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World-building Questions you should be asking yourself Guide

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Crystal Spires
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World-building Questions you should be asking yourself Guide

Postby Crystal Spires » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:12 am

[Disclaimer:] The following guide is an OOC Guide on something that will help new RPers introduce heavy duty world building or to help long-time RPers build a stronger culture for their world/nation and the following applies to all techs.

We all are familiar to world-building to some degree as we play nation states which is a world-building platform, when we roleplay we build a narrative world which is often 'action' or 'character' focused. Use of the engine has generated many many wonderful worlds with strange and awesomely quirky cultures. The beautifully written characters and stories from the skilled participant often arises with Roleplaying, but to think about your world/nation as a world itself requires several layers of abstraction, and in order to fully create a world we need to look past characters and story for a moment and step back and look at the world/nation itself. So this requires deep levels of examination in order to enrich your own experience and the experience of others.

First of all the World:

When you build a world, whether telling an alternate history or creating one from scratch, there's several important things to have in mind:

Landmass:

Image


How big is this area you are working with? This is a crucial role-playing aspect that is often neglected and it can color how your people, climate, and terrain can be in relation to the size and scale of a world. If you have a massive spread of land, you might have several different climates, and if you are in a smaller spread of land, it will likely be more uniform unless you have some sort of Eldritch climate, which I do not recommend. I can give examples how this works in the following example:

Crystal Spires has a very small bit of land, but a fairly dense population, and that affects cultural views of privacy. Similar to real life China and India, Privacy does not exist and is not so much as a treasured value as it is, in my puppet House Targaryen of Valyria, which is on the desolate mass spread of land on the North Altean Spread of Mystria called the “Free Marches”, where invasion of privacy is considered extremely offensive. This is a nuance people often forget in world-building, so when making landmass the following things should be running through your mind:

What is the Land Area in Kilometers squared?

It is comparable to which real life countries or locations?

Is there a Coastline?

How long is it in kilometers?

For my region in Mystria, I find that having a unified map allows for working up scale, and it makes things rather helpful to use the CIA World Factbook for a comparative scale. This often helps also when planning naval, land, and air engagements as it gives relative plans to allow for logistics. Also there are tools for counting pixels and then scale it to your relative size and then make it all fit together.

Climate and Terrain:

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I cannot emphasize the important of these factors more. The Climate of a nation affects every aspect of normal living. It affects what kind of food you eat in this nation, what kind of homes you can build, what kind of instruments for music you can make, and also what kind of mindset your people can have. For example, going back to Mystria, as an example we have a nation called Cantalvia which is in the High Mountains which is small, and desolate with the unified alpine taiga climate and this affects what homes look like, what kind of clothing they wear, and it also affects their perception of Community as like Crystal Spires, their cities are clustered close together, which makes Socialistic and Leftist Communal living more common primarily because the environment applies pressure upon the people to work together out of self interest. This greatly contrasts with the Riemaian Landmass which is large and desolate, and more spread out, and the focus shifts from the Community to the Individual because unlike Cantalvia, the clustered communities are so spread apart, that their population often has to focus on their own and their family’s own well-being to survive, and this is affected by the relative terrain.

The Climes as well in the Mystrian Region also depend on the world’s terrain as well! The Fornt’s Crown Mountains in the Central Continent create a massive rain shadow in the North Mystrian Country of Neutraligon, where there is Mystria’s Largest Desert, and large rainforests and alpine forests along the mountainside with an exception for the Desert of Fryehete which exists for reasons of shifting loess plateaus and erosion wearing away at the plant life which allows for more precipitation and groundwater to be held in place. These factor heavily into how the people live in these areas. With less water and more travel between major water source becoming more important. Climate also affects landscape through erosion and weathering, the distribution of plants and animals, and soil formation. Winter freezing and thawing may change travel patterns as waterways freeze or flood, or mountain passes close. Weather also affects available sports, like skiing and swimming.

This leads to the following questions that should be thought of when worldbuilding:

What is my general Climate like: it is extremely diverse or uniform?

What are some elevation extremes? The Highest point and the Lowest point in my nation and where is it?

What water resources are available, and for what uses? (Example: a mill wheel requires flowing water, i.e., a river or stream; irrigation needs a large, dependable water source like a lake or large river, etc.)
What are normal Natural hazards? What are some Environmental issues?

Have activities affected climate, landscape, etc. in various regions? How? (Example: Growth of the Sahara Desert has been increased by over-farming.)

If this is an alternate type of universe, will the "alternate" part change existing effects ?

How do differences from Earth (radioactivity) affect the climate in various areas?

How much land is in each of the equatorial, temperate, and polar zones?

Are all these things consistent with what you say the climate is like in particular areas?

Where are mountain ranges? Rivers and lakes? Deserts? Forests, tropical and otherwise? Grasslands and plains?

Natural Resources:

Image

Now, this one is also incredibly important for roleplaying purposes. The biggest problems in Nation States often comes from people going back and forth and waffling on what is one of the most important determiners of power in any nation. There’s a reason that Primary Economic power begins with Natural resources, as without it your nation cannot subsist to begin with! But wait, Spires, how do we know what kind of natural resources one can have? Back to Terrain you see! Most natural resources build the back bone of a nation’s economy with the other ‘Secondary Industries’ being how one uses the Natural Resources already procured.

So what are these Primary Industries, you say? Land related! It is mining of mineral resources, agriculture, harvesting of chemical matter, and animal matter that give nations power, and the ‘Mechanization’ and ‘Finances’ that arise once the primary industries have already held strong, or a trade with a mineral-rich nation for a relatively cheap price that gets secondary industries going. The reason Colonial Rule began was to harvest cheaper resources, and the colonies would provide the main colonial nation with the resources for mechanization and then financing was able to take hold. It all falls back to land again, and many theorists have actually stated that the rising of war has little to do with social and ideological matters. It has more to do with scarce resources being exploited from one nation to another, and unrest over land disputes. This then brings us to the following questions:

Which areas are the most fertile farmland?

Where are mineral resources located?

What are some normal and common natural resources?

What are rare and valuable resources?


Which natural resources, if any, have been depleted in which areas over time?

Which resources (e.g., coal, oil, iron ore, gold, diamonds, limestone, etc.) are particularly abundant, and in which areas? Which are scarce and where? Are there places with major deposits that haven't been discovered yet, or where such deposits haven't been fully exploited?

How much conflict has been or might be caused by these imbalances in resources? How much active, peaceful trade?

Next the People:
Image


Social Institutions and Agents:

Now we have a full world with a system of marketing, but where are all the people? What does it mean to have people in a roleplay? This comes down to ‘Social Institutions’ and ‘Agents of Socialization’. Agents of Socialization at its most basic level is the family. Whether the family is nuclear or not, whether the family has only one generation or whether they encompass the whole extended family or not. The Basic Unit of Socialization begins with the family who teaches their child/children how to survive in the land, terrain, climate and economy that exists in the nation. Then it extends to friends and peers of people who also provide social identity to the growing person and then large social institutions like Occupations, Government, Military, Education which makes up your nation’s society’s learning and social structures. The people in your nation organize themselves naturally and gravitate to that which most resembles the basic agents of socialization, the family and friends, and this affects their way of thinking.

This is a matter of fact in Social Psychology, and as a result, identity as a people in a society has everything to do with terrain, resources, and climate and falls back to your most basic unit of social learning. How we see this in roleplay is that there’s different social institutions with opposing interests often trying to either think of something mutually agreeable, or what we call a zero-sum game where one person’s interests are directly in conflict with one another’s and it means someone will have to relent or lose.

In practice to provide more examples in the History of Mystria there are several land conflicts and historically there are nations which have broken apart from one another when social institutions, and social agents conflicted with one another over land, leading to civil war, and many independent nations like Cantalvia, Kalron, and Carceno and a possible Civil War that will break apart over the Free Marches and the Occupied Territories of Idrise. This is also happening in the Cornellian Empire where there the challenges have been arising from several conflicting social institutions in New Edom, and in Gholgoth, with the Yohannesian Collapse of the Economy. The Economic Collapse leading to economic devastation in all affected trade partners. The Scarcity and the clashes of social institutions over land and resources becomes a fundamental problem.

Questions you should be asking when world-building with people:

What is my population and population density?

What is the commonly accepted family structure of my people?

What institutions of learning exists, and how long do people attend them and from what age to what age?

What does the educational system teach my people in preparation for later life?

What Occupations are respected and are cherished in my nation, and which are scorned and are frowned upon?

Who are the arbiters of ethics (as opposed to law)? How did they get to be arbiters? Who are the arbiters of the social milieu?

Economy:

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So you have land, and natural resources, now you need systems to take these natural resources and distribute them, and people to allow them to be put to their use. There are many ways to manage who owns the resources, and it is a factor that can determine how a nation is percieved and what kind of trade partners can be established. For example, in Imeriata, the Mercantile Economic system is in place. Mercantilism is based on controlling imports and exports and feudalism distributes wealth and resources on the basis of land. Whereas there is Crystal Spires which is a Communist nation as described before, due to the necessity forced by the land and social institutions in place. Then there is Mystrian Altea which has a Market Economy, where scarcity is dealt and distributed by supply and demand. Riemaia and Cantalvia both have mixed/regulated market economies. Each of which function completely differently and it affects the mindset of the people who interact with one another. This also affects different roleplays that transpire in the region. The way that the people view wealth also changes. This then brings to mind the following Questions:

What constitutes my economic power?

How many are below the poverty line, and how many are unemployed?

What is the normal tax rate?

What is my Labor force, when is the Legal employment age and when is retirement age?

What are some Agricultural products?

What are major exports and Imports?

What is the GDP (nominal and PPI)

How much CPI inflation is existent?

What is the public debt, and the average household worth?

What sort of system of economy is in place, and why?

History:

Image


Now, the history of a nation is also an often neglected world-building lens for a nation primarily because for a very strong national identity, you’d need a strong and well founded history. For a strong and developed nation, you need a history of technological advancement. For a nation to have a strong military of any kind, they’d have to historically engaged in war. For a nation to have strong economic power, it needs strong historical backing to the building of an economy, and then this also brings things back to the whole of your people in general. Where they came from or where they originated can strongly affect what they look like and their cultural attitudes.

There is lots of History behind any given nation and it never would have at all existed if people did not arise there or migrate there! Also for reference, if there is no Africa in your history, there’s no African-Yournationdemonyms and no Caucus Mountains in your history, there’s no Caucasians. If there is no Germany, then there are no Germanic people. This then poses an interesting question. What do your people look like? Why do they look this way? This is a way to play with History, a bit! For example, the development of different faces and different races out of africa happened over time and were affected by... guess? The Terrain, Natural Resources and Climate of a landmass.

Examples of terrain shaping faces and races are everywhere in human evolutionary science and study, and there is a lot of information out there to find about it. An example of this is I have created a pseudo asiatic race in my nation by looking at what was there to make Asiatic people look the way they do evolutionarily and tweaked things. So the dust in the Loess plateau in China was where the Asiatic race was able to to develop the Epicanthic fold which changes the shape of eyes and the theory says it was to keep dust out of their eyes while travelling loess plateaus and wide deserts. So, Historically, if you have “Asiatic Eyes” there would be somewhere in the distant, distant, past that has these dusty terrain. If you have pale skin or blonde hair like in the Alpine and Scandanavian regions in the real world, you have to remember why they arose, same with the darker skin in Africa and South India if you are going to have similar races etc., this can factor into your history. This doesn’t even begin to cover the History of how your now existing people of different faces and races became who they are now.

The changes and struggle over scarce resources over time determine a lot of history which is why for a good roleplay to happen, there must be actually established economic relationships between nations or relationships between people and land. These erupt into conflict and/or trouble in the stricken areas. Even revolution and civil war are often determined by strongly differing poverty levels and struggles for rare resources and food. Social movements and social migrations as well depend on resources as well. So major history questions you should be asking yourself would be:

How did my people come to be on my land, and what brought them here?

Once my nation was founded, what are some local rivalries and/or allies that arose in the construction of social institutions?

Once my Social Institutions were constructed, how did they change over time?

What Technological developments were used to change how these institutions work?

What are some conflicts that arose nationally,over what, and why?

What are some conflicts that arose internationally, over what, and why?


Culture:
Image

Now, in University, I got into a large argument and it was one I had to forfeit, because it was his firm established belief that culture is almost in every way, materialistic. At first, I was confused, how can systems like dance, and manners and customs be a matter of materials? As he presented this evidence to me, I conceded that a majority of culture is about how one uses the materials in terrain and land to make an object that fulfills a social role. For example we have clothing from all over the world which all fulfill a cultural role of determining Social Status and they also form a protective barrier from the elements and terrain . And in fact, how much clothing one wears in any given location is a cultural matter affected by the climate and the terrain of the location. It is the same way that certain customs arose from different resources available. In the Middle East, for example it is widely a social custom not to eat pork, but there is a logical reason for this that is not merely laced in religious belief. In the ancient times, there was alot of disease of pig meat which could not easily be done away with, and pigs also demand an unreasonable amount of water for the farmer. They require a humid environment and a lot of water resources to rear in any significant amount, and so as a normative custom, meat of the swine was not eaten in the desert. Then there are multifaceted tools that arise from local cultivation of natural resources, such as musical instruments, religious artifacts, cultural items, and ritual objects. Some important questions to consider are:

What are things that are offensive to my people, and why?

What is normal customs for when visiting a person’s home?

What are normal customs for eating?

What is the standard of beauty for men and women?

What is an art, and what is not art?

What are traditional instruments and what are they made out of?

What does traditional music sound like?

What are some traditional clothing, and how does it suit the environment of my nation?

What are some important tools and symbols that are important to the people of my nation?

What sort of books are enjoyed in my nation’s culture, and which are not?

What sort of traditional sports are played in my nation?

What is the Language of my nation?

What are traditional dances of my nation?

What is the cultural differences between people in the city, and those in the countryside?

What do traditional homes and buildings look like, and what local materials are they made out of?

What Calendar do my people use?

How do my people perceive time?

Religion:

Image


Creating a religion is the hardest and yet one of the most rewarding aspects of world-building, as religious worldviews affect all manners of cognition, and in essence how people see reality, and the different levels of reality for a person. Religion is also the basis of First Principles of the existence of reality and truth. It is also something that is intuitive to most human beings. First thing that is needed to create a realistic religion is cognition of “Spiritual essence” and statements on the existence of reality and truth. Then there are stories concerning the essences: which define an Origin Story. It describes the origin of the cosmos, the origin of life, the origin of moral man, a story which explores the existential purpose of life, and concepts that expound the inherent value of life through meaningful connections to man with the divine. Then there is the story of “Becoming”, or a transformation of mundane man into a holy man. Then there is usually the final story which tells of what happens in the Afterlife or what happens Beyond life. This is what it takes to make a religion, and examples are all over nation states, including Harmonism, Mystrian Pantheism, Severanism, The Religion of War, etc.

There has to be in every religion, a statement of belief which comes with a statement of faith. A statement of ethos/ethics, a statement of unacceptable beliefs, and a statement on wisdoms, which are accepted beliefs. Then there is sharing those beliefs through teaching it to others, with a statement of teaching, and there are often religious education and whole statements on how this is to happen either by holy books or apprenticeship or being passed on from parent to child. Then there is a statement of the existence of evil, and keep in mind No Religion that Preaches itself to be Evil is realistic. A realistic religion identifies a weakness of man, and ascribes this as a failing, and then there is the moral man which is the one the true believer aspires to be like. Then there is a statement of the proper relationship of this religion with other beliefs.

Then there is a hierarchical order which separates the initiate from the Journeymen practioners; High Authorities, Teachers/ Educators and Becomers/Students. They all tend to follow a valued unquestionable legacy which is often something that is substantiated with texts, documents, and unquestionable absolute truths. Some questions about creation of a religion are the following:

What is real to the people of my religion, and what is truth?

What kind of ideal life do people aspire to?

What are acceptable beliefs in my religion?

What are unacceptable beliefs in my religion?

Who teaches the religion?

What is the Origin of the Legacy of the Religious faith?

What is unquestioned as the origin of religious truth?

What are my Origin stories (The Cosmos, Life, Moral Man) ?

What is the difference between mundane man and holy man in my religion?
Last edited by Crystal Spires on Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:42 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Questers
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Postby Questers » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:22 am

This is a really great guide. I endorse it 100%.
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:23 am

This should be stickied. It's that good.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

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Postby SquareDisc City » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:33 am

Only skimmed so far but nice article :) It's made me realise the extent of the gaps in my own Nation; I have some good physical and sapient geography (albeit my map is overdue a remake to add proper topography), a reasonable outline of a history, and the beginnings of a religion, but economic and cultural matters are very sketchy.
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Postby Lubyak » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:44 am

'Tis a good guide, Maven.

I'd support tossing it in the stickies.

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MInroz
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Postby MInroz » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:50 am

I'd say it's a brilliant guide, I will highly recommend this to anyone who wants to create the factbook for their NS nation. :)

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Postby Cydea » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:33 am

Newbie approved!

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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:39 am

MInroz wrote:I'd say it's a brilliant guide, I will highly recommend this to anyone who wants to create the factbook for their NS nation. :)


I'm lucky I haven't written my new one yet. Otherwise I'd have had to edit too much...
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Verucia
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Postby Verucia » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:43 am

I'm probably going to need this later on.

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Sskiss
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Postby Sskiss » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:19 am

This is a good intro guide for those who use a human, or similar looking people (humanoid) for their nation. This will also include those species who are very similar in behavior to humans; (read; Humans in alien or animal suits). The guide also works well for all levels of tech, however, future tech nations, races etc...may require some other considerations. Furthermore, races that can be deemed significantly "alien" in appearance, as well as in behavior and so forth, also need to be considered. Their evolutionary heritage must be taken into account. This is especially true if you play a race that has existed for a very long time (millions, tens of million of years or more). In essence, their evolutionary heritage will shape every aspect of what makes them what they are.

