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How Location Affects Armed Forces

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Aug 172020
 

Specific relations with settlements and sovereign powers, or even regions of land, can be determined in the world building files devoted to those. Large forces like an army are comprised of people throughout a power, but they’ll have military bases in specific communities. This will be strategic locations and often large population centers, so if we’ve created a map or otherwise decided where major settlements are, this decision can be made for us.

Smaller forces like a knighthood may exist anywhere there’s a need, including in or near smaller settlements. It is these that we may be to decide on a case-by-case basis for which communities have them in quantities beyond the lone person. Assess the threats posed by animals, monsters, and species found in each land feature (such as mountains and forests) near a settlement; armed forces are designed to protect against such threats.

Terrain

Creating Places (The Art of World Building, #2) taught about the different varieties of terrain: open land, forests, hills, mountains, deserts, and swamps/jungles. Few military groups operate equally well over these terrains, and not at all in some. This helps us decide how commonly encountered they are. Terrain also impacts their transportation choices. For your files, state what types of terrain they’re found in or what sort of encumbrance they experience if traveling there, such as being slowed down or having to go around.

For example, horsemen would be stopped by a jungle, but a savannah would be more like open land; the difference is underbrush. We don’t need to note how they fare in every forest type. Instead, state that underbrush and low branches slow them and that the latter can also impede the use of certain weapons like the sword, leading them to use shorter blades. We may need to remind ourselves of their reduced effectiveness in certain conditions so we can more realistically portray and use them. They may become known for one, which may have led to their development. Horsemen excel at open land, whereas a force that rides dragons or large birds might specialize in mountains because they can fly over the terrain that hampers others.

Multiple species help us because each may be helped or hindered by different terrain. Imagine our armed forces reaching a jungle and stopping because the humans on their horses can’t continue, which prompts a recruitment effort seeking out members of a species which can. This is unlikely to be a secret, leading to open acknowledgement of the need and role these species fill. Maybe every squadron of these horseman is expected or required to have them.

These terrain decisions help us determine where the armed forces are found. A city surrounded by jungle won’t have a cavalry at all, but one with open plains in every direction certainly will. A mixed-terrain settlement will utilize the most appropriate group based on circumstance. This can also lead the population to think more highly of one group than another, namely the one seen as more responsible for protecting them. That can cause tensions and resentment among rival military groups. All of this adds believability and layering to our setting. It’s easy to create a character who belongs to one group and has an attitude about anyone from the other group. The amount of each territory within their jurisdiction aids the decision.

Armed Forces – Getting Started

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Aug 132020
 

Military groups like knights, cavalry, and star fighters will exist in our setting whether we invent and mention them or not. However, not creating these is a significant oversight Some will become an army, navy, or air force (or space force), each possibly comprised of multiple specialty groups. We might also need to create them for other species who have very different ideas. World builders often resort to generic groups that are not well-defined, even if characters from those groups are major characters.

Well-crafted groups can add believable tension and detail to a setting and achieving this is the goal of this chapter. As with many subjects, it’s possible to invent far more than we can realistically use, but as with character back story, inventing some items helps us portray the world. This chapter includes a set of items to develop, but world builders are encouraged to decide on which aspects to invent, based on story needs or preference.

We must decide what type of group we’re defining. Is this the navy, air force, or army, for example? We can ask what purpose they serve, but the military is typically for both protection and conquest, as needed. Once we know which type we’re creating, this will help make other decisions discussed in this chapter.

Virtually all armed forces work for a sovereign power. This means that, in a story with two different kingdoms, for example, we might need two armies; this is needed if we’ll use characters from either and those details inform our plot or characterizations. This could become overwhelming to invent, so we must be realistic and only create what we need.

The type of government will impact much about this group. An oppressive one will provide a strict environment, including mandatory service, while another might have far more freedom, at least when people are off duty. It’s a mistake to create a military group without understanding the government that controls them. Creating Places (The Art of World Building, #2), went into details on many government types and it’s recommended to become familiar with them and their likely impact on all aspects of life.

Where to Start with Organizations

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Aug 102020
 

The first decision with organizations is to determine whether most people view them as basically good or evil. We should decide how we intend to use them, such as being allies or foes of our main characters. Are they on the same side of a conflict but with different value systems, or in genuine opposition? Decide their goals and the tactics used to achieve them, as this determines reputation. We can then envision past actions and start creating the history, including an inception point. The power structure and how members join and exit can come later, as can a decision about who else is their friend or enemy. Be sure to decide on a symbol and use other considerations found in appendix two.

