Wednesday, January 8, 2014

General Conceits

As I stipulated last week, the last thing I wanted to do with this project was concept everything away from the blog and simply explain to you all the "brilliant" ideas I had somewhere else. The intention is to perform an autopsy on my creative progress, to poke about its innards while you watch and you can maybe glean something worthwhile from the exercise? Maybe that's presuming.

The difficulty's been, however, in keeping my mind from turning to the project. Already, quite without my consent, I've been brainstorming a smattering of different world concepts in the course of several minutes, while washing the dishes, jogging or playing video games. I've been forced to dial those impulses in, shelve the ideas and save the magic for this venue and this venue alone.

Easier said than done, of course, but enough of my griping. Let's tuck in.

Part 1: General Conceits
I feel, in starting, I need an elevator pitch: a nice, neat, concise mission statement about the world I can tack up over my proverbial working desk, to consistently remind myself the style and the tone of the world we're working in. For those unfamiliar with the term, an "elevator pitch" is a screenwriting phrase that refers to the one sentence (usually one sentence fragment) summarization of your script, that you can sling at passing executives and producers while riding in an elevator. A common theme with an elevator pitch is the combination of two well-known movies; (Pitch Black meets Are We There Yet?, etc.)

By elevator pitch logic, Barsoom's elevator pitch would be "Spartacus in space." Eberron's, conversely, might be "Steampunk via magical means" (In fact, I think Rich Baker's actual pitch was The Lord of the Rings meets The Maltese Falcon meets Raiders of the Lost Ark, which, I don't know, seems like the most meaningless elevator pitch I've ever heard). For my purposes, I may do away with the standardized format in favor of something a little more nuanced. I won't, for example, be pitching this world to any executives in any elevators, so perhaps we can afford a little more granularity.

In devising the core concept, however, it's good to start with these base primal elements. As a starting exercise, I'm gonna make a master list of the fleeting ideas that I've tried to shelve, little seeds of concepts that I could maybe incorporate into my new world. Maybe via combining them or even simply laying them all out, I'll find some synergies or commonalities across:
  • Desert Climates
  • Arctic Climates
  • Nautical Themes
  • Underwater Kingdoms
  • Nonstandard or Monstrous Races
  • Sword-and-Planet
  • Cities
  • Unusual or Unique Maps / Geography
  • Norse Mythology
  • Industrial Revolutions
  • Frontiers / Colonization
  • Limited Resources / Nonstandard Economies
At first brush, many of the ideas are immediately contradictory; Desert Climate and Arctic Climate, for example. There're several equally obvious synergies, however – Nautical Themes and Underwater Kingdoms co-mingle pretty seamlessly.

Speaking from experience, I happen to know I'm a fan of extremes. It pleases some artistic node in my brain to strip something fundamental away from a setting, to challenge its expectations by making some drastic, almost absurd stipulation, and watching what bizarre society collects in the cracks. This is the primary reason I'm in love with Athas; no water, no deities, no steel, no magic. By removing practically everything one expects in a fantasy setting, the world left in that wake was all the more bizarre and fascinating as a result.

The more I ruminate on this Nautical Themes / Underwater Kingdoms connection, the more I'm intrigued. Perhaps inspired by a growing anticipation for Failbetter Games' Sunless Sea, but I'm almost weary of a world where every conceivable corner's been developed to death. One of my favorite aspects of Qairn, my current D&D campaign world, is the far flung continent of Dread Salarza, which, Age of Exploration-style, is only partially and imperfectly charted.

Even typing the words "Age of Exploration" felt right.

Examining the list a second time, I can easily see how to incorporate two, even three more themes – Frontiers / Colonization is a given and Unusual or Unique Maps / Geography is definitely conceivable, considering the active exploration game, but I can even see Limited Resources / Nonstandard Economies playing a major factor, in the way spices and goods motivated much of the Age of Discovery and Colonization.

This is starting to feel coherent; a nautical world, maybe even a simple section of a world, rife with exploration, adventure, foreign goods and enterprising nations, hoping to colonize as many islands as possible. Maybe the Underwater Kingdoms are the established political entities of the region, inhabited by Nonstandard or Monstrous Races, who resent this sudden influx of invaders on their queer wooden vessels.

Plus, I mean, pirates, now.

It isn't quite an elevator pitch in the traditional sense, and there remains much more to developed (technology levels, aesthetics, all that) but how's something like this?
"A world of uncharted islands, populated by ambitious colonial powers and sprawling underwater empires, where exploration, trade and discovery are the currency of the realm."
This feels tenable. This definitely feels expandable, but, maybe I should save something for the 52 more posts this year.

Ooo. What if the world's flat?

Next Wednesday on Worldblogger: Aesthetics and Technology!

Creative Commons License

No comments:

Post a Comment