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I'm building a game set in technologically medieval, low magic fantasy world. It contains four races:

  • Seafaring human-likes
  • Dwarven inventors employing machinery to do their bidding
  • Elves which live in harmony with nature
  • Destructive, feral, cannibalistic tribespeople

Each race has been unaware of the existence of the other three until the beginning of the game, when they are all forced to simultaneously abandon their no longer viable homelands and migrate to a new, previously unexplored land. They all discover the same land which appears to be a godsend, until they come across other races.

What could be a cause for migrations at that scale? Any apocalyptic events that might be the cause must not affect new land.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't that basically the story of WC 3? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 10 '17 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Global climate change? It should be dwarfs fault, cause they burned so much coal! $\endgroup$ – WalyKu May 10 '17 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35, when summarised in a few sentences, it may look like it, but my plot was neither inspired by nor taken from WC. Also, I'd prefer to not have to resort to magic as to why/how the migration takes place $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Where there's fire, wet and dry burn together. $\endgroup$ – Nitish May 11 '17 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ When you say 'science based', what exactly do you mean by that? Does "God said so" count, e.G. for a flood? $\endgroup$ – Angelo Fuchs May 11 '17 at 8:20

13 Answers 13

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So the problem seems to be that your people need to come from different parts of the world, be able to cross the ocean and yet not have found each other.

So you need something which opens up the possibility of reaching this new land and is also pretty devastating to the rest of the world. The things that come to mind are:

  • Asteroid impact: could cause tsunami's and flooding of low areas and open up new passage to sail to this new island.
  • Climate change - Perhaps your world is freezing and so the equator is the only reasonably habitable zone (though they might want to bring crops from their own climate as I imagine this might kill off some native plants from the equator)
  • Birds carrying over bacteria which infects common crops - not drastic in terms of changing the world but you might be able to explain a common plight if the birds migrate to all the different countries.

I'm sure there are many many others but they would need to be disasters on a global scale.

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And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth

Just turn on all the rain clouds and leave them running for a long, long time. Eventually all of your races will be vying for your world's version of Mount Everest.

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  • $\begingroup$ Depends on what the poster of this question means by "seafaring human-likes" also, the tribespeople may not be able to cross the distances of water to get to the place of high elevation. $\endgroup$ – Cameron Leary May 11 '17 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ Seafaring typically means "uses boats to get around" not "lives on the sea". That said, there are a few water based societies that have collectively never stood on solid ground, so that would be possible, but it's unlikely for an entire race to live like this. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk May 11 '17 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ @CameronLeary, in which case, make the tribespeople indigineous to the foot of the tallest mountain. That way they don't have to cross vast distances or waters to get to the last remaining dry land. Instead, they just need to climb as the water rises. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 11 '17 at 13:35
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They could meet in the "new world" the same way that colonial powers did in the Americas.

Just saying that you don't necessarily need a cataclysmic event. Your races could just be looking to expand by colonizing a newly discovered land. Once they arrive they fight it out much the same way colonial powers did in the Americas and Africa.

If a cataclysm is really necessary consider that they may have exhausted their natural resources. Overpopulation is an easy reason to strike out looking for new lands and resources. Things like blight, plague, and polution are all tied to population density.

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  • $\begingroup$ This was my first thought, but I feel like elves would prefer to reduce their own population to prevent devastation of environment in case of such need. $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Mirac7 have you considered allowing different reasons for each race? The elves may have different reasons for exploring than more industrial dwarves etc $\endgroup$ – apaul May 10 '17 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I did, but I require them to have no option of returning (in foreseeable future) and any argument for each having their own cause for sudden migration simultaneously, while never having explored this land before is difficult to justify $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 20:20
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I really love this question. There are some obvious ones like a volcanic winter, but many disasters and so on have happened on earth and never have I heard of a couple of civilizations meeting each other in a new place (new to both of them) - disasters or now disasters - in the history of our planet. Maybe there were a couple in South East Asia, but they were certainly not advanced enough to build machines. We are not talking about pre-sumerian nomads here. Also, all of this is made harder by the fact that apparently, this happens simultaneously and not over a couple of decades. I also want to rule out one empire collapsing and the other "races" invading because this doesn't sound like it's your intention. So I think an answer that is reasonable has to consider your fantasy setting. So here are some ideas:

1) Gods or related entities are behind it. The races are destined to meet, maybe to complete a task together or fight out who is worthy or whatever.

