5 World Building Tips (Vol 3, #3): Armed Forces
Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is armed forces. You can read more in Chapter 3, “Creating Armed Forces,” from Cultures and Beyond, (The Art of World Building, #3).
Tip #1: “What Government Type Do They Work For?”
Virtually all armed forces groups work for a government, so determine this before doing anything. A democracy and a dictatorship will have different armies, for example. How? The latter will be extremely rigid, far more so than the other, including potentially no personal life at all. The military isn’t known for great freedom even in a democracy, but imagine how much worse it is in a totalitarian government.
Tip #2: “Create Symbols and Colors”
In the real world, we immediately recognize the symbols of the military and make judgments about anything emblazoned with them, from personnel uniforms to buildings and ships. Not creating these is unrealistic, while creating them takes only a minute.
Tip #3: “Decide How People Join”
Knowing what it takes to become a member helps us decide on skills or how elite a group is. This also creates a reputation for members. Are there prerequisites, like the ability to ride a horse or fly a ship? Are certain races forbidden/prized? What physical traits does one need? Can one acquire missing ones like improving strength? What sorts of tests must be passed and how many chances does one get? This adds pressure and pride/humiliation for those trying to join.
Tip #4: “Understand and Use Existing Ranks”
Know what a lieutenant, major, and colonel is in the army and their respective navy or air force counterparts, then use the same ranks and job functions, even if you change the titles for your world, which isn’t recommended. Only those in the military usually know these things and aren’t bored with them. Confusion (or exposition) is the only result of being clever here.
Tip #5: “What’s Their Reputation?”
We all think certain things of each military group in our sovereign power, and so do our characters of theirs, so decide what the group is known for. Are they respected? Feared? Do you pick a fight with one or avoid that? Are you impressed or scornful? This matters even when our characters are not from such a group, because they’ll often have to deal with those who are.
Summary of Chapter 3—Creating Armed Forces
Military groups like the army, navy, air/space force, and knights are a staple of both fantasy and SF. We can leverage existing ideas or craft our own. Doing so means deciding how someone joins and leaves a military group, including requirements, tests, and training. Some species and races might be forbidden or assigned special roles, and throughout history, famous members can inspire pride or loathing we can use. When devising military units and ranks, it helps to understand Earth analogues, so some basics are included in this chapter. The world view, uses, locations, place in society, and symbols are all important elements of memorable armed forces and this chapters covers them all.