1001 Country Ideas

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I've recently started working on a campaign world, and I've discovered that it's a lot different than world building for fiction: you have no idea where you're going to end up, so there have to be points of interest everywhere. Since the action could take place anywhere, every place has to have some definition. Every town has to be different, every city unique -- and every country has to have some sort of distinctive characteristic, even before the PCs get there. You have to have something to start with in case they ever do. To that end, and because I personally am running out of ideas, I propose that we come up with 1001 tidbits of information to build up countries around. I'll start:

1. An underwater kingdom in a lake, the size of one of the great lakes.

2. A country ruled by three royal bloodlines who switch places every twelve or so years.

3. A country ruled by half-elves, who insist on keeping it that way.
4. A country that is so xenophobic that they have erected a wall all around their country (think Great Wall of China) and are resource rich enough that they don't need to trade with other nations.
5. A country where when one dies the body becomes the propery of the state. Which will use necromancy to make an undead for some govermental use.

6. Noble families have to keep up the standard military options, plus one flying mount. (Wyvern, pegasus, Gryffin, something...)
GAMMA WORLD Wuv D&D: Beyond the RPG - Transcript This is a complete transcript. http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390668593 The audio file is in this News Archive http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4news/DNDXP 2010 D&D Product Overview (47 minutes into the Audio) http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390928045
7. A country where slaves outnumber masters 40:1 and the slaves aren't aware of this. Or maybe they are.

8. A very small country that consists of a few hundred square miles of lashed together rafts and floats to and fro around the ocean.

9. Two bordering countries locked in a centuries long war over whose Queen was fairer.

10. A country where all weapons are registered and all magic users have to be licensed.

11. A country with a very rigid caste system based on race.

12. A country where mounts are taboo.
13. A country where all adults are required to not only bare arms, but to sojurn for a week in the upper part of the Underdark upon reaching adulthood.
13. A country where all adults are required to not only bare arms, but to sojurn for a week in the upper part of the Underdark upon reaching adulthood.

Bare arms or bear arms?
14. A country that has hired out it's standing army to orcs and other such races.

15. An isolated island nation of minotaur that have completely deforested their land and have begun sending out heavily armed expeditions to find wood.

16. A country ruled by a [benevolent/tyrannical] dragon.

17. A long forgotten and isolated island nation that centuries ago was cursed and is now completely populated by undead who have set up a republic style government.

18. A country where all nobles must spend 2 years living as a peasant and 2-4 years adventuring in foreign nations.
19. A country ruled by a puppet government whose duties include municiple matters and petty political squabbles to keep the nobles busy.
20 A country where it is illegal to be a spellcaster

21 A country where every 28 days they change leadership by a contest of strength in the Arena.

22 A country that works like a parasite. A group of seven thousand nomads settle in an area and take over till they strip all the resources and move on.
23) A country ruled by some race of monster and is percieved as the empire of evil by ousiders. Turns out the place isn't bad and actually, the monsters aren't any more evil than other people. Maybe the king and his court are vampires that feed on criminals or volontary donations. Maybe the place was invaded by orcs and gradualy turned into a real country with trade (think the New Human Empire from Trinity Blood or Oboulds orc nation in Forgotern Realms).
23. A country where most towns are kept ten feet above ground by stout pillars, and long above ground roads connect the great cities.

24. A country in which a single benevolent undead ruler has worked alongside a senate of the living to guide the country.

25. A country in which vigilanteism is accepted law and public officials are required to spend 2 nights out of the week as vigilantes

26. A country in which there is one undead public official assigned to each 5 living peasents, to ensure that their needs and voice are adequately represented.

27. A country that exists half in the natural world and half in the feywild.

28. A country on an archipelagio composed of mixed land, amphibious, and sea animals ruled by a representative triumverate and a welcome port to pirates.
Resident Shakespeare
29. This country enjoys an age-old tradition. Once a year, the wizened human king, arrayed in royal red robes, calls upon the highly skilled elven craftsfolk to create various masterpieces which the king distributes to the most deserving of his people.