2) A meteor went down on the land you want to settle and people believe that they absolutely have to get there because of some religious reason. Maybe they think a god landed there - check out ancient cultures that worshiped meteors.

3) Another power is behind it. As I mentioned, the WC 3 approach. Some other power invades their land and they are fleeing. The other power would have to know the entire world of course. Check out WC3 (warcraft 3).

Additionally, the only reasonable setting would be if it was really hard to get to that land. If you have kind of advanced civilizations with ships and all of that, they would most likely know each other. Advanced civilizations have always been very much aware of their surroundings. Yes, the Chinese and Europeans did not really meet until very late, but neither had the need to migrate and also they were at least aware apparently pretty early on. In order to try such an hail marry attempt to get to a new land, they must know it's there, it's hard to get there which leaves it unexplored and several civilizations are bordering it. I don't think a really satisfying and good answer can be given without further knowing the rules of your world.

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THE COMING OF THE ICE

Your solar system is a bit strange and for periods of years the planet is a bit farther from the sun then normal, before returning to its original orbit. This results in a mini ice age. The lands and seas that were once home are not just too cold. Ice burgs/sheets in the sea and thick snow on the land.

Those that lived in the northern and southern hemispheres all need to migrate to the equator which can still grow planet life and farms.

One of the reasons these groups of people have never meet was the equator is usually too hot to easily pass so those in the south never when north and the northerners never when south.

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  • $\begingroup$ You don't need a strange orbit... you can just have the sun go through a hotter-cooler cycle to accomplish this. $\endgroup$ – James Dunn May 11 '17 at 4:51
  • $\begingroup$ Also you will have to have more than just the equator for a barrier, because the equator by itself will only separate two groups from each other. $\endgroup$ – James Dunn May 11 '17 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesDunn, I was unaware that the sun could do that. Also the equator can be the big decider with each groups terrain preference acting as the other barrier. Mainland tribes and island hopping sea people, and dwarfs wanting nothing to do with jungle elves. $\endgroup$ – Overthinks May 12 '17 at 12:22
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Locusts! Locusts! Locusts!

Massive devastation to crops and vegetation caused by a plague locusts (swarming) is more than capable of forcing population migration, should the damage be great enough. What's more, it's not just farming communities that are affected, hunter/gatherer societies could suffer to a damaged eco-system. See link

Also, once the swarm ends, the ensuing locusts corpses lead to an explosion to rat populations. More rats, greater risk of disease. Bubonic Plague scenario results, ending in even greater loss of life.

This takes care of our Dwarven, Elven and Cannibalistic (presumably they have to eat hunter/gatherers) factions.

Unfortunately, a question remains for your seafaring people. I would tentatively suggest an algae bloom causes a red tide and kills off fish reserves. This depends on how vital fishing is to their diet. Historically speaking, seafaring people such as the Vikings relied on fishing for a large part of their diet, but also had permanent land settlements where they hunted and farmed (both domesticated animals and arable crops).

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    $\begingroup$ I could imagine the diseases also being devastating to the seafaring people. There hasn't been anything quite as effective to spread diseases than locking up a bunch of people on small area and send them traveling to another town. During the middle-ages quarantining anyone who arrived by ship as soon as an epidemic broke out somewhere was the first thing to do for a reason. $\endgroup$ – Paul May 10 '17 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ If 'locust' is too simple, substitute 'skunk dragons' $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 10 '17 at 17:36
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Imagine a land like Netherland: flat, all around sea level, sheltered by the ocean only by low dams (either natural or artificial).

