Americanizing a European World


So I’ve been working on creating my own world and campaign in Dungeons & Dragons and, while my world (Terrasia) is based off aspects of Eberron I’ve striven to find a unique base for it, that base turning out to be America.

In Of Dice and Men David Ewalt mentions that when first introduced to the British D&D was an immediate hit even though it was such an American game. While the mechanics of the game are American the worlds are so very European. And there’re many D&D worlds created for the supplements, but alas most of them are stiflingly old fashioned. I understand the source of fantasy, and especially high fantasy in the wake of Tolkien who created Middle-Earth to be a history of sorts for England, but possibilities are endless, so why the pigeon holing? Even Eberron the steam punk world is a decidedly Her Majesty’s steam punk.Image

So back to my drawing board, the first way to remove the European influences is to get rid of the feudal system that the Old World was so fond of, Terrasia is a republic split into ten states each presided over differently but essentially all ran by elected officials which then meet in a national Senate, in the way of Ancient Greece or early America. Next is to open up the world, most of Europe had been pretty well settled for a long time, and that reflects in traditional fantasy, discovering ruins is more prominent than discovering new lands. But Terrasia is massive and had stayed close knit for years so with the dawn of the peaceful Republic and the rise of technology there has been a mass expansion. People scattering to the winds to settle the massive plains and mountains, discovering completely new lands, new towns appearing everyday, and as with the Wild West, the farther out they travel they less control the government exerts over them, the new settlements having to take care of themselves.

So now we have a Democracy in their industrial revolution with a mass expansion into the wild. This creates an interesting world with plenty of quest and story ideas. It’s time to add some flavor.

One of the minor details I find in D&D campaigns that I find intensely British are the tribes of the wild. Much like tribal England these are oddly connected tribes that squabble over land. A tribe of giants come down from the mountains to ravage the land. Was it their land originally? Why ravage it? Terrasia’s mass expansion has caused the settlers to come at odds with the tribes that were already settled their. Displacing them and stealing their homelands. The tension becomes not what random tribe is going to attack, but who’s right? The settlers or the tribes? Who do you defend?


On the subject of tensions another world bit that has always bothered me are racial tensions in D&D which always has such a tone of mistrust, but that’s as far as it goes. Terrasia is unfortunately rampant with racism. The Topworld/Underdark  dynamic has left many of the races at odds with each other, to the point where mistrust has given out to outright hostility and some places are closed off to certain races. The fight for equality is an apparent one in Terrasia.

I hope I’ve created a world that while not new is at least unique, with depth and history and a real world feeling that my players will not only want to explore and live in, but be co-creators with me, expanding the history and edges of the world with me.dynamic has left many of the races at odds with each other, to the point where mistrust has given out to outright hostility and some places are closed off to certain races. The fight for equality is an apparent one in Terrasia.


2 thoughts on “Americanizing a European World

  1. Interesting stuff. People tend to forget that, while there were European trappings of the early D&D, it was very American in feel, specifically that of the early frontier towns, pushing back against the wilderness and those who were ‘the other’, and with a healthy mix of the western genre – stranger(s) wander into town, deal with threat to the tiny community surrounded by all sorts of dangers, and then move on after hopefully collecting some sort of reward. Consider also ‘Keep On The Borderlands’, one of the earliest gaming modules – it’s essentially a western fort, on the fringes of the frontier, with the PC’s fighting and trying to drive back the natives who currently claim the area.

    1. Oh, I’ll have to check out Keep On The Borderlands! I know there are some more western-y American supplements and ideas out there my opinion just being if I’m going to hunt down a module might as well make my own. The premade stories I had been using were the ones found in the back of guides or the basic modules one can easily find, which all consisted of a lot of “go here and clean out this old castle” quests.

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