For those who saw my recent call for guest posts on fantasy topics, today I’m excited to share the first article on world-building, from author Viel Nast. Viel celebrates the recent release of his book, Savage Swords: The Great Old Ones series, which you can find out more about at the end of the post. (And no doubt after reading about the awesome tips he shares, using his world as a case study, you’ll be curious to check it out!)
My love for reading came from an early age when my parents read me children’s books. Later, when I learned to read, I devoured any book I could get my hands on. The turning point for my immersion into epic fantasy was buying the Lord of the Rings centenary edition at 1992, celebrating the hundredth birthday of J. R. R. Tolkien. From then on, and with my small teenage (and later student) allowance, I grew my library. Now it includes more than a hundred books (and many more comics), most of them on epic fantasy.
My first attempts at creating stories involved the background information I made for my rpg characters (a D&D 2nd edition). I tried to make them as elaborate as I could, although for many years I haven’t written anything down. It was five years ago when I began writing down an epic campaign in the Birthright world setting of TSR. Even when the campaign finished, I continued to write. I grew to like and expanded with stories we didn’t role-play.
But my serious writing started when I was searching for a new rpg setting when I decided to make one of my own and wrote its history and timeline. As the information grew, I realized that there were many stories I could write to make my world, Land of Oyr, feel alive and real. Also, I decided to make a tribute series with short stories dedicated to great authors I have read and this shaped my taste in writing while introducing the world. Thus I recently published my first book, a tribute to R.E. Howard, a classic Conan sword & sorcery story. There are many to follow and I have plans for a larger novel and an even larger heptalogy, where Land of Oyr will be reshaped by cataclysmic events. I am also a self-publisher and have learned in the past few months before I publish the gigantic effort that’s needed. Writing is only a small percentage of the effort!
In day life I am married and we have a happy little boy of four months old. I work in a bank and suffer as a regular person the ordinary daily routine until I become a famous writer! I compete in HEMA events, sword-fighting being another great love of mine, and between or beside all these activities, I listen to epic metal music.
As an insatiable role-player, I will put my fantasy world-building process in (almost) rpg terms:
- UNCONVENTIONAL HISTORY
Most fantasy worlds, (at least the ones I have read) have a long history. But the most glorious moments and greatest heroes belong to the past, while the events of the books are a finalizing touch to already ordained events. I decided that my world would be new and young! It will still have a history and background (a rather long one as it is) but it will grow as the reader follows the history. I will allow a possibility that the reader will decide the fate of the world. In my mind, there is a timeline running for thousands of years in the future that I will unfold as the stories grow. Living through changes and great events in the books that reshape and change the face of the land is more interesting than reading about these events as an old history. The most distinctive part of my world is the Cosmic Rains feature. Cosmic Rains fell twice, the first time they shaped the land and created flora and fauna. The second time they created the original denizens of the land, Men of light and dwarves, and of course the various monsters that roam the wild. Through the fabric torn off the multiverse created by the second cosmic rain came the elves, servants of the great old ones. The demons, their enemies, entered the world and thus the interesting part began…
- MONSTROUS MANUAL
No world could be real unless it has unique and many monsters for the heroes to fight. Also, there must be a structured racial history and every race must have a distinctive flavor. I took a new approach here using well-known materials. There are elves, dwarves, humans and orcs, but taken into a different perspective and their outlook is unique. Elves, for example, live in tall mountains. The concept is that the world is evolving during the reader’s lifetime. New monsters and races are coming as cosmic events change the land of Oyr. (There are no dragons in Land of Oyr yet…). There are also various beastmen and half-beastmen types of various sizes as well as many hybrids between demons and men, and elves and men as well.
Faiths and priests are a basic element in every setting. Once again the unconventional model led me to have temples dedicated to Demons and no other Gods. There is an old faith to the earth mother, Oyr, kept by druids who seem more like the historical counterparts and not the transforming nonsense D&D has turned them into. Essentially, all religions are evil and there are no priests of good except the druids. All men share the common faith to the land and mother Oyr, but it varies between different regions. Dwarves have a peculiar ancestral religion while orcs and beastmen have primitive shamans. Of course in the future, there are coming changes and there are going to be many different options.
- GATHERING MATERIAL
I have noticed that as you outline the history of the world and put elements, there comes a time when these elements interconnect as if by their own. You can make great stories just combining notes and materials you have already written. It is a great process and it feels peculiar to see your world evolving as if by its own volition. So you must write without ceasing, putting down anything you think in your wake or dreamy state!
