Tag: gnomes

A New Age Dawns, Part III

Okay, so in the last installment, I talked a bit about life forms. At the end I said I would discuss overall world technological level in this next post, so I guess that’s what I’d better do.

All right! The world so far isn’t exactly suggesting a particular level of technological advancement–the only thing that suggests a particular level is the fortresses inhabited by some of the humans dwelling on the surface. However, these fortresses could be as primitive as cave systems burrowed into mountainsides, or something as sophisticated as NORAD (which, incidentally, is also a cave system burrowed into a mountainside). My initial vision of these fortresses was that they were more like Medieval castles. Huge, labyrinthine stone structures built on easily defensible areas, like mountains and hilltops. That still doesn’t necessarily suggest anything, because they could be very old castles, which the modern people are still living in out of convenience. I do know, however, that this is going to be a sci-fi/fantasy. That in itself suggests something.

Here’s the idea that just sprang into my mind: the humans, on the surface of the world, are not native to the world. They’re the remnants of a spaceship crew, a crew of interstellar explorers. They still have a goodly amount of the technology from the spaceship, but they don’t understand it anymore. They’re able to replicate some of it, but they don’t comprehend the principles it works on. To them, it’s very much like magic. But a magic that is not understood is dangerous, so I imagine there are only a few people trained and trusted enough to operate this misunderstood technology. These elite people would be the wizards, the sorcerers, the mages. Through long study, they learn to operate and recreate the ancient machines, but they don’t really understand how the machines work. It’s like when you get so used to the routine of doing something that you cease to have a conscious understanding of what you’re actually doing.

So the fortress-dwelling humans have some pretty advanced technology, but it isn’t widespread. Their technological level aside from that is, I’m thinking, about equivalent to 17th century Earth. Fortresses have printing presses, but there still aren’t many books; people have guns, but still fight with swords and plate armor; more advanced machinery and vehicles are beginning to be invented, but have not come far. This level of technology implies a certain organizational structure–absolute monarchy, supported by a strong official church. I’m thinking each fortress is essentially its own kingdom, and maybe there’s whole networks of fortresses who have banded together and elected a high king, for mutual protection. Then there could be an overarching church, or possibly a few different churches. These may follow religions which are twisted versions of ones we know here on earth… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Now, what about the nomadic humans? I doubt these people have the “wizards” of the fortress dwellers. A nomadic lifestyle just isn’t conducive to that sort of thing, too much machinery and too many books involved. However, they probably have all the best weapons, since people look up to them for their bravery in traversing the wastelands. I doubt it would be difficult for them to bargain for quality weaponry. Now, how do they travel? I imagine they might sometimes buy powerful, advanced vehicles from the “wizards” of the fortresses, but for the most part, they’d use animals. Some sort of animal native to the world, I’m thinking… insect life seems to dominate the surface, so giant beetles. So these guys ride beetles, are bristling with weapons, and occasionally have more advanced technology, which is so advanced it seems like magic to them. But other than that, I doubt their level of tech is much different then our Bedouins and Touaregs and such here on Earth. They probably live in tents, or maybe yurts, like the Mongols.

Now we must consider the gnomes. Humans who lived fully underground might need a certain level of technology to maintain their existence. However, gnomes are adapted to the underground. It’s their home territory. The gnomes, living a life sheltered from the elements, able to feed themselves from the abundant fungi and to quench their thirst with vast underground lakes, are probably a lot “softer” than humans. I doubt their tech is as advanced…. I’m seeing a general technological level in line with that of the ancient Egyptians, except obviously a lot less advanced when it comes to building structures–gnomes have their structures pre-built, in the form of caves. Well, somehow, they’ve been able to prevent humans from coming and living underground. Aside from indicating that they have a general isolationist policy and a strong central government–although it could be simply a number of tribes with strong traditions–this implies that they have some sort of power capable of resisting human technology.

My first thought is to make this power some sort of magical ability. But the question is, is this ability a “racial ability” of the gnomes, or a more general thing that is inherent to the world, like the Force? The former would lean the world more towards sci-fi, while the latter would lean it towards fantasy. But I just had a thought. What if it’s both? Here’s how I’m thinking it would work: the gnomes have some sort of special organ, or perhaps a gland in their brain, that allows them to respond to signals sent out by the sentient crystal creatures. The sentient crystals are the source of “magical” power in the world. A gnome who taps into the energy field they project  can work “spells” of potentially vast power. Perhaps there are a lot of creatures on this world who can tap into the energy field from the crystals. Humans, since they aren’t native, wouldn’t even know the crystals have this power, much less be able to tap into it. But I can already see a plotline where a mad human tries to graft gnome organs into an unsuspecting kid, thus granting him vast power no human has ever had…

So, humans in general have Renaissance level tech, with a sprinkling of much more advanced technologies which they don’t understand and therefore consider magic; the gnomes have a much lower level of tech, but can access a semi-mystical “power field” to make up for it. I like that, so I’ll go with it. I think I’ll start considering culture in the next post.

I hope this is useful to people! I’m definitely enjoying it.

