Monday, March 25, 2013

Weather or Not

Since we're always concerned whether (not weather) March comes and goes like a lion or a lamb, I figured I'd take the opportunity to educate/remind folks why we have the weather we do.

Last week's post was some pretty basic stuff that we probably all learned in the 8th grade, then just never thought twice about since. This week I'll get into much more detail (which I'm almost sure I learned years ago, but just forgot). Weather/climate is a lot like real estate, it's all about location location location. The reason the earth has weather patterns the way is does is because of ocean and wind currents. The rotation of the planet itself has its own bearing - the Coriolis Effect. The terrain features also factor in greatly - vast arid desert versus lush balmy jungle. Latitude from the equator has obvious effect as well in determining tropics versus tundra. And we mustn't forget one of the most crucial bits in climatology - axial tilt.

Currently we sit at 23.5 degrees, hence why the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are marked at those degrees latitude. The planet has "wobbled" between 21 and 25 degrees in its history. These changes of just a few degrees make a huge difference because it exposes more or less of an angle to receive insolation (incoming solar radiation) from the sun. The tropics would be narrower or wider, vastly affecting the strength of building storms.

We also have to consider that the earth doesn't travel in a perfect circle around the sun, it's an ellipse/oval. We are nearest to the sun during the winter and furthest in the summer. It's a good thing to; otherwise, summers would be unbearably hot and winters would be deadly cold. Millions of years ago, this was backwards. I recently heard somewhere...probably some NPR chat about climate change (it's absolutely REAL btw)...that hundreds of millions of years ago, in the time of the dinosaurs, the atmosphere had something close to 4 times more carbon dioxide. This means the planet was way warmer and because the continents weren't so scattered yet, it was the perfect environment for growing humongous cold-blooded reptiles. At first I wondered how that much CO2 kept from suffocating life, but when you look at humans who live in extreme altitudes - Bolivia for example - people simply evolve larger lungs. Now I'm no paleontologist or zoologist, but I'd bet good money that the lungs of a T-rex, stegosaurus, and triceratops were enormous.

All this is just a bunch of weather jabber and may not even factor into your worldbuilding. Maybe you just hand wave and say "the weather is a lot like earth." Fine. Fair enough. For me I have to have as many details accurate and complete. Fortunately I have a pretty awesome earth science professor and she agreed to look over my maps and help me make sure the weather patterns are as correct as they could be.

PS If I remember correctly, and if the 10 day forecast is correct, March came and went lamby this year.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Basic Earth Science: Reasons for Seasons

Because today is the vernal equinox, I thought this would be quite fitting.

Season Animation and Explanation

I also just saw this on about why the equinox is today instead of the usual 21st.

Happy vernal equinox people!

Later I'll have a post about why we have certain weather in certain places.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Writing Tutorials

It's not often I write anything. I'm am way too easily distracted by building and fleshing out worlds. The more I learn, the more I'm inspired to learn more. Then I have this compulsion to try to work in everything. It's a vicious, twisting cycle of creativity.

If, like me, you struggle to rein it in - or perhaps you're looking to start, but don't know how/where - I highly suggest these tutorials.  
Elfwood Writing Tutorials

Go figure that as a worldbuilder, I liked the Setting articles best.

These tutes are just a smattering of what is likely hundreds that you can/will find, I'm just biased because Elfwood is where I got my start oh so many years ago.

Word of warning: It's always great to have that home base, fallback that you know you can rely on, but don't rely too heavily on just one. But don't neglect it either. Case in point, I had a profile on Elfwood as Zombiegunslinger with which I'd save favorites, comment, and meet lots of awesome folks....then something happened and I lost it all! Thus I began again as Realmwright.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Get Real

I've said a few times before how the real world is such an amazing place. If it weren't for all this reality, I don't know where I'd get 90% of my ideas.

A great website I found long ago is

It's a huge photo dump of places from all over the globe. It's both easy and difficult to wade through because I might be looking for cool jungle shots and end up lost amidst waterfalls and desert rock formations.

Definitely worth several hours of gandering.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Surprise!

I meant to post this last weekend. I began writing it, got interrupted, and couldn't see that it had saved to my drafts folder when I returned to it. So you get it a week later, but it's still a Saturday surprise!

