Archive for the ‘World Creation 2’ Category

World Creation II: Wrapping Up

30 Jun

Alright, time to wrap up this World Creation series. I know I haven’t gone into the jungle tribes much, but that’s mostly by design. My conception was that there would be hundreds of little ones as opposed to a few really big ones, and thus, going over anything besides general trends (which I think I did satisfactorily with the last entry) would be time-consuming and ultimately pointless. With my sensibilities, the focus of this setting really lies with the technologists in the mountains. The tribes don’t change much—or rather, they change and mutate and die out so quickly none of those things are extraordinary—so in my view, they tend not to be as interesting as a monolithic force that is undergoing a sort of unprecedented philosophical schism.

Anyway, point is, I’ve done about all I need to as far as getting this setting off the ground goes. All that’s left is to come up with some names for things, develop one or two specific characters, and maybe get a sense for some of what’s out in the jungle.

I will call the settlement of the valley dwellers Oreb, derived from the name of their mother-god, Orebes. Their primary away-camp further down the river is named Derabii, which in their language means, “dangerous/bold opportunity.”

The current de facto leader of the Orebians is the elder Eb, an old man who is credited with the invention of the steam engine. He is widely regarded because of this, and is charismatic besides, but is not an exceptional leader. He is often content to let others settle disputes between themselves. It is only his revered status that causes so much public opinion to depend upon his words.

The leader of the miner-priests—called the Tingedi–is a man named Pul. Pul was the one who discovered Oreb’s most lucrative iron mine thirty-five years ago, an act which has garnered him a healthy degree of respect. He is a staunch opponent of rogue miners, calling them disrespectful and unhallowed, and accusing them of cheapening the mountain’s greatest gift.

The leader of the trailblazers is a woman named Isma. Isma is known among the community for being one of the three inventors of a kind of grapeshot cannon that’s ideal against unarmored raiders—ideal in the sense that it discourages survivors from ever attacking the Orebians again. Isma utilized the social capital this device earned her to attract support for several ambitious expeditions. She believes that the Orebian society is a utopian society, and that their destiny is to one day leave the bosom of the mountain and spread throughout the entire world. She believes that Orebes can be found not just in the rocks and valleys, but in every useful plant, animal, and mineral. She will not rest until she has personally surveyed as much of it as possible.

Now, one thing I mentioned in post one and never did follow up on: turns out that Isma isn’t quite right. There is something out there in the jungle, some supernatural force—but it’s not Orebes. There is a dark sapience out there in the foliage, some powerful, living entity that saturates every living thing. It leads hunters to their dooms, spreads disease amongst settlers, and drives predatory animals into frenzies. Whatever it is, it likes suffering, especially human suffering. Some tribals claim that whatever it is has revealed itself to them—the form it took was almost human, something like a human sculpted from grey clay by someone who had only seen a person once or twice before. The eyes of the thing were perfectly round orbs dotted with black pupils, the mouth was a single slit, the nose was a round lump, the ears were strange cones. It wore a shapeless robe without color or texture. Some say the thing caused a stabbing pain in their heads before disappearing; others say the thing spoke to them, asked them their name, or even offered them power. For this reason, the god-thing is sometimes called The Giftgiver. As for those who accept the gift: there are some who wander the jungle, eyes rimmed red and hung with heavy lids, mouth twisted up eternal rage and horror, muscles taut and unrelaxing, attacking their fellow man with savage force while mumbling inarticulate apologies through rigid lips. These men are stronger than most, and hard to kill, and some seem to wander the jungle long after they may have died from natural causes.

Couple more map locations: there are two evil places in the jungle, and the first is a simple pool of water. Tribals refuse to venture near it for any reason, and every tribe has a different tale meant to discourage people from approaching it. Some say touching the water causes the skin to rot away, others say the pool is full of creatures that tear apart the flesh to drink human blood—some say the water is the sacred property of The Giftgiver, and any contact with it will bring a horrible curse upon any who allowed this contact to take place. The pool is called The Sore because rare, nearby plants shed particles onto the water that give it the appearance of a cracked red sore.

