Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Directory Directory

Just got an annoyance. Surfing some links, looking for some tips on fantasy world building to work a little on a D&D campaign I'll be keeping for a rainy DMing day. I ended up going through some directory sites... except they only link to other directories allegedly about world building. There weren't any that contained actual articles or tips for world building.

Anyway, I'm trying to flesh out an archipelago culture (Not entirely for player benefit. Sometimes I just like the world building process), and I'm trying to find some information on island ecology, economics in isolation, and that sort of thing. Would like the place to be potentially valuable once the players kick out the baddies. So, know any links I could use, rather than directories?

10 comments:

King Aardvark said...

Tropical or temperate archipelago?

If tropical, they could set up a tourism industry.

Bronze Dog said...

Tropical, and tourism was one thing I had in mind.

One potential export I had in mind was pearls. Being completely surrounded by water for centuries has done wonders for the locals' ability to swim down to get them.

Infophile said...

Don't forget about fishing, that's going to be a huge industry there, and very likely the primary one.

Rhoadan said...

I did searches on "fantasy world building" and "island ecology" and came up with some interesting looking links. Caveat: I haven't really done any testing and therefore don't know how useful they are.

This one looks interesting for world design. Patricia Wrede put together a list of questions for general fantasy world building that might make a good jumping off point.

AFAICT, the best island ecology resources appear to be dead trees versions. This list comes from Amazon.com. talkorigins.org mentions at least one reference that might be available from your local college library.

I think that your economy is going to follow from the geology and the ecology. A barrier island like Assateague has very different resources available from those available on a volcanic island like those in the Hawai'ian archipelago. An example of geological effect on resources: Diamond Head got its name from peridot that early European explorers mistook for diamonds. They would likely be marketed as emeralds in a pseudo-medieval or earlier culture.

Questions you might want to answer in your world building process:
How was(were) your island(s)formed? Barrier island built of sand? Coral atoll? Split off from mainland by plate tectonics/change in water level? Volcanic hot spot? Mid-Ocean ridge fractures?

How big is(are) it(they)? The number of species supported seems to be a function of the area of the island.

What are the prevailing winds? This actually makes a difference. Are you aware that there are desert regions on the Hawai'ian islands? The prevailing winds are consistent, and some of the volcanoes are big enough to force the air currents to drop most of their moisture loads on the windward side, leaving the leeward side quite dry.

How close to your island(s) is the mainland? Great Britain, being close to Europe, has mostly European or closely related wildlife. Hawai'i, out in BFN Pacific Ocean, has no native large animals and about a bazillion species of small critters not found anywhere else. Also the proximity of large landmasses will affect the currents around the island.

You've already dealt with latitude by the sound of it.

How did humans first settle? Their method of transportation is going to affect what they can import to the island.

Bronze Dog said...

Well, at this point, think I should ask that my potential players to look away. Don't want to give away some stuff.

I said to look away!

Okay: It's a collection of islands formed by volcanic activity, with one currently active volcano, about within the size range of the Hawaiian Islands, maybe a touch smaller. There are three islands large enough for inhabitation by the Small-sized locals, along with a number of pitifully small islands trailing away into the distance.

To use an analogy for our geography, the island is essentially in the middle of the Atlantic. A few centuries ago, it used to be used as a stopping point for cross-continental trips by the more advanced races, but a number of spooky events combined with improved sailing and navigation technology has encouraged everyone to skip past the island, leaving it in its current isolation. That isolation is maintained with sailors making up and repeating stories about the creepy stuff that's supposedly happened over there.

Critters: They're generally smaller, the biggest normal creatures being some komodo-ish monitor lizards. Most of the big critters live in the surrounding ocean.

Weather: I was thinking of having an annual or biannual monsoon, but glancing at Wikipedia, it seems those require a continent. But, in short, the weather's nice most of the time, with a period or two of nasty storms every year.

Ranson said...

Some of the best world-building advice I ever got was from the podcast. A solid chink of their first year was spent on building environments, cultures, etc. I stopped listending to the 'cast a while back, but they put together some strong, sensible advice while I listened.

Lifewish said...

Jared Diamond's book "Collapse" has a whole section on island cultures and how they survive or crumble based on physical, social and technological factors.

JackalMage said...

Ooh, these should all be very useful for me as well. I've been meaning to actually study some ecology so I can design a halfway realistic island system for my own campaign. The whole world is islands, and I've really been wondering what that would be like.

For those who might be interested in chiming in... The entire thing's continental, or at least *was* a few thousand years ago. It's now all small-to-mid sized islands. The event was appropriately cataclysmic, of course, and the magical equivalent of radiation provides enough Mutation Power (tm) that we can assume things will evolve to fill appropriate gaps. What sort of things do I want to see?

Just the bringing up of fishing is a big help, though. Reminds me that the primary meat is fish. And bird.

TheBrummell said...

Just the bringing up of fishing is a big help, though. Reminds me that the primary meat is fish. And bird.

No whales or whale-analogues? Marine mammals are or were major food sources for lots of island-dwelling peoples.

Lifewish said...

I can't resist the urge to ask: if there's a directory directory, is there a non-directory directory? And is it listed in itself?