Monday, February 10, 2014

SFWA World Building Questions - Part 2

A continuation of this previous post, I decided to tackle examining the second portion of this exhaustive (daunting and exhausting if you try to answer it all) list of questions to help formulate an author's world building exercises.

SFWA World Building Questions

Part Two, Physical and Historical Features

Map of the Belgeriad & Mallorean
General:  The geography for the Ochra Cycle is fairly expansive.  It's certainly not continental spanning, like the Belgariad and Mallorean series, or quite as large as the Song of Ice and Fire series.  It covers a large enough region that travel from one side to the farthest expanse certainly takes weeks on horseback; I haven't bothered to account for precise distances, mostly because it hasn't enough of a direct impact on the story to bother.  The region is largely a fairly flat expanse, surrounded by a ridge line of mountains to the south, west and along the northern edges, while the eastern edge is dominated by the coastal line and islands.  There are certainly mountains, rivers, expansive forests and whatnot therein.  Like the map of Middle Earth, only the most pertinent locations are specified.

Map for A Song of Ice & Fire
The questions of other races has already been described herein to some degree.  The humans are largely divided into three kingdoms, for lack of a better term, while we have the orcs on their island off the coast (think of Japan, just off the Asian continent), the dwarven region of Naro nestled against the foothills of the southern mountain ranges, the ratmen in the southern reaches in the Swamps of Shenim, the goblin herds and other monsters of their ilk in the Kevian Ranges, also along the southern edge of the map.  To the west and off the map are the elven lands, purposefully left undefined; they after all vacated this entire region centuries before to allow these races, particularly humans, the chance to settle and thrive or succumb to their own devices.  This left several ruins spotted throughout the lands, ancient elven settlements and cities abandoned, nearly all of which are decayed to ruin and lost to the annals of history.  They of course remained behind with a token force, advisors to keep the peace and nudge "the new kids around the block."  This advisory role is still present, simply much more behind the scenes, much less prevalent.

Since the elves have not visited the Imperial Courts of the J'in Empire in centuries, much myth and mystery surrounds them.  The events surrounding the elven emigration out of this region of course led to the creation of a particular secondary character, a guy by the name of Masaki.  Masaki is the pre-eminent archaeologist and ruin diver of the J'in Empire; a guy with a bad attitude and ego to boot.  Since he is a character that deals with digging up corpses, let alone the remote possibility of touching dead flesh, he is a rather repulsive individual to the samurai.   He reminds me a little of the french archaeologist in Raiders of the Lost Ark, La Roche.  Of course I now need a holy grail of sorts for Masaki to go diving into, as well as a treasure worthy of his motivations.  This further led to the creation of a setting where the elven city has fallen to ruin and been buried under years of dirt and sand, yet underground ruins and basement complexes remain.  Creating challenges therein was a simple matter of thinking it like a Waterdeep scenario for AD&D; traps, monsters, baddies, treasure, etc.

Climate and Geography:  The hand drawn map I've been working from defines the major regions, revers, mountains and forests.  The climate is essentially equitable to that of the Japanese / Korean / Chinese portion of Asia; temperate warm with high humidity, colder winters with a fairly abundant snowfall in winter, much more so in the mountains and foothills.

Natural Resources:  Aside from that, flora and fauna are the same, providing at least some semblance of familiarity for the reader.  Of course there are a number of beasts and nasties that are unique (this is a fantasy environment after all).  Since this is a fantasy setting, magic has largely displaced any advances into sciences and engineering to a scale reminiscent of Renaissance Europe, and we certainly won't see any steampunk / diesel punk in the Ochra series.  The style of the architecture for the primary kingdom involved is based on the Sengoku Period of Japan, so the 15th to 17th centuries.  Given the scale and scope of the region, natural resources for construction (timber and stone) are relatively common enough, methods of extraction and refinement advanced enough to allow for the architecture you would expect to see in 16th century Japan or so, castles included.  There is an abundance of farmland; essentially a breadbasket region.

Certain regions certainly play host to more abundant resources than others.  The dwarves of Naro obviously have a mountain range at their back, providing for massive stone works and mining (oh, the cliche).  Not far from them, the Swamps of Shenim, a region teeming with life and unique natural remedies, yet otherwise fairly agrarian.  The Plainsfolk are essentially the stewards for the massive herds of wild beasts that resemble a buffalo, which serve as a primary source of meat and food, while defining their way of life and customs.  The J'in Empire is as closely akin to the Japanese / Korean / Chinese of the Sengoku period as one could imagine; they've settled in their regions, replete with arable farmland, cities and castles built up and developed to protect and support their way of life.  The orcs rely on piracy and slavery to maintain their holdings on the islands off the continental coast, while the Free States, the closest human kingdom and the most victimized by these attacks, is a military power in their own right, their mercenary companies the best available.

World History:  Not much of the ancient history is directly dealt with.  Tidbits of pertinent info are provided, largely to avoid info dumps.  In a nutshell, there was a war between the two pantheons, with the eldest and their creations (goblins, giants, leviathans, orcs, etc) against the younger and their creations (elves, dwarves, dragons, fairies, etc).  In the end the elves led the younger pantheons' forces to victory as the gods stalemated themselves; the elves remain the dominant superpower.  Humans were created thereafter as a neutral party, a buffer species to keep things honest, so to speak.  This ancient history is known and recorded in detail by the elves, remembered by most other races of the times through oral tradition.  Humans know only of this era by way of myth and legend; Masaki, of course, has some further insights through his journeys.

I won't go into any of the specifics for the World History and the Kingdom-specific histories.  There simply isn't enough room for that massive a wall of text, nor much motivation to reveal it all.

In the next instalment, the SFWA World Building questions tackle the magic system.

No comments:

Post a Comment