warning words!

Warning! Heavy thoughts and non-anime related shenanigans.


I’ve been working on species for a long time. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed. Every proper fantasy (according to western culture) will have your Golbins and orcs and magical items of varied power. Dwarves will live in mountains. Elves will be elitist jerks/ wiser than we could ever be. It’s a staple of the fantasy diet.

How many actually think about what it means for their fantasy nations to exist? Remember that depth is very important, you can’t just through in elves and have them work. Your readers will notice. Yet, that’s how most authors think it works. Most people say, Tolkien never delved into the economics of the orcs of Middle Earth, so why should I? Well, first off, he did, mostly in offhanded comments, and in the third book. But the point here is, there’s a background to these things, even if the author never devoted a chapter to them.

All nations require five things: Race, Region, Religion, Riches and Rulers. Without these five things, no nation, no people can exist. All authors should keep this, or some other rubric with these principles in their minds when they create species/countries. If they are done well, the country will be believable. It’s little things that can add to a reader’s sense of awe.

*Race: Believe it or not, race will determine how your people act. This covers people groups, culture itself and the little things that differentiate the difference between a Mongol and a Tibetan. Or more interestingly, the difference between a Frenchman and a Norman.

*Region: Area determines war tactics (in part) and how they live their lives. Mongols will live in yurts to help them with their nomadic herding. On the other hand, the black forests of Northern Europe require more permanent lodgings.

*Religion: Atheist or no, religion or the supposed lack thereof, will determine your personal life more than anything else on the list. Whether Christian or a believer in Personal Peace and Affluence, You will live your life according to your religion. Everyone and everyspecies will have a religion, no matter what. It is natural.

*Riches: Filthy lucre, money, sawbucks, whatever you want to call it, you fund your empire with money. Species will determine what ‘wealth’ is. Orcs value cruelty and loot (not gold specifically, LOOT) and weapons. To contrast, the Men of Middle Earth value gold and land as riches.

*Ruler: No nation and no people group is worth a damn unless they have a good ruler. Rulers can be a group, or a single man. It can be a matriarchy or patriarchy. A good ruler will lead their nation to victory or great peace. A bad one will doom their people, even if it isn’t in their day, it will happen in their descendant’s time.

These five requirements will determine the stability, longevity and believability of your nation. If you have a bad ruler? Bad stability. Poor? Bad Stability. Not that having a bad score in one of them will doom their people or lose the reader’s attention. It’s more of a combination of things. For example, a bad Ruler and poverty in your nation, will cause your nation to be unable to fight wars properly. Remember, population is not required for wars, Spartans being a good example. A poorly armed and badly led mob will be eradicated and their names merely one more boast on the celebratory pillar your rival will erect in your capital. A reader will then expect (with bad ruler and poor) your country to lose in battle, not emerge victorious.

Know that a species is no different from a nation in most cases. Many fantasy writers have their ‘hidden Elf kingdom’. How in the world is the economy supposed to work without trade? Without vast tracks of farmland? The Elves of Mirkwood in the Hobbit had an extensive trade network with the men of Dale via the river. Despite their ‘elfiness’ they still traded a great deal, mainly in food stuffs in exchange for money.

This is merely the opening post. Later on, I’ll be focusing on each of the ‘5 rs’ and providing examples of well made and poorly made nations. Of course, this is over thinking, but I don’t really mind that, and if you’ve read this far, neither should you.