Creating a Setting Part 2: Spiderwebs

in Tips and Tricks

Monday, I discussed the first part of the creation process I went through to come up with a setting. And now, its time to figure out where that went, and see if my experience can help you glean a few more insight into making your own settings.

So I’ve created two major characters. I’ve got the basis for the one big event that drives the setting. Let’s see where it goes from here.

Its always OK to Change Direction

… At this point I realized an issue. I wanted to use him as a hero. I didn’t want to explore him as a villain, I didn’t want to have him succumb to his issues, I wanted to explore him overcoming those issues to stand side by side with Hobo Warrior to defeat the thing that destroyed their home. I mean, if I’m making an RPG out of this, I can’t very well have just one hero, that doesn’t work very well unless you are going Action RPG, and I’m not as interested in that.

As an aside, this is another of my laws. Touchfuzzy’s Law of Medium Acknowledgement: Always be cognizant of the limitations and requirements of the medium you are creating for.

I needed to change direction. And when you are still in the planning stages, YOU NEED TO LEAVE YOURSELF FREE TO DO THIS. The only time anything is set in stone is when you’ve released it to the public as a finished product. (And even then, not really. I mean, you can always recontextualize things that happened.)

Or if you are DC, you can just have Superboy punch reality.

Or if you are DC, you can just have Superboy punch reality.

For instance, what if Hobo Warrior only THOUGHT that Doubting Magus had betrayed him? What if he was mistaken? So I decided the best action was to get Doubting Magus out of the country before it fell somehow. He couldn’t be there to defend himself to Hobo Warrior, so all Hobo Warrior saw was the Magi betraying him and his people. And Doubting Magus was part of that.

What if his sister was the one who got him banished? What if she was the true villain, and out of love for her brother, she got him removed from the realm before she unleashed literal hell?

This change in direction opened up a whole lot of new avenues for me. And this will happen to you, too. Always be willing to explore all the options, just write down a huge pile of ideas and think about the consequences of each. Sometimes you’ll stumble on something like this, that adds more depth. Sometimes an idea will just be stupid. Sometimes it is just half an idea that you need to weld to another idea before it makes sense.

Going With Your Interests

So now, let’s look at the sister. Now dubbed Diabolical Sis. She obviously isn’t 100% bad if she removed her brother from the line of fire before bringing through the demons. So why did she do it? This is another question that setting creation can use a lot: Why?

Why would history go a certain way? Why would society progress in this direction? Why would a culture have these beliefs? How explains the way something happens, but why, why explans the reason it happens.

She was a powerful Magus, rising in power and prestige. Would she do it for power? It just didn’t make sense. She already had more power than almost anyone else. And I wasn’t interesting in exploring the power corrupts angle. But what if she knew something we didn’t? What if there was some, yet unknown threat, one that she felt was SO dangerous, the only recourse was to ally with demons.

I’ll admit at this point that I’m very fond of “for the greater good” antagonists, and that is a major reason fro this decision. But you should be doing the same in your own setting: Find ideas and character archetypes and themes that YOU enjoy. Sometimes the right decision for your setting isn’t what fits ‘perfectly’, but what you as the creator enjoy the idea of. Your enthusiasm will come out, and that ‘heart’ is more important than a perfectly logical piece to the puzzle.

hmmm... now if a mecha could somehow make it in there. (Sometimes you have to make sure your interests FIT the story though)

hmmm… now if a mecha could somehow make it in there. (Sometimes you have to make sure your interests FIT the story though)

Our Seed Grows a… Spiderweb? (This metaphor is getting strained)

Another aspect of making this decision about the history of my world: It gave me another setting detail: There has to be some greater threat. What is it? Where does it come from?

This is something that you should see is a pattern throughout these articles: Every decision leads to more and more questions. Every time you find an answer, your world, and the story it contains, continues to grow outwards like a Spiderweb, each thread supporting and strengthening the ones around it.

And this goes on and on. I’m not going to take it step by step any more, but you can probably see how each step happened by reading through the changes.

I eventually made it into a space fantasy setting, taking place across an entire solar system (this is partially inspired (read: stolen) by reading Warhammer 40k novels at the time, and partially to answer the question of why the demons don’t overrun the entire planet: They pretty much did, but they are blockaded in space). I decided all matter of “tech” exists but its all magic. Magic spaceships and magic guns that shoot magic bolts and magic space habitats and etc. etc. etc.

Magic! That's Heresy!

Magic! That’s Heresy!

Then created “spellshield” a type of material that naturally absorbs magic based on the wearers will, making there be a reason that swords and spears and such were still used (I hate that most games don’t explain why people would use swords in a setting that has rocket launchers and machine guns). As an added bonus this adds some extra fun for mechanics for a game. Melee is more dangerous to you, but does direct damage, magic has to eat through a barrier first, but keeps you safer. (there is that law of medium acknowledgement again)

Then decided on explaining the Magi and demons by creating two ancient races, one that humans descended from that are the source of the Magi’s power, and the other the “demons” sealed by humanity’s forebearers by shifting the demons’ entire planet a bit to the left on the planar scale.

Then decided to include Elves and Dwarves to round out things. Well, Space Elves and Space Dwarves. The Dwarves are from a mountainous Ice Planet with deep volcanic caverns. The Space Elves are an extrasolar race, arriving on giant sleeper ships that became sprawling forest habitats in space, having fled their own homeworld after being attacked by dangerous threat…

But no Space Hippo Men.

But no Space Hippo Men.

And that leads to another lesson: Sometimes, when you are working on some other part of your setting entirely, you come up with the answer you’d asked yourself days before. I now had the danger that Diabolical Sis had foretold. The thing that had chased the Elves away was not so keen on letting them escape. And now, just as my story begins, their scouts are just beginning to arrive.

And that leads to my final wrap up: Ask How. Ask Why. Ask the questions your players would ask. By focusing on these questions, you create the setting you NEED for the story you are writing. I can’t stress this enough: The only part of the setting that is important is the part that supports your story and in the case of a video game, what supports the gameplay.

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