A friend was bemoaning the necessity of making a world the other day. Now, since I happen to think that is one of the fun parts of pre-planning a story, I found his reluctance baffling. So I decided to think about how to do such a thing in a methodical fashion.
With my gaming dice. 😀
Now, first and foremost are the plot requirements of the story that’s being planned. They can load the dice at any point, including backing up and rerolling four steps ago.
So let’s start with the big picture.
A star, or stars. Roll a die. Odd number = one star. Even number = two stars. Any more is going to really mess with orbits. I recommend against it, unless you put the third star in a really distant orbit. Although one in a highly eccentric orbit that occasionally causes problems could be useful for plot purposes.
Now two stars can either be close, with the planets out further and orbiting the double stars’ center of gravity, OR the stars can be so far apart that they each have their own little planetary system. Roll it! Odd for close, even for distant. And if you instantly say “No, hate that idea!” Then go with the other.
But what kind of star is it? Again, what does the plot need? If it needs “enough like our Sun that there’s a habitable planet” roll a dice. Odd it’s “a few percent larger than the Sun” even is “a few percent smaller.” That’s close enough. Unless you’re writing science, and then you need to put the dice away.
A planetary system. Roll the D20. That’s how many planets are in your system. But which planet is the one your intrepid explorers,/colonists,/crashed rich idiot/pirates are going to call home? I’d pick one somewhere in the middle. But if you rolled a twenty, you might want to roll a D6 to see which one you’re on.
See how much time you save, baiting your subconscious like this?
Is the gravity lighter or heavier than Earth’s? By how much? [D20—1 to 10 is lighter by that percent, 11-20 is heavier by that percent] What? You don’t like it? That your sub conscious saying nope, nope, nope! So roll again or make up your own rules. Just don’t dither around for an hour about it, Okay?
Is the air breathable? If it needs to be, for the story, then you declare that it is indeed breathable. No need to roll.
If it needs to be not breathable, can it be processed and used? Can it be changed so it is breathable? Same again. What does the story need?
Right, now you’ve got this big blank sphere. Okay, don’t be pedantic. Oblate spheroid. So here’s your world.
Twenty areas. (You can split it up as much or as little as you want!) get out the D10 and start rolling. That is the amount of dry land in each section. You don’t have percent dice? You can fake it, I trust you.
Okay, remember your story? That plot? Is there anything the requires lots of land vs lots of ocean? Do you want a desert planet or a world full of island archipelagos. Or large Islands like the British Isles, New Zealand, the Philipines, Japan . . . you can reverse the percentages, or swap a couple of sections. If you can’t make up your mind, get out the twenty-sided and reduce the areas by that much.
Now, look for some patterns. The purpose of this exercise might be to mimic random nature, but the human eye sees patterns. High percent sections that might link up into big continents, or block a circum-equatorial current. Grab a pencil and scribble in roughly that percentage, don’t bother with making it neat, you may be doing some erasing, as you decide to connect it to the next block, or wait! A dangerous narrow strait right there . . . the equatorial current roaring through . . .
You can roll for other things as well. Percent mountainous, swampy, desert, forested, pseudo grasslands . . . I probably wouldn’t bother getting this detailed this early in the process. But if you want it detailed, you can do it.
How are the poles looking? Want some ice caps? Can’t decide? Roll a die. Odd yes, Even no.
Native vegetation? If the air is breathable, you’ll at least have algae in the oceans. Does your plot have anything to say about this, or are you just going to go with the flow and deal with whatever’s there, just like your characters are going to have to do.
Uh, do you excessively identify with your characters? This is where you really do need to step back and be the god of the story.
Oh . . . Kay. More dice rolling.
1 = nothing but prokaryote algae
2 = ocean life—edible (mostly)
3 = ocean life—inedible (mostly)
4 = land plants—edible (mostly)
5 = land plants—inedible (mostly)
6 = small primitive land animals (pseudo-bugs and such)
7 = huge dangerous land animals (dinosaur sized)
8 = dangerous poisonous animals (pseudo snakes, poison arrow frogs etc)
9 = large dangerous land animals (pseudo elephants, predators to match)
10 = Reasonably sized yummy critters
11 = Intelligent life, primitive
12 = Intelligent life, civilization
13 = Intelligent life, industrial age
14 = Intelligent life . . .
Well you get the idea. When you get far enough down the list that you start squirming and going “Nope, nope, nope!” stop the list there. Or add anything you think of, and roll the appropriate die. Don’t like the results? Roll it again until you get the one you actually want, whether you consciously realized it or not.
Now. Pick a place where the story is going to start. Land (or crash) your ship. Have the malfunctioning transmat dump you. Right. There. Whatever.
Firm up the land’s details as they crawl out of the wreckage and start looking around.
And read a good book. Or my new one: