One of the places in the setting of Norsinovia that I find most interesting is the Pier of Ages, a tremendously long pier that juts out from the city of Vilsborg that behaves almost like a city unto itself.
I came up with the pier in part as a reaction to the tools and restrictions of the Neverwinter Nights computer game. Creating a pier, with its borders of water on two sides, would help to restrict the amount of polygons on screen at any one time in two directions and allow me to increase the view distance accordingly to give a much grander picture. Also, piers are generally built in straight lines so the restrictions in how I could place objects would not seem unnatural. Little did I know that what I thought was just a concession to technical limitations would ultimately end up being one of the setting elements I found most charming.
In creating the pier I had to decide why such a long pier would exist. Ultimately I decided that an incredibly shallow coastline was the impetus for building it, pushing the pier all the way out to deeper waters where larger ships could dock safely. As a new continent, brimming with settlement opportunity and new starts it seemed likely that shipping traffic from the old world would be one of the primary concerns for any developing cities. Many industries and businesses would not yet be capable of handling the swelling population and goods brought from the nations to the east would be incredibly valuable on the open market. As a new nation keen to exert its own pride, the massive construction undertaking would be seen very much as a watershed moment for Norsinovans eager to separate themselves from Einovia to the east.
Of course, if you have a massive pier that extends miles out into the ocean, that ends up being a very long walk! In deciding what to do to make the pier more interesting I eventually came upon one of the key components of the overall setting. Capitalism in a pre-industrial world.
Some enterprising individual must have surely thought “I bet I could make a bundle selling ale to thirsty sailors travelling the pier.” Thus began the population of the pier itself. First it was simply full of market stalls and tents selling all manner of goods. Then, as pier traffic increased to almost round the clock activity, the merchants began camping out on the pier so as not to miss business. The seller with the most work ethic and the most desired goods would do the best business. Soon, these more wealthy merchants began to build small houses on the pier itself with more extravagant store fronts. Not long after that, prospecting developers would build even more structures and rent them out to the merchants who couldn’t afford their own shop. On and on the cycle would go until the pier had its own micro-economy and population with very little need to interact with the city it was connected to and that original enterprising individual is likely the owner of a small brewery located on the pier, using ingredients bought and sold on the pier, and selling exclusively to patrons on the pier.
This idea of taking a fantasy setting and introducing a capitalistic imperative would carry through the rest of the setting and ultimately inform the very root of the adventure structure: claims. Much like the wild west of post civil war America, Norsinovia is a place where ‘The Norsinovan Dream’ is very much in the hearts and minds of all who live there. Anyone’s card can turn up trumps with a bit of hard work and a bit of luck. To be fair, I never set out to create an absolutely realistic portrayal of such a system, but I hope that I’ve managed to infuse enough of the core concept into the culture of Norsinovia that it gives the setting a satisfying flavour.
In the next ‘Setting Spotlight’ I’ll talk about Norsinovia’s racial diversity and how it relates to greek mythology!