The Ring (Low-magic high fantasy)
The Ring is an idea I've had for what must be a year now. It started as a simple backdrop for me to test the waters of my imagination with, and it's burgeoned into something grander. As of now, it includes two "continents" (I use the term loosely, since they are separated by mere trees populated by hostile tribes), ten cultures, and three "species" (four, if you want to be mean to some of the well-adapted human subspecies.) I want to roleplay in it with someone willing to both play within its rules and to help in the worldbuilding process.
I've a keen aversion to the way elves, dwarves and orcs are usually handled, and don't include them in my imagination. The same goes for magic. I've done a lot of thinking on how I want my magic to work.
On the surface, the Ring is fairly well like the Earth. The only real differences are that the Ring is set during what would be our ice age: cave lions and cave hyenas harass peasants and plebes, Irish Elk roam the massive plains, and enterprising people trade in mammoth ivory and the powerful teeth of the woolly rhinoceros, which makes for great pestles.
The other primary difference in the Ring is that the peoples therein were crafted not with the idea of communal society in mind, but were instead dreamt of for the purpose of realizing independence and individuality, something foreign in the greater universe. The Ringgoers lack patience for one another, and therefore any sort of tribe, civilization or culture is inherently magical. A culture is kept together by the force of aether-speaking "magicians", whose thoughts, whether they know it or not, soothe and calm the tensions of society. Every village has its aether-magicians, often maintaining (whether falsely, or without their awareness) that they are mere elders. Larger groups cannot be managed by the mere vibrations of one, and therefore Gods were conceived. Gods are mascots and representatives of a nation's strengths and ideals, and do not claim to have created the world. Ringgoers, by and large, believe that the Ring is, was, and always will be. The tendency in the Ring is for peoples to organize in only small family groups, and in much of the Ring that is so. Elsewhere, barbarian tribes have taken hold, held together by the powers of shamans and other magicians. In civilizations, the Gods are maintained as secret, not advertised to those outside. In the Ring, when a nation knows your Gods, they know your nation, and this gives them an edge in warfare. The conflicts of nations are both trials of arms and the metaphysical strugglings of their mascot-titans. By knowing an enemy's God you can learn the enemy nation's next moves. Therefore, Ringgoer societies are immensely xenophobic, and do not accept foreigners, or cultured slaves.
Civilizations in the Ring feel a strong distance from the wooded lands which barbarians populate, and they chop down trees habitually, as the powerful barbarians tend to remain in the woods, where rare, magic beasts known as White Stags roam, repopulating trees. Wolves roam the forests, but the plains, both manmade and otherwise, are populated by big cats and hyenas. The civilizations use selectively bred hyenas rather than wolves and the wolf is by and large considered barbaric. Common pack animals include typical oxen, heavily furred cattle, and mammoths. Mammoths are allowed to roam relatively freely, because they trample down the soil, making it difficult for trees to then grow. Few societies have tamed mammoths. Wood is an extremely valuable trade resource because of the habit of chopping down any and all developing forests.
The most developed "civilizations" so far are set around a massive semisaline lake perhaps the size of the Mediterranean, known only as the Tear, for the light salt in its waters. Around the Tear are many cultures: that of the unified nation of Madzarchen, the island republic of Kuline, the wide-ranging vanguard state of Great Calulaia, the migratory-yet-sedentary nation of Holy Nissur, the many city-states of Sulieos, the Reef Kingdom and their allies of the sea, the Lor-kayss, the merchant oligarchy of Kerimpal, the authority-hating Wonygs, and the Desolated Lands. I've listened them in relative order of military importance. Inactive and unknown is the Rusalka City, the Mindslaves, and the Wendigo-Freeminds.