World Map Essential Resource Distribution, Part II

Welcome back, we are picking up where we left off in the worldbuilding process. In the last section, LINK HERE where you can catch up on the essential resource distribution so far, we nailed down the staple crops and domesticated animals that are important to know for your worldbuilding. Staple crops give us a good idea of what people, from highest to lowest of socio-economic strata may be eating in different areas of your world. While being able to accurately describe dishes in your world is a nice flair, it’s not that important in the grand scheme of world building. What IS important is knowing the resource distribution of certain essential resources, as it tells us how people in the world live and the size of population centers they should be able to support. 

World Map Essential Resource Distribution, Part II Header Image

We know from last time that traditional barley, rice, and wheat are not widespread in the world I’m creating. There are also parts of the world where large draft animals don’t exist. So this world is going to look a bit different from the standard Western Europe and East Asia inspired fantasy you may be used to seeing. This difference is both the strength and weakness of your world building. The weakness is you and your audience, be it players or readers, will not be able to rely on some fundamental tropes and assumptions of the fantasy milieu. The strength is that you can take those very familiar tropes and archetypes change them just a little to make them feel familiar yet distinct. But first, we need to finish out our resource distribution! Let’s start by taking a look at textiles.

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Textile Crop Resource Distribution

Textiles are very important to the shared understanding of your setting. When we play D&D one of the first things we do is describe how player and non-player characters look. As humans, we are very visually oriented. A person’s clothing, ornamentation, and material can in a very small description tell us a lot about who they are, their station, and even their job and personality. 

So, knowing textile availability can inform us about the people in the world and how they dress themselves. Fortunately, because of our animal domestication work in the last session, we have a good idea of where wool, mohair, silk, felt, leather, and pelts are available. And, we already know where linen is commonly available from the flax seed we distributed last time. In my world all these resources are pretty well distributed so I don’t need to worry about people running around naked. Still, here are the remaining textile crops to distribute along your longitudes, which inform more of the common clothing material that will be available.

Textile Crops

  • Cannabis (Hemp, plus Marijuana)
  • Cotton
  • Flax (Linen, we distributed this back in the nuts/seeds section)
  • Jute (Sackcloth)

It’s important to remember that textiles are used for a lot more than just clothes. The availability of textiles will tell us about a culture’s bedding, sails, shelter, containers, plus coverings and wrappings of all types. For instance, if an area of your world doesn’t have access to something like jute to create inexpensive and lightweight sacks to store and transport goods, how is it done? Maybe they rely far more on crates and barrels, but that also means that goods take up more room and are heavier to transport.

World Building Resource Distribution, Market Seller's Cloth Sacks
Look at this rich trader flaunting their fancy sacks

To take it to another level, what if the population you’re developing lives in the tundra or desert, where wood isn’t available to create storage solutions? Maybe they can create containers from native flora or they need to rely on heavy stoneware or fragile pottery to store and move goods. Or perhaps, they use very expensive sacks. If that’s the case, an important part of their culture may be that when you conduct trade, the buyer is expected to provide their own container for the goods purchased.

Textiles are Paper

Another oft overlooked use of textiles is as paper. Prior to the invention of modern wood pulp paper in the mid-19th century, most writing was done on textile rags or parchment/vellum. Since the latter are made from animal skin they are particularly expensive and time-consuming to produce. That’s why writing has such a fascinating and varied history. Clay tablets, tallysticks, and my personal favorite: wax diptychs. 

Resource Distribution, Wax Diptych
Wax Diptych by Peter van der Sluijs

Don’t be afraid to work with your DM to go off script with your D&D equipment. A wax diptych is something I try to give every character I play. It’s a portable, erasable notepad for your character. They’re fantastic for your character to take notes on the fly and you don’t have to worry about the aforementioned pricey paper or messy ink. Tangent over, I really just need to do an article about my favorite useful gear, mundane and magical, that characters should take adventuring. Suffice it to say, understanding the textiles in your world is incredibly important for everyday living.

