Jul 312018
 
Previous
Next

Episode 14.3: Learn How to Create Sovereign Powers

Listen as host Randy Ellefson concludes our talk about how to create sovereign power. Learn how population, location, climate, symbols, and tensions between a sovereign power and others can all enrich your kingdom, republic, dictatorship, and more. Why have them all be the same when little details can bring out the vividness?

Listen, Subscribe, and Review this episode of The Art of World Building Podcast on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, or Google Play Music!

In This Episode You’ll Learn:
  • How to determine what the population consists of regarding species/races, and how terrain impacts this
  • How to create variety in your population
  • How a sovereign power’s relationships with others or people within it can create more contrast
  • How to create symbols, colors, and flags to identify a sovereign power
  • How location impacts the way a power develops, and how you can leverage this to create believable details
  • How a power’s reputation is earned, changed, and viewed, and why characters will pay attention to this when traveling
  • Where to start with creating a sovereign power
Coda

Thanks so much for listening this week. Want to subscribe to The Art of World Building Podcast? Have some feedback you’d like to share? A review would be greatly appreciated!

Episode 14.3 Transcript
Intro

Hello and welcome to The Art of World Building Podcast, episode number fourteen, part three. Today’s topic is how population, location, climate, symbols, and tensions between a sovereign power and others can all enrich your kingdom, republic, dictatorship, and more. Why have them all be the same when little details can bring out the vividness? This material and more is discussed in chapter 5 of Creating Places, volume 2 in The Art of World Building book series.

Do you want practical advice on how to build better worlds faster and have more fun doing it? The Art of World Building book series, website, blog, and podcast will make your worlds beat the competition. This is your host, Randy Ellefson, and I have 30 years of world building advice, tips, and tricks to share. Follow along now at artofworldbuilding.com.

The Population

The first thing I want to talk about is the population of our sovereign power. After all, the people and our characters are the whole point. Something that’s fairly obvious once it’s been pointed out is that we should consider which species are likely to live there based on the land features that are available. For example, in fantasy, dwarves are typically living either in mountains or rolling hills. If our sovereign power is located almost exclusively on a grassland, then there probably aren’t going to be too many dwarves who call this their home. The same would be true of elves if we accept the idea that they prefer the forests.

On the other hand, if the sovereign power includes a territory that does have a forest or a mountain range or rolling hills, then the species that live in those are going to be more concentrated in that area. All of this is something to keep in mind when we are laying out a sovereign power. The great thing about it is that it’s a built in way of deciding where people are. The work is virtually done for us by the geography. All we need to say in our files of information or in our stories is that there is a certain type of terrain in a given area and, therefore, the dwarves, the elves or whoever are more commonly found in that area.

Let’s take a specific example of this. Let’s say that on the eastern side of this sovereign power that is mostly a plain, a grassland, there is a forest. But then, farther to the west, several hundred miles away, there is another, much larger forest where there are also elves. We might have a human character encounter an elf and wonder out loud, or even just in their own mind, “Okay, which forest is this guy from? Is he someone from my own sovereign power, or is he someone from that other forest that is several hundred miles away?”

One way he might be able to tell is if elves are accepted as a member of the sovereign power, then the elf might be wearing a symbol of some kind that identifies him as belonging to this sovereign power, especially if those other elves that are farther away are considered enemies. After all, he wouldn’t want to be mistaken for one of them. Then again, those elves that are farther away, and who are enemies, might purposefully figure out how to wear clothing that looks like this, and then infiltrate this sovereign power doing this, by pretending they are the elves that are from that area.

This is a pretty simple and effective way to give an impression of more dynamics to our setting. It also makes it easier to not have everywhere be just the same and some sort of generic place. When we are laying out a sovereign power, we might want to purposely include parts of different land features inside the borders of that sovereign power. Of course, one issue that could result is that there might be a forest that the elves believe belongs to them, but then part of that forest is seen as part of one sovereign power, and then another part of it is seen as belonging to yet another sovereign power, so that we sort of have three different groups who are claiming areas of this land.