I've come up with the calendar, holidays, [some] gods, and rituals and symbols for the Westerlands.

Evina is the dark-haired fertility goddess who carries a drinking horn - think Demetre-esque with a cornucopia. Her children are Leven (means life) and Maben.

Leven is the god of harvest, grains, and brewing. He was a happy boy until his father's accident and his mother's remarriage to the lord of the underworld. It's not that he doesn't like his step father, he just misses both his parents and feels orphaned when Evina is away for the winter. Ever since his journey into the underworld to retrieve Evina's horn he has been a somber shadow of his former self, but his work does not suffer for it.

Maben is the youthful, beautiful "princess" goddess of purity and female fertility. She is the embodiment of innocence

Skald is the normally ambivalent god of death and secret knowledge. In another sense he is the god of order and eternal life, since the dead cannot die again. His realm is the vault of the underworld where he his built a grand palace, which resembles a masoleum, to bring order to the dark chaos.

Kaos is the brother of Skald and his exact opposite. He is the lord of chaos, pain, suffering, discord, and basically all things evil. His son is Stryfe, god of war.

Long story short, her husband Grist dies just before Maben comes of age. I think I'll say he died of a cave in or some kind of burial accident.

In her grief Evina is digging in the earth - symbolic of planting and burial - hoping to reach the underworld to search for her husband. Ordinarily Skald would not look favorably on the living physically trying to enter his world (spelunkers beware) because natural law states it is only for those who have died. Instead of punishing Evina, Skald is moved to pity her. He approaches and escorts her to his grand hall where she is given a goblet of wine - wine in the underworld is blood. It's not vampiric in the evil sense, but makes religious sense when you think of the transubstantiation. And what harm would it do the god of death to drink the blood of life? Think Hades and Faerie where you're not to eat/drink anything or you must remain. Although still very much in love with her late husband, Evina is terrified of being alone, so she takes Skald as her new husband.

Leven knows that if his mother stays in the underworld forever, the world will die. So he makes the 11 day journey through a network of caves to retrieve his mother's horn/cornucopia and talk sense to her. Skald understands Leven's reasoning and agrees that Evina should only stay in his palace 6 months of each year. This is very reminiscent of Hades and Persephone and explains the winter/summer balance of time. Evina gives her son her horn (power) to keep safe in his house while she is away. Being a good lord and host Skald also offer Leven a drink. Instead of only drinking Skald's wine, Leven drinks a mix of Skald and Evina's blood from Evina's horn - literally keeping it safe within his holding. This imbues him with the power to leave the underworld as well as take on power of planting/growth. It is believed this act also gave him additional strength for his return journey and for the harvest. It is now ritual to drink wine from a horn before traveling and harvesting (Leven's Blessing). It is also ritual to pour some wine into the earth before planting (Evina's Blessing).

Maben is greatly saddened by the loss of both parents, one forever and one for half the year. She joyously celebrates the return on her mother in the spring with a dance that last's all day. This is now the ritual of Maben's Dance/Day, which becomes shortened to May Day - the day between the end of April and the first of May.

Bringing us to the calendar, I've broken it down into 12 months (for now with the same names) of 30 days each. This of course only gives a year 360 days. So I approached it as the Mayans did with Uayeb - 5 "holidays" that don't fall within any particular month of the year. Midsummer falls between June and July. Midwinter is a day between December and January. Leven's journey takes the last 5 days of October, 1 day between called Levent in which he was in Skald's house, and the first 5 days of November to return. It is held that winter begins on Levent, lasting a full 6 months until Evina returns on May Day. May Day was known as Newflower before Evina's marriage to Skald because it was Maben's birthday - symbolizing the youthful birth/renewal of spring. Because Maben's is the forever young goddess of fertility, she is the "saint" of young women reaching adolescence, known as their "flowering". It's not coincidence that now at the annual dance on May Day young men and women being to strive for the others' attention. It's also common that engagements and betrothals occur at this festival.