Textiles also represent a booming opportunity for cash trade. Egypt, the American South, Britain, and China all featured huge textile industries that drove their economies. Keep it in mind when thinking about your settlements and their trade power.

For the world I’m developing, cotton and linen are barely represented on my Western continent. Actually, the Western half of the continent is missing all animal and plant-based textiles. I know that the people living here will be primarily wearing game pelts and leather. On the Eastern half of the continent they will have access to animal textiles, like wool and mohair. My central continent is much luckier. Cotton and linen can be found across most of the continent and in the areas where it can’t be found jute is available for rough clothing, plus textiles like silk, wool, and mohair. From a textile point, people living on the central continent have a wide variety and availability of textiles to use. And for my Eastern continent, jute is available in the Western most reaches. The only plant-based textile available across the rest of the continent is hemp from cannabis. Hemp is available across most of the longitudes of the continent so will serve as one of the primary textiles alongside wool.

Reviewing the distribution of cannabis leads us into our next section: intoxicants.

Intoxicant Crop Resource Distribution

People love intoxicants and these crops are cultivated for the effect they have. It’s important to note that intoxicants doesn’t necessarily mean narcotics in this sense. Intoxicants for this purpose are simply organic consumables that have some desirable effect on a person’s mind or body beyond providing sustenance or slaking thirst. We spoke about cannabis already, but additionally there is coca, cocoa, coffee, poppy, sugarcane, sugar beet, tea, and tobacco. These crops are used to create foods, drinks, medicines, and smokable compounds; and yes, most of them are highly addictive and can lead to substance abuse. These sorts of things are important to consider as part of the societies in your world and the cultural relationships with these crops.

Intoxicant Crops

  • Cannabis (Already distributed)
  • Coca
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Poppy
  • Sugar Beet
  • Sugarcane
  • Tea
  • Tobacco

Like before we assign the longitudinal distribution points and color in the spaces between as areas where these crops may occur in the world. As noted above, Cannabis is well represented across my most Eastern continent. Staying with the Eastern continent, there is only a small area in the world where coca and its derivatives can be found. Actually, by dumb luck, every intoxicants but tobacco is represented on the Eastern continent. With both sugar crops, coffee, cannabis, and coca ONLY appearing on the Eastern continent. This distribution is a very interesting development for my world. I may decide this means that the Eastern continent has far more advanced medicine and a very liberal culture when it comes to recreational drug use. They also may feature a booming intoxicant export trade of dubious legality. My world’s central continent features a liberal spread of cocoa, poppy, and tea. 

The Western continent, as has been the trend so far, is thin on resources. Cocoa is the only widespread intoxicant on the continent, but there is only a small area of the world where Tobacco originates. Any time that happens you can decide whether this is an in-demand, super luxury export or something that is unknown to the wider world. Only by traveling to the location will people in your world be able to learn about it.

A Note on True and Herbal Teas

Tea in this instance pertains to true tea, created from tea tree leaves and is caffeinated. This distribution includes varieties of black, green, and white tea. 

Resource Distribution, Rooibos tea set
Mmm Rooibos, delicious shrub water

Remember, that even if you have a rare area that lacks coffee, tea, or the resources to create some sort of alcoholic beverage, they’re still probably drinking something other than boring ol’ water. Most likely it’s some form of herbal tea. Herbal tea is only organic material steeped in hot water. It can be made from many, many different plants including other intoxicant crops like coca leaves. 

The major difference being that these herbal teas do not have caffeine, but they may have other beneficial benefits besides being tasty beverages. I myself enjoy red, Rooibos tea, which is made from a shrub and not a variety of tea tree making it a caffeine-less herbal tea. Determining the type of customary drinks a population imbibes is an easy way to do active worldbuilding in your scenes.

What About Booze?!

