Looking at the various regional maps of Hârn, one could be forgiven for thinking that the island is ridiculously sparsely settled. In fact, the books tell us there are 800,000 humans – including 150,000 barbarian tribesmen – 40,000 gargun, 5,000 Sindarin and 5,000 Khuzdul (all figures approximate) for a total humanoid population of under a million. And Hârn has a surface area of over half a million square miles, so that’s…um…about 3 individuals per 2 square miles. Consider the fact that the United Kingdom currently has approximately 570 people per square mile and you begin to see the difference.
Now, there are lots of mountains and hills, sure. But there’s still a heck of a lot of vacant ground that can be settled and farmed. So where in Kaldor would new villages and manors be established, assuming the current borders don’t change much? Let’s look shire by shire and see where new settlements might be established by brave and noble (or greedy) PCs.
The western bank of the Kald River is almost totally ininhabited, except for the small settlements of Charyn, Swune, Wendel and Scoa just across the river from Tashal. Even the larger settlement of Kathane is about 2 leagues from the riverbank. There’s plenty of room to expand here, and this would likely be a priority development area for the Crown of Kaldor, since it would squeeze the barbarian tribes out, especially the Kath. But for just that reason, it is more dangerous to establish a settlement here. However, the eastern bank of the Kald, between its confluence with the Shem and the Nephen Rivers, is also part of Semethshire, but this area is heavily settled. In fact, there is very little room left in this part of the shire.
The GM could have the Kaldoran Crown finance and build a string of wooden forts along the Salt Route from Kathane down to Geleme Ford, each about a day’s travel apart. These forts would become settlements, and would serve as spring boards from which to establish new settlements. The Chelmarch Army would use these forts as staging points to attack inland (north and west), driving out or slaughtering the Kath (current estimated population: 1,500).
As the forts were pushed further west along the Salt Route, the opposition would come from the Chelni, a tribe that’s only twice as large, but with horse power. The Chenli would be a much tougher proposition, and it might be easier to suborn them than to eradicate them.
Wooden forts are relatively easy to build, and could be slowly converted to stone as time goes on. Firstly, the log palisade would be covered with clay, and the clay painted with lime. As time goes on, this process makes the walls fire proof and quite hard, but the basic core of wood maintains it’s flexibility. Eventually, each fort would expand and become a proper keep, probably with a noble, or at least a constable, in charge.
Within the next century, the Salt Route could be secured all the way to Trobridge Inn, and Kaldor would finally have a realistic claim on that community. The forts would also spell the doom of the Kath; they are a small tribe and would eventually be squeezed out of existence between Kaldor to the south and east, the Taelda to the north and the Chelni to the west.
There’s already quite a significant amount of this shire settled, but even so, Meralace and Arien Hundreds are practically vacant, and Myamen Hundred has a lot of territory to fill in, especially near the river. The area near the confluence of the Shem and Kald Rivers appears to be a little boggy, but these kinds of small marshes could easily be drained; the technology certainly exists to do so. It is likely that new settlements in this shire will follow the Fur road north from Loban or south from Ovendel and Airth. But another possibility is to follow the road between Olokand and Gardiren. There are mines around that region which could be serviced by small communities, and the area may be relatively free of barbarian tribes and gargun.
There’s also a bit of vacant land north of Yeged, but if you look closely, you can see it’s all hills. There might be isolated barns and byres in these hills, but I think it’s unsuited to agriculture. Still, there’s a nice little lake in southern Navintas Hundred that would probably be nice to settle.
Once again, there is plenty of vacant land in Nephshire that can be filled in before Kaldor broadens it’s borders. Nephshire butts up against the Sorkin Mountains, home to raging hordes of gargun, so it’s not a terribly safe place. In fact, the Sheriff of Nephshire, the stolid and unimaginative Baron Chimin Indama of Getha, runs patrols from his shire seat in Bidow to Naniom Bridge and down to Getha. Taelda warriors, gargun and bandits all know that, as long as they stay away from the roads, they are safe from the Baron’s predictable patrols. Unfortunately, the Baron is unable to see his own weaknesses, being a thick-witted individual. Still he is unswervingly loyal to the king, and will undoubtedly be just as unswerving for the next king. After all, unswerving loyalty requires no thought. And so, while there is a lot of land available for settlement, there will be none while Baron Indama remains Sheriff, not even in Kirsta Hundred, which lies within what would normally be a fairly safe area. The Taelda won’t venture this far into Kaldor, and gargun coming this far will be after domesticated livestock, not deer or boar.
This leaves the bandits, who prey on isolated farmsteads in the surrounding hundreds. While not as prevalent as in the Hefiosa Highlands of the Thardic Republic, nevertheless they are a problem that is now coming to the attention of more capable nobles, such as Earl Dariune of Balim, and Earl Curo of Neph. Although these two great nobles don’t get along – in fact, they rarely speak to each other – they are agreed that “something must be done” about the bandit problem.
