Smokey, this isn’t ‘Nam! There are rules!

I’ve been thinking about worldbuilding these past days and I think that the best worldbuilding always has a function, instead of just being something that would be cool or fun to have in the setting. Either it communicates something emotional about the characters, though I see that working best in visual media, or it establishes the rules that the plot will have to follow and that limit what the characters can do. To tidy up the often messy worldbuilding of Kaendor, and to tighten it up, I made this list of basic rules that define the setting and also the stories to take place in it.

  • All the land is either forest or mountains.
  • Spirits control the natural forces of the environment.
  • Spirits do not care about mortals.
  • Civilization can only exist in places where powerful spirits shield the people from unpredictable weather and encroaching wilderness.
  • Civilization is always limited to only city states and some surrounding farmland.
  • City states never last longer than a few hundred years.
  • Outside of civilized regions, time and distance aren’t as clear.
  • Magic can only provide awareness of the environment and subtle manipulations of minds, and summon spirits for direct services or to ask for their insight about the past and the future.
  • Sorcery can reshape things and change the laws of nature in limited areas.
  • Sorcery always corrupts anything it changes, making them sickly, brittle, and insane.
  • The powers of great spirits can reverse the corruption by strengthening the natural life forces to break the sorcerous restraints put on them.
  • The size and strength of spirits is reflecting their supernatural powers.
  • There is no afterlife for the dead and no reincarnation of the soul. Undead are only immitations or shadows of the dead.
  • Priests and shamans always have great political power.
  • Architecture and environments are often very vertical.
  • Travel is almost entirely by water.
  • Traders make up most traffic.
  • The economy runs on salt, silver, and slaves.
  • Mounts can not keep up with runners over longer distances.
  • Spears and bows are the primary weapons. Knives, axes, and short swords are used occasionally. Armor is lamellar or leather scale, but shields and helmets are the most important.
  • Personal disputes are settled with boxing duels.
  • Killing someone will always have repercussions.

Making this list made me spot a Chekhov’s Gun. When so much about the world’s culture revolves around the fact that civilization consists of tiny precarious islands of stability within a vast hostile wilderness, the audiences will reasonably expect to get shown the demise of at least one such city. And of the five plot ideas I currently have in reserve, two of them have this as one of their stakes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *