Saturday, July 30, 2016

World Building Part 3: War and Rumors of War

So far we have laid out some of the big picture stuff and some of the things I see as carry overs from those big decisions. We even have a bunch of peoples that have not really been fleshed out. So lets take a moment to flesh them out a bit. If you are just stepping in to this exercise here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Initial Arbitrary Decisions
Part 2: Airships

In working on this post I had a few thoughts that are unrelated with this post's topics, but are tangentially related and I would like to devote a little space to talking about them.

The purpose of your world
If the world you create is for you alone then you can build it as a utopia. If the world is designed as an exercise in understanding a specific world view or philosophical model, then you can also construct it as a Utopia. If you are attempting it for something else though, Utopias are right out. If other folk will be looking at it you need to at least answer why the bad things don't happen. Even when dealing with a philosophical ideal you need to have some sort of answer as to why things work, and why human nature has somehow been abrogated.

If your world if for use in some form of drama(whether for book, game, story, or whatever)then you must make the world capable of supporting drama. Things must be happening. Generally speaking the things that must be happening must drive action and have solid reasoning as to why the things happening are happening now. What I mean is that if the interesting or conflicting things could have happened earlier or later than the "now" of your setting you need to address why it is happening now. So while I was working on the various intelligent species that inhabit the world I needed to come up with interesting things that happened in the past and interesting things that are about to happen. I am still not quite sure what I will eventually do with this world, but it is very much out there for others to look at, so I need to have reasons why things are the way they are and interesting conflicts and passions that drive the world to more drama.

All that said lets dig into the peoples of the world.

So the problem comes in on what to name the various sentient species  and people groups of the world(which still has no name, but we will get to that later). Also what to call them as a whole group is a bit of a problem. With Dungeons and Dragons they called their various intelligent species, "races." However that leads to complications in the setting that I don't really want. I thought about going with Sophonts, which is my favorite sci-fi term for intelligent species. However that adds a science fiction feel to the world, and I am aiming for a very fantasy feeling world. In the end I think I am going to go with People, and having decided that lets dig into the various Peoples of the world(that still has no name.

Bit-Bit: After a long and involved discussion I decided that the sprites who ride flamingos and live in the deep forest will be called the Bit-bits, as that is adorable and easy to pronounce. I also decides that their war flamingos will be called Gelves. They are children of the forests and the swamps, using the magic of water and earth to bend plants to their will. They live in vast mangrove-like tree cities. They stand between two and three feet tall and tend to wear clothing adorned with bright feathers and leaves of the various beasts of the forests and swamps. Long ago they were protected by a holy order of Knights who wielded powerful magics and rode forth on the fiercest of gelves. One hundred years ago the The Human Empire invaded the forests, defeated the Knights, and conquered most of the Bit-bit's ancestral homelands. Now they are a people on the ropes. They have only one last fortress left and the war has used up much of their resources. They sent out small groups of ambassadors to the other peoples of the world in the hopes that together they can retake their homeland.

Njan: Cat people who live in the desert lands near the volcanoes. they stand at around five feet tall on average, all of it muscle and grace. They are masters of technology and swordsmanship. They are pragmatic and practical people, uncaring about the outside world or anything but their own pursuits. They are divided into hundreds of factions and clans. A passionate people who hold to their ideals no matter the opposition dueling became a cultural norm. Outsiders have a difficult time understanding the social situation in any given moment. To most outsiders their society seems like controlled anarchy, but it all makes sense to the maze-like minds of the Njan. When the Human Empire began its big push for conquest a hundred years ago, the Njan were initially shocked at the invention of airships. However they swiftly crafted their own and were able to hold back the human fleets. However now that the border has been held for such a long time the various political forces within the Njan held cities are back to fighting amongst themselves. If the humans could ally with a few of the factions against the others they might win a near bloodless victory. Well, bloodless for the humans.

Fa-chia: Flying Lizard barbarian nomads. they build cities in the clouds and claim to be from the Thousand moons(the asteroid belt that orbits the planet). They follow the stars and are great oracles and students of history. During the war humans conquered several key elemental locations that the Fa-chia held sacred. They have mined them to near nothing, draining most of the elemental magic energy from them leaving behind what the Fa-chia call, "holes in the sky." The Fa-chia live in various allied bands that form larger tribes and those tribes have treaties and allegiances with other tribes. They are not a naturally violent species. Most conflicts involve displays of might or logic in order to make it understood that the opposing force should not attempt to attack. Needless to say they are terrible at warfare, though there is a growing number of the youth who wish to see the Humans pay for their encroachment.

