Friday, January 24, 2020

40 Minute Settings- Etthurhia

This is a new “feature” on this blog. I want to write more, but sometimes it's hard to decide how to iron out details of a fantasy world without any sort of guide or rules. So instead, we're making something new. This is going to be a fantasy world built in 40 minutes. I'm starting a timer before I start writing the setting proper after I've generated some stuff to get started.

I don't really do a lot of “worldbuilding”. However, I want to try it sometimes. Instead of making it just about my pet fantasy setting, instead I decided to do something different and force myself to write using random generation. This is going to feature a lot of randomly generated stuff for inspiration along with a strict time limit.

Darkness, nature, swamps, eldritch through a natural lens.

Musical Accompaniment
Some music from Skyrim. Nature/Ambient.

Magic Card Inspiration
Cycled through random cards until a monoBlack, monoGreen card, and then Sorcery were found.
-Bog Elemental
-Daybreak Ranger/Nightfall Predator
-Portent of Betrayal

Generated Invocations
By Xeipi!
By The Celestial Swamps Of Grmaurme!
By The One-thousand Flock Of Visodaeo!
I Call Upon Hidden Hacrotha!
I Evoke The Necropolis Of Phedenim!

Generated Realm Names
Empire of the Windy Bull's Amulet
High Earl's Realm
Knee Province
Living Earldom of the Pipes
Titan's Kingdom

Randomly Generated Fantasy World Name

Randomly Generated Death Worm Names (Took 2)

Random Number between 1 and 1000

That should be enough to get us started. Original generators in order are done by MtG Gatherer, Seventh Sanctum, and

This is a sunken land. It's cracked ground goes from the black swamps to the tall white mountain peaks; those far away places known as the Titan's Kingdom. Only the most cunning or brave of men dare venture in those places, where the ancient ones so built the world.

The only race here is the race of men. Men are made of mud and mud they shall return. The “Gods” are long gone, they are the names for the old Titans who are now finished with their creation, uncaring if all but their mountain fall into black swamps. It seems every year the water is rising, or just getting more clouded and hard to swim. Men built, once, using the tools left behind by the ancient Titans. They could know all 817 of their names, and speak them to make the land go up, then dry, then press it flat, then dot it with trees and shrubs, then make the animals come and birds roost. But these sanctuaries are few and far between now. “Roads” are swinging, precarious bridges made of sticks and bones, the last bits of relatively safe travel between encampments.

Of course, one could brave the swamps. The mud is poison to you. You were made of mud, once, and by touching mud you are losing yourself. The longer one spends in the water, the more they forget. Forget their lives and forget their morals. They wish to betray their fellows, and the signs are all their clearly beforehand; they stop caring for the suffering of others at all, and speak ill of their family when not in earshot. These men are doomed. One day, they will be nothing but the bog itself, sludge rising to swallow and crush others who dare enter.

But not everything is so evil and dark. The Incantations are not wholly forgotten. By speaking to Xeipi, you can know the direction and make the moss grow that way. By calling upon the Celestial Swamps of Grmaurme, you can force away the foul swamp creatures for good ones. The crocodiles and giant dragonflies will leave you alone if you know to call the One-thousand Flock Of Visodaeo; the spawn of all things that fly and swim. Of course, these invocations don't work against the death worms. They were once the predators of the titans, or so it seemed. The most infamous one is Urghirun, black, with a hunger and sadism that strikes fear into the hearts of rulers. He stalks Knee Province, and is the reason none visit, not even to buy their black-salt lanterns.

In the Empire of Windy Bull, the worlds greatest spot of dry land exists. It is two valleys, strung together with a tiny 'wall' of mountains that keep the bog away. The Amulet of the Windy Bull is what is keeping the muck and swamp from tearing these stone walls down. Within the Empire, the men train and fight to search the swamp, both for worthwhile survivors to bring back to join them, as well as plunder. One of the most common invocations is to say “I Evoke The Necropolis Of Phedenim!” to open the doorways to sunken temples. It keeps the basements cleared of muck for a few hours at most. Just enough time to get in, get treasure, and leave before the swamp leeches sift back down through the stonework. The greatest treasure here are names; names of the Titanous Gods, names of debters. Debts are bought and sold as a currency themselves, as sometimes a favor is worth more then gold. No one knows this better then the High Earl.

The High Earl is an oddity amongst the race of men. He is immortal, forever kept alive by the names he has accrued. His true name is so long and his personas so numerous that “High Earl” is the only name of which is useful and convenient to call him by. Within his chest are holes that lead to the Living Earldom of the Pipes- his living body is its own Kingdom. Within it are shades, shadowy figures in the suggestion of a form, with masks. These are the names he has taken as favors. The Earl is a powerful sorcerer as well, possibly the greatest, due to his names and collection of power he had so gained.

The trees near the swamps are bolstered, stakes pushed into soil and twine strung around the saplings, pulled towards the land so their fronds do not hang in the water. This is because of Hidden Hacrotha. One calls his name to sees what is the dark shape hidden under the swamp water. In this place, it is Urnur the death worm, gray in tone, who stalks the waters. He waits for those to get close to the water's edge, hanging over it on a bowed tree, and then he will bite the leaves. So carefully he will pull them into the water; first a toe, then a foot, then a leg, and snap! Bite whatever is just under the surface. The more patient he gets, the more he can eat. He is getting very patient, and very smart for a death worm. This does not bode well for the people of High Earl's Realm.