How People Join or Exit a Group

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Aug 062020
 

Once the group exists, we should decide the circumstances under which it may accept or reject members. The larger the role this group plays in our story, the more we benefit from this. A character from one will be aware of possibly being ejected for a failure while another may be determined to prove he’s worthy to have been accepted. A more established character may be involved in the inner circle or aspire to be. All of this helps us create depth.

Joining

Accomplishing deeds in line with the group’s goals may prompt an invitation to join, with possibly repeated recruitment attempts. The organization will need a sales pitch, so decide what benefits they’re offering someone. Is it safety (in numbers), intel, prestige, allies, or better rates of success? Some are material concerns, but there might also be philosophical benefits of a world view strengthened by joining with others of like mind. Is there a problem someone seeks to alleviate by joining? This can be lack of supplies, high failure rate of their own missions, great danger, or anything that being alone in a pursuit exposes oneself to. We’ll have people joining an organization for different reasons, which can also create internal conflict when some are more interested in one aspect than another. We can imagine someone stating that they’re here only for the money while another character scorns them for not supporting the group’s grand vision more.

Existing members can recommend new members, though this may require having their own membership settled; a new member’s recommendation may not carry much weight. This provides an opportunity for conflict if the suggested person behaves poorly and casts a bad light on the guy who vouched for him.

What causes someone to be accepted or rejected? Informal groups often don’t have formal tests, so someone may join on probation of a certain length, and a certain number of missions. They may be assigned to work with one or more people who have responsibility for them, any of them able to give a recommendation to the group’s leaders about membership. During that time, it’s likely that the organization’s secrets will remain unknown to this person, and even upon acceptance, only the inner circle may know certain things.

What happens if candidacy is rejected? This may depend on how quickly this happens and whether the group is benevolent or nefarious. We can see an evil organization killing a failed recruit or sending them on a suicide mission; in the latter case, what if they survive? They may be forced to commit serious crimes and failure results in expulsion or death. A good organization is more likely to let someone walk away peacefully and have tests that amount to matters of character, judgment, and ability to support the group, including following orders. A group intending to physically fight might require skills tests. A supernatural group might need a display of talents.

Leaving

People will leave an organization for many reasons that we don’t need to invent here. We only need to decide how the group handles departures.

For evil ones, we can make this simple in that exiting means death. This might be a well-kept secret or one visibly demonstrated. This is an easy way to characterize them early in a story, such as showing a minor character earning this fate. It can shed light on why a more important character intends to disappear instead, possibly faking their death. Or maybe the important character tries to kill everyone else in the group, knowing they’ll be hunted forever if they don’t. We can also have their mind erased or a similar act that safeguards the group’s secrets.

With good organizations, such tactics are highly unlikely. Members are free to depart at any time, though they may incur a debt that needs repayment or which the group could waive. If they’re truly valuable, they may be talked into a temporary departure, but informal groups likely aren’t insisting that someone’s decision is irreversible.

Regardless of group type, a member may not have been important enough to warrant much concern about their exit. An inner circle member is more likely to face scrutiny. This could include inquiries into their motivation. Loss of life or limbs is a risk to many groups. A member can become disillusioned with the group’s stated goals, or exhibit behavior that goes against it. A change in leadership can result in unwanted changes, especially if it’s a coup. During these, factions might appear, leading to infighting and death. These are some issues to consider when creating a history.

Organization History

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Aug 032020
 

While the group can be new, one with a history creates depth. This should include the formation story of how, why and where the group originated, and what actions they’ve attempted to do, why, and the result, both for themselves and those impacted by their existence and efforts.

Origins

A group’s location will influence their origins. We can use any regional conflicts to inspire their rise. If two sovereign powers are at war, for example, we should know what each wants, why, and the tactics used to pursue it. Do they force people to serve in the military? Do they commit war crimes? Are they harming people and livelihoods? Is injustice being forced on the population? Are riches (like access to a mine) being withheld by one power to the detriment of the other? Any of these and others can inspire opposition that leads multiple individuals to ban together and form an organization.