There is another place associated with The Giftgiver. This place is called The Blister, and it is a crack in the earth, dark and deep and overgrown with poison vines. Unlike The Sore, which most refuse to approach, The Blister has many tribes situated near it. This is because it is an auspicious hunting ground; this, in turn, is because animals come from miles around to fatally hurl themselves into the crag. These animals are generally small herbivores, but larger creatures and even larger carnivores have been seen plummeting to their deaths. Brave men who have explored the crag have reported that it leads down about fifty feet onto sharp rocks, but is otherwise insignificant. Inevitably, these men are later found broken at The Blister’s base. The Blister draws its name from an old legend, passed down orally from tribe to tribe, which has as its base the notion that The Blister was a literal blister formed on the world’s back that burst open and let loose the reeking pus of evil.

And that seems to be just about it. I’ll do a wrapup thing later that’s just coming up with random little details to add flavor, but I’d say the World is about where I want it. Now, obviously, if I were writing a story/writing an RPG in this setting, I would have to come up with additional events and persons, but I’m happy with how the basic idea has been rendered. All in all, a successful exercise.

Now, to never use any of this stuff for anything.

 

World Creation II: Tribal Belt

31 May

This week, I’d like to throw out a bunch of ideas for the jungle tribes. Some of these will be ideas for general trends amongst tribespeople, some will be traits only a couple tribes will possess, some will be bad ideas I will retcon by the time I get around to doing another post. Here goes:

1. Massive pythons are a common food source

2. Huts made of woven, waterproof leaves that can be easily folded and transported

3. Riding lizards that can climb trees

4. Insects, also a common food source

5. Brutal ape-like creatures with bladed arms…people that manage to kill them wear their skin and weapons to frighten off predators

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World Creation II: Cortezpionage

24 May

One of the most significant conflicts in this setting is between the explorers from the valley, who have advanced technology, a holy mandate, and decent numbers, versus the unfortunate tribals of the jungle. To establish this, I need to establish what a typical trailblazing party looks like, what a typical tribe looks like, and under what circumstances they would interact.

I’ve already determined the philosophical stance of the trailblazers. They believe that everything in the world has a purpose, that God wants all things put to that purpose, and that He (or She, or neither, still not entirely sure how they personify the world) has appointed the men of the valley his instrument in this cause. So there are probably at least a couple explorers who are driven by pure religious fervor. But that’s a pretty significant oversimplification, especially given that there are a lot of reasons the average person wouldn’t want to blaze trails:

1.)    No guaranteed food. Anyone out in the jungle is forced to hunt and forage for their meals. Most citizens of the valley would have gotten used to agriculture providing a semi-regular food supply, and many will not be experienced at hunting or disposed to rely upon it.

2.)    The jungle is dangerous. There are few predators remaining in the valley, but the jungle is full of nasty things. There are bugs that can shred a man’s arm off, diseases that can caused organs to melt, jungle cats that can smell human flesh from miles away, lizards that spit acid and poison, and, of course, tribals who have learned to take their meals wherever they can get them, even if it’s off the bones of travelers. Why leave the farmstead to go get murdered in the dark of the jungle?

3.)    There’s no guarantee you’ll find anything. You’re chancing starvation and violent death, and to what end? If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll find a flower that (when ground with another kind of flower) dulls the symptoms of a disease none of your people had heard of until you caught it off a toad last week. Or maybe you’ll get insanely lucky and find a mine, and also the nice folks who happen to be living nearby and don’t like you intruding on their hunting grounds.

4.)    The reward for finding something really good is…gratitude? Without currency, the only real way the elders have to reward you is to set you up with a food supply, which is a cushy-but-usually-impermanent setup, or to give you a public commendation. And that’s if you find something really, really cool. Otherwise, chances are good all you’ll get are some thanks and maybe extra consideration if there’s seats to be filled on the council.

