Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 3) - Big Time Sensuality
The last worldbuilding exercise was an example of "bottom up" design, it began with the places characters were likely to go, and the people they'd most likely interact with, then built a context around those elements, then added new layers of context and complexity until a wider setting was gradually fleshed out.
This time I'm going to work top down.
This is a setting about mystery and exploration where things may change over the course of time like a jungle regrowing over established paths. The overall shape of the jungle, the mountains, the rivers...they stay the same, but the small details are constantly in flux. It's better we stick to the things that will remain constant, then we can generate up some random tables to account for those eternally fluctuating details.
This is a setting inspired by H.R.Giger, legends of amazons, subversive takes on "the patriarchy", old school "sword and planet" forms of pulp sci-fi, Spelljammer, isolation, maybe a bit of Warhammer 40k with it's drifting space hulks, ancient technologies of war, and dark oppressive feel. Underlying it all is a three way tension; between sex, death and insanity. It probably helps that this semester at university, one of my subjects is about the cultural and psychological ramifications of death, while another is about the development of culture and sociological issues through children's development. Massive concepts, dangerously volatile themes... This is the kind of setting that would have "trigger warnings" all over it.
When I work top down, I want to establish these ideas from the earliest point, then see elements of them permeate through everything. Maybe not blatantly, bit if you read between the lines, they should be present. Also consider that this was intended to be a side project for my "System 4" game, so a lot of those ideas exist in the back of my mind as I structure certain concepts for the setting (such as races/cultures, occupations, character development, etc.)
I'm not overly worried about maps or physical details at this point, but they'll come. I'm more interested in developing cultures and social structures that feed from the greater themes of the setting. A culture that focuses on the sensual in spite of the death and insanity around them, another that embraces the psychotropic fungi to bend their perceptions toward insanity as a means of staving off the worst, harvesters who cull the weak to ensure the strong remain viable. Then there will be examinations of the biological, fungi which reflect these concepts, monstrous entities in the shadows and forgotten places.
It would be easy to go "grim-dark" with this type of setting, and that's where I need to remember the sensual aspects and the mysterious wonder that could be just around the next corner.
So basically, the "take-away" point from this post is to develop a theme for the world/setting. Establish it early and stick to it. If you're going to be controversial, make sure your controversy has a point, back it up, deal with it properly, and don't compromise artistic integrity. Use themes to ask questions, don't use them to simply push agendas.
...and if you don't like Björk, I can't help that. No one's perfect (there will certainly be a few more of her songs as I work my way through this series).