No list of human-consumed intoxicants would be complete without alcohol. Alongside caffeine and nicotine, alcohol is the most prevalent intoxicant on Earth. The omission in this list is because alcohol is a little bit different than the other intoxicants. You only need three ingredients to make alcohol: water, yeast, and some sort of carbohydrate (sugar). That’s wildly different from, say, tobacco products, which can only come from tobacco. I mean, it has to be ridiculously easy and available if you can make alcohol in a prison toilet from meal scraps.

Here’s how 49 different types of alcohol are made.

Considering that all you need to make alcohol is some form of carbohydrate, yeast, and water, the availability of alcohol really comes down to the culture. Many pre-European-contact Native American peoples were familiar with alcohol and how to make it. However, like other mind-altering substances they were familiar with, these intoxicants were for religious and spiritual use and not recreational. Really, any group of people who are not tried and true, hunter gatherer nomads, can feasibly brew some form of an alcoholic beverage. Deciding on the type of alcohol, its prevalence, and how each culture regards it is up to your whim.

Bonus Crop Resources to Distribute for Worldbuilding

In the last article on resource distribution we hit the major points on lysine and methionine as foundational building blocks to create a fundamental agriculture base for the successful settlements of your world by partnering a cereal and legume crop. We also touched on alternatives to cereals and legumes/pulses that can also be used. And like it was previously stated, you can stop there. You can make everything up on the fly later. 

You can improvise different foods at different times of the year using these four wheels of seasonal produce. Grab a few different produce for each season and you will know exactly what a settlement’s agriculture and diet looks like. 

If you want to take it a step further, use this 3-spice flavors of the world chart or one of many other herb and spice combination charts to enhance the flavor profiles. I know some D&D groups do themed snacks/meals for their games and this is a fantastic way to do that, and I think far superior than following a recipe out of Heroes’ Feast, the official D&D cookbook.

So, what we’re doing in this section is adding a little extra distribution flavor to our food for those who really want to get neck deep in resource distribution. Even the extras we’re adding here don’t create a full vision of all the food in the world. 

It would be a herculean effort to try and distribute every known nut, seed, fruit, vegetable, herb, and spice known to man. And, an effort that would pay little dividend. However, we do have a few additions that can add to your world building. We want to focus on adding some common nuts/seeds, fruits, and root vegetables. We’ve picked these fruits and vegetables because they are the type that are more iconic to regions and cuisines where they appear and are easily saved for later consumption. 

Most nuts and root vegetables are hardy and can be saved for consumption in the winter by using a root cellar. Fruits can be easily preserved by pickling, jamming, drying, salt/sugaring, or fermenting.

Common Nuts/Seeds

  • Almond
  • Brazil Nut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Macademia Nut
  • Pecan
  • Pine Nut
  • Pistachio
  • Pumpkin
  • Sesame (Also used as an oil)
  • Walnut

Common Fruits

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Asian Pear
  • Avocado
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Cherry
  • Citron
  • Coconut
  • Common Medlar
  • Cranberry
  • Currant
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Huckleberry
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Lingonberry
  • Loquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Mulberry
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Pomelo
  • Quince
  • Raspberry
  • Strawberry

Common Root Vegetables

  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Radish
  • Taro
  • Turnip
Fresh grown beets and carrots
Cellar ready beets and carrots!

As I distributed these additional crop resources around the longitudes of my world, here are some of the more interesting points that developed. First, I saw the continued trend of my Western continent receiving far fewer resources than my other continents. However, the Western continent is the only location where peaches are native. 

My central continent also ended up with a few crops that were only native to its shores, including: macademia, pistachio, apple, lemon, orange, quince, currant, and mulberry. Of course, the largest and most Easterly continent was able to snag a few exclusives as well: almond, cashew, pecan, pine nut, pumpkin, coconut, pear, melon, carrot, and radish.

Combining all these together with some help with herbs, spices, oils, and animal derived products should give you a very strong idea of the typical cuisine in any region of your world. Next, we’re going to quickly review adding some minerals, metals, and precious stones to your world.

