Thursday, October 6, 2016

World Building Part 7: Monoculture, Mindset, and Meandering

This one is going to be a bit looser and more like brainstorming than actually nailing down specifics of the world. We have a reached a key point in world building that needs some thought. Its hard to say when exactly in a given process this point gets reached, but for this project it is time to dig into culture, nationhood, and societies. Yay!

If you are unsure of what is going on in this post here are the links to the previous posts in the series:
Part 1: Initial Arbitrary Ideas
Part 2: Airships and Implications
Part 3: People and Purposes
Part 4: Basics of Magic
Part 5: A brief History
Part 6: Deeper Magics

Back when I started this project all I had was the very basics of each people, and so it would be easy to keep them that way, as two dimensional stereotypes. However I think we can get into more detail and have a bit of fun by showcasing a bit more diversity of thought and deed within each people. Sometimes when working on a world you can stick with those basic stereotypes for a while, but if you wish for your world to feel more real you will need to deal with the issue of Monocultures.

Now what I mean by that is not something about agriculture methodology or computers. Though like those issues monculture can lead to collapse of plausibility.  What I mean by monoculture is the idea that all Klingon are warriors, all elves are aloof archers who live in the woods, or all dwarves are greedy makers of metal-craft, things like that. Monoculture is the idea that within a given species, people, or nation that all beings share the same traits.   In the real world this leads to all sorts of unpleasantness and badness, but in world building this is an issue as well. Even when you have a really solidly built world it can be easy to leave some cultures as monocultures. Its easy, and sometimes people won't notice. And because they won't notice it is even easier to do.

Whether you wish to really develop the culture in full is directly proportional to how relevant the culture is to the events that occur. Whether in a story, game, or just your own head. The more you believe in your world the more fun it will be to play with, and the more interesting problems will crop up and offer chances for interesting solutions.

Again I like to steal from the real world's history for help in this. No matter how deep you dig into a historical event there is always more complexity and nuance, so I try and emulate that. Back in part two I asked, "what the people eat?" I find this to be a useful question for world building, because if you can't answer it that shows a problem that needs fixing. I have a similar set of questions for societies, nations, and cultures. How do they get rid of their trash, and how do they get what they want? These questions are not as simple and direct as, "what do they eat?" but they are useful in giving you a sense of what their society look like and how the basic get done.

Also at this point I will need to name the world. Well, maybe not need, but I kind of want to name the world and the nations and such so that I have some dang ol' proper nouns when talking about stuff. I am leaning toward naming the world something based off the word cosmos, as it must encompass all the elements rather than just earth. Though that might be a bit on the nose. I would love to hear from any of my readers on this, what are some good proper nouns for all the various nations, societies, and the planet? Until then, to work:

 I think I will start with humans, as they are the most widespread and the driving force behind the current political climate(trying to conquer the world will do that). Also i need to bear in mind the nature of societies in the world. There is a great deal of natural seclusion, with loads of mountains, valleys, canyons and such and not a whole lot open ground. Then there are the large number of monsters and such in the wilderness. I think that most societies and nations would be highly centralized and closely linked, otherwise they couldn't stay in contact with each other or protect their citizens.

So back in the day there was this empire, and it fell. This is known. I figure that humans probably ended up with a couple of small kingdoms that tried to hold with the ideals of the empire, but the dark age demanded such from them that they only managed to hold onto the idea of empire. so we have a couple of kingdoms that are both somewhat feudal in nature(kings and barons and such) while also trying trying to appear more cultured and cosmopolitan than they really are. They maintained a senate of Peers(wealthy landowners) that ostensibly had similar power to the king. Due to the state the countries of humanity were in those senates rarely held much actual power. Since the fall of the empire humanity was seen as a non-issue, a bit of a sad joke. And then one of the nations gets airships and declared itself the New Holy Empire and began conquering everything in the name of the God-Yet-To-Come.

Now the New Holy Empire controls nearly all the lands of it's former rival human nation(which I need to name) as well as most of the lands that were controlled by the Bit-bit Alliance of City States and the Fa-chia tribes.

The Holy Empire has grown decadent and corrupt, it is only their armies and technology which hold them in power. Their are a bunch of factions within the empire that are trying to gain control of the empire(the names re just place holders):

  • The romantics - see the past as pure and simple, before the corrupting influence of this current religion and outside forces. They are anthropocentric and anti religion, they want to get back to nature while still driving out all outside influences. Within this movement are a number of distinct opinions on precisely how change should be gained and what they should do with the power. A number of famous poets and actors have espoused this ideology and it has gained a lot of traction in recent days. 
  • The Militarists - believe that the empire is not pushing hard enough and that the military should run things. They see their failure to take the last Bit-bit city and their lack of any territory in the lands of teh Njan as a direct affront. Some within the moment push for the emperor to become more militaristic, while others wish to overthrow the emperor and take power.
  • The royalists - hold that the senate has too much power and that things would be better if the emperor were to get rid of them.
  • The Populists - hold that he royals are an anachronism and that pure democracy would serve the people better(well pure democracy to the rich, the peasants should know their place)
  • The Church - want to see themselves as the greatest power in the nation so that they may finally compete the great working. though there are several different views on exactly how to bring about the God-Yet-To-Come.

The Bit-bit city states used to be the most powerful alliance in the world. Their use of Sky Knights and War Gelves allowed for communication and military unity the other nations could not employ.  While they bickered among themselves their shared religion and the impartiality of the Sky Knights led to an enlightened peace for nearly a century. The the New Holy Empire crafted Sky Ships. Now only one city state remains, the Sky Knights are nearly wiped out, and they stand on the brink of losing everything. They are the most unified people, not due to some higher calling but to their lack of options. Their hubris and lack of care has cost them much.

Njal are barely held together states unified only by their desire to remain free.
They are separated into various bloodlines who are all allied with other bloodlines and have enmity with other bloodlines.  They are extended family based and will unite only when facing outside forces. They have firm laws on vendettas and feuds, for in the past feuds have led to vicious wars that hindered their growth as a nation. These rules are enforced by the Unblooded.
Unblooded - orphan children are taken and raised in monasteries to be warrior judges who travel from clan to clan and hold impartially to the law(at least in theory). They are sterilized  so that they may not start a new bloodline and thus confuse the political landscape.
There is also the tale of the exiled bloodline who claimed that all gods were false and were exiled due to their strange madness. They wandered off into the wilderness to pray to the world spirit, though that is known to be a fruitless endeavor.

Fa-chia: tribal peoples, unrelated and hey have never really needed to gather in large numbers. I don't really have much for them just yet, I will need to do more research and more thinking on what to do with them.

OK, there it is the basics of my brainstorming on how to make cultures stand out a bit more and be a nit more complex than just a simple stereotype. Let me know what you think. I would love to hear and comments, suggestions, critiques, or whatever.