Humans: The most creative and passionate people, they conquered a majority of the world a hundred years ago. I guess I decided to make them the bad guys of the setting, or at least they are the biggest threat to the various other peoples. I think I will need to work out how best to handle them so as to avoid straight up mustache twirling evil. So perhaps there was an event that predicated this conquest a hundred years ago. The humans had just discovered airship technology and were quite comfortable being master traders and making huge amounts of money(now I need to figure out how money works in the world). Then their was a natural disaster and some vital resource became very scarce. Perhaps the government went back and forth on what to do and society was on the verge of collapse. Tired of the bickering by various political factions the military took over and managed to make a stable government, however the shortage was still there, so they did what they knew how to do. They invaded their neighbors. They were not evil, directly, they were just desperate and made a bunch of terrible mistakes. Also this can lead to lots of interesting stuff with the descendants of the original government leader forming a rebellion against the current military regime, and the odd populist movement or some such. Humans are the most technologically advanced, though the Njan are very close behind and may catch up if they were less busy with their own maddening politics.

So that is what I have so far for this, I think next I will need to deal with religion, elementals, and perhaps how the universe works in a bit more depth. I would love to hear any thoughts, comments, or critiques on the project so far. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

World Building Part 2: Airships, What Do They Eat?

Here we move forward with building this fantasy world I started just a bit ago. If you want to know what was done, here is the previous post:

Part 1 Initial Arbitrary Idea

SO yesterday I laid out the basics of the setting and spun some ideas off into interesting directions. Now I am going to dig into one of those ideas in a bit more detail. That idea is Airships, my friends. Airships are the future, and don't you forget it. So what kind of world would make airships viable. I want them to be pretty central to the setting so they need to be pretty common. So lets do some brainstorming. I will just be spitting out the ideas as the come to me...or for me?

Perhaps their are massive mountains and canyons that halt all long distance travel by land or river. Most folks would then live in valleys and mountainsides. I could also see a bunch of floating islands in the sky, or the world is set in a ring of asteroids and stuff around a gas giant.

I have seen a lot of the sky island type of settings, so I am leaning away from that type for now. I really do like the ring of asteroids idea, but I am leaning toward the mountains and canyons thing. Perhaps I will add the ring of asteroids with livable terrain into the setting. So instead of a moon their is a ring of asteroids that hold atmospheres and have life on them and such.

So we have rough terrain everywhere, with mountains, plateaus, and canyons blocking off long distance travel. Most people live in the valleys or canyon walls(I really love the cool cities built into the walls of a canyon).The rivers are fast moving and dangerous on a regular enough basis that water travel is not optimal for long distance travel. Perhaps there are few oceans and most water is in rivers and small lakes spread across the whole land. Maybe the only ocean is the center of the water Because of its magical nature the ocean is very treacherous. All water stems from that ocean. Ooh, here is a thought the water of the world is all fresh water due to its magical nature.

So we have a world that needs airships for long distance travel, and we even have cool places to explore that would require airships to get to(the asteroid ring). So now we need to figure out how these airships work. The first thing that comes to mind is the magical elements of the world crystallize or somehow solidify and can be used to do odd magical effects. Air element crystals can be used to give a ship neutral buoyancy in the air. The ship needs to provide its on propulsion and direction. So you would get sails and propellers and all that. Also I could see harnessing birds to pull ships(so the sprites can use their flamingo mounts to pull their airships). I would also like for the ship to have some really weird or esoteric means of propulsion, but I don't have any ideas for that right at the moment, so if you have any really cool ideas pleas suggest them.

due to the need for propulsion I thin that either the Njan or the Humans would probably have built the airships first. Due to the idea that humans are everywhere I think that I will go with humans inventing the airships and using those to go everywhere. The Njan have the expertise in technology, so their airships are probably all masterpieces of design, efficient and impressive, but they don't have enough of them as they never came up with them on their own. The sprites(who I have yet to name, but am stuck between Bit-Bit and Flamin-gelves. Let me know what you think) had the ability to ride on their flamingos ot go places. The Fa-Chia can fly on their own, so airships just never occurred to them. Now that humans have spread the technology around, though both of those species are excellent airship makers.

Now that we know that people live in valleys and that the magic of the elements materializes a bit we can begin working on a few other thoughts. Like what do they eat. Well there are monsters everywhere, so I think that monster meat is probably pretty popular. Also you could probably get the elemental magic material of wood to grow things in confined spaces. Also we could get loads of terraces for farming on the mountain sides and such. Perhaps their cities grow up and down rather than out, so the cities are filled with tunnels and towers. The sprites probably live within the trees by shaping them into living houses. Also with the materializing of the various elemental magics you could get the Fa-Chia wind wizards building castles out of clouds, and even airships from the clouds. Their instinct for the sky allows them to do things with air magic the other species would view as impossible.

So that is the basics of airships and how that helps shape the setting. I would love to here your thoughts on it. Comments, critiques, and questions are all welcome.  If you would like to help me name the sprites please let me know what name I should go with, or if you have some really spiffy ideas for airship propulsion methods also let me know. Moving forward I think I will probably move to either monsters or the thinking species of the setting. Perhaps I should also come up with a name for the world I am building, but as of right now I can't think up anything that sounds right. Ideas would be welcome.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

World Building Part 1: Initial Ideas and Brainstorming

I love world building. I guess anyone who follows this blog or my other works might have surmised as much. It is a constant thing with me, building worlds. I have dozens of them going at any given time and I am always spinning more off into the void, just to see what they look like. Worlds are never complete, sure. I am always at work on one or the other, fixing this or adding that. Some of the worlds I have build span galaxies and more, others are only a building and a few personalities. Others still are mere pitches with nothing to them other than the barest hint of an idea. In this series(I think it will be a series) I plan to showcase my methodology and hopefully help my self out of a bit of writers block I have been experiencing.

