Rough worldbuilding ideas



  • Okay, so this is the 'worldbuilding vomit' I was talking about posting in another thread. Please bear in mind that I'm not good at this type of thing in general, so if you see a lot of gaps in a specific concept (or every concept I've posted here), it's because I haven't thought of anything to fill them in yet.

    My main idea at this point in time is that Sontar (who is posted in the 'share your work' area of this forum) decides he wants to control the world's magic based on a dream he had while going through a less than good time in his life. In the years following, he dedicates himself to finding a way to do just that. Eventually, he succeeds, wedding himself to it and losing his physical body. He's restrained by another being within that magic though, who originally joined herself to it to control how much magic the world gets at once a long time ago. I'm thinking maybe the world's people got greedy and almost put too much magic into the world at one point, so she did it to save them from themselves. Not too sure on that one though, but it's the best I have right now.

    So this is where the heroes come in. After Sontar takes control, the world's magic begins 'breaking' somewhat, getting worse as time goes on. This is happening because Sontar is trying to wrest magic control away from the other being and take it for himself. Sontar's eventual goal is to take the broken magic, rearrange it, and use it to begin the world anew so he can write a 'fate' into it. This would control the world's people without their being aware of it. Some people in the world become aware of this, and people split into two factions: people who want the same thing as Sontar, so while suffering is still a thing in the world, it will serve a higher purpose (getting power/other things I haven't thought of yet), and people who feel people should have true free will to do what they want with magic, otherwise the world is a controlled little box.

    What I need is a higher purpose that magic can serve in this world and more details to round things out. My original thought is that there are higher gods living in another realm 'above' the world the story takes place in, and the world's people are put in a physical world as a test so the gods can choose who gets to ascend to the higher realm when the world ends, and who gets destroyed when the world does. Sontar wants to get enough power when his world ends to confront these gods, and he feels that if he makes everyone do the 'right' thing, when they die, the magic they had in their souls becomes his to use.

    But I'm not sure I like those ideas or that they make any kind of logical sense to anyone but me right now. What I'd like is some help forming the ideas into something that has clear detail and doesn't have so many gaps, but with me not being good at worldbuilding, I feel lost and like I'm missing out on a lot of things to make this better. If anyone has feedback or ideas of their own, I'd appreciate hearing them.



  • I think a lot of your suggestions comes down to how detailed your magic system currently is. If you have a foundation and you have rules and confines for the magic system, you can start to work out what works and find something that works within those confines.

    The good thing is, you have a lot of starting points for your magic system if you don't know a lot about it already, based on what you've shared. For example, you know that hexes are like plagues (and tbh I know nothing about magic systems, but I believe hexes are usually cast and they stick to one person or maybe a family, rather than spreading??), that everyone has access to magic, that magic can make a person all powerful, and that (maybe) there are deities in charge of the magic.

    TL;DR: You should build up your magic system in greater detail (if you haven't already) because, currently both the life of the world (& people in it) and the plot itself are deeply embedded in how the magic of the world works.

    I don't have any tips for it, simply because I've never built a magic system and I haven't read many stories in my times with magic systems (mostly I've gotten experience with them by talking or listening to other people about their worlds), but I'm certain that there are prompts online for you to start working with. If there was a place I was going to start, based on what you've told me, I would start with the deities. Are they there, and if so, what do they consider right, or passing the test?This would probably involve creating a morality for the world and their views of right and wrong, but then you can start to figure out what Sontar's plans for everyone is in these fated lives. Once you have that, you can decide,

    1. Whether or not the deities support him (because there's a chance, it sounds like, they have the ability to get involved in the fight for power between Sontar and the other person)
    2. What the arguments people have for pre-fated lives (and not!) are.

    #2 really is important because as it stands, it doesn't seem like anyone quite knows how to pass the test. If their lives are pre-fated and Sontar intends on letting most or all people (or says so) have "right" lives, thus allowing them to know with certainty that they've passed the deities' test and get to live on after the world is destroyed, then why not follow him?

    From a purely curios perspective, how many other countries/cultures are in this world? There was talk in the piece you shared about imported herbs and magical goods, so the world itself is at least a decent size. If there are several cultures, then do they believe in the same higher deities and simply practice their religion differently from, say, Sontar's people? Or do they follow a different pantheon? If they follow a different pantheon, is this pantheon real the same way as Sontar's pantheon is real? If it isn't real, as well, then why did they stop believing in the other gods?

    Lastly, to the deities still have any presence in the world to show people that they are, in fact, watching, or not? Because if people think that they aren't watching and they don't care anymore, then Sontar just lost followers.

    (sorry, this was disorganized I feel like.)



