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  1. Over in the Turakian Age is Seriously Underrated thread, Steve Long mentioned the possibility of publishing a book version of the talk on worldbuilding he gives at conventions. That reminded me: I haven't posted my favorite technique for designing societies. I've shared versions of this essay with several friends and colleagues over the years. Most recently, I adapted it for White Wolf's game Exalted and posted it on a forum for that game. But it can apply anywhere. In fact, it isn't just for Fantasy settings. Y'all might as well have it too. Interested persons might try coming up with Case Study examples drawn from the Turakian Age or other Hero Universe settings. I'll also break it into bite-size chunks for easier reading. Dean Shomshak ------------------ DESIGNING CULTURES THE SHOMSHAK WAY! Designing made-up societies is a craft, and like any craft you can get better at it. Here is one of the techniques I use in critiquing and designing societies for game settings. I’ll draw examples from Exalted, but what I’m talking about will work for any kind of setting. Be warned: I draw on a notion I took from a book about history and social science, but I’m not a historian or social scientist. Experts can probably tear all of this apart. This essay gives suggestions for gamers, not a technical discussion for scholars. THE GOAL: While world-building can be fun in its own right, the purpose for a game is to create an exciting and memorable setting for the PCs’ adventures. Preferably, for more than one adventure: If you go to the trouble to make a cool setting, you want to get plenty of use from it, yes? And if your players think the setting is cool, they will want to see more of it. THE PROBLEM: All too often, a game writer had one idea for a society, and didn’t look for a second. The resulting society looks boring or gimmicky or just doesn’t make sense when you look at it closely. Exalted fell into this trap early in 1st ed, with “gimmick” cultures such as Chaya, Varangia or Paragon, and the setting has struggled to get out ever since. Even if it’s a cool gimmick, building a society around just one idea limits the stories you can tell about it. Fine, the PCs had a fun adventure coping with the Chayans’ yearly freak-out. [Did you ever see "Return of the Archons," in ST: TOS? It's that.] Then what? There’s no sense that a country could be a real place, with people who have lives apart from when the PCs show up. (To use Tolkien’s terminology, it does not inspire secondary belief.) It’s hard to care about such a setting or the people who live in it. ONE PARTIAL SOLUTION: To make a culture more interesting, start by looking at it from more than one perspective. Real people never lead simple, one-dimensional lives: Neither should the people of your imaginary world. Then use the different aspects of the society to generate factions and conflicts, both internal and external. These conflicts, in turn, present members of the society with choices — and choices are the stuff of drama. But that’s a subject for another essay.
  2. This thread is about using the geography of a setting, on its largest scale, to reflect and enhance the theme of a campaign or story. These worlds are often explicitly not naturalistic. I have a few examples, and I wonder if people can think of more. First consider Creation, the setting for the game Exalted. Creation is flat. At the center is the Blessed Isle (though it’s a good-sized continent), with the Elemental Pole of Earth in the middle – the axis of the world that provides stability to all things. Through most of history, the Blessed Isle has ruled the rest of Creation. The current Scarlet Empire still dominates the Threshold, though its power has recently suffered a check. Around it are the other lands and seas of the hreshold, which fade and fray into the Wyld (you can tell this is a White Wolf game), ultimately dissolving into primal chaos. Four more Elemental Poles – Air, Water, Fire and Wood – set the character of the four quarters of the Threshold, but they don’t matter as much for purposes of this discussion. Creation itself is the cusp where other realms of existence meet: the realm of the high gods, Yu-Shan; the demon realm of Malfeas; and the Underworld of the dead. The Wyld, Malfeas and the Underworld are sources of deadly peril to Creation. The design of the world gives a strong directional quality to campaigns. The bog-standard Exalted campaign begins in the Threshold. From there, PCs can confront major threats from outside while trying to avoid the tyranny of the Scarlet Empire. Ultimately, PCs head for the center and try to conquer the Scarlet Empire because it holds the setting’s Win Button. Capturing the center ends the game. So, the design of the world is essentially a set of concentric circles. The dominant theme is the tension between Center and Periphery. Dean Shomshak
  3. I am quasi-obsessed, after 35 years of playing and running Champions, with creating a sprawling multiversal setting to run and play games in. I call it the "457". The various universes, planes, cosmopolises, dimensions, realms, homelands, afterlife realms, etc are laid out as coordinate points on and inside a giant metaphysical sphere, with the "prime" universe at the center of it. I haven't written up 457 different dimensions(yet! lol) but I have bounced around various ideas. My inspirations are varied: Marvel's Exiles, the DC Multiverse, What If? comics, Planescape/Manual of the Planes, old Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes, the Man in the High Castle/Wolfenstein, Champions in 3D and my own previous campaign settings. While I work on it I figured I'd open a thread to discuss other folks' ideas for different dimensions/timelines, and to present my own dimensions as I write them up. One of the planes is definitely going to be Babylon, the City of Cities, as described in Mystic Hero/Ultimate Supermage. It's a dimension that's basically one giant metropolis, containing an amalgam of every major city from fiction, real history etc. Presumably some alien cities as well. It's likely to be a major nexus point among the dimensions of the 457.
  4. (and villains) OK so here's a question. If all of the real people of the world, past and present lived in a comic book universe...which of them would have an Origin? For example take Charles Lindbergh. He was rich. He was an inventor He had an interest in trying to improve human beings both by eugenics and by implanting electro-mechanical replacement parts in them A family member was the victim of a heinous crime He'd totally turn himself into a cyborg masked aviator in a super plane that could hover and fly silently. He'd be the Phantom Eagle, right?
  5. This is The Only Fantasy World Map You'll Ever Need. It was going around on the face books yesterday and seems to have blown up overnight. Perhaps this is the map for the World of Generica?
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