Thursday, February 10, 2011

RPG Carnival - World Building

I've always felt that World Building is one of the most fun and challenging aspects of Gamesmastering.  When I saw RPG Carnival has set this month's topic to World Building I thought I would give it a shot.

How do you get the worlds you use for your game?

I do a lot of reading.  Mostly classical literature, the older the better.  I use those stories to a large degree to shape my world.  Places, Characters, Themes.  All of these can be found in abundance in the works of antiquity.  I prefer those works, possibly, because I find the ancients managed to dig deeply into human psychology, and many of their storys have an internal symbolic coherency I admire.  I try to emulate those aspects in my world. 

I also, in addition, watch the news to look for events that I think would play out as interesting plots in my campaigns.  They can be very broad geo-political events, such as what is going on now in the Middle East, or they can be very minor local events such as the chaos produced by a water main break.  I look for any aspect that would be interesting for my world, such as Place, Character, Items, or Plotline. 

Lastly, perhaps, I read a lot of history books, and science magazines.  History is great for understanding the Big Picture of Politics, Economics, and Sociology.  All of that helps in shaping my world and my campaigns.  I also like to read science magazines for interesting new concepts that I may be able to apply.  A lot of times I may take a new science idea, and convert it into a magic idea within my world.

Do you create your own or use a published world?

I definitely create my own world, but it is based on what I find in literature and life's explorations.  I tend to go with "There is nothing new under the sun." in regards to story telling.  But how we mix and play with the elements of story handed down to us has infiinte potential.  So I never get bored by it, and my world feels unique to me, even though many elements are drawn from prior sources.

If you create your own, where did you start?

I usually start with a map.  I then look at the terrain and assign races.  Then I look at the map's terrain and determine where the Avenues and Boundarys are located, and figure out which races control which routes, and for what purposes.  I then look for Places of Strategic Interest.   These will get controlled by one or more races.  Now I am ready to sketch out a rough draft of the history of the land.  I establish the major towns and citys, dynasties and kingdoms, and so on.  I draw up some historic conflicts, and usually stop there.  It is good enough.  I don't like to start my world with too much detail.  I often let the details emerge during play.  It helps me to stay flexible.  Another thing I do is to create historic events, but not necessarily assign them a specific date or location.  Such as "The War of the Insects" was a concept that had no place or location until it came up in play.  And then it did.

What do you like best about building your own settings?

Two things.  One I like the suprise that the players experience as they explore the world, not having read about it in someone elses Campaign Setting book.  And of course I love to create the world, as through that process I feel I am authoring something interesting, and at the same time learning more about our own real world.

What suggestions and resources do you have for teaching others how to build worlds of the their own?

I recommend reading a lot of classical litereature, and history. I also recommend living a lot of life.  Try to gain interesting experiences along the way that you can then add to the art of your world.  Become an excellent observer of life.

What are the pros and cons of building your own world?

The pros are that you have created your own and it's yours and you can do with it what you like and suprise your players and enjoy the fruits of your labors.  The cons are that it is a lot of work and to do it well requires effort and imagination in abundance.   Many people simply do not have the time for it.

Where do you get the inspiration for your worlds?