People trade with dry linens. The air here is damp, everywhere, except Windy Bull of course. The first time a shirt or sock touches swamp water it is like a maiden losing her virginity- it can never quite go back to how it was, regardless of how much you clean and scrub it pure again. A good pair of socks is like a horse here. The mud in your boots is endlessly compacted and squished against your skin; trenchfoot is a common aliment. If only someone knew the invocation to cure it, if there even is one. Trade your nickname to the Earl's men, they may teach you. All names are valuable to his immortal self; when you were called Skipper as a child, or Drunkard as an adult, these are names. Names for names is a trade that all are willing to make, especially for a clean wool coat.

Blue-black mushrooms grow on the trees at shoulder height. They can only be collected when they 'bloom', which is when the water is just below their water level. Water rises and falls like the seasons in other worlds. Black sludge collects at the bottom in summer, the ground almost feels solid for a while, but the further down the endless hills, further away from the Titans' mountain, the deeper the water will get during the flood season. Water doesn't come down from the sky very often here, it comes up from the lowlands, and then up higher still. The small pools left over from the retreat of the water sometimes hold horrible lungfish, or sometimes delicious urchins, whose poison is bought and sold for use in the tanglewood cities in the treetops. Assassins are very valuable up there. And anyone who is a good climber is a good assassin. Most of them refuse to look their victims in the eye; spider climb under the floorboards and stick a needle in your target's foot. It's that easy. They may even speak the wrong invocation because they think it was a simple climbing-snake bite. Foolish tree dwellers. They think they are so safe just because they sleep up there.

Of course, the most dangerous men are the opposite of the tree dwellers. The mud men. Those who live near or in the mire proper and enjoy it. When the water retreats and the ground is dark, moist, and squishy for months on end, the mud men dig up things that fell in the swamp long, long centuries ago. Ancient things. Names of Titans who didn't build with the other Titans. Titans that went down hill, towards the black mud sea. Towards the sinkhole at the end of the world. Their names are striken from all the tablets and records- and if you see one, you should do the same. Even uttering their name is forbidden. Too much rides at stake for you to bring their attention to our little pocket of earth that does not consume us as greedily as crocodiles. The mud men are not dangerous for this reason though. They are dangerous because they are changing. They grow fur and claws, they become dumb and impulsive, they learn how to swim. They are becoming beasts; mucks and ooze is the breeding grounds for a return to the mud from whence you came.

Weapons in Etthurhia are simple. Everyone who wishes to live carries a sculptor's knife to mark the mud or tree branches, as well as to help shape and carve into clay. Everyone who wishes to not only live, but actually stand a chance against the foes in the mire carry a sickle-sword. The sword can curve through bog elementals and other creatures; a nice square shield is carried by mercenary companies. Especially those hired by the Earl. The shields are held flat against the ground and their corners interlock for when a rainmaking beast accidentally starts another flood.

People eat muscles. The tiny stuck-on creatures that live on the trees and rocks around the dry and wet seasonal areas- they do best when left alone and in return produce a huge, but nearly impossible to reverse, symbiotic relationship with their humans. Humans get a nearly unlimited food source, and in return, the muscles get several new places to attach. Like human skin. Lovely. The islands that men have built range from tiny foundations on which to build a single tower, to large shelves cutting out a negative space in the trees and mangroves above. Humans must fight to survive in this world, there is no “competition” with the ecosystem. Man will have what man wants.

Swamp Dragon @Ahmad Hilmi
Afterword & Notes
This was a fun experiment. I'm finishing with less then two minutes left, because I can't write anything useful or substantial since it's too hard to think of stuff! Anyway, this ended up being very one-trick, but I think it's a pretty cool dark fantasy/OSR-styled fantasy setting. I love swamps in games and wish the “classic” wasn't just evil place with a monster. Though that's probably one of the reasons I like it.

Anyway, next time I do this, (if I do it at all) I might generate more stuff. I tried very hard to not write too specific here in both detail and ideas; want to keep this pretty reasonable. And there you have it- a fantasy setting built in under 40 minutes!

PS- I can't take total credit for the Mudman. They were at least partially inspired by this post by WWCD, which is one of my all time favorites.


  1. This is amazing. Did you typed all of that in 40 minutes as well?

    1. Sorry if I wasn't clear: I am curious about the process in sense if you wrote the world first at 40 minutes and then typed it or you directly typed it without a draft in 40 minutes?
      (I want to try this challenge too one day)

    2. Yes, everything except the intro post, the collection (and typing up) of random generator results and the afterword were all typed in the 40 minutes I gave myself. I intentionally tried to not think about my basic setting idea (dark fantasy swamp) until I could sit down and dedicate my time to it. It was fun.

    3. Even more amazing. Now I only need to find an hour of uninterrupted time.

      Do you consider editing the text later? For example in "tiny 'wall' of mountains that keep them away" 'them' presumably means bogs but it isn't clear from the text; the same is in ' They wish to portray their fellows' - betray, maybe?

    4. Of course, since I'm publishing it on my blog I might as well make it read nice later. As long as the core message isn't changed. Thanks for pointing out some typos.