Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Worldbuilding Considerations, aka Yours or Mine

As it is wont to do, my mind was wandering between classes. Let me tell you, it is really difficult to concentrate on reading earth science and medieval history when your imagination can spin one non-fiction paragraph into a few pages of fiction. I kid you not, it took me over an hour to get 7 pages into the intro of just one of many medieval history texts because in that hour I think I scribbled 5+ pages of non-school related material. Focus, brain, focus!

Some of my noggin's wanderings and wonderings are what follows. These questions mainly came up from thinking about the "discovery" of the New World (it's so much more complicated than people understand) and westward expansion of settlements/civilization across North America. I asked some friends/fans if they thought 40 questions were too much for one post. They said yes. But here it is anyway. Don't try to answer all of them at once. Approach it like the character building questions - use what works for you now and come back for more later.

These mostly focus on migration patterns of people and the question of progression. I realize not all of them run in a particular order. It was mainly a "stream of conscious" scribble to get all the ideas down before they ran out. These could apply to anything from real world gold rushes, to drug smuggling, to nerf herding.

1. What resources are they after: water, food, land, furs, ore, timber, crystal, spices, textiles, etc.?
2. What is important to them, and why?
3. Do they actually need it, or do they just want/desire it? Luxury or necessity?
4. Is it valuable to them personally, or for trade?
5. Is it rare or abundant?
6. Must it be processed/manufactured, or is it harvested by just picking it up off the ground?
7. Can it be reaped by hand....simple tools....complicated machinery....complex systems?
8. Who, when, where, how was it discovered?
9. Were there individual founders, or was it a group venture?
10. Is it sustainable or will it result in a boom and bust scenario?
11. Who is "in charge" of it? Is this a settled colony, or untamed frontier? If a frontier wilderness, how long will it take to "conquer" and settle it into a colony?
12. Is it already owned/property of someone else? Who? What do they think of the newcomers?
13. What kind of conflicts arise out of the competition?
14. Is it a violent grab, or open trade?
15. If trading for it, what is being traded? Are the commodities of equal value? What determines this?
16. Are people pulled toward this, or driven to it? Are they coming by choice, or are they being forced out of/into another another area?
17. Is the labor to obtain the item its own commodity?
18. Is this a virgin discovery, or a re-discovery?
19. If it was lost, and found again, where did it come from?
20. Why/how was it lost/forgotten/abandoned?
21. Are there multiple sources clamoring for it?
22. Are the "founders" working for someone else who wants to get to it first?
23. What kind of hostilities and/or sabotage arise?
24. Are people more interested in the glory and claim to fame, or do they want the item itself?
25. What might over production of the resource do to it?
26. What are the environmental effects, if any?
27. What are the hazards of the job?
28. Is the item itself toxic and/or does it produce dangerous waste?
29. It the target alive? Plant, animal, or mineral?
30. What precautions must be taken to obtain, harvest, process, transport, etc.?
31. Can it be moved by land, sea, or air? What are the limitations of transport? Why?
32. Does it spoil/expire? At what rate?
33. Can it be handled physically, or does some kind of shielding have to take place?
34. Can it be transported openly or does it require containment? Is it gas, liquid, solid, energy?
35. Is selling it legal or illegal?
36. Are investors/backers directly involved, or is it run through an indirect shell game?
37. Do the investors derive wealth, power, prestige, etc from the gain? What's in it for them?
38. If it is something unseen/how is it detected?
39. Is a central power trying to seize control?
40. What is the tech level of the people/world? 

I'd love to hear back from folks. What questions grabbed you? What did you do with them? Where did it take you?


  1. nice post and a good set of questions that might not be that obvious to answer at first - just what an expanding worldbuilder needs. I'll try and apply these to a new colony region I work on soon..

  2. Glad you liked it. As I look over the post again, 40 does seem like a lot. Especially considering how heavy/loaded some of the questions are. Oh well. I guess if I'm going back to once a week posts, they can be a little beefier.