Worldbuilding Daily Category Thread

Welcome to the Worldbuilding Prompt and Discussion thread!

What is this thread? This thread is a space to either build a world for your stories, or discuss and display one you have already created. Every day there will be a category posted. Each category will repeat, once a week. They will rotate through Geography, Culture, History, Technology, Government, and Intersections (between categories, or different groups, or with the story. Whatever works), with the 7th day being a ‘Talk about a prompt you missed, or something else story-related’ day. I will post an optional prompt to go with the daily category, which you may use to focus your posts if it is helpful or inspiring, or you may post with anything covered by the category.

This is a discussion thread, so @ responses to others are more than welcome! There is no time limit on responses to other folks posts, but once the newest prompt is up for the day, any further posts in that category will have to wait until the 'missed prompt, or until it comes up in rotation again.

The thread will update categories/prompts between 9 and 10 EST, daily. Have fun!

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Today’s category- Geography

Optional Prompt - How has the presence or absence of water influenced the setting?

How has the presence or absence of water influenced the setting?

Swampy taiga means that there needs to be excellent drainage around houses. They use a combination of rocks to encourage drainage, tar to repel water from the wood walls, and spells to keep the water out. Places where people have been lazy or haphazard flood. Since people’s bedrooms are usually on the low level set into the ground, that means cold wet bedrooms and sickness. Good drainage is best for everyone.

Lots of snow means peaked roofs. Sharp peaks, at that, to encourage as much of it to fall off as possible. There’s still plenty that piles up in the winter for insulation, but they don’t want so much to pile up that the roof collapses.

Glacial lakes and glacial streams mean that the water is too cold to swim in. Even those with water magic don’t swim because people get hypothermia too fast. But the glacial lakes are massive, so people still sail across them and fish in them. Bridges across small streams and ferries across larger ones are quite common.

Fun fact! When the elves first came to this planet, they couldn’t breathe the air and their plants wouldn’t grow in this soil. But they could drink the water. Water is safe. They were extremely grateful for that. There’s massive freshwater lakes, plenty of streams, regular rain (when it’s warm enough), and snow for 9 months of the year. Water is the one thing they don’t worry about running out of.

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Oh, boy. * looks at the talent’s verse *

The most used setting to start with is Vaterigdam, whose name literally means “dam on the water.” It’s built at the mouth of the River Vaaj, where it flows into the bay of the same name. Parts of the city are below sea level — not all of it, but without the system of dams and levees in place on the river Vaaj, there are a few districts where the entire first floor would be under water. Water — salt, fresh, and brackish — is just everywhere.

Particularly since Vaterigdam is a canal city to manage it. There are four semi-circular rings of canals running through the majority of the city, and smaller ones that run perpendicular to those. Ferries are the fastest way to get around the city, and boats and barges pretty much the only practical way to move goods around anywhere but the outskirts.

The harbor of the Vaaj is the center of the city, and the center of quite a bit of trade. Vaterigdam is the social category of a trade empire past it’s golden age but still very much a world city.

The city is majority Ilarian (worshippers of an earth/order goddess and a fire/chaos god), so neither of their deities are all that associated with the water, but the mythology of Vaterigdammers is also Ilarianism in the Tüdesche tradition. While more Southern versions of Ilarianism often have the gods and world emerging from the Void, the Tüdesche tradition is quite firm on the Sea being where the gods arose from, and Ila the earth goddess raising her element from that sea. (The chaos god has a few storm god aspects in the Tüdesche tradition he doesn’t always have in other places, too.)

Of course, since the Tüdesche tradition is often a bit on the fatalistic side, there’s a suggestion that while the world was raised from primordial waters, it will also be returned to them at some point.

This makes perfect sense to Vaterigdammers, honestly. They have claimed or reclaimed bits of the city from the waters themselves, dedicated new land to their goddess and built further upon it. The sea isn’t exactly antagonistic, but it is primordial with a personality of its own, older and less knowable than their gods. But they may also tell it — the beginning and the ending — “not today” because they’re busy living in the middle just now. And really, the sea might change, but so can the levees.

.

