Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mighty Morphs

Micro and Macro Morphology - the study of the structure of something on either a grand or miniscule scale.

Wiktionary: Morphology

I think the biology and geology definitions apply most to worldbuilding.

The tricky thing about worldbuilding is you're basically "playing God". Depending on whether you're writing a single story, maybe like a mystery/suspense in real world NYC, or creating a whole planet for a fantasy RPG, there is lots of material to consider. In a real world setting most of that is already done, or you can at least count on the fact the readers either understand the real world workings of weather, time, location, etc. Perhaps they don't even stop to think about it, they just say "OK, I'm in New York and it's raining and there's a body lying in the gutter."

In fantasy, you need to do the serious legwork of crafting the whole world. Landforms, oceans, weather, species, plant life, diseases, magic, currency, the list goes on and on. Maybe you decide to make things a bit easier on yourself and say it's "low fantasy" in a gritty, realistic medieval period. No elves and dwarves and dragons, just kings and plagues and peasants. Either way, you have a lot of ground to cover...pun intended :) Don't even get me started on those wackos that set out to craft entire galaxies of hundreds upon hundreds of worlds. (Yeah you, Nils) When you get to that level I think you're beyond help because now you're talking in gigantic terms of astrophysics, interstellar travel, radiation, and planet formation. I don't know how Gene Roddenberry, or the EVE Online and Traveller folks do it. Maybe because there are bunches of them. Or bushels, pecks, gaggles....What do you call a flock of worldbuilders? I propose we call them "stones" because it's an archaic term meaning more than a dozen and people don't really understand the weight of it. Ba-dum-cha!

Collaborative efforts, if group work is your thing, might help because you can assign out work to folks in the know; zoology, linguistics, meteorology, history, mythology, whatever. I don't hold to this idea of sharing the load because part of the fun (for me anyway) is to do the research to figure out what I can use and what will or won't work and why.

This might seem like way too much work to be fun - that's why worldbuilders are a certain brand of crazy. My brand. Honestly, a lot of it isn't anything that you as a writer or game master will probably ever reveal. I don't see how you could work in something like established weather patterns, due to ocean and wind currents, beyond stating simply "a storm blew in from the west, carrying with it the scent of the sea". A little exposition and explanation will help make your setting real, but too much - even in something like a voluminous game guide - is just going to be boring and encyclopedic.

All told I think it leaves one begging: please sir, I'd like some mor(phs)

1 comment:

  1. nice post.

    i think with a lot of sci-fi that details entire worlds and galazies, a lot of the individual examples tend to be very flimsy - desert world! ice world! sea world! with little nuances beyond those environmental extremes, which to my knowledge aren't very realistic anyway.

    I think one world is more than enough for a worldbuilder (no matter how crazy, cuz lets face it, were all crazy!) to cope with: imagine every single piece of art, book, poetry, music, philosophy, literature, etc. that has been created in the real world world, even the last year, let alone our thousands of years of history, and compare that to whatever even the most prolific worldbuilder has ever created and am baffled by why we'd want to even try to flesh out more than one world! so much stuff we can do with a single world, we're unlikely to even scratch the surface of what's wavailable!