Nevertheless, the questions and concerns noted and asked by Crystal Spires' guide are pertinent and should be taken seriously.
Last edited by Sskiss on Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:52 am, edited 3 times in total.
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The Vekta-Helghast Empire
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Postby The Vekta-Helghast Empire » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:21 am

Thanks for this, it'll be a big help for me when I think about creating a new RP. :clap:

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Postby Felix Terra » Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:08 am

My culture, it appears, needs some fleshing out. This is a great guide!
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Postby Maltropia » Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:34 am

Certainly puts my nation's lack of description in context. :p Brilliant guide, very well written. I'll be using this.
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Re: World-building Questions you should be asking yourself G

Postby Yohannes » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:08 pm

Brilliant guide. Crystal Spires has successfully conveyed how interesting world-building and NationStates roleplay can be - I don't know why I haven't seen this guide personally yet.. until now. :p
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Postby The Republic of Lanos » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:35 pm

I need to use this comprehensively one of these days... >.>

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Dyste
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Postby Dyste » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:37 pm

A fine read, Maven.

I'll keep this in mind over my break week coming up; these are good tips to help me develop Dyste further.
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Ascoobis
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Postby Ascoobis » Fri Jul 22, 2016 5:09 pm

Crystal Spires wrote:[Disclaimer:] The following guide is an OOC Guide on something that will help new RPers introduce heavy duty world building or to help long-time RPers build a stronger culture for their world/nation and the following applies to all techs.

We all are familiar to world-building to some degree as we play nation states which is a world-building platform, when we roleplay we build a narrative world which is often 'action' or 'character' focused. Use of the engine has generated many many wonderful worlds with strange and awesomely quirky cultures. The beautifully written characters and stories from the skilled participant often arises with Roleplaying, but to think about your world/nation as a world itself requires several layers of abstraction, and in order to fully create a world we need to look past characters and story for a moment and step back and look at the world/nation itself. So this requires deep levels of examination in order to enrich your own experience and the experience of others.

First of all the World:

When you build a world, whether telling an alternate history or creating one from scratch, there's several important things to have in mind:

Landmass:



How big is this area you are working with? This is a crucial role-playing aspect that is often neglected and it can color how your people, climate, and terrain can be in relation to the size and scale of a world. If you have a massive spread of land, you might have several different climates, and if you are in a smaller spread of land, it will likely be more uniform unless you have some sort of Eldritch climate, which I do not recommend. I can give examples how this works in the following example:

Crystal Spires has a very small bit of land, but a fairly dense population, and that affects cultural views of privacy. Similar to real life China and India, Privacy does not exist and is not so much as a treasured value as it is, in my puppet House Targaryen of Valyria, which is on the desolate mass spread of land on the North Altean Spread of Mystria called the “Free Marches”, where invasion of privacy is considered extremely offensive. This is a nuance people often forget in world-building, so when making landmass the following things should be running through your mind:

What is the Land Area in Kilometers squared?

It is comparable to which real life countries or locations?

Is there a Coastline?

How long is it in kilometers?

For my region in Mystria, I find that having a unified map allows for working up scale, and it makes things rather helpful to use the CIA World Factbook for a comparative scale. This often helps also when planning naval, land, and air engagements as it gives relative plans to allow for logistics. Also there are tools for counting pixels and then scale it to your relative size and then make it all fit together.

Climate and Terrain:



I cannot emphasize the important of these factors more. The Climate of a nation affects every aspect of normal living. It affects what kind of food you eat in this nation, what kind of homes you can build, what kind of instruments for music you can make, and also what kind of mindset your people can have. For example, going back to Mystria, as an example we have a nation called Cantalvia which is in the High Mountains which is small, and desolate with the unified alpine taiga climate and this affects what homes look like, what kind of clothing they wear, and it also affects their perception of Community as like Crystal Spires, their cities are clustered close together, which makes Socialistic and Leftist Communal living more common primarily because the environment applies pressure upon the people to work together out of self interest. This greatly contrasts with the Riemaian Landmass which is large and desolate, and more spread out, and the focus shifts from the Community to the Individual because unlike Cantalvia, the clustered communities are so spread apart, that their population often has to focus on their own and their family’s own well-being to survive, and this is affected by the relative terrain.

The Climes as well in the Mystrian Region also depend on the world’s terrain as well! The Fornt’s Crown Mountains in the Central Continent create a massive rain shadow in the North Mystrian Country of Neutraligon, where there is Mystria’s Largest Desert, and large rainforests and alpine forests along the mountainside with an exception for the Desert of Fryehete which exists for reasons of shifting loess plateaus and erosion wearing away at the plant life which allows for more precipitation and groundwater to be held in place. These factor heavily into how the people live in these areas. With less water and more travel between major water source becoming more important. Climate also affects landscape through erosion and weathering, the distribution of plants and animals, and soil formation. Winter freezing and thawing may change travel patterns as waterways freeze or flood, or mountain passes close. Weather also affects available sports, like skiing and swimming.

This leads to the following questions that should be thought of when worldbuilding:

What is my general Climate like: it is extremely diverse or uniform?

What are some elevation extremes? The Highest point and the Lowest point in my nation and where is it?

What water resources are available, and for what uses? (Example: a mill wheel requires flowing water, i.e., a river or stream; irrigation needs a large, dependable water source like a lake or large river, etc.)
What are normal Natural hazards? What are some Environmental issues?

Have activities affected climate, landscape, etc. in various regions? How? (Example: Growth of the Sahara Desert has been increased by over-farming.)

If this is an alternate type of universe, will the "alternate" part change existing effects ?

How do differences from Earth (radioactivity) affect the climate in various areas?

How much land is in each of the equatorial, temperate, and polar zones?

Are all these things consistent with what you say the climate is like in particular areas?

Where are mountain ranges? Rivers and lakes? Deserts? Forests, tropical and otherwise? Grasslands and plains?

Natural Resources:


Now, this one is also incredibly important for roleplaying purposes. The biggest problems in Nation States often comes from people going back and forth and waffling on what is one of the most important determiners of power in any nation. There’s a reason that Primary Economic power begins with Natural resources, as without it your nation cannot subsist to begin with! But wait, Spires, how do we know what kind of natural resources one can have? Back to Terrain you see! Most natural resources build the back bone of a nation’s economy with the other ‘Secondary Industries’ being how one uses the Natural Resources already procured.

So what are these Primary Industries, you say? Land related! It is mining of mineral resources, agriculture, harvesting of chemical matter, and animal matter that give nations power, and the ‘Mechanization’ and ‘Finances’ that arise once the primary industries have already held strong, or a trade with a mineral-rich nation for a relatively cheap price that gets secondary industries going. The reason Colonial Rule began was to harvest cheaper resources, and the colonies would provide the main colonial nation with the resources for mechanization and then financing was able to take hold. It all falls back to land again, and many theorists have actually stated that the rising of war has little to do with social and ideological matters. It has more to do with scarce resources being exploited from one nation to another, and unrest over land disputes. This then brings us to the following questions:

Which areas are the most fertile farmland?

Where are mineral resources located?

What are some normal and common natural resources?

What are rare and valuable resources?


Which natural resources, if any, have been depleted in which areas over time?

Which resources (e.g., coal, oil, iron ore, gold, diamonds, limestone, etc.) are particularly abundant, and in which areas? Which are scarce and where? Are there places with major deposits that haven't been discovered yet, or where such deposits haven't been fully exploited?

How much conflict has been or might be caused by these imbalances in resources? How much active, peaceful trade?

Next the People:


Social Institutions and Agents:

Now we have a full world with a system of marketing, but where are all the people? What does it mean to have people in a roleplay? This comes down to ‘Social Institutions’ and ‘Agents of Socialization’. Agents of Socialization at its most basic level is the family. Whether the family is nuclear or not, whether the family has only one generation or whether they encompass the whole extended family or not. The Basic Unit of Socialization begins with the family who teaches their child/children how to survive in the land, terrain, climate and economy that exists in the nation. Then it extends to friends and peers of people who also provide social identity to the growing person and then large social institutions like Occupations, Government, Military, Education which makes up your nation’s society’s learning and social structures. The people in your nation organize themselves naturally and gravitate to that which most resembles the basic agents of socialization, the family and friends, and this affects their way of thinking.

This is a matter of fact in Social Psychology, and as a result, identity as a people in a society has everything to do with terrain, resources, and climate and falls back to your most basic unit of social learning. How we see this in roleplay is that there’s different social institutions with opposing interests often trying to either think of something mutually agreeable, or what we call a zero-sum game where one person’s interests are directly in conflict with one another’s and it means someone will have to relent or lose.