Hopefully you remember from the previous episodes that if more than one sovereign power is claiming they are sovereign over a territory, that means that neither of them really are until one of them falls. So, all we really need to do here is decide that a land feature has a given species living in it and that another sovereign power has claimed some of that area as its own. If this other sovereign power has completely taken over or surrounded that land feature, then maybe those living in it consider themselves part of that sovereign power. But, either way, there could certainly still be some hostility going on here.

Another issue to bear in mind is that monster or other undesirable animals could be inside that land feature. As a result, even though that area has supposedly been conquered, there are things in there that are a problem for the people who are living in that general area. This is, once again, something that we can make use of because people from a given area of the sovereign power might be living near a dangerous land feature. Not because of the feature itself, necessarily, like a volcano that might erupt, but because of the things that live in that land feature, or are on it. Just as we consider one area of our own country to have a certain kind of weather or reputation, maybe that area of the sovereign power that is dangerous has a reputation because of what’s there.

Part of what I’m getting at with all of this is that we don’t really want a sovereign power that is just uniform across its entire territory. There should be areas that are seen as being one way versus another, and that there is contrast. This keeps things more interesting, and also realistic. Right now, we’re talking about population and type, but we can also do that with the weather. In other episodes, we talked about how climate can be different on one side of a continent versus the other because of things like prevailing winds. And this is something that we should make use of to create more variety. Now, when it comes to these undesirable creatures or monsters, our sovereign power could have specialized fighting forces who are experts at dealing with this. Naturally, these people might be trained and stationed in the area where they are going to encounter this problem.

We can also decide that this country is known for having people who are good at fighting this threat. Maybe there’s a training center there and maybe people from other sovereign powers that are friendly to this one come here for training and experience dealing with it. This can help give our characters some backstory. If we have a knight from one sovereign power, he could have spent time in another sovereign power gaining a certain kind of experience, and now it is years later and he is off on our story and he has a certain amount of world experience as a result of this. We could have him encounter a citizen from that sovereign power where they trained him, and he knows cultural things or even language issues and is able to relate to that person and say, “Oh, yeah. You know, I spent two years training at this city and this region where you’ve got these monsters,” or whatever. This is a great and believable way to add some diversity to our character and make it seem like people did not just grow up in a little fish bowl where they have no outside experience.

Maybe this knight even has a certain amount of reputation because he trained with those people, especially of those people have a reputation for being really good at fighting this problem. People can then look at our knight character and say, “Well, you must be really good at it, too. Maybe you can help us with the same creature here,” or, “We’ve got a similar one and you would be the most qualified. Therefore, we’re going to ask for your help in dealing with this.”

So, lack of uniformity in our sovereign power is a good thing. There’s a tendency among us human authors to create sovereign powers that were created by humans for humans, and where any other species that we have invented are just bit players on that stage. This might be something that we want to challenge. And in science fiction, that probably does get challenged a little bit more than in fantasy. I’m speculating, but the reason for this is likely the prevalence of aliens from different planets merging on some sort of moon or whatever. You know, there are these stations where people get together. There’s just all this interconnectivity that is assumed to be taking place. By contrast, we almost have more racism built in where everyone is holed up in their area and not wanting much to do with everybody else.

The elves are too snobby, or whatever. They’re elitists. I forget what the usual stereotype is for dwarves, but they basically stay underground. So, everyone’s got some sort of prejudice that keeps them there. The question is whether we want to continue doing this trope, or do we want to expand and do something new? Either way, we should decide who is in power in this sovereign power and what percentage of each population is. We probably don’t want to go with hard numbers because that’s not really going to translate for most people, and it also kind of binds us. It’s a little more flexible to just go with a percentage, like saying the dwarves are about 20% of the population, the elves are 15%, and maybe the humans are 54% and the rest is a hodgepodge of other things. I wasn’t paying attention to my math there, so hopefully I didn’t go over 100%, but you get the idea.

