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My setting takes place after an event drove all of the nonhuman races away from the human kingdom, which then became known as the Known Lands. All records have been destroyed that involved the other races, and the people of the Known Lands no longer remember them because it's been so long.

My question to you guys is, what's a good way to justify the other races not returning to the Known Lands and being seen, and preventing curious humans from leaving? An armed guard around the perimeter of the entire country seems kind of suspicious. The world has magic that most commoners have never seen before, so maybe an illusion making everything outside seem desolate and destroyed?

BTW, in the lore there was one human who left the Known Lands and returned safely with treasure, but he never told the stories of what he saw.

EDIT: the humans are entirely unaware now that the other races even exist.

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  • $\begingroup$ Having armed guards around the perimeter is not unrealistic. In recent history/current events. consider the Soviet Union (and pretty much all communist countries), or North Korea. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 1 '15 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf but it does, however, make people curious what's being guarded, no? $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jul 1 '15 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey: Not if curiousity gets you shot :-) Or, as in the real world, you tell your population that the guards are to keep the evil outsiders from getting in. When, as with the examples, no sane outsider really wants to get in. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 2 '15 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ An epidemic maybe? no one can escape no one can enter. Or maybe the homeland of Medusa, a race of people immune to their own death stare but fatal for other, leave no enemy un-petrified! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jul 2 '15 at 4:00
  • $\begingroup$ Is magic very rare among humans? If so, the other races may visit the Known Lands, magically incognito, to keep up on events and acquire small quantities of whatever resources humans produce. $\endgroup$ – user243 Jul 3 '15 at 12:36

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Assuming a fantasy setting, another alternative is some sort of magical wasteland that's hard to cross - some sort of chaotic stormland with wild discharges of magic, roving bands of mutated bandits and vicious animals or deamons. Entry means madness, or death, or sometimes both - not always in the obvious order!

As to how your protaganists cross from one side to the other (assuming that's the path you're going down) - not all magical discharges need be negative - howbout one that shunts them out in the middle of a forest or town on the other side. Means its harder for them to get back than some magical tunnel or portal, and makes a good motivation :)

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TL,DR: Exploit the fourth dimension.

The other races left the Known Lands not by travelling in the known three phyical dimensions, but into a magically accessible fourth dimension. The humans of the Known Lands, not typically being able to access or even percieve the fourth dimension, just forgot that there were ever other races.

This way, the humans can think that they know the entire world's geography if you want, yet still have other, undiscovered lands.

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Nonhumans not returning to the Known Lands

Humans are a selfish, war-torn people. While there may be periods of peace among some small subset of humans, there will always be murder and wars. An enlightened, peaceful race will tend to wait (sometimes on the order of millenia) for humans to at least stop killing each other before making first contact (or for . This is also a common trope in many sci-fi works.

Humans not exploring the Unknown Lands

This is the harder question. Humans are inherently curious and adventurous - and hate boundaries. It'd be easy to say, but hard to justify, that there is some geographic oddity that separates the Known lands from the rest of the world. People will try (and die trying) to traverse the endless Chalk Desert, scale the impassable Verglas Mountains, and navigate the impenetrable Jungles of Fire. It irks me when stories have these kind of geographic frontiers to explain why there is no imformation about what lies beyond. There will always be someone willing to push the limits and try.

If you have magic in your world, you certainly could make it seem like everything outside the Known Lands is desolate and destroyed, but like I just posited, and like your bit of lore states, it still wouldn't keep people from trying to explore. In order to really keep people in, you'd need your magic not only to show desolation, but to cause desolation. Maybe surround the Known Lands by terrible radiation.

I think perhaps a better story would be that explorers do occasionally leave the oppression of the Known Lands, not knowing what to expect, and discover freedom. Maybe they stumble across another human city which deals fairly, espouses freedom, and everyone is peaceful and happy. Having found this "utopia", they have no reason to return, although they are free to. Everyone back in the Known Lands thinks that these explorers are all dead, and it makes them more and more reluctant to leave.

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Change in Geography

I'm not sure your timeframe, but an event or geological change could have made the separation of the humans / non-humans an insurmountable distance; it could even have been induced by your magic, back in the day (almost non-negotiable mountains or a vast sea or desert has been summoned).

Technology Back-tracking

Once upon a time, the mixed species had knowledge of long-distance navigation. Subsequent to the banishment of the non-humans, a loss of that knowledge resulted in the inability of most humans to know how to get across the sea.

Climate Change

What was once a sea voyage on currents that sent the banished away, now it's nearly impossible to sail to the location the non-humans were sent. Alternatively, what was once an easy journey over land is now a vast and difficult desert.

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Wall

A wall that splits the area from the world. This wall would not just be physical but magical and it would cause magic to cease to exist inside/past the wall. This would effectively cause two worlds to exist right next to each other.

The physical wall should be atleast high enough for it to be hard to see over and pretty thick, though there may be a gate along its length. Some objects might get across, somebody might see something across the wall and tell people about it, though its doubtful anyone would listen. This may cause people who live near the wall to get a quirky reputation for telling stories.

This method would prevent magical creatures entering the walls area but doesn't prevent humans (who would effectively have no hagic in this situation) from leaving. So how to prevent people from leaving and coming back to often would be the next question. Perhaps an old law that states that people shouldn't leave the walls boundaries, reinforced by the fact that no one comes back from beyond the wall. Why humans don't come back could be that humans are seen as a rare comodity, aswell as inferior to the other races (atleast by a fair amount of the population), so they could be enslaved and never released or simply killed for a different reason.

