For this week’s post I wish to return to the subject of world-building. Much of Warbound: The Shield Maiden takes place beyond the borders of the Domains of the Chosen, following the Ninth legion as they travel the long route home. I am going to share some of my world-building ideas here. There is a long list of does and don’ts for fantasy world-building. If you are looking for direct advice I would try the worldbuilding and fantasywriters pages on Reddit. Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson also have great podcasts and other material on world building. I’m not going to expound on those, but rather go through my own process, which is decidedly utilitarian.
Inspiration and Goals: The Vvath
With the Vvath I started with an idea stolen shamelessly from one of my favourite games; Warmachine by Privateer Press (with some influences via Michael Moorcock and others). In the Iron Kingdoms, one of the warring factions has unearthed blades enchanted with ancient dark magic, covered in gibbering faces. These blades turn the wielders into homicidal maniacs. Rather than recoil at the discovery, Khador decided to put these powerful, dangerous weapons to good use. The blades are given to convicts and condemned men who are then shipped off to the front and used as shock troops. What could go wrong?
The troops are called Doom Reavers, and they look more or less like a mystical version of a serial slasher from an eighties horror movie crossed with a decidedly evil knight. The idea of corrupt blades intrigued me, especially with the idea of the Reckoning, the great magical war that spiraled out of control and devastated the Domains and tainted the rest of the world. I can see these sort of weapons being created as part of the the war of the Reckoning and then becoming central to one of the new cultures that arose from the ashes.
- History [general goal] All of the civilizations in Warbound: The Shield Maiden must be juxtaposed against the Domains of the Chosen. For various reasons the Domains are a very familiar society, early America as settled by the Roman Empire if you will. The names are all easy, based around the Chosen, with only a few hints of the civilizations that existed before the Reckoning and the reconquest. The goal with the Vvath is to create a little blister of culture that helps define the Domains from the outside.
- Alien Flavour [general goal] The Domains are mostly free of the after-effects of the reckoning. The walls of Krass never fell before the wild magic or the hordes of tainted. The people of the Domains consider themselves the last bastion of civilization and have a very imperialistic past. I want the Vvath to be a harsher reflection of this — a society bent on conquest and domination.
- Dwarven Heritage [Vvath goal] I have always had a soft spot for dwarves in Fantasy fiction, and the idea of using a nation of imperialistic Dwarves as the basis for a set of antagonists really appeals to me. The archetypal dwarven penchant for smithing makes the blades an ideal weapon for them.
- Intelligent Blades [Vvath goal] The blades themselves have to be interesting, with a unique enchantment process and look. Obviously I don’t want to just copy the Doom Reavers; inspiration is one thing, outright plagiarism is another.
- All is not as it seems [Vvath goal] I want there to be something cunning and insidious about the Vvath.
- Ideology [Vvath goal] The Vvath are a competing ideology to the Domains. They must present a view of the world that is at odds with the Krrassian Empire, yet understandable to the modern reader.
Outlines of the Vvath, the Sword-Lords of Khazak Krim
- History [general goal] Khazak Krim was once part of a larger Dwarven Kingdom. It was a border trade city overlooking the only land route between the continents of Sudra and Ithal’Duin. When the reckoning began the wealth of the Dwarves was a tempting target to the Gifted, and Khazak Krim quickly found itself cut off from the rest of the kingdom. Never numerous, the Dwarves of Khazak Krim realized that they did not have enough people The original blades did not originate from within Khazak Krim, but the Vvath saw their potential and used them to create an army which helped protect them throughout the Reckoning and expand afterwards.
- Alien Flavour [general goal] The Vvath believe in slave labour. All races are seen as inferior to the Vvath and Dwarves in general. Khazak Krim is a wondrous paradise that overlooks an empire of squalor where non-dwarves are, at best, seen as potential hosts for a Vvath blade.
- Dwarven Heritage [Vvath goal] Aside from the swords and totalitarian society the Vvath are very similar to a regular society of Fantasy dwarves. Slave labour does make them less inclined to be miners, however.
- Intelligent Blades [Vvath goal] When a Vvath comes to middle age they craft a Vvath Blade. Their consciousness is transferred into the blade in a dark and crazy ritual which I have not thought up yet and possesses the living, but mindless husk of their own body or whatever body wields the blade. When the Vvaths original body is slain or destroyed, a new body is sought out. Obviously, this changes their psychology somewhat 🙂
- Soul Eating? I also toyed with the idea of the Vvath blades being able to animate the dead that they kill or to eat souls to heal the wielder. Not sure yet.
- All is not as it seems [Vvath goal] The Vvath hold contests in the far flung regions of their Domains and among their slaves. (Maybe even some Gladiators) The worthy are gifted with a Vvath blade. The blades have a reputation of making the wielder invincible in battle, gifting them with supernatural strength and toughness. Of course this is true, but the blades also erode the consciousness of the wielder and allow the Vvath in the blade to take control. Bodies that are possessed long enough start to take on the features of the Vvath — hence many of the hosts wear copious amounts of armour and masks to hide their growing deformities. At Khazad Krim host bodies wear a mask that resemble the original face of the Vvath.
- Ideology [Vvath goal] The Vvath are a totalitarian society, ruled by ancient sword lords. The sword lords are the opposite of the Chosen in many ways, since the contest to choose new bodies is a ruse. The idea of slavery is one that readers will understand but generally find repulsive.