February 12, 2010

World Building with Loaerth & Feywyrd (2)

Once again something small has grown to consume a big part of my free thinking time. World Building, as a topic in general and more specifically how it applies to Loaerth & Feywyrd. I mentioned in my last post that I plan to develop L&F just enough to serve as a creative foundation for a new campaign without going overboard. I'm currently thinking about RACES for L&F, what are they, what "stock fantasy" races (if any) should be included, where do they live in Feywyrd now and where were they originally from in Loaerth? That sort of thing. But detailing everything is a waste of energy, but the temptation to do so is (for me) hard to resist. I do, however, recognize this is probably me channelling my professional career as a scientist ("everything must make sense", "all the interdependencies must be explored", "there must be a reason for everything", etc). It's like the magic rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland... once you go down there you'll never be coming back.

So, in the short term my medicine to avoid going down the rabbit hole is to do a ton of reading on world building. The problem is there is a metric ton of stuff on world building out there in the Internet wildelands, but not all of it is worth your time.

I've collected a list of relevant books, articles and other online resources I've read, tuned specifically to world building and race creation / demographics for now. Hopefully you'll enjoy the articles as much as I have.
  • "World Building", by Julie Ann Dawson from Bards & Sages, is a PDF/eBook that was developed from a syllabus of a world building seminar she ran at SUNY. It's only 16-pages in length, but for less than $1 I couldn't resist. It ended up being worth 10 times that in terms of what I got out of it. She basically covers world building in five parts: develop a clearly defined logic; Open, Closed, or Limited Access worlds; developing the logic; build the civilizations; and creating the crunch. As a long-time D&D player, my tendency was to do the last part first (the crunch), but she makes a strong argument against that approach and I'm better off for having read it.
  • "Four Maxims for World Building" by B9anders over at Strolen's Citadel. While I disagree with the authors assertion that you should avoid detailing things the players will never know about [1], the rest of his post made sense to me for L&F world building.
  • In "Four Easy Steps To Omnipotence", Drew Karpyshyn (Senior Writer for Mass Effect) lays out another four 'maxims' of world building. Common theme here? Yes: start small, stick to your common theme, be internally consistent, and use real world (or familiar) hooks to pull the player in.
  • "World Building 101: Races" by Brandon Landgraff over at d20Source.com takes existing "stock fantasy" races and recasts them onto your unique setting. Although this is not necessarily what I was looking for, the article nonetheless proved useful because Brandon reminded me of the (often overlooked) issue of Culture vs. Race in fantasy settings: they are not the same thing [2]. This article is part of a stellar series of World Building 101 articles by Brandon, worth checking out and bookmarking no doubt.
Again, there are TONS of resources out there on the net about world building - but hopefully these above links will get you started with some different perspectives.

If you have any other links that might be worth checking out - please leave a comment and let us know!

[1] I subscribe to the Tolkien, Donaldson, Hebert iceberg approach: 90% of what is known to the author is never seen by the reader. This is also why I'm so terribly affraid the whole L&F project could run aground if I get too caught up in the details.
[2] It is actually one of the things that bugs the hell out of me with the stock version of D&D: all dwarves live underground and drink stout for breakfast; all elf's love trees and are frilly wine drinking dandys, etc. You get the idea. It's one of the reasons why HardBoiled Cultures for 4E D&D is such a great resource.

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