So here goes, my methodology for building a world:

Step one for me is the Initial Arbitrary Idea(s). In this step I just lay out the things I want to play with and try and figure out if those ideas can go well together or if there is enough depth to a given idea to merit a whole world. For this project I came up with a couple on my own and a couple were given to me by some friends(thanks +Tore Nielsen +Cameron Corniuk +Reagan Taplin +Mitch Williams +John Helmuth  and +James Husum for all your interesting thoughts). Here is the list of idea seeds that I will be working with for this world:
  1. Airships
  2. Points of light(monsters are everywhere)
  3. The Elements are magical/conscious/crucial in some way that is weird and interesting.
  4. Summoning/super form
  5. Humans dominate but there are other intelligent species(thinking maybe a cutesy magic species and a four legged barbarian species. Maybe others)
  6. major city that sits on a bed of water, surrounded by a waterfall on all sides. Airship and magic only safe ways to get there.
  7. Lizard Men
  8. Land/Sky pirates whose ship/lair is built upon the backs of enormous striding beasts
  9. Cloud Wizards who make ships out of clouds and fly about
  10. A sect of priests who maintain the ships(possibly with a secret group controlling them, possibly repairing stuff through superstition and ritual rather than actual knowledge)

And that is what I have, my initial arbitrary decisions. I went with a lot of them, because I like to play around and I kind of want to keep doing world building for a long time on this project. You can start with just one, in fact any one of those ideas would be a solid.

Once you have your initial idea(s) it is time to start brainstorming within it(them). Find the parts of the setting on which the other parts hang. The elements seem like a pretty solid main point to branch off of(heck the final fantasy games have been using it for thirty years, there must be something to it), also the species thing seems like a good central thing to play with. Lets start with those two, mostly because those are what jumped out at me as the most interesting. I like the classical elements, but there are only five of them and I think we can have more fun with more. I did some digging and found a few extra classical elements from various other philosophies and I have a list of eight: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Metal, Wood, Void/Space, and Spirit/Consciousness. In digging around for them I came up with a silly thought that I like. 

In this world(which I have not named yet)There are the four main elements, fire, water, earth, and air. Then their are four secondary elements that are a mix of two other elements, Fire and Earth make Metal, Water and Earth make Wood, Water and Air make Void, and Fire and Air make consciousness. Then I had a follow up thought, what if there was a sentient species for each of the secondary elements. I really liked that so I had to work out what that meant and what the meaning of each element was. I will probably due an in depth breakdown of each element and how it plays out in the world and the magic in the world, but for now here is the initial idea on which species matches with which element. 

Metal: Combining the energy of fire with the permanence of earth makes for creativity and ingenuity, passion and stubbornness. The species of Metal is the Njan, a catlike people of mechanics and sword masters, artists and revolutionaries. 
Wood: Combining Water's unfathomable depth and adaptability with the earth's unchanging nature leads to wisdom and patience. The species of wood are the Sprites(need a better name) tiny folk who value knowledge and survival. They ride flamingos(I just wanted them to ride flamingos, this is not derived from anything)
Void: Combining the air and water is a dangerous mix. Air is free and unchecked, water is adaptable and ever moving. The Fa-chia are a people of great passion and whim, nomads who roam the skies and lands with impunity. They are quadrupedal winged lizards who are considered barbaric and simple by most. Those who know better often go to them for advice, the nomads of sky and sea know many things. They hold no grudges and are quick to forgive. They live in boundless optimism and hope tempered with understanding and empathy. 
Spirit: Combining fire with air leads to truly great things, either great creativity or a great conflagration. The air is flighty but sees all, fire is passion, properly directed it is a wondrous thing. Humans are the species of spirit. They have great plans and must do them now, for tomorrow is a promise to no one. 

Now that we have this I am starting to see the shape of things. Airships are held aloft by the magic of air. The city on the water with waterfalls all around it is obviously the center of a great deal of water elemental energy, perhaps there is a great water spirit there or it is the source of all water on the planet. Does that mean that there are similar cities at similar places related to other elements? Maybe. Does the sect of priests who maintain the airships follow or worship the elemental spirit of air? Is that a real thing or is it something they made up long ago to explain how things work? The great beasts of the pirates, where do they come from and what do they eat? Actually, what do they eat, is a solid question to ask at nearly any point in world building. It nearly always adds a little more verisimilitude to the world, and that is always handy. I have a lot more planned for the future of this world building but I think I have nailed down the basics of the setting. Next we start getting into the why's of certain things. Like why airships, and what would cause people to develop them over land or water travel? That is it for now. Let me know what you think, comments, critique, and questions are always welcome.

Part 2: Airships
Part 3: Species and abit of history