World Building 3

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions:

By Patricia C. Wrede

  1. Basics

    • What are the physical characteristics of this race? A:
    • How does magic fit in? A: How do magical beasts fit in? A:
    • Is this generally an earth-like world? A: Is it an “alternate Earth”? A:
    • Are there different human races, whether or not there are non-humans like elves or dwarves? A: How does the cultural and ethnic diversity of this world compare to the real world? A:
    • How long have there been people on this world? A: Did they evolve, or did they migrate from somewhere/when else? A:
    • How many people are there in this country? A: How does this compare with world population? A: What is considered a small town/large town/city in terms of number of people? A:
    • Where does magic power come from: the gods, the “mana” of the world (as in Larry Niven’s “Warlock” stories), the personal willpower or life force of the magician, somewhere else? A: Is magic an exhaustible resource? A: If a magician must feed his spells with his own willpower, life-force, or sanity, what long-term effects will this have on the health and/or stability of the magician? A: Do different races/species have different sources for their magic, or does everybody use the same one? A:
  2. Alternate Earth


    • Are there non-human inhabitants of this planet (elves, dwarves, aliens)? A: If so, how numerous? A: How openly present? A: What areas do they occupy (examples: dwarves in mountains or caves, elves in forests, etc.)? A:
    • How similar are the history and culture of the alternate earth to real history and culture? A: Why is it so similar/different? A:
    • Is there a specific historical point where this world split off from ours (e.g., Napoleon won at Waterloo)? A: If so, what was it? A: How long ago was it? A: How much has changed and will continue to change as a result? A: Is the split in history a result of the presence of magic, or is the change the thing that made workable magic a possibility? A:
    • If there is no specific point of divergence, what are the differences between this imaginary world and the real one? A: How obvious are they in everyday life? A: If magic exists but history is more or less the same, why has it had no effect? A: If magic works, elves exist, etc., but most people don’t know it, how and why has this been kept secret? A:
    • If magic is known to exist, which historical events have changed and which are the same? A: How have organized religions reacted? A: Governments? A: Ordinary people? A: What laws and/or professions are different? A: What effect will the general and specific differences have on the social questions below? A:
  3. Not Earth at All

    • How does this world differ physically from earth? A: Is it the same size (same density, same gravity), same ratio of land/water, same atmosphere, etc.? A: Does it have more than one sun or moon? A: Rings? A: Are there spectacular constellations/comets, etc. visible at night or by day? A:
    • Are there non-human inhabitants of this planet (elves, dwarves, aliens)? A: If so, how numerous? A: How openly present? A: What areas do they occupy? A:
    • How are the continents laid out? A: If there is more than one moon/sun, how does this affect winds, tides, and weather generally? A:
    • How much land is there, and how much of it is habitable? A:
    • Is the axial tilt and orbit the same — i.e., does the world have the same seasons and same length of year as Earth? A:

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