World Building for Writers and Game Devs 101 – Lesson 4 – Flora

Welcome to fall guys. In a few short weeks, we’ll be harvesting crops in Canada. Just like how many of us are working hard to bring in the harvest of our hard work as well, like how I created Tales from Trinity City!

Today’s blog is all about flora – the plant kingdom that surrounds every world with life.

Plant life surrounds us. Life as we know it couldn’t exist without them. They take carbon dioxide and water to form sugars and oxygen through Photosynthesis. Flora can span 1000s of square miles as forests, hundreds of acres as farms and dozens of yards as gardens. Not to mention the miles of lawns people have for their homes. Flora is everywhere.

When you create your world, remember this very important consideration.

When it comes down to it, we need to think about the kind of plant life that lives in our world. Our world has a vast variety of plant life, so we should look at the same varieties in our created worlds.

The Earth has crops humanity plants and harvests – your world needs that. Forests are important – trees are fuel and building materials. Gardens both provide food for common people and portraits of beauty for the nobility. And no one likes weeds, taking up valuable soil that people need for beauty and survival.

No matter what kind of race you create in your world, I would expect most sapients to have crops they cultivate. Sapients are intelligent enough to know you can’t always hunt and fish and bring something home. To compensate, they will have a large variety of fruits and vegetables to feed the starving.

No world’s plant life should be the same, so crops should vary between different worlds. We plant different fruits and vegetables based upon the soil conditions. Different worlds means different conditions, which means different crops.

What kinds of crops does your race cultivate for different meals and dishes? What kind of fruits do they enjoy and how do they serve that fruit – fresh and unprocessed, as deserts? What kinds of grains and tubers do they use to keep themselves working hard? Do they use certain types of vegetables for certain kinds of of dishes? What kinds of herbs do they use to provide flavouring of their meals? What kinds of leaves and crops do they grow for teas and soups? Do nobility have the best food and only give common people the worst food?

The Cornicopia, the bountiful harvest your world enjoys!

For the Orcs – once vegetation started coming back, it was very strong roots. They had strong outer skins, the Orcs changed to have tusks that help them break these roots up much easier. They use all kinds of very dense vegetables because they break through them with. The Orcs have a dish where they hallow out a pumpkin and fill it with beef chunks, tubers, turnips, onions with little chunks of garlic – with some water inside of course. They bake the pumpkin for hours, so all the the ingredients flavours diffuse into each other.

The Orcs cultivate crops for their strong flavours and hardiness. Onions, tubers, turnips and other tough foods are exactly what they want. They like crisp apples and peaches – the harder they are the better. Other races may like oranges and other soft fruits, but not them. It’s an insult to an Orc to give them such weak fruits as a dessert. Give no dessert or one that is strong and hardy.

When you think about other fantasy races, one that will come up is Dwarves. What kinds of crops do Dwarves have? Do they get crops through trade? They mine and smith and trade with human neighbours. The humans trade grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock for tools and weapons? Or do the Dwarves cultivate a variety of fungi? Are these fungi safe for human consumption?

So, what does these buggers eat other drinking ale from who knows where?

These are some great questions to ask when you are creating a dwarves society in your fantasy realm.

In The Change series, by @LoriAisling, she introduces a plant that starts growing when a world resets. The plant is there for food and is good to smoke as well. I loved that small detail she put into her novels, because that just adds to her world building. The series mythology is amazing, you probably should read it.

And technology changes everything. Tractors and combines have changed our agricultural sector forever. And that’s not the only kind of technology that can change everything. For instance, in Tales of Trinity City – they have vertical farms. Using UV light from LED light bulbs, they grow the necessary crops to feed the 50 million people living in the city. Thousands of 50 story tall buildings growing everything the populace needs. Think outside the box when it comes to crops.

The next big type of flora you need to decide upon is forestry. Trees, Shrubs and wild flora are important parts of the world. Primitive cultures use wild flora as remedies and salves. Trees are building materials and fuel for fires. So are shrubs. Shrubs all provide protection and privacy. You need a robust forestry subsection if you want your world to feel real.

If you have settlements in a mid-evil styled fantasy world, they will be logging. They use the trees they cut down to build all the establishments in the town. They also use those trees to fuel their forges and fire places, so the town can get their work done.

Nobility would also tax those towns, a certain amount of trees have to be for nobility. The nobility needs the best lumber for their cottages and castles. The villagers get what they need to maintain themselves.

What a lovely Monarch!

What kinds of trees are common and uncommon? Are there different kinds of trees and shrubs – like evergreen and deciduous streets? What happens to different trees when the seasons change? Do their leaves change colour? Do they shed their bark? Do they lose their leaves?

What if the tree is magical – like the Elder Trees from Game of Thrones or the Brokiln tree in the Witcher?

In Dragon Age Origins, the Danish Elves use bark from the Ironbark tree to make armours and weapons.

Ironbark, an invaluable resource for the Danish Elves.

In the Orcish World, due to the volcanic soil, a new and very hardy tree has sprung up – they call them Adamants. These trees are tough, capable of withstanding powerful forces. The orcs use them for all their villages and towns. They use it for every tool, including their powerful and deadly Orcish battle axe. The Orcs revere this tree. The creator blessed this tree to be as hardy as they are.

Another level of realism for your worlds is gardens. Nobility have complex and beautiful flower arrangements. A form of wealth Cold War, my garden is more robust and engaging than yours is. I am the much better monarch compared to you.

All because humans, and likely every sapient, loves beautiful things. Seeing a well arranged garden brings joy and happiness for everyone who sees it. But flowers and gardens can have profound impacts in your world.

In the Elder Scrolls games, players use many flowers for alchemy. They brew magic potions that heal, cure disease and provide extraordinary abilities. In their games, the flowers that do this are all over the place. But in your story, what if these flowers were only meant for nobility. After all, why would nobility allow the common folk to drink a potion to heal, when they need that healing.

What do flowers represent in your world? Our culture values flowers as gifts of love and devotion. But flowers could be a declaration of war. What kinds of flowers do people use during funerals? What flowers are declaration of love? What flowers do people use in their homes? What reason do they use certain flowers in their homes? Do flowers have magical properties? Are some flowers magical and others not?

Any kinds of plants and wild flowers that people don’t value end up being weeds. This can be for any reason.

Do they stink? Is it common for people to be allergic to them? Do they cause rashes? Do they have too many thorns? Are they poisonous? Do they take too many nutrients out of the soil for other flowers/crops? Do they look ugly? Do they implant spores that harm people? Are they tripping hazards? Do they kill trees?

In the First Mass Effect, the Thorian mind controlled people through spores. They would follow what the plant wanted or feel pain.

I’m with Shepard here, the only reason you study a plant like this is to destroy it.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a story of plants replacing humans with clones.

Unwanted plants can create powerful story element.

When it comes to world building, Flora is an important element.

There can be so many story possibilities for flora in speculative fiction. From magical effects of alchemy, to the invasion of the body snatchers and the Thorian. You can have all kinds of weird and amazing stories that involve flora.

Flora means forestry and crops – something important to sapient creatures. We all need shelter and food. Don’t skimp, look outside the box and start thinking about he kinds of plants in your world.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to use the comment section below.

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Have a great day guys!

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