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World Building, Spirit's delve into creating a setting.

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Hello all at there, I honestly don't know why I am posting this but I found that group discussion universally improves the creative process when among peers of the craft. That craft is of course world building.

A bit of backstory to start, I have always been the DM, with a few exceptions. I learned to play Dungeons and Dragons when I was five and aside from a single foray into 4e edition run by my friend I have always been the Dungeon Master. Now my friend group was pretty small and very unfocused, I remember once at the end of a secession one player asked "Can we play a Halo Campaign?" They all agreed so I made a entire setting and custom classes and weapons and feats and presented it to them. At the end of that secession they wanted a Game of Thrones campaign, I essentially made hombrews for both of those in under a month, they wanted to play them almost all night, so I consider myself "Ok" at least in that regard.

How does this have to do with world building? Well in a way it means I have done a lot of it. In fact world building is my second favorite part of being a DM, other then watching my player's faces when they enjoy themselves or describing a practically nasty monster and seeing how they defeat it.

So I guess I made this thread as I go through the process once more, sometimes I will post parts of the world I am building to show examples as I create more and more, I might post once a week perhaps more if I create more then I usually do in a given frame.

So usually when I design a setting the first question is "What is the concepts these setting explores? What feelings does it evoke? What is the tone of this setting?" So my latest world is that of the ancient world, where Gods regularly walk among men but these are not "evil or good" gods in the strictest sense. Instead all Gods are immensely powerful beings that are a more akin to the most powerful mortals rather then omnipresent Gods. They are more complicated then simply good or evil, they are "Human" (In a setting where there is multiple races I will use the term "Human" to refer to the concept of being a sentient race and "Man" to refer to humanity the race of species)

Now that I have the themes, I must ask what drives the setting? In a general way most settings are meant to be works of enjoyment, people are supposed to enjoyment them so what is the story of the setting? DMs might call these the "Tent Poles" of their campaign. In my case, the adventure is that of a band of heroes akin to the Argonauts in which they undergo the classic quest. This Greek cliche mythos is of course on purpose, it is supposed to be evocative of the feelings of being one with the world of mythology. Other hooks may be simpler, for instance the hook can be the King is dead and the nation is in civil war, how will the heroes solve this issue? Or the Hooks can be much more complicated, like how the practice of slavery that the Kessian (from my campaign) has left the entire world's economy dependent on the slave trade and if slavery was to disappear overnight most of the world would starve to death, how do the players propose on fixing this issue? Can it be fixed?

The wonderful part of DMing instead of in a novel writing is that you merely purpose the questions but a writer should also have a answer to these questions where he crafts a setting, if there is one. Sometimes there being "No" answer is much the point of any given story.

So now we have established that what the world is supposed to feel like, what it is supposed to make the players/readers feel. To all those who world build and even those who do not, how would you do this? In your own settings what is the themes you practically like to play off of and how do you build off of them?

Of course, some even most of you may start instead somewhere else. I start here because I favor building from the roots and then growing the tree before I harvest my apple that is the central story. Many others argue the setting should come much later, what matters is your story and characters and those should come first and the setting to resemble them not the other way around. To each their own.

Thoughts? This is more a discussion then a blog, though I doubt there will be too much discussion over this, it is a rather long post from the best I can tell.

Also hope everybody is well and has a great day Very Happy

Also next week will be: Who is telling the story

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Spirit of Memory wrote:To all those who world build and even those who do not, how would you do this? In your own settings what is the themes you practically like to play off of and how do you build off of them?

Of course, some even most of you may start instead somewhere else. I start here because I favor building from the roots and then growing the tree before I harvest my apple that is the central story. Many others argue the setting should come much later, what matters is your story and characters and those should come first and the setting to resemble them not the other way around. To each their own.
I start with the geography (since that has an impact on the cultures that live there) and the history of the world.  With that done I move onto the people, their societies and their cultures that inhibit the world and forge its history.  I find this imminently important because characters don't exist in a vacuum.

Once the overarching big picture information is thought out then I can more easily create the characters.  Character traits are easy to slap to the image and name but it is their interactions with the environment around them that makes them strong.  Part of the character creation process is how they feel about various aspects of the society they live; the answers can correlate to their personality traits or even contradict them.

As for themes, I tend to go towards chained and/or broken things.  Take the current RP I'm running.  The gods are chained by the expectations their followers have of them, several characters and even a player faction are broken by the koth, innumerable people and factions are chained to the past they desperately try to cling to, magic is chained to the broken fragments of people's souls, and even the world is broken.  Empire-states were broken by the rage and revenge dreams of a broken man chained to his last mortal memories, and the world itself is broken by catastrophic events in the past.  Anyone who played, or followed, Lorerunner's old fantasy RP knows what lies past the literal edge of the habitable world.

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I have no experience of this in comparison.

XXX

The ideas that do occur to me and get recorded in some sorts of notes, in hopes of being of use sometime in the future, tend to happen to me with no rhyme or reason. Usually just series of associative leaps taken into a previously unexplored (for me, at least) direction that end up with a realistion that there could, perhaps, a story to be had around it.

It can be simply a single point in a character interaction, an imagined action scene scenario or even something as little comparison of plot points from unrelated works being brought up to my attention. I don't have a single clue on how this process works or how to predict or guide it.

Once the spark is there, however, some systematic approach to it can generally benefit the fleshing out process. Particularly when it comes to checking for common sense and logic holes; just because something seemed like a good thing at the time doesn't mean that it should actually happen that way. A desireable outcome it may be to construct this little scene just so, but the path it takes for the story to get there and where it would go afterwards needs to be considered as well.

And even if after thinking it over the spark in question cannot be used as is, or at all, going through the hows and whys of why it can't tends to give results regardless. Because you now have a thought through skeleton of what can't work, along with self-consistent logic explaining it, whatever you have decided upon it to be. And now you can build around it.

A scene should also probably not exist just for the 'cool factor', however tempting it may be; it needs to come out of the previous scene, lead into the next one and add something to the overall narrative.

(I am talking here in terms of writing fanfiction, but, when it comes to choosing how to handle the setting, it is perhaps applicable when designing something wholecloth as well.)

XXX

One thing I believe should never be done, regardless of what kind a setting and plot a story it is gonna be, is artificially enforcing as a writer a situation that cannot feasibly improve regardless of what characters were to do. They may not be aware of it themselves, there may be other characters claiming the opposite, but it should never actually be true from the out of universe standpoint.

Otherwise there is a very real risk to write yourself into a corner of grim darkness like W40k and so many other settings did, IMHO, and cause apathy through hopelessness in both yourself and whoever else might be reading / viewing / playing / etc it.

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