Sunday, June 17, 2012

Designing A Planet Part 14 - Current Events

So here we are, just one post away from the end to this series on designing a planet.  For a heads up (ironically enough) the next and last part of it will be about where to take your planet from where you have created it.  Everything that I've said before this has built up to this moment.  You've created the history of the planet.  You've decided what surrounds it.  You've developed the nations and factions that inhabit and fight over this floating hunk of rock.  You've built a sense of purpose and culture.  This is your baby.  And now you may feel a moment of finality.  Now you get to play with everything you've made.  All that time and effort comes to fruition as you can draw from anything and everything you've done so far to finish all this work.  Lets pick apart what you probably want to do now to give your child some momentum before it begins to spiral out of your control.  These are your last few moments with it before it goes off to Kindergarten… I mean before other people get their sick, twisted hands on it and change it (those people are generally called the players in the RPG world)

Questions, questions, questions, I love asking questions.  What are you most proud of in what you've created so far?  What particular piece do you think is very detailed, unique, and just awesome and you want to see it come to play somehow?  Well use that to determine what is going on in the world.  This step is all about setting the scene for the story or campaign, so whatever that idea you like is there IS a way to fit it in.  If it’s a faction, make that the chief player as an antagonist for armies/players or a major supporting factor with all sorts of NPCs that are interacted with (at least that’s the plan), there could be signs (literal or figurative) of the influence and size of the faction throughout.  If it’s a particular minor faction that’s alright.  Perhaps they are a big deal in only one city but that happens to be the one that you want to base your story around or start in.  Perhaps it is not a city but just one particular industry or specialty that they have a name in… put their name anywhere that is relevant.  Take care not to throw things off kilter and keep the scale where you set it - remember you set it as a small faction for a reason - so don't ruin that identity that you've made with everything else.  One creation should not dominate everything and totally overshadow all the rest of the work that you've done.  Doing so is a recipe for disaster and a boring setting with only one interesting feature that quickly becomes boring because of the constant exposure to it.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!  But lets say it was a piece of civilian culture: craft some encounters where these details are developed or explained in a description of a campaign's narrative write-ups or the mission's description or even the story leading up to the battles that would give reasons for the conflict.

So where do you go after you've inserted your two or three favorite pieces into the setting?  This is where you will largely draw upon a combination of the history and large factions in order to give you inspiration.  Look at how a large faction could have taken advantage of a scenario set up because of how history played out and where might they have decided that they want to extend their reach towards or what new pieces have they taken over that others might have an issue with.  Or if others don't have an issue with it, try and represent how people are handling this change and create some potential character development or scenes with a conflict of the new culture and the old culture (i.e. I didn't have cars in my day versus it’s the norm to drop off your kid at school - generally it'll be old versus new).

Up to this point all of the elements of creating have involved asking yourself how things piece together and what logically goes with what.  Now is where you take some leaps and try and find particular items that will in fact do the opposite.  What will clash and make for an interesting development.  Perhaps things aren't exactly as they seem and that harmonious connection between civilian and military culture is not so seamless but is leading up to a clash.  All that time and effort spent making things work is still very useful, but now you want to pick at the potentially loose strings ust to make things interesting.  The best situations are often created from what seemed perfect or logical and so the simple changes are generally the best ones.

If none of those elements on the planet (or not enough) seem to be enough to create a situation, that is where the outside influence can jump in.  That was part of what th surroundings is for - a plot device.  Factions you originally had not come up with can suddenly want a foothold on the planet and act with such interests in mind, or an invasion from one of those other nearby planets could occur.  Maybe those other imperial worlds have had their own issues that did not come to light until now, and suddenly one or several of them are embroiled in civil war as the servants of chaos have thrown all pretense behind them and are now trying to convert the entire system to their heathen gods.  Remember that mining planet that seemed neutral?  It was always neutral up to now because it didn't want to draw attention to its own problems because it thought it could deal with them quietly and didn't want the inquisition stepping in.  Turned out they were wrong and the government has been overthrown and a fleet of chaos renegades is heading straight for the jungle planet.  Tell me that wouldn't create a story fit for black library or a campaign or just a bloody battle report.

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