D&D 5E Archetypal Nations for a Modern Fantasy Traditional D&D like Setting

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Necessarily, dragonborn must be "uncommon" because they're still pretty new, but I would put forward the following alternatives besides the classic fallen empire.

2. Martial Republic, likely a colonizing one. A fusion of Athens and Sparta: no slavery, but a sort of fusion of the idealized versions of both societies, with a dash of Sun Tzu, where the ideal soldier also studies poetry and art and philosophy. Unafraid to take land by force, but not warmongering just to warmonger. Possibly something of an upstart, or their homeland is far away and only their colonies are known. This emphasizes the long-term ambitions of the dragonborn, and gives a nod to the implicit higher degree of egalitarianism in their society since women are effectively equivalent to men (and don't need to spend several months pregnant.)
I've always saw Dragonborn to be the fantasy race where you can display the Head of State, Head of Government, and Head of Military as 3 different people with important powers. The Dragonborn Republic would have an Elected Royal Clan, an Elected Council of Lawmakers, and an Elected Council of Generals. They'd have entire clan dedicated to war, art, or wealth but none of them would shun any of the three. An like you said, the main or first contact most other races would have of them would be another nation forced to pay tribute back to the republic after loss in a war.

3. Nomadic Clans. Taking inspiration from the Mongols, Turks, Vikings, Sea People, and other highly-mobile, martially-inclined societies. Whether they sail, herd, follow a seasonal cycle, or some other motive, they don't often settle down and form civic societies--but they can still be a massively dangerous force to be reckoned with, especially if someone can unite them under a single common banner. As above, unafraid to take land by force, but usually too caught up in clan warfare to do so. This emphasizes more the stereotypical social structure ascribed to the dragonborn and their competitive streak.

And when the clan don't set aside differences to get along for long they become this. A bunch of competitive, self sufficient, and dargeerous class.. Embodying the power and selfishness of the dragons they come from.
 

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JAMUMU

go, hunt. kill haribos.
I like the spirit of this, but think the delivery might be too fine-grained. My last world-building project started using historical data and examples, and I soon discovered that real life is far too complex a model to be playably fun at a table. You don't need a smallish kingdom with 250 barons and their attendant lords and all the knights sworn to those individuals. You need 25 that are impactful in some way, characters that players can interact with meaningfully.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
1) Misunderstood tribal-but-not-barbaric orcs
It is interesting to categorize the popular orc nation types


Orc
  1. Barbaric Orcs
  2. Evil Barbaric Orcs
  3. Primal Barbaric Orcs

1 is the Might&Magic Orcs who are just barbaric peoples with no desire to advance past brutish tribalism.

2 is the LOTR Orcs as a nation of raiders and destroyers whose religion binds them to evil and too filled with rage to maintain a kingdom.

3 is the Warcraft/Elderscrolls Orcs as a nation of strong humanoids with a heavy connection to spirits and nature.

@Ruin Explorer 's 4 would be the Modern orc who just prefers tribal or simple life and just has berserkers in their society.

5 would be the Warhammer Orcs who if transplanted and mixed with D&D physiology would be are more or less fanatics with alternative combat based religion of warrioing clans who come together when a prophet or herald emerges.
 

jgsugden

Legend
When world building there are two approaches:

1.) Build it all in advance so that you can reveal it to players, and
2.) Build it on the fly so that you can have the room to add anything that you desire as you go.

I think the ideal is to have a combination of both. Build as ideas strike you and plug it into play, but don't feel a need to have everthing in from the start. I have a campaign world that has existed for 40 years. It has grown to be more and more complete over time - but there are huge areas of it that are still unexplored by PCs (which makes sense given thatthe surface worls is 12 times the size of Earth). This gives me the freedom to use places I have already built out and add onto them, or to have blank canvases to write upon.

To that end, I'd just have the main adventuring area and a few nearby ready to go. You can have rough descriptions of more distant ones, but I would not feel a need to have even those.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
You forgot:

Evil Expansionist Empire
Evil Expansionist Empire ruled by Just King with Warped Values
Undeadland of Bad People
The (Insert Proper Noun Here) Wastes, ruled by Madmaxian Raiders
 

3 is the Warcraft/Elderscrolls Orcs as a nation of strong humanoids with a heavy connection to spirits and nature.
Warcraft Orcs aren't "barbaric". Orgrimmar is a gigantic city of iron and stone, for example. Orcs are some of the finest smiths in the setting - perhaps better than the Dwarves, and certainly on-par. With Warcraft, the Orcs are also experts in developing highly advanced war machines - and not the impractical flights of fancy that goblins lean towards, but ironclad steam-powered battleships, airships, steamtanks, self-propelled siege weaponry, and so on.

I also wouldn't say either Warcraft Orcs or Orsimer had a particularly strong connection to nature - the spirits, sure, but those are kind of separate in Warcraft - and if you ranked them on a chart of "connected to nature"-ness with beings like the humans and undead on the "not very connected" end, the Warcraft Orcs would be in the middle, right next to the Dwarves (who would be slightly closer to the humans, but not much), and they'd be a long way from the Night Elves and Tauren, who are deeply connected to nature.

The Orsimer Elves - aka Elderscrolls Orcs - were a civilized people with a massive city too (Orsimer), until it was destroyed. You can make a better case for them being barbarians, because of their "Stronghold" structure and Chiefs.

Both do share one important trait you missed though, which maybe does point us towards something - both were corrupted by demons in the past, but have since moved past that.

The are too more extreme versions of the Warcraft Orcs, too - both from an alternate timeline for the most part - a timeline where the Orcs never got corrupted. Those are the Mag'har Orcs, who are the "barbaric primal" Orcs you're describing, and the Iron Horde, who are tech-heavy versions, who lean much harder into tanks, bombs, guns, mecha, trains (!!!), and so on.

The point of confusion may be Thrall, who is basically a massive human-loving hippy by Orc standards. But judging the Warcraft Orcs by him is like judging all humans by Archmage Khadgar and assuming Dalaran is a "typical human city" or something!
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
On Classes



In my Klassico setting, there is a continent classes the Darklands. The Darklands is littered with underground pockets aof a material called darkgem that can be refined to make cheap but corrupting/cursed magic items (Native Darklanders are immune but cannot use them). Because of this ambitious evil folk have taken up the areas to harvest it and fight over it. Each territory is more or less ruled by one D&D class, be it a single individual, a group, a warband, or a social class. in a stereotypical way for their classes

  • Communism State controlled by an Evil Artificer who integrated ximself into a Warforged/Construct Factory
  • Madmaxian Barbarian Anarchists
  • Bard ??? Never figured that one out
  • Evil Theocracy run by Clerics to an Evil God
  • Evil Theocracy run by Druids to Evil Nature Gods
  • Military Occupation of an army of Evil Fighters commanded by Evil General Fighter
  • Monk ???? Another Theocracy???
  • Do I need to say it? Autocracy under Oath of Conquest Paladin
  • Racist Rangers Republic running Apartheid state
  • Rogue Kleptocracy
  • Dragonic Sorcerer-King Monarchy
  • infernal Warlock Cult running an Oligarchy
  • Undeadland run buy Necromancer Wizard and bound Vampiric aristocracy
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
i question how many of these actually count as proper archetypes, like 'dwarves who live in the mountain', 'halflings who live near X other species' or 'forest gnome village' doesn't actually inform us a ton about them, i feel like 'dwarven crafter-trader merchant nation', 'quiet halfling agricultural settlement' or 'socially isolated nature respecting hidden gnome village' would be the sorts of things more in line with identifying the traditional archetypes
 

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