  • I'm sorry it's been forever since I had a chance to answer. My job upped me to full time, and then we had some things going on that took up some time, so if I don't address everything again, I apologize. I also answered your private message and am interested in following up. :)

    • Whether or not the deities support him (because there's a chance, it sounds like, they have the ability to get involved in the fight for power between Sontar and the other person)
      What the arguments people have for pre-fated lives (and not!) are.

    #2 really is important because as it stands, it doesn't seem like anyone quite knows how to pass the test. If their lives are pre-fated and Sontar intends on letting most or all people (or says so) have "right" lives, thus allowing them to know with certainty that they've passed the deities' test and get to live on after the world is destroyed, then why not follow him?

    From a purely curios perspective, how many other countries/cultures are in this world? There was talk in the piece you shared about imported herbs and magical goods, so the world itself is at least a decent size. If there are several cultures, then do they believe in the same higher deities and simply practice their religion differently from, say, Sontar's people? Or do they follow a different pantheon? If they follow a different pantheon, is this pantheon real the same way as Sontar's pantheon is real? If it isn't real, as well, then why did they stop believing?*

    I'm trying to figure out if the gods left artifacts/other symbols of their presence in the world as well as how many cultures/other countries there are. Too many would be too much for me to handle at this point. I also had the thoughts that the gods themselves could be somewhat predatory--say they're not really higher beings in the way most people perceive gods, but opportunists from another world who play the part to manipulate others? If they're addicted to magic themselves and need it, they could be looking to other worlds as a way to 'farm' magic from the strong people on those other worlds to boost their own magic. These are just thoughts, though. Like I said, I'm not sure I'm even using most of this. It's what they call 'throw enough [garbage] at a wall and see what sticks.' If Sontar found that out about the gods, he could want to wrest his world's magic away from them, implement fate on the people in his world so their magic could be the strongest it could possibly be, then when the world ends he could use them to destroy the gods' world. Then the 'good' characters could have the goal of just breaking their world away from the gods' and wanting to develop independent magic for themselves rather than destroy things. As to why they wouldn't want to follow him--there's a chance what he's proposing could go wrong, or have unintended consequences. I'm still trying to think of what those are and could use help there too. >> See why these ideas have been driving me up a wall?

    I was thinking the gods have prophecies once upon a time as a way to 'pass' or 'fail' what they want of the world, and at the end of a prophecy, seers look to the gods to see how well the chosen heroes or whomever did at the given prophecy. Prophecies could act like instructions of sorts.



  • @Rose said in Rough worldbuilding ideas:

    how many cultures/other countries there are. Too many would be too much for me to handle at this point.

    Something I think people think they have to do when worldbuilding is figure out, in extensive detail, every. Single. Thing. about every culture or country or food item. You really don't have to. Especially if things stay within Sontar's country-- make a reference to the world being large; say that Jackson is from Atrium, a country on the other side of the planet; that only Sontar's nation have kept up their religion, amongst dozens that have lost it; things like
    that-- but don't actually develop them all. You don't even have to name everything. In Remnants, it's made very clear that the continent Pedestal is on (North America) is very large and covered by a couple of relatively large countries and numerous smaller countries and city states. Rarely is their culture gone into, and I know nothing about any of these various countries & cultures.

    I like the idea about being addicted to magic. Maybe it comes from living things, but the beings themselves cannot create living things. Therefore, they take creatures from one worlds that already has a thriving magical ecosystem and transport them to a barren world to create another magical ecosystem.

    If Sontar found that out about the gods, he could want to wrest his world's magic away from them, implement fate on the people in his world so their magic could be the strongest it could possibly be, then when the world ends he could use them to destroy the gods' world.

    Sontar's world may be a farm of sorts, but are the beings actually abusing them? The beings are basically letting them live and do their own thing for X centuries, and if they find out about his plan to defeat them, it sounds like they're powerful enough that they could easily just kill him or something. Or, they could strike a deal. Give Sontar what he wants and leave the world alone or something. Also, how does the world end?

    I feel like we talked about this somewhere, but why is Sontar trying to implement fate on people/harvest all the magic/etc.?

    ... have unintended consequences. I'm still trying to think of what those are and could use help there too.

    Religious person: "He's letting all these people have good lives instead of using free will! Now the afterlife is going to be crowded with people who don't deserve it! These could be terrible people who he decided would later make 'good' decisions to redeem themselves, but are they really redeemed? I don't think so, and I can tell that you don't, either!"

    I was thinking the gods have prophecies once upon a time as a way to 'pass' or 'fail' what they want of the world, and at the end of a prophecy, seers look to the gods to see how well the chosen heroes or whomever did at the given prophecy. Prophecies could act like instructions of sorts.

    Sounds like the gods have already fated everyone's lives, then.