- A MAP IS MORE THAN ESSENTIAL
Fantasy world means a new map with peculiar unfamiliar names and places (in the beginning) which the reader will eventually learn better than his own hometown and will love and will wish to visit.
- EPIC FANTASY MEANS STRUGGLE AND WAR
Nothing great is done by sitting home leisurely drinking, eating and sleeping in a cozy environment. So a world of fantasy needs conflict, war, opposing factions and lots of blood! So you must put in wars and battles of epic proportions that shake the land and shape the history of the world. In these wars, the heroes will emerge and become famous showing their abilities, skills, honor and faith to what is right, while their faith and honor will be tested and some would succeed while others fail.
Put as many details as you can including time, weather, landscape, kingdoms and cities. I have a world with many unique characteristics in the aspects of time and weather which I will unfold during the books, leaving a feeling that you are reading something new and original. The most distinctive element is that the sun is in the south and doesn’t change its course in the Y-axis so it remains in the same position and night and day are changed when the sun diminishes his light.
- BOTTOM-UP APPROACH
The approach I used in creating a detailed world was a bottom-up. I needed to have a detailed (as much as possible) pattern from it to draw elements for my stories. Although in the stories there will be many details portrayed that will reshape some details of the world, the setting and the history is something I have thought beforehand and placed in my stories to put emphasis in major events. As I plan to turn Land of Oyr into an rpg setting eventually I want for the character to have a framework where he can maneuver and evolve feeling secure that there is much planning ahead.
I have put Land of Oyr in a multiverse as one world among countless others, but unique in the concept of its creation and separation from the general cosmology and theology. I am not sure if it would be possible to travel to other worlds but I have not decided entirely against it.
The famous concept of bloodwar as it has evolved in the D&D settings has been blended with the concept of the battles of Titans in the ancient Greek mythology. So there are gods or greater powers that rule the many worlds (even gods of evil). But they have defeated the Demons who represent entropy. The demons want only chaos and destruction, having no power of creation at all. In this concept, I have made the demons trapped in Land of Oyr unable to create creatures that will obey them. So orcs and beastmen remain chaotic and malevolent tormented creatures of darkness. The bloodwar in my world is a struggle of the gods to keep the major greater demons at bay and the demons manipulating to break the magically sealed prisons they are contained in.
- GREATER POWERS
The many gods of the multiverse exist but don’t have access to the Land of Oyr. They can send their servants, the elves, to harvest power but they cannot enter by themselves, because they will be trapped as the demons did. So the struggle is played indirectly using agents and keeping the bigger truth hidden…
I am totally against powder in fantasy worlds and I am going to keep Land of Oyr free from all modern industrialized troubles that keep us away from nature. I take a Tolkien approach in thinking everything not involving manual labor is inherently evil. Men of light and dwarves are like medieval people in social structure and amenities except that they have magic.
I have long considered the changes the presence of magic would bring in a medieval world. Sometimes it can substitute technology and many times it could be even more easy to use. It depends on the extent magic reigns in your world. I hate totally magical worlds where ordinary people have access to magical items, although I don’t like magic being totally isolated and legendary. I tend to take an approach that blends the two theories, having enough magic to be of general help, but not too much to become mundane. Magic in healing and battle can put a great difference in a kingdom’s success and the amount of magical power it can gather will dictate much of its progress. In the Land of Oyr, there is divine magic from the temples of the demons, druidic magic which comes from the land itself, arcane magic that comes from manipulating the cosmic forces and the inherent abilities and elemental magic, forcing the elements into your power.
- LOVE FOR NARRATING AND STORYTELLING
In the end, if you want to tell stories and if you love creating things with your mind, you will be able to build your own world. A personal world built by your mind is something very akin to a child where you see it growing and despite all the pains you took to raise it, it gives back more by only just existing! Be creative, be epic, and leave this mundane world for others made by magic. After all, we are escapists trying to find a way out of routine.
MY FIRST BOOK IS OUT!
A short story, the first of the tribute series to the Great Old Ones, dedicated to R. E. Howard and Conan! It will be available for free download until the 22nd of March! Click the link below to check it out!
Connect with Viel Nast:
Oyr blog: https://landofoyr.wordpress.com/
Our self publisher!: https://www.facebook.com/talbot.epic.press/
Personal FB: https://www.facebook.com/viel.nast
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/VIEL-NAST/e/B06XPMJ86V