Author Topic: Advice On Building A World  (Read 8940 times)

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khoras2

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Advice On Building A World
« on: August 13, 2005, 12:46:41 AM »
Advice On Building A World

Many people have asked me questions about world building. They want advice on how to start their worlds and ask how I went about creating Khoras. I've decided to distilled my responses down to the following general advice:

1. Plan It Out In Advance
Plan out what it is you want to accomplish with your world. Your world could be for novels, short stories, character development, role playing or a little of everything. Whatever your world is for, plan it out in advance. Is it going to be based on familiar themes (Tolkienesque fantasy, sci-fi, etc) or something completely original. Is it going to be based on real science or strange science and magic? Do you want to entertain people or educate them? Do you want your world to grow and change continually or is it a static picture of one moment in time? How far will you go in creating your world? Is it a short project or a life time project? How will you create your world - short stories, novels, pictures, a web site, a video game?

2. The Big Picture
I believe that a well detailed world should include everything. It should be large and varied like the real world. Some people build fictional worlds and focus on certain elements but overlook others. Person A might include slavery and war lords, but leave out poisons or herbs. Person B might include feudal politics and religion, but forget about ships. There are a lot of things that could go into a world - history, disease, ecosystems, festivals, social trends, etc. You don't have to write volumes about each area. However, you should at least consider every aspect of your world and touch upon it. For instance, you don't have to invent 25 unique diseases for your world, but be aware that disease exists and maybe write up something on it, even if it's just a brief paragraph. Otherwise, later on, it may look like you've forgotten about it.

3. The Details
Some people disagree with me on this one, but I think you can never have too much detail. Instead of a generic barmaid, make her a short, fiery redhead named Karye who chews on her hair when she's nervous. Fill your world with details. Sights, sounds, smells and textures. Every character should have a name, a goal, a habit, a fear. Every corner of a city has something unique about it. Everything has a history.

4. The Real World As A Model
When in doubt, base things on the real world. Earth is a pretty amazing place. In studying history, culture, science and religion, I've stumbled upon all kinds of interesting tidbits. Many of them I incorporate into Khoras in various ways. By studying the real world, you not only get great ideas, but you can figure out how things work. You can also justify things in your own world if you can find something similar in the real world. for instance. Here are a few interesting facts that I've run across -

  • The Chinese invented gunpowder and rockets thousands of years ago.
  • In ancient Rome, there were apartment buildings with monthly rent and landlords and everything.
  • The largest organism on the planet is an underground plant fungus over 35 km wide.
  • Some sea turtles can live to be over 300 years old. Some trees can live to be over 3000 years old.
  • Bamboo is actually a grass which can grow 60 feet tall and can grow as much as four feet a day.
  • Horseshoe crabs are actually armored, aquatic spiders with blue blood!
  • The duck-billed platypus is an amazing creature. It's a mammal that lays eggs and has a duck's bill and duck's feet. Everyone knows that. But it also has a poisonous stinger in the heel of its foot. The female doesn't have nipples. And the platypus has tiny pores around the bill that detect electrical charges from the muscle movement of prey.
  • Migrating animals, such as whales and birds, can detect the earth's magnetic field and use it to guide themselves.
  • Monkies will alter their diet and consume plants with medicinal properties when they are ill.
  • Whales can communicate over thousands of miles use very low frequency sound.
  • The Siberian salamander (Ranodon sibiricus) burrows underground to wait out the long Siberian winter. This animal has been known to freeze solid and survive in a state of suspended animation for up to 90 years!


5. Books
In creating a new and interesting world, these little real world facts are great. Arm yourself with some good books. A good atlas, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, an encyclopedia, a history book. And don’t forget about the world wide web. Everything you could possibly want to know is on the net.



Where Does One Begin When Building A World
No matter where you begin, remember that everything in your world is connected. Geography affects political boundaries, geology affects metal craft, local flora affects diet and so on. Pull on one string and it pulls on a dozen others.

When asked "Where do I start?", I would have to say start with geography/nations and history. Here's why.

Geography and nations are closely tied. Mountain ranges, deserts and such are a big obstacle to travel and nations tend to limit travel and territorial expansion. The layout of the land can influence the historical expansion of a nation, locations of large battles, even certain cultural elements. For instance, ancient Greece was divided up into lots of small city-states, due to the geography which consisted of lots of deep pocket valleys and harbors divided by tall strings of mountains. The geography kept the city-states separated. Therefore, the culture developed into small isolated groups.