Another option is a weak king who lets forces overrun his kingdom, or an evil warlord threatening destruction, or a supernatural phenomenon that must be contained. These are events that thrust people into action, and when they realize others want to take the same actions, the group arises. War might trigger groups’ creation in other ways; for example, if it ends, leaving something the group considers unfinished business. For example, maybe the “evil” army is defeated, but many groups that comprised it are still extant. This group will go on a search and destroy mission, the first of many. Others might admire this and join the group.

The group may arise from a shared philosophy about what is right and wrong in the world, whether that’s inspired by specific events or not. Each individual will largely agree with the group’s outlook. Such a group may form in peaceful times, where social injustice is in their sights to correct. The group may exist informally before an event triggers them into becoming a more serious organization.

Actions

No history is complete without attempts, successful or not, to achieve the group’s goals. Create a half dozen attempts with a mixture of failure and success. Have they fought in battles with others? Just on their own? What famous incidents are attributed to them or foiled by them? Both failure and success should result in the death of members, only a few of whom might be noteworthy. Others outside the group will also have died, including members and leaders of opposing groups, warriors, wizards, and civilians. The latter may be inspired to join this group’s enemies. All will have left a mark on someone, somewhere. Lives might also be saved and cause similar recruitment or supporters.

Some actions may only partially get their ultimate goal, which allows us to grant some success without eliminating the need for their continued existence (if that goal makes them disband). For example, an organization dedicated to keeping powerful magic items out of the wrong hands might perpetually be recovering and storing them. If there’s a wizard cabal that keeps causing trouble, this can cause multiple events. If we want the group gone, killing them in one way, but a more peaceful end means their goal might’ve been realized, but sometimes a new group arises from the ashes of the old.

Power Structures

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Jul 302020
 

Knowing how our invented organization operates has much to do with the power structure. World builders and audiences gain much from having clarity about this. While some groups have a leader, others are run by an inner circle and others might have member votes. Nevertheless, a single leader, even a figurehead, can be useful, speak for the group, and do things like break a tie. Power struggles within an inner circle can be useful for tension; they may arise from the lack of formal structure we’d see in the military.

Power comes in many forms, such as physical or supernatural might. This may be more prized in evil organizations, a leader possibly chosen by killing a previous one. That might cause fear that keeps people in line in an evil group, but likely causing dissention in a good group, where intellect might be more favored.

Wealth can be power when properties are acquired, such as a group’s headquarters. For the rich, this can confer power over the group unless it can choose another HQ. Money can also purchase supplies, whether weapons, armor, transportation, or basic necessities. It can buy spies and corrupt officials. But others might covet it, putting the individual at risk. Some groups won’t respect it. And wealth can be lost.

Connections and influence are impossible to steal and difficult to acquire. Influencing those outside the group, such as political leaders, tends to be for older people, who’ve had time to forge relationships over decades. Within the group, anyone could forge influential connections, making others see them as a leader, despite not being an official one.

Mental acuity can be prized in leaders, especially in good organizations, where leaders rely on input, showing respect for those they disagree with and giving kudos to those whose ideas help, which increases loyalty. They can become the leader even if someone else has more money, connections, or physical strength. This power cannot easily be taken from them. They conceive great plans that further the group’s goals and foresee flaws in others’ plans.

Aside from leadership roles, the rest of the group may have no defined structure beyond an inner circle, who earn that place through the influences just discussed. New recruits may be treated differently, but once accepted beyond a probationary period, the new individuals may be on their own to form allies within the organization. Unless we have a specific reason for being detailed with group structure, such as writing a story about someone’s time joining a group, participating, and eventually departing, a non-structured group is a good choice.

Organization Relationships

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Jul 272020
 

Whether individuals, species, kingdoms, or other groups, the organization we’re inventing will have friends and enemies. We might need to draft several groups before deciding their relationships, but whenever we’re deciding what they support, think of who that might upset into forming an opposition group. Sometimes one group will indeed inspire another’s formation and, if the second destroys the first, it may no longer have a reason for being unless it has found more purpose elsewhere. Creating multiple reasons for a group’s continued existence is wise as organizations have more usefulness to us and seem more well-rounded than focusing on the destruction of another group.