Worldbuilding Minerals, Metals, and Precious Stones Resource Distribution

Initially, I planned to include minerals, metals, and precious stones in this section of macro world building and distribute the resources much like I had been doing with the important flora and fauna. But, I took quite a few university-level geoscience courses and I couldn’t recall any specific patterns about where they occur that would tie them to biomes, longitude, or latitude. Leaving the distribution of these non-living resources as effectively random. 

I know there is a rhyme and reason for where certain minerals, metals, and gemstones appear, but they are dependent on billions of years of geological processes. So even minerals that occur alongside volcanic activity can be found today far from an area of active volcanic activity. Again, essentially replicating a random distribution to the current observer. 

Iron is arguably the most important resource to a pseudo-medieval, D&D style world. Considering we’re dealing with an Earth-like world, iron is pretty widely available as a resource compared to the more rare copper and tin needed to create bronze.

So, I decided to save myself some time and a lot of unnecessary work and simply assign a mineral or metal whenever a mine, quarry, or pit is represented in my micro-scale world building. To do that I created a 1d100 mine type roll table based off the element’s availability.

1d100 Mine Types

  • 01-20 Iron
  • 21-33 Coal
  • 34-43 Salt
  • 44-53 Nickel
  • 54-62 Zinc
  • 63-69 Copper
  • 70-76 Lead
  • 77-83 Tin
  • 84-89 Mercury
  • 90-93 Silver
  • 94-96 Bismuth (Alloys, Cosmetics, Lead-substitute, Pharmaceuticals*)
  • 97-99 Gold
  • 00-00 Platinum

*Active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol. 

If you do have a desire to be a little more discerning about where these types of mines appear, you can use these considerations for placement.

  • Copper, Gold, Iron, and Tin can often be found in alluvial deposits around running water
  • Bismuth, Lead, Gold, Mercury, Silver, and Zinc can often be found in areas of volcanic activity
  • Coal, Nickel, Platinum, Salt, and Zinc can be found in most other places

Below are the common material resources collected using a quarry or pit collected into a list so I can easily roll for what type of material is being harvested from the location.  

1d10 Quarries/Pits

  1. Chalk
  2. Clay
  3. Granite
  4. Gypsum/Calcite (Alabaster)
  5. Limestone
  6. Marble
  7. Quartz
  8. Potash/Lye
  9. Sandstone
  10. Slate

Worldbuilding Precious Stones

Originally I was going to include precious stones along with the section on metals and minerals.But, upon doing some research I found that pre-industrial mining specifically for gemstones was rare. Instead, most gemstones were found while mining for other minerals and metals. And, the discovery of precious gems while mining for other materials is still common today. So, for that reason I ended up excluding them.

Of course you’re free to build your world as you want. If you want to include dwarven emerald mines and that’s going to be something significant in your world either as a story point of D&D adventure plot, go for it. I’m giving that specific angle a miss for my worldbuilding.

I find that while a lot of D&D adventures take place in operating or dilapidated mines, the resource being mined is rarely if ever noted or addressed in any meaningful way.

Miscellaneous Resource Distribution Additions and Removals

As noted previously, there is a lot of leeway when it comes to doing the distribution of resources for your world. So if it’s important in your world to know access to a specific resource, add it. Maybe you don’t want a level of world building where showing off a palace trimmed with marble is impressive because the nearest marble quarry is hundreds of miles away. Perhaps you want to know where specific dyes are available because “royal purple is the noblest shroud.” That’s fine, your world building should primarily reflect the things you want to be important in your world. 

If you have no desire to track certain resources and their availability because you don’t want that to factor into your campaign world or story, more power to you. Remember that you are world building to give yourself the tools to create a rich and compelling world and the stories within it. If your world building isn’t serving those ends, you should cut it and refocus your efforts.

Next Time on Worldbuilding from Scratch

We will discuss the distribution of the different ancestries of people across the world and take a look at the distribution of language. Plus, we will finally begin the exciting process of adding top-level artificial markers, like capitals to the world map! By the end, we should have an almost complete world map that you can share with players and fans. 

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