On the other side of the scale entirely, there’s the nation of Khumia is situated on the Southern continent, in the great deserts, and along the Haipo River. The Haipo draws a thin line of fertile black silt through the great desert, and the empires of Khumia rose from that thin black line.

Well, from the mythos of Khumia, everything rose from that thin black line.

The Haipo and it’s predictable yearly floods — and the irrigations systems it feeds, and the fish and he river reeds and even the crocoldiles — are basically at the center of everything, because it has to be. Without the flood and the rains, there’s nothing to live on in the Haipo Delta.

Their traditional new year is the Festival of the Rains — A six-day festival dedicated to their creation cycle, and held at the beginning of their rainy/flood season. It’s generally a thanksgiving festival as well as a preparation for the year ahead. Those that have immigrated outside Khumia generally consider it a very good omen if it rains during the Festival, and Khumians would consider it disastrous if it didn’t.

The most promenant goddess in the Khumian tradition is considered the goddess of the Haipo — Mewet, the goddess of water and life, especially since in Southern continental tradition they’re more or less the same thing. The old kings of Khumia claimed descent from her through her mortal lover Repat, who founded the kingdoms on the banks of the Haipo. She’s the goddess of the hearth and fishermen, or handcrafts and protections and family ties.

She also gave birth to the other god Southerners worship — the god of the winds, of storms and death and the desert. Just because Mewet is the source of all things doesn’t always mean she’s nice.

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How has the presence or absence of water influenced the setting?
Sylva is landlocked, and every river that flows through the country has its headwaters within Sylva as well. The notable exception would be the Illuithan River, which boarders Sylva on the east and has its source far, far to the north. (It’s also sentient and changes the land around itself at will. Sylvans avoid the Illuithan and its waters.)

How deep the snows fall in the mountains during the winter greatly affects how green the grasslands are during the summer. Reservoirs and aqueducts dot the landscape, although they are in no way unified – each Hearth will build as it sees fit, for better or worse.

There’s not a whole lot of travel up and down the riverways, as most are too rocky for large boats. Messengers will occasionally use small kayaks where appropriate, but it’s not too common.

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@Rose_Hill

Always being able to trust the water and having easy access to it largely is definitely a good thing, especially if the elves didn’t come here from any kind of desert area. I suppose if they were coming from a planet-wide area, then some of them may have (cold or hot), but likely not all of them.

Speaking of, do your elves have any stories/cultural memories of different climates/environments, or is that something that has mostly been lost through the generations?

And it’s always really cool to see how architecture responds to different environments. Waterproofing homes in those conditions definitely sounds really important, and nobody wants a roof collapse.

What kind of boats do your elves build?

@Kalinstar01

Hey, if the Khalic Coast shapes everything, but the Orontes is what makes Ciel Ciel, then it’s a very good thing to discuss.

Seeing how the shape of the coast has effected Tsur, and then Volmar and Ciel is cool, but the Orontes really does appear to have been a game changer. Bringing with it access to mountains and resources no other city on the coast can reach, and a place to actually go with your population.

But given the cultures of the cities that came before, and the much more limited resources the Khalic Coast generally works with, it’s not that surprising that it took the Tetropolis awhile to stop scuffling over the resources available. Room to grow without overcrowding resources does not seem to be a feature for its neighbors.

You mention the typical size of cities in the area, and the Tetropolis of Ciel in a way that suggests its somewhat bigger, but you don’t give us any size for Ciel? I’m suspecting the limits of the setting cap its size as “small” in our eyes as well, but I’m not entirely certain what I should be picturing?

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@C.Angelina

As I seem to remember the Iluthian having a fair bit of importance to the gods (and Joan crossing the Iluthian being a rite of passage), so I’m not too surprised the mortals in Sylva have a tendency to avoid those waters.

But it sounds like most of the water sources are managed by more local, fuedal powers than anything united. You mention the geography makes traversing the rivers difficult, but are they harnessed for any other type of use? Waterways and mills, and so on?

I am feeling cold and damp by reading this, fyi. Considering the temperature outside… not going to object.

