I have a passion for worldbuilding. I think it comes from my geeky desire to understand things comprehensively, and to see how systems interact and mesh and tangle. I’ve always loved seeing maps at the beginning of fantasy novels, or unpicking the nerdy specifics of faster-than-light technology. Before I began writing novels, before I wrote adventures for table-top roleplaying games, I wrote about ancient castles perched upon insurmountable cliffs, of starships skimming the fringes of nebulae, of great legends and dark secrets. It’s an enormously rewarding endeavor, and while it’s a vital part of compelling storytelling, it’s also pleasurable in and of itself.
So, I’ve decided to start a new worldbuilding project, and I’m going to do it right here on StoryWonk. Every Saturday, I’m going to post a new article. Over the weeks ahead, those articles will build into a description of a fully-developed setting, which will then be available under a Creative Commons license for anyone to use, plunder for inspiration, or make their own. I’m going to follow my enthusiasm and passion, and the end results are sure to be… well, interesting, if nothing else.
But where to begin? It’s not a trivial question, and the possibilities are endless. Every world needs to be built, no matter how familiar it may seem. You may be creating gas-mining stations in distant planetary systems, or populating the main street of your small Midwestern town; you may trace the arcane politics of ancient kingdoms, or the organizational chart of a multinational corporation. The rules of magic, the rules of time travel, the rules of Quidditch, the rules of the local Home Owners’ Association — it all needs attention, creativity, time. In the future, we’ll tackle some hard sci-fi, maybe something urban and fantastical, possibly even some more fringe settings like post-apocalyptic wasteland, or alternate-history Regency court.
Or even the dark and Lovecraftian wilds of Michigan.
First, though, we’re setting sail toward one of the most common and beloved destinations of amateur worldbuilders: we’re going straight fantasy. I’m not against worldbuilding that focuses on a single high-concept feature or gimmick, but for this first adventure, we’re going to go pretty traditional. Expect swords and sorcery, kings and dragons, a planet very much like our own around a star very much like our own. We’re also going to be taking a top-down approach, in which we begin by outlining the cosmology that underpins our new world, and drill down to the politics and geography, the philosophies and the conflicts. That certainly isn’t the only way of building a world, but it’s the one we’re going with. Will we end up with something like Westeros? Midkemia? Azeroth? Perhaps — but it will be someplace new, with deep forests to explore, and wild mountain ranges to traverse. It will be a stage for endless stories.
Next week, then, we’ll begin with a look at the universe which surrounds our new world.