How To Build Your Own World: Miscellaneous!

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All right, you have your world put together. Economy, magic/technology, races, species, physics, societies...the works.

Why not add the seasonings to it now? Maybe some ketchup even?

It can be the little things that really complete a subcreation, so why not consider them? Seemingly little things can actually have a big impact!

For example, take stealing. What is stealing? Well, you would likely say taking something that doesn't belong to you. True, true, common sense, right?

But can you see where this is going? If you have a society or a tribe where nobody owns anything, then can the crime of stealing even exist? If you have a society, how would the whole concept of items and people work? Someone is using a hammer, puts it down, comes back a few minutes's gone. Now what? Can such a society exist by our standards? It cannot possibly be anything like ours.

Suppose you have a more normal society, but no police. How would that work? Local militias of volunteers? Can it be a society so inverted that people are actually expected not to fight back? Maybe some groups of people are allowed, officially or not, to get away with it. How would that work, and if it does work...why?

Maybe I've touched on this before, but sequels can be fun. Strong-O the Strong but Stupid brags in a heroic booming voice how he destroyed Evil Lord Nastynaughty and then freed ALL of the innocent victims from Evil Lord Nastynaughty's dungeon. Hah, the stuff of heroic fantasy, right? Ohh, but wait- might not even an evil overlord have legitimate reason for putting someone in prison? Pity Strong-O didn't bother to check the books (can he even read?); along with innocent folks he released murderers, vile sorcerers, robbers, pirates, etc. You know, the sorts you'd rather WERE locked up in a dungeon somewhere.

Well now! Sure the lawful evil realm of Evil Lord Nastynaughty has been broughteth down but now the realm is filledeth with gangs of thugs robbing, rampaging, killing, ravaging, and doing more such Generally Unpleasant Things, not to mention vile sorcerers competing to take Evil Lord Nastynaughty's place and blowing up everything for half a mile while doing so- and those summoned demons are a real nuisance when they get loose. How happy the local peasantry must be to now be living in a chaotic evil society instead of a lawful evil one, with no law enforcement anywhere.

You know you as a hero need some serious improvement with your technique when the peasants you "liberated" become nostalgic for the evil overlord you so grandly defeated.

Too bad Strong-O didn't bother to make certain that all of the loose ends were dealt with, that someone trustworthy was left with the job of cleaning up and setting up a decent government afterwards if he didn't want to do it himself. Nooooo, he just went in, killed Evil Lord Nastynaughty and his minions, opened the prison gates, then left to brag about his exploits and have a mug of grog with his fellow heroes at Ye Olde Hero's Brews & Beef House, half price for dragonslayers (chromatic only). Guess nobody's perfect- or in this case mediocre even.

A classic "Sorcerer's Apprentice" plot device is when someone utilizes some power or device without fully understanding it- resulting in some rather large problems.

Drought strikes an area. A good cleric by the name of Goodytwoshoes the Good, a lawful good cleric (you don't say?), powerful but as clueless as Strong-O- don't you just love my carefully created names?- declares that he will help by bringing rain!

So he casts the right spells, and sure enough here comes the rain, the peasants rejoice...that's great...uh, all right, that's, sir, really that's enough, really...

Too bad when that cleric contacted the Elemental Plane of Water for rain he forgot to set a limit.

Soon the whole area is flooded, and erosion causes tremendous damage to hillsides and property. Not to mention farmland and livestock. And nasty things that might be in the water, especially in an AD&D world.

Now, you can go beyond this even! Cleric Goodytwoshoes FINALLY manages to stop the rain. Aside from the property damage the receding waters also are jusssssst right for a huge population explosion of mosquitoes,* causing the obvious problems. The land is crippled by the damage for some time to come, making it easier pickings for enemy kingdoms.

Do us a favor, Cleric Goodytwoshoes: don't do us any more favors. Please.

* This happened where I live in 2006.

Maybe some powerful types trying to work together but only getting in each other's way. Flame-O the fire wizard (you don't say?) works with Splashy the water wizard (really?) to wipe out an enemy force. So Flame-O conjures a huge wall of fire to incinerate the army while Splashy creates a mighty cloudburst to flood the valley and wash away the enemy, HAH!

Only problem is Flame-O's approaching firewall boils away the rain just as the water puts out the fire. The wind blows the resulting steam towards the wizards' kingdom in a way that acts like a nifty smokescreen for the enemy. Oh, well- maybe the conquerers are interested in hiring a couple of wizards...

Sometimes simple actions can have amusing consequences, if you play it right. Say you have a party of heroic but smug heroes who are so smug and arrogant to the locals those locals almost prefer the monsters. In this case those heroes encounter phanaton and give them a hard time, not really caring if they get in the way of some monster slaying and gaining some real loot. The bad feelings those cute tree-dwellers would have towards the heroes are pretty obvious. What to do next? Well, you COULD just play that part out normally, or you could play it out like this:

Obnoxious Heroes: "Before we set off for the mainland tell us, oh simple primitive furballs- are there any sahuagin or sharks around here beneath yon waves so blue?"

Fed-Up Phanaton Chief: "Ohhh, no, good sirs- there are no sahuagin or sharks anywhere for many miles!"

Obnoxious Heroes: "Excellent, even puny primitives such as you can be of some use! Off we go, here you go, this is reparations for the damage done to your people and homes, `tis of great value!" (Tosses him a copper piece and a few glass beads.)

After the Obnoxious Heroes have sailed out a mile or two a female phanaton asks the chief "shouldn't you have told them it's because Cthulhu scared them all off?"

Chief Phanaton now smiling: "Oopsy, I am SO forgetful..."

"A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing." We usually think of this as meaning that knowledge is just so powerful even a little can be DEADLY, hyyyahhh! But what it really means is that an incomplete understanding of something can get you into real trouble...

A kingdom is being plagued by werepandas. They usually rumage through things, knocking things over, eating some of the crops, making themselves into real pests, but nothing affects them so far.

So they send Imogene the Impatient (you'd think by now they'd know better but she had discount tickets) to do some research. She goes to the Big City of Knowledge and in one of the libraries comes across a paragraph:

"To stop werepandas for real,

Use weapons of brass, not silver or steel..."

Oh, terrific! She drops the book and rushes home, tells everyone that paragraph, brass arrows and swords are made, the werepandas come rumaging around during the next full moon, the villagers hit them with brass...and then after fifteen minutes each dead werepanda becomes five adorably demonic red pandas with blazing red eyes and breathing fire that laughs- literally- at silly water splashed on it, attacking the villagers with great gusto.

All because Imogene didn't turn the page and read the NEXT part:

"After brass strike with copper within a quarter hour,

Or trouble will arise, your efforts will surely turn sour!"

There are times when ignorance is bliss and half-knowledge is fatal.

Maybe a wizard has a spell that can really turn lead to gold, but with one problem: if exposed to moonlight it reverts to normal again. You make sure the exchange is in the middle of a room, away from any windows, no skylights...except a beam of moonlight hits a mirror then hits the "gold," turning it back to lead. The "elf" buying the "gold" sees this, looks at the wizard and his party, turns into his true self: an ancient red dragon...

Something that can double the yield of fruit trees, field crops, whatever! Farmers buy it, rather unwisely ignoring the fact that the salesbeing goes by the name of "Sleazo the Slimy," and sure enough the yield is doubled- now here you can take one of several paths:

1) The crops taste like swamp mud, smell like a dead skunk, and make you sick. And that was the kindly description. The evil Archduke of The Nine Caverns of Tyranny and Torment wouldn't feed his prisoners and slaves any of it, since that would be just too cruel. For more fun just how might your hapless suckers try to make money from it?

