LESSON Fantasy Worldbuilding - Post-apocalyptic Society

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS & CULTURES' started by Malkuthe Highwind, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. Fire! Brimstone! Ash! Death! Destruction has fallen upon your fantasy world... or has it? In this workshop I'll discuss different types or themes of Fantasy post-apocalyptic worlds. However, it is important to remember that not all post-apocalyptic worlds are burning shadows of their former selves, torn apart by cataclysmic forces. Worlds can go out with a whimper. Some worlds that go out with a bang can actually pull themselves back together!

    Why Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy?, #850000 Before we get into more of the specifics, I do think this is one important question to ask. Why create a post-apocalyptic fantasy world? Isn't the whole post-apocalyptic sub-genre pretty much monopolized by the sci-fi genre? Well, yes... and no. The answer is more complicated than that.

    First off, post-apocalyptic being a sub-genre means it can be pretty much applied to any of the arch-genres of fiction. Have a modern post-apocalyptic if you'd like! Or maybe have a post-apocalyptic romance. (Romantically apocalyptic. Webcomic. Try reading it. You'll get mindfucked.) Anyway. I digress.

    Post-apocalyptic sci-fi and modern worlds are far more prevalent than fantasy post-apocalyptic worlds because there are many more ways to make them compelling to the reader. It's not for lack of trying on the fantasy authors' part though! Fantasy authors only have so much to rely on for a post-apocalyptic scenario: magic and gods. There's no way that swords and shields can cause world-wide catastrophe, but nuclear weapons and/or planetary disintegration beams can quite easily spell doom for an otherwise healthy world.

    So. Let's cut to the chase, shall we? Why on earth would I want my fantasy world to be a post-apocalyptic one? Isn't fantasy supposed to be fantastical, battle-between-good-and-evil and beautiful? No. There are so many things wrong with that perception I won't even go into it right now. However, fantasy isn't just meant to be beautiful. As a lot of roleplayers may attest to, fantasy lends itself well to grimdark -- and post-apocalyptic by extension -- as well.

    In a post-apocalyptic world, the entire stereotypical paradigm of fantasy is thrown out of whack. Forget good and evil. Fuck honour. No. Survival becomes the paramount goal. Roleplayers, and writers in general of fantasy don't often get the opportunity to perform character studies. However, post-apocalyptic tales lend themselves well to these character studies. Everyone in this world will be shades of grey. There will be no true good or true evil. Everyone will simply be out there to survive.

    How will your character react? How will they choose to survive? Will they even be able to strike out on their own across the world? Is your character going to be a bandit? Or would they try to find a settlement to help out at and stay?

    There are many things that you can use to develop your characters, and in reality, your worlds, if you foray into the post-apocalyptic.

    General Things, #850000
    Alright. So. Let's get into the swing of things. However, before we venture into the particulars, let's discuss what, in general, happens during a post-apocalyptic scenario.

    Unless your post-apocalyptic scenario destroys absolutely everything -- which, really, wouldn't lend much to an RP -- there will be dredges of civilization that remains on your world. Invariably, these fragments would pool together. There is safety in numbers, and it will be far easier to collect resources in a large group. There will be settlements/tent cities that pop up early after the apocalypse.

    Most of these settlements will face ruin as dwindling resources force less cooperative settlements closer to others. Eventually, these settlements may conglomerate into towns and/or cities.

    At this point, people in those settlements may have faced a lot of terrible things from outsiders. Society will, in general, be highly xenophobic. Outsiders be damned. Cities and settlements will have enough trouble sustaining themselves that more mouths to feed will be in general unwelcome.

    Life will be terribly hard in these cities and people will often toil to make the most meager of livings. Religion will thrive in this environment, and where some will be simply to comfort the people who remain. There will be many religions that crop up to inflame people against certain minorities, blaming their "sins" for the state of the world. Theocracies will be born as people grasp blindly at something, anything that could promise a better life.

    It's not entirely illogical that a feudal system will rise into prominence during this time either, with lords and knights promising to protect the peasantry in exchange for their services. Merchants will also gain notoriety, but it will be a far more dangerous prospect to be a merchant during post-apocalyptic times because it involves traveling to the nearest settlements in order to secure trade contracts. Many will die, but those who succeed will easily become some of the most influential people in the settlements.

    Assuming that the "apocalypse" has caused enough damage to destroy a significant portion of the flora and fauna of the world as well as rendering a large amount of it unlivable, ever-dwindling resources will force large settlements to enter into conflicts over food and water. More aggressive colonies will typically win out, and eventually, after many years, civilization will become concentrated in dense pockets that are constantly fighting over resources.

    This may very well be the state of society that your character lives in if you let them loose in a post-apocalyptic world. However, there will definitely be people who are exiled from their home settlements as punishment for some religious atrocity or were never involved in the building of one to begin with.

    As resources out in the wild also decrease, bandits will begin to band together and launch offensives against the settlements. This coupled with the pressure to survive and the threat of raids from neighbouring settlements will surely see to some bandit settlements cropping up as well.

    Slavery will be reintroduced into the world -- if it was eradicated prior to the apocalypse. This will pretty much be the norm of the land until either ever-dwindling resources forces all the settlements against all the settlements near them or they die of starvation; or the world recovers and healthy civilization can return to being.

    Stay in your seats ladies and gentlemen! Next week, I will put up a workshop on the different archetypes of post-apocalyptic fantasy worlds!
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