Ok…this is a case study in how someone, (i.e. myself), who suffers from high degrees of anal retention goes about creating their world for their story crafting. I will preface this article with the warning that THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! It may cause extreme discomfort, feeling of anxiety, bleeding, and will occasionally interrupt your sleep causing serious side effects to your writing ability. It also has the ability to give you a realm that you can describe in glorious detail and transport your audience to!
So, let us begin by showing you the end results of my own efforts.
This is a satellite view of my world that I created in Celestia, exchanging the Mars map with one that I created. (This is a bit technical, but should you so desire to do this, you can find the instructions online by searching google for “exchange mars map for my own in Celestia” and it should pop up on your search)
The World of The Rohrlands – The Rohrland continent.
With legend (This is simply for my convenience and enjoyment, so don’t feel that you need to go to this extreme.)
This is the flat map that I created for this.
So how do I create this base map you’re asking? OK…let’s begin.
Step One…go to Google and do a search on “Fractal Maps”. All kinds of maps are going to pop up and find the LARGEST ONE that appeals to your sense of aesthetics.
After selecting the map, you create a folder and save it within that folder a couple of times. Just so you have one that you can fall back to, if you mess up.
I created mine using MS Paint because I knew how to enlarge and zoom in, and could edit without the brush becoming just as enlarged. I was able to create more detail with MS Paint. If you know how to use GIMP or Photoshop I would recommend using them.
So the first thing you do is create a blank template within your MS Paint. Ensure that your image is set to 2048 x 1300 pixels. This exact size if you wish to use Celestia, otherwise it really doesn’t matter.
You need to create your polar regions first, so I took the icy fields from one image and cut and pasted them onto my base image for my world, for both the upper and lower Polar Regions. I then filled in the middle with a water-toned color.
Now pull up your selected unused fractal map that you down loaded from Google and play around with the free-form select tool. Try to form them so that they “sort-of” look like they were once connected to one another. (Historically this is because all of the continents on earth were once one super-continent called Pangea, until it broke apart.)
Once you have cut and dropped the continental shape that you like the detail work begins. You have to create “irregular” coastlines and such so that it looks natural. (But only if this is for your own use and those details don’t matter than skip this part.)
I then created the names for my continents, I have seven continents and I named them Rohrlands, Allwind, Fallenmoor, Equiosas, Philanthis, Falk Isle, and Kaloriador.
I NOW CREATE MY DIETIES AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. Religions and beliefs have a profound impact on your cultures!!!
Knowing that my cultures and beliefs were going to vary, I created names that were distinct, and each name was then given a theme and a culture. For example;
Rohrlands – Lots of wars between the races, and is a varied continent, mountains, grasslands, forests, etc. Kings rule these lands. Dwarvish kings, elvish kings and human kings. The various nations all have the same beliefs in that there is no slavery and that they want trade between each nation.
Allwind – The mythical, rarely seen creatures such as fairies, sylphs, unicorns and pegusus, and many others reside here. The wish to be left alone! There is no ruler of Allwind. They collectively look out for one another any time a threat appears.
Fallenmoor – this is a cold icy highlands type environment and this continent has not been completely settled or established. Currently four nations of men struggle to wrest it from the various giant nations. It’s a tough place to live and many criminals and those seeking to earn a living with a sword rush here to claim land for themselves. The rulers of these lands are Giant Kings, but the humans only have enclaves and are ruled by the strongest, but have no titles.
Equiosas – This land has no indigenous peoples and those escaping from Philanthis landed here long ago. They spent most of their early development simply evading the Philanthian slavers and bounty hunters. Then as they grew they formed cities and cultures of their own, and DESPISE any Philianthian that steps upon their shores and will kill them on site. That has become a badge of honor for them. They modeled themselves after the only people they had known, and they are ruled by Dynasties. Emperors and Empresses, but they do not have the dark views and customs of Philanthis.
