Fantasy Western Worldbuilding

So I’ve been thinking more about the setting for my currently untitled Fantasy Western. In order to get the sort of “wild west” setting I’m wanting to do you have to have a place where a relatively developed people are only just settling in. If this is taking place on a continent where people evolved and have lived for thousands of years, there would be more established cities and fewer prairie towns, more law and order and less “wild” in our “wild west”.

Of course, one could argue that this area had a population like the Native Americans, who undoubtedly had established societies but no cities to speak of (talking plains nations, not Incas or Aztecs). Were that the case, however, a nearby civilization advanced enough to have guns and trains would likely have taken their lands already. That’s just how civilizations work if your neighbors can’t defend themselves.

So, with that in mind, there are a few options. The continent could be huge. And when I say huge, I mean Pangea levels of huge. If parts of it are inhospitable but there’s plenty of decent land to go around, there might be unexplored or uncolonized areas that people just didn’t care to screw around in. It’s possible for our purposes that a combination of technology such as railroads and nations now taking up all available “good” space has prompted colonisation of places like the Badlands to finally occur.

Alternatively, a combination of the Badlands being in hospitable and the fact that gargoyles live there might have made it generally unappealing. A handful of towns may have sprung up near it, but nobody really wants to live so close to it.

Another option is that this is newly discovered territory, another continent that has only just been found and colonized. Even nations with technology like railroads wouldn’t be able to trailblaze their way all across it too quickly, which would lead to a period of frontier towns and lawlessness along the leading edge of “civilization”.

If we go with that option, however, we have to explain why it wasn’t discovered before. Once a civilization has trains it likely has steamships, which make crossing an ocean easier. That’s not even taking into account what effect magic would have on exploration. And people have a tendency to look across oceans and go “what’s over there?”. So they probably would have tried sailing across it before that point anyway.

Navigational hazards could be one reason – great storms that topple sailing ships and confound even magical attempts at navigation. Or maybe a purely magical hazard, such as a bermuda triangle of unruly sea spirits that have only recently been tamed.

For my Fantasy Western I think I’m leaning towards the newly colonized continent. It isolates the story from other influences and allows some plot elements I have in mind to make more sense.


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