What was that? Are you sure? It’s finally here? It’s finally here! It’s day 5! Hooray hooray, what a frabjous day!
What? What’s that funny look for? What am I so happy about? What do you mean what am I happy about? Today is map day! The best day in all of worldbuilding! The day when the world finally goes on paper!
Okay, okay. I know cartography isn’t everyone’s thing, but I’m a visual thinker and I might love maps a little too much. Ahem. Anyway, my map is a city map rather than a regional one, so there’s a lot of stuff I don’t have to worry about — deserts, mountain ranges, rivers (mostly), etc.
All the names are pretty much placeholder. I decided on craters vs. a caldera, but I stuck it in as a placeholder name just because I like it. Ignore the “district” names; I really have no clue what they’re actually going to be. But I have a general clue what my land shape looks like, and the craters are interesting points, so that’s all that’s needed for a first draft map, at least for now.
The exercise today is to come up with the “Really Big Land Features” I want to put on my map and think about how they came to be.
At first, I was completely vexed! I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do with this setting and for the most part, “Really Big Land Features” just didn’t really feature in.
But I thought about it a little. I said I wanted a large body of water nearby, right? Maybe a lake or a bay. Is there any way that something like that could be created by a natural disaster? What if it’s the crater from a massive asteroid strike? Or the caldera left by the eruption of a huge volcano?
But why does that matter? I can hear you asking. Who cares where a big hole in the ground came from? If it’s a plot device, the players are going to smell it a mile away, and I can hear the groans already. So. Obvious.
Okay, but what if it’s not going to become a plot device? What if it’s just a distinct geographical feature? Distinct geographical features are what often give places their names! If something neat like a caldera or an asteroid crater is nearby, I get instant name fodder! Always nice. I suck at names.
I’m leaning toward a caldera, if only because caldera is really fun to say. Caldera.
Do any of your settings contain Really Big Land Features that were caused by cataclysms? Are they part of the (back)story, or just distinct geological features? If they’re more than just neat-looking, how do they play a part in your story?
This is one of those exercises that can be difficult to apply to a large setting with varying moods and atmospheres. In a case like that, you might want to divide your setting into a few “sub-settings” and do this for each one. In some cases, there’s just really no way to make this fit. Them’s the breaks.
My “climate list” is built with high fantasy wilderness adventuring in mind (because let’s be honest here — I do everything with high fantasy wilderness adventuring in mind) so it’s really not a big use to me in this project.
I want this campaign to be set in a huge metropolis in an area where I can get a good mix of weather — snow in the winter time, maybe heat in the summer. I’m wanting there to be a large body of water nearby, as well. A general sort of overcast would be a plus, since my concept is a tad morbid overall.
For once, it’s not terribly important to me to be geographically accurate. Maybe one day I’ll world map this thing, but for now, I’m content to keep it contained.
Just for fun, I’m going to do the exercise at the bottom. What kind of atmosphere do I want to give my players?
- Adjective: run-down
- Adjective: dark
- Verb: investigate
- Noun: city
According to the exercise, there are pine forests in my future. Maybe I can work with that, haha!
What kind of atmosphere do you like to give your settings? Does it vary by story or campaign, or is there a particular one that you like best?
“Physical Planet” is kind of a funny name to give an exercise that deals primarily with weather, but oh well. Day 2 is another exercise that you only have to do once if you want to — making a list of weather-related plot devices.
My new setting, though, is throwing me a curveball — Morbid Magics takes place in a relatively modern city! What kind of weather-related plot devices are applicable to that kind of setting?
- Flooding — makes travel difficult, damages property
- Snowstorm — makes travel difficult, fun day in the snow, trapped out in the cold
- Heat wave — annoying, AC broken down, heat stroke
- Fog — good for sneaking around, getting lost in the fog and ending up somewhere unexpected
- Thunderstorm — power is knocked out, fear of lightning strike, dangerous while in a boat
I don’t really like this exercise (I’m so bad at it, hah…) and I have plenty of resources on the subject, so I’m going to leave off at 5. Hmm? What’s that? But I was supposed to do 10? It’s my 30 Days and I’ll do what I like with it! And I recommend that you do the same. If an exercise is boring or doesn’t seem applicable to the world you want to make, skip it. If you feel like you need to do it later, do it later. This isn’t school. Have fun.
It’s really more important to build a list of these than it is to come up with them yourself. If you find yourself at a loss, check out Wikkid Woman’s excellent list of weather-related plot devices and of course, TVTropes’ list of weather and environmental tropes.
Can you think of any interesting weather-related plot devices?
Day 1 of 30 Days of Worldbuilding is an exercise in relating different types of climates to words that describe what sort of feeling or atmosphere that climate provides.
For this exercise, you only have to really do it once. No matter how many worlds you build, this is probably going to yield similar results. It might be a good idea to keep a list like this (and update it from time to time) as a reference for later worldbuilding projects.
For me, I’m going to take the results from a previous time that I went through this and go over it to see if anything needs clarifying or changing — it’s been a year or two, and perceptions change over time.
- Arctic/Tundra — lonely, empty, stark
- Swamp/Marsh — lost, scary
- Mountains — sharp, hostile
- Savannah — wild, hunted
- Desert — hot (heh), exhausting, endless
- Jungle — paranoia, exciting, exotic
- Forest — mysterious, adventure
- Pine Forest — dark, dangerous
- Tropical Beach — relaxing, breezy, fun
Do you think I missed any important climates? What kind of impressions do they leave on you?
As an aside, it has been brought to my attention that inkwellideas.com has a series of articles on worldbuilding! I don’t know how good they are, but they generally have some neat stuff, so let’s check it out sometime. One must wonder how I missed it.
- Updated Worldbuilding Article Series from Inkwell Ideas (inkwellideas.com)
Not all methods are for everyone, and I forgot to give a moment to that when I was spouting off love and cuddles for 30 Days of Worldbuilding before. So here’s a little aside about who exactly 30 Days is for….
30 Days of Worldbuilding will help if you…
- …only have a vague idea of what kind of world you want to build.
- …don’t have a solid story idea yet.
- …don’t have any idea what direction to go in.
30 Days of Worldbuilding probably won’t help you much if you…
- …already have a pretty good idea what you want to write.
- …have some worldbuilding done and are looking to refine what you have.
- …are looking for a comprehensive resource to answer all of your worldbuilding questions.
To clarify, 30 Days of Worldbuilding is a tool to help get you started; a beginner resource, if you will. That said, I’d still recommend it to any worldbuilder who’s stuck and looking for new things to think about.
As with all creative ventures, remember — if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.