Tuesday, May 24, 2016
World Building: Part 1, You Have to Start Somewhere
Ever since the first time I opened an role playing book I have been in love with world building. The idea that I could take all the ideas I had about various kingdoms, people, and universes and use those in a role playing game was exciting. While the ideas in my head were exciting I really didn't know how to approach world building because it seemed so intimidating. I felt like I had to somehow get the entire world built before I could introduce the world to my players. This led to countless attempts at creating a world which in turn led to countless times I got discouraged and gave up.
Even today as I write this post I feel this tickle in the back of my brain to get it all done right now! I know that I can't, I know that something as intensive as building a world simply takes time. The problem is that I don't want to take the time, I want to get it all done so I can move onto the next idea and the next. As you can imagine this leads to a lot of frustration and creative paralysis. While I might suffer from an over active imagination, this doesn't mean I shouldn't make the attempt.
Over the years I have learned a few things about world building and I figured I would share them with those who happen to read this blog. Maybe something I say will help someone out there struggling like I did. Maybe an idea I present will be the next great campaign for a gaming group. Even if none of that happens, I will enjoy it, and in the end that is exactly what world building should be about.
So how do you build a world from scratch? Well I always like to start at the beginning. I spend some time thinking about the world I want to see then I think about the history and jot down a bit of a timeline. As I begin on the timeline I keep the destination in mind because I know history is a series of cause and effect. If I want to build a world that is in the middle of a brutal world spanning war, I have to make sure the timeline reflects how that started. If I want to build a world that is recovering from the devastation of an apocalypse, I have to know how that happened.
To give people an example of a timeline I will be sharing one from one of my current campaigns. While it is a Science Fiction campaign, this doesn't mean you can't use it as inspiration for a smaller world. While you read the following timeline think about the timeline of your own world. As ideas come, jot them down on a piece of paper or use one note to write them down. While it might not seem like it at first, this timeline will add a lot to your world later.
2025 - The United States descends into a second civil war as right wing and left wing extremists attempt to take over the federal government by force. This civil war causes a collapse of the entire worlds economy. Billions of people perish in the following ten year period as violence, disease, and starvation exact a grisly toll.
2035 - A Chinese computer programmer creates a program which he names Benefactor. Benefactor is an advanced artificial intelligence tasked with resolving the many issues the world faces.
2040 - Benefactor produces a mathematical algorithm that predicts human responses to any given situation. This algorithm is 98 percent accurate. The weary governments all over the world embrace this new algorithm and the beginnings of a single planetary government are built.
2050 - With the aid of Benefactor the nations of the world quell all resistance to the planetary government and the First World Government is established. This government uses the algorithm to benefit humans but also uses it to predict those who would be a danger to the world and has them executed without trial.
2060 - The algorithm reports that increasing populations on the planet will begin to cause conflict. In response the world government charges Benefactor with the task of developing methods of faster than light space travel and models for space colonization.
2063 - Benefactor succeeds in developing technology that allows for faster than light travel. Benefactor also develops the plans for space craft that can now be used to transport people to distant planets. The only thing stopping immediate space colonization is the lack of livable planets in the nearby part of the galaxy. Benefactor is told to now develop a method of terraforming.
2070 - While benefactor works on a method of terraforming the worlds population reaches a crises point. The First World Government decides that while habitable planets are in short supply, that they need to send millions of people into space on generational space craft in order to ease the strain of population. By the end of the year over one hundred thousand generational space craft are launched. This event is known as the Great Expedition.
2100 - After thirty years the number of generational space craft has reached well over 1 million. The first generational ships are starting to have problems with over crowding. A scientist on the generational ship Omaha named Theru O'Malley discovers a method to terraform planets in a matter of months. Sharing this information with Benefactor plans are made to begin terraforming Mars into a habitable planet.
2101 - The attempt to terraforms Mars is a success, immediately the oldest generational space craft land on Mars and begin building. This is the beginning of an age known as the Great Creation.
2101 - 2200 Over a period of 100 years the First World Government terraforms nearly a thousand planets and moons into habitable locations allowing humanity to spread throughout the galaxy. During this time it becomes obvious that the Benefactor algorithm is too limited to handle a society on such a large scale and The First World Government begins to lose it's power specially among the planets furthest from Earth.
2200 - Several planets begin to form lose confederations and declare independence from the First World Government. In response the First World Government scrambles to improve Benefactors artificial intelligence.
2205 - Benefactor II is created as many of the planets begin to engage in a civil war. The first act of Benefactor II is to create the first transhuman genetic sequence. The transhuman genetic sequence is used to create humans that are smarter, stronger, and faster than any other human alive. These transhumans are grown in growth acceleration chambers and used as the backbone of the First World Governments Galactic army.
2230 - With the aid of several generations worth of transhumans the First World Government manages to quell all resistance to its rule and once again all of human space is united under one government. This government is called the Galactic Imperium.
2230-2500 - The Galactic Imperium presides over a time of peace which lasts nearly 300 years. During this time the transhuman genetic code is refined several times with each refinement creating a superior form of transhuman. These transhumans are given the role of planetary governors, generals, and other forms of leadership. Benefactor II warns that this will cause problems in the future but this warning is ignored.
2500 - an unknown individual infects Benefactor II with a virus code known as the Yweh code. This code changes the base programing of Benefactor II and eliminates the protections for humans that were a part of it's inception. No longer compelled to benefit humans Benefactor II begins destroying humanity on a large scale.
2500-3000 - This period is known as the Benefactor war as humanity and machines controlled by the Benefactor war with each other. The Galactic Imperium is fractured and entire planets are destroyed. The very existence of humanity is in question until a new virus known as the crucible code is introduced into the programming of Benefactor II. This code drives Benefactor II insane and soon all artificial intelligence is infected launching into a cycle of self destruction. Humanity wins the Benefactor war but is plunged into a dark age that will last nearly a thousand years.
4000 - The current campaign year and beginning of the Age of Unearthing.