Monday, May 29, 2017

Developer Diary: Menlor

Beginning the Developer Diary by talking about nations in the Age of Steel. It feels natural as this is where Centuria really began: with a map. At that time, admittedly, it wasn't intended to become the project it is today. It was another fantasy setting for another adventure campaign, but from the start the world stuck and here we are now...

Menlor was at the heart of the political and geographical design of Centuria. While the very first campaign in the game took place in Gwendellor that was a backwards place at the outskirts of civilization. Thus there was the need for some more powerful, more advanced civilization elsewhere in the world; preferably with a prime position on the map. This would be Menlor.

Since I wanted a classical fantasy setting at the core of the game, Menlor is deeply inspired by the European middle ages - particularly France. It shares the function of a cultural center, in this case for the ideas of chivalry, monoteism (The Temple) and feudalism. Menlor is known for its knights and its support for the old imperial bloodline (I refer to the Core Rule book for more reading on this subject). All this pretty much matches historical France to one degree or another.

However, there are also some important differences. With Centuria I wanted to explore some alternative social concepts. One of them is equality between men and women. Since Centuria contains several mortal races there's plenty of opportunities for inequalities that might yield interesting game play, so I also strived to achieve the opposite. As a consequence I envisioned Menlor as a nation ruled by queens rather than kings and in which men and women are seen as fairly equal in most fields. This state of affairs is explained part through cultural heritage and part by magic; which has helped to improve life to a more bearable state for the overall population compared to the actual middle ages. I theorize this would help bring power to women, as the dangers of childbirth (at least for the upper classes) are greatly reduced and magic can also contribute with fairly effective (if expensive) contraceptives. The lives of the women of Menlor are thus not as strongly affected by these factors as was historically true.

Partly through this equality, which I imagine creates a more open and understanding society, and again partly through magic Menlor also has a strong streak of meritocracy; a character can make it to a different level in society through hard labor and a bit of luck. The end result is thus a nation which can be seen as fairly benign; it is certainly not evil. Sure, it wages wars and tries to impose lordship over its neighbors but it is not the rich taking advantage over the poor - in fact the motivation of Menlor to intervene is often the opposite. With its queen the country acts like a protective mother to those around it, which pretty much matches the written story of how the nation came to be. So if Menlor was a person it would be someone you'd not always agreed with, but you knew he or she acted with good intentions. It would be a person advocating security and morality at the expense of individual freedom (pretty much the opposite of its main rival: Damasa).

Most lore about Menlor is a direct consequence from what has been established above. The country is friendly with the dwarves (who, however, remain suspicious as Menlor's equality between the sexes is very different from the dwarven society) - the progress of their relationship will eventually make Menlor a leading nation in technological development. Their other ally is Gwendellor, which also supports their queen's claim to all human lands in the Northlands, but as the methods employed by the Order of the Falcon are quite clandestine it puts a strain on the relationship as Menlor favors honesty and chivalry. The neighbors of Arbea and Tala are balancing their interests of having friendly relations without getting absorbed into the country. All in all, it is a country which provides a solid base for designing the international relationships and also a solid introduction for new players and game masters as it is similar to many other fantasy settings. Personally I therefore find it a little bit on the dull side compared to some other locations but it is still a cornerstone for the whole Age of Steel setting.

While Menlor is certainly at a disadvantage against its rival Damasa in the Age of Steel it is destined for greatness (or at least expansion and progress) in the Age of Knowledge, as it absorbs Arbea and becomes the nation of Gothia.

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