Before we go much further, I will note that I’m not building a world from scratch. I’m using a lot of the work from my previous series on “Developing a Boffer LARP System”. I guess this assumes that you are a regular reader of the blog, or that you might want to go back and red that series to make sense of certain references that I’ve been making.
If I were developing a world from scratch, there would be a few more conscious decisions that I’d have to make (decisions that were made during that series of posts). To get where we are now, here’s the basic rundown.
- Decide the stories you want to tell in this world
- Decide the types of characters that would best tell these types of stories.
- Create ways to divide up the characters so that everyone gets a chance to be in the limelight, every gets the chance to be someone else’s support, and everyone has some type of task that they really just can’t do at all on their own.
- Consider the level of fantasy and magic you might want in your stories, and set the world’s dials accordingly.
- Consider the stereotypes of races (elves, dwarves, orcs, etc.) and the cultures inherent in your stories and how they might help or hinder the narrative. If they are hindering it, then tweak them or throw them out entirely. Do you want the stereotypical races at all?
- Decide how big you want the world to be, and how much of it you want to explore.
- Decide where the characters are in the scheme of things. Do they start as great heroes? Do they start as minor peons, capable of becoming great heroes? Are there heroes in the setting at all? Are they among the last survivors of an old world, or the first settlers in a new world? Are they simply a small part of a vast civilisation? The answers to each of these questions really gets a good feel for where the story should go.
I like to get those ideas out of the way first before I start the actual process of worldbuilding, because each of the points makes the actual worldbuilding a whole lot easier. Basically like drawing a vague blueprint covered with notes about points that need to be reached and structures that need to be assembled. Addressing those points so far, we get…
- Stories of swashbuckling adventure, courtly intrigue, arcane secrets and mysterious exploration.
- These stories involve everyday people caught up in things beyond their control, but not beyond their understanding, together they may be able to make a difference.
- Characters are divided up by races and culture each with their own favoured skill set, and specific occupations that grant them a range of powers and ways to deal with the world around them.
- These stories will involve a general level of gritty dark fantasy, magic is known but is uncommon. Spontaneous magic is fairly rare, but prepared and drawn out magical effects like alchemy, religious rituals (with subtle effects) and mystically empowered steampunk gadgetry are reasonably well known in the setting. The average person might see something subtly magical and beyond the realms of their natural understanding once a day. Blatantly magical theatrics might occur once a week or less frequently.
- We’re not using the most common fantasy trope races. No elves, no dwarves, no orcs, no halflings. Instead we’re drawing on more archetypal myths, races include regular folk, lycanthrope blooded, undead blooded, fae blooded, demi-gods, demi-spirits, and a pure-strain “humanity” (who are the rarest of all). Racial Appearances (pointiness of ears, dead eyes, shade/texture of skin, etc.) have been left deliberately vague at this point. Before the process of worldbuilding, the cultures we quite vague too, the only certain thing was that each race should not be a monoculture.
- The world will basically be an archipelago of islands, with most of the actions occurring on a single central island. There will be references to a great land (where the empire comes from), but this may be in another plane of existence or simply a long way away.
- The characters are a small part of the whole but they have the potential for greatness. There are heroes in the setting, but at the start of play their time is coming to an end. It is time for a new group of heroes to rise.
That basically lines us back up with the starting point for the worldbuilding series.