30. A country where every citizen has a personal skeleton servant. A hidden brood of undead seeks to abolish such undead slavery.

31. A country that has a king or queen selected as randomly as possible from the country's entire population.

32. A country that worships dragons is slowly transforming its population from human, elf and dwarf into dragonborn whether they want to or not.

33. Another country has raised music to such a esteemed status that major transaction such as business arrangements and contracts must be sung. Imagine: "I want a sword" set to Beethoven's fifth.
34. Dwarf and halfling country that is run by dwarf industrialists and corrupt dwarf officials. Halflings have few rights and are often force to work in camps or as low wage laborers. The undercurrent for halfling rebellion is strong and so the dwarves hire "private investigators" to violently break up strikes and whatnot. Think age of railroads in America, but more feudal and with some gulags thrown in.

(This is dwarf society in my campaign world. Still haven't come up with a name for my setting yet. Tentatively it's called Three Empires, but I want a better name.)

-Drillboss
35. A nation where the only way to do business effectively and get things done is by bribing government officials--so everybody does it. The government's official policy on bribery, however, is public execution, and they need to make an example of someone about once a month.

36. A country run entirely on the Honor System. No laws of any kind, but behaving badly will get you kicked out.

37. The King is the result of a hundred generations of inbreeding and can barely speak, but still wields great amounts of power.

38. A country where every crime is punishable by mutilation. Chopping off fingers, hands, legs, ears, etc. You break the Law, the Law breaks you.

39. After the Queen's death, two rival siblings divide the Kingdom in half. But neither wanted a clean "East/West" division. They decide to pick and choose city by city, village by village (and in the Capitol City, street by street) who rules what, resulting in a bizarre patchwork kingdom. One sibling is a benevolent dictator, the other a harsh tyrant. Travelling in a straight line across the Kingdom will force you to cross back and forth between governments no fewer than twelve times.

40. A country that was ripped apart by a massive earthquake hundreds of years ago, and the country now extends down a massive rift in the Earth into the Underdark. The castle is constructed atop a giant plateau and sits in the center of the rift, with cities built into the living rocks for miles around it. Human moss farmers at the top give way to the deeper cities built by creatures from the Underdark, and all are united under one monarch. The King's race is not known, none are permitted to see him who are not bound to secrecy.
Bare arms or bear arms?

41. A country where powerful Druids and Wizards work together to provide all citizens a right to bear arms. This simple ritual performed at adulthood upon willing citizens gives them a natural strength bonus and a powerful attack, but makes delicate tasks requiring manual dexterity difficult.
42. A small kingdom nestled in the mountains with a monarch under a sleeping curse. Unfortunately, the kingdom is simply the manifestation of the accursed monarch's dreams, its residents having died off years ago. Some of the dream residents of the illusionary kingdom have become sentient to a certain degree and work hard to prevent anyone trying to free their monarch from the curse.

43. In this country, the peasantry are placed under a binding loyalty ritual. Any peasant violating the laws of the land suffer an immediate agonizing death as the spell activates. Surprisingly, the aristocracy is not subject to this spell.

44. In another country, causing the death of another sentient being is punishable by execution (only the state is allowed to control the death of a sentient being) - no excuses are accepted (i.e. no self defense, etc).

45. Another country has a law regulating the color of clothing worn by its population. Only the king is allowed to wear colors beyond tans and browns. (Inspired by old English Sumptuary Laws).
44. In another country, causing the death of another sentient being is punishable by execution (only the state is allowed to control the death of a sentient being) - no excuses are accepted (i.e. no self defense, etc).

Oh, man. This one is awesome. It just begs you to push the definition of "causing" death. You can do so much with that.
46. A coastal country ruled by undersea overlords, sahuagins or the like. Their time they can spend on land is limited but they have many agents, all normal humans, half-elves, or the like, who keep tabs on people. And the sahuagin army is never far away....

47. A country where a fair percentage of the people have some form of lycanthropy and these people have to wear identifying marks, and either lock themselves up, submit to the jail or prison to be locked up, or stay inside their own walled communities when it is time to change. Hiding or disguising the mark is a crime.

