Before the Industrial Revolution, populations were dispersed across nations. The number of people that could live in a given area was determined by the amount of food that could be produced close enough to the town/village and brought to market before it spoiled. Whether this was through agriculture, fishing, hunting, or livestock, food production was the number one determining factor of a population.
The Industrial Evolution changed that. As I discussed in my post on Agriculture in Gunpowder Fantasy, the reach of farms and farmers, and the ability to mechanize the production process, increased exponentially. This change left many farmhands without work. So they moved to the city, where new textile mills and factories were sprouting up to feed the Industrial machine.
Cities began to grow as more and more people poured into them from the countryside. But immigration wasn’t the only factor in the growth of cities. With better medicine and better food, more people were surviving for longer and having more children. Cities suddenly found themselves growing as much as 50% every 10 years.
On our world, this increase in population was strictly Human. But in a fantasy world, the immigrants and their children could be of a different species. Imagine a world where industrialization has suddenly rendered the majority of a dwarven city unemployed. Unable to feed their families, these dwarves move to the nearby human city, looking for work in the factories, foundries, and mills. They resent the fact that they have been replaced by machines and left to do the most menial tasks.
Imagine the tension between the two species, and any other populations that might live within the city.
This tension could lead to the formation of gangs as young, unemployed citizens roam the streets looking for fun, or to exact their own brand of justice on the world. The seeds of revolution could be planted, driving the nation toward civil war.
Overcrowding would also become a concern, as more and more people poured into the city, or were born into it. A city that had been built to house 10,000, within a generation it finds itself home to 30,000, many of them poor or uneducated. Sanitation would suffer and disease would spread. The city would tear itself apart as the rich hid within their houses and the pour died in the streets.
So far, I’ve covered the Industrial and Commercial effects that an Industrial Revolution would have on a Fantasy World. I’ve also discussed how Gunpowder Fantasy affects Communication, the Arms Race, and gone over the basics of weapons technology in Gunpowder Fantasy.
But weapons weren’t the only aspect of the military the gunpowder changed. Tactics saw a major change during the Industrial Revolution, and especially as a part of the American Civil War.
Often referred to as “Napoleonic” tactics, armies before the American Civil War used basic flintlock and percussion muskets, which were notoriously short-ranged and inaccurate. Soldiers would line up in tight ranks of thousands of soldiers and march at the enemy. Because of the short range and inaccuracy of their weapons, the soldiers could get within a couple of hundred yards before they were in any sort of danger. The soldiers would fix bayonets and charge across the final few yards to fight their enemies in hand-to-hand combat.
During the early civil war, these tactics were still largely used, despite the fact that much improved weapons had been developed. But as technology advanced, and generals began to see that the old tactics were inefficient, strategies and tactics began to change.
Skirmishers became a major part of armies, moving ahead of the main army in small groups stretched across a thin line. Skirmishers screened larger battle elements, harassed enemy skirmishers, and scouted the enemy force for weaknesses.
A major change was the “Strategy of Maneuver” which taught that outmanuevering an enemy was the better way to victory, rather than brute force. Armies began to seek out advantages in the form of natural defenses and position, rather than bringing as many men to the field as possible.
When you’re creating your world, I feel it’s extremely important to consider where in the development of military tactics and strategy you will be placing your conflict. A part of this is the exact technology level you choose (early flintlocks or advanced rifles?) but it’s also important to consider how recently a major war has been waged.
In the example of Napoleon and the American Civil War. There were fifty years between the two major events, and weapons technology had a major leap in that time. If you set your world in a time with new technologies that haven’t seen a major war, your generals and armies are going to be fighting under the paradigm and theory of the last major war, rather than under the realities of the current technology.
The world of the The Cerberus Rebellion, for example, is set in a world very similar to the American Civil War. The last major conflict is more than 100 years old and was fought with an entirely different set of weapons. The generals, therefore, are still using the mass-and-fire tactics of that war. But as the war evolves, will the tactics as well?
But weapons and tactics aren’t the only thing that will change when you put your world through its Industrial Revolution.
It is said that there are two things that drive a nation to war: fuel and food. And that an army moves on its stomach.
Fuel is rather obvious: if your nation needs a fuel (say, Coal?) but it doesn’t have the necessary amount to sustain itself, it’s going to go elsewhere to find it.
