Building the world of Ivanturia

Jun 13, 2017 · 6 min read

I love magic systems, particularly hard ones. So it should come as no surprise that the first part of Ivanturia I developed was the magic system(s). I originally developed this world for a play-by-post RPG, so I created a specific structure for my systems to serve as a background for the game’s storyline. After the RPG fell through, I decided to develop the world for its own sake.

The Guilds

My magic comes in the form of five “guilds,” each with their own unique ability. I drew my inspiration from a variety of sources, from books, from games I played with friends as a child, and from fantasy tropes. One of my greatest challenges in building this world was envisioning the complex interactions each of these guilds would have with each other.

Vorca: This guild has the ability to mix and match DNA and create just about any creature imaginable, essentially resulting in “biopunk.” Unlike the more generic steampunk, this trope is less well defined, and doesn’t have as many stock options to draw from. In “Borcorieus of Vorca” we see a Vorcan city, made primarily of plants. The city uses hormones and DNA matching for communication and control.

Drotar: This guild has the ability to understand mechanical functions beyond the technology level of their world, fitting them to the steampunk trope. To aid this trope, the Drotarian magic does not extend to electricity, forcing them to rely on physical solutions. In “The Weasel Queen” we saw a troop of Drotarians use their various contraptions (a land-ship and a special boring bullet as notable examples) to fight against rebels.

Reolia: This guild was one of the hardest to describe in a story. Reolians control a single “element,” such as earth, fire, water, or electricity. They can move an element through a mass, but not generate momentum. So if a knife was flung at them, they could not push it out of the way, but they could manipulate the metal so as to blunt the knife. Energy Reolians can “magnify” a source (such as fire, or an electric spark) into a larger energy source, and direct said source. Both convert their own body mass into the energy needed to accomplish these tasks, so Reolians tend to eat a lot and can easily kill themselves if they try too hard a task. “Kulan in Reolia” shows the adventures of a Reolian miner, and how he uses his abilities to search for metal hidden in the rock.

Cerela: Each member of this guild can change into a single animal form. So one Cerelan may be able to change into a mouse, and a different member into a deer. They may do this at will and retain their cognitive ability, though they still face the animal’s physical limitations. Thus they can understand sapient speech but not speak it, and cannot “speak” with other animals any better than a normal sapient. A WB.SE question helped me establish the magical rules by which clothing remained on Cerelans after transformation: the magic uses the Cerelans’ self-image to recreate their sapient form after transformation. This self-image almost always includes the clothing they were wearing when they transformed.

Sehran: This guild has the most traditional magic system. They can manipulate mass and energy using energy from the magical Kivik tree. As such, a Sehran in a Kivik orchard has incredible power, but away from any trees or their fruit they are helpless. Kivik fruit can be preserved and still store some magical power, but they lose a lot of power once the cells die. As such, fresh fruit grants the greatest power. Kivik trees are notoriously hard to farm, making it relatively easy to poison an opponent’s Kivik orchard and rendering him helpless. “The Invaded Orchard” shows the lengths the Sehran go to protect their Kivik orchards and the pain that comes with losing them.

Freelancers: A smaller group of people are Freelancers, who have no magical abilities. They live normal lives but are generally looked down upon.

These guilds are political and social constructions around a natural phenomena. People are born with these abilities naturally, and then are said to “join” the guild by virtue of having the ability. This leads to guild members being spread across the continent, since some people who were born to parents of a different guild choose not to move to their guild’s respective territory, however most members are concentrated in their respective guild’s territory. People who move into the territory of a guild not corresponding with their abilities get the nickname “transplant” as happened to Obre when she moved to Sehran.

One question on Worldbuilding.SE helped me decide how guild abilities are passed on. A single gene code for which guild a person ends up in, with six different alleles. After the egg and sperm fuse, but before the first division of the zygote, the chrompsome undergoes allelic exclusion, where one of the chromosomes is condensed and rendered unusable. On Earth, we see this process occur with the X chromosome in women, though it occurs long after the first division of the zygote. Depending on which allele remains available, the person will have one, and only one, guild but could still pass down a different guild to children. This chromosome also has several genes related to the various races, which explain why certain races appear more often in certain guilds.

Map of Ivanturia with major cities and guild territories


From the starting point of my guilds, I moved on to defining the races. In the end I settled on five. I wanted races that were easy to envision and could live together peaceably, since a member of any race could be a member of any guild. As such I created humanoid races, while avoiding some of the most blatant fantasy tropes.

  • Humans: They all tend to look more Asian, with darker skin, hair, and eyes, and other asian features. Humans tend to value skill over physical strength and have a reputation for being shrewd and a little dishonest.
  • Dwarves: They look very similar to humans, though generally shorter. That said, they can have lighter hair and eyes, with the occasionally blue-eyed, blond-haired dwarf appearing. Other features tend to fall between Caucasian and Asian ones. They have a culture of great hospitality. If you leave a dwarf’s home early, you will greatly offend them.
  • Fairies: the physically smallest race, with the biggest temper. Fairies have unique coloring with a variety of eye colors and light skin. And wings. They can’t fly, but can kind of glide along. Don’t offend a fairy. They will beat you up for it.
  • Karshi: these people resemble wolves, with pointy ears and fur all over their bodies, though they lack a wolf-like snout. They take great pride in their resemblance to wolves and often display a pack-like mentality. They are loyal to friends but very aggressive towards enemies and strangers.
  • Svartalfar: these people stand tall, larger than humans. They have grey, almost black, skin with pure white hair. They usually have piercing green or blue eyes. Often, the only color on them is their eyes, since the tend to wear very bland clothing. Usually, Svartalfar make friends slowly, but loyally support their few friends.

Race plays a lesser role in Ivanturia than in other worlds, because the largest divide comes from the guilds. The ruler of the first great empire (generally called the Norther Empire) organized the sapients of the world into guilds to help break up race loyalties. Over time, this attempt failed, as people formed equally strong loyalties along guild lines. When the most recent empire took over, it conquered the entire known continent (bounded by deserted grasslands), the emperor consolidated the guilds and gave them specific territories, settling in this part of Ivanturian politics.


While writing “The Invaded Orchard” I realized that I needed to define an economy for this world. Since Ivanturia has a medieval level technology, I decided to make a currency that didn’t make much sense, since none of the real world ones seemed to. I created a currency with four denominations, though only the bottom two were widely used, with 108 copper peky making one silver deng. Then I read up on how to define the costs for basic items like bread, and decided the value for currency based on that. Generally, an average farmer would use several hundred deng a month, but would rarely see that much at once. From there I designed the exports of each guild, including Kivik fruit for traveling Sehran, Reolian resistant building material from Vorca, and the raw materials Reolia exports.

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