With these in mind, it makes sense that trailblazers would be one, or all, of the following types of people:

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World Creation II: What’s Mine is Not Yours

16 May

I really do need to start filling in some of the rest of the corners of this map, but there was one question I left open in the previous entry that I feel I need to resolve. I put forward the idea that the individuals most opposed to expansion are iron miners, and that they don’t like the idea of other sources of iron becoming available. This is a little more interesting than setting up a stock We Hate Any Change For No Reason faction, but it does beg the question: what makes iron miners different from the rest of society so that this would be an issue?

This question runs a bit deeper, actually. I’ve already established that this is a fairly prosperous society. Its yields exceed its population by a very reasonable extent, to the point that it can sustain classes of workers that never touch a hoe or feed a beast in their lives. Smiths and metalworkers do a respectable trade with farmers repairing tools and selling amenities, mostly worked from bronze and similar alloys. But I’m having trouble picturing that leaving them with enough of a margin to also sustain the miners bringing them stuff. Forget how the mining corps gets to be so special; how do they get to eat at all?

The faction that’s got the strongest ties to this culture’s tradition of experimentation and technology is the council of elders. They may or may not feel the strongest about it, but they’ve got the power and assets to patronize it. Theoretically, they’ve got the power to commandeer surplus crops as tax and redistribute it to certain specialized workers. Farmers probably don’t like this too much, but the elders have been a part of their culture for centuries, they’re using the surplus for things this culture’s tradition reveres, and the elders have got some muscle in the form of the militia, so the farmers probably don’t sass back too much. The surplus ends up being enough to feed the full-time members of the militia, inventors, and miners. It’s becoming clear that all of these groups would be people selected by the elders.

I hadn’t really built the elders up as being that powerful, but it’s becoming obvious that someone needs to be performing all of these functions and the elders are the most obvious power center. I could add another political role, but that doesn’t seem strictly necessary. Plus, I kind of like the idea of a society that advances technologically and agriculturally much faster than it does politically, leaving them with an early-Renaissance tech tree organized under a tribal system of government.

Back to the system of appointments. The process of selecting militia and inventors seems pretty straightforward. Look for the tough, loyal guy and give him a club. Look for the smart kid who’s tinkering with herbs and offer them a position if they can come up with something useful in between mucking out the lizard stalls and digging trenches. The mining, however, that should be something a little different. This is a profession that has great significance for the valley dwellers. Water and food are the blood and bones of this society, but metal is its soul. Without iron and copper, they’ve lost the trappings that set them apart from the damned.

Iron mining, in particular, is a sacred profession. There are precious few known iron mines, and all of them are manned by men and women (mostly men) that the elders specifically select. Being appointed to be an iron miner is like being chosen to be a representative or a bishop or something. They’ve only got a couple mines, so they only trust people of stout moral, physical, and intellectual fortitude to do the job. Though it’s backbreaking labor, the position is romanticized and glorified enough by this culture that there are always people grappling and fighting to prove themselves worthy. In an odd way, doing a stint in a mine is a reward for exemplary behavior.

So when explorers discover that there are iron sources outside of the mountains—something that had previously been considered improbable and even blasphemous—mines spring up there overnight. The elders hastily run out of truly deserving candidates to staff these mines, and even a little low on moderately deserving ones, and all the while, more and more mines are being founded. This causes the old miners to throw hissy fits. Enough is enough, they say. No more of this iron tainted by the rocks of the damned and the hands of the unworthy. No more disrespecting of their position.

Now, there’s more to explore here, but I also did want to get into the grander scope of how this civilization’s expansion is affecting the rest of the world. I mentioned earlier that there really aren’t many permanent settlements outside of the valley, but there are certainly grounds that belong to a tribe or small group of tribes—hunting and gathering areas that develop semi-permanent settlements, sometimes in caves or near the river. These peoples might well have things explorers would want. Plants used to make tribal medicine, for example. Animals fit for domestication or farming. Or maybe just a rich source of (X) that happens to be directly under the chief’s hut. These wouldn’t always mean conflict, especially with plants that can be plucked and replanted elsewhere, but they could conceivably get into situations where they would run afoul of expeditionary parties.