Philanthis – Know by the rest of the world as “The Wicked Queen” and its capital is called “The Wicked City”. It is ruled by Dynasties and its Empress is Ciesis. She is cruel and the laws are what she says they are, even if changed from one day to the next. People serve at her leisure. There are numerous dynasties. (Dynasty of Dream, Razors, Pain, Shadows, etc.) The guilds that support the dynasties and their politics are called “Cotiers”. (Cotier of Mages, Clerics, Gold (Bankers), Pleasure, etc) This lands practices slavery and human sacrifice to the evil deities and their religions, that I created first.
Falk Isle – This is still not a “nation” so much as it is a “safe-zone” for buccaneers and pirates. They uses mages who have been disgraced, (but who still have to feed themselves), to disable and attack ships since there are no guns. Gunpowder does not only not exist, it does not work in the world of the Rohrlands. (EVEN IF BROUGHT IN BY MY “OUTWORLDER” CHARACTERS) The island (small continent) was found by Ivious Falk and is ruled by committee. Each ships captain has an equal vote, and then majority rules. NO ONE ELSE HAS ANY SAY SO WHATSOEVER.
Kaloriador – This land is one filled with nomadic and tribal peoples, until they grew so large that the tribal warfare was causing genocide among them. This realization amongst them has allowed them to create a realm of a still nomadic peoples, but the tribal chiefs rule with iron fists. Disobedience to the chief is insulting and will result in death.
(These are very brief descriptions of what the cultures are, so you get the idea.)
Next you have to imagine what the cultures look like. I went onto the internet and searched thousands of images to get the cultural feel for my nations and their inhabitants. (And downloaded my inspiration images to use for my descriptions)
For example: (These are “inspiration” images from the internet, this is not my content)
Rohrlands – VARIED amongst the races, with bleed over from trade and cultural exchanges. Silks and leathers, and they would look like this.
The above examples are only for the continent of Rohrland. The others vary greatly from this.
This is Equiosas
This is Philanthis
This is Fallenmoor
So you get the idea, now, hopefully, that each of your cultures should be distinct and unique.
For example if you look at Philanthis, the Royalty and Dynasties are the only ones that wear masks, women hold all positions of power, and all others are forbidden from wearing said masks, so that stations are known. The military however, does also wear masks, and they are all fetish masks so that it is known who supplied the troops and training, and thus the victories are taken credit for by the appropriate dynasty. This also includes the lost battles and both losses and victories impact the dynasties social standing in the court.
Now that you have your world and your cultures, you have to develop your capitols and cities.
I use the following sheets to do this.
I include a picture that is my “inspiration” image, for my descriptions.
I do this for EVERY city that I know will show up at some point in my stories.
For my world, and for the each of the cities you see on my world maps, I have done this. Since my equator distance is known, and I know where I placed the cities on my map, I will now know what the travel times are, based upon the type of transportation used. (Thus avoiding any issues that we all know readers will pick up on!)
After I have the MAPS, BELIEFS, RELIGIONS, CUSTOMS, CITIES, LOCATIONS, DISTANCES and CULTURES, I define the organizations that run my world. The mage guilds, the clerical rectories and religions, the thieves’ guilds, the trade guilds, the shipping guilds, etc. The reason for doing so IS SO I HAVE RULES THAT MY CHARACTERS WILL HAVE TO ABIDE BY, for the purposes of continuity.
Now you ask yourself, why should I go to the trouble of ALL OF THIS!! Why should I spend a month or two creating all of this? Who needs this kind of detail?
Here’s your answer to ALL OF THE ABOVE QUESTIONS….
Both you, and your reader do.
It gives you, the author, the ability to transfer what you have developed from your imagination over to your readers’ imagination.
This is no means the absolute completion of world building. You can expand this, modify this, or even ignore this is you so wish to.
But do so at your own peril. Too many authors have lost me, and others, because of inconsistency within their novels.
I hope this helps and that everyone has a fun time with it!