Creating a World

The making of Centuria has been a long, sometimes tedious, but mostly fun journey. This page will show some light on the thoughts that has gone into it all and, hopefully, provide some good reasons why you should choose Centuria as your campaign setting. And ah, yes, campaigns - that gives us a good point to get started...

Once upon a time...

...Centuria didn't exist. It wasn't so long ago. Adventures happened but they happened somewhere else. I invented lots of maps at this point, making one world after another. The thrill was to treat the players with a place they didn't know everything about because they'd played it before or read about it online. Somewhere in this row of worlds Aladron, or more specifically Umarald, was created. It was for a campaign where the players took on the roles as government-controlled assassins part of the Order of the Falcon in the country of Gwendellor. Things grew from there but in the end it wasn't the world itself that compelled - it was the fact that it could change.

A World in Motion

While a Game Master can always do what he or she wants with a pre-written setting, fact is most settings are simply described as a point in time. This is how the world looks now, we know certain things about the past but the future is uncertain. Of course, this is how the world is perceived by us as human beings and by the players of any campaign. But as a Game Master I found most settings to be immobile and stationary. It is more common for someone to find an ancient artifact of unbelievable power than to actually invent something new that will change the world.

Well, with Centuria I set out to change that. It was to become a world which progressed and, as it did so, could visit classical fantasy, steampunk and cyberpunk/science fiction. There wouldn't be a set, year by year history as exactly how the world progressed between those ages should be open for a Game Master to influence. And this pretty much sums up what Centuria aims to be: a framework which supplies tools and inspiration for a Game Master to create any type of adventure he or she wants. It isn't about knowing all the rules - it is about providing rules that can help to "game-ify" most aspects of the world so that players can be players and the Game Master can focus on the events that unfold.

Designing politics

Again, the world of Centuria is designed to be a framework in which a Game Master has the space to create his or her plotline while still having the support of existing rules and descriptions so not having to invent everything from scratch. With this in mind there are some cultural and political references that can be useful.

Humans in the game are divided into several ethnic groups. The Avarai are inspired by Asian peoples; the link between the Teghir and the Mongols are quite clear. The Highlanders (in northern Gothia) are a bit more peculiar as they combine some elements of Scottish clans with some Japanese influences. The Goths are modelled on European peoples, such as the Franks and Germans. Hara would be some mix of Greek/Phoenican/Persian/Roman peoples. The Nokh are inspired by African peoples and Ancient Egypt. Lastly, the Waipuku was modelled on polynesian peoples, with the Maoi of Leupthia specifically on the Maori people.

For the other races the dwarves would fall quite close to what is described in fantasy such as the Lord of the Rings. The elves too would be similar to what is described by Tolkien, but in Centuria there is no great animosity between the two. This is mainly because they live in very different places, giving little to fight about, and also they had a common enemy in the orcs. Indeed the gnomes are imagined to be a sort of "hybrid" species between the dwarves and the elves, indicating rather good relations at some point in history. The gnomes would appear as they do in the computer game Arcanum; basically quite similar to Tolkien's halflings but with larger noses, a keen intellect and good social skills. Concerning halflings or hobbits the term is used in Centuria but denotes surface-living dwarves in the nation of Danea and is not a race per see. Lastly, the orcs are modelled more on Warcraft than Tolkien's texts.

The political climate in Umarald tries to capture possibilities from both history and fantasy/scifi. The heart of this is the European-style multiple countries conflict which is centered around Menlor and Damasa in the Age of Steel. This has drawn inspiration from the hundred years war. The northern nations of Duiden and Gwendellor (and Cenowar to the east) provides more of a "man against nature" scenario - with the added touch of an orwellian state as run by the Order of the Falcon. In the south the Empire - greatly modelled on Rome and imperial China - provides an inwards looking and conservative environment in which the powerful strive to preserve the existing order rather than embrace the new. Thus the Age of Steel is a classical fantasy setting which is intended to be easy to get to know.

In the Age of Knowledge this is transformed into a colonial race, along with the advancement of science and technology. As a consequence there is a conflict between technology and magic - physically represented by the strife between Damasa, ruled by its ancient wizard-lords, and the nation of Gothia which fuels technological advancements through its alliance with the dwarves. World exploration is another concept introduced and the world is expanded beyond the borders portrayed in the Age of Steel. The age is heavily influenced by the historical age of sail and the breaking point towards the industrial era. Another primary source of inspiration is the computer game Arcanum which has a similar setting where old magic meets new technology.

Finally, with the Age of Information comes the totalitarian state with elements of surveillance, consumerism and marketing. But there is also the off-grid society with corporate experimentation, gang warfare and simply surviving in the urban jungle of the megacities. Beyond the cities there are radioactive wilderness, magical creatures and hidden ruins providing possibilities for sci-fi exploration or post-apocalypse survivalism. Inspirational sources for sci-fi and cyberpunk isn't very hard to find, but if I were to mention one in particular it would be Shadowrun, particularly for its combination of magics and technology. The movies V for Vendetta and Wall-E have contributed with psychological aspects of the society described and the computer game Deus Ex with technology and political inspiration. Beyond this I really have tried to work from my own brain and modern science rather than cherry-picking available media and literature. That said there are guaranteed to be someone out there with similar ideas about many of the aspects found in the game - but hopefully that just means that there'll be something that everyone loves about the last age setting.

Being different

The step from designing just another custom adventure world to actually creating a rule system comes with the question: why is this different? Why would anyone care? Having just another world map isn't really enough to warrant anyone else playing the game. In what way then does Centuria try to be different?

First of all, a rule system which plays along all the way from spell and sword to miniguns and megacity corporations isn't commonplace. That really is the heart of the concept. But building on this is also some more philosophical ideas.

In Centuria the gender roles in society is challenged right from the start. Even in the Age of Steel magics can be used for birth control, allowing women to have more control over their lives. Also, a shortage of manpower during early wars on the Northern Continent has opened up for a similar scenarios as observed in WW2. That is, with a shortage of men, women has been able to break free from their traditional roles and become accepted in many other roles. Similarly, the religions in Centuria are open to both sexes; the major human religion even has a female god. In Centuria women as soldiers or priests is therefore fully accepted and is intended to encourage Game Masters to think about the effects this has on morals and ethics of the societies of the world. To explore the differences there are exceptions to this rule: among dwarves men hold practically all power, while among orcs it is the women who usually make tribal leaders and chieftains.

Another concept to explore is that of longevity. From a personal perspective, player characters can seek to prolong their lives, but there is also the topic of how this would affect society. Longevity will primarily be available to the upper classes so there is generally a stricter segregation within society as the nobles have the advantage of long lives to plan and expand their businesses. It would also affect politics and traditions as living for many centuries would change the perspective of the ruling elite. Rash decisions are more rare and the nobility looks more to long-term profits than short-term, which at least to some extent is expected to improve the lives of the working classes.

Thirdly, the co-existence of magic and technology creates an ideological conflict to explore. Magic requires special talents and usually makes a few very powerful. Technology has the possibility of operating at a larger scale, benefitting more people, but is not quite so powerful. Magics is dominating in the first age while technology greatly improves over time.

Lastly, Centuria makes an attempt at challenging the concepts of good and bad, right and wrong. Everyone is a character (PC or NPC) and everyone have a reason for doing what they do. Whether it is good or bad, right or wrong often depends on the position from which you are perceiving. Centuria tries to build on this notion by portraying a complex world where even the simplest NPC have a personality type (giving some insight into motivations and behavior) and the game is about the experience of the characters within - not collecting points, winning or losing.

Some final words

Well that was it. Blog posts concerning the development of the game is linked below and if you still want more to read then you'll just have to wait. Or start paying me to do this full time.

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