Breaking radio silence to say that nothing says clean slate like a clean desk. I’ve been remiss in keeping Rocky Mountain Bog Monster updated. Mea culpa. To be honest, I hit a wall for a bit there. And that’s okay. I’ve had time for ideas to percolate and to think about what direction to take things in.
Really the whole point of this blog is the process, not the outcome, whatever stage I’m on. There will be crafting, but it’s not a crafting blog or YouTube channel like one would expect from excellent creators like Wyloch and DM Scotty. It’s not a writing blog like one might expect from an already talented and respected writer. As much as anything, it’s a blog of things I don’t know.
Mainly, it’s just the blog of a guy with a low concept vision for a story, and his floundering attempts to make sense of it all. This is where I’ll collect together all the random bits and pieces and try to put them together, or tear them apart, with an eye to having fun along the way. I’ll get bogged down in details, but that’s usually where the fun begins. That’s also where most of the stuff probably worth sharing comes in.
In the next few posts, I’ll be sharing the overall story idea and some thoughts on intellectual property. And, as it happens, the next creative update is a milestone for me, so I’m even excited about something!
While I’m trying to figure out how to wrangle ideas into a story worth telling, I’ll be learning pretty much all of the elements of writing. Character development? Plot? Setting? I do not know these things. As I’m learning about character development, and I’m actually creating and getting to know my characters, I’ll share. Immediately that takes me in a visual direction, and…I have no idea yet what anybody will look like. One of my goals is to people Iaon in a plausible, if fantastic, way.
In this step, as with pretty much all the others, my goal is to overthink the details and to create far more world than I can ever fully describe so that, even if my own storytelling should fail, or should exhaust itself, there will at least be a campaign setting fleshed out enough that others might find some use and enjoyment in it. I’m new to this, so if there’s already jargon to describe what I talk about, I plead ignorance. I’ll be learning that along the way was well.
When peopling Iaon, I want to know how many races there are in the world. I want to know how they’re dispersed. I want to know what languages they speak, but not quite so much that I want to invent dozens of constructed languages along the way. Maybe just some rules to guide name creation would be useful. I want to know how they’re dressed. I want to know what they eat. I want to be able to picture them vividly in the kinds of settings I’m likely to find them in.
Already I start branching out more. For me to get a feel for how these people look and live, I need to know where they are.
So far I’ve got the bare bones of a world map. I’m generally pleased with my coastlines and the shapes and distribution of the continents. I’m pretty taken with the names of the territories. Most of them feel natural to me now.
I’ve got a good idea of where the mountain ranges are. After weighing pros and cons, I ultimately decided I didn’t care about purely geographically reasonable mountain ranges. Whatever handwaving it will take to explain how things got the way they are will be okay with me. I like the way they’re scattered, and the way the continents are pocked with gigantic lakes and inland seas so that pretty much every part of the world will have a great range of topographical features.
I’ve also got a working version of a climate map for Iaon. My next mapping goal is to draw the coastlines, mountains, and inland seas so I can superimpose the climate info and figure out what the combination results in. A desert mountain is different from an arctic mountain. A large body of water in the jungle is different from a body of water on the open prairie.
There’s tons of information out there on biomes, so when I know what the land is like, it’ll be time to populate it with appropriate flora and fauna. A forest here looks different from a forest there. Swamps are different. Everything has endless variety. I just want to create enough of a facsimile of that variety that every setting feels natural enough.
With all that, I think I’ll have enough information on hand to finally design the people. I want to vary the degrees of technological progress on Iaon. Some regions might be typical of our Bronze Age, others might be on the cusp of our Industrial Revolution. Magic will complicate things. There will be anacronisms. Once I’ve decided these details, I’ve got a process in mind for smashing together all manner of details of dress, and architecture, and custom.
Peopled, I’ll want to know Iaon’s politics and religion and world history. I want to know how it got the way it is right when my own story picks up. I’ve got a plan for that history, as well. I want to know the starting conditions when the wars that grip the world begin. I want to know natural resources and trade routes and cultural influence. When process bumps up against inconvenient details, I could always just take license and ignore the difficulty, or I could treat every circumstance as a writing prompt. For this unlikely constellation of characteristics to be the case, what else must be true? Ridiculous answers are probably the best as often as not.
In terms of which areas to focus on first, the very first scene on Iaon takes place in your standard wizard’s tower at the northern pole. After the view from orbit, our protagonist’s next view is of the cloud cover from above. Then of the frozen landscape below. Then of the tower. Then inside.
Designing the inside that he sees will pose new creative challenges.
Designing The Only’s full appearance will, too.
The protagonist’s initial appearance will be mundane enough. But all too soon, what the good people of Shyzalakh [wordplay alert] look like, how they act, and why they act that way will be far more important than any other group in the world, because our poor hero is about to be dropped into their midst with little to no useful preparation. And there will be rats. And kobolds. And a thief for a companion.
When I finally get to the stuff of plots…our hero’s encounters, that’s when the crafting will happen most often. I want dioramas, or sometimes just collages, to help me visualize the action and find room for surprises I’d miss otherwise.
Scale is an important consideration for me. There’s times where various game mechanics that I’ll use to develop an encounter will work best at 1:60 scale (28 mm miniatures). That’s where dungeon tile crafting and scenery crafting for RPG’s comes in. It’s also conveniently close to S-scale train scenery. There’s other times where I’ll want to use 1:18, though. Not only does it have the benefit of being a standard size for fully articulated action figures, and a common size for playsets and dollhouses, but it’s a common size for a great many types of models.
At some point I also look forward to trying out sculpture in larger scales so I can experiment with 3D scanning using a DSLR camera.
With all these different levels of detail to tend to, it’s tempting to try and take a linear approach. I’d much rather try a parallel approach. A little world building here. A little plot and encounter there. A little character development there. I’ll consider it a great accomplishment when these things turn into scenes, maybe even short stories. With any luck and a bit of effort, maybe they’ll even turn into good stories.