Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The World So Far: An uncharted and largely oceanic world, dotted by islands and coastlines, full of strange wonder, abundant resources and tropical beauty. An incoming force of humans, from a number of distinctly 16th century-feeling cultures, have voyaged to this strange place to begin colonization and eventual exploitation of these resources. The local inhabitants, however, are powerful undersea kingdoms, full of dynastic struggle, ancient tradition and military might, and quite unsure how to react to the presence of these foreign colonists.

Confession: I love maps.

Drawing maps, particularly of fictional locations, is one of the most smoothing and engaging activities I can conceive of. To me, a perfect evening is sitting, by the light of my one lamp, listening to an audiobook and drawing a map. Anyone afforded one look at my apartment's decor – at least 50% hand-drawn maps for my D&D campaign – understands quite how saliently I love maps. Hell, I drew maps all over my hand-made DM screen.

Point being, I was ecstatic to finally whip out the colored pencils and depict this fledgling world of mine. I'm so much more of an auditory person, but I think a truism, among all worldbuilders, is that a map is universally helpful in the field of idea generation.

Behold, ye readers – Worldbloggia! (Title not finalized)

Let's break this shit down.

1. The Edge
You'll recall, in the second Worldblogger post, I had the revelation that the earth was flat.

(The fictional earth, I mean.)

It later occurred to me, as I set down to map the world, how I'd like to illustrate this in some demonstrable way on my map. The logical conclusion, then, of course, is that the edge of the world would be visible on the map. What makes a flat world a fascinating concept, as I'm sure both Rowbotham and Pratchett would agree (Rowbotham & Pratchett need to be like, crime-fighting linguists professors or something), is the possibility of falling off. However, having discovered the edge implies some expansive exploration and geographical knowledge, which I specifically don't want the Colonists to have.

Then, it further occurred to me – why would the Colonists and the Kingdoms be from the same side of the disc?

The reason everything's so alien, so foreign to the world the Colonists come from is because they've somehow flipped, sailed onto the underside of the world. The conceit's present in fiction, I fairly sure – I think I read a recent Elric story with a similar premise – but it fit so perfectly into my narrative I couldn't let the thing go. In their ever-expanding reach for power and resources, the Colonists, explorers and envoys of a civilization that's all but encompassed their side of the disc, have crossed over, venturing into an entirely unknown and alien world on the opposite side of their disc. Done, done and done.

2. The First Sea
In mapping the underside of the disc, it became really important to me that I wasn't mapping purely for the Colonists, but for the Kingdoms as well. While this map is more of geographical one, I would like, at some future point, to make a map from the Kingdom's perspective – a more political map, showing the different regions and principalities of their world.

I was attracted to the idea that, to an undersea kingdom, a island chain would be a natural barrier, akin to a mountain range. In designing the continental coastline and archipelagos, then, I wanted leave large enough spaces for political, underwater territories. This then, the ringed-in space between the edge and the nearest islands, I considered the territory of the First Kingdom.

From the Colonial perspective, sailing off the edge of the map is tantamount to the Greeks sailing to the underworld. When they first surfaced, I wanted to create the illusion that it might be a blank disc, with no land, no fresh water and no salvation. Hell, I even like the idea that, for hundreds of years, they punished criminals by sending them in boats over the edge, effectively creating a penal colony of stranded humans hundreds of years before the drive exploration would drive them (literally) over the edge too.

The First Sea, I imagine, to be eerily windless, difficult to navigate and plagued by doldrums. Sailors go mad attempting to cross it and its maybe filled with ghost ships, right, floundered on rocks and shoals.  It takes many weeks of difficult and discouraging sailing to reach sight of any of the adjacent islands that border the First Kingdom.

3. The Second Sea
My first attempt at the Second Sea was, as you can perhaps see, laughably small. I liked the shape of the small ocean I did create and thought, instead, of Basque Country in Spain or even Vatican City in Italy – a smaller, somewhat independent nation, not quite powerful enough to call itself a Kingdom, that's nestled into the corner of the northern continent.

What separates this territory, politically or ethnically, from the other Three Kingdoms, I'm not certain yet – maybe something to do with their relations with the Colonists?

Otherwise, the Second Sea, which occupies most of the southern corner of the map, is the largest and I imagined wealthiest. As its located between the First Sea to the west and Third Sea to the north, it's perhaps controls the trade between the three entities and also, coincidentally, covers the most overall area. My instinct would be to say it's almost a Canada or Russian situation – where much of that territory might actually be uninhabited, but we'll have to see how the politics shakes out.

As for Colonists in this region, I imagine they're likely not as widespread as they would be in the First Sea and surrounding environs – maybe they've established some colonies, some forts, depending on the perspective of the Second Kingdom, but I think it's a gradient – most populous in the First Sea, less populous in the Second and maybe nonexistent in the Third.

As for the spiral chain of islands in the center of the Second Sea, that seems too planned to be anything but deliberate. Maybe one of the Kingdom's power is the ability to shape or reposition islands? Maybe that's OP.

4. Third Sea
Finally, we come to the Third Sea. Tucked far away into the corner of the map, almost entirely encircled by coastline, the notion that comes most immediately to mind is that the Third Kingdom is the most xenophobic, the most isolationist, the least in favor of the Colonists and this sudden influx of outsiders. It seems insular, shielded as it is, and that seems to lead to certain other assumptions – possibly warlike, possibly with a powerful authoritarian government. This is all, more or less, conjecture, but first impressions are important.

A note of unfinished coastlines – I specifically made the point to leave some coastlines undefined, in the classic tradition of inaccurate or incomplete maps from the Age of Exploration. I think, depending on how strident I become with this setting, it might be interesting to draw up several more maps, specifically drawn from the Colonist's perspectives, that are skewed and incongruous beyond belief. I love the idea of the various Colonist factions being wholly unable to mary their various maps and charts of the region and neither of them, necessarily, being wrong.

Whew. Another long one. I should maybe start to expect these posts to reach a lengths this long.

Next Wednesday on Worldblogger: Undersea History!

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