I actually started with nations first. I knew what kinds of nations I wanted. I then crafted the geography of the land and oceans to fit the nations that I had created. So, I kind of did it backwards, but either way...just so long as your nations and geography fit together.

Besides, geography and nations are pretty important to any world, as any well-designed map will demonstrate. And civilization (nations and cities) is, in my humble opinion, the defining element of a fantasy world.

History is important too. I roughed out the general timeline early in the creation of Khoras. As the world grew, I continually tweaked the history, adding more details as I went. Working backwards along the time line ("ok… this happened, but what happened before to make it happen…") can be pretty fun.

Races are pretty important too. Races can significantly affect how your nations evolve. But that depends a lot on the type of races you have. Are there many or just a few? Are they wide spread and integrated or very territorial?

Everything else in the world can be detailed in any order you like. Religion is pretty broad and flexible. Just about any religious movement or schism can be explained away. Magic, plants and animals - all these things can be filled out later as needed.

It might seem overwhelming, but it's really not. I designed Khoras in general terms and then dove into the nations. I often go back and forth between areas and change things. If I come up with a good idea in say religion, I often have to go back to civilization or races or something else and make minor adjustments to make things consistent. Back in the early days, I often made sweeping changes and had to run all over the world fixing things that were suddenly out of sync. I've noticed that as the world became more complete, these adjustments get smaller and smaller as everything is now forming a tight interlocking whole.

Everything within a world should be internally consistent. If you say something is a certain way in the world, it should be that way always. Or there should be a reason why it isn't. As long as you follow that rule, then you can do anything you want with your world. Make it as unique and strange as your want. If you want your mountains to be made of a glass like crystal. Fine. Just make sure that there's a reason for it. And if one mountain range is different, then there should be a reason for that too.

Here are some examples of internal consistencies to consider:

  • A larger than earth world is fine. There are a few things you might want to consider. If your world is bigger, but has the same mineral content and density, then the gravity would be higher. Thicker atmosphere, slightly stockier build on humanoid races, etc. you can avoid this by making the density less and giving your world about the same mass.
  • Three moons gives you a complex tidal pattern unless one moon is significantly more massive than the other two. In which case, the tides would be similar to earth.
  • Two suns could have any number of effects upon the world depending on how you set it up.
  • And all of these things, the suns, the moons, the other planets, the stars, comets, etc. would all influence history, religion, legends, mythology, creation stories and more.


When designing a world, design a world that YOU enjoy. Build it for yourself. Don't worry if others might not like it. It's your world. So make it unique as only YOU can. As with any creative endeavor, feedback from others can help... but ultimately, it's your world.

I think the most important thing is to do research. Read up on science, history, biology, cartography, amazing facts, world records and anything else that strikes your interest. Our world is a pretty amazing place. Use it as a model. Get inspiration from it. Find examples. Get ideas. And then start building!

« Last Edit: October 12, 2007, 01:22:14 PM by David Roomes »

Offline sid6.7

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2005, 11:56:25 PM »
here a re a couple pages that might provide some more info too for anyone

http://www.io.com/~sjohn/2space.htm    making space worlds

http://www.io.com/~sjohn/demog.htm     making standard rpg's
come see Kramxel at  http://cruzan.info/kramxel

Offline Kristian

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2005, 06:03:48 AM »
Thanks. That last one is especially usefull for me.
- Kristian

khoras2

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2005, 11:13:20 AM »
I agree. That last link, the Medieval Demographics Made Easy page, is quickly becoming a classic. I agree with most of what that article had to say. About 90% of it. After reading that page, I adjusted the population of several kingdoms in Khoras.

Offline sid6.7

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2005, 09:50:31 PM »
I agree. That last link, the Medieval Demographics Made Easy page, is quickly becoming a classic. I agree with most of what that article had to say. About 90% of it. After reading that page, I adjusted the population of several kingdoms in Khoras.

yeah i dont quite agree with it all either about the same as you, i find its taking my world
off in directions im not sure i want it to go...but it is a good place to start...right now
i just use it to generate the major city populations for a nation, 4-5 cities at most...

but it did give me a few ideas, so i created a few simple qbasic tools(text only)
based on that information.

i'm glad you like the links kris, i love sharing free stuff with everyone...

come see Kramxel at  http://cruzan.info/kramxel

Golanthius

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2008, 10:36:29 AM »
After having looked at hundreds of campaign settings and created worlds online, I have not found any that come close to Khoras in the amount of detailed information, quality of maps, or completeness.

