Guest Post: The Basics of Creating a Story Setting
June 18, 2013spyrer
Greetings readers — this week’s blog post is all about creating a story setting. The post is written by Herrick Erickson-Brigl, a battle-brother from my time at Vigil Studios. Herrick’s guest post today is part of a blog swap we organized, and I’m very pleased to host his post here below:
Creating a Story Setting
I am a game designer and novelist by trade. I met Ross a while back when we worked together at the now defunct Vigil Studios. And recently became interested in doing a blog swap with him. An agreement was met among heroes and that is the origin story of how this blog post came to be! You can check out Ross’s awesome post on my blog here: http://fantasyaction.blogspot.com/2013/04/guest-post-by-ross-watson.html
I wanted to talk a bit today about creating a story setting. Whether you are creating a campaign setting for a professional release, novel, or dungeon mastering for your friends at home; the basics remain the same. I’m going to walk you through my own process and hopefully it helps yours.
Collect your thoughts
Take stock of what you want from your setting. How do you want to immerse your readers/players as they tumble down your rabbit hole? What kind of ideas do you have pinging around your head? Just pick up a piece of paper and write. This is called free writing and it is the easiest way to put thoughts to page. Don’t worry about keeping it organized or cohesive; throwing ideas from the void and onto paper is far more valuable at this point in the process. Do this for a couple hours and keep your fingers away from that tempting little backspace key!
|A little perspective is all it takes.|
NOTE! A lot of creators develop writer’s block and become jaded saying, “Everything has already been done.” Drawing on established conventions is absolutely okay. There is a reason dwarves, elves, and giants are mainstays of RPG development; fixing an entire genre shouldn’t be your number one priority in the beginning.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas on paper, the creation process will be a lot easier to visualize. Start organizing everything it groupings. Examples might be races, societies, magic, and technology. Of course this is simplified version, but liken it to the glossary of any text book you’ve ever read. You want your thoughts split up in easy to handle “bites” for further development.
Flesh out your ideas
Now that your ideas are in groups, take a look at them individually. Think of your original ideas as spider webs that you want to grow and branch out. This part of the development process is where you start adding your own flare and start making something that is unique and utterly your own. Further mold your ideas into something complete and new. Start looking at the things you’ve created in the past and things other creators have made, then try and think of ways to set yourself apart in a positive way. Maybe there was something you liked that someone else did, there’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from others.
Here are a few basic templates for creating races, societies, magic, and technology. This is a great starting place for any aspiring world creator.
A race by definition is a being that denotes a difference in either national affiliation, physical traits, or both. How are the races of your world different? How do they look? Act? Fight? What are their genetic capabilities? How many races are there in your world? Do they like/hate each other? Fill in these blanks: (Note, these should be average estimations)
- Body description:
- Motivations and leanings:
|Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination.|
Societies are groups of people involved in persistent relations. Societies are broken down into politics, wealth, trade, military, religion, and citizenry. The society is the hub of your world, the place where everything starts and everything ends. How many societies are there? What kind of land do they own? How much territory do they occupy? Fill in the following blanks below:
- Politics:Social hierarchy and interactions from within and without.
- Wealth: How much money does this country have? How well off are its citizens?
- Trade: What other nations do they interact with? What commodities does this nation have to offer?
- Religion: What god/s are worshiped? How does this impact daily life?
- Military: The military strength and influence in the society, plus any faction this society is at war with.
- Citizenry:Think about your average person in this society, what would their daily life be like? What is/are the race/s of this society?
Magic is defined as a power that influences events with mysterious or supernatural forces. By its innate nature, this force demands a reader suspend disbelief. Often it can be explained as a force of nature. But magic can’t just happen there need to be rules or anyone can use it and then you have a ton of people running around acting like gods. Fill in these blanks:
- Scarcity: Abundant/rare. Does the mere act of using a cantrip send whispers across the realm or is magic a part of everyday life?
- Requirements:What does someone have to give or have in order to use magic? Is it a bloodline trait or a learned skill? Is there a penalty for using magic?
- Influence: How powerful is magic in your world?
Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization. Defining technology’s role in your world is one of the most fundamental parts of the process and it is often overlooked. What level of tech is featured in your campaign? Medieval? Sure, okay but are there trebuchets? Mechanical inventions of any kind? What about steam, fire, etc? If your campaign has magic, does it operate in lieu or in tandem with machinery? Fill in these blanks:
- Level of technology: What era of human technological advancement can you equate this society or world’s current developmental level?
- Abundance:How abundant is this technology? Is it used widely or sparingly? Who can use it?
- Magic and technology: How do these two interact? Do they interact at all?
Thanks for reading this blog post and I hope you all loved it!
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