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World then regions
Regions to make a world
Ok here's the thing, I'm trying to write a book of sorts but I'm new to writing and new to mapping. I want to create something with hidden depth and a layering that seeps through the story so I'm creating my own universe from the Gods down. I have the Gods and the epic battle of good v evil established and have a scientific basis for the creation of elves. I have an aim in the development of cultures and races which I'm working towards.
Now I have a planet, a super continent - single land mass - which in essence is horse shoe shaped and has a couple of key features defined but really is unplanned save a couple of key mountains and a large central lake fed by several rivers and which flows into the oceans beyond.
My characters are going to discover the land around them in stages as they move further outward from their place of origin. Therefore I'm inclined to design regional maps which link together to form the world map. Given that the world map is still so vague this should offer maximum flexability in designing the world.
Is this the best way to tackle things do you think?
Should I define the 'world map' more clearly first? doing so will delay my writing but could help to form a solid direction to follow.
As a "Big Picture Thinker" I say start at the world, put in the big important details and go down into the regions later.
As the budding founder of the Geopolitical Police, you can't properly start the details of history, settlements, roads, fortifications, etc until AFTER you have the regions detailed. The land provides the majority of borders for people-groups, then how friendly they are to each other, then the "rule of government" and maybe finally the rule of "nobody wants that land".
So, Start Big, work Small, put the "people" in as you write your history.
to be difficult, i'll say region then world.
more than that though, I think on terms of a graphix opinion: you can do the small details first, and as you zoom out you are left with a good detailed large version, but you have to be willing to put the hard stuff at the beggining.
Of course, that being said a general idea about the world and its shape is a must.
now as to the people, definately put them in last, unless it has a direct correlation to the geography of the world (ie big explosion leaves a crater the size of china and causes immediate conflicts), in which case it helps to know stuff like that before you set the map in stone so to speak...
anyways, thats my ramblings... im sure more people will be along with their opinions soon
As someone who is now on doing a third version of the same world...
Version 1 was done at the regional level first. Extra regions were added on later as needed, and then finally all composited. Once that was done, it looked rather artificial. Version 2 was a combination, taking the existing regions and trying to make them more natural. Version 3 was a complete redo of all the coastlines and terrain features, and the entire mess was all done and mapped out for geography first, before chopping it into regions.
Was i involved with this process again from the start, I would **definitely** say it's a better idea to map everything out before doing smaller places.
All these re-do scenarios are taking their toll on the fun-factor and starting to feel like work and burnout. that aspect is being taken care of by a vacation, but as someone who's been involved in this exact process - definitely world first, regional second.
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"...sometimes the most efficient way to make something look drawn by hand is to simply draw it by hand..."
World first for me as well. Map out the cosmos (how many moons, how long is a year, etc), write up a history of the gods (as you've done), map out the world which then defines boundaries (as Juggy said) but these can change over time due to wars and stuff so they're not locked in stone. Write up short stories for the major families of political power. So what you're basically doing here is writing a complete backstory and history...this gives you a chance to feel out where things are going to go in the future and how they all interact at the climax. It also gets you writing, which is the main point. This backstory/history stuff may never see the light of day until someone finds your lost notes and publishes them after you die (way off in the future let's hope).
When you think you're ready to start on the main story, stop and write out the story about your hero's grandparents (how they met, where they lived, etc) as well as the story of the hero's friend's grandparents. Then do the parents of all such people integral to the story. This gives your characters some depth and explains why they think like they do and act like they do. Once all of that is done, then you've just got the easy part left...hero finds sword/magic item/heroine, goes on an arduous quest, kills the bad guys and saves the day.
From a practical point of view, the world map is rather vague anyway so you can always go back and do zoomed in versions of regions with more detail.
If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)
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I'm also of the world first, before region opinion. It's nice to have a shell to fill it at your leisure, rather than trying to stitch a bunch of regions that possibly don't connect well into a franken-world (unless of course, that is your theme ... )
I'll throw in my $0.02 as well...
Start big (but you don't have to go overly detailed map wise), as long as the most important/largest features are there. Then work down to the smaller/more regional levels.
As you write/create the various histories, etc. this should help to start "filling in" the map.
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I'm sort of sitting in the fence for this one but I'll say world map becuase that's what I'm doing right now. Making the world map is more challenging than making a regional one, but better in the long run as you can set up all the basic things about your world before you get down to detailing certain areas, it's like starting off with a whole block of clay instead of smaller pieces of it e.g. knowing that region now sits a tropical area or a desert area can help to determine what kind of culture has evolved in this area, like desert cultures would value water greater than other necissities
On the other hand, it does help to have a good idea of what each region would be like to help to craft the world e.g. knowing what kind of climate a region needs to have for a story can help to figure out where it needs to be placed in the world for that climate to naturally occur.
In the end its up to you.
People come and people go. I walk amongst them, I see their faces; but none see mine. I pass them in the streets but nary a glance is spared my way, for what interest would they have in a Wanderer? Not of this world... Forever Alone... Forever Wandering... LoneWandererD...
RIP Angel "Ingy" Yates - The first inspiration that guided me towards art. You will be missed...
I go for a circular or, more accurately, back and forth approach.
Start by roughing in your world. Figure out the broad migrations of the peoples and possibly some of the beasts of your world.
Drill down to the continent your players are going to be on and any nearby or connected continents or islands your characters could reasonably gain knowledge of. Determine at least the rough locations of the great empires of your area of interest. This will refer back to the global migrations. You should have a pretty good idea of the shape of your continent, where large mountain ranges are and the great rivers equivalent to the Nile, Tigris/Euphrates, Ganges and such. Also large desert regions. Know at least a little more than your PCs.
Drill down further. Know your player's country and any neighboring kingdoms. Know the names of the capitals and major cities. Know all the mountain ranges, major rivers, deserts and such. Start work at this scale on the history of your kingdom and its immediate neighbors.
From here you can work down to more local areas until your naming the tavern keeper's daughter(the slightly plump, but zaftig and lusty one) and you've mapped out the surroundings of the home village right down to the old oak tree where you used to take previously mentioned daughter on assignations. Okay, maybe not quite that much detail at this point.
Now burrow your way back out again. Think about things you might have learned about the area around your village, that friendly throwball rivalry with the Breemen, occasional visits by the Baron from his castle in Frendis, the hot, dry wind that blows down off the Yarl Mountains every autumn. These little details will impact the larger maps: you'll add in the throwball fanatics of Bree village, the Barony capital and associated trade markets in Frendis and perhaps the high desert environment of the Transyarl Plateau. Moving further out, when your PCs make their way to the markets of Frendis, traders from distant lands will tell them of the great and wealthy trade city of Kazh. But where did the vast storehouses of kevas and trillium, goldincense and anver come from? Where do the giant caravans go? These details will tell you more about the larger world.
Then burrow back down. Let your greater knowledge of the surrounding world suggest more details about the smaller home land. It might turn out that the vase with the odd runes in the Baron's palace came from the empire of far Yama, etc. Detail to suit.
Remember, that you don't have to detail everything before you play. First, anything you don't tell your players can be retconned at will. Second, not everything you tell your players need be exactly what you told them. Kazh is a beautiful and wealthy city of rich markets and fragrant gardens? Your characters aren't seeing much of that as slaves in the deep and sunless catacombs of the Undercity. The old trader told stories about how the Mowavar have eyes in the palms of their hands and eat babies, but your storyline would work better if Mowat was a human kingdom? Read up on some of the old stories told about California!
Don't feel constrained by what you have written, but take advantage of the framework of details to help you build and maintain a world is self-consistent and feels vast.
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