Creating Realistic Worlds: Resources

World Building - By David KeenerI’ve starting releasing the various sections of my World Building project as blog entries as I soon as I complete them. My intention is to eventually gather them all together and publish them as a single non-fiction ebook to be entitled World Building: Creating Realistic Worlds for Stories and Games.

So far, I’ve published the Introduction and, today, I’m publishing the “Resources” section of the project (which is still a work in progress, and something that I’ll be continually adding to until the project is completed). The two sections beyond the “Introduction” have been completed, but I can’t put them online yet because I’m still in the process of securing the rights to some of the graphics and maps that I want to feature in the project.

While I’m still getting the rights issues resolved, I thought there might be some general interest in some of the world building resources that I’ve looked at during my research. Some of them may be a little rare, but you may still be able to hunt down a copy online.

Writing a book like World Building: Creating Realistic Worlds for Stories and Games is one of those interesting endeavors that required an astonishing amount of research. Indeed, the effort required far more investigation than I had anticipated when I embarked on this journey of exploration. I am indebted to numerous writers, scientists and cartographers who provided valuable information that helped me in this enterprise.

The entire concept of detailed world building, of creating realistic and plausible worlds for diverse purposes, is notable for the depth and breadth of the topics that can come into play. My book provides, at best, a hopefully solid overview of what can be done. For more information about world building, feel free to explore the resources that proved so useful to me in creating this book.

Useful Resources

GURPS Space AtlasGURSPS Space Atlas – By Steve Jackson and William A. Barton
1988, Steve Jackson Games
This was a supplement for the GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) game (another product of Steve Jackson Games). It provides numerous two-page examples of solidly designed worlds, including icosahedral maps of each world. Followed by at least three sequels of a similar nature. Note that William A. Barton also went on to become a successful SF writer.
Map Projection Essentials – By Daniel Strebe
This online article by Daniel Strebe is an excellent introduction to the realm of map projections. Daniel Strebe is one of the principals behind Geocart, a leading commercial tool for producing map projections (available for purchase on the Mapthematics web site). He has also provided many of the open source map images that are available on Wikipedia. In short, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to anything related to cartography.
The Traveller Book by Marc MillerThe Traveller Book – By Marc Miller
1982, Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW)
A compendium from GDW containing the basic rules for the Traveller roleplaying game (previously published in three smaller booklets beginning in 1977), a game noted for its emphasis on hard science. Notable for containing a useful 2D star mapping system; the Universal Planetary Profile (UPP), which described characteristics of a world such as atmosphere, population, government type, law level and tech level; a technology levels timeline, which illustrated what typical technological items might be seen at different tech levels; and an abstract but very useful model for a world’s fauna. Now referred to as Classic Traveller to distinguish it from alternate versions of the rules. Still available in various forms today; see the Traveller Wikipedia entry for more details.
World Builder's Guidebook - by Richard BakerWorld Builder’s Guidebook – By Richard Baker
1996, TSR, Inc.
This is a surprisingly complete wording building supplement for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons created by Richard Baker, who has gone on to write numerous tie-in novels for various game systems. In its 96 pages, Baker covers diverse subjects such as seismology, hydrography, land features and climate. He also includes information about crafting realistic low-tech societies and mythologies. Like many of the other game supplements, the book uses an icosahedral map for world maps. Highly recommended; one of the best AD&D supplements that I’ve seen.
World Builder's HandbookWorld Builder’s Handbook – By Joe D. Fugate Sr., J. Andrew Keith and Gary L. Thomas.
1989, Digest Group Publications
This 96-page book was a supplement for MegaTraveller, the second generation update of the Traveller roleplaying game produced by Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW). The second half of the book provides a fascinating and excruciatingly detailed set of procedures for designing not just worlds, but entire solar systems. Also notable for being the first resource that ever introduced me to icosahedral maps. Note that J. Andrew Keith, the brother of SF writer William H. Keith, went on to become a successful military SF writer before his untimely death.
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Character Sketch: The Silent Knight

I thought I’d do something a little different. This is a character sketch for Sir Kedric Hawkthorn, the protagonist for my upcoming novella, “The Silent Knight.”

