Creating Military History - The Art of World Building
Oct 262020
 
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While we don’t need an extensive history on our armed forces group, some details make them realistic. We don’t have to say what caused them to exist; people will assume that a need led to it. If the military group and need is quite specific, such as dealing with a type of creature with unique abilities, then we might want to decide when and how it formed. What were these creatures doing en masse, and repeatedly, that made people realize a standing force of trained warriors to deal with them would be needed? The obvious answer is threatening a settlement/power or critical resources; there’s no reason to get fancy.

Decide how long ago they formed. We have three options: very recently (the last ten years), a long time ago (five hundred or more), and somewhere between. The latter is our default option when a formation period doesn’t matter to us. Truly old organizations are likely widespread, with strong history, meaning they’ve been influential in multiple major battles and wars. They have proven their value and are held in high esteem, with numerous legendary characters along their long history. By contrast, a very new group might not have been tested even once. They may be less trusted or relied upon. No heroes exist, or maybe one, who might be considered an anomaly. If going this route, our story likely features the formation of this group, so do this when the details of a group forming are of interest to you and you can make it a good story.

We may also want to decide where they formed. This is useful when trying to decide where they’ve spread to since inception, how long ago, and therefore how ingrained in society they are in different places. This allows us to create a little variety without much work. They will have spread out from this origin point in one or more directions. Using general population and the United States as an example, Europeans settled first on the east coast; as a result, despite hundreds of years passing, population is still denser than farther west, north in Canada, and even south – the directions people spread. A similar phenomenon can happen with a type of armed forces becoming popularized.

In worlds with flying or water-based ships, this gradual spread over the land may be supplemented with the relatively sudden appearance of these armed forces in locations far removed from locations already having them. The idea of them will have been brought with the travelers. Designate somewhere as “The birthplace of the knighthood,” for example, and then decide to where they spread. If we have a file for every sovereign power or kingdom, and have used the templates provided with these books, we’ll see an entry for “Armed Forces” for us to jot this down.

With the number of world building tasks before us, creating a history for a military group is one to keep brief. If we already have wars invented for the past, add a mention of their role. Some examples:

  • “They entered the Battle of Evermore late due to the distance to traverse, but they turned the tide and helped ensure victory, leading to their celebration as an elite force.”
  • “At the Battle of Evermore, they led the vanguard and were destroyed to a man in the first assault.”
  • “In a position of leadership throughout, their forces controlled the pace and tactics of battle, leading to yet another victory and an increase in their reputation as masters of warfare, without whom many evil regimes would dominate the land.”

We may also want to invent specific missions they undertook and whether they were successful. We need their objective, which can be stopping someone, recovering or destroying an important item, or rescuing someone. We’ll also state what they overcame, such as enemy, supernatural, or science fiction forces, and the ultimate outcome. If the mission augmented or damaged their reputation, say so. Remember to focus on what you can use in your work, what makes the group more believable, or both.

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