‘ello! Time for another post. So when we left off last time, I’d just drawn a map of the world, and decided basically what it looks like. It’s time now to discuss what sort of life forms inhabit the world. I usually have a basic idea of what the world’s life will be like when it first pops into my head–in this case, that idea was “gnomes.” From this idea, you can begin extrapolating what the rest of the world’s life is like.
However, what if you make up some continents and geography, but have no idea what lives on the world? The first step there is to determine what the intelligent life forms are. This is basically personal preference. You can make them whatever you want. However, it’s good to have at least one species of intelligent life in your world which is relatively easy for humans to relate to–anthropomorphic mammals or some sort of humanoid race, for example. Then you might think of your world’s geography, and try to get a sense for what sort of people might fit into it. If you have a world with a lot of crags and mountains and such, why not a race of winged people? Or in a very cold world, what about people with fur? In my world’s case, the most readily inhabitable area is the Underground, so it makes sense for one of the main intelligent races to be Gnomes. Gnomes are really short, after all, which means they should be ideally suited for a life amidst the cramped confines of a tunnel network. It might also make sense to have a race of intelligent mole type creatures, or perhaps some sort of insectoid race. I’m just sticking with gnomes for now.
But what about the surface? I’ve been toying with the idea of populating the surface with nomadic humans. Think sci-fi Bedouins. Now, I know the surface isn’t all desert; I described it as “wasteland.” (and if I really didn’t, strike that from your memories. :P ) Humans can adapt to all sorts of terrain and climates, so it makes sense for them to be the dominant race up there. If it’s really that harsh, then I suppose there’s two options for them: live in massive, cramped fortress-cities, or keep wandering so as to stay ahead of any trouble. This sort of thing is really a matter of personal preference, but I think it’ll make for a more interesting world, with more conflict, if there’s two groups of humans: one group that lives in fortresses, and one group that travels. I think the traveling group will be the connection between the fortress dwellers and the gnomes.
Now, historically, nomadic folks–gypsies, for example–have been little trusted. But I’m going to go a different route here. The fortress dwellers think the travelers are really brave for traversing the wasteland, and look on them as heroic figures. Some of them pretty much depend on the travelers for food and such, so they don’t want to do anything to aggravate their suppliers. The travelers, on the other hand, view the fortress dwellers as soft and cowardly, but generally keep this to themselves because they, too, need the goods the fortress dwellers create. Meanwhile, the gnomes jealously guard the Underground, refusing to allow humans to escape there.
…but we’re starting to get a little side-tracked. That stuff I’ll spend a lot more time on later, when I talk about creating cultures. This here is just deciding the basic life forms of the world, so I guess I should move on to animals. There are clearly two distinct ecologies at work here, the Underground and the surface. That’s probably the first step when deciding flora and fauna for your world: figure out how many different ecological areas there are, and their locations. Of course, geography will be huge in this step. (see why I figure that out first?) An alternate first step might be to ask yourself this question: what is the dominant sort of flora or fauna on this world? Reptiles? Birds? Conifers? To some extent, this will be decided by the geography and climate of your world, but a goodly part of it will also be determined by what sort of feeling you want the world to have. A world dominated by insects and fungi will feel a lot more alien then a world dominated by mammals.
Now here’s what I’m thinking. The surface, being a harsh wasteland, is going to need animals that can withstand that sort of thing. Insects with tough exoskeletons seem to be a good choice, and they’d also fit with the barren, alien feel I want the surface of the world to have. So lots of huge insects and arachnids… giant sand scorpions… mantids the size of lions… butterfly-ish creatures the size of jumbo jets. I’m thinking those won’t be fliers so much as gliders, riding the desert winds to wherever they’re taken. The underground, on the other hand, is a lot safer, a lot softer, a lot less dangerous. Probably the underground creatures are much smaller; they’re also likely mammals as opposed to reptiles, because they’d need some way to regulate their body heat without the sun. A lot of these are probably adapted to digging, though if there are really some big caverns, I’m sure there’s creatures that never leave them. Here I’m thinking of going with more primeval, Ice Age type creatures… probably some giant bats and digging apes… and a whole lot of fungi. Not many plants in the underground, of course. Now, what about some sentient crystals? I sort of like this idea… some sort of crystalline creatures… it might be that these go to the surface, as well, and sort of tie the two ecologies together. Might be something mysterious about them, also. Silicon-based life forms can be rather interesting.
So now the world is a little bit more defined. There’s basic geography; basic flora and fauna; basic intelligent races. The next thing to figure out is the overall technology level of the populace, but I’ll save that for the next article.