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Author Topic: The Worldbuilding Thread!  (Read 3575 times)

RedKing

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2010, 10:05:20 am »

Not a bad start. Have to agree with some of the others though about the "Cataclysm" being an overused trope.

It has its benefits if you're doing an RPG: you can describe potent artifacts from Before The Fall, and allow GMs to decide which ones are gone and which are merely "lost".

But for storytelling purposes...meh. It's not really necessary. Most historical empires have fallen without any major assistance from Mother Nature. Most common reasons are civil disorder, disease, famine and in some cases collapsing under the sheer size of the imperial bureaucracy. One problem with large empires, particularly in an era before advanced communication, is that they're incredibly hard to manage from the homeland. More and more power has to be delegated to the local governors/viceroys/prefects, to the point where they become pseudo-kingdoms in their own right. Eventually they resent paying taxes to a far-away capital, especially if the Emperor is unresponsive to their needs.

Additionally, creating an ever-larger bureaucracy to oversee the empire is expensive. Creating an army to defend it is also expensive. It's possible to get caught in a conquest death spiral, where the administrative costs of the empire can only be funded through conquest and plunder, and the conquest necessitates an even larger administration and army, which requires more money, ad nauseum.

There's a Chinese proverb, shan gao huang di yuan, which roughly translates to "The mountains are high and the Emperor is far away". The gist is that officials in the outlying provinces can ignore Imperial decree because it would take more effort than it's worth for the Emperor to punish them. But when enough of the empire is ignoring the Emperor, well...it's not really an empire anymore.

Now obviously, if your magical big boom is core to the plot, then by all means keep it. But if it's just a plot device to explain a broken empire, there's really no need. Empires tend to shatter under their own weight.


On a different note: where's the old Imperial core, on A, B or C? And keep in mind that continent-sized landmasses should be geographically diverse, not "one big plain" or "all hills". If the landmasses are considerably smaller than continents, you can have that but even then small landmasses often have remarkably geographic diversity.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2010, 10:31:36 am by RedKing »
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Fishbreath

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2010, 12:43:55 pm »

There's a Chinese proverb, shan gao huang di yuan, which roughly translates to "The mountains are high and the Emperor is far away". The gist is that officials in the outlying provinces can ignore Imperial decree because it would take more effort than it's worth for the Emperor to punish them. But when enough of the empire is ignoring the Emperor, well...it's not really an empire anymore.

Completely off-topic, but curiously there's a very similar saying in Russian: До царя далико, до бога высоко (the tsar is far away, and God is high in the heavens). The meaning for it is more along the lines of "...so you'll just have to do it yourself", though.

To bring it back toward worldbuilding, I think the part of the process I enjoy the most is contrasting cultures. Take for instance these two sayings--they're almost the same, and (to the extent that I know of Chinese history, which isn't very much) they come from societies which are, broadly, arranged in the same way (at least in terms of government). The difference in cultural background is where the difference in meaning arises.

Acanthus117

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2010, 08:00:04 pm »

Man, I love you guys.

I mean, I thought everyone would be like Lulz,  this d00d sucks, but all youz is great.

As for questions, I'll have a long, long, answer post when I'm done with the map of Azerou and surrounding stuff.

Oh, and the Imperial core was in A, just so you guys know.

(I'm thinking of doing the world map meself, seeing as it wasn't that hard to make the map of Azerou and stuff.)
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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2010, 08:54:36 pm »

Hmm, have you given any though to the ramifications of an archipelago-based nation? Such a country would be naturally fragmented and wracked with social unrest.
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Acanthus117

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2010, 08:58:39 pm »

I'm looking at the history of the Philippines, especially before the Spanish.

From my studies at school (from what I remember) all the peoples were mostly in their own little barangays and stuff, so the Archipelago is mostly like that.

I have an idea that an Imperial Remnant rules over most of the Northern Landmass, and they have some of the Northern Isles of the Archipelago with an iron fist, so I gotta research more.

:D
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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2010, 09:01:09 pm »

There's going to be a big cultural gap as well. Since individual cultures developed on individual islands, and possibly only started trading maybe three or four centuries before the current timeline, after all. This could show in racial tension between ethnic groups in Azerou, for example.
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Acanthus117

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2010, 09:02:51 pm »

Yeah, like the first islanders who lived there (Filipino Culture might seep there) will clash with the richer Imperials who left after the Empire fell, not to mention some Southerners(Arabian/Chinese, I suppose), and people from other islands might be dicking around there too.
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Thendash

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2010, 12:42:59 am »

Posting so I can watch this develope. I like what you have here so far, and I eagerly await your long post of details.
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Muz

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2010, 09:04:18 am »

Hmm, have you given any though to the ramifications of an archipelago-based nation? Such a country would be naturally fragmented and wracked with social unrest.

