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Willy Elektrix
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« on: May 21, 2016, 02:37:39 PM »

I'm in the process of creating a fantasy/sci-fi setting that I can use with any number of role-playing games, video games, or stories. It's set in the subterranean tunnels of Mars and will have an epic fantasy sort of feel.

In any case, I have a lot of ideas and I am looking to start recording them into a document. I'm imagining this will act like the "setting" section of a role-playing rule book (and may even be used in a role-playing book later).

My thought was to start detailing the various races and cultures of the world and that would lead into a lot of other details of the setting (i.e. religion, technology, geography, etc.).

Has anyone else undergone a world building exercise of this type? How did you start? What was your process?

I'm a pretty experienced writer, but usually I let worlds build themselves more organically as a write games or stories in them. I wondered how some other writers have handled this monumental task.
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Capntastic
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2016, 12:42:22 AM »

There are several pillars to quality worldbuilding.

You need to set them in stone before you can really advance fluidly.

Decide what you are trying to say, and how you want to say it.  Do you want the setting to be mysterious or detailed and clear?  Do you want it to feel strange or dangerous or safe or oppressive?  There can be areas or factions that carry these concepts further than others; maybe the tunnels have safer, more organized places but large areas of chaos and terror.  Knowns and unknowns.

How will the player interact with these things?  Will people talk about it?  Will there be books laying around, or computer screens to read?  Will it be the player's job to figure it out from contextual clues, or hidden hints?  What breadcrumbs do you need to be able to lay down?  If you have an ancient civilization in the depths of Mars, how will the player learn about that?  Turning a corner and finding a city in the dust, or from something far more subtle?

You also need to have an idea of what you want to avoid.  Do you want to avoid cute things, because they make things seem less serious?  Do you want to avoid fully functional AIs because they undermine all the symbolism you want about humanity's power to decide and fate?

I find once you set the boundaries, you can work towards filling the space in between them fairly easily.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2016, 10:55:07 AM »

Decide what you are trying to say, and how you want to say it.  Do you want the setting to be mysterious or detailed and clear?  Do you want it to feel strange or dangerous or safe or oppressive?  There can be areas or factions that carry these concepts further than others; maybe the tunnels have safer, more organized places but large areas of chaos and terror. Knowns and unknowns.

Indeed. It is important to determine themes ahead of time. I typically start with a set of themes for any game or project. Now I come up with themes so intuitively, I barely think about how to communicate them (which I should do more of). Potential themes in my setting might be: Conflict between nations, tribes, etc. / Struggle for survival in a hostile environment. / Wilderness exploration. / Biological and ethnic diversity between different fantasy races and cultures.

You also need to have an idea of what you want to avoid.  Do you want to avoid cute things, because they make things seem less serious?  Do you want to avoid fully functional AIs because they undermine all the symbolism you want about humanity's power to decide and fate?

This is also pretty insightful. I have some pretty big limitations here, which have been devised to make the setting easier to write in. I want to avoid technological speculation. Despite being set on another planet (Mars), the setting is technologically primitive. I also want to avoid "magic" and "divine intervention".

Thanks! This has been really helpful so far. I already had sort of thought of these things, but never really articulated them.
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2016, 12:54:36 AM »

Since your story takes place on Mars, one facet you could explore is the way that the harsh environment would affect Martian civilizations.

Present day Mars is quite cold and dry, but in the planet's early geologic history, it likely had vast polar oceans, perhaps enough atmosphere to trap greenhouse gases, warm the planet, and allow for complex plant life.

Maybe ages past, the Martians lived on the surface, even built a Stonehenge-esque temple on Olympus Mons, but as the oceans dried up, they were forced to move underground for warmth. You say you want the race to be technologically primitive, so maybe bioluminescence or the presence of geothermal vents eliminated the imperative to discover fire, keeping the culture scientifically idle in spite of a racial intelligence comparable to that of Homo habilis.  This makes it easy for religion to play a large cultural role...Were the Martian nations separated by geography, with tribes having emerged independent of one another, or was their some other cause for a cultural divide, say a struggle for power or resources, or a disagreement over whose god is the real creator of life, the universe, and everything...

