Friday, July 29, 2011

World Building



World building. I love it. And it vexes me.

In the Encyclopedia of Fantasy they refer to fantasy realms as “Secondary Worlds”. Meaning, they are independent of reality. Tolkien is the classic example given, if memory serves. Middle-Earth does not reference our world, it exists independent of our reality (though, obviously, all fantasy realms are in fact informed by our reality..it cannot be otherwise).

So Secondary Worlds are what I love to do. I rarely mix reality with fantasy, though I have dabbled in it.

Building a world is a joyous endeavor for me. I absolutely love it. But I’m a comic book creator first and foremost so if there isn’t a story to tell then I don’t know what to do with all these realms I invent. That’s a struggle at times.

When I was in high school and my friends and I were starting what was to be my first AD&D campaign we worked from a microcosmic or local process. Basically the DM drew a map of the village we were from on a sheet of 8.5x11 graph paper. As we went out adventuring he would add sheets to show other towns or cities or places we visited. There was no grand map of the world, no scheme of what the bigger world was like. It was entirely focused on the local, personal experience. As the campaign went along the world gained more detail, mostly in terms of its pantheon of deities and certain key cities/characters. It was great fun and very seminal times for me.

But very often I tend to start from the macro, drawing an entire world map and then populating it. This is fun too but it often creates some problems for me. It boxes me in.

One solution I’ve found is to draw a segment of a realm, like a single continent or large island, then you’ve left open the possibility of other islands and continents to explore.

An idea for a realm that hit me last year was a sort of analogy to space. A realm where the landscape is blasted to smithereens into chunks…floating worlds in space. A couple of months ago my son watched Dragon Hunters on Netflix and that film features a similar idea with its floating landscapes. And obviously fantasy novels and art are filled with floating cities and islands and such. Even the freaking Power Rangers have something like that. So this is not a novel idea, but it is a cool idea.

What I like about it is you can have an unlimited selection of realms, each with its own unique environments. What I don’t like about it is that it suggests an infinite or at least vast number of realms. I really dig smaller, more defined settings. It’s a give and take, I guess.

I remember in the 1990s there was an AD&D supplement for world building, The World Builders’ Guidebook if I remember correctly. I had a copy of it and it was really great for randomly coming up with world ideas. A bit limited, of course, since it was tied specifically to the AD&D game, but I liked that they were encouraging such creativity.

A few months ago I drew a map of an un-named realm and put some busty anthro characters on each corner. I really, really LOVE this map. It is so evocative for me. It drums up tons of imagery and I desperately want to develop it into a comic of some kind.

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