In practice to provide more examples in the History of Mystria there are several land conflicts and historically there are nations which have broken apart from one another when social institutions, and social agents conflicted with one another over land, leading to civil war, and many independent nations like Cantalvia, Kalron, and Carceno and a possible Civil War that will break apart over the Free Marches and the Occupied Territories of Idrise. This is also happening in the Cornellian Empire where there the challenges have been arising from several conflicting social institutions in New Edom, and in Gholgoth, with the Yohannesian Collapse of the Economy. The Economic Collapse leading to economic devastation in all affected trade partners. The Scarcity and the clashes of social institutions over land and resources becomes a fundamental problem.

Questions you should be asking when world-building with people:

What is my population and population density?

What is the commonly accepted family structure of my people?

What institutions of learning exists, and how long do people attend them and from what age to what age?

What does the educational system teach my people in preparation for later life?

What Occupations are respected and are cherished in my nation, and which are scorned and are frowned upon?

Who are the arbiters of ethics (as opposed to law)? How did they get to be arbiters? Who are the arbiters of the social milieu?

Economy:



So you have land, and natural resources, now you need systems to take these natural resources and distribute them, and people to allow them to be put to their use. There are many ways to manage who owns the resources, and it is a factor that can determine how a nation is percieved and what kind of trade partners can be established. For example, in Imeriata, the Mercantile Economic system is in place. Mercantilism is based on controlling imports and exports and feudalism distributes wealth and resources on the basis of land. Whereas there is Crystal Spires which is a Communist nation as described before, due to the necessity forced by the land and social institutions in place. Then there is Mystrian Altea which has a Market Economy, where scarcity is dealt and distributed by supply and demand. Riemaia and Cantalvia both have mixed/regulated market economies. Each of which function completely differently and it affects the mindset of the people who interact with one another. This also affects different roleplays that transpire in the region. The way that the people view wealth also changes. This then brings to mind the following Questions:

What constitutes my economic power?

How many are below the poverty line, and how many are unemployed?

What is the normal tax rate?

What is my Labor force, when is the Legal employment age and when is retirement age?

What are some Agricultural products?

What are major exports and Imports?

What is the GDP (nominal and PPI)

How much CPI inflation is existent?

What is the public debt, and the average household worth?

What sort of system of economy is in place, and why?

History:



Now, the history of a nation is also an often neglected world-building lens for a nation primarily because for a very strong national identity, you’d need a strong and well founded history. For a strong and developed nation, you need a history of technological advancement. For a nation to have a strong military of any kind, they’d have to historically engaged in war. For a nation to have strong economic power, it needs strong historical backing to the building of an economy, and then this also brings things back to the whole of your people in general. Where they came from or where they originated can strongly affect what they look like and their cultural attitudes.

There is lots of History behind any given nation and it never would have at all existed if people did not arise there or migrate there! Also for reference, if there is no Africa in your history, there’s no African-Yournationdemonyms and no Caucus Mountains in your history, there’s no Caucasians. If there is no Germany, then there are no Germanic people. This then poses an interesting question. What do your people look like? Why do they look this way? This is a way to play with History, a bit! For example, the development of different faces and different races out of africa happened over time and were affected by... guess? The Terrain, Natural Resources and Climate of a landmass.

Examples of terrain shaping faces and races are everywhere in human evolutionary science and study, and there is a lot of information out there to find about it. An example of this is I have created a pseudo asiatic race in my nation by looking at what was there to make Asiatic people look the way they do evolutionarily and tweaked things. So the dust in the Loess plateau in China was where the Asiatic race was able to to develop the Epicanthic fold which changes the shape of eyes and the theory says it was to keep dust out of their eyes while travelling loess plateaus and wide deserts. So, Historically, if you have “Asiatic Eyes” there would be somewhere in the distant, distant, past that has these dusty terrain. If you have pale skin or blonde hair like in the Alpine and Scandanavian regions in the real world, you have to remember why they arose, same with the darker skin in Africa and South India if you are going to have similar races etc., this can factor into your history. This doesn’t even begin to cover the History of how your now existing people of different faces and races became who they are now.

The changes and struggle over scarce resources over time determine a lot of history which is why for a good roleplay to happen, there must be actually established economic relationships between nations or relationships between people and land. These erupt into conflict and/or trouble in the stricken areas. Even revolution and civil war are often determined by strongly differing poverty levels and struggles for rare resources and food. Social movements and social migrations as well depend on resources as well. So major history questions you should be asking yourself would be:

How did my people come to be on my land, and what brought them here?

Once my nation was founded, what are some local rivalries and/or allies that arose in the construction of social institutions?

Once my Social Institutions were constructed, how did they change over time?

