Arnâron is an old world. It is no longer controlled by a global civilization but rather a couple of smaller nations that survive here and there.
A planet’s natural resources are not infinite. We witness this in the “real world” – after the rise of energy prices, Peak Oil is probably the best-known example, but there are also fears that other materials may run out, for example copper. A civilization will use up all the available resources over the course of its history, and either adapt when shortages occur, or die.
However, the civilization of Arnâron was destroyed prematurely by external causes. The receding coastlines also made additional deposits available for exploitation; the oceans contain a wealth of materials that are hard to extract. But once the oceans dry up, all these additional deposits become available for exploitation.
For these reasons I can set the remaining resource levels rather arbitrarily – the world likely would not suffer from material shortages. The main problem would be one of location. In the searing heat of the desert, a rich mine may as well be nonexistent if it is located far away from canals or trade routes, as traveling overland on arbitrary routes is extremely difficult due to the hostile climate.
Water, something we often take for granted, is a critical supply on Arnâron. People survive where they can find water, and the dry deserts are abandoned and hostile to life.
In some areas, open water remains – due to rivers which run into the few remaining “oceans”. Canals help to feed the remaining oceans, and transport water over long distances into regions where no free water would otherwise exist. Wells are also used to irrigate stretches of the desert, and to provide drinking water to the people.
Most open surface water on Arnâron is slightly saline; the sources of the water (melt ice from the poles, rivers) is sweet water, but there remains a lot of salt from the dried-up oceans. Where water is saline, it is desalinated before being used for irrigation or consumption.
Food is always in short supply. Where water exists, it is used for irrigation – food output in these regions will be high, but it is limited – Arnâron is not able to sustain a massive population, and droughts will result in severe famines and may very well shift the local balance of power. Cattle requires a lot of grazing land, so meat is expensive. Fish is available near rivers and the remaining oceans, but will also be expensive due to limited supplies. Many people live on a purely vegetarian diet.
Local rulers always attempt to control food supplies tightly, either to ensure that they and the military get the lion’s share, or that food is distributed “fairly”. Poaching and illegal fishing are problems in some areas, and are usually sanctioned with harsh penalties.
Salt, incidentally, is fairly worthless – dried up seas have left more salt than anybody could want. However, spices of all kinds are expensive trade commodities.
Cloth and Leather
Due to Arnâron’s status as a desert world, organic materials are relatively rare and expensive. There are forests, and where possible the people of Arnâron do cultivate and protect them – knowing very well that deforestation would only hasten the fate of their world.
Cotton, flax, and hemp are grown next to food crops, and are the main materials used for textiles. Wool, leather, furs and pelts are the byproduct of domesticating animals, and in areas where wild animals survive, hunt. Silk is a luxury cloth, available only to important rulers and very rich individuals.
Metals of all kinds are used for items of every day use, for construction, and for weaponry. Depending on local conditions, items that can be made from metal rather than from an organic material will be made from metal.
The main problem with obtaining metals is to find a source that can be easily reached – ideally by a canal, otherwise with a caravan route. There are many deposits and ancient mines all over Arnâron that could yield large amounts of materials, but which are inaccessible due to their location deep in the hostile deserts.
Ancient cities and battlefields are routinely scavenged for metals and other materials, and are mostly stripped bare. Metals are also easy to recycle, so that an unwanted or even broken metal object will always fetch some money on local markets.
Energy production on Arnâron is mostly from renewable energy sources – water and wind, but also solar energy, in a primitive way. Solar cells are no longer manufactured, but solar energy is used to heat up water, for example.
Wood is burned where needed, for example by the hordes, caravans or travelers, as it can often be recovered locally and other ways to heat oneself in the cold desert nights are not readily available.
Slaves and beasts of burden are another source of power. Since both require food to sustain, their use depends on local conditions. However, captured enemy soldiers or criminals that are not executed are almost always put to work – they need to be fed, and the captors thus see little reason not to recuperate the expense in food in some way.