A major event generates a tsunami which destroys all the dams and flood the region, forcing the survivors to find a new place to stay.

The major event could be:

  • a big earthquake
  • a massive landslide
  • an asteroid impact
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  • $\begingroup$ This explains one race reason (the seafarers) but what about the others? (They may not share the same place or else they would have met, yet) $\endgroup$ – Angelo Fuchs May 11 '17 at 8:27
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I had a couple of ideas:

Dwarven machines

The Dwarves created machines which could think as well as they could (like basic AI or something) and those machines could detect other life. They can't go over oceans though so everyone the machines tracked down had to flee to the ocean and eventually they find the one land that the machines can't reach.

I'm thinking maybe the machines need refueling every now and again so ocean voyages are too long.

This didn't fit what the OP wanted but I've left it in anyway since it got upvotes

Rising land

The new land they all find could be rising out of the ocean, this would make the sea level rise too and flood a lot of the lower lying areas. This new island would probably not have much growing on it yet but you could have sea features like coral or drying seaweed over the island and then the people have more to contend with.

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  • $\begingroup$ The fact that the Dwarves haven't found the other races means that there is a large geographical barrier between them. If the Dwarves can't cross it, how can the robots? $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage May 10 '17 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I'd be okay with dwarves being able to build artificial intelligence, whether with magic or pure science, I feel like such capability would have to be reflected in gameplay and it just feels too overpowered. $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Mirac7 It kinda shows this question is opinion based if you can turn away answers because of information/opinions we weren't given. I added a second possibility too though. $\endgroup$ – FreeElk May 10 '17 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeElk I'm sorry you feel this way, but I did specify that despite machinery they are still stuck with medieval technology. Great suggestion for the Rising land, though $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 18:28
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Nuclear winter

You need an event that is:

  • Global
  • Forces massive migration movements
  • Doesn't wipe out the existent inhabitants of the world or makes the world inhabitable
  • Gather them all in a previously inhabited land

With all those constraints I'm going to bet on a supervolcano erupting tons of ashes into the stratosphere. All the northern hemisphere of the planet gets a permanent grey sky, plants start to die, crops doesn't grow, hervibores die because lack of grass. It's not sudden, so neither elves, humans or dwarves die (the cannibals, who do they feed from? Themselves? You have a plot hole here) but they start migrating south instinctively, looking for warmer places.

A glaciation starts as the global temperature lowers. Glaziers grow and sea level shrinks. A desert island near the equator was known to sailors, but it was inhabited due to inhospitability. However, with rain patterns changing, in the few years (less than a human generation) where civilizations have started marching southwards the continent has become a fertile, warm climate. So everybody ends going there.

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    $\begingroup$ The cannibals hunt others of their race, sorry for not explaining in the question $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Mirac7 not sure whether to add this comment here, or to your question. However, if the cannibals hunt each other, then how have they not become self-extinct? Is this just one tribe? Unless the cannibals form a series of tribes in competition, similar to Headhunting societies found in Papua New Guinea (among others). Another point, if the cannibals form rival tribes, how do they (presumably) unite to form one faction to wrest for control of this new world against Dwarves, Elves and a Maritime nation? $\endgroup$ – FryFubar May 10 '17 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @FryFubar I was thinking of exocannibalism, but other members of their race are not their only diet, of course. They eat animals too. All cannibal tribes flee, but don't unite to form a society like other races have; players can control cannibals' actions and exploit the lack of centralisation to make it harder for other players to find and hunt them down, but when multiple tribes (from the same player) come into contact, they will become hostile to each other, likely refusing controlling player's orders $\endgroup$ – Mirac7 May 10 '17 at 20:14
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The "Deep Ocean", Sea Monsters, and an Ice Age

Here's the setup:

  1. Your races start out living on different continents (or groups of islands in a shallow region of the ocean for your sea-fairing race), away from tropical regions and separated from each other by "the deep ocean".
  2. There is a centrally-situated uninhabited tropical continent, surrounded by the "Deep Ocean".
  3. The "Deep Ocean" between the continents is full of dangerous giant hungry sea monsters. No ships (not even those of the sea-faring people) have any chance of making it to another continent. To any given race on a continent, the existence of other continents are only rumors.