And what are these explorers like? Next week, we find out.

 

World Creation II: Mission Trail’d

09 May

This week, in World Creation, I settle a few issues with my techno-farmer valley peoples and figure out what their primary role is in the setting. As I’ve outlined in previous posts, it’s a matter of whether the mountain-dwellers are daring explorers out to acquire any new resources and technologies they can get their hands on, or insular hermits who think anything that didn’t come from the mountain is tainted goods and that they’ve been provided with all they need by a divine third party. I’ve tossed the issue back and forth a little, and the answer that occurs is: both.

To clarify, my conclusion is that there are two factions within the society, one pro-exploration party and one pro-hermit party. The obvious split would be that the elders are conservative recluses, and the new generation is all about grabbing new stuff, but I don’t like that approach because a.) it doesn’t jive with the general trend of this civilization, which is that gradual improvements are divinely mandated, and b.) it’s a bit too familiar. Nothing wrong with it, I suppose—it’s not as if it isn’t grounded in reality. But there has to be a more interesting conflict to play with. Perhaps, with some ingenuity, I could establish a debate that won’t be settled by default when fifty percent of the participants kick the bucket four years down the road.

How about this: the parties that lobby for staying on the mountain are the iron miners. There’s no real currency in this society, but iron miners a.) are able to barter at a higher level than miners of some other resources, and b.) are socially revered for their all-important payloads. They enjoy the privilege and respect that comes from delivering something more valuable than gold. However, they suspect that there are rich sources of iron elsewhere in the jungle that the mountain dwellers could access, and that if it were to become less rare, they would suffer an immediate lowering in social position. This idea does not appeal to them. And so they oppose missions to the neighboring mountain ranges, insistent that mines established elsewhere would bring back only tainted goods.

The party that is for the acquisition of iron is a coalition of inventors, who want more metals to play with, and a party I’ll call the Trailblazers.

The Trailblazers have a system of beliefs that dictates that a.) the mountain peoples alone have the gift of invention, b.) the world-spirit wishes for its secrets to be unlocked, and c.) any resources that can be put towards the betterment of mankind and technology must be, no matter who has laid claim to them already. In other words, the only people who can lay claim to any resource are the mountain dwellers; if another people withholds something from the mountain dwellers, this is a jealous blasphemy that should be answered with force.

The Trailblazers are all for exploring, but it’s less the happy pith-helm type where you label rivers and press flowers for your journal and more the type where you wander out a ways, find a tribe, ask if they’ve got any shiny rocks, and then murder or enslave anyone who stands between you and said rocks. Less Magellan and more Cortez, except that their mission isn’t so much for wealth—which is a pretty nebulous concept without currency—and more for status, religious reasons, the joy of exploration, and/or science.

So which has the most influence in this society, the Trailblazers or the ironmongers? Probably neither. Remember that as utopian and exotic as the religious system of this civilization is, the average person doesn’t necessarily give a rat’s ass. The average person is probably a farmer whose life gets a little more complicated every couple years when someone invents a better lizard collar or irrigation ditch they’re then practically forced to use. They may or may not believe in the earth-spirit, and most probably, have a damn sight more conviction in the millet-spirit they’re distilling behind their hut. So this debate doesn’t exactly rock their world.

As for the elders: they run things, and have at least a token interest in furthering knowledge, but they don’t want to rock the boat by choosing sides in an epic debate between explorers and miners. They’ll approve the requests of either side if it seems reasonable without condemning or condoning either. Well, not as a unit, anyway. Individual elders may have stakes or interests one way or the other.

What’s the end result of this debate? That the Trailblazers and scientists do sometimes manage to find volunteers for expeditions out into the jungle, and that these expeditions aren’t always gentle to the people and animals they encounter out there. More on that next week.

