Science Fiction World Creation Notebook
You have to start somewhere when creating a science fiction world. One of the more common places to start is with a map, a geographic guidebook to your world. Before you create your map you have to design a genre for your world, That's what Matthew at our roundtable advised.
You can think of a genre as a theme for your fantasy world. Maybe your theme is a dark world, where the world is moving out of orbit away from the sun. A world like this would be growing colder and darker, every day. Maybe your world is a world where everybody is capable of casting magic spells. Maybe the world was formed by the gods of war, just for their entertainment. You can look at the history of this world and just pick a starting point in time if you like. Start with the Romans, or the Vikings, or even cavemen. Your theme will pretty much define how your fantasy world develops. You should be able to sum up your genre, or theme in just one sentence. Here is a few more ideas for your genre, just to give you a place to start:
A traditional medieval role playing world with
The traditional medieval world with lots of magic, or very little magic.
You can start with a world of felines, or cat people, where humans invade.
Maybe a worldwide nuclear holocaust knocked a very advanced world back into the dark ages.
You can pick a time in Earth history to start. Maybe the early stone age, or the late bronze age, and build your history, or civilization around that.
You can pick an invention, and build your world around that. Examples include worlds with airships, worlds with all vehicles and ships that are all wind powered. Worlds with some unique technology or magic like a world of dark necromancers who are only interested in raising the dead..
You could choose an alternate earth, where history changed, like in the S.M. Stirling novels. You can also base your world on the ideas of other writers or authors. Examples of this include Thieves World, © edited by Robert Lynn & Lynn Abbey, Midkemia, chronicled by Raymond E. Fiest, The Land of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, written in many books by Stephen R. Donaldson. There are many, many authors besides the few I mentioned that have created fantasy worlds, all of which are rich in source materiel and ideas to form your own world from.
Maybe you choose to build a world where humans
are not the dominant species, other demi-humans such as elves, dwarves,
halflings, gnomes, or maybe even species of monsters dominate your fantasy
world, and humans are the hunted, or the vilified.
Maybe you want to create your own races, go right ahead.
Once you have a theme or genre, you can go about creating your maps. In our world building roundtable we determined a couple of things to help everybody out. First, start small. Map out a single kingdom, or area. If you must do the whole world all at once, start out with a rough sketch map of all the major land masses. Fill in mountain ranges, hills, then add rivers, forests, and lowlands. Finally add civilized areas like towns and cities and such. If you can't fit all that into your rough sketch, its ok. Just draw what you can. Then create a detailed map of the area where your players will start. You can always create more maps with notes, of areas you want to provide more detail on, later.
Once you have a map, it would be a good idea to flesh out a few places with details so you have places to play the game when your loyal gamers show up to begin adventuring and exploring.
Highly populated areas like cities need government, economics, non-player characters, places of mystery, places of interest, shops, inns, taverns, markets, mills, workshops, factories, government quarters, judicial quarters, houses, estates, temples, shrines, and in some cases maintenance and utility facilities including sewers, water runoff control (Especially in places where it rains often), cities in fantasy worlds have advisors, sages, entertainers, guards, mercenaries, wizards, clerics, guild house, merchants, traders, and anything else you care to add. Every city is unique. The people will or (should) follow some custom or law different from every other city, and you may find it easy to design similar customs and laws for nearby cities, towns, and villages as well
Castles need walls, earthen defensive locations, gates, towers, traps, shops, quarters, the home of the castle lord, stables, aeries (For flying mounts), a forge, smithy, or workshop, moats, and other protected areas. Often you will find a small village or town sheltered within the walls of a castle, other times, castles protect specific individuals and notable families.
Places of mystery is a general term describing any place your players are unfamiliar with. This could include ruins, dungeons, temples, shops, towns, and cities that your players have never been to. It is always good to have one or two new places of mystery ready if your playing group should head off in some unknown direction, you have a place ready for them to explore.
On a side note, often, during gaming sessions, I don't have my trusty personal computer with me, so I keep notes on the history of a region, nonplayer characters the party could meet, and on monsters, and places of mystery on handy 5x8 Index cards that are, of course, indexed by geographic region.
That brings us to the other thing to help all you world designers out there and that is the time to design your world is not when you are in the middle of a gaming session, but before. When you are with the players, focus on the moment, on them, on their characters, and in making sure they have a good time. That's an important part of being a successful game master
Anyone feel free to add your comments. You can
email me or post a message on the Fantasyworld Egroup, and Iíll be glad
to add them to this document. From here you
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