48. Country where most surface-dwelling, non-flying intelligent races perished. Humans and others have started to build up their numbers, but in the interim flying races rule over all. A coalition of flying races rule over the land, spell-casting and priestly harpies, enforcer gargoyles, and worse.

49. Nation where fey servants are commonplace, such as leprechauns, brownies, sprites, pixes, grig, and the like. They do much of the work in households, factories, fields. Seelie and Unseelie Court politics are important, and changeling humans aren't unusual.

50. Desert city,a ruined metropolis, home to dozens of civilizations that have come and gone. Current main inhabitants are largely human and goblin, ruled over by the representative and court of the distant Khan of the gnoll nations.

51. City in the far north, threatened by an ever advancing glacier, saved from destructon only by a red dragon who shows up every now and then to drive the wall of ice back. Of course, he has a price for his services.

52. Damp, marshy city in a region of swamps and near constant rain. Most people are fighting some sort of infection, usual fungal, so people are constantly using spells and taking potions to keep healthy (but knowledge of what to take when is bewildering for newcomers). Shaped, usable fungi is common place, including domesticated sporebats, giant mushroom houses, and myconid workers. Everything else rots.
53. A country ruled by an ancient wizard king whose true nature is unknown due to his habit of changing his appearence completely once a week. He is seemingly somewhat insane, having once declared a national holiday in honor of flying squirrles.
54. The rulers of this country have a highly trained police force that has developed sophisticated techniques and magical items to read the minds of those they investigate. These literal Thought Police seek out those with seditious and traitorous thoughts.

55. This country has a hidden fey army. Although not an aggressive nation, it has called upon this army to defend its borders from all attackers. When this army is summoned, its opponents are eradicated.

56. Another country has abandoned a metallic currency. Instead, it has changed its currency to dragons' teeth. The quest for new money has nearly driven dragons to extinction.
56. Another country has abandoned a metallic currency. Instead, it has changed its currency to dragons' teeth. The quest for new money has nearly driven dragons to extinction.

I like that one. I can see surviving dragons banding together to wipe out that government. Or, better yet, hiring high level PCs to take down the government.
57. Country filled with little fey nations, some a few hundred yards or acres in size. Human nation too, people continually have to ask permission to cross these boundaries. Regulars can make deals and treaties, but newcomers have to negotiate again and again and again. And when there is a coup or borders shift, it gets interesing.

58. One of the houses of parliaments is comprised of liches, good aligned mostly. Talk about serving in office for life...

59. Vampires rule the nation. It looks pretty normal to newcomers, but there is the blood tax, paid by reporting to bloodletting stations on a set schedule. Things are set up so that no dies from the bloodletting, that is unless someone proves a problem to the vampires or their human allies.

60. Only the king is allowed to kill monsters in this country. If a monster is ravaging a village, well, they will just have to hold tight. He will eventually get there to kill the creature. All monsters are protected otherwise. If one accidentally dies the local village,farmer, town might be held liable. If you deliberately kill one, such as clueless adventurer who just wandered in...
51. City in the far north, threatened by an ever advancing glacier, saved from destructon only by a red dragon who shows up every now and then to drive the wall of ice back. Of course, he has a price for his services.

Interesting real fact: some time during the Medievil period a little ice age started, and the alpine glaciers advanced on a bunch of villages. The villagers, convinced this was the work of the devil, hired some priests to go out and perform and exorcism to stop the glaciers. They got results!………………for a while.
61. This country has a highly stratified social system. Commerce is considered a lowly activity, so merchants are among the lowest caste. The next highest class is comprised of the intellectuals, including those that use arcane and divine powers. Next is the warrior and those that survive through physical labor. The highest class is reserved for the bureaucrats of the government.

62. This city-state records its history on a massive wall encircling its boundaries. Having your name recorded on the wall is a high honor. Subsequent failure can lead to the removal of not only your name but all of the names of your ancestors.