~ Jared

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A New Age Dawns, Part I

Well, I forgot 3-D design class was canceled this morning and got up early even though I didn’t have to. So I suppose there’s nothing for it but to write a blog post. Huzzah for unexpected free time!

Anyway, after reading Rich Burlew’s excellent series of articles about designing a D&D campaign setting (which can be found here: http://www.giantitp.com/Gaming.html; it’s the “New World” series), I felt inspired to write about my own world building techniques and theories. Now, I’ve been building worlds since I was knee-high to a fairy dragon. World building is what got me interested in writing stories, in the first place. I had all these worlds I’d made up; I needed stories to put in them, didn’t I? I’ve drifted away from world building a little in my current works, but it’s still an integral process to any fantasy story, be it novel, game, or movie–and it’s quite fun, as well!

A bit of history: So the very first world I built didn’t start out as a world; it started as an island. I’ve always been fascinated with dinosaurs, and after seeing an ad in the newspaper for that old Dinotopia TV show, I was inspired to create my own Dinotopia. I hadn’t read the original books or seen the show, but the idea appealed to me so much that I spent months building my own world of dinosaurs and humans. By the time the original island had grown to the size of a continent, I decided it needed its own world. I made up several more continents and tossed them all together, started coming up with an overarching history for the place… of course, the Dinotopia continent (the name of which became Dunor), was still the center of the world. That world went through so many permutations… in its current incarnation, it has been combined with another world of mine, Shadowglade, and the overall world is called Stella Aetherium.

Anyway, that’s a pretty haphazard way to build a world. I’ve learned a thing or two about the process since then, and while I’m definitely not the most talented or creative world builder around, I thought I’d share some of my experience. So there’s any number of starting points for a world. Maybe you need someplace to set your new story idea that features martial arts master gnome and a gentleman dragon; maybe you wanted to explore your obscure theories about the development of ancient democracies in a fictional setting. I shall assume, for the purposes of these articles, that we are creating a world simply because we want to, without the intention of setting a particular story there or really doing  much of anything with it (though I may discuss integrating stories into the world in a later post).

The first thing to figure out is what kind of world you’re working with, or what genre it is. Is it a steampunk world? A far-future version of earth? An alien planet? A high fantasy world filled with elves and dwarves and dark lords? Each of those will determine various and sundry things about the world; of course there’s many other sorts of worlds, nearly infinite permutations. I think I’ll build a world from the ground up in these articles, for the purposes of demonstration. So let’s see… hm… my initial thought is to make this a fantasy/sci-fi blend world, featuring gnomes, a beautiful, vast, and intricate underground, and an extremely hostile surface. This is the first thing that jumped into my head after a minute or so of thought, so I’ll just run with it. I think it’s good not to spend too much time on the initial concept. If you were making a world to put stories in, or for a campaign setting in an RPG, or some other more serious purpose, then you’d probably want to come up with several ideas, write them down, and pick two or three that you like best–I’ve found that combining two or more base concept ideas often makes for a more vibrant world. Variety is good!

Okay, so the next step is geography and the general universe around the world. I think a bloated, ancient, scarlet sun would be appropriate for this place. There’s five other planets in its solar system, all gas giants, one of which is fairly large in the night sky. The planet has four moons, but only one of them is very large. Now, the world has a hostile surface… I’m thinking a lot of desert, but cold desert. A good deal of craggy stones. Vast, rocky basins which were once lakes and seas. Perhaps some poisonous oceans? I like that idea, so I’ll stick with it. Maybe all the water found on the surface is poisonous, and the only thing safe to drink is the springs that bubble up from underground. I’m going to say that there are four continents in the world: a small, icy one at the north pole, a much bigger one south of that, and two smaller continents, sort of circling each other, in the east. I think there will also be a whole lot of floating islands, which obviously won’t have any water safe to drink on them, but are rich in certain other resources. At this point, I find it useful to draw a basic map. It really helps to get the structure of the world cemented in your mind, and can lead to a lot of geographical information that would’ve been much harder to come up with without it. So, let’s do that…

And there you have the most basic map of the world. Now for the underground. I won’t bother drawing a map for that at this point, because it’d be way too complicated, what with all the tunnels and caverns. The underground is going to be really different from the surface. It’s vibrant. It’s alive. It’s magical. I’m seeing someplace with a lot of glowing fungi and crystal formations. Maybe something a bit like Journey To the Center of the Earth, with huge open caverns that have lakes and oceans, animals, some sort of light source. The underground seems like the place where the fantasy side of this sci-fi/fantasy blend world is going to come in.

I think that’s enough for this first article. We’ve got the world defined in broad strokes; now it’s going to be time to start determining what sort of life lives on it. Gnomes, of course, but who knows what else might be there? Now, remember, it’s best not to think too hard in this stage. Just brainstorm, write down whatever ideas come to mind, start assembling the basic framework of the world. At this point, it doesn’t have much flavor, but there are definitely some suggestions of heart and life.

Anyway, I hope this will be helpful for some people, or at least interesting. Until next time!

~ Jared