Book Title, Author
Tarzan Series, Edgar Rice Boroughs
Bhagavad Gita, Unknown
Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu
The Art of War, Sun Tzu
The Book of Five Rings, Musashi
The I Ching; The Book of Chnages, King Wen (Trans. Brian Browne Walker)
The Republic, Plato
The Laws, Plato
The Symposium, Plato
The Meno, Plato
The Crito, Plato
Lensman Series, E. Smith
Euthyphro, Plato
Apology, Plato
Phaedo, Plato
The Politics, Aristotle
Metaphysics, Aristotle
Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
The New Atlantis, Francis Bacon
The Prince, Machiavelli
On History, Kant
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
A Wrinkle in Time Series, Madeleine L'Engle
Selected Essays, Emerson (On Nature)
The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hess
History of Political Philosophy, Leo Strauss & Joseph Cropsey
Thoughts on Machiavelli, Leo Strauss
Introduction to the Reading of Hegel; Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, Alexandre Kojeve
Love of Glory and the Common Good; Aspects of the Political Thought of Thucydides, Michael Palmer
Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry
A field Guild to the LIttle People, Nancy Arrowsmith
The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, E & M Radford
The World Guide to Gnomes Faries Elves and other Little People, Thomas Keightley
The Dragon and the Unicorn Series, A. A. Attanasio
Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
The Book of Splendor (The Zohar), various attributions
Ecclesiastes, attributed to King Solomon
Book of Job, Unknown
Ishmael, Dan Quinn
The Story of B, Dan Quinn
A Confession and other religious writings, Leo Tolstoy
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were, Michael Page
Sabriel Series, Garth Nix
World Mythology, Roy Willis (Ed.)
The Way of Passion, Andrew Harvey
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh
The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers
Gods & Myths of the Viking Age, H.R. Ellis Davidson
Fire in the Head, Tom Cowan
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson
The Place of the Lion, Charles Williams
Classic Celtic Fairy Tales, John Matthews
The High King Series, Lloyd Alexander
Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering , Robin Law
The Grail Trilogy (Archers Tale, Harlequin, Vagabond), Bernard Cornwell
Arthurian Legends (Winter King, Enemy of Good, Exalibur), Bernard Cornwell
The Saxon Stories (The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, The Lords of the North, Sword Song), Benard Cornwell
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
Sharpe Series, Benard Cornwell
Hornblower Series, C.S.S. Forester
The Gods of Pegana, Lord Dunsany
Time and the Gods, Lord Dunsany
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson
Mossflower, Brian Jacques
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
Arthurian Romances, Chretien de Troyes
The Faerie Queen, Edmund Spenser
Sir Gwaine and the Green Knight, Unknown
Tales of King Arther, Sir Thomas Malory
Tristan and Isolde, Strassburg
The Song of Roland, Unknown
Idylls of the King, Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Quest of the Holy Grail, Walter Map [Mattarasso]
The Death of King Arthur, Walter Map
The Pearl, unknown
The Lady of the Lake, Sir Walter Scott
The Hobbit, JR Tolkien
The Laxdaela Saga, Unkonwn
Parzival, W.V. Eschenbach
Willehalm, W.V. Eschenbach
The Nibilungenlied, Unknown
The Mabinogion, Unknown
Beowulf, Unknown
Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson
Folk Tales, The Brothers Grim
Irish Fairy Tales, Jeremiah Curtin
The Complete Fairy Tales, George MacDonald
Lord of the Rings, JR Tolkien
The Yellow Fairy Tale Book, Andrew Lang
The World's Great Folktales, James Forster (Editor)
Danish Fairy Tales, Inge Hack
Castle of Oranto, Horace Walpole
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Frankenstien, Mary Shelly
Vathek, William Beckford
The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
Perlandria Series, C. S. Lewis
Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Allan Poe
The Silmarillion, JR Tolkien
Stories by Lovecraft, Lovecraft
The Norse Myths, Kevin Crossley-Holland
Saga of the Volsungs, Jesse L. Byock
Egil's Saga, Paul Edwards
Prose Edda, Jean I. Young
Illiad, Homer
Odyssey, Homer
The Hermetica; The Lost Wisdom of the Pharohs, Timothy Freke & Peter Candy
Mythologies of the Ancient World, S. Kramer
Myths from Mesopotamia, Stephanie Dalley
Farmer Giles of Ham, JR Tolkien
Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Meopotamia, N.K. Sandars
Sumerian Mythology, S. Kramer
The Sumerians, S. Kramer
Inanna; Queen of Heaven and Earth, S. Kramer
The Aeneid, Virgil
La Vita Nova, Dante
Lysistrata, Aristophanes
The Clouds, Aristophanes
The Wasps, Aristophanes
The Poet and the Woman, Aristophanes
The Narnia Chronicles, CS Lewis
The Frogs, Aristophanes
Metamorphosis, Ovid
Fables of Aesop, Aesop
The Works of Sir Walter Scott, Sir Walter Scott
The Holy Bible [King James], The Almighty Creator
Paradise Lost, Milton
Divine Comedy, Dante
Piers the Ploughman, William Langland
Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross
The Ladder of Perfection, Walter Hilton
Conan Series, Robert Howard
The City of God, Augustine
The Fathers of the Church; Homilies on Leviticus, Origen
Confessions, Saint Augustine
Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede
The Guide for the Perplexed, Moses Maimonides
The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
The Histories, Herodotus
Germanicus, Tacitus
Lives, Plutarch
The Age of Alexander, Plutarch
Solomon Kane Series, Robert Howard
The Early History of Rome, Livy
Rome and the Mediterranean, Livy
The War with Hannibal, Livy
The Rise of the Roman Empire, Polybius
The History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth
The Travels, Marco Polo
The Epic of Gilgamesh, Unknown
The Hermetica, Timothy Freke
Shrimad Bhagamatam (Volumes 1-14), Unknown
Dharmapada, Unknown