63. Massive tortoises serve as special beasts of burden in this country. The larger the tortoise and the more ornate its shell can greatly influence its owner's community standing.

64. The rules of this country seeks to preserve as much of its land as possible. Consequently, it has heavily invested in sophisticatedly engineered massive stone towers to serve as the sole residents for its citizenry. No one owns land except for the king, and he's very greedy to control all of it.

65. This country has a bizarre custom: no one may stand taller than the king while they are in his presence. It might not be a significant issue, save for the fact that the king is a halfling.

66. Horses are considered to be of a higher station than everyone except the monarch, to whom the horses are considered equals.
Interesting real fact: some time during the Medievil period a little ice age started, and the alpine glaciers advanced on a bunch of villages. The villagers, convinced this was the work of the devil, hired some priests to go out and perform and exorcism to stop the glaciers. They got results!………………for a while.

Yes, I saw it on a special that was on climate change and history, based in part I believe on a book by Brian Fagan. During the Little Ice Age some glaciers advanced quite a bit in the Alps and were serious threats to villages up there. That was the same time period that saw the vicious winters in London one sometimes reads about from English literature and the horrid winter faced by General Washington and his troops at Valley Forge. Also during that time the Rio Grande river froze over, something unheard of since.
67. A country where everyone has a dog, and breeds their dog with that of the person they marry. This sometimes results in the marriage of a noble to a peasant whose dog's line is highly valued. Those who are allergic to dogs are outcasts, no matter what their heiritage.
67. Country that is domainted by elves, though they are a minority. How high you rank in society as a human depends upon the amount of elven blood you have. Half-elves do the best of course, but there are terms in use like quarter-elves and eighth-elves. People page back alley magicians to look more elven so they can "pass" in high society.

68. Country dominated by a caste system, what race you are determines what you can do. Only gnomes for instance can do repair work and engineering (and that is all they can do) for instance. Only humans can farm (and that is all they can do). The caste system includes humanoids like giants, orcs, and goblins.

69. Weird spell effects plague this nation; random creatures become Awakened; intelligent and speaking. Once this happens if they are say farm animals they have the right to go free or if they want to stay on a contract has to be worked out. The raccoon you were about to kill that was raiding the chickens, if he Awakens, now has land rights and may have title to the land you are holding. Killing the animal off is a crime akin to murder.

70. Incredibly superstititous nation, most people ascribe great meaning to meaningless patterns in the tea leaves in the bottom of their glass, what day of the week it is, astrological signs, their house number, if two people say the same thing at the same time. Most of the time this is nonsense, nothing to worry about, but other times bad, or good, random spell effects occur, often enough to keep people on their toes. Good luck charms, hexes, and minor spells to protect people is a thriving business, though many of them are worthless, either know to be by those who create them or created by ignorant hedge wizards who are dabbling in things they know little enough of.
I like that one. I can see surviving dragons banding together to wipe out that government. Or, better yet, hiring high level PCs to take down the government.

If they went after all kinds of dragons, good and evil, I can't see that nation lasting long. Perhaps glib, persuasive dragons could persuade "races of the dragon" like kobolds to wage some sort of jihad against this country. Maybe even more distant relations like the lizardfolk.
[63. Massive tortoises serve as special beasts of burden in this country. The larger the tortoise and the more ornate its shell can greatly influence its owner's community standing.
**That reminds me of Dinotopia for some reason, where dinosaurs of various types - all herbivores - live and work with humans, not only as beasts of burden and mounts but also as allies.
Perhaps these tortoises have sigils carved into their shells, magical sigils that provide good luck, great weather, magical protections, or curses to their enemies.
delete
If they went after all kinds of dragons, good and evil, I can't see that nation lasting long. Perhaps glib, persuasive dragons could persuade "races of the dragon" like kobolds to wage some sort of jihad against this country. Maybe even more distant relations like the lizardfolk.