I dunno, Indonesia seems to hold it together very well. The thing about archipelagos is that they usually evolve from a single seafaring culture. One nation learns to build ships and settle over a lot of islands. They end up with a rather similar culture. And with something like a worldwide empire might have a lack of variety when it comes to culture.

But it really depends. If it was an unstable empire (which begs the quesiton of how it even got to be as big as it was), then there'd be cultural clashes. If you have a stable, huge empire like China or the USA, then you'd probably have different cultures in different provinces and states, but they wouldn't really clash. Malaysia has a funny state structure where every island would have their own "king", but there'd be a bigger "great king". I'm not sure if you could call it feudal, more like a collection of city-states.
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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2010, 09:26:46 am »

I highly recommend Holly Lisle's fantasy map-making workshop, and also her in-depth documentation of her own world 'Matrin' from conception to final proof.

I have a feeling these aren't going to get read without me pushing them some more, so I'm going to c/p the best parts of the first link. The second's still worth checking out.

Quote from: Holly Lisle
Why are the borders there? By this I mean, why do these people have borders in the first place? A border always implies that conditions, people, philosophies, governments, or something else is different on each side. How are the people on one side of the border different from the people on the other side? (Religion, government, race, species ... go into detail. Really take some time working out what these differences are, and put some effort into figuring out why they were important enough to necessitate the creation of that border.)

What goes up and down the rivers? (People, contraband, products?) How does it get there? Who takes it?

What lives in the mountains? (Animals, people, big scary things, all of the above?)

How does the weather endanger the lives of the people who live in your world? (Along with weather---stuff like tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, snowstorms, avalanches, and so on, you should include things like areas where you'll have earthquakes and volcanoes. Don't be afraid to be generous in heaping out troubles. You'll find plenty of use for them.)

What else endangers the people on your continent? (Plagues, barbarians, people from the other side of the world, monsters from the oceans or beneath the earth ... Again, take some time on this. And be generous.)

Do a quick timeline in hundred year increments, for maybe two thousand years. Write down one really big thing that happened in each of those hundred-year periods. It can be geological, political, religious, magical, whatever. But it needs to be big. (Example: Invasion of the Sheromene headhunters into the country of Dormica, and subsequent decimation of the native population and establishment of the Sheromenes in the southern half of that country.)

Write whatever else you can think of right now. Keep moving back and forth, from your map to your notes. Add stuff to the map as it occurs to you. Add stuff to the notes until something inside your brain goes "ding." You can follow this same process with a single city.

RedKing

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2010, 10:31:51 am »

There's a number of real-world analogues to the "island country <--> large empire" scenario you've got, with drastically different results.

Greeks/Romans: Islanders are culturally advanced, but in decline at time of contact. Empire subjugates them, and incorporates large amounts of their culture.
Filipinos/Spanish: Islanders are not culturally advanced at time of contact. Empire subjugates them, but incorporates little of their culture.
Hawaiians/Americans: Same as above.
Japanese/Chinese: Islanders are not culturally advanced at time of contact. Empire does not subjugate them, and Islanders incorporate large amounts of the Imperial culture.
Britons/Romans: Islanders are not culturally advanced at time of contact. Empire does subjugate them for a period, but withdraws when the Empire falls into civil unrest. Islanders incorporate some Imperial culture and blend it with their own.

Honestly, based on what you wrote early on, the Celto-Roman Britons may be a better analogy to look at.


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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2010, 05:39:55 pm »

There's a number of real-world analogues to the "island country <--> large empire" scenario you've got, with drastically different results.
Filipinos/Spanish: Islanders are not culturally advanced at time of contact. Empire subjugates them, but incorporates little of their culture.

Actually, in this particular case, the Islanders were essentially crippled by the fragmented nature of the archipelago; however, the country was already trading with China, possibly the Moluccas, and other South East Asian civilizations, and they valued things like china (as in, plates). Upon colonization, the Spanish certainly jumpstarted that cultural growth - at least in the realms of the elite - but their Roman Catholicism mixed in a strange way with Filipino animism, resulting in a folk mythology somewhat like that of rural Europe around the time.
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Acanthus117

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Re: The Worldbuilding Thread!
« Reply #27 on: August 10, 2010, 11:20:29 pm »

I haven't abandoned this, don't worry!

Life's been a bitch and there's no time to sit down and do all this fun shit.

I really like your advice, RedKing. I'll take it to heart. :D
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