Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 6 - Military Culture

So I'm going to keep this one shorter because I am really freaking tired, its late, and its not like there are actually any people that read this blog.  So moving on:  military culture goes hand in hand with the civilian culture and falls under many of the same categories that you use when creating the civilian culture.  The personalities is more like the common stratagems of generals, a typical day can still really help, the military doctrine that is most strictly adhered to (what style of fighting/discipline/how are things done on your planet military wise?).  What sets this apart from the civilian culture is its effect, the civilian bit is more of a backstory thing that you can refer to for flavor or inspiration.  The military bits are going to have some serious effects upon your setting and how things work, so you are going to want to really put some effort into the detail of this and making sure things match up and are logical.  When the future is only war, you really have to know how your agents in the war are going to act or what their identity is that makes them special upon the battlefield.

For the jungle planet lets say that the poor suckers that fought against the Dark Eldar and then the Eldar got screwed over due to their inability to adapt because of traditional Imperial mantra.  Perhaps this is a very unconventional planet where regiments are given almost complete control over their own actions with some guidance from high command to ensure that the objectives are being taken.  Furthermore the jungle fighting would be a prominent part of their training and no doubt the guardsmen from this planet would be very skilled at navigating in the most hostile and changing environments, able to set up ambushes and avoid/overcome them as well, and close quarters fighting would be a must because of the lack of open areas to even fire a gun more than 20 feet in the jungle.  Think Gaunt's Ghosts except without the snipers and stealth and with much more ambush focused.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 5 - History

The shout outs will keep coming the more people talk to me and let me join the ranks of their blog networks.  This time its for International House of Paincakes, who are one of the most renowned blog networks out there, they have probably hundreds of blogs with them, the majority of them good (at least in my experience).  So follow the link to their page on my website by clicking the banner on the right and check them out.

While originally I was going to continue the bit on culture but that will come after this one.  I was writing for the second culture article (on military culture on a planet) but I realized while I was doing it that so much of it was dependent on what had happened in the past of the planet for the current style of how things work and people interact that the history bit should be done after the purpose bit.  So for all intents and purposes at the moment consider the order for designing a planet to be ecosystem, geography, purpose, history, and then culture.  Writing this blog is really helping me to develop my skills as well since I never really documented how I did things like I am now, so with this new knowledge at the front of my consciousness I will now continue.

History is going to be one of the most important parts of your planet/city/nation/whatever the heck you are scaling this series down (or up) to.  This will give direction for personalities on the world and a certain mindset that follows various events, perhaps helping you to make decisions on political situations or current events that you were unsure of before.  Defining the history requires taking into account all the players that might have a part in events on the planet, being the ecosystem, geography, things to fight for/over, people in the immediate area or that have a stake in the place, and also potential random events.  The potential of random events is nigh unlimited, from natural disasters to warp storms to freak mutations to great economic boom.  Lets focus on the effects of history upon the economy as this can change a lot of different things.  If a planet ends up being well off throughout history then its soldiers will be better equipped, its citizens happier and healthier, every part of it would be bigger and in general better off, allowing for facilities that might not be seen on poorer planets such as a fully outfitted space port that is able to repair space cruisers or similar items that require a significant deal of wealth.  The events that might be more likely to happen in history when a planet is wealthy would involve gangs and politicians that are economically powerful and well funded, having battles for money and for the higher profiting markets instead of the less profitable (though still nice) drug or slave trades.  Pirates would probably be more apt to attack the planet or ships near its space, perhaps the attention of Orks or other xenos could be attracted because of the splendor of the region.  If the planet is poor certain elements not seen in wealthy places become commonplace such as disease and a very large and dangerous crime world.  People could be reeling from a plague that killed billions of them due to poor living conditions and bad medical facilities only twenty years ago or even several millenia, the impact of that would have left a very long lived impression upon the people.  Gangs could have more strength and influence in cities than the local militia because so many people need to resort to crime to survive, perhaps gang wars are a permanent feature in the hives, destroying a different block every day from the scale of the battles.  Finally chaos cults are far more likely to permeate certain parts of society because of the lack of imperial supervision over all aspects of society like they are in wealthier settings, so potential demon incursions or just chaos uprisings against the local forces have happened or are building up to the point that the current event is the uprising.  Defining how the economy is or has been opens up avenues to take the planet's history down.

