Creating a Nation, while not necessary, can create some fun twists and turns for any character that grew up in that nation. It can also add a lot when you’re creating your own world. This also has the potential to add to the story of a campaign if the players become invested in the nation itself, driving a national agenda. If the players are from the same, or different nations, there can be some very interesting party dynamics as well. Consider how the different nations viewed each other in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Each of the different nations had a unique culture, and subcultures and some had differing relationships with the other nations.
When starting a campaign, it would be a good idea to create the nation where the characters are starting. This can add a very good amount of immersion with very small amounts of effort on your part (Which is great!). A Game Master can even alleviate the amount of work they have to do if the Players wish to create their own nation that they grew up in.
When creating a new Nation there are many things that can be taken into account, but not everything needs to be decided ahead of time before the first session. Personally, I like to get some of the basics down on paper and let the players, non-player characters, and modules help flesh out the Nation during actual gameplay. Really all you need are the Key Points.
- Name – A name is always necessary before the first session. If you are having trouble coming up with a name, try combining two to three words that you would use to describe your nation, or try a Name Generator.
- Population – Population can define a lot of the nation itself. Consider how populace the Nation is, whether or not it is urban, or rural, what sentient creatures are in this population and what species or races are most common. In a fantasy setting consider a nation that has all fantasy races contrasting a nation consisting mainly of Orcs.
- Type of government – This can set the tone for the entire nation. A Monarchy will run inherently different than a democracy. Consider if the government is overbearing or laissez-faire. What are the primary laws? How are people dealt with if they break these laws?
- National Wealth – How wealthy is this nation compared to others? This nation could be considerably less wealthy than their neighboring country and become jealous, or it could be exceedingly rich and look down on other countries that don’t have the luxuries that they have. Also, consider the distribution of wealth. Perhaps it is overall a wealthy country, but only 10% of the population don’t live in poverty.
- Primary Export/Source of Money – Is this nation one of Mining, selling valuable ores and gems? Maybe this country is one of manufacturing, farming, or inventing. A primary source of money could directly impact individuals from that country. A country that thrives on tourism would react to outsiders entirely different from a country that depends on hunting and trapping for income.
- Notable Cities – Each country has some main cities, perhaps where there are ruins, like Athens, Greece, or the capital like Washington D.C. It could be known for a landmark, like a large (or great) canyon. Perhaps it’s a large City with unique buildings. Coming up with one or two of these to generate excitement among the players for those cities, given rumors of the cities along the way, can add to the immersion.
- Notable Individuals – Coming up with a National Leader, or famous public figure, or war hero, are all perfect examples of notable individuals. You can create a general feeling of distaste, or excitement among your players by how others talk about these characters, by knowing them personally, or rumors that may be entirely false, or absolute truth.
- Social Norms and Taboos – Determining Social Norms and Taboos can create a lot of immediate distinctiveness between other nations. For example, if there is one nation that considers exposed Elbows or Knees to be obscene, there could be many disputes if visitors to that nation wear shorts or a tee shirt.
- Relations with Other Nations – This nation could be at war, or on the brink of war with another nation, or it could have been a long-standing alliance with a far away land. They could be friendly or unfriendly to foreigners.
- Historical Events – Are there any major historical events that need to be mentioned? This is a subject that can grow as more is added.
- Magic/Technologies – Sometimes nations have some magic or technology that is unique to them. This can help different Nations seem very different from each other. If everyone rode horses in one nation, they may have trouble going to the Jetpack nation to the east.
Maps and more
There are many more steps that can be done from here to flesh out nations without spending any more time than you already would creating sessions for players. Create Cities as you go along instead of creating many now that you may never use in your sessions. Create a loose map outline of this nation, and fill it in with landmarks and cities as your players explore the nation. Keep notes of what current events are happening in the nation that might change it as the players are exploring it, or perhaps the players changed the nation as well. Please comment below if there is anything that you think is important to creating Nations.