What is Worldbuilding?
John Hamilton (2009) states that “Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe” or simply put: creating a setting where stories can flourish and inhabit. I like to think of worldbuilding as a more niche subset of “Writing”: all authors and novelist worldbuild in some way but it has only recently become a named subject of its own.
When I talk about Worldbuilding I explain it like this: “You know how Tolkien has this huge history and lore of Middle-Earth that goes way beyond his books? Or how George R.R Martin has all this history leading up to the Game of Thrones and entire lands and cultures beyond Westeros? That’s what worldbuilding is: I’m essentially making a setting and establishing the geography, the cultures, history, languages, and everything else under the sun and beyond.”
How I got into Worldbuilding
My worldbuilding journey started quite a while ago sometime in 2014 for an idea of a Total Conversion Mod for the strategy game Europa Universalis 4 in which I wanted to create a complete overhaul of the game and turn it from a grand strategy game set in real life to a grand strategy game set in a fantasy world, which as of writing this, noone has still done yet!
Of course during my first attempts of the mod I realised that I needed a world for the mod to inhabit – and thats when I decided to create a more-or-less generic fantasy setting for the mod, a setting where I could get answers on what countries would exist, what cultures and religions, and what provinces there would be. I didn’t want a setting that was different, I wanted a setting that was familiar to fantasy lovers and Dungeons & Dragons geeks: the unique selling point would be the fantasy setting in EU4’s infrastructure.
Very early on I discovered the subreddit /r/worldbuilding and realized I’m not the only one doing this odd little hobby, many people were doing it too for all sorts of reasons: from games, to books, for their Dungeons & Dragons game, or even for the hell of it!I learned a lot about the processes of worldbuilding and how for example how to create scientifically believable maps and rivers from the subreddit, and I also learned a lot from seeing how other people built, present and organize their works. To this day I still frequent the subreddit and have also shared my own world with others. All-in-all it’s great to have a community thats interested in your work and great to have a community where you can learn how to better create worlds and stories.
My Setting: From Then to Now
The world I have now started from the phrase “Blackpowder Rebellion”, which was an idea that fit around EU4’s timeframe of 1444-1821 (aka the gunpowder age), in the original setting there was a rebellion that fought against a Magocratic Empire (aka a government ruled by mages) that succeeded because of the availability of guns – kind of like the French Revolution but in a fantasy backdrop.
That idea moved into the “Blackpowder Chronicles” where I moved the time back from French Revolution to the 1444 starting date of EU4 (more Renaissance), with the ‘Chronicles’ aspect allowing a wider set of stories set within the same world. Instead of the rebellion aspect the Blackpowder comes from the main event of the game: the Greentide, in which a large orcish horde decimates the known world only to be saved by the advent of gunpowder weapons.
This year in 2017 I renamed the setting to “Anbennar” as I had delved so far in the history of the world that it wasn’t all about gunpowder anymore. The word “Anbennar” originated from my basic conlang’d* Elven which means ‘community’ or ‘union’ in Elven (referring to initially the union of Elves and Humans into Half-Elves, which make up the majority of the nobility of the setting – but more recently meaning the union of all races into a peaceful nation of coexistence). The Magocratic Empire still exists and actually IS Anbennar, in this case its more of a benevolent magic empire that eventually becomes more and more decadent before the Blackpowder Rebellion happens.
(conlang: a constructed or invented language)
Since 2015 I have stopped work on the mod as I needed to focus on university work instead, and have been worldbuilding casually on-and-off in my spare time as a hobby.
Even though my modwork has stopped the Anbennar setting still influences a lot of my work, some of which are in the portfolio section of this website. The most notable one is probably my text-adventure Blackpowder: Soulmarch, which was written for my Narrative Theory module in university, the game is centered around the previously mentioned Greentide, and looks into the mythology and gods of the setting (which haven’t changed much at all since 2014 when I wrote it!)
As of writing this I’ve mainly been working around a timeline and wikia that helps organize my work, but due the focus on timelines I feel like I’ve lost track of scope. I’ve been worldbuilding the ancient past for the majority of this year as I felt like I needed some foundation for the present (year 1444) but to be honest I feel like I need to rein it in and focus on the here and now and just built and justify the past later. Too much focus on the before and not enough on what matters: the now.
Hamilton, J. (2009). You Write It: Science Fiction. pp 8-9.