What defining the history of the planet does is it provides support for future developments in your setting, helping provide strong reasons for why things are as they are and allowing for a natural progression of development with the planet.  It adds an element to your story that you can refer back to if you ever need inspiration on where to take your story when you are at a dead end or having writer's block, perhaps it is something that your characters can discuss and how the problems that they are facing are not new but originate all the way from when the planet was first colonized.

The Jungle Planet was settled to keep the Eldar in check so that brings one potential player and event into play.  Because it is a jungle disease would be far more common and would travel far faster due to the high population density of bugs that might carry bacteria or viruses.  Settling the planet was never an economic endeavor so the economy would be either poor or average, defining what kinds of problems might have happened on the planet.  Governors of the planet would almost always come from the Generals in the Army or Navy, so how the leaders would react to problems could be categorized and determined by the process of the military's procedures and ideals.  Based on all of this the planet has been colonized for about 3000 years and a lot has happened in that time.  The initial claiming of the planet took about four months, time where the Army was deployed onto the planet and painstakingly searched the majority of its area seeking out potential hostiles.  After that time the engineers and workforce were brought down and they cleared large swathes of land and began building the structures and fortresses that are mostly still up today.  This took three decades to finish the development of the planet, during which nothing significant really occurred.  This was followed by several centuries of peace and boring history.  After some time the Dark Eldar chose to make a raid upon the planet, swooping in and terrorizing the place for about a week and kidnapping thousands of people and taking much plunder before disappearing back into space without a trace.  Because of how the Imperium of Man works and its propensity to blame the wrong people for everything they became furious with the Exodites and so built up a massive force and prepared to send out forces to attack the worlds.  Because the Eldar are so psyker dependent and look into the future they determined that they were going to be attacked and so the Exodites and two craftworlds launched a preemptive strike against the planet, crippling key ships and killing billions of guardsmen and thousands of tanks before the Eldar finally were driven back.  At this point the defenses were rebuilt, the garrison reinforced by the local population as well as by off world imperial guard soldiers, adding some more diversity to the ranks of the soldiers.  From here a cold war with the eldar began where the imperium would put a massive army very close to the eldar who would respond with a massive force of their own or some piece of super technology and so on.  This continued for a while before a massive Ork Waaagh! Swept into the system having been drawn by the escalating tension and seeing a potential for much fighting and plunder.  This unified the Eldar Exodites and the Imperial administrators of this sector and so they fought the Orks for several decades before finally ending the threat of the Orks.  To this day Ork warbands still pop up on the planet due to the spores created by the Orks that had gotten onto the planet those millenia back.  From there the only thing that has happened is the building of a massive space port made to repair just about any Imperial ship in the galaxy aside from those operated by the space marines.

What happened after this point now is current events which will be one of the last things we work on for this planet.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 4 - Civilian Culture

Another shout out, this time to the Warhammer 40k Blog network for taking me into the fold.  I've checked out several of the blogs that they have incorporated into their ranks and I liked most of those that I looked at, so please check them out and support the blogging community like you have supported me.

With the development of Purpose and all that entails you can really begin developing the culture of your planet, and this can be divided up into several groups, only one of which I will cover with this post and go into the others with later posts (in fact I won't even say what they are because I have yet to determine how much I want to talk about these different subjects).  The category of culture that I will delve into now is the culture of the civilians, the ordinary citizens of your planet.  By defining the culture of these people you begin to give some direction to the character of your planet aside from its anatomical nature, pointing out potential backgrounds and personalities for where one of your heroes or villains in a story could have come from.  Fleshing out who these normal people are also can give a sense of what is at stake in a battle on the planet, details that can be developed further in your story in something like a scene between characters and some townsfolk or a protagonist speaking of their past and how it made them who they are and why their planet is worth fighting over (for those of us that need a cliché).  The elements necessary in designing the Civilian Culture require defining what ordinary life is like for the civilians in general while making a note of other smaller groups that are still significant for their differences and their quantity even if they are not a majority (an example being a comparison of the farmers of an agri world with the dwellers of the capital and center of distribution, being the closest thing to a city the place has).  Along with the everyday lives the specific beliefs and customs can help add some flavor to the people, and defining typical behaviors and characteristics of local personalities will create a marked improvement on the overall detail of the planet.