Hope some of this helped, best of luck with the game!
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2016, 05:02:02 PM »

Since your story takes place on Mars, one facet you could explore is the way that the harsh environment would affect Martian civilizations.

Present day Mars is quite cold and dry, but in the planet's early geologic history, it likely had vast polar oceans, perhaps enough atmosphere to trap greenhouse gases, warm the planet, and allow for complex plant life.

Maybe ages past, the Martians lived on the surface, even built a Stonehenge-esque temple on Olympus Mons, but as the oceans dried up, they were forced to move underground for warmth. You say you want the race to be technologically primitive, so maybe bioluminescence or the presence of geothermal vents eliminated the imperative to discover fire, keeping the culture scientifically idle in spite of a racial intelligence comparable to that of Homo habilis.  This makes it easy for religion to play a large cultural role...Were the Martian nations separated by geography, with tribes having emerged independent of one another, or was their some other cause for a cultural divide, say a struggle for power or resources, or a disagreement over whose god is the real creator of life, the universe, and everything...

Hope some of this helped, best of luck with the game!

You've got some good ideas there. Mars current and past environment will definitely inform the game world.

I also appreciate the idea that Martian's have never mastered fire.

As you suggested, it is helpful to consider why the tribes might be split apart from one another.
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2016, 02:41:49 AM »

This is hat I do to make the world I'm creating more fundamental. I imagine one day of my life in this world. I ask myself do I eat cereal for breakfast in this world and so on. It doesn't cover all of the rules that are working in your world but it definitely helps. At least for me.  Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2016, 09:28:18 AM »

You should do some research into Tolkien and how he created Middle Earth. That guy was the master at world building, and probably a perfect example of how to do it the right way/hard way. His starting point for his world was before the big bang theory equivalent. He created an entity named Eru Iluvatar who started making music, and then created other beings from his own subconscious to aid in the creation of the music, and each of those entities made their own music from the music of Iluvatar, then eventually the music started forming into a fire, and this fire would dance according to the music, and then some of the entities entered the fire to help shape it, and then that fire eventually became what we know as Middle Earth....or something like that lol. I'm kinda just winging it off memory, so some of that is probably inaccurate, but you get the point. Read The Silmarilion for the full thing.

One of the biggest themes in his writing is the idea of sub-creation, which can be seen in almost every aspect. That alone is a very powerful tool for any looking to do some world-building, as it not only helps keep your ideas semi-organized, but it leads to things like world heritage, tradition, innovation, cultures, and all that wonderful unexpected and exciting stuff that make up a world.


Of course, if you're basing your world off of the real world or another existing world, you usually don't want to go so far back in the creation. Maybe you can try picking a point in time from which you want to start, and then start adding your own historical events alongside real ones, and then use that to mold the real history into a semi-fiction relevant for your own purposes.


One idea I had recently was to do just that to form some mythology. I split my world up into historical periods. In the earliest period, I set the stage for religious themes, created fake historical figures and stories, and created religious myths and monsters. Things like angels/demons, vampires, werewolves, sea monsters, ghosts, zombies, etc. After that, in around the 16th-17th centuries, I incorporated those elements to create stories about sea monsters, curses, ghosts, etc for a pirate-themed narrative.


Of course, world building is only one part of the creative process. You can have the most amazingly-detailed world ever, but if you're a crappy story teller then your stories aren't going to do the world justice. Likewise, if your world sucks but your stories are interesting, it could detract from the enjoyment people get from the stories.
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2017, 12:42:41 PM »

You might consider how long stuff has existed-
For all of human history mars has existed and beyond.

Consider what has existed forever, and what has existed essentially forever.
Demons are often the latter.
But it sounds like you only want Mars to be the thing that has existed forever.
It's like order of operations except on really big numbers.
And what I mean by forever is that nothing on Mars predates Mars itself. Therefore for your narrative the earliest anything can exist is by existing with Mars forever. Therefore anything else has only existed essentially forever. This sort of thing adds a huge depth to whatever story you tell.

The opposite of this is everything springing out of nowhere for no reason, which is kind of a terrible world building hack that adds nothing to your story.

However you take care of it, writing in order, floating details, or just outright retcons, any object that looks aged shows it's own story merely by looking at it. Any lore spinner, tells or shows what he says as well.
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