An organization with more than one purpose can result in multiple friends and enemies. At times, a hostile group might even become an ally, which makes for dynamic settings. Doing this requires having a clear understanding of the group’s goals, passions, and beliefs. A list of gripes about the misdeed of others, and actions to right those wrongs, or uphold positive ideas, will suggest people who oppose or support them. Do they thwart or respect authority of nations and other groups? What does the average person in their region think of them? Other regions? Are they a symbol of something? Are they feared or respected? Much of this is about their history.

Organization Goals

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Jul 232020
 

Whether evil or good, group members have certain things in common. Invent a symbol or traditional colors, and whether anything is given upon joining, such as a tattoo or medallion. These can cause quick reactions among characters and are a fast way to reveal who someone is.

Every group wants something. Knowing their objective is crucial. We must also define the current state of their goals, so we know how far or close they are and how they feel about this.

Object Control

Sometimes a group’s goal is an object they can hold in their hand, like treasure or a device, but only a few may be able to literally do so. If the object has religious or supernatural significance, then obtaining, recovering, or protecting it can be a goal, but additional motives may apply.

What will the group do once the coveted item is obtained? Use it for something or just possess it? The latter isn’t particularly interesting. Money is typically used to buy other things, but members could have different plans for their share of the loot, assuming it’s not seen as belonging to the group. If it’s divvied up, the group may disband unless a desire for more keeps them together. If it’s an item to only possess and not use, why will the group stay together after getting it? They might need other reasons, such as undertaking missions. This is true of a good group that wants to confiscate dangerous items and prevent usage by evil groups.

Land Possession

Land can be great appeal for security, strategy, or to control assets like a mine. A religion’s followers may seek to control and preserve a holy site or use it to interact with a god; a real-life example is the Middle East conflict over Jerusalem. Using territory as a group’s goals is problematic because disputes over land are typically between sovereign powers or settlements, not groups that, by their nature, might be more mobile. The solution is to having them working to benefit a power through that acquisition. They can be officially sanctioned (or not) by that power, able to perform acts the power can’t do openly. A group can also deliberately destroy diplomacy to cause war.

Power

While power can be a group’s goal, it’s usually a means to an end. It’s a cliché of poor storytelling for a villain (or his henchmen) to want nothing more. It makes them cartoonish. Make sure there’s a more complex goal than this, as power only works in the short-term, such as ensuring the survival of the group or individuals within it.

Upholding Ideas

Many groups have philosophical or religious reasons for existing. They want to uphold the virtues they’ve learned. This can mean either promoting those ideas or destroying those who defy them. Intolerance is a staple of humanity; an invented species can be different, which can allow us to comment on this aspect of humans. Whether good or evil, such groups and their members are often willing to risk their lives for the cause.

We may need gods and religions for this, but general-outlook philosophies can work. Examples of the latter can include believing in equal rights (for all genders, races, and more), abolishing slavery, spreading democracy, and ending the abuse by aristocracies. We may have philosophers like Plato or Socrates who have imagined ideal states that inspire groups. The advantage of using gods as inspiration is that each will have a vision their followers support and which can become the basis of multiple groups, which is easy with a pantheon where the gods are divided by their chief areas of concern. But consider how many religions and groups arose on Earth, with a single god.

How to Decide on Group Goals

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Jul 162020
 

Whether evil or good, group members have certain things in common. Invent a symbol or traditional colors, and whether anything is given upon joining, such as a tattoo or medallion. These can cause quick reactions among characters and are a fast way to reveal who someone is. Every group wants something. Knowing their objective is crucial. We must also define the current state of their goals, so we know how far or close they are and how they feel about this.

Object Control

Sometimes a group’s goal is an object they can hold in their hand, like treasure or a device, but only a few may be able to literally do so. If the object has religious or supernatural significance, then obtaining, recovering, or protecting it can be a goal, but additional motives may apply.

What will the group do once the coveted item is obtained? Use it for something or just possess it? The latter isn’t particularly interesting. Money is typically used to buy other things, but members could have different plans for their share of the loot, assuming it’s not seen as belonging to the group. If it’s divvied up, the group may disband unless a desire for more keeps them together. If it’s an item to only possess and not use, why will the group stay together after getting it? They might need other reasons, such as undertaking missions. This is true of a good group that wants to confiscate dangerous items and prevent usage by evil groups.