As seems to be my developing style I will now put this into an example format to show what I mean.  For the Jungle planet (I leave it unnamed because I will probably run a poll or contest on naming it once it is finished just for the heck of it, but I won't look at any suggestions now, I don't want to give you guys an unfair advantage just because you found me first) it has already been decided that because of the purpose of the planet as a base to monitor the Eldar Exodites the people are used to discipline and value work, effort, and accomplishments.  That is a part of defining the typical characteristics though this can be added to more now that I am specifically adding to them and not just showing the effects of adding purpose to the planet.  What can also be added reasonably to the personalities would be a ruggedness of surviving the deadly jungle that ambushes everybody with its trickery, a distinct distrust and wariness for anything unknown, and a belief in self-reliance, a stubbornness to try and sort things out themselves without the help of anyone else because they have always done that themselves and they have never had the luxury of help to start with.  Typical behaviors might include patrolling small areas that the person is attached to and wants to protect from the constant change of the jungle, a tendency to stay home alone or with only a few friends when any precious free time is to be had, and in general checking up on things to make sure nothing is out of shape so that they do not need anything more than they have to at any time.  Local personality types would probably be quiet, independent, sullen, proud, stern, and stubborn, all characteristics that they would have obtained from their constant battle with the jungle and all that they have earned because of it.  The everyday lives of people on this planet would likely consist of several things depending on how long it has been since the planet was colonized (we will say several millenia just for convenience's sake, I will develop history in a later post as well, probably after this section on culture).  Because it has been such a long time since it was settled and the Eldar haven't seemingly done anything wrong (at least that hasn't been kept quiet and been handled behind closed doors or with secret special ops) the military duties of the civilians and the maintenance of the buildings would no longer be as stringent, now people had only to focus upon their own lives and homes to keep.  The man would wake up before dawn (since in the 41st millenium feminism is dead and only men are worth anything for whatever reason) and head out of his house with a machette and several sons.  For two hours they would hack up and uproot all the jungle that had tried moving near their home, garden, what-have-you, burning the ground and plants if they were wealthy enough to afford the flamer and promethium.  After those two hours they would head inside their house (the style of which will also be developed later in time) and eat a breakfast consisting largely of nuts, berries, and veggies due to the abundant presence of plants and the danger of hunting animals - hence the lack of meat except on special occasions for families.  From here the civilians would head off to their various jobs of supporting the local services such as house maintenance or being employed by the military to work logistics and have a desk job or something like that.  After a long gruelling 13 hour day with a small 20 minute lunch break the family heads home, eats a dinner similar to the breakfast (there would be little difference to the families on switching the food in breakfast and dinner due to the presence of only certain foods anyways though those ones are in abundance.  After dinner the family moves out to hack up and uproot plants again, and then they sleep until morning due to being exhausted from their job and the cleaning of the jungle.   One person in each household would stay awake all night to protect from predators or dangerous plants that might get too close to the house and prove to be poisonous or have very strong roots that would be better removed before it became too attached to its current patch of dirt.

The culture would be greatly affected by the history of the planet, and this will be discussed at a later time than this, but to reiterate the purpose of developing the civilian culture is to provide the bedrock of what armies are fighting over or adding background to the setting that can be drawn upon to make a very compelling story or setting.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 3 - Purpose

First of all I'm going to start with a shout out to Graven Games, it is an excellent blog that reviews all sorts of products that support every aspect of the hobby and they are an amazing source that is tremendously helpful for people of all types and experience levels.  Whether its terrain, models that would make good proxies, or other services such as Battlescribe they make sure to feed every hunger we gamers could possibly have.  Maybe they'll write something on optimal snack foods and drinks at some point!  You can follow their link on the right hand side to check them out, which I strongly recommend.