 

 

Still Alive

05 May

(World creation will

 

World Creation II: Ruled by Committee

27 Apr

Bonus Hitman stream today, April 27th, at 5:00 PST. That might be a different day depending on where you live–I leave it to you to figure out where you stand. The location, as usual, will be www.livestream.com/chocolatehammer

There were some very reasonable concerns raised in the comments of the last post about how I’ve projected the mountain men’s use of water/steam power. Some of these were salient points which have caused me to make significant alterations, which I’ll get into later. Some of them are addressed by stuff I’ve already gotten plotted out, which I’ll get into later. So, if you had a question or a criticism, I’ll get to you. Right now, I’m just going to hash out their political structure a bit.

My original projection was that civilization would be very concentrated—one or two cities, focal points of skilled or specialized labor. How did these develop? Early on, I thought about having some sort of early fort-based feudal system blossom into citadels that, in turn, blossomed into city-states, but the more I played with the idea, the less I liked it. It doesn’t make a whole abundance of sense, and it doesn’t really touch on any of the ideas I wanted to explore. So, nix on that one. Let’s stick with something simple—there’s a nice scenic valley in the middle of farm country that a couple farmers got into their heads was sacred (on account of fertility or good luck or a nice water source or something like that), so people gradually started to migrate there until they coagulated into a village, which sort of budded and snowballed over the centuries into a respectable city-state.

Does it work? Eh. Kinda. Maybe I’ll come back to it.

Bottom line, nobody’s got the muscle to lay claim to the land, so there’s no lord—and no king. Probably the city-state would be ruled by a council, which might evolve into a sort of crude diplomatic system. The main focus is planning and stacking the harvest, deciding what jobs need to be performed, and planning local improvements such as clearing off land or building community structures. Once the civilization starts to get cozy, and scientific development kicks off, spreading discoveries also becomes a primary responsibility. New developments in agriculture or uses for plants and animal parts are spread orally by horseback—or lizardback or something–messengers and recorded using proto-language glyphs, which eventually become written language.

Anyway, the salient point right now is that the ruling body is a sort of elected council, a group of elders chosen by everyone else to represent them. Perhaps it’s not a straight election—perhaps the elders vote on new members based on individuals that are respected by the community. I don’t see the elders as being too powerful, so corruption isn’t a huge problem. Most of their duties involve steering development and judging civil disputes. They’re backed by a rudimentary police force that doubles as a homeland defense force—neither is frequently necessary, and peace reigns more often than not.

Let’s say this spot’s about where they are now. They’ve got a council of ten to fifteen men and women holding court in a building near the center of civilization, hearing reports of new inventions or discoveries and judging petitions for the use of communal land. Probably the most common issue is: how do they appropriate iron? I decided, and failed to clarify, that they do have a relatively small supply of iron. Large enough that they’ve figured out how to use it and they’re not paralyzed they’re going to run out, small enough that they can’t just throw it at every potential application. Some of it they appropriate for research, some of it for devices—steam engines and whatnot—and some of it, though not much, for tools. Another significant issue would be that of exploration. This is a people who have two facets at the core of their beliefs: that they are living in the promised land, and that they should always be searching for more things to learn and for more resources to put to use. So, where does that leave expeditionary parties? On the one hand, it’s at best unpleasant and at worst blasphemy to trudge out into the jungle with a machete and a samples bucket. On the other hand, the outside world theoretically has much to offer. How to best go about cracking that particular coconut? And what to do if they find something out there that The Damned lay claim to, and aren’t particularly eager to give up?

I’m almost done with these people—for now, anyway. Next time, I tie up some loose ends, throw in a dash of flavor, and figure out for good and all what role these people play in the grand scheme of the setting.

 

 

 

 

 

World Creation II: Blank Tech

18 Apr

Last entry, I decided that the mountain-dwelling civilization a.) had the capacity for technological advancement, and b.) had a cultural bias that would push them towards it. That just leaves me with the matter of what they’ve figured out, why they figured it out, and what they do with it once they have it.

This is a scattershot topic, so I’m going to address it in trendy, easily-digestible bullet points.