  • Sontar's world may be a farm of sorts, but are the beings actually abusing them? The beings are basically letting them live and do their own thing for X centuries, and if they find out about his plan to defeat them, it sounds like they're powerful enough that they could easily just kill him or something. Or, they could strike a deal. Give Sontar what he wants and leave the world alone or something. Also, how does the world end?

    If everything has a natural beginning, it also should have a natural end. The world doesn't necessarily need to end with a bang. It could just end of its own accord. That's true, what you said about the gods potentially just killing him. They could kill everyone, yes--unless there was a reason why the gods couldn't access the world they're 'farming' from anymore. It could simply be that the people of this world want magic for their own purposes rather than being used/watched over.

    I feel like we talked about this somewhere, but why is Sontar trying to implement fate on people/harvest all the magic/etc.?

    It was discussed, IIRC. He originally wanted to do so because when the world restarted, he gets the power to break away from the gods, if that's what he wants to do. He could also want to work with the gods, and if the world restarts, he gets to see his wife reborn, other choices could be made. He has another shot at maybe saving her.

    Sounds like the gods have already fated everyone's lives, then.

    Unless said prophecies concern just how to make magic stronger and not necessarily something that affects the whole of a person's/peoples' lives. Maybe the gods choose someone because they feel they're already on a path the gods require? I had that thought, but then I also feel this entire wordspew is rather hopeless too--too many plot holes/questions I wouldn't be able to answer if I decided to go with it, so then I'm right back to, 'Does magic have a higher purpose in this world, and if so, what could it be?' I'm fresh out of ideas and nothing other than what I've said already seems to be forthcoming. It's very discouraging.



  • @Rose said in Rough worldbuilding ideas:

    and if the world restarts, he gets to see his wife reborn, other choices could be made. He has another shot at maybe saving her.

    So the world continually restarts with the same people as before (assuming all correct choices are made to recreate that person?)? I see now where he's going with this, though.

    'Does magic have a higher purpose in this world, and if so, what could it be?'

    Make it the life force of every living creature. It's already clear that souls have a large amount of magical content (they can save lives!) so there's really no reason to think that they can't be life forces.

    I don't think there are as many plot holes as you think. I think you're looking at it too deeply which is making you think that, but there aren't.

    The gods are creating worlds to farm magic to sustain their immortality & power. The humans are unknowing slaves on this magic farm but also, themselves, rely on magic to live. What they don't all know is that they can harvest the magic and be as powerful as the gods. One human in particular has realized that he can harvest this power to save humanity from enslavement (...maybe?) AND return his wife to life. He takes a shot at harvesting the power. As an example of how I basically see the world and plot. (If you take the magic as a life force thing for ALL the living things, not just the gods :) )



  • So the world continually restarts with the same people as before (assuming all correct choices are made to recreate that person?)? I see now where he's going with this, though.

    I wouldn't even say multiple times. Each world may only have one shot, since each world may have its own properties that make it easier/harder to redo. I only see Sontar's world as having one shot. And yeah, that's one way of looking at it, I guess. I'm seeing it as not only a lifeforce, but something that can be shaped by choice. I think the main conflict probably isn't strong enough to carry any sort of interesting story to term in any clear, concise way, which is why most people I run this past seem confused and/or disinterested.



  • Maybe it's because you don't have a clear idea of your protagonists yet? Because once you have them, you can start to develop subplots and think about how they would solve the issue.



  • Well, it's some of that, but that's the easier part compared to the logistics of the world itself. I feel once the world Sontar lives in has been cut off from those gods, the world has magic but then needs to decide what to do with it. Sontar wants to use it to restart the world and rewrite history, but maybe the main characters feel that if souls/magic survive their physical deaths and that of their world, it should be used for other things? I'm not sure what those things are yet. If magic can pass from one world to another, maybe they feel people should be able to do things with their own free will, rather than as a tool to force others to do things?

    I'm not sure any of this is making sense.



  • Maybe you need to look at this from a different perspective. Instead of making the story about heroes stopping Sontar, you make Sontar a background figure. A mystical character readers & other characters alike know about by rumor and religious argument. (Do we really want to be fated?) The characters, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to either

    a) contact the gods and convince them to let their world be open to other worlds
    b) find a way to open worlds, maybe with magic portals or something
    c) maybe one is a doctor or scientist with the idea that souls are more powerful magic than anyone can imagine, but the scientist has been disgraced and must find new patrons for their continued research

    Eventually, they might come into contact with Sontar. They might realize what he's doing and try to stop him, maybe with a fight, and maybe with words. Ultimately, though, I don't think everything in the plot has to be focused on stopping Sontar, and I think that might be where you're hung up when you try to develop the plot further. Instead, make Sontar the backdrop for a boss battle before you get to the gods, or something along those lines. Still an antagonist, but not the main antagonist.