This planet has Geography and Ecosystem, and with those two established we want to determine what makes this planet important from a sheer resource perspective.  Why might the Imperium or any faction want to colonize this planet in the first place?  This is part of the steps on creating the history of the planet and not just the current events.  You can develop those current events oftentimes based on what has happened in the past, what have been issues that were common throughout the time before, etc.  So what could have made this jungle planet so important to the Imperium?  Was it its proximity to a cluster of Eldar Exodite worlds?  Was this is a good position to launch off a conquering crusade and set up a space port where goods and troops can go through because of its geography on the planetary scale?  Were certain materials required to produce plasma or Titan's machinery present in the soil?  Any of these could serve for why the world was claimed in the first place.  Lets take the proximity to the Exodites idea for our jungle planet and run with it.  Because the Imperium was worried about the Eldar and wanted this to serve as a military post in case the xenos got out of hand or to keep an eye on them they would likely arrive on the planet with a large contingent of soldiers, military fortifications, and perhaps equipment for a listening post.  The cities or towns that would exist on the planet likely were originally fortresses and had a lot of history and discipline, so the people that come from this world would be used to an orderly lifestyle.  Luxury items and down time would not necessarily be wanted for they were raised from the very beginning to work hard because their ancestors had needed to work almost non-stop in order to clear the moving jungle and keep it out.  Imperial guardsmen from this planet would be very disciplined fighters who would fight for however long it took and with all their strength until the job was done.

The architecture of the planet would have been very functional (due to it being a military post above everything else) and taken up as little space as possible to reduce costs - except where the generals and high ranking officers were concerned.  Imperial Generals always deserve the best ;) - though the materials used on the buildings are probably imported because the building plans that are probably used throughout the imperium would have to be adjusted to work with the wood and local stones, something that might not be worth the effort.  Culturally art would be more of a practical thing, designing pieces that took less materials, space, effort than other conventional pieces.  Perhaps art would be seen as more simple things than paintings, say a walkway or a wall, something we might consider to be abstract.

The importance of the Eldar and the distance from them would mean that citizens would be constantly vigilant for the inquisition of Ordos Xenos while the military was always looking out for any potential xenos incursions or sympathizers.  Psykers would be more abundant in this area because the Imperium would ship them here to counter the psychic abilities of the Eldar and they would be the extreme measures employed against them if the situation became dire enough.  Because of the excess in Psykers there might be a significant presence of the Sisters of Battle or the Ordos Malleus in an effort to protect the Psykers from Chaos while also keeping an eye on them so that they don't go rogue.  Because of the presence of several parts of the inquisition there would be a lot of political intrigue going on and behind closed doors diplomacy with back stabbing and the like on the imperial side.

Establishing purpose lends itself towards accomplishing multiple things: creating history, opening potential story arches through that history, further defining the surroundings and the situation, and adding goals for the factions fighting upon the planet to strive for.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 2 - Geography

The ecosystem of a planet and it's geography go hand in hand so these two steps can be switched if you so desire when creating your planet.  What the geography is going to define about your planet is how factions present upon the planet might fight or where the battle lines are drawn or what portions are important to fight over.  For instant continuing with the jungle planet that I used as an example in the previous post it is mobile but what if there was a raised plateau that for some reason or another was untouched by the jungle.  This would be the obvious place for a landing zone for any forces and so the immediate vicinity would be hotly contested as this would be the only way to bring supplies to your troops reliably without risking the jungle ambushing your people sent to retrieve the supplies or battling predators while trying to keep the landing zone secure so that the planes can land safely and then take off again with as little difficulty as possible.  This raised plateau would become fortified all over depending on the length of the conflict between factions and so buildings may sprout up out of the earth everywhere that is not being used for transporting food and ammunition.  If this was a long time conflict areas could be covered in rubble and unusable due to the undetonated explosives that could be littering the ruins.

Another example aside from a plateau is water and the use of oceans or lakes.  Having separate continents could mean that in a story there are several fronts on several land masses, allowing for the development of a variety of generals or special forces that are particularly skilled in one battleground or environment.  Perhaps there are three continents and each has a different general commanding them with their own brand of strategy.  One utilizes typical Imperial tactics and throws guardsmen at the enemy nonchalantly, achieving results quickly but with many casualties.  The second prefers to fight with discipline and skill, employing special forces to sabotage enemy vehicles, assassinate high ranking hostiles, or ambushing supply lines, taking longer but getting results with less costliness.  The final general may be fighting an entirely defensive war, close to being overwhelmed at all times due to the high concentration of enemy troops and he does not have the time or luxury of planning ahead because the enemy continually attacks him from all directions, forcing his forces to become self sufficient and act spontaneously in the interest of survival.