Something else to bear in mind is that whatever species created that settlement, they may not be the only ones who are in power anymore. This is going to depend on the age of the sovereign power or the settlements within that sovereign power. You may remember from the previous episodes that a given form of a sovereign power, its type of government, does not last forever. They come and go. It could be a kingdom one century and it could be a dictatorship for 20 years. It could then be a totalitarian government for another 30 years and then switch back to something like a constitutional monarchy, and then, later, it’s going to be a republic. So, this changes a lot. And each time the form of government changes, it’s possible that new species are more prevalent in this sovereign power.

The practical impact of this is that 200, or even 1,000 years ago, let’s say the elves were only a small percentage of the population. But now it’s 2,000 years later and they’re a much larger percentage of the population. When this newest form of government forms, maybe they are an inherent part of it and so are aspects of their culture. To me, this is a much more believable scenario, assuming that there is territory of this sovereign power that includes the typical elven homeland in this case. You know, the terrain of forests.

Now, we could be thinking that each time a sovereign power collapses, its territory gets divided up into smaller bits. And that can happen, but a new sovereign power can essentially take the place of the old one and have more or less the same territory. It might shrink a little bit, it might grow in one direction or another – literally one compass point or another – but it’s going to cover much of the same territory. The fact that a new government has taken over, and maybe renamed the country, doesn’t mean that the sovereign power as a whole has really vanished. It’s just kind of reinvented itself. In order for it to really vanish, you would have to bomb it off the face of the earth so that no one lives in that entire territory anymore.

So, it’s still going to be there. The people that made up the previous incarnation of this sovereign power will still make up the new incarnation of this sovereign power. If we’ve got a mix of species, like elves, dwarves and humans, and some sort of outside force conquered this sovereign power, but then didn’t have the armed forces to maintain control over it and left, those species that were there before are still there, and they’re going to need a new form of government. When they form that, they may still do so together. They’re not necessarily going to be just the humans forming it, and the others have no say. If they’ve been around for a while, then maybe they’ve changed their minds about how they want to do things and they are more inclusive.

You know, this does happen. People don’t necessarily just shove people out. What I’m talking about there, by shoving people out, is excluding them from the new government. If it’s going to be a more authoritative state, then maybe they do. But if it’s going to be a new form of democracy or like a federal republic, then those are more inclusive by nature. And this is how we’re going to end up with laws that say, “Yes, the elves can be elected prime minister,” for example. And if you’re thinking it’s only elves who are going to be pushing for that, that’s not necessarily true. In the United States, the founders tried to make things inclusive from the very beginning. This has mostly lasted since then, although it has had problems and challenges. But the basic vision of inclusion was created by white men where they wanted to give more rights to others.

Now, some of that wasn’t there in the beginning. Eventually, women had to be given more rights, like voting rights, and others had to be given more rights. But the basic idea of the country being inclusive was there from its founding. So, even though white men arguably founded the country, or were involved in creating the documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, today, we’ve had a black president and it’s been a really long fight to get to that point. But this is the kind of thing that we can do in our sovereign powers that we are inventing.

What I’m getting at here is that we should decide who invented the sovereign power a long time ago, and then how things have changed as time has progressed, and who was involved in the new formation of the sovereign power, and what kind of rights do they have? In order to do that, we need to understand our population. And, in order to do that, we should have an idea of what land features are included in our sovereign power’s territory.

More Resources

If you’re looking for more world building resources, Artofworldbuilding.com has most of what you need. This includes more podcasts like this one, and free transcripts if you’d prefer to read an episode.

You can also find more information on all three volumes of The Art of World Building series, which is available in eBook, print, and audiobook formats. Much of the content of those books is available on the website for free.

You can also join the mailing list at artofworldbuilding.com/newsletter. This gets you free, reusable templates from each published volume in the series. You don’t even need to buy the books to get these. I also send out contest information, free tips, and other stuff to help with your efforts. Please note I do not share your email address with anyone as that’s against my privacy policy, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Sign up today to get your free content and take your world building to the next level.

Relations with Other Sovereign Powers

Since we’ve been talking about relationships within a sovereign power, let’s talk about that a little bit more and how that can be affected by relationships with other sovereign powers. All good stories need tension, and even in the gaming world, we need to have reason for our characters to go from one place to another. So, let’s talk about causes of tension.