Maybe they didn't go after all kinds of dragons at once. But over time, as certain breeds become scarcer, other kinds of dragons become new targets. Unfortunately, at this point, the dragons have been pushed to such small numbers that a full assault against the nation would be pyrrhic at best. As a further consequence, now that all dragons are so scarce, I'm sure the nation would LOVE to discover that the Races of the Dragon (such as kobolds and dragonborn) have teeth of a comparable, though degraded material. Once the dragons are all gone and their premium currency source is exhausted, they'll have to go after the lower quality teeth.
56. Another country has abandoned a metallic currency. Instead, it has changed its currency to dragons' teeth. The quest for new money has nearly driven dragons to extinction.

I love this idea, but I would change it to dragon's scales. Just because if you were using teeth you'd have to kill a feck of a lot of dragons before you had enough teeth for an entire country to switch over to using them as currency. You'd have to kill a bunch if you were using scales as well, but not as many.

EDIT: Actually, it should be that they use every part of the dragon as currency, some parts being more valuable than others. Scales are akin to coppers. Bone pieces replace silvers. Teeth are gold pieces. Claws are platinum. Intact fertilized eggs are the most valuable.
After some misnumbering, I think we are on

73. Marriage is an unknown institution in this society. Children are taken from their mothers and raised in a different community. The state claims ownership of all its citizens. The child belongs to it.

74. Family lines are very important in this state. Your position in society depends on who has the greatest number of different ancestral lines. A citizen's surname is a hyphenation of all of unique surnames that are in their lineage. The monarch, who has the greatest lineage, works to prevent challengers who could potentially have a longer list of families in their name.

75. In this country, the length of your hair determines your station. Or perhaps those of lower station aren't allow to grow out their hair.

76. This country has a strong conflict between the nationalists who want the power of the state to rest primarily in a central government versus the urbanists who what the power to rest in the settlements.

77. Leadership of this state is rotated every five years between ten different cities. The ruler of the state is selected from that city's residents.
78. Best done with Dragonborn (but could be revised to fit a Tiefling): a world in which the number of bony spikes in your crest indicates what your current caste level is. The crest spike would come up more than normal, so that it would be easier to see it. Also, there wouldn't be any disapproval between the castes. You also can't be demoted from your caste, only "cast" out! Sorry, couldn't resist. You can, however, move up in the caste by marrying someone from the caste directly above your own. So it's possible for someone from the Second Tier caste to marry into the Third Tier class, but not the Fourth Tier. Here's how that works:

~*Dragonborn*~

First Tier (One Spike): Commoners. This is by no means a bad thing. It just means that anyone from this caste are the farmers and workers.

Second Tier (Two Spikes): Defenders. This can range from being part of the city guard, to the city Army, to even being a personal bodyguard of anyone in the 4th Tier to 6th Tier.

Third Tier (Three Spikes): Merchants, Artisans, Intellects. These are men and women who have dedicated their lives (and those of their families) to being the best at their field, which can be anything from war tactics, Arcane magic user, or even painter. Lawyers are found in this caste.

Fourth Tier (Four Spikes): Bureaucrat. This caste is your typical low-level politician that runs the city, or aspects of it. Mayors, Governors, etc fall into this category. They have been granted certain limited powers by the local royal family to assist running the city, such as dealing with the financial side of running a city. Judges are found in this caste.

Fifth Tier (Five Spikes): Nobility. You're a step under the royal blood, but you've worked this hard for your family to get to this point. Nobility can serve as ambassadors and envoys to other countries, and are often called to wait upon the royal family.

Sixth Tier (Six Spikes): Royalty. You don't have to be the ruler, but if you're part of the royal blood, you would have six spikes in your crest. You have a duty to your city (or perhaps to several cities, or even your country, depending). You work with the local Bureaucrat to help with the running of the city or cities. This is the hardest caste to become a part of, because usually royalty marries royalty.


~*Tiefling*~- Unlike the Dragonborn, you will still sport horns. However, if you have more then two, you may allow the outer two horns to be curled but the others would be straighter; it wouldn't exactly work if you were Royalty with 6 ram-like curved horns!

First Tier (two horns): Commoners. Farmers, workers, guardsmen all fall into this caste.

Second Tier (three horns): Merchants, Artisans, Intellects. These are men and women who have dedicated their lives (and those of their families) to being the best at their field, which can be anything from war tactics, Arcane magic user, or even painter. Lawyers are found in this caste

Third Tier (four horns): Bureaucrat. This caste is your typical low-level politician that runs the city, or aspects of it. Mayors, Governors, etc fall into this category. They have been granted certain limited powers by the local royal family to assist running the city, such as dealing with the financial side of running a city. Judges are found in this caste.

Fourth Tier (five horns): Nobility. You're a step under the royal blood, but you've worked this hard for your family to get to this point. Nobility can serve as ambassadors and envoys to other countries, and are often called to wait upon the royal family.

Fifth Tier (six horns): Royalty. You have a duty to your city (or perhaps to several cities, or even your country, depending). You work with the local Bureaucrat to help with the running of the city or cities. This is the hardest caste to become a part of, because usually royalty marries royalty.
64: A island nation that is realy the back of asleeping dragon turtle.

Al-Qadim had a giant-turtle-as-island creature, the zaratan if memory serves.
78. Giants are enslaved race in this country, they have to do the bidding of great merchant houses, mining companies, the military. Smaller house giants do work around the house, they are merely ogre-sized or a tad larger. Giants are apraised and sold like horses and have no rights.

79. The military has no metal in its weapons, they are all wooden, bone, obsidian, ivory, flint, chert, or the like. Rust monsters, rust dragons, and other metal eaters are used against the nation's enemies and they have done quite well with this.
SORRY!

79. Giants are an enslaved race in this country, they have to do the bidding of great merchant houses, mining companies, the military. Smaller house giants do work around the house, they are merely ogre-sized or a tad larger. Giants are apraised and sold like horses and have no rights.

80. The military has no metal in its weapons, they are all wooden, bone, obsidian, ivory, flint, chert, or the like. Rust monsters, rust dragons, and other metal eaters are used against the nation's enemies and they have done quite well with this.
81. In this society, adventurers are highly esteemed. Because they have often seen faraway places and unusual circumstances, they are considered more worldly. Therefore, any citizen can call upon an adventurer to serve as an arbitrator or judge in a dispute. Any adventurer who refuses to fulfill this duty faces becoming a pariah as word of their failings spread. Businesses will no longer serve them or their companions. Citizens will no longer cooperate or support the adventurers.

82. Another society restricts the number of children families can have. Parents are expected to have one son and one daughter. No more. Excess children are taken from their parents. Often they are sold into slavery or forced into some service to the government or aristocracy. The front lines of the military are filled with these stolen children. Many adventurers are born from the ranks of these children as well.

83. Inns are highly unusual in this country because they are often seen as a violation of this countries high expectatons of hospitality. Travellers instead are expected to receive room from citizens. But these travellers must perform some service for their patrons; monetary payment is offensive.
83. Inns are highly unusual in this country because they are often seen as a violation of this countries high expectatons of hospitality. Travellers instead are expected to receive room from citizens. But these travellers must perform some service for their patrons; monetary payment is offensive.

That's not just interesting and creative, it's really useful as a hook.
That's not just interesting and creative, it's really useful as a hook.

Thanks! I used the Greek concept of xenia as inspiration.
84. The King (or Queen, or other royalty) periodically travels the country posing as a beggar. Those who give him money or food or a place to sleep, or extend simple courtesy are rewarded. Those who rob him or are rude are punished. (Inspired by a commercial for "The Secret Millionaire") HOOK: The King left on such an excursion and has not returned. He's always returned within the week but he's been gone nearly a month.

85. The country has a yearly lottery in which it issues ten murder licenses. Whoever is selected by random drawing is permitted by law to murder no more than ten people (except for those who dwell within the Castle) in any manner they choose. Interfering with a carrier of the murder license in the performance of their duties is considered high treason and is punishable by death. Seeking retribution for a killing against someone issued a murder license is considered high treason and is punishable by death. (Inspired by idle thoughts about murder that were in turn inspired by a commercial for "The Secret Millionaire".)