The Crown could help in this area by establishing new settlements on royal lands in the area, and maybe by granting parts of the land to the great Clans, on the understanding that they make an effort to see these new settlements properly established. Maybe they could provide tax incentives, because that isn’t a new idea. A period of, say, 10 years where all revenue generated by the new settlements is not taxed at all. A smart steward would also plough a fair amount of revenue from other parts of the demesne into the new settlement, because it would ease the tax burden there, too. With this kind of financial startup, the new settlements would be producing in no time.
The smallest shire, centrally located, Balimshire is almost fully settled. More villages and manors could be supported, since there is a fair distance between exiting settlements even here. But the only really open space in the shire is Lonemor Hundred. I count three iron mines and no settlements, although there are a couple of patches of the orangey colour which indicate worked farmland in that Hundred.
There are also some nice lands in the north of Chyle Hundred, along the road between Uldien and Getha, where the road follows a tributary of the Nephen. This appears to be a fairly largish river, and its watershed drains the valley in which Getha is located. This could easily stand more villages.
There are also two forests, probably Royal Forests, so these will be inviolate. They are Annan Forest in Cholas Hundred, and Malvern Forest in Marindas Hundred. Both forests actually stradle the shire boundary between Semethshire and Balimshire, but would be administered by a Royal Forester who is part of the King’s household. As such, he would not fall under the jurisdiction of either Sheriff, so the fact that it crosses the shire boundaries is irrelevant.
There are large expanses of vacant territory right next to the Kald River between the villages of Lunt and Burrdan in the north of Habimas Hundred, and south of Forean in the same one. Forest and hills cover the southeastern quadrant of Habimas, and while Taniran Hundred is quite well settled, Tarial Hundred has a lot of vacant area in its southern and eastern flanks. Only the western third of Cedmyme Hundred is settled. The eastern two thirds is all forest, with hills in the north-east feeding rivers and streams that will foster plenty of growth.
But the biggest Hundred, Rethelsyne, is even emptier than Cedmyme. Only ten or eleven villages can be found on it’s western extent, and these are fairly widely spread. Probably 80% of the Hundred is unsettled and still forested. Since the northern border of this Hundred is the Nephen River, it might be that it floods often. But if so, the soil will be extremely fertile and so productive and profitable for some noble. It’s also in the middle of the kingdom, alsmost certainly safe from any external threat, unless the entire kingdom is conquered. Of all the areas of Kaldor to remain unsettled, this makes the least sense to me, and would be the first place I’d place new settlements.
Vemionshire is so under-populated, it’s a wonder this shire can produce anything. It is one reason why I think Vemionshire is the perfect place to be the biggest wool producing area of Kaldor. The populated area runs in a strip south from the Selene River, gradually swinging southeastwards at Athelren. All the reast of the land around that is open and unsettled. There is a single settlement between the outskirts of Vemionshire and Thelshire, and this is probably a stopping point for wagons and carts travelling between Nubeth and Athelren.
North of the Selene River lie hills and thick forest, home to Taelda and gargun. The expanse is only broken by the Silver Way, the road to rocky Azadmere. I doubt this will soon change, until the more hospitable areas of the kingdom are occupied. By then, the problem of the Taelda and gargun might have gone away. I wouldn’t expect any significant settlement of the area for another 75 to 100 years.
The wide open plains of Oselshire, a place I feel is perfect for herding of all kinds, especially cattle. The land quality here is lower than the rest of the kingdom, but still above the Harn average. The map shows quite an expanse of grassland and mixed woodland, with occasional forests here and there, and lots of low hills in the southeast, sloping gentle down to the river lands around Jedes in the west. Settlements here surround a single major center; Jedes, then east to Hutop, east some more to Qualdris, then southeast to Kobing. The isolated stronghold of Oselbridge is very, very far from help, but probably represents a toehold in what is essentially still Pagaelin territory.
Role Playing Opportunities
What kinds of ideas could GMs use in a campaign based on the establishment of a new settlement? If you have other ideas, feel free to leave them in your comments.
- Vicious attacks on the new settlement by barbarian warriors, especially the Kath, Taelda and the Pagaelin (PCs as mercenaries or yeomen farmers).
- Counter-attacks by nobles and the Chelmarch or Oselmarch Armies protecting the new settlement (PCs as soldiers, knights, or militia).
- Sweating over the meager budget and how are they going to afford the new palisade (PCs as newly enfoeffed knights and retainers, or stewards, or bailiffs).
- Establishing a new mine out in the howling wilderness (PCs as guildsmen: miners, salters, etc.).
- Determining the boundaries of a new settlement (PCs as rangers or scouts escorting engineers and government agents).
- Trying to entice people to come to the new settlement, and politicking to get established nobles to let them leave their current home (PCs as nobles, or retainers).
There are lots of different ways to run a game that involves establishing a new settlement. What would you include in such a campaign? How would you challenge your players? What obstacles would be common to many (if not all) of these types of campaign? Please share your ideas.