Work continues on the daunting amount of descriptions required for Hart’s Deep. With the large number of locations I’m working with, it’s getting to be quite an adventure not to repeat myself. Luckily, I use Scrivener for Windows, which makes working on the manuscript that much easier, especially when it comes to doing searches to discover if I’ve used place or person names already.
Right now, for the most part, I’m sticking with short descriptions of locations, basically giving the name of the place and what they sell. Once in a while, if I think of something more descriptive, I add it in right away. I’m trying not to put too much description or definitions into the people who own and run the businesses, but sometimes an idea comes into my head that I think is worthy of putting in. Here’s an example of one I just completed.
Sign of a Flask
This alchemist specializes in making potions, both truly magical and mundane. He also sells containers to hold potions and other liquids, and is unwilling to sell anything that a competitor, or someone wanting to make their own potions, might be able to use.
When you are creating your world bible, or if you’re writing something and realize you need a description and info about a particular location – let’s say it’s a shop – you don’t need to come up with a map and detailed description, including an inventory and price list (though heaven help me, I’d probably do that if I didn’t keep my worldbuilding impulses under control). All you may need is a brief description like I have above. If the shop ever becomes more prominent, then you can come up with those details if you need them.
If you’re working within an established world, especially if this is for a role playing game, you might not even need to come up with a price list. Some game systems (or world descriptions) give you the average price of a particular thing; all you might need to do for your own notes is state the owner of the shop sells things for 10% more than the standard price list.
I thought I’d take a bit of a departure from the usual worldbuilding stuff I post here to talk a bit about role playing. Evil Hat is opened a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to help fund their new Fate Core book. I’ve made a pledge, and I’ve got the early preview version of the text. I’ve started reading it through, and came across a statement which caught my eye and I just had to share:
Both players and gamemasters have a secondary job: make everyone around you look awesome.
That statement (the emphasis is theirs) seems like just common sense to me, but in our competitive world, sometimes the desire to “win” overshadows everything. Role playing is a collaborative effort, with everyone having a role in telling the story. Everyone needs to be able to shine, to be the hero or the lead character. Honestly, it’s not all that fun to always play the sidekick.
People find inspiration in all different ways. There’s a subgenre of books, for example, that’s retellings of fairy tales. Sometimes they employ twists, such as Beauty and the Beast where the Beast is a woman and Beauty is a man.
In another project I’m working on, I needed to look up to see if there were any precedents for male dryads. One of the pages I checked out was the Wikipedia page on dryads. There, it doesn’t mention male dryads, but it does talk about dryads having different names based on the tree they are associated with, and how closely they are tied to their tree.
Seeing that reminded me there’s no reason why other cultures wouldn’t do the same thing – have different names for the same basic thing, based on a specific part of the object (or creature) in question. For example, a red dragon could be called one thing, while a blue dragon another. To someone who knows the language and the culture, it would make perfect sense, but to an outsider it could be rather confusing, especially if there are no similarities between the names.
Taverns are more than just places to get a drink. They serve as a meeting place for the community, catching up on the day’s events, and just plain relaxing after a day’s work. Hart’s Deep has it’s fair share of taverns, and here’s one that’s located in the Northern Military quarter.
Sign of a Gauntleted Fist
Owned by a former soldier, nicknamed Bloody Knuckles because of his propensity to get into fistfights, is one of the rowdiest taverns in the city. Brawls happen on a nightly basis, and it’s rumored the city watch has a nightly pool to see when the first fight breaks out, and how many times the watch has to send people there to deal with a disturbance. The food and drink are mediocre, though more people seem to go there for the fights than anything else.
Do you think the pyramids of Giza would be so utterly fascinating to us if we knew exactly how the Ancient Egyptians built them? I’m not sure if they would be. They’re a World Wonder for a reason, and not just because of their sheer size. And that’s what every world, fictional or otherwise, needs – a bit of wonder.
How interesting would a world be if you knew everything about it? Understood how everything worked. If we did, there would be no need to go exploring, or on adventures? In a story, it can get boring rather quickly when the lead character knows everything.
Guy Hasson in his article World-Building Needs Closed Doors does a great job talking about this. I recommend checking it out.
A piece of advice Hasson gives in the comments is about the placement of the “doors” – you need to choose them carefully. I agree, that if you single something out in a game, your players are going to want to figure it out. Why? Because if you mentioned it, it must be important. So pick your mysteries carefully, but a the same time, be prepared to explain them if they could lead to bigger, wonderful things.