What Technological developments were used to change how these institutions work?

What are some conflicts that arose nationally,over what, and why?

What are some conflicts that arose internationally, over what, and why?


Culture:

Now, in University, I got into a large argument and it was one I had to forfeit, because it was his firm established belief that culture is almost in every way, materialistic. At first, I was confused, how can systems like dance, and manners and customs be a matter of materials? As he presented this evidence to me, I conceded that a majority of culture is about how one uses the materials in terrain and land to make an object that fulfills a social role. For example we have clothing from all over the world which all fulfill a cultural role of determining Social Status and they also form a protective barrier from the elements and terrain . And in fact, how much clothing one wears in any given location is a cultural matter affected by the climate and the terrain of the location. It is the same way that certain customs arose from different resources available. In the Middle East, for example it is widely a social custom not to eat pork, but there is a logical reason for this that is not merely laced in religious belief. In the ancient times, there was alot of disease of pig meat which could not easily be done away with, and pigs also demand an unreasonable amount of water for the farmer. They require a humid environment and a lot of water resources to rear in any significant amount, and so as a normative custom, meat of the swine was not eaten in the desert. Then there are multifaceted tools that arise from local cultivation of natural resources, such as musical instruments, religious artifacts, cultural items, and ritual objects. Some important questions to consider are:

What are things that are offensive to my people, and why?

What is normal customs for when visiting a person’s home?

What are normal customs for eating?

What is the standard of beauty for men and women?

What is an art, and what is not art?

What are traditional instruments and what are they made out of?

What does traditional music sound like?

What are some traditional clothing, and how does it suit the environment of my nation?

What are some important tools and symbols that are important to the people of my nation?

What sort of books are enjoyed in my nation’s culture, and which are not?

What sort of traditional sports are played in my nation?

What is the Language of my nation?

What are traditional dances of my nation?

What is the cultural differences between people in the city, and those in the countryside?

What do traditional homes and buildings look like, and what local materials are they made out of?

What Calendar do my people use?

How do my people perceive time?

Religion:



Creating a religion is the hardest and yet one of the most rewarding aspects of world-building, as religious worldviews affect all manners of cognition, and in essence how people see reality, and the different levels of reality for a person. Religion is also the basis of First Principles of the existence of reality and truth. It is also something that is intuitive to most human beings. First thing that is needed to create a realistic religion is cognition of “Spiritual essence” and statements on the existence of reality and truth. Then there are stories concerning the essences: which define an Origin Story. It describes the origin of the cosmos, the origin of life, the origin of moral man, a story which explores the existential purpose of life, and concepts that expound the inherent value of life through meaningful connections to man with the divine. Then there is the story of “Becoming”, or a transformation of mundane man into a holy man. Then there is usually the final story which tells of what happens in the Afterlife or what happens Beyond life. This is what it takes to make a religion, and examples are all over nation states, including Harmonism, Mystrian Pantheism, Severanism, The Religion of War, etc.

There has to be in every religion, a statement of belief which comes with a statement of faith. A statement of ethos/ethics, a statement of unacceptable beliefs, and a statement on wisdoms, which are accepted beliefs. Then there is sharing those beliefs through teaching it to others, with a statement of teaching, and there are often religious education and whole statements on how this is to happen either by holy books or apprenticeship or being passed on from parent to child. Then there is a statement of the existence of evil, and keep in mind No Religion that Preaches itself to be Evil is realistic. A realistic religion identifies a weakness of man, and ascribes this as a failing, and then there is the moral man which is the one the true believer aspires to be like. Then there is a statement of the proper relationship of this religion with other beliefs.

Then there is a hierarchical order which separates the initiate from the Journeymen practioners; High Authorities, Teachers/ Educators and Becomers/Students. They all tend to follow a valued unquestionable legacy which is often something that is substantiated with texts, documents, and unquestionable absolute truths. Some questions about creation of a religion are the following:

What is real to the people of my religion, and what is truth?

What kind of ideal life do people aspire to?

What are acceptable beliefs in my religion?

What are unacceptable beliefs in my religion?

Who teaches the religion?

What is the Origin of the Legacy of the Religious faith?

What is unquestioned as the origin of religious truth?

What are my Origin stories (The Cosmos, Life, Moral Man) ?

What is the difference between mundane man and holy man in my religion?

Great job with this! Have you ever considered making a past-tech guide? From Prehistory to the directly post-Cold War Era.
"As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."
-Christopher Dawson

"An eye for an eye makes the world go blind."
-Mahatma Gandhi

"Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist."
-George Carlin




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