Saturday, March 3, 2012


{Read the title of this blog like that old Queensryche song - all ominous and stuff! Oh, sorry, back to the blog.}
How long do empires last? Seems an odd question, but I have a point. Looking at a ton of different empires throughout history, I’m going to say 400 years. OK - It’s not a real estimate or anything, but it’s not a bad estimate as things go.
Who cares? Right - You’re wondering what in the world this has to do with anything. It really comes down to the history of the world. I have a lot of time in the history of Fletnern where there really isn’t much history written. I’ve sort of designated it as a “dark ages” kind of thing, but that is a little cheesy when it sucks up too much time. It works similarly to the holes in the map (see the earlier post), but I feel I have way too many holes in the history.
So I need to know how long empires typically last, so I can establish a couple without having them become too much a part of the history of the world. Well, a part, an important part, but not the focus. Example time, because this isn’t making any sense: The Mughal Empire - ever heard of it? Probably not, at least you can’t place it. They really didn’t change the world, but they left a whole bunch of ruins behind. (still not clicking for you? The Taj Mahal? You know that one right? The word “mogul”?) So what does this mean? Well, they were really cool, or at least are very interesting to us modern folks, but their rule probably didn’t bring world peace, except maybe to India for a couple of generations. But you’re likely a game master - someone looking to create interesting adventures, which typically have interesting loot and interesting back stories. Yeah - the ruins of an ancient empire fill in a lot of that. Even if the ruins are gone and not taking up space, the artifacts left over form those empires can be great adventure hooks. Whether it is a priceless treasure or a magical wonder, old empires make for great loot!
So if each empire lasted between 150-450 years, now I can plan out some of these historical empires. You know, how they ended can make for fantastic story lines too. After all, when an empire collects taxes and tribute for four centuries and then gets conquered, the conquerors will likely move all that wealth and treasure somewhere. Well, maybe not all of it, unless that is the adventure.


  1. I agree with this time frame for empires modelled after the real world, however I don't feel that it applies well to fantasy settings where you have races like Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes, who all live markedly longer than Humans. Even if we ignore the non-humans, in most fantasy settings, whether they be RPGs or novels, empires are often described in exaggerated terms by comparison to the real world with empires lasting for thousands, not hundreds of years. Part of what makes these settings epically fantastic is the "extra zeros" method of structuring everything, whether we're talking about treasure hoards, armies, or the lifespans of empires.

    If you wish to capture that fantasy feel I would suggest assigning 1500-4500 years for the average length of Human empires and multiplying that range by the lifespan differential for the other races. Thus, Orcs or Goblins would have much shorter lived empires, while Dwarves and Elves would likely have empires measured in tens of thousands of years.

  2. You make a great point! I was only considering the human empires in my world.