World Building for Game Devs and Writers 101 – Lesson 2 – Geology/Geography

Welcome to Amazing Gaming Productions, my name is Mark. I’m the creator of Tales from Trinity City, a dark sci-fi tabletop RPG. You can download the beta version of the lore book, rulebook, and character sheet free from my website.

Today’s blog is about what affects geography and geology can have on our stories and worlds. Environmental crises is one of the reasons why man vs nature is a popular source of conflict in stories.

So, lets get the basics. Because of the complex chemistry needed for life, plate tectonics needs to take place. It provides the kinds of minerals needed to make things happen. The other impacts of plate tectonics are climates, mountains, volcanos and weather.

These features can change many things. As the wind brings in the weather, mountains create massive forests before them. Behind them there will be massive plains, semi-deserts and even full blown deserts. This will have huge impacts on the people in those regions.

The regions of the world are wide and varied, remember that when you create your own world’s climates.

Volcanoes work bring up lava from the depths to the surface, which provides fertile soil. Some crops on Earth can only grow in lava soils – like Pineapples.

Forests can bring their own difficulties. Predators can be a constant threat to children, which parents are going to be on the lookout for. How many Grimm Fairytales take place in a forest? It’s a place of constant ‘doom’.

The very first aspect that geography can define a story is where is your setting? Is it on a costal town? Is it in a prairie city? Is it a mountain town? Is it near a vast forest? Is it near lakes and rivers? Every region has positives, negatives, rewards, challenges and lifestyles in them.

My fiancée grew up in a region that had over 150 lakes in a 2 hour drive. The school board ensured children got swimming lessons every week to prevent drownings. Even if you’re not a speculative fiction writer, you should look at the area your story takes place in.

Prairie cities tend to focus on agriculture. Cities on coasts tend to rely on imports and exports, large scale fishing and tourism, what else could it rely on. Lake regions will have so many fisher folk (lol, a Trudeauism). Forested areas will rely on lumber industry to provide people with jobs. Because every climate has different influences it will change the cultures in them.

Every region will have things that the other regions don’t have, which promote trade. Mountainous regions bring in the metals for tools. forested areas, the lumber for home and tool making. The plains will make all the food to make sure these regions keep going. the coastal towns will trade with all the world. This is how the world works.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s talk about what can go wrong with geography/geology. In our last blog, I describe an upcoming war between the human world and the faery world. The human were going to invade during the one day out of 10 years when the portal opens. You must be asking, why are they doing that?

Well, the most powerful human kingdom, which spans 1000s of miles in many directions, is near a volcano. The mystics are telling the king that they have 4 years before the volcano is going to erupt. The king is thankful, the portal only opens up in 3 years. But he has to figure out who to save.

Since the portal can only stay open for 1 day, they can’t negotiate, there’s no time. There is also no communication between the realms other than that 1 day. They can’t allow a ‘no’, so they are going in. The fate of their civilization is three years away.

Time for that relatively peaceful world to go up in a poof of smoke, Er blast of lava!

See how easy it is to combine a couple of world building ideas to create a strong beginning of a story. We have a human kingdom panicking, ready to invade a new world. All because a volcano is about to destroy their entire civilization. As Pixar states, make surprises something to add to the tension of the story, not take away. No one wants a surprise rescue, they want a surprise holocaust!

Remember, the job of a storyteller is to keep their audience in suspense. What kinds of geological catastrophes can you make happen to make things even worse?

Is an Earth Quake about to destroy an important military outpost? Is an avalanche going to destroy the logs needed to help maintain a town for the rest of the year? What about a severe drought caused by an enemy kingdom damning up rivers that lead to your kingdom? What about a massive flood instead?

There’s an old proverb, when it rains, it pours!

Geography and geology affect the story in remarkable ways. Take time to think about the regions your story takes place in so you can add more story. The environment can take a conflict between two groups or people to the next level. Don’t leave that very important aspect without any thought.

What if you start a story when the enemies of a kingdom start a massive forest fire? Tornados started the Wizard of Oz. 2012 ended with massive tsunamis – be realistic though, waves can’t cover mountains. Hurricanes devastated Los Angeles in The Day After Tomorrow.

So, look at your world and start looking at how geography can make things even worse. Frodo, Sam and Sméagol had to go through the marsh before they got to the Mordor!

Don’t make your world complete prairies that can be easily traversed. Marshes can be a real great way to endanger your protagonists and their allies.

Thanks for reading my blog.

If you have any comments or questions – feel free to use the comment section below.

And share this on social media, especially on Pinterest.

Connect with me on Twitter.

Have a great day guys!

3 thoughts on “World Building for Game Devs and Writers 101 – Lesson 2 – Geology/Geography

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s