The first up is going to be ethnicity. This is similar to racism and is an unfortunate reality that we can use in our work. If we’d prefer not to include this in our work, then it’s better to not comment on it at all and just ignore it than to actually comment on it and say that there is no ethnic hatred because that’s not really realistic. It’s a nice end state that maybe humanity or other species of our invention will one day get to, but we’re not there and I doubt it’s going to happen any time, even on fictional worlds. But if you don’t want to do anything with ethnic hatred, then just ignore the subject rather than saying, “Hey, everyone gets along fine,” because that’s not realistic. It’s also not interesting.

In general, with ethnic hatred, what happens is that unfavorable attributes, such as character, are assigned to a group of people who usually share physical traits, and that makes them easier to physically identify on sight. Usually, we’re talking about facial features like the shape and size of the nose, or the eyebrows, the jaw, even the mouth. Really anything. In a world with fictional species, we can use other features that are more prominent, like the pointed ears of elves or a lot of the brow ridges that you see on characters in something like Star Trek.

So, if you want to create ethnic hatred, one of the things that you can do is just decide that people in a given region of your world have certain physical features. There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason for those. It’s just going to be the way it is. What I mean is that those features are not going to have anything to do with where they live. It’s just that people who have those features have congregated in that area for a certain amount of time, and now they are associated with that area and they are an actual ethnic group. People typically just assign negative character traits to a group of people with whom they have experienced tension before. It might have been some sort of dispute, and it could have been anything from cultural to ideological, or something based on the form of government.

We almost don’t need to do a deep dive into this. We could decide that one culture is really big on personal freedom, and another one is not. And, as a result, they really have a problem with the way those manifest in each other. And, as a result, they have associated that form of government with bad behavior, for example, in their opinion, and associated that with the physical features. So, therefore, it becomes not just a general hatred, but a hatred that is associated with the ethnicity of the people who exhibit those physical traits and those behaviors.

As usual, we can take analogues from Earth, whether that’s an actual ethnic issue from Earth or something cultural that we’ve decided to assign to one ethnic group versus another. For example, abortion rights and even gun rights are hot issues. So is homosexuality and whether this is accepted. All we really need to do is assign one side of this argument to one group, and the other side to the other group, and associate this with ethnicity because of physical features and have it be a more localized issue. That’s how that comes about. You know, in our modern world, we’re also interconnected, so these are not issues that have anything to do with ethnic groups. It’s a more widespread issue than that. But we can do the same thing on a more local region, and that’s how it becomes an ethnic issue.

This brings up another source of tension that can happen with a sovereign power, or between one and another. And that is the worldview. We can use countries on Earth, again, as examples. For example, we have some that are known for being democracies and others that are known for being these authoritative regimes that are really brutal to people. Something that can happen is that countries can end up fighting proxy wars. For example, the United States likes to see democracy spread. So, sometimes we assist other countries in becoming a democracy.

By contrast, communist countries have typically supported each other for the same reason. At times, we’ve had the United States propping up one country, and another country, like Russia, propping up a different one and turning this into a kind of proxy war where the United States and Russia are not going at each other directly. They are fighting each other ideologically through countries that each one of them is supporting.

Another source of conflict is resources. Earlier, I talked to you about having a forest that is partially or completely inside a given sovereign power. Well, what if there’s something in that forest, whether it’s the trees or something special that we’ve invented, and it’s rare and, therefore, the sovereign power has total control of it, or at least partial control of it, and somebody else wants that thing? Well, now we’ve got a source of conflict. This is another thing to bear in mind when you are laying out where your sovereign power’s borders are.

On that note, territory is another source of conflict. Aside from the obvious reason we were just discussing, it could be an issue where something like a landlocked sovereign power wants access to the sea and it can’t get to it unless it conquers another territory. Of course, if both sovereign powers in question are democracies, then maybe they work together in a more peaceful way. But if one of them is totalitarian, like a dictatorship, and the democracy is the one that has the access to the sea, it’s probable that the totalitarian government is going to attack instead of negotiate. Unless it’s going to do something like build up its nuclear weapons, for example, using an example on Earth, and say, “Hey, we’re only going to give up these weapons if you give us access to the sea.”

