OK! It's time for step 3! Let's have an enthusiastic rubby hands and onward to:
Pretend Historian TV Intro
We've contextualised our idea in terms of location, we should probably vaguely contextualise our idea in the fictional history of the world. So we're not immediately trying to teach a high-level history class, but we're being David Attenborough as we explain to our viewers what's been happening for the last few years and what that means going into the next few years. First, I want to give you the link i've used to kind of get a feel for what governance looks like in the time period we chose: here you go! And then also, here is Wikipedia's list of baby's first persian legendary creatures.
The other thing I made a totally arbitrary decision on is that our "home" setting will be called Daressus and it's an independent kingdom with a new, strapping young king with visions and dreams of empire and conquest.
So! We're looking at a capital city, somewhere a little up a river from a coastline. Given we've used a fairly equatorial place as our inspiration, we're looking at the hotter climate types: we're in jungle, desert, warm plains, and so on. The absence of a frozen winter means that warfare is going to be possible year-round, but a helluva lot harder in the seasonal extremes (wet or dry). I mention warfare because that's far and away the fastest way to give your society an instant relatability. We all know what a society at peace feels like, and we all know what a society at or just recovering from war looks like. So, let's just do it random-style, and say this: on a d6, 1 is at war, 2 is recovering from a recent war, 3 is on the brink, 4 is surrounded by but not in a war, 5 is cold war, and 6 is peace time. I rolled this in the HJ discord with zero context and got a 3. So! Our country is on the brink of war with (1d4 = 4) 4 combatants. Given the tropes in play, I decide that of the 4, 1 is us, 2 and 3 have been fomenting war between all of us by having a campaign of petty skirmishes that were initially between them but have spilled out onto our territory AND the territory of an ornery asshole neighbour who's been kinda hoping for an excuse to take away land from the rest of us. We've been safe from their encroachments for the last few decades because one of the wizards of legend decided to live in our country. But she wandered off. Our king has been desperately trying to keep that secret but it's starting to leak.
Ok! So, there's the raw version, now let's church it up for people to read:
Three years ago, King Peyman the Beautiful ascended to the throne of Daressus, a small but relatively powerful kingdom along the north coast. His ascension and first few years of rule have been marred by a brewing war between Daressus and its 3 nearest neighbours, centred around generalized aggression spilling over from a series of skirmishes between the neighbouring Sketerra and Forlisae. These skirmishes spun out of control, offending Daressus' borders and inflaming Akemonos' well-known expansionist desires. Now the area is on the brink of war, with Daressus in the unenviable position of defending against both Akemonos and whoever emerges victorious in the current battles.
Akemonos has been an unsettling neighbour for centuries. Their expansionist ideals allowed them to grow to a sprawling kingdom, but both internal and external tensions have kept them from truly becoming an empire. Daressus has long depended on the influence and prestige of being the home of the legendary Fakhri of Ederuk, wielder of the white flame and liberator of Elom. Lately, though, disturbing rumours of her departure have begun to swirl around the halls of the satrapies.
Complicating all of this, a large number of Peri, the minor jinn, have been sighted all along the borders of the four kingdoms, which diviners have concluded is a clear and unambiguous sign that open warfare among the four kingdoms will not only result in unprecedented loss of life, but may in fact be a step in the prophecy of the Akhoumeni Seer, who predicted some 200 years ago that a great conflict would awaken the Atmurgh, who would burn the world.
I think this gives us a pretty good set of handles to further develop some detail, don't you? Our next step will be talking about our king Peyman the Beautiful, the guys (and ladies) in charge of the other 4 kingdoms, maybe a few more interesting legendary creatures getting in there and messing it all up, and we're TOTES gonna have to talk about who this Fakhri is!
See you in a couple days, I got some thinking and stuff to do!
For Traveller, I started with as planet, but then refined that to the planet's capital. At least, I did that when it came time to start working out nitty-gritty bitties. The empires are multi-galactic, so when I was doing the basic ideas of them, I was necessarily very broad and real vague.
This is actually secretly your most important step for the first bit of building. You will overwhelm yourself if you try to get rich and living on an entire planet, or god help you, an entire star system. So first we will pick a place for our first "splat book". This place that will be our focus will basically serve as a template for other places later, but it helps to give ourselves some fences so we can do all our legwork without getting lost.
So! For our exemplar, I'm gonna go with a big city. This is going to be the capital of a country, near a coast, but let's say about a half-day by boat upriver from the actual coast. There's trading and all sorts of stuff going on, and we'll call it: Golchereh, the capital of the Kingdom of Abaddoun. Now we can focus f or the hard stuff!
Alrighty! there were 10 answers to my little poll, which means it's time for:
Step 2: Pick a Genre and outline your base tropes!
So! Our chosen exemplar is Tolkien but Persian. Which comes basically preloaded with a default genre. Now you might say, "but Forresst, ALL the chosen exemplars had a preloaded genre to them!" which... no. They all had (and have) a POSSIBLE preloaded genre to them. You get to decide if you want to use the first, most obvious genre or not. This is important because your genre is going to help you define your base tropes too, which, you're going to need that shorthand to make this process efficient!
The other small note here, is that steps 1 and 2 are basically interchangeable depending on what you have, what you need, and what you like. If your group says "we're so sick of high fantasy please make a cops game", you just did step 2 first. In a case like this, all of your elevator ideas will be in the police genre.
With all that out of the way, it's trope time! Since we will be doing a pretty straight-on redo of Tolkien-era high fantasy, the tropes are nice and strong and easy-to-identify. So, let's list them!
1. Magic exists, and is useable in real-time by a small group of special people. 2. Magic can be and is fairly regularly imbued into object to help the people who CAN'T use magic in real time do stuff they couldn't do normally. 3. Personal combat is limited to pre-gunpowder weapons, and larger engines of war are limited to about the trebuchet. 4. Religion is not to be outright discussed and will not affect the larger, world-spanning plot arcs. Prophecy is considered to be a magical device and so is overtly useable. 5. Social constructions will be based on a fairly surface-level interpretation of whatever the Persian empire had for social construction around... uhhhh, looking at the timeline, probably around the era of Darius 1. 6. This is fiction, and therefore we as the boss of fiction are going to make all of this much more egalitarian than fake history, so, we are free to talk about women, LGBT characters, and different races in power and influence. 7. Dragons, magical beasts, and weird giant fauna exist. They're not particularly common but they're common enough that people will have heard of them. 8. There are fantasy races of people too. We get to make them up. We're Neotolkien-o!
SO! All this means that I, and you if you're playing along at home, have a little bit of research to do, mainly: we need to get a handle on Persian mythology. There's going to be a bunch of cool monsters, themes, and imagery in there that we will need to mine. Also, we need to go get some history, and see if we can't find a brief rundown of social and political structures of the Persian empire around when Darius 1 came into power. That's gonna take me about a week to do, so see you then!