How large of an area do the elves occupy? Given their fixation on stabilizing what they already have, and the wars between different states for limited resources pushing them nearer extinction, it feels like they have both too much land to properly exert control over, and barely enough to support the population which made the transition to their new home. Are any of the areas they occupy significantly different than the wet, glacial littorals this post describes? Anyone near the continental interiors, which, iirc, were far, far more dry during the depths of ice ages?

Over all, though, this sounds suspiciously like northern Michigan. Like, you’ve described the central ‘waste’ (as I uncharitably call it) of the eastern half of the upper penninsula and northern portion of the lower very well. Water everywhere. Snow heaped everywhere. Glacial lakes and oh god the drainage nightmare. The only thing missing is the endless forests (about half of which is drowned, it’s so wet).

I seem to remember the use of windmills to pump water over the levees was a well practiced art, at this point in time. As my grandmother’s line goes, ‘God gave the Germans Germany, and the French France, but the dutch made the Netherlands by hand’. Or, you know, water pump. Whichever.

The focus on water for movement, both of the faded imperial trade routes and of more local trading, has to soak up a significant portion of the city’s labor, never mind the constant battle against the sea to reclaim more land or hold what has already been claimed. Religiously, I imagine the work on the levees and dams is somewhat charged with sentiment. A government which lets the dams decay would… ah, not be viewed well, for more than practical reasons.

How much does it rain in Khumia, even during the rainy season? The flood, obviously, comes from further up-stream, and would lag significantly behind the start of the rains. I would have thought the arrival of the inundation of the Haipo would have marked a festival, but not rain. Is rain more of a thing away from the traditional heartland of Khumia, closer to where the modern seats of power are?

That touch at the end, Mewet not always being nice is an interesting point, given how the Ilarians seem more prone to insist Ila is good by default, and her brother evil. Mewet is more willing to bring darkness into the world, to forgive it for existing. Life ends, water evaporates. Mewet’s gifts have limits.

A good thing to remember, when the desert is so close at hand.

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Top level posts on yesterday’s category are now closed. If you missed it but wanted to post, don’t worry, the Geography topic will be back around next week! So will a ‘free for all’ day! Replies to other posters are still welcome.

Today’s category- Culture

Optional Prompt - To members of one of your cultures, what defines them? What defines outsiders? How do they place people in ‘their’ group, or as outsiders?

@Loki_Mischief-Maker

There are definitely stories of the planet they came from and how it grew progressively hotter. Heat exhaustion, droughts, and flooding caused major deaths, separate from the storms that ravaged the planet. Access to safe water was a struggle for them.

I haven’t given a ton of thoughts to boats so far, but nothing too complicated. Barges and small fishing vessels, I imagine.

@Kalinstar01

It’s about 350 miles from one end to another and it’s a rough circle, so… About 9600 square miles as an extremely rough guess (if I mathed right)? That tells me little; it’s more useful for me to think of it as the distance from Minneapolis to Thunder Bay.

That is just this country, Trimaia. Other elvish refugee countries are scattered across the world because they can’t be too close due to the spells that make it so the elves can breathe the air. Trimaia is all like this, but they are also the most northern of the elvish countries. The others, coming from a planet that was baking itself to death, experienced a winter and noped out, heading south in hopes of warmer climes.

I have a deep love of endless forests filled with lakes and rivers and far too much snow in the winter. :smiley_cat: I intentionally designed the nearby lakes off the ancient glacial lakes of MN: Agassiz, Upham and Aitkin, Grantsburg, and Lake Duluth.

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Responses!

@C.Angelina The Iluthiuan is always very cool. What’s not to love about a sentient river? I can totally understand why it would terrify the people who have to live near it, though. I wouldn’t want to live near something that can change the land at will.)

If they don’t travel much up or down the waterways, do they build a lot of bridges to cross them? Are there ever attempts to clear rocks or dredge the rivers to make them easier to cross?

@Loki_Mischief-Maker Cities on the water area always cool. The way you talk about Vaterigdam brings to mind the main city in The Lies of Locke Lamora, though that book has a WILDLY different tone. How is Vaaj pronounced? Because my assumption would be a NSFW slang term and that, uh, could maybe be an issue.

And then we go from nearly too much water to almost no water. Water is life, and that is never more clear than in the desert. Does the Festival of Rains have a set date, or is it a holiday that is determined by the rains directly?

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How dry is Sylva in the summertime? Being far from the sea, near the headwaters of rivers rather than their mouths, the amount of rain the ‘kingdom’ gets could vary quite a lot.

If it leans more towards Central Asia/Iranian Plateau levels of dry, where large portions are desertified, I have some sources on Iranian water transport I could shoot your way. I lean towards Sylva being wetter than that, though? Aquaducts, at least the main Roman ones I’m familiar with, move a lot of water.

Elves define themselves first by their Houses. Your House protects you and takes care of you. They are support in whatever city or town you go to. The Houses are remnants of the groups that banded together for survival in the apocalypse of their first planet. They are still strongly associated with survival and support.

Elves define themselves second by their profession. Scholar, warrior, politician, farmer, smith, etc. That’s how people form the most bonds cross-Houses.

Elves define their people as the ones that breathe the same air. The air is only breathable within the bounds of the Fisher King spell, so it’s not like this is a worldwide thing. This is country-specific. While Houses will go to war and there are certainly class divisions between professions, it’s this distinction of you’re not from our air that truly marks a person as an outsider and triggers suspicion and hostility.

Elves define their race as the refugees from the old planet. This connection is what makes any trade between the elvish kingdoms possible. It’s not something that comes up very often. The kingdoms aren’t anywhere near each other, because if they expand and their magics touch, chaos happens. But records of where each is and how they are ruled are always maintained, because if another apocalypse happens, they want to be able to come together again.

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Sylva is heavily based on the foothills and high plains of Colorado/Wyoming. The mountains get a decent amount of rain/snow, but the plains are right in the rainshadow. So dry, but not quite desert.

I would love any resources you have though! More knowledge is always better. :slight_smile:

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Bridges and fords are important, but they happen more at the local level. If there’s a semi-permanent settlement nearby, there’s likely to be a way to cross that’s maintained. Further out, where settlements are far more migratory, there’s not a whole lot done to manage the rivers.

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This @Rose_Hill Oh. This is why I need to run things by English spelling rules in my brain. The double “aa” sound in Dutch makes a long “ah” and the “j” was intended like the j in Jormungand, so the intended pronunciation was more like the word “vie” than anything else. It may be worth playing with the spelling there a bit to avoid that one. Vaai, maybe?

The Festival of the Rains is based on the festivals of the Nile flooding, which if nothing changes means in Khumia proper it starts with the floodwaters rather than the rain. The Meyeb has its own ways of marking the beginning of the rainy season and therefore the Festival. I’m not 100% sure about those who are outside of Southern Lands. Ancient Egypt actually set its new year by the star rise of Sirius, which happened right around the moonsoon season hitting the Blue Nile (so when the floods were not too far off). This may be the start of the regular Khumian calendar year, since that should be the same every year, even if the Festival is considered the New Year’s Celebration.

If that works (Mewet is also considered the goddess of the night sky), the heliacal rising may also be the official date of the Festival of the Rains for those outside of Meyeb and Khumia. This year it’s August 10; which would give me an official start date for Raven’s Quill if I choose to run with it.

@Kalinstar01 Ah, not that much rain. About fifteen inches near its historic population center, most of it all at once. Upper Khumia still gets a little more from the monsoons in August, Lower Khumia gets it mostly from the Messisoel Sea between the two continents. A few thousand years ago when the civilization was developing, the rainy season was a little rainier, and it dried up over time.

… there are definitely a few things I probably need to adjust, though.

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:slight_smile: I thought I remembered Colorado, but I couldn’t remember if it was the high prairie side of the mountains, or the desert on the interior flank.

I don’t know if you’ve ever used academia.edu, but it’s a free way to access academic sources, something I’ve found really valuable with my more recent projects. It may make you sign up, but this is a pretty good primer on qanat’s/kariz used to irrigate Iran. If you don’t want to use that the wiki article on qanats is fairly solid. The UNESCO world heritage center has a good set of pictures of what they looked like on the ground.