  • True. That's actually how I am seeing it it right now--but to me it's important to establish the main background and conflict (Group A wants to follow Sontar and Group B doesn't, say). I thought of picking the whole thing up after the world is cut off from the gods, so the main conflict is, 'what do we do with the magic now?' The characters who have no interest in restarting the world would need a good reason to leave the world alone, as well as a concrete thing that happens to the magic as a result after the world is over. I think once those things came together, the rest would be easier.



  • Maybe the gods had a stronger hand in keeping magic controlled than people realized and it's going out of whack. The seasons are crazy and illness is spreading like nobody's business. For those that are more magically talented, they find themselves overloaded with the amount of magic available to them, incapacitating them at best and causing them to create (sometimes fatal) mistakes at worst. For the less magically talented, they're finding it easier to pick up on the magic around them and wield it, but, having no practice, sometimes the results are... also less than savory.

    Random thought: As a final spite, the gods put some object that helps keep the magic balanced in a hiding place. Thus, the heroes must find the object.

    Perhaps the wielder of this object obtains total power over the magic of the world... including the power to change history?

    As for needing a good reason to leave the world alone... you don't have to have a perfect reason. Just have them be of the mindset that this is the order of the world; therefore, it must come to pass. Otherwise, you messed up the world. Good job saving the world. Thanks so much. Now the world is OUT OF ORDER.



  • Well, I think I mentioned there was another powerful being earlier who is interested in keeping the world the way it is--Sontar's opponent. There would be a magical tug of war of sorts between them if Sontar also becomes that powerful--but the people of the world are the ones who make the call as to which being gets dominion over the world's magic. The only thing I can think of is something can go wrong with Sontar's plan that the main characters find out, but I'm not sure what the wrong thing would be or the deeper consequences if it did.



  • I don't know. I can imagine that the constant tug of war would cause further issues with the fresh surge of magic, though. Maybe you need to figure out the rules of your magic to go further? (if you haven't already.)



  • Probably. I did mention I'm not too good at this. :/ I feel like if I come up with rules before I have a plot, that will cause more issues than it fixes because if some plot point conflicts with the magic rules, one will have to be scrapped and I've been working on the potential plot a lot longer than the magic stuff. I came up with more ideas I'll need to post when I escape my job for the day, if you're still interested in reading them? There are some things I'm planning on overhauling, so if it clashes with what's already here, assume it's an overhaul/reworking of certain ideas. I just need the whole mess to make sense eventually so I can start writing it.



  • I think that's part of your problem. You're terrified of changing any aspect of your plot. Which I understand completely; this thing is your baby, you've been working on it for a decade, I do understand. I have an unfinished story that I am worried to start working on again because I know I have to overhaul part of the world. But sometimes you have to make those changes. And sometimes, it turns out that the plot is better with that change than it was before.

    For Earthlings, I had a half-created FTL system. Because 2/3 of the novel is, ultimately, spent on a spaceship, I had to know how fast it moved and how it worked, etc etc. Unfortunately, it gave me a headache to think about. So I was like, "nah, I'll work with it later". And not building those rules before I started writing ended up giving me more of a headache because I needed to know when plot events would happen and I didn't have a timeline because I didn't know how the FTL system worked. (And then when I started to math it out, I based the time on the quickest ship in the fleet, not the slowest. Oops. Still haven't reworked it.) Once I had those rules to work in, I found it was actually easier to start writing again, because I knew what I absolutely couldn't do and I knew I had to find a way to get around that. This left my cast scattered in three different places, but it also opened up new avenues for the plot to explore, which never would've happened if I hadn't laid down the rules for FTL travel.

    Yes, rules and confines can make it difficult, but I've found that rule and confines on your world force you to be creative and figure out alternative solutions to both your problems & your characters' problems.

    In the long run, it might cause you to have to change plot elements, but I really think coming up with rules on the magic will help you brainstorm because you don't have endless possibilities anymore. You need those in the beginning, when you're trying to lay down the foundation of your plot, but then they just get overwhelming.

    It will also be less plot-changing than you think to develop your magic or other parts of the world, because you already have a plot that you can work around. If certain healing abilities don't fit with a plot element you've already planned, then scrap those healing abilities entirely. If you're having a hard time with an important part of the magic system, then work on a part of the magic system that is completely irrelevant to anything that will ever happen in-story and see how that affects other parts of magic or the world.

    Yeah, I can read over them :)



  • Thank you. I think I'll have to probably scrap the whole thing and begin from scratch because my thought patterns tend to lapse right back to what doesn't work if I keep any part of the old stuff. I'll post what I have and see what happens. I'm not optimistic any of the plot will be better for it, but one never knows.



  • How's this project going? I'm interested in how it worked out.



  • It hasn't gone much of anywhere yet, I'm sorry to say. Nothing I've tried has worked.



  • @Rose Have you tried using any guides to get some prompts on what to focus on or where to go next?


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