The magic of the wall could be something other than it prevents all magic inside but thats the senario that I prefer. Answer idea inspired by the walls in Stardust(film) and the abhorsen(Books). The wall and its guard in Stardust always makes me laugh.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this idea. In the story, only magic items that existed before the races left still work inside the Known Lands. That would be a good way to explain that. $\endgroup$ – OwenHenahan_ROU Jul 2 '15 at 18:34
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Fear of the Unknown

What exactly drove them away? Genocide? Illness? Invasion?

It could be that non-humans going to the Known Lands don't know what would happen. None of the scouts have returned.

The humans leaving may not return too. This could build up distrust between the races, and they end up catching and imprisoning people of the opposite race just because of this.

Ilnesses

Similar to when the Europeans came to the New World. Both have had their exposures to different plagues and survived. But have not developed immunity to the other.

An elf entering the Known Lands could get smallpox and die. It could combine with the above and they might get quarantined. A human leaving might spread smallpox to other non-humans and be seen as a defiler/sorcerer. Maybe that's why the lone human never told his tale.

Radiation

Similar to the above. But the illness is limited geographically. The humans may have developed immunity to mana stones in the area, but it makes non humans ill if they remain in the area.

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  • $\begingroup$ The other races were driven out when an insane king forced all of the humans to battle the other races, driving them out of the kingdom. $\endgroup$ – OwenHenahan_ROU Jul 2 '15 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ Then the fear of being captured, murdered, and tortured could prevent them from coming back. As time goes by, the rumors of torture may grow even worse. You don't even need a wall or armed guard. Just impale and crucify a few elves. Or simply illusions of these. $\endgroup$ – Muz Jul 2 '15 at 16:43
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The humans are savages, short lived and shorter tempered. They should remain isolated in their ignorance!

Humans tend to be species-centric if not outright racist. This could contribute to the reason non-humans were driven away, so why should they bother to return? I mean, how many humans IRL socialize with guerrillas?

Or, are you looking for something more magical and less sociological?

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  • $\begingroup$ A guerrilla is a rebel fighter. Also there is always a few weirdos who actually try to socialize with gorillas. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Jul 1 '15 at 22:36
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In the Lord of the Rings, many of the magical races were either transported to the Undying Lands, or left behind and prohibited from coming to the Undying Lands due to their deeds (The Elf Queen Galandial, for example, could not return to the Undying Lands until the end of the Third Age, when she proved her worth by renouncing the One Ring).

If some similarly cataclysmic event occurred in the distant past, the magical beings cannot return to the world, and indeed the world itself could be reshaped to prevent humans from crossing the boundary the other way (using LOTR as a template; Arda; the world, was "made round" and people setting out for the Undying Lands in the West ended up returning to where they started).

The events in your world will not be the same, of course, but the effects can be replicated through various clever means. Perhaps rainbows no longer appear in the sky, symbolizing the destruction of the bridge between the physical and the etherial worlds. Maybe the world is laid out like a giant Mobius strip, so even the most intrepid adventurer can never "get to the other side of the world".

Magical or quasi magical stops like this are needed since Humans are pretty inquisitive, and can also take desperate measures if needed (exile to the wastelands? Fine, I'll continue to the other side and raise an army of vengeance and reclaim the throne of my fathers!). Eventually even population pressure will cause some spillage past the "boundaries", much like the Ancestors in the far distant past literally walked around the world and settled in every place from the Kalahari Desert to the Amazon rain forest (and places even less hospitable). No wonder Humans have inherited virtually every fantasy realm; the are far tougher and more versatile than mere magical beings!

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It is a "unpleasant" journey.

The Known and the New lands are sepparated by an imposing geographical barrier (a big ocean, a huge montain range, a big desert).

The other races were losing a total war against the humans; faced with extermination they undertook the dangerous travels (do or die) in a massive migration. A great number of those who tried it perished, with only a tiny amount completing the journey.

Humans attempts, without the same "incentives", did not succeed because when the situation got dire they returned home (or at least tried to). The sight of the remains of the original migration (coupled with their own loses in the attempt) finally convinced them that the obstacle was impassable and their enemy, extinct.

The other races, once the travel was completed, had to dedicate their effort in rebuilding their society and affront the dangers (wild animals) of the New lands, they correctly estimated (due to their own experience) that either no humans would come through the same route (or if they ever did, they would arrive too weakened to be any real danger).

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You could also have a reason that is much like the friction between the American Indians and the European Settlers. Land use by men is just so much different that there is a fundamental difference between how the humans use the land and, say the elves. Men cut down trees, farm, and hunt in their way and Elves do it another. These don't mix, and the Elves decided to move on rather than fight or argue. Possibly races like Dwarves might have similar issues, or move along with the Elves because they trade with Elves and they form a social unit.

This physical separation would reduce the contact to virtually nothing, and if the human population isn't growing expansion would not bring them back into contact.

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Since you have magic, you could set up some sort of no-man's-land between the two regions, and everybody entering that region magically acquires false memories of him traveling for ages, and encountering nothing but boredom.

That way, either peoples will think they know what is beyond the border, and that it's just not worth going there.

As others have stated, humans are inquisitive, so i think the only way from stopping them to explore is if they think they have already been there and there is nothing of interest there.

Of course you could let that magic work on humans only, as the other races may have better reasons to avoid the land of the humans.

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