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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:58 am 
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Last night as I was working on some conceptual designs and it occurred to me that it might be a very useful thing to post my theories and methods on worldbuilding for the general group. So, this is at least one part of what might be a larger series of treatises outlining the concepts behind solid worldbuilding.
As everyone knows, one of the most basic things to establish, after theme, is some way to populate your world. Now, Magic has a handy shortcut for us to develop things, but on the other side of it, it requires a lot more diversity that might not necessarily be forced on a more general setting.
I'll start with the larger concepts behind population and then work my way into the MTG specifics.

I. Filling your world:
The most basic concept behind populating world is finding a culture to dominate it. That's as basic as it gets, but the question of what it means speaks a lot towards how you approach them. Invariably, this is the culture and population who are most closely associated with your theme because they are likely the most present and direct reflection of what you're trying to evoke.
Now, in doing so, there are several different approaches that you use to give a culture shape.
A. Forming the Technological Apex
There are many different periods from which you can draw how developed your culture is and it reflects what you are able to accomplish. The reason this is important to get out of the way early on isn't for that reason though, it's because it will shape what your population's social structure will look like. In each period, there is always social reform which impacts the striation of the populace. Sometimes that striation becomes a major factor in what the conflict is, but in terms of worldbuilding, its good to know, going in, what you are expecting your culture to look like.
B. Drawing from Real World Inspiration
Earth is ridiculously diverse, and almost nobody will ever go to the extremes of reproducing, on their world, as many cultures as have arisen on Earth, but there are a lot of evocative concepts associated with those cultures that you use to establish a basis from which you can draw diversity amongst the population, as well as tying it into the setting in general. More often than not, you see only one major cultural inspiration being used to shape the world.
C. Empire of Hats
An extremely quick way to fill your world is to determine what hats exist and who wears them. It's honestly a little cheap, but starting off, it's just too handy a tool to not use. This is particularly true if your population and cultural integrity is going to spread out across a LOT of material. While normally, a realistic world isn't made of hats and a world of hats may end up feeling shallow in development, it's a trope that has become so ingrained in speculative fiction that it's basically impossible to unravel, especially in a multiracial world. You can thank Tolkien for that.
D. Diversifying your Portfolio
Most of the time, as mentioned above, you see only one dominant culture, but conflict drives a narrative, so taking one of the above concepts and placing it opposite one of its kin will help give the world definition. It doesn't even necessarily add conflict, especially if you are focusing on only one smaller location present in the world and an internal struggle within that culture, but it creates a sense of mystery to hint at something larger beyond the walls of the town. It intrigues and helps flesh out the world at large since, as humans, we'll always be attracted to something more exotic than what we know.
E. All of the Above
Because, honestly, you're going to need to do it all anyways if you want a world with some form of depth.
F. Surprise! Evolution.
This one lands outside the larger grouping, which might seem a bit strange, but there are a lot of writers who won't have anything more than humanity populating their world. This is where this comes in, establishing if you want more fantastical races to occupy your world. This overlaps with several of the above concepts, but for every new race you introduce, unless they have integrated seamlessly into the larger culture dominating things, you will have to repeat at least one of the above. Even providing they have assimilated, you might still have something such as racial tensions providing a little fantastic racism which forms a basis for conflict in your setting.

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At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:58 am 
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II. The Color Wheel
This is where we get into the specifics of MTG. The Color wheel establishes a lot of what is available to filling your world because to make a world of meant to evoke a plane of Dominia, you’re going to have to look at equal representation across every color and stay true to those values. Breaking it down further, at this stage you have three options to explore for what to do to see everything spread evenly.
A. One Wheel to Rule Them All
Have one massive empire with internal representation of each color. This, in some ways, is the hardest way to go about this, because making the colors co-exist in a singular culture is likely going to make for a lot of pressure being exerted socially on an individual level. It means that everything will boil down, not to what group people belong to, but what sort of person an individual is. While invariably one color will rise to prominence, finding a place to make up that difference is going to be difficult without tilting the entire world out of sorts. The difficult use of this particular path will be the fact that you will have one very deep and powerful culture, but to the exclusion of developing virtually anything beyond those walls. It makes for the world to feel very very small or unrealistically large. There is the additional problem of not being able to truly reach further than the borders of your narrow setting, so this method is most often not ideal to use when creative an entire world, but rather just one continent or country. It leaves a lot of space open, for better or worse.
B. Branching Out
Instead of focusing on one singular nation or culture, you instead mix and match based on different factors established in Filling Your World. You create competing nations of approximately equal social standing, be it because of population size or technological superiority, you will find a way to even out how these cultures interact with each other on what is essentially an uneven field. Most often, you will align one nation to a certain combination of colors and another to a different combination. This allows you to include all the colors, but takes the pressures off the internal conflict of a culture, essentially focusing outward instead of turning inward. It creates the opportunity to still focus on a larger scale instead of having so much importance placed on an individual and making the population as deep as the nation. You turn from having to deal with individuals to drive conflict to being allowed groups to carry the narrative. This makes for what is likely the most natural conflict, but the largest difficulty you’re faced with in this method is making sure everything is adequately and equally represented, as it is very easy for one aspect or color to feature more prominently than others.
C. Hitting all the Bases
The most common method in Magic is to align people and their cultures in their entirety to a specific color or color combination. It gets all the equal representation, but makes for a lot of work since you have to essentially repeat the process of establishing a culture repeatedly with several aspects above, as well as creating interplay between how the various cultures interact with each other. As an aside, it also rarely leaves any space for divergence and unrest in the ranks. You more commonly create a more harmonious, and sadly, homogenous culture to place next to each other. On the bright side with how robust the color wheel is, you’ll be able to very easily find ways to build upon cultures that is true to their color. It may come across as something of world hats, but with enough attention to detail, it will still feel like a thriving and living world to tell a story in.

