On of the things that's always troubled me about fantasy writing is the one critical issue that any kind of secondary world faces: it's parasitic. That is, unless you purposefully countermand truths that the reader "knows" about their own lives, those truths will be cross-applicable to the fantasy setting. If the secondary world has a sky of brilliant emerald, that sky will be imagined as the tones of blue native to earth... until the narrator informs the reader of this departure from the earth baseline.
This creates a huge problem for fantasy writers in general and fantasy settings in particular. That problem is what I'm going to call the Depth Issue. The Depth Issue, simply, is that in order to accrete a believable amount of detail in any given area, the fantasy author or setting designer must dedicate a huge amount of work to that area. From cuisine, to climate, to politics, the Depth Issue makes writing fantasy hard.
There is a second issue, of course, and that is the Breadth Issue. This is a corollary and simply states that the Depth Issue will exist in every place within the setting. Thus, the more places there are in the setting, the less time is left to do work to mitigate the Depth Issue in any given locale.
There are multiple solutions to this confluence of Depth and Breadth Issues. The most common ones I've seen are the following: 1) power through and don't address it, leave the gaps and allow readers to simply utilize their suspension of disbelief to get over them, 2) engage in collective worldbuilding where the burden can be shared amongst a large number of people, and 3) purposefully leave ambiguities in the narrative and allow the lack of explanation to serve as a mark of a wider, more mysterious world.
I am proposing, with this new setting of the Valley Kingdoms, another solution: narrow the scope of the world so only a few areas need to be defined. Define them very well. Use the new setting to tell stories of a personal scope, rather than epic world-shattering fantasy.
To that end, here is a map that came out of this plan:
- A single unified religion, located on Engan.
- Interwoven societies and kingdoms
- No real access to the world at large, or very restricted access
- Lots of inter-kingdom politics
- A single source language, broken into smaller dialects
- Easy(ish) travel around the Sea of Yer, leading to lots of cultural interchange
- Very low magic