The nature of having these different generals and different battlegrounds could add some interesting depth to your story or world as now there is are obvious players for political intrigue and fighting within the same faction, constantly jockeying for political dominance and attempting to beat the others in their efforts to demolish the enemy.  Geography can also provide a practical method of defining how terrain in a battle should look if you want to take it to the table top or in a map based campaign.  Defining the parts of the world that are important to the story or campaign means that this could so easily be adjusted to fit the table top that it could make players more interested in your story if they felt that they had a hand in the development in the world and that they simply had to use the guidelines of the geography you created that simultaneously had influenced the basic background of the world you were focused upon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Designing a Planet Part 1 - Ecosystem

A core part of the 40k universe is the diversity of planets and systems, how a planet looks, what natural resources it contains, the climate and ecosystems it contains, etc.  Because of this I am going to begin a series on how to design a planet (this could be scaled down to a nation for games like Warmachine; I plan on doing a series on designing cities and towns later).  Where I like to start is the ecosystem and life upon the planet.  I happen to really like Jungle planets like Catachan so we will run through what should happen when designing a planet with jungle being the example I use.  First what makes this jungle unique and catchy, how do we want people to remember this planet's ecosystem and know it isn't just jungle planet number 47?  Perhaps we could make parts of the jungle alive in terms of plants that actually are predators, or perhaps the plants are always moving so that paths are constantly changing, putting predators in the path of travelers.  I happen to like the idea of the moving jungle that is consciously putting people in danger of predators so we will run with that.

So what kind of animals would thrive in an environment that is mobile and never static?  They clearly must be either fast animals that are able to outrun the predators when the paths lead to encounters with bigger creatures.  The top carnivores would not have to be stealthy if the jungle was bringing everything to them, its biggest asset would be sheer strength to take down other creatures.  Because this is a jungle and there are all sorts of plants that could ensnare animals perhaps some creatures use vines and trap other things in simple nets or use tripwires, inhabiting the tree branches above until their prey is caught.  Being slow means death in most cases so nothing would be particularly armored, just well muscled and lithe to cause maximum damage quickly.  Smaller, climbing creatures for the trees that perhaps have similarities to monkeys, small and fast creatures that are more cat like for the lesser predators, the top of the pyramid would be like a bear combined with a komodo dragon for sheer size though faster and so would be slightly thinner though still have ferocious teeth and claws.  Poison would certainly fit within the ecosystem as plants to fight the herbivores/omnivores while also perhaps created in the glands of certain predators that are better at attacking and retreating, followed by tracking their quarry till it dies and then consuming it.

What happened above was a series of developments that depended on reasonable conclusions as well as certain design choices.  Because I chose to make the jungle move, I had to determine what characteristics would survive and thrive in that environment.  Finding those characteristics of strength, speed, and agility I determined what the different tiers of the ecosystem would work like and how they could interact with each other.  I even made sure that parts of the ecosystem were a major part of how the animal's strategies for survival would work in the case of the vine traps or the poison, something that could also come into play in a story that you write with your characters from off planet or on planet, a tool that could save or kill a character at some point in time depending on your direction of story.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Delayed #1

Already I've fallen behind on my goal for a daily post.  I should be able to fix that tomorrow with a post that means something.  I have a small piece I was planning on showing, but it is incomplete and I need to get some sleep before tomorrow.  To better days of posting (for fun I will keep track of how many times I don't post daily with something meaningful).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Enter Blog Number 7 Billion and 1

Beginning this blog I think I need to quickly hash out what my niche is among all the blogs out there for 40k and miniature wargaming.  The purpose of this is to write about the universe of 40k and expanding it, sort of how Black Library is doing it.  Advice on how to add story to battles, create a theme for a campaign, create some epic lore just because you love the setting of the 40k universe, all this will be covered.  Maybe I'll throw in some stuff on tactics at random, but mostly this is going to be about increasing the quality of fan-fiction and the lore.  I hope that clears things up and provides some more diversity to the miniature blogosphere, so here goes.

To begin creating something entirely unique from a story perspective, devoid of any sort of maps or factions (as unique as can be in a universe dominated by the Imperium) that have been thoroughly developed by Black Library or other people it is best to start with some questions.  What is the strongest cultural identifier for your story or setting?  Is the focus of your creation the planet; a faction on the planet political, military, religious, or otherwise; the story you wish to create; a small group of characters that you will develop with time and effort?  What makes this so critical is once you decide what is most important to you it becomes easier to spend time on that and really flesh out the details such that your work becomes something to be proud of and doesn't leave a disappointing taste in your mouth.  Before you dive into your project make sure to have a strong understanding of your desires and goals, a roadmap of where you want to take your work.