III. Defining your Subjects
At this stage there are two options you can opt for filling your world. Technically it’s no choice because you’ll use both the class and races, but the choice you make will impact which you’ll give priority. Quantum choices ahead I suppose. Going forward though, I warn everyone to mechanically never mix tribal matters between class and race. It creates a feeling of inconsistency.
A. Staying Classy
The advantage to this is the variety of a singular culture you can represent without having to worry about developing further culture, but instead just focusing on a facet of an existing culture. This is a much easier task in some ways, because there are plenty of options to choose from, but it’s also an extremely boring option because it shears off a tremendous degree of variety. Using it in concert with race offers a chance to really display contrasts in approach or philosophy, but overreliance on class tends to make a creaturescape that is monotonous. It’s the primary reason you cannot rely entirely on having the occupation move the card. This is further complicated by the distinctions, often seemingly arbitrary, by what separates one class from another.
B. Getting Racey
On the opposite end of the spectrum is utilizing race to primarily define your population. The downside is that while it offers a great deal of diversity, it also tends to lean heavily on the ideas behind the world of hats. Each race will invariably have a specialty or some defining aspect that will narrow down what their place in the world will be. There tends not to be too much variety on an individual level, and those that stand out tend to stand out much much more prevalently than their compatriots.

IV. Being Human
Ever since the introduction of the human creature type, and even more so in recent times, Humanity has had the unenviable requirement to be used in all five colors. This causes a lot of issues because it creates an artificial separation of humanity from itself. While in a singular culture this is no real problem, when you split the five colors and focus on developing a unique culture for each, it creates much more work and further separates them even from the other creatures occupying the same color. It generates competition and lowers the overall development of the set. However, placing them in a singular color is not really an option because, as humans ourselves, we rely on the familiarity to generate resonance between the characters and our audience. Limiting them to just one color will invariably alienate a large portion of the audience by trying to define humanity in such limiting terms. With fantasy races, there is less of an issue, so utilizing them to their fullest is important in creating a rich tapestry for your world. Just don’t neglect the intricacies of what makes us human.

_________________
At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:59 am 
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V. Reaching the Requisites
In Magic, we have a great deal of structure which, when observed, makes it so much simpler to fill our world. Primarily, WotC pays attention to only two aspects of this feature and just sort of backfill everything else, but I’ve always felt that they do a disservice to the worlds they create by doing so, so I’ll be focusing on defining everything for you to think about and how they fit together.

A. Characteristic
In many ways, the characteristic race is going to be the main body of your world, and in magic, it means finding a characteristic for each color. Some colors have it much easier than others, but it’s important to look at the available options and find something that you feel is the most resonant with your setting. In the past, WotC went out of their way to fit characteristics to the world rather than letting other creatures have a chance to steal a spotlight. That has changed a great deal as focus has shifted to more integrated and top down design.
Characteristics will be the smallest and most prevalent of your races represented. They are your primary cultures and are as often defined by audience expectation as much as their color. While there is an enormous amount of freedom and play possible with characteristics, it is important not to sway too far out of what the audience is familiar with because of the evocative nature of worldbuilding. Integrating and playing to expectations can often fill in aspects of your world that would otherwise have to be explicitly stated, or even possibly aspects you did not even think of.

B. Midrange
An often overlooked slot within worldbuilding, the midrange will fill out the larger creatures whose presence is often not as flashy as, but serves a different function than, the characteristic. The advantage in deciding your midrange creature is that you do not always have to worry about developing a culture for them, for as often as not, this slot is filled with creatures whose solitary or primitive nature mean that they do not have the intelligence nor society needed for any culture to develop. Some colors have a sizable glut of creatures that can fill this slot, most notably red, but it is important to find some creature in each color whose notability is significant enough to count as the midrange hallmark for the color on your world.

C. Icon
The Icon is the creature which is a quintessential representation of the color they are in. They are the thing that people automatically associate with fantasy. They are symbols as much as anything, and so it is important to find a place for them. Unfortunately, there is much much less leeway in terms of icons because of their nature, and it is important not to spurn crowd expectations. The downside to this is the fact that there will always be a case when it does not match what you are trying to accomplish, but there are far fewer options with which you can work in this category. Of particular note is that you cannot really control the definition of people’s expectations, because either you choice meets resonance or it does not.

D. Sub-icon
The sub-icon is by far the strangest of any of the categories of creatures you use to fill out your world, and are not entirely required, but are important for terms of variety. They do not appear at common, instead existing either exclusively at rare, or occasionally at mythic and uncommon. They exist to accomplish tasks which are unsuited to the icon, but still are evocative of the color as a whole. In some ways, you have the most freedom in establishing the sub-icon, because they do not have the same weight of expectations placed upon them. This even extends to doing things the color is not traditionally known to do, but has the capacity to do. The skillful use of a sub-icon will add more color to your world by not forcing you to adapt or compromise your icons.

E. Tool
This is the most optional of all the races. They share many aspects with the Mid-range, but they aren’t so narrowly limited to their position and are almost exclusively non-sentient. They exist not to further their own goals, but to be used by other races to accomplish a task. Sometimes this means that they will have some form of intelligence, but mostly they are little more than bestial, ruled by their desires, or the wants of others.

_________________
At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:09 pm 
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Just popping in to say I skimmed this and I think it's brilliant. It's too late to read it in full, but I'll make sure to provide feedback later on.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:21 pm 
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I haven't even skimmed it yet, but I am definitely going to refer to it when I start some worldbuilding. I went ahead and added some likes for now.

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