Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Orc Lands - Central Jagatai

I am all out of rants today.

For many, many weeks now, I have been mapping Siberia, trying to get a handle on just how far the silk road extends, and how far the Siberian gold fields are from the rest of civilization.  It is an immense task ... but interesting also, as it's a part of the world which is never well-represented in maps.  I find whenever I do this, I invariably come out feeling like I've travelled into that part of the world.  Often, I will hear references to something I've mapped, and feel a swelling in my chest that I know where that is, and how it's oriented to other parts of the world.

So much for motivation - here is a map I've recently finished.  It does not show Siberia, except in the north corner, a region called the Chuyskaya Steppe.  No, most of this map is central Kazakhstan.  The area represented on the map is 300,000 square miles, a fifth larger than the size of Texas. 

Hexes are, as always, 20 miles in diameter.
Compare this with the map of Denmark I posted last June, which is in the same scale.  Most of this map is empty by comparison, and if the populations of both maps were compared, the Denmark map would probably have a higher population.  That is principally because the southern half of this map is severe desert, shown by the yellow hexes.  The regions of Taldyqorghan and the central yellow wasteland that is part of the 'Pharis of Ilis' consist of powdery white rock, the vast sedimentary basin left by the last Ice Age in this part of the world.

Historically, in the later Medieval Period, this region was dominated by the Jagatai Empire, a leftover from the Mongolian conquest of central Asia.  It persisted until the 1500s, and during that century was steadily destroyed by the gunpowder-equipped Russian expansion.  In my world, the Russian expansion never takes place - gunpowder is never invented, while the Urals are dominated by magic using Ogres and quite a lot of Dwarves.  Also, since I decided to represent the Ugaric-Turkic tribes as orcs, this territory depicted is almost entirely occupied by orcish tribes ... many of whom have never seen a human.  For those who have (the eastern part of the map), the humans they've seen have been Chinese.  Europeans would be extremely rare.

So if a party were to strike out for this part of the world (not an inordinately lucrative landscape, though there are vast quantities of copper produced in the worn, rugged mountains represented by the pale orange and tan parts of the map), what sort of reception should they expect?

The Jagatai Empire, of which this is a part, extends from inside Sinkiang to the Volga Delta, and from Turkestan north to the Siberian taiga - on its edges, there would be blood feuds between the orcs and humans (Russia), dwarves (Ural Mountains), goblins (lower valley of the Ob), hobgoblins (valley of the Yenisey), dwarves again (Altai Mountains), and then a mixture of humans, githzerai, githyanki and haruchai on the east and south.  I haven't quite decided what populates Tibet as yet.

But vast parts of this enormous empire, well over 2 million square miles, will live continuously at peace.  At which point we consider the previous post - how evil can orcs be, if there are no enemies, and there need be no repression?

The obvious answer from many will be that the orcs cannot act jointly together to form a vast empire, that it will be fraught with constant in-fighting, tribe against tribe, villages burnt and various religious factions representing different orcish gods fighting for supremacy.  No doubt, no doubt ... and all that would make for some good roleplay.  But I see no reason why such a society would then turn violently against a group of outsiders, even outsiders comprising of elves, gnomes and dwarves.  The latter two might find some distaste (gnomes lumped together by appearance), but you will note no elves in the enemies list above, and not all humans look alike.  If the party were from China, that might create some squabbling.

More likely, the local orcs would just accept the party at face value - even treat them well if they'd help eradicate the bastards in the next valley.  Except for one thing.

The next valley, in most cases, is a hundred miles away, or more.  How much anger can you build up when the marching distance is two weeks across blasted heath and non-arable rocky hillocks?  Sorry, can't go, I have sheep to shear.

When it comes to exploring, I suppose I have just too much world, with too great a distance between points A and B.  It forces me to reconsider many of the stereotypes associated with the various humanoid races.  Why wouldn't orcs eventually eradicate their enemies in certain areas, settle down and ultimately become passive?  Surely, the occasional honor killing would still take place, and orcs might encourage this sort of thing to a greater extent than even certain peoples in real life ... but overall, the principal challenges would still be food, comfort, long life and pleasure.

What the hey - I don't expect a party to tramp through this part of the world anyway.  I make these maps for my own pleasure, for determining the road distance between places, and to be able to post them on this blog.

1 comment:

Zzarchov said...

I have a comment about how orcs might act in such a case.

Biology.

Non-human species mean non-human biology in both the brain and how they handle environmental stressors.

Do orcs need very little food and water? Maybe a desert is prime real estate to an orc and the population could be much..much larger.

Maybe Orc's feel a biological need to seek out and fight others just to do so. It could be an evolutionary trait, Most young male orcs feel a need to spread out as far as possible and mangle people and things unrelated to them. Such a trait would have genetic strengths (hell, perhaps there are three genders, male , female and sterile warriors who launch out to clear room for their siblings).

Throw different species into it and the rationality of various courses of action can change quite a bit. This is before you throw in magic (maybe the ravaged landscape is a desert because its high in magic, allowing advanced and opulent societies in the same way the gulf-states can turn a desert into paradise due to oil).

Much of human history is shaped by our biological needs and drives, change those and history would be radically different.