This is the kind of thing that goes on in the real world where sometimes countries build up an arsenal not because they’re intending to use it, but as a bargaining chip. It’s always smart to go into negotiations with something to trade.

Patreon Support

For those of you who support crowdfunding, I am on the patreon site and would appreciate any support you can lend. It can be just $1 a month. Higher levels of support get you increasingly cool things, such as PDF transcripts, mp3s of my music, which you hear in these episodes, free eBooks and short stories, book marks, and even signed copies of books and CDs of my music. Many of these are unavailable to the public.

Your support can help me cover the expenses of producing the show. Even better, you can help me promote it and make it more successful. Without you, there’s no point in doing this.

Are you benefitting from this free podcast? If so, just go to www.artofworldbuilding.com and click the big icon for patreon. Thanks for your support!

Identifying Sovereign Powers

Let’s take up one of the easier subjects in world building, and that is the different ways that we can identify our sovereign powers. Sometimes it feels like there’s a lot of research or other things we need to do and spend a lot of time on something, but this is one area of world building that we can just do one at a time or in batches and just kind of quickly get this done and move on. It’s relatively lightweight. What we’re talking about here are symbols, flags and even slogans like you might have seen in Game of Thrones. These are used to identify a sovereign power. Of course, they can also be used to identify smaller units like a settlement.

On one hand, this is a minor subject, but the symbols are important exactly because they are symbols. We can create a brooding, intimidating symbol for an authoritarian power, and then something that’s a little more welcoming for a democracy. These symbols will be emblazoned on things like ships or battle stations or the walls of a castle or just the flag that’s flying overhead. They can also be incorporated into the uniforms that characters are wearing. Along with the colors, these symbols are a good way of quickly getting across an impression. This is one of our great uses for them as storytellers.

That said, I do think this is something that should be invented later in your development of a sovereign power because you’re going to want to understand what your sovereign power is like and what it may represent to other people before going too far with something like this. However, you can always change your mind. If you decide that your symbol is really cool but maybe it doesn’t go with the sovereign power you originally associated it with, you can just take it off and put it on another one, provided you haven’t actually published something using that.

The goal of any identifier we choose is to not only identify that power, but to embody or portray a fundamental trait of that power. And they can inspire fear, loathing, love, indifference, or they can also be a rallying cry during a war. And when our characters are traveling and they are going to arrive somewhere, they’re going to be on the lookout for these symbols. And failure to mention them is a bit of an oversight. Imagine, even on Earth, if you were on a boat in the ocean and a ship was approaching you, and it was a military one, would you be looking to see what country it belonged to? Because if it’s from Russia or the United States, that could have a very different impact on what’s going to happen to you.

When it comes to symbols, these may change each time the sovereign power itself changes. In fact, this is more likely than not because the new government wants a literal symbol of the fact that it is a new government and it’s not the previous one. There’s been a change. Of course, they could also change the name of the country, for example, but it’s still going to want a symbol. But it doesn’t have to change, especially if the symbol is something that is very cherished to the people. Also, if the symbol is a geographic feature like a mountain that’s distinctive, then that’s probably not going to change if that mountain is still within the territory of the sovereign power.

That brings up an interesting scenario of that land feature being in a territory that has been conquered by another sovereign power, and now the symbol of this sovereign power is located in another sovereign power. That’s probably going to be a big point of pride and something that really bothers people. Bear in mind that an authoritative government is going to have a more intimidating and bold symbol, and even the colors, to imply the impression and dominance of that government power. Even the architecture in such a sovereign power can reflect the attitude of the people who are in control. On the other hand, a democracy might want softer colors and a less threatening and more inclusive symbol.

We should be sure to make a comment about the impression that any symbol we invent makes. If we just say that it’s a hawk, that doesn’t really tell us what it looks like. It could be depicted in a benign position, or one where it’s kind of attacking, or one where it looks majestic. These differences are pretty important. When it comes to color, a domineering government is going to choose a primary color such as red. They can also use things like black and white because these are fairly stark. Colors certainly come into play when it comes to flags because many of the simplest flags here on Earth are simply a horizontal stripe of one or more colors.

