Worldbuilding from Square One: Part IV

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Minibit, Jul 14, 2014.

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  1. This is my personal method of worldbuilding from square one. Others may have different methods, or may do things in a different order; there is no wrong way to worldbuild and these exercises are not intended to imply that one way is 'right' and the others are 'wrong' or 'inferior'. The intent is to share one fairly generic method in the hopes that it will help other structure-oriented worldbuilders find a method that works for them.

    1. Naming and Concept
    2. Mapping and History
    3. Culture and Technology
    4. How It Works
    5. Tying it All Together

    What happens if I poke it?
    I've talked before about not laying down too many laws/rules for your roleplays, as it can make players feel railroaded and restricted, but when worldbuilding, in order to keep some continuity, and especially to keep powers/gizmos from turning into overkill panaceas and deus ex machinas, it's important to set some standards for how things work to make your world a place that makes sense while still presenting challenges. This is as much to do with restrictions as it is with opening up doors.
    For example, let's say you've designed a world where there is a physical plane of existence, and a spiritual one, and the main form of magic is summoning magic, where spirits are called out to fight or otherwise help out in the physical plane. You've got your names and concepts down, you've drawn a map and have an idea of your culture, technology, and other details, but you still need a working system for how summoning works, what exactly is going on when a spirit is moving from the spirit plane to the physical plane, the level of awareness the two planes have of each other's activities, and the consequences of things like
      • A spirit is killed in the physical plane - does its body remain there, or does it transfer back to the spirit plane? Is it dead when it returns to the plane, or can it be healed/regenerated there?
      • A summoner's power is cut off - What is the source of this power, is it possible to take it away, and what happens in the spirit plane if he/she tries to call a spirit while thus cut off?
      • A spirit dies or falls sick while in the spirit plane - what happens when that spirit is summoned? Do they have a choice when they're being summoned? Are they still weakened in the physical plane? Can you call a dead spirit?
    In a roleplay, it's not usually necessary to define the answers to all these questions in your advertisement or signup thread, but it's a good idea to have the most likely situations and "but what if this happens" type stuff figured out, so that you have answers ready for your players when they are putting their own spin and creativity on your world. It's important to give players room to play, while still maintaining a continuity so that everyone is on the same page. Similarly, when writing a story, you don't need to exposit this information unless the situation actually comes up, but I personally find it's a good idea to have the most likely what-ifs figured out ahead of time. In addition, thinking about different ways players and situations might poke at the things you have set up can open up doors for plot twists you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

    Laws and Logic
    Especially when you add something potentially destructive or chaotic to your world (for example, giving people randomly-determined powers, or advancing weapons technology to Death Star levels), you need to consider what kinds of Laws and Rules would have been agreed upon with the introduction of these things. Some think of Laws as the worldbuilder's wet blanket, but they honestly don't have to be. Laws can make sense and seem to cover everything, while still leaving lots of room for your exiciting plot twists to happen. Try looking up various counties' laws for things like narcotics, sidearms, heavy weapons, property ownership, and the limits of the police force and/or army's power. Once you've got a feel for how potentially dangerous things are kept mostly in line, you can probably move on pretty easily from there to set up reasonable restrictions for your world's goodies.
    Also remember that some rules were made to be broken. Where I live, it is technically illegal to ride a bicycle without a helmet on, but you still see kids doing it all the time (still stupid and dangerous and they can be fined by a police officer if they're caught, but they do it.) Just because you've decided it is reasonable that in your world, there would be laws against using the randomly-dispersed elemental powers in public places, doesn't mean that some people still wouldn't want to show off their fireballs at the local skate park, or play around with water powers in the public pool.
    Decide also how serious an infraction breaking these laws would be. If you break this law, do you get a verbal warning? A fine? A night in the slammer? A prison sentence? A watch on your house? Will you have to go to court?
    #1 Minibit, Jul 14, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
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