Food, on the other hand, can have various aspects to it. I discussed in a previous post how the Industrial Revolution affected Agriculture and the production of food. In this post, I’ll discuss how changes brought about by the industrial revolution and these changes in agriculture brought about change on the military side of the board.
The biggest issue with marching an army across a nation has always been feeding the soldiers. People eat a lot, and soldiers who have to keep up their physical and mental toughness ate more. According to some reports, the average company from the North needed 125 pounds of pork or beef, 75 pounds of hard bread while in camp (more when on campaign), more than 6 pounds of compressed vegetables, 8 quarts of beans, 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of coffee beans, 10 pounds of sugar, and a gallon of vinegar¹. Well over 250 pounds of food for 100 men per day. All of that in addition to the water that those soldiers needed.
Before the industrial revolution, this food would be hauled by wagons pulled by oxen or mules. But those animals required their own food supplies, cutting into the payload that could be devoted to the soldiers. With the advent and expansion of the railroad system, moving food became far easier. Campaigns could reach further and armies march harder if they didn’t need to carry their supplies on their backs.
But this also led to a dependence on the rail system. Railroad stations became major hubs of activity and the rail lines that criss-crossed the nation became targets for sabotage.
That’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing your world. Remember the importance of the rail system and logistics to your world’s army. Rail stations would need to be protected and would be likely targets for capture. Rail bridges would be strategically invaluable and a retreating army would likely consider burning any bridges they could in order to slow or halt the advance of their enemies.
Before the Industrial Revolution, farming and food production was a major source of employment, but also a factor that limited expansion. Because a large portion of the population had to be dedicated to growing food and transporting it to where it needed to be, those same workers couldn’t be employed in factories and textile mills.
But with the advent of coal and steam-power, and the Industrial Revolution, came the advancement of agricultural technology. The ability to dedicate fewer and fewer workers to growing or transporting food, and better yield for the seeds that were planted, allowed for cities to grow and factories to expand.
Traditional fantasy settings will usually be placed before this change, and their towns, villages, and cities will reflect that status. There will be a great number of farmers and only a handful of craftsmen dedicated to the production of most goods. In a Gunpowder Fantasy, especially those set in the middle and later eras, your characters are going to find fewer and fewer farmers, and more and more unskilled factory laborers.
How you approach this can be an important plot point, or a minor note in your worldbuilding. The improvement of food planting and transportation meant that people in the cities didn’t need to go out and farm their own food, but they still needed to pay for it. Workers that are paid a poor wage for long periods will become hungry and begin demanding better wages and living conditions.
One way to approach this is to introduce unionization to your workforce, which can be a major political aspect if you want it to be. Where in traditional fantasies, Guilds of skilled artisans can hold great power, Unions that represent the common-man can be a part of your Gunpowder Fantasy.
Industrialization and improved transportation methods also means better quality food reaching the populations of your city, which in turn has other effects. Longer life-spans means workers are going to be able to stay on the job longer, learning their trade better but at the same time requiring housing for longer and likely demanding higher wages for their experience.
Families will grow larger as they are able to support more children than they could before.
Agricultural advances will also have an impact on your militaries, which is a topic I’ll be discussing in a later post.
The important thing to remember, as always, is to take the changes of the Industrial Revolution into account when you’re building your world. And Agriculture especially.
As I mentioned in my post on The Industrial Fantasy Age, coal as a fuel and steam power had a profound effect on our world, and can have the same impact on a Gunpowder Fantasy world. Especially in the area of commerce.
Before the industrial revolution, animal-pulled carts and sail and row-driven ships were the only method of moving goods from one place to the next. This limited the range that trade could be conducted, especially when perishable goods were involved. But as steam-power developed, and railroads expanded, commerce felt the impacts.
Roads have always been an aspect of trade networks. Roads allow carts to travel through areas that would be difficult otherwise. As the Industrial Revolution developed, especially in England, these roads became an important part of the network. But maintenance had been the responsibility of individual cities and counties. This led to inconsistent maintenance and sometimes poor road conditions.
Early in the Industrial Revolution, turnpike (or toll-way) trusts began to be established, taking responsibility for long stretches of road. Travelers paid a toll to use the road and those tolls were then used to maintain the road.
A more universal level of maintenance meant a more consistent rate of travel and allowed carts to move faster between cities and transport hubs. Merchants could move their goods more efficiently from the smaller towns to the larger cities and beyond.
