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


Here and there you will also have cities with quite a bit of a mix. How does it affect things if you have a human city with a slight majority of humans with a significant percentage of, for example, elves and dwarves. The latter group live for centuries. Do they openly run things? Are they the power behind a figurehead? Do they fall from grace because they always plan long term, often longer than humans can hope to live to see?

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I feel like you have WAY too many options going on up there. So many flavours of "human kingdom." Also, are any of these entities mixed? Why not have a lot fewer nation states but use various locales within them to explore different cultures. Maybe one state is mostly human, but with a significant halfling population in its farmlands, maybe a largely dwarven city to the north, orc settlements on the frontiers, that kind of thing?
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I too want to help but also am a little confused by the ask. You are looking for suggestions of different types of fantasy cultures and locales? You have both "modern" and "traditional" in the header.
I was focusing onTraditional.

But their are racesl ike dragonborn, orcs, goblins, and tiefling and classes like warlocks and artifecers which exist in large numbers but since D&D and many 3PP haven't updated since early 2000s there is no archetypical place where all of them come form.


Neapolitan city-state inhabited and ruled by a mix of races.

Niche empire fractured into small communities across other nations.

Monstrous empire that is struggling to become civilized.

Forgotten empire moldering under the surface, looking for an opportunity to take over the surface realm.

Monstrous empire masquerading as another race.

Utopian city-state guarded by celestials.

City-state that trades in anything, ruled by fiends.

Tripartate Alliance countries who closely trade and protect one another.

Raiding nation that uses horses, boats, dragons or other methods to keep on the move, with no permanent lands.

The exotic, distant realm no one understands whose culture and wonders are marvels to the "barbarians" who surround them and whose members are only met traveling from their distant realm.


Follower of the Way
  1. Draconic Fallen Empire
  2. ???
  3. ???
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.)

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.

Basically, the way dragonborn are presented, they have a dual nature. On the one hand, they have the intense pride and "do it myself" attitude of their proper dragon cousins. On the other, they care a great deal about the bonds of family and the legacy they leave behind, which creates a strongly pro-social urge. The Martial Republic version emphasizes the pride, filtered through the pro-social lens. The Nomadic Clans emphasizes the family and legacy, filtered through the prideful lens. This is a good opportunity to show a society that has many different sub-groups, that don't always get along, but which respect one another as fellow members of the blood (or the like.)

Dragonborn present an almost-unique opportunity to have a martially-inclined society which is not the stereotypical "brutal, savage, and ugly." It's one of the things I like most about them. So lean into that! Respect for the chain of command, respecting the value of both strategy and morale alongside physical strength, employing engineering solutions, that sort of thing. For example, I like to think that Archimedes, with all his crazy war machines, would've either been a dragonborn himself, or would have been held as "a dragonborn in spirit, regardless of his blood" kind of things, out of deep respect for his work in both peace and war.

The list could do with some democracies.
A concept that came up in the state I founded as a player was "representative oligarchy." The city is governed by a council that started as the dwarven tribal chief's advisers and grew from these. It has become accepted that groups that feel unrepresented can petition the council to add a representative for them. This does not always result in an addition, because frivolous group-splitting is an obvious tactic, but it works well enough to keep going. Of course, the large number of Lawful Good people on the council helps.


In my World of Greyhawk (mine, the version that has grown up in my games, as opposed to the official published ones) I've centred campaigns around two democracies.

The City of Greyhawk itself is a representative democracy. The PCs even played an important role in extending the franchise beyond the walls to the community that was mostly made up of recent immigrants. The immigrants are mostly refugees from the Greyhawk Wars who've settled there over the last 20 years or so. What I've not drawn much attention to is that Greyhawk itself controls a large hinterland, including the city of Hardby and the northern towns of the Wild Coast, without giving those people any sort of democratic voice. It's reminiscent of how Athens dominated the Delian League.

My other long term campaign was based around a Dwarven kingdom that was slowly morphing into a democracy. There was a royal council of which half the members were elected from different clans. Each clan had it's own internal political structure, all of which were democratic to some extent. And there was an All-Thing that could be convened, and could overrule the royal council, but was only rarely called due to the large size of the population. Overseeing it all there was a monarch who acted within the bounds of a constitution. The monarchy was more and more becoming a rubber stamp, really only kept out of Dwarven conservativeness. The monarchs themselves are increasingly democratic in their outlooks, more so than some of the clan lords.

Maybe some of the human city states are democracies?

Why just humans? Several of the classic DND peoples are portrayed as having societies that are very democratic in any case. Elves, Orcs, and Halflings strike me as being good choices for democracies.


Several of the classic DND peoples are portrayed as having societies that are very democratic in any case. Elves, Orcs, and Halflings strike me as being good choices for democracies.
Orcs I can see. Also Halflings, although they seem to have a strong class structure. Elves, on the other hand, "have only a loose social structure based on independent bands which ow allegiance to an overlord (duke, princess, king or queen)" (1977 MM, p 39).


Re. Elves. Ah yes, but a loose structure of independent bands strikes me as being ideal for a little light democracy. Simply remove the nobility. Who'd miss them? Give the elves a Thing for those times when the community needs to act together.

Now I grant you that Tolkien's hobbits are pretty class-bound. They also seem to live completely independent of government. But my impression is that, in RPGs, they get written up as having quite egalitarian societies. Not equality of wealth, but with equality of social status.

Basically I think any small society is quite capable of working with a form of direct democratic government. Certainly we can make them so in our fantasy world building.

Voidrunner's Codex

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