Here's the cataclysm: Massive Underwater Volcanic Activity. This results in the following:

  1. The oceans heat up dramatically, resulting in a lot of evaporation.
  2. Because of all the evaporation, there is a lot of precipitation on the continents.
  3. Sunlight is diminished from all the ash. (This actually happens on earth when there are major eruptions.) This results in colder temperatures globally, so most of the precipitation falls as snow and continually builds up, causing an Ice Age.
  4. Because of all the evaporation, sea levels drop as the ice caps build up. This exposes new islands and land bridges.
  5. Because of all the turmoil in the "Deep Ocean", most of the great sea monsters die out.
  6. Due to extinction of sea monsters combined with islands and land bridges, travel to the central uninhabited continent is now possible.
  7. In the case of the sea-faring race, most of their shallower ocean has now become land (and most of their land is covered in ice), driving them to the deep ocean in search of new land.
  8. For the other races, you may have to help them out with a bigger share of islands and land bridges (and possibly less distance) leading to the central continent than your sea-faring race gets, to make it all roughly even.

To Sum Up:

Races can't find each other or new land because of sea monsters in the deep ocean. Underwater volcanic activity causes an ice age, killing the monsters, lowering the sea-level, exposing new islands and land bridges, and making the current lands uninhabitable with ice caps.

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The easiest way would be some sort of planetary devastation.

If the new land were literally a new land (planet, dimension, et cetera) then perhaps a race that new of ALL of their existences could provide portals to this new land, with the drawback that the destinations would all be very close to each other.

Another, more sinister version could be that the races were forcibly kidnapped and transported to this new land by the not-so-benevolent race that knew of all of their existences. This could end with either a crash in the new land, killing the abductors and leaving the abductees to fend for themselves, or as a forced resettling either due to the abductor race wanting to experiment on them or simply wanting their homelands for their own use.

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  • $\begingroup$ Entertainment! The abductors want to see them fight! This is not an island, its an arena. Nice idea! $\endgroup$ – Angelo Fuchs May 11 '17 at 8:34
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A villain!

Have some sneaky magic dude:

  1. Put some kind of problem on the land (any problem!)
  2. Come as a humble traveller with stories of a distant land where problem X doesn't exist.

A lot of difficulties (crops failing, flooding, wild beasts, etc) might not inspire people to move, only to despair at their misfortune. By having a character who is instigating the move, things can go along smoother.

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You say "people" but don't specify how many, so for this answer I'm assuming you mean no so many.

Place them on different sides of a huge mountain ridge (like the Himalayas).

The seafaring humanoids come from Vietnam, the Elves from Uttarakhand, The Dwarfs inside the mountains (and maybe surface near Lhasa), The Ferals from Gê'gyai.

That way they have reasonably never met (because their respective living areas are far apart).

Now you start your flood. The Humans note this first, pack their remaining stuff onto their ships and sail land-inwards towards the mountains they see on good days on the horizon.

The Ferals will notice it second and race for higher ground too (they don't have much to pack, so they are quick).

The Elves notice it third, but are quicker due to their ability to perceive which way is good (being all nature and such). So, they too go for higher ground.

The Dwarfes notice last when their tunnels start to flood. They flee upwards, most likely digging, leaving behind tunnels full of ancient machinery that is now lost forever.

Each and all of them comes to the highest summits in the area which happens to be Mount Everest.

Maybe some Seafarers met other tribes on other summits above 7.500 m (because that's the new sero), but we will never know (until the expansion pack).

The cause of the flood is icy comets raining on earth (in case you don't want it to be actually caused by a God). Or your world had a ocean underneath the tectonic plates and it burst open (then it would be more like a tsunami, then a rain-flood, otoh the biblical flood was a tsunami as well but got reported as rain anyway).

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