Thursday, June 4, 2009

Civilization and world building

OK - I admit it. I have played Civ 1, 2, 3 and 4, plus various other versions and related games. There’s just something I really love about those games. So what, right? again with the “so what”s. I think Civ thinking can really help you with world building.
Who came first in your world? On Fletnern it was the titans - head and shoulders above everyone else (physically, mentally and culturally). You heard about what happened to them. Now, second came the goblins (ogres, orcs and goblins). The elves and dwarves were sort of next. Humans were titan slaves, so in many cases they have a refugee culture where they scrounge what they can from the remains of the titan civilization. You still don’t see it do you? How far did the Goblin Empire get before it collapsed in civil (racial) war? Did they use bronze weapons? iron weapons? steel weapons? Did they ride horses? use chariots? have bows? crossbows? How was their mining? If they had iron weapons was it because they didn’t have coal or didn’t have smelting knowledge?
These questions can sometimes be answered in a very intelligent way if you just think of each of the cultures as a Civ game. OK - Goblin Empire - in the plains with mountains and hills. Definitely had coal and iron and copper deposits. Probably did not have cattle, but did have sheep and goats. No shoreline, so no boats or sailing or fishing.
Take a look at the tech charts and start assigning the progress they would have made. Of course, your fantasy world is NOT a Civ game, so don’t forget to consider magic. I usually think of druidic and shamanistic magic as being more primitive. Necromancy is towards the beginnings of magic as well. Healing would be sort of in the middle, while sorcery and conjuring would be at the high end. Does your game separate herbalism from alchemy? Enchantment is probably higher than sorcery. Assign the levels of magic too.
OK - sounds interesting, but who cares, right? You do. Honestly! Your world likely has a history and that history has wars and other conflicts. Did the elves defeat the goblins 700 years ago? How? If you can kind of map out the Civ tech chart on your cultures, it might be obvious that the goblins had archers, but the elves had longbowmen. Maybe the elves never got their hands on iron because of where they were geographically and that is why the dwarves have dominated the battles between the two foes. Of course, we’re likely not going to gunpowder, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still use the ideas up to that point.
The reasons you care are: you want to be able to justify why your cultures are currently where they are and you want to be able to understand what went on in history. There are very few ancient elven enchanted weapons in Fletnern, because the elves primarily used wood for their weapons and magical items. The wood was not preserved and did not hold together over hundreds of years. The ancient ogres however were skilled necromancers, and their undead creatures still roam the ruins of their lost empire. If the dwarves have had control of steel for 400 years, there are likely some ancient forges around, possibly abandoned when the iron in the area was mined out.
I’m not going to pretend that Civ can create a great world for you, but by thinking about your world as though it were a Civ game, you might just fill in some of the gaps and come up with some fantastically great ideas for adventure!
For those of you who don’t play Civ - you should try it. However, think of games like Warcraft (not WoW, the original). Before you can build soldiers, you need a barracks. Before you can build cavalry, you need a stable. This is incredibly more simplistic than Civ, but some of the same concepts are there.

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