2) Twice the yield, crops taste good, are perfectly normal...ahhh, but there's that pesky economic rule of "supply and demand." Sleazo had sold the same potion to other farmers in other places, so now there was a glut of everything. Prices drop so fast it makes a hole twenty feet deep. There's no place to store it so much of it is dumped in piles; flies and rats soon abound. Will local rulers try price controls? What of the farmers who failed to make a profit? Too much of a good thing here perhaps? Something like this has happened on our world!

3) Twice the yield, crops fine...but it ripens and rots at twice the speed. If proper storage and preservation isn't available, well, then...and if it ripens so much faster then might that not throw off schedules, buyers aren't around since they didn't know it would be ready so fast? Will they get there before it rots? What to do, what to do?

Maybe Sleazo the Slimy returns, oh my how could I have overlooked that problem (whichever it is)? Now, for a MOST generous price I'd be willing to sell you THIS, it will certainly solve that problem (and in fact it does), but he can charge a rather high fee since those suckers have no choice!

Create a problem, sell a solution. Happens all the time on our world, so why not use it in yours?

What can YOU come up with? :)

Sometimes something seems like a good idea in theory, but it turns out to be a bad idea in practice. Maybe a friendly dragon flies over a kingdom, cheerfully dropping bags with gold, silver, and gems on the porches of every peasant so there will be no more poverty.

But if everyone's rich what then? Would massive inflation happen? If everyone is rich would anyone want to go to work? What THEN, eh? Would everything soon be neglected, ruined? If everyone is rich can anyone be rich?

Sounds like the sort of thing an evil and very clever dragon could do as well as a misguided good one! Talk about a smart investment! Smaug could have saved himself a lot of grief if he'd tried this!

You can find a "wealth" of ideas just by asking yourself "what would be the long-term consequences of this?"

Sometimes philosophy can help. If a world is absolutely dualistic so there must be good and evil in equal measure then maybe a spell that makes an evil population good would also cause a good population to become evil. Things would have to balance out if your world works that way, maybe in unpleasantly surprisingly ways. There are so many ways of doing this!

A world with several moons has lycanthropes appearing on it. Now THERE'S an interesting situation! Do they become "super lycanthropes" when there is more than one full moon?

As with so many other aspects you can use factors in real life in your own creation. For example, it is a proven fact that the oxygen content in our atmosphere has been dropping for years, even within the past few decades there has been a noticeable decrease. There is evidence that once the oxygen content in the air was 30%-35%, no doubt burning coal and petroleum has been a factor in the recent drop as well as the killing of oxygen-producing organisms.

Now, what if on your world this is not the case and the oxygen content is much higher than on modern Earth? What does this mean?

First of all, it means insects and arachnids could be much larger. Fossils have shown dragonflies with more than a two FOOT wingspan. Because of the way insects, arachnids, and others "breathe" (we'll call it that) such big versions probably could not survive on our modern world- but on yours maybe such "giants" could, although in my world of Ayundell they are bound by other factors as well so no ten-foot wasps attacking. But on that world you will find much bigger spiders and wasps than on our world.

If this extra oxygen is in the water what would that mean?

Diseases can thrive more in an anaerobic environment. Less oxygen could make bodies more vulnerable to diseases such as cancer.

How would fire burn? If there is magic on your world but a fireball spell needs oxygen to work would it be that much more effective?

Now...what if a magic-user from an oxygen-poor world ended up on a more oxygen-rich one? Would his fire magic suddenly be much more powerful? What if it was the other way around, would his fire magic be weaker and would fighters tire more easily? Maybe if in a more oxygen-rich environment his fireball would be so much more powerful his own party would be affected because he underestimated its explosive radius!

Maybe "cursed" areas that are rich in radioactive ore.

You can have areas with some truly absurd customs. There are so many possibilities here I couldn't begin to list them but here's one: when entering the house of a noble you must walk upside-down on your hands. Or maybe when approaching the ruler pay attention because three feet above the floor all around his throne is a golden grid with razor blades, forcing all before him to crawl low. Maybe wearing red is outlawed because it clashes with the queen's favorite dress.