Railroads were likely the most major transport improvement of the Industrial Revolution. What had once taken days and weeks to travel by horse or on foot, was reduced to hours and days. Railroads and steam engines also increased the amount of goods that could be carried from one industrial center to another.
For merchants, not only did this increase the speed with which they could move their goods, but it also gave them access to additional markets for their goods.
Sea travel before the Industrial revolution relied either on the wind and the weather or on oarsmen. Speeds were limited and ships found themselves immobilized by a lack of wind.
With the invention of the paddle-wheel (and later the steam-powered screw engine) ships gained consistency, speed and an independence from weather. Commercial trading on rivers became easier and allowed merchants to move their goods cheaper (because they don’t need to pay or feed oarsmen).
Commerce drives your nations. Not only do merchants move food and supplies from one center to another, but commerce drives the tax revenues that your nations use to fund their exploits and endeavors.
Keeping in mind how commerce will be different in Gunpowder Fantasy will allow you more flexibility in how your nations operate.
In fantasies, merchants are usually important members of society, but don’t have the reach that lords and nobles have. With access to railroads and their improved distribution, merchants become major players as part of your world. You begin to see “railroad barons” develop as they use their power to affect the world around them.
For the many years that I’ve been writing, weaving some amount of political intrigue or drama into my stories has been a recurring theme. Whether it’s an MC who suddenly finds herself at the head of an emerging third power in a previously two-party system, or the quiet intrigue of nobles as they plot to free themselves from their King.
Traditional Fantasy politics usually follows along the lines of the latter. Knights, Nobles, Ladies, Kings, and Queens vying for power, plotting and scheming against each other.
For a good example of a strong political storyline in Fantasy, look no further than George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. But that’s traditional fantasy. Travel in Westeros is slow and arduous; even messenger ravens take days to move notes from place to place. That allows for a much slower, long game form of Politics.
But when you start introducing aspects of Gunpowder Fantasy, especially improved communication, the political game needs to evolve, and it needs to do it quickly.
When creating a Gunpowder Fantasy world, it’s important to remember a couple of things as far as the technologies that you intend to use, and the industries that support them, when building your world.
The first is the impact that the fantasy aspects of your world have on the industrial revolution in your world.
Having fantasy and magic elements of your world will change how your industrial revolutions begin and grow.
On Earth, coal became a driving force in the industrialization of England, Europe and the United States. Coal drove the steam engines that pushed industry to greater heights. But what happens when coal is never discovered or exploited because the mages of your world suppressed the knowledge of the substance or how to extract it from the mountains?
What if your Elves are of the traditional “naturalist” type but they hold dominion over the lands where coal is the most plentiful, or where the best fields for raising sheep are? Do your Humans go to war with the Elves to secure this territory (and its potential value)? Or do your Elves see the value of the lands they hold and turn into a hybrid of naturalist and capitalist, finding sustainable ways to harvest the raw materials while maintaining the integrity of the land?
Magic and mythical creatures, and how they impact your world, will have direct consequences for how industrialization plays out in your world.
On the other hand, the second is the impact that the industrial revolution has on the fantasy of your world.
In our world the Industrial Revolution took many shapes and forms, and affected different parts of the world in vastly different ways. Some nations saw a boom in mining and metallurgy, while other nations grew their textiles industry. Quality of life improved and commerce exploded.
In a fantasy world, the majority of these effects would be similar. Nations with a strong agricultural base will develop new and better ways to grow and harvest crops, nations rich in minerals will learn how to extract them better, and learn new methods of refining the minerals into metals.
But fantasy worlds have aspects that were obviously not present on Earth during the industrial revolution, and its these aspects that you have to consider when you’re building your world.
For instance, how does the increase of steam power, weapons technology, and even the development of electricity affect magic and its users on your world? I would think that as your world becomes increasingly industrialized, any power that mages once held would begin to diminish as things that were previously reserved only for those with access to magic become available to everyone.
Or how do each of the species of your world react as the others move through their own industrial revolution? What happens when the Orcs of your world begin developing better weapons, faster transportation, and improved supply lines? Will the Elves that live nearby become worried and launch a pre-emptive strike? Or seek out alliances with the Humans of your world?
Worldbuilding is an incredibly interconnected process and remembering to evaluate how each piece of the puzzle changes the others is an important task.