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Thursday, January 13, 2011

World Building: A Work in Progress Part 1

Note, that this series of posts won't necessarily involve creating a world for the purposes of gaming.  Rather, this will focus on my own personal steps in developing the world for my novel and various short stories.  The world, while possible to be used for gaming, is not designed with the traditional races of elves, dwarves, halflings, and the like.  There is a strong emphasis on the medieval structure as a background of the world as in most fantasy settings, but these archetypes do not exist in my world.

Before really delving into my novel writing, and in an effort to save countless hours in rewriting, I decided it best to first establish my own world in which these stories take place.  Before doing so, I had to ask myself a few questions.  How would magic be used in this world?  What kind of races and beings occupy its forests and hollows?  How is religion used?  What kinds of governments are in place?  What does the world look like?

These were all very important questions to be sure, but where to actually start?  It can be overwhelming creating your own world, after all.  For me, it began with a map.  I pulled out a piece of paper and started drawing the map beginning with the outline of the land mass.  After this, I penciled in the mountains, forests, and streams.  Next, I populated the area with cities and villages, not naming them at this point, just placing dots on the map in places where it would make sense to have a city; along the coast, beside a river, etc.  Then I penciled in roads to connect them all.  It's amazing how inspiration can strike, when using this method.  As I was drawing the cities and connecting the roads it began to dawn on me exactly how I would answer the other questions which had been posed.

I divided this particular map I drew into three distinct lands.  From there I focused on what type of governments would be in place in each.  Would they be feudal in nature, or a series of connected city-states with their own independent governments?  As I completed the map, I then began naming the cities.  In some instances the names were based on the regions the cities and structures lay in.  I then began naming the land features.  Within only a few hours I had, at the very least, something to begin working with.

The map itself, is merely a framework.  It's a skeleton of a larger project being the world itself.  The map is simply the beginning not the end.  I believe by the time I'm finished establishing the histories and background of my world, I will probably have drawn and re-drawn this map several times. 

I'm not planning on posting the map right now simply because its little more than a sketch at this point.  When the world building is complete, I will create a high quality finalized map, or at least attempt to, and post it here on the blog.  I'm also intending to use the Obsidian Portal site to serve as a wiki for my world since it has the tools in place to serve such a purpose, despite the fact it might not be intended for it.

I'm sure quite a few of you readers of mine, being avid gamers and dungeon masters, have crafted your own worlds be it for role playing games, or for your own projects.  How have you gone about it?  What are some techniques you used and what worked easiest for you?  Did you also begin with a map first, or did you carefully craft out the histories of your world before putting pencil to paper to sketch out the realms?

In my next post in this series, I'll discuss outlining out the basic history, developing a calendar, and rules for the use of magic.