Sometimes absurd laws actually had a logical basis. Here in America there are still one or more places with a law on the books saying you cannot carry an ice cream in your pocket. Seems stupid- except long ago horse thieves would sometimes do just that so the horse would follow the thief, then he could play innocent when seen walking away with the horse following!

You can have people who use gambling casinos and drugs to make slaves of hapless populations who end up in debt (the coin is mightier than the sword, as Ayundellian Lisharians and Buyerlords know). Tricky contracts that end up costing victims dearly. Strange treaties. Weird and absurd laws. Entertainment meant to dumb-down, corrupt?

In the movie "Idiocracy" the theory was that when idiots outbreed smart people you end up with an idiotic society. Well, here's my own version: if a nation has millions of geniuses and only three hundred morons but it's those morons who decide what will be done and what laws will be have "idiocracy." Now- if your society is like this how did it end up that way? How long have the geniuses put up with this and why? Maybe your society is the opposite, how would THAT work?

When deciding upon what sort of a society you have don't forget the details! If a plutocracy then how does one qualify as rich- does inherited money count or must one become rich strictly by one's own efforts? How would this affect family relationships? Can already-rich make certain others unable to become rich? If so- how? Details, details!

Is your world actually flat? A huge floating disc in an endless sky? Can someone literally fall off the edge? Can one literally dig too deep and fall through the hole and down, down, down..?

Maybe you have a dystopian society- after pollution or war devastates your world survivors live in a domed city where carelessness at one's job means exile since that can endanger everyone- or death? If resources dwindle and it is decided to reduce the population how is that decided?

Maybe eating yellow food is considered a sin in your society. So much for lemon drops. Or corn on the cob. Or bananas (ripe ones at least).

How about a floating island that periodically flips over?

Maybe you have a battalion fighting a powerful monster, it retreats...but a perceptive being is not celebrating with the others, he wondering why the monster retreated when he was obviously about to win! What reasons can YOU think of, and how would it relate to the story?

Is red-green color blind normal in your society? What advantages would the rare person with normal vision have?

If you have a race of creatures with only black and white vision then might they use fancy patterns for more variety in clothing and fabrics? Interesting idea, no? BUT- let's take that a step further: another creature with normal color vision shows up, what would he see? Incredibly garish and clashing colors everywhere perhaps? Somehow one cannot help but think that race won't be exporting fashions any time too soon!

All right, you have an intelligent race of killer whales. They live in the water. They have flippers. Obviously their ability to make things is going to be limited, and unless you involve magic or some VERY clever means forging anything for them is rather unlikely. Well, land-dwelling beings obviously have an advantage in many ways, able to use fire and forge. The whales can return the favor by rescuing drowning individuals, transportation, bring up things too deep for the land-dwellers, etc.

Now, I've mentioned this before but it's worth mentioning again: flying creatures can completely change the way a world develops from its most primitive times. They can travel vast distances and ignore obstacles that can stop land-bound beings in their tracks. This means exchange of ideas, information, etc. can be done from the earliest days.

It also means that in combat such a world would always have an Air Force! They can drop fire bombs, poison bombs, etc. What would land-bound do about it?

Friendly? Dominating? Cruel? Kind? Consider the variations! And what if a being is long-seeing and may do something now to avert a much worse evil later on? If the hero out to kill that being suddenly understands this then what?

Is your world ever-changing in all ways, or is it stable, static even?

This series has an entry about deities, but here's something else: sure the idea of deities needing worshipers for power is great, but how about places the deity cannot go or have any power? Do they need a certain number and quality of worshipers to "manifest" or have power, and if so how do they begin? Is it a case of scientists or wizards opening a tiny crack where it can whisper rituals, ways, promises, to gain a toehold? Classic!

Well, that's it- just a few ideas out of many!

Gah, this new Deviantart style is TERRIBLE!
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