MeyerHawk: Shield Lands Ring Settlements


It took me a little while to get over to my native Sweden, two days with cancelled and missed flights, forest fires, and a day in Munich. Now it is time to get some work done again. First out is a look at the traditional ring dwellings of the Shield Lands in my campaign.

Shield Lands is a realm where the new (read Oeridian) have been replacing and merging with the old for half a millennium, and this is clearly visible in how people live.  Since the old Flan days this have been a dangerous and wild part of the world, where shelter could often be harder than enemies to find. It is a predominately open landscape with few places to hide and seek shelter, and the soil is not fertile enough to support a dense population. Ingenuity and make due was, and still is, the mantra for these hardy folk who call the Shield Lands home. Instead of building large towns and cities and seek safety and prosperity in number behind think walls, the flan who settled the plains here choose a different strategy. Small settlements that blended in with the surrounding terrain, and  still provided some protection.

It was common to find a low hill made up of tough soil, dig out the center and a surrounding moat. Use the dug up soil and stone to construct walls battlements, and reinforce the outside of the dwellings. Sizes varied from a few families up to a several hundred, and in rare circumstances all the way up to town size with a thousand or more. The sketch shows a more typical size with living for 100-200 people and they livestock. Life inside the dwellings was cramped and dense, but people lived outside with their sheep, goats and cattle  most of the daytime, so being cramped at night, or when danger was lurking was accepted.

An important aspect of this design was the proximity of similar settlements, key was to spread out risk instead of center it. The distance between these dwellings where usually a few hundred yards up to a quarter of  a mile, and always within signaling distance, using horns, flags or smoke. This forced the enemy to attack only a single dwelling or spread out their forces. Neighboring settlements could quickly come to aid those attacked. Most adults in this realm can both fight and are able riders. A settlement only have to be able to defend themselves for a short time before they can count on help from their neighbors.

This way of living was the norm until the Oeridians came and wanted to modernize and upgrade the ancient ways of living in cramped dens not much better than a hole in the ground behind a small wall. They built proper houses with defenses, but often spend more lavishly on living standard rather than defense capability. The Oeridian idea of defense was a much bigger castle or keep that was designated to guard a much larger area, often many square miles. The defense installations where a deterrent for the   thugs of the old bandit lands, but woefully inadequate when the well organized terror of the Horned Society and later Iuz came. Maybe a spread out much more nimble defense would have fared better, that we can only speculate in. But a lot of the lowly squires hailing from the rural part of Shield Lands who survived the onslaught swear that the only reason they made it was mobility and mutual aid.

Here in my Critwall map you can see the area outside the wall still being dotted with small settlements that have been, to a varyingly degree, converted to more conventional standard.

Architecture and especially settlement design are often overlooked in fantasy so for my Shield Lands campaign I wanted to take in this aspect in my campaign planning and cartography. It can add a special feel to the campaign, and making sure it feels a bit special and more believable.