  • Agriculture: this is obviously important. Anything that would maximize the harvest is key towards population expansion. I’m going to go so far as to say they’ve got a really advanced set of aqueducts and canals worked out, and can effectively use animals as labor, but do not have mechanized agriculture just yet.
  • Industry: we’re not looking at a huge population boom, here. There’s nothing to support a heavily factory-based society. Still, fast-flowing rivers mean water wheels are possible, which does allow for some advancements and increased production capacity. I’m also going to say that there is steam power–something invented as much as a demonstration of how natural forces can be tamed as it was for any practical purpose–but coal is precious enough that it’s generally reserved for select applications.
  • Mining is a crucial part of this area’s culture. Consequentially, mining pumps are one of the primary applications of the steam engine, a device that is otherwise used more as a proof of theory than a practical tool.
  • So, this race has things that other races want. And they’ve got lots of nasty natural enemies. So, chances are good that they’ve been keeping a meaningful eye on weapons development…and looking at what I’ve got so far, firearms are not implausible. So, musket-level guns are available to a permanent military contingent, and maybe to hunters. I’ve yet to decide if the military is primarily offensive or defensive. If offensive, they’ll probably have more toys to play with, such as cannons and plated warboats.
  • Speaking of which, riverboats. The river is an excellent source of transportation. If these people are going anywhere, having a way to move up or down it would be invaluable. Maybe these aren’t as advanced as the typically conceived Twain riverboat, and maybe they’re not even steam-powered—powered instead by oars—but they should definitely exist, for those rare occasions in which someone needs to go somewhere for some reason. More on that later.
  • Communication: there is no pressing need for them to communicate with anyone outside a day’s travel, so they probably don’t have semaphore or anything worked out. This is an easy one.
  • Mechanical tomfoolery: this is a people who love to invent. As such, clockwork-type creations appeal to them. They like to make devices that do something, even if that something is vastly more entertaining than practical. Timekeeping devices are not implausible—fairly sophisticated ones can come around pretty early in a culture’s development.
  • Chemistry: another big field for them, as they’ve got a wealth of natural resources in the mountain and in the fields. They’ve got dyes, explosives, and compounds that repel the flesh-eating insects out in the jungle…thank goodness.
  • Decent metallurgy. They don’t have iron to work with, but they’ve gotten pretty good at alloying what they do have. Still, they’re eventually going to hit a dead end if they don’t get their hands on something a bit sterner.
  • They’ve figured out how to make paper, but they haven’t really industrialized it. It’s the sort of thing where you make up a few batches every time you run out.

That’s a decent start. Next time: I throw in some politics, current events, and grisly scandal.

 

World Creation II: Ever Onwards

08 Apr

Seems we had a bit of controversy in the comments of the last World Creation post. Reader Kdansky posted the following:

In my (not so small) experience, starting with a map isn’t the right way to do it, because it often ends in your imagination becoming extremely limited by what you have drawn. Nowadays, I usually start with the major personages, and go from there. The world just feels much more alive when you end up with “The General Parcivor conquered half the continent, then died to a lucky assassin sent by Arivor, and now the kingdom he built is in the hands of his useless offspring John.” than “The Kingdom of Parvi has a long tradition of milk-curdling and sewing.”

Go backwards. Want a huge city somewhere? Don’t argue “well, there are suitable corn fields, so logically, a town sprung up, and they pray to the god of corns”, because that leaves you with corn fields, which make for a boring story.
Do it the other way: Why would there be a city with? Because of the gold mine! Which is cursed! And that is why the locals are fervent zealots, because they believe it protects them!”

Way, way better result.

And also:

Take a second look at Rutskarns post: While that setting might be decently realistic, there is absolutely nothing in there that makes for an awesome game. It’s just boring facts. Which is exactly the kind of setting document you should not write, because it won’t make your games better.

Now, I respect his approach, because it seems to work for him and (I’m presuming, given his references to RPGs) his players. But I’d like to take great exception to the idea that my approach, beginning with a world and building from there, won’t generate interesting hooks .One thing Kdansky does in these comments is point to interesting aspects of a world generated via his method–starting with hooks and working towards the less-interesting backing–and then comparing the result to what I have so far, which is the less-interesting backing that nothing has yet been built upon. But I will argue, right here and right now, that I can build up something from this foundation every bit as interesting as I could come up with starting with nothing.