These colors don’t have to signify anything to us, but it’s always better, of course, if they do. Although, the average person often forgets what the colors may mean. I think that this is one area of world building that we can usually skip because the average person reading our work is not going to care what the colors mean. What they care about is the impression. Bear in mind that the flags should be relatively easy to depict. Because, in our modern world, we have machines that can create really elaborate designs, but you may have noticed that most flags are not that involved. That’s probably because they’re very old when it was relatively easy to sow together two or three different horizontal stripes that are each in a different color in order to make a flag.

So, if we’re doing fantasy where the technology is not like our modern world, we might want to go with pretty simple flags. But if we’re doing science fiction where technology is far in excess of what we have here, then we may want to go with something that’s a little bit more elaborate. The more advanced it is, the harder it is for the average person to depict that flag.

Subscribe

So let’s talk about how to subscribe to this podcast. A podcast is a free, downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go. To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone, iPad, and iPod listeners, grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes Store and search for The Art of World Building. This will help you to download the free podcast app, which is produced by Apple, and then subscribe to the show from within that app. Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right onto your device.

For Android listeners, you can download the Stitcher radio app, which is free, and search for The Art of World Building.

This only needs to be done once and at that point, you will never miss an episode.

The Impact of Location

I want to say a few words about the location of our sovereign power because, as the old adage goes, location is everything. We’ve already talked about how land features can influence this, but I want to go into this a little bit more. The example that I’m going to use first is that if we have an island nation, then this can really impact the culture that originates in that place because they are going to be relying on the sea not only for transportation, but for things like fish. As a result, they might be not only very good at sailing, but they might be explorers.

On one hand, this is so obvious that it almost seems like a cliché, but it’s also so obvious that it would not make sense to not do this. However, if that nation is relatively young, it may not have the industry to really build ships to do that. And, as a result, it might be the kind of place that is easily conquered by others who do have that industry and the resulting skill at sailing. They also might not be good at fighting, so that they get conquered even though they are good at sailing. So, on one hand, the fact that they might do a lot of sailing could suggest that they are a seafaring power and that they’re someone to be feared on the seas, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. They could also be a victim.

Something else we can also leverage is the proximity to the equator. Here on Earth, we still need to use the equator to help us lift off into space. The reason for this is that it’s easier to get to that kind of altitude if we are closer to the equator because the Earth is spinning faster there. In science fiction, we could decide that the engines are so powerful that this is no longer a concern, or we could decide that the world that we’re creating is a little bit more like our modern one where they still need to use certain kinds of rockets that benefit from being close to the equator. One scenario that can be helpful here is that if a sovereign power wants to launch something into space, but it’s not near enough to the equator, then it’s probably going to want to form alliances with a sovereign power that does have that territory.

I hope one thing that you’re picking up from all of this is the way we can create allegiances and enemies with sovereign powers based on terrain and location. We can also decide to use the landscape as a way of characterizing the sovereign power itself, and even justifying the forms of government that have been found there. It’s a bit simplistic, and almost a cliché, to say that a foreboding and intimidating landscape, like a desert, is therefore going to give rise to a totalitarian or authoritative government, but the idea does have some appeal. The idea is that the landscape is harsh and, therefore, so are the people. On the other hand, if it’s more like a paradise, then maybe everyone is kind of soft and the government is benevolent.

The climate might also affect this. For example, if the sovereign power is centered right over the equator, then it’s going to be pretty hot and rainy. Therefore, people are not going to be wearing heavy, long clothes. As a result, something like a man wearing a full suit of plate armor might be relatively uncommon and just not part of what they do there because that’s hot, it’s heavy and it’s not something you’re really going to wear in that climate. This is not to say that it can’t be done, but that is something that originated on Earth in colder climates. Actually, that may not be true. I haven’t really looked into that, but it does seem plausible.