Land Possession

Land can be great appeal for security, strategy, or to control assets like a mine. A religion’s followers may seek to control and preserve a holy site or use it to interact with a god; a real-life example is the Middle East conflict over Jerusalem. Using territory as a group’s goals is problematic because disputes over land are typically between sovereign powers or settlements, not groups that, by their nature, might be more mobile. The solution is to having them working to benefit a power through that acquisition. They can be officially sanctioned (or not) by that power, able to perform acts the power can’t do openly. A group can also deliberately destroy diplomacy to cause war.

Power

While power can be a group’s goal, it’s usually a means to an end. It’s a cliché of poor storytelling for a villain (or his henchmen) to want nothing more. It makes them cartoonish. Make sure there’s a more complex goal than this, as power only works in the short-term, such as ensuring the survival of the group or individuals within it.

Upholding Ideas

Many groups have philosophical or religious reasons for existing. They want to uphold the virtues they’ve learned. This can mean either promoting those ideas or destroying those who defy them. Intolerance is a staple of humanity; an invented species can be different, which can allow us to comment on this aspect of humans. Whether good or evil, such groups and their members are often willing to risk their lives for the cause.

We may need gods and religions for this, but general-outlook philosophies can work. Examples of the latter can include believing in equal rights (for all genders, races, and more), abolishing slavery, spreading democracy, and ending the abuse by aristocracies. We may have philosophers like Plato or Socrates who have imagined ideal states that inspire groups. The advantage of using gods as inspiration is that each will have a vision their followers support and which can become the basis of multiple groups, which is easy with a pantheon where the gods are divided by their chief areas of concern. But consider how many religions and groups arose on Earth, with a single god.

Forces for Good and Evil

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Jul 132020
 

Organizations for evil or good, like the mob, Avengers, X-men, Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, or Robin Hood and his merry men, help us create a dynamic setting. These groups are less formal than military ones discussed in the next chapter, like knights, and are less structured, being more loosely held together by common beliefs.

Forces for Evil

Most groups arguably don’t think they’re evil, even if the majority of outsiders think otherwise. Even terrorist organizations seemingly believe that they’re doing good things when blowing up civilians, killing children, and worse. Their worldview is at the heart of their machinations and is therefore among the elements to focus on first. If we don’t know what our group wants, how can we decide what they’ll do to get it?

Whether religious, social, or philosophical, evil organizations often justify their actions, and it is their behaviors that make them evil, not their beliefs. Such groups often disagree with that, however, and frequently murder others for having different ideas, which are a threat to them and their goals. This is one justification for killing “innocents,” people who don’t deserve death. Evil groups can declare others are evil and try to destroy them. Some such groups seemingly attract members with little conscience.

Either way, decide what the group’s guiding principles are. Do they want to spread a religion? To topple a kingdom whose way of life offends them? To get revenge in the name of a fallen idol or cause they appreciated? How far are they willing to go to get it? Did the group start off less “evil” but due to circumstances we’ll name, they’ve lost their way and become something more abhorrent? Are they justifying a means to an end, such as killing civilians because they’re in the way?

Forces for Good

An informal group that’s a force for good is unusual in the real world because we have police and organizations like the United Nations to oppose wrongdoers. This is different in fantasy because police forces aren’t as formidable as they are on modern Earth. Evil organizations may also engage in activities outside of a jurisdiction, which is far worse in SF, where it can extend planet-wide and beyond. A formal group that is bound to a sovereign power may lose the right to counter the evil group’s actions outside the power’s jurisdiction. But a force for good can be devoted to doing that very thing.

A good group can have a mix of high-minded and realistic reasons for existing, such as upholding certain virtues and stopping the spread of nefarious regimes that will impact them or loved ones. The ideas can be inspired by religion, philosophical justifications, and a sense of fairness. These people are virtuous but grounded in humility, compassion, and other positive traits that inhibit a slide into being an evil organization dominated by idealism, lack of reality, and selfishness.

We’ll need to decide what guides this group and if it’s written down or just an understanding. The latter gives way to misunderstanding and assumptions, which might result in bylaws being written. Perhaps there’s an oath people repeat at meetings, to remind of what they stand for. These groups will also try to forge a positive relationship with not only those who can help them, like city leaders, but with the public whom they help and protect. Reputation is important and can be aided by charitable actions. Fantasize about what sort of group you’d like to form yourself if you were a powerful wizard or knight with equally strong friends who agreed with your world view. Tired of certain kinds of atrocities in life? What would you do about it?