I absolutely defy you to state that there has never been a fascinating civilization, culture, or historical incident in our world–and it was formed just as I am forming this world, starting with geology and building up layers of society and history. The Crusades, the Inquisition, pirates, samurai, Aztec sacrifices, dragon worship–all of this, starting from a rock with resources on it and letting things progress. And it’s not even as if I’ve entirely forsaken the design of the storyteller for the clinical eye of the armchair anthropologist. I can easily guide things towards more interesting angles as I go. But for my world to feel real, it must start from the beginning.

All of this debating is moot. All I’ve done is lay the shadow of the groundwork of a world. It’s impossible to tell if this setting makes for an interesting game or fiction universe, because not only is it not finished, it’s barely begun. The proof of my method is that it generates something complex and interesting; all I ask of Kdansky, or others skeptical of my approach, is that you stick around long enough to evaluate its results. Perhaps I may change your mind.

Now, let’s get back to work.

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World Creation II: Mapper’s Delight

03 Apr

Last entry, we punched out a few of the basic themes of the world—jungle, tribes, low/no magic, etc. Now it’s time to start hammering those themes into a big picture, a general overview of the world and what makes it interesting.

There are countless ways to begin a project like this, but I decided to start by drawing a map of the world—or at least, a continent on it. At this point, I have few preconceived notions of what I’m doing. All I’m trying to do is model terrain that fits my basic outline—jungle and mountains—without worrying about cities, or races, or history, or anything like that. For all of those elements to seem natural, they have to be grounded in something, and this map will serve as that foundation.

I pull up a few maps of Mozambique for reference, then start sketching. What I end up with is a hornlike section of coast almost completely canopied by jungle, with spotty little lakes here and there and a chain of mountains running down from the top left corner. Of note is a river that runs down from one of the mountains—narrow and straightforward at first, but twisting and widening as it cuts downhill through the jungle. It also runs into a basin in the northeast area. And that’s about it, for now. Not too fancy, but it gives me something to start from.

I determine that there are few areas naturally suited to agriculture. There are certainly portions that, if cleared away, would be suitable for growing crops or tending livestock, but that sort of shifting cultivation probably wouldn’t be sustainable indefinitely. Then again, it’s possible the elevated regions to the northwest would be suitable for terrace agriculture, given the hilly portions and the convenient water source.

So, if there’s going to be a big permanent settlement, it’s probably going to be there. Hm–as setups go, it isn’t bad. They’ve got access to crops, workable stone, and usable wood. The mountains could serve as a source of metal ore—not iron, I think, but quite possibly tin and copper, which would, in turn, give them bronze. The fast-flowing river might even serve as the basis for water wheels, which would even allow for a sort of modernized industry to take place. All of the sudden, a pretty respectable civilization is beginning to emerge.

I scribble in a little dot to mark a city. I’ll name it later.

Now that I’m looking at it, it’s not impossible that these people would be able to expand outwards. Logging camps would make sense, as would, perhaps, mining camps along the rest of the mountain range. I drop in some more dots.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s add some other factions.

I put a few dots along the river. It’s not inconceivable that people could eke out a living there, surviving on some combination of hunting, gathering, horticulture, and slash-and-burn agriculture. I like the idea of weird herd animals—maybe they’ve tamed and domesticated some form of herbivorous jungle lizard, breeding them for bulk and docility while keeping them fed on poisonous-to-people river plants. None of these peoples would naturally be as advanced as the toffs up on the mountain, though. There might be some sort of trade, but then again, there might not be. I’ll figure it out once I’ve decided what kind of people the mountaineers are.

Finally, I place some dots in the jungle. Some of these represent wandering tribes—some of them are completely random. As in, I have zero idea why someone would want to settle there. I look forward to sooner or later finding out. Right now, I’ll refer to these dots as the mystery points.

Well, that’s a big picture, anyway. Next week, I’ll settle in to get into what makes the jungle interesting…and dangerous.