Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Giving the New World the Hook

In the making of a new fantasy world, I am using advice from a lot of different sources.  There is plenty to learn from those who have taken this journey ahead of me.  As I make reveal the different aspects of this project, I will be highlighting some of those resources for the other world builders in the audience.  The first product I want to highlight is brand new.  In fact, it came out (how very serendipitous) the afternoon after my last post. Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding is 200+ pages of useful, creative advice for a mere $4.  A quick look at the free preview indicated that this guy had given a lot of thought to the process of building a game world, including a number of organizational aspects that I had not considered.  Since the price seemed exceedingly reasonable, I took a chance on it.  While I have not read it in its entirety, what I have read is quite insightful.

As a result, this first post about my new world will NOT be about the races.  That post will be my second of the week, which was when I intended to present it.  Taking a cue from Jester David, this post will present a bit of information about the game world that will inform the subsequent entries.  It is my hope that this entry provides context for all the others.  According to the How-To Guide, every new campaign world needs a unique hook.  Something that makes the game world interesting and a place where the players will want to have adventures.  The author poses a question that I find it hard to disagree with:  If a new fantasy game world isn't unique in some way, then why would it not be more useful to use one of the many existing game worlds that have been published over the years?

I agree with this assessment.  Indeed, I had already determined what the unique elements of my world were before reading his book.  Where the author has changed my mind is in the presentation of some of those elements.  I had planned to unveil the hook slowly as I revealed the world through blog posts.  In order to gain initial interest in the project, Jester David has convinced me of the importance of revealing some of the bigger elements of the game world up front.  Being too cryptic about things and, in this venue, stringing the nuggets of knowledge out over too great an amount of time would only kill any player interest in the project.  A basic knowledge of what is going on in the world will (hopefully) help generate interest among potential players.

The Colonies.  

A little over  a century ago, a merchant ship was cast well off course by a storm.  When the crew finally found land after several weeks adrift, it was not any land with which they were familiar.  Indeed, as the crew explored their surroundings, they became certain that they had discovered a previously uncharted land.  The coast was rife with old growth forests, timber that would have been exploited long ago in their own lands.  This was but the first of many surprises in store for the castaways.

The sentient denizens of the old world were entirely human.  The first contact that the sailors had with the local population were assuredly not.  In fact, in the year that the sailors lived in the new land, they encountered five non-human civilizations.  Some of the natives were friendly, others wary, and one race was entirely hostile.  The friendly natives took the castaways in, taught the crew how to survive in the rugged, untamed land, and used powerful magic to repair their ship and give them the means to find their way home.

A little over a year and a half after their ordeal began, the surviving crew of the merchant vessel finally came to port in the Old World.  Most of them were happy just to be home.  One of them, a  merchant named Jovah Vrell, however, began immediately planning an expedition back.  The land simply had too many underutilized resources, a veritable fortune for the taking.  Vrell quickly found interested investors, outfitted new ships, and hired craftsmen and mercenaries enough to populate an outpost in the new world.  The native populations of the new land greeted the newcomers in much the same way as the original castaways.  Some natives enthusiastically embraced the new craftsmen, and the products they could create, others violently opposes what they saw as an invasion of their homelands.  By the end of the first year, however, none of the natives could deny that the Vrell colony was there to stay.

It was not long until Vrell and his investors were among the wealthiest men and women in the Old World.  Raw materials and finished products alike flowed from the new land.  Not to let such an opportunity slip through their fingers, other merchants and governments of the Old World launched expeditions to the new land.  Other colonies were established and the conflicts of the Old World were transferred to the new.  Old enemies found new reasons to hate one another in what became known as "The Colonies." The distance between the continents coupled with the resistance of the natives prevented any sort of mass immigration.  The colonies gradually grew and expanded for ninety years, until the vast majority of their inhabitants were natives of the new world themselves.  Small scale immigration continued, however, until eight years ago.

Major astronomical events were not unheard of in the Old World.  Usually they were attributed to the whim of one god or another.  Most people dismissed the Great Mass, a ball of light that streaked ever closer to the planet, as another such event.  One that would impress upon the people the power of the gods without changing their day-to-day existence.  As the Great Mass came loomed ever closer, however, many became concerned that this event was different.  The storms, earthquakes, and giant waves that followed when the Mass impacted in the Old World made believers of even the doubters.  Once the natural disasters subsided, the colonists began to realize that no new ships were arriving from the Old World.  Furthermore, after the impact, no ships that left the colonies for the the Old World ever returned.   For better or worse, the Colonies were now the world, both old and new.

Without a mother country to answer to, each of the colonies were forced to forge their own path.  Some now thrive, some languish, one utterly collapsed.  The friendly native races share the sorrow of the Colonists.  The less friendly plot their revenge.   Some of the colonists long for the Old World.  Others see coming of the Great Mass as the dawning of a new era of opportunity.  One that they wish to seize and make the most of.  Hopefully, the players will be some of those last group.

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