The world of Khoras is, by far, the best campaign setting out there (IMO)

« Last Edit: January 16, 2009, 12:45:37 PM by Golanthius »

avisarr

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2008, 01:29:21 PM »
Thanks!  :D

Offline tanis

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2008, 09:25:43 PM »
I know right? I mean Khoras is so full of unbelievably good hooks, and there's so much in-detail content that you don't need anything but what Dave gives you. Btw David, Thank You for Khoras!!!
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

olympian73

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2008, 09:10:44 PM »
Hey David,

Firstly, I wanted to be yet another to tell you how enjoyable my visits to Khoras have become.  I have been peeking in the last few years to see the progress of your site.  I don't know if you remember but I used to chum around with Mark Price, Heath Ward, Doug Jordan, and Carrie Thorton in the days of the Zero Collective.  I remember learning about your site back then and was really impressed.  I have been checking in over the years and continue to be fascinated with what you have done.  Keep up the good work! 

On a world building note, I have often had fantasies of creating my own world.  Not for gaming, although I'm not against it, but as a vehicle to learn more about our own world and expanding my own horizons.  Anyway, the times that I have tried to sketch out a world, I often self-destruct with thoughts that it looks too much like Tolkien or Star Wars or Matrix or whatever.  Have you had these experiences and how do you overcome them?  I realize that it's impossible to come up with something totally original but it's frustrating to be working on something for hours only to realize I stole it all from an episode of Star Trek....

Again, keep up the good work, thanks for any advice...

Paul Haytas

avisarr

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2008, 12:39:31 PM »
Hi Paul,

For those who don't know what Paul is referring to, the Zero Collective was a group of friends and film makers in Seattle back around 1999 to 2002. Mark Price and Heath Ward were members of that group and Mark and Heath were the director and producer, respectively, of Professional Courtesy, the first (and so far, only) Khoras short film.

Now, Paul brings up a very good point. Yes, I have definitely had that feeling before. Hundreds of times I have come up with a great idea only to discover that my idea was from somewhere else. For instance, the phellysian race was originally known as the "caitains". However, long ago, my friend Brent Fishbaugh pointed out that the term caitian was actually a feline humanoid race from the Star Trek universe. So, I had to change it. That's just one of a thousand times that has happened during the construction of Khoras.

Way back when Khoras was first being built, the internet was really in its infancy. So it was tougher to research stuff. I would often compare notes with friends to see if any of them recognized an idea or name that I was going to use. Sometimes one of them would recognize it from an old movie or something and then I wouldn't use it. Usually, I just forge ahead. I do my best to make sure everything on Khoras is original, but every now and then an unintential copy occurs and I just change it.

These days it's a bit easier with the internet. It's easy to do quick research with Google to make sure it's not blatantly similar to something well known.

Now this only applies to the little things. A specific name or idea or concept. When looking at Khoras as a whole, it DEFINITELY borrows from Tolkien. But then again, much of modern day fantasy owes something to Tolkien. Khoras is a gaming world and was originally created for D&D. And Dungeons and Dragons definitely copied from Tolkien too. Blatantly. Especially in the early editions.

olympian73

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2008, 09:45:00 PM »

Do you remember that fantasy trilogy 'Inheritance Cycle' by Christopher Paolini?  I read a review about the first book/movie (Eragon) that summed it up as Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars.  While I didn't like the movie either, the review made me cringe.  It would kill me if my work was described in such a manner.  How does one avoid that with their work?  Perhaps the key is in the storytelling and dramatic events.  Maybe people will overlook the usual 'elfs, dwarves, orcs' if the story or world is compelling enough.  Perhaps revision, revision, revision is they key.  If one has something that may be found in another universe/world, just tweak it a little or revise it to make it fresh and new.  Bearded elves or pointy eared dwarves?  Well, food for thought, anyway....

Thanks for the brainstorm...

P

Offline sid6.7

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2008, 08:59:25 AM »
you can't really help  what others are going to say about your world. you just have to ignore it.
its gonna happen whether you want it to or not. and sooner or later your gonna duplicate in some
fashion someone elses idea..there are only so many things you can do with elves dwarfs and goblins
or dragons..

you can't please everyone...

for example i made my elves african and arabian in nature but its really only a play on a old theme
of dark elves and light elves.

 so go ahead make your world and don't worry about it.  :)

« Last Edit: November 04, 2008, 09:03:50 AM by sid6.7 »
come see Kramxel at  http://cruzan.info/kramxel

Offline tanis

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Re: Advice On Building A World
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2008, 12:56:09 AM »
the punk rocker here says do you own thing lmao.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.