with the world) as an overlay on top of historical data, which will format the final outcome of each subject.
What sort of Fantasy worlds have you played Role Playing Games in or read about? Have you found any explanation to the issues above in your travels?
What a great article, thank you for the great material available, it is helping me to change some visions while I prepare my first novel.