We should also pay attention to how easy it is to access this sovereign power. If it’s very mountainous, then maybe people have a hard time getting there. This could also inhibit people from successfully attacking it in war unless they are doing so from the air. These are things to keep in mind because you might expect the military in such a place to not focus so much on ground forces, but on aerial forces for defense. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, it’s likely that there’s more than one terrain in this sovereign power. So, different areas of it are going to be impacted in different ways. This means that those who are really good at flying on great birds of prey might be doing so in one area of the region, and found frequently there, but on another area, where it’s mostly plains, they may not be in use. Or they actually still could be because it’s still a fast way to get around.

As long as we have a justification that makes sense, we can kind of do what we want here. Sometimes it’s a good idea, again, to have variety for not only different kinds of terrain, but different kinds of skillsets and peoples who are found there.

Review

If you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate and review the show at artofworldbuilding.com/review. Reviews really are critical to encouraging more people to listen to a show haven’t heard of before, and it can also help the show rank better, allowing more people to discover it. Again, that URL is artofworldbuilding.com/review.

Our Power’s Reputation

The last subject I want to cover before we close out and talk about where to start is the reputation of our sovereign power. All countries have a reputation for one thing or another. A single dictatorship might have the same reputation among two different democracies, or it might have different ones. More importantly, a dictatorship will view a dictatorship differently than a democracy will view that dictatorship. Now, if that’s starting to seem like a lot of work to make up all those viewpoints and reputations among different ones, we don’t really need to do that. We just need to do the one that we’re going to actually use.

Granted, if we have a character from a democracy and a character from a dictatorship who have become friends, and they’re approaching another dictatorship, each one of them might have a different attitude about what’s going on there and what the reputation of that place is. But this is not a scenario that we usually use. That’s the scenario where you are going to have to worry about this. So, I’m going to read off a quick list here of things that a country might have a reputation for.

One of them could be a mad king. It could be slavery, whether they have slaves or whether they are the source of exported slaves. It could have a reputation for spacecraft design or a type of man-o-war ship. Maybe it’s a reputation for raiders, like the Vikings, or conquerors, individuals like Genghis Khan. Maybe there are unique plants and animals or products, or a war that seems to never end. It could be known for superior weapons, armor, technology or other devices. And they could have really powerful wizards, or maybe wizards are banned altogether in that sovereign power. So, you can make up your own list of things that we can give a reputation for, and these are things that we might want to choose based on the story that we are going to tell.

Where to Start

So, let’s conclude by talking about where to start. Creating a sovereign power is a really big subject. So much so that it has taken three different podcast episodes to cover much of what is included in the Creating Life book about this. And there are some things that I did not cover. When getting started, we can often do things in different orders, but, I think, with a sovereign power, we should first decide on a very big picture item, which is, this supposed to be a force for good or for evil? Because that’s probably one of the two ways we’re going to use it.

Once we decide this, we can then choose the form of government because a force for evil is going to have a more restrictive, authoritarian government, and a force for good is most likely going to have a more democratic one. Next, we should really think about where on the continent it lies because that’s going to determine any other sovereign powers that we’ve already invented and the kinds of conflicts that are going on between them. It’s also going to determine what land features are included or near that sovereign power. And that, in turn, will also impact what kind of resources that are there, and potentially some of the conflicts and the population makeup in different parts of our sovereign power and overall.

And, lastly, we can start worrying about some of the simpler items like the identifiers, the customs and the languages that are found there. Creating a sovereign power is actually one of the more fun things if you have a pretty good idea on how to go about it. And I would recommend signing up for The Art of World Building newsletter, if you haven’t already, and getting the free template that walks you through filling out all of this.

Closing

All of this show’s music is actually courtesy of yours truly, as I’m also a musician. The theme song is the title track from my Some Things are Better Left Unsaid album, but now we’re closing out today’s show with a song from my album The Lost Art called “Loeillet de Gant, Sonata No. 1, Second Movement.” You can hear more at RandyEllefson.com. Check out artofworldbuilding.com for free templates to help with your world building. And please rate and review the show in iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Previous
Next

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: