Two weeks ago I wrote about a problem I had with making Planet Kendor really feel like a wilderness setting instead of a cluster of city states that kept emerging from my pages of notes. While learning about the fantastically weird setting of Kenshi and the strange wasteland it is set in, I had a sudden insight that I had tried to create the map for Kaendor with completely the wrong reference frame in mind. One of my earliests concept ideas for the setting was “Dark Sun, but green”. The many strange desert creatures and equipment used by characters are cool of course, but I also was very much drawn in by the powerful sorcerer kings, who rule from their great palaces over their fortified cities with the help of their armies of templars. I still really love the idea of sorcerer kings and templars, but they might actually be something that doesn’t really work for the way I want the setting to be.
Dark Sun in green is a cool initial inspiration for an aesthetic, but the world of Athas is more than just a look. But it is not set in a desert world by accident, and the desert actually shapes the civilizations that inhabit it. Dark Sun is based around six city states because it is a world of extreme scarcity of resources. The people of Athas concentrate on these cities because they are the only places where various critical resources can be found, and the sorcerer kings are what they are because they have a monopoly over these resources. People live in these city states because there are no other places where they could survive. This is a completely different situation from a jungle world, and why you can’t simply take Dark Sun and make it green.
The idea for Planet Kaendor is a world where natural resources and particularly access to food and water are plenty. You can always go into the forests with a few dozen people and survive on what you find around you, with nobody coming to disturb you for most of the time. Lots of people actually do that. This completely flips the social pressures on society from a desert world with limited oases. Instead, the limited resource in Kaenedor is magical knowledge and magical artifacts, which are buried in the ruins of ancient non-human civilizations.
My problem has been for many months that this version of Kaendor keeps getting too focused on the city states, with the wilderness settlements disappearing in the shadows of the palaces of the sorcerer kings. So to get forward with the setting to the kind of world that I want to be, the solution seems clear. The palaces have to go. Not only are they not needed, they keep actively getting in the way.
I think I am going to keep only two of them in their current form, two neighboring cities that glare at each other accros the water. Ven Marhend, the cliffside city of the Sorcerer Lords, and Tanis, the great city of the god-king, son of the Moon Goddess and father to all mortals. All the other cities that I have made for Kaendor instead get scaled down significantly in size, remaining only as noteworthy towns that are the main trade centers for the nearby villages and barbarians. Hopefully this will get the whole thing out of the rut and back on the road.