“Don’t talk about politics and religion” is advice I received from my parents. Of course, because I am an anonymous dingus on the Internet, I am going to ignore that advice today in the last installment of my worldbuilding series.
What kind of politics and religion should your world have? I would advise to keep it simple at first. If you are creating your own world, there is a lot to consider. And, quite frankly, your players will almost certainly NOT care about the epic backstory to your world, with the seventeen great civilizations before the current one and the 47 different gods that fight against each other. But keep it simple, and if your players are interested, you can develop it further. No sense in preparing something that no one cares about. As a GM, your time is limited, so focus on what the players will enjoy / use. Build something with the potential for some depth, but do not go into that depth in detail unless the players request it.
In the world I am creating, the political situation is a pseudo-Dark Ages* after the fall of a great empire. The world is broken up into small, fractured political units. Bandits are lurking in the wilderness. Plenty of room to explore and eventually, plenty of room for the players make a mark in by setting up their own stronghold / kingdom. The ruins of the old empire has plenty of dungeons to explore that are full of magic items.
There are a few bastions of civilization, but they are often fighting each other, which allows evil to fester in the wilderness. Plenty of dukes, kings of small kingdoms, etc in a feudal system. In some cases, the king thinks he rules more than he really does and the nobles are the ones that truly rule their realms.
The players will start in a small village far from a king’s castle and if they choose to visit more civilized lands, they may meet corrupt officials and wicked wizards. The more politically powerful the person is, the more corrupt they are.
Now, on to religion. Rather than a pantheon of gods, I am going to file the serial numbers off of the Roman Catholic Church and call it “The Church”. The vast majority of priests are not clerics; the cleric has received a purpose to do something with the great power that the Creator God has given them. This way, I do not need to describe the various beliefs about the 323,714 gods that inhabit the world.
In civilized lands, everyone worships the Creator God. Clerics receive their domain power from emulating a particular saint, even though they all worship the same God. This also occasionally provides a source of intra-Church conflict. In uncivilized lands, various demons and pagan deities are worshiped, particularly by demi-humans. If it was not obvious, The Church is on the side of civilization and good, while the other cults are generally not.
I know that I have not gone into great detail about some of these worldbuilding features, but I want to give my players a “secret freedom” to determine where the adventure goes. I do not have time to consider every last little possibility, so there will be some improvisation at the table. Hopefully, this will lead to a memorable game!
* I really dislike the term Dark Ages, but it is the best way to communicate the period of time in Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.