At first I was going to have Skald's Day, Skalding, as a Halloween type holiday at the end of October. It was to remain a day of the dead with gourds are carved liked skulls and lit (jack-o-lanterns) to lead the ghosts from their former life to the underworld. It's a day of mourning and passage. The dead move on into the next world and the families left behind are encouraged to take time to grieve, but to then move on with their life or else risk suffering from despair/depression during the long winter. Burial and cremation are both acceptable means of sending the dead to Skald. The dead are not decorated or sent with possessions because they'd have no use for them in the afterlife - symbolizes that in death, everyone is equal. It also makes sense that in a utilitarian society you wouldn't bury weapons or tools that could be of use to someone else. But on the other hand, if a body cannot be recovered (lost at sea, fallen in a far off battle, etc) the dead's possessions are burned, usually on a pyre. Since I now have Levent occupying the day between Oct/Nov  - I had to do that so the return of Evina in 6 months would fall on May Day - I may move Skalding to the beginning of Oct and say this is when Grist died, setting in motion everything else.

I found some other old notes that I'd set aside with ideas for other gods. Eion is the god of time, also known as the Infinite Eternal or Eternal Infinite. He is neither benevolent or malevolent - he just is. He isn't even necessarily a "he". Luras is the god of curiosity and learning. Worshiped mainly by halflings/gnomes, he is the "tinkerer god"of invention and alchemy. His forays and experiments don't always go exactly as planned, or have beneficial results, but making mistakes is the best way to learn. Ashra is the goddess of the hearth, home, and hospitality.

I was really stuck with what to call the sea god. I knew he was going to be very temperamental and jealous. Then it dawned on me that the sea is usually referred to as a lady. A friend at work helped me name her Neptania (obviously derived from Neptune) because it makes for such an easy reference. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flora, Fauna, and (Merry)Weather

I don't know about the rest of worldbuilders out there, but I spend a lot of time thinking of my various realms - usually in great detail. I figure if it doesn't feel real to me, it won't feel real to anyone else. This is of course a bit futile because aside from my wife and a few close friends, not many real people get a glimpse of my imaginings. I would post such minutiae here, but it would likely be very much dry exposition. Perhaps someday there will be published volumes, appendices, and sourcebooks. Maybe.

That's what I'm getting at,. Palladium is, I hear, among the most complete worlds ever put on paper. They include not just people, but critters from mundane wildlife to horrific beasties. I'm sure others have done so as well, but Palladium is the only one that yours truly has come across that shows this level of detail. Tolkien did so too, but in a different way - his was more about language, history, and mythology. To a degree, as a fictional world traveler, I'm less concerned with the locals' language, but I do like to know their naming patterns (this is where I typically start) and who/what are their gods. I'm not discounting it altogether, but those are subjects for another post.

What I as a paranoid tourist want to know is: what is going to try to kill me? Is it safe to go out at night? Can I drink the water? What's on the menu? Am I potentially on something else's menu? Overall, what slinks, crawls, slurps, writhes, growls, barks, itches, bites, stings, etc?

When deciding what kind of plants and animals fill up your world, consider the climate and food chain. Are we talking tropical with huge insects and dinosaurs? Is it frozen tundra with woolly mega fauna? Maybe a swampy jungle with all manner of poisonous fangs and thorns and lurking, unseen predatory cats. Does the danger hang from the trees, reach up from the ground, or emerge from murky pools?

To help with your wonderings and wanderings, angelitoon over at deviantart was kind enough to allow me to share some pics. These are (simple) thumbnails of creature concepts. I find that it helps to only have a rough "shadow" of the critters because it really makes the imagination stretch to think of what they'd look like up close in the wild. Enjoy!

Things like this require some imagination and research into botany and zoology. Meteorology and climatology are fields to consider as well. Even if you only look at what flies, strides, or swims on planet Earth, it's all there for a reason. It's generally linked as well through environmental systems from simple to very complex.

If you say your world is "normal" and very similar to that which we already know, look at weather/climate as it's own monster. What threats does it pose? What happens if you're caught out in the elements? Depending on where you're stranded you could freeze, fry or both in a desert scenario. What about natural disasters? Floods, draught, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc. Where do they happen? How often?

When worldbuilding remember, all things considered. Even if you don't intend to work such encyclopedic knowledge into the story, you need to have an answer ready in case someone asks. it's much better to have already thought of it than to get caught unawares with a "gee...I dunno."