Sir Kedric Hawkthorn

The Silent Kinght on Fury, the War HorseSir Kedric Hawkthorn serves the small kingdom of Zembelis and has been a soldier for twenty years and a knight for just over a decade.

Kedric is known as “The Silent Knight” because of an incident that occurred three years ago when he served under King Bannon. Kedric was sent on a diplomatic mission to Rodrik, one of the four contenders for the throne in Zembelis’ ongoing civil war. Rodrik flouted the conventions of diplomacy by ordering Kedric’s tongue to be cut out as a message to King Bannon. Later, after severe illness and a lengthy recovery, Kedric was appointed to the King’s Guard by King Bannon as an award for service, a post from which knights can only be removed by death or voluntary resignation.

Shortly after his appointment, King Bannon died of natural causes, leaving Kedric in service to Baldemar, the ever more erratic teenaged son of King Bannon, now known to most as simply the “Boy King.” King Baldemar hates everything associated with his father, and has a particular hatred for Kedric, who will not cater to the king’s whims and refuses to resign from the King’s Guard. Despite Kedric’s fighting skills, the king has chosen not to deploy him in the ongoing civil war against the two remaining contenders for the throne.

Instead, the king keeps Kedric at court as an object of ridicule, his cronies constantly making fun of Kedric’s handicap as well as his illiteracy and common origins. So far, Kedric’s been too tough to die accomplishing any of the king’s special missions, too wary to be assassinated, too dangerous to lose a duel and too stubborn to leave. His residual popularity with the army also leaves Kedric with sufficient stature to preclude the king from openly moving against him.

Physical Description: Kedric is tall, 6’3’’, and extremely powerful, with the massive upper body development of a professional swordsman. He’s got black hair, now shot through with a little bit of gray, and cut short to easily fit beneath a helmet. At 34, he’s a little old for a top-ranked swordsman, although there are very few who’d want to personally test this. He is perhaps not quite as quick as he was at his physical peak, but he’s possibly even more dangerous because of his practical experience with the sword.

Personality: Kedric is steady and level-headed. He exudes a sense of utterly deadliness, and is generally recognized as a man not to be trifled with. He has an unexpected sense of humor, although it’s not typically expressed anymore due to his inability to speak. He’s stubborn, loyal and known for keeping his word. He’s currently conflicted because his current liege is clearly not worth his loyalty. He loves his highly trained war horse, Fury, although he would never admit this to anybody.

Habits/Mannerisms: Kedric is generally poker-faced, a survival mechanism from being at court as an object of derision for so long. He doesn’t drink much, which is, again, a survival mechanism from court. He possesses an almost eidetic memory, which has helped him compensate for illiteracy. He also tends to cover up his illiteracy, although it was an open secret at court. There has been so little of his life that has been under his control for the last few years that he rarely thinks too much about the future.
Background: He grew up on a farm and, like many young boys, left to see the world. Unfortunately, he got drafted into a war soon after he left home. He distinguished himself initially because of his fighting prowess. His skills were honed by a more experienced swordsman in the army who correctly recognized his potential. Led units of increasing size, but was never officially given overall command of an army because of his illiteracy, common background and lack of political connections. His fighting prowess and battlefield exploits brought him to the attention King Bannon, who eventually appointed him to the King’s Guard.

Sir Kedric Hawkthorn is a soldier trapped by his loyalty into serving a king for whom he has not even the slightest bit of respect. He’s looking, although he doesn’t realize it, for a cause that’s worthy of his allegiance. He’s a lonely man further isolated from society by his handicap and hoping, someday, for a more rewarding life.

Now the Boy King has a new mission for him…

What happens when duty and honor come into conflict?

How much is too much?

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