Now, most places in 1650 are relatively stable. Borders change and shift between kingdoms and empires, but large parts of the world have usually been under one government for centuries or longer. Iberia, for example, was easy since everything south of the Pyrenees has been Spanish or Portuguese since the ousting of Islam. There were a few border places in Estremadura (a region that spreads over both those countries), but nothing complicated.
England and Scotland are about the same. In 1650 Cromwell had consolidated his control over the main island of Britain, so that at the mid-point of his authority, it is easy to identify every center as either England or Scotland.
But those who know history, who have heard me mention Cromwell, know that Ireland is a ghastly, horrendous mess in 1650. Cromwell's forces landed in early 1649 and the war that followed was an episode in brutality, atrocity, clumsy military policy and strategies marked by unrestrained activity on both sides. Effectively, the war was an early experience in guerrilla measures, an attempt to win by attrition, both exacerbated by famine and even an outbreak of bubonic plague. Estimates describing the drop in Irish population range from 15 to 83 percent, depending on the source quoted, with as many as 50,000 people transported as indentured laborers (which, in the 17th century, translates as slave labor). And therefore, in my world, who controls Ireland? A party of players could spend three years running there and never be sure.
One thing, it is a hell of a place for adventuring, if massacres, taking a stand on a piece of land and hiring out as a mercenary is the party's thing. To hell with a dungeon; just crossing the landscape would be living day and night in a free-for-all combat zone, potentially heightened by creating armed troops consisting of everything from brownies and sprites to banshees, headless horsemen and demon kings. All the party needs is nerve.
But from a DM's perspective, how do I make the map? Who runs Ireland?
Off hand, it would be easiest to identify Ireland as part of the British Empire. The Brits are in control of most of the major ports, Dublin, Galway, Wexford, Cork and such; the bigger inland places, Athlone, Limerick, the Shannon valley, is hold-out Irish. But there's no central Irish government that can be described as controlling those areas not conquered and garrisoned by the Brits; even local government in the "lawless zone" is run by fiat and the despotism of insurrectionists who are themselves barely organized. The bigger point to be made, however, is what's most "romantic"? What best fits a D&D game?
I like this:
For clarification, The Pale was a part of Ireland directly under the control of the English government in the late middle ages. Gallowglasses were a class of elite mercenary warriors primarily of Norse-Gaelic clans of Scotland. Other Scot colonists (Ulster-Scots) settled in northern Ireland in the early 17th century, led by James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery. Vikings settled in Ireland between the 800s until the 12th century, in scattered places, mostly in places that would become abandoned and then later occupied by Irish. The Normans were, of course, French in origin (and Viking Norse long before that). All these come together to make Ireland a terrific hodgepodge.
The map is tremendous for making a clear designation for what parts of the island the Brits control (though I am going through a county-by-county historical investigation for better detail); for those parts not Brit, the larger clans can be designated as "controlling" those zones. It is, however, grittier than what I need; I can be satisfied that the McCarthys and O'Sullivans control the southwest without having to keep track of every O'Hurley, O'Daly and Ferris in the region. I can plunder the names and make them small groups in the bigger picture for an actual campaign, but the map can just list the major clans.
Sorting this out will take time - and if you have a particular love for a particular name (your own, perhaps), I'm sorry if you're not included. The map above, though, will tell you what hex your people ought to come from, once I get the map made and posted.
It is reasons like this that I have left England off the world for so long. I began making my world map in 2005 and here I am, 11 years later, with all of Europe made but without the British Isles (or Iceland, for that matter). I knew it was going to be a bitch. I'm going to be glad when it is behind me.