All our creative energy over the last few months went to writing and content production, so the dev diaries ended up to be the first to go out of the window! Now that the bulk of the creative writing is finished for both books of Empires of the Silk Road campaign - we get to write a whole new dev diary. Today, we are talking about Worldbuilding. Specifically, the creation process of the massive “Worldbuilding Bible” we created for the Historica Arcanum series, and the way went through this process within the writers’ room.
Worldbuilding with a Team (Disaster, Despair and Delight)
Whenever a group of passionate writers and game designers enter the writers’ room, meetings turn into debates, creative directors fight lead game designers and almost all are found flipping tables and chairs. Yes, worldbuilding tends to be that difficult.
All jokes aside, trying to establish the foundations of a world was really time-consuming and difficult, especially when you are creating this for a game that combines history and high fantasy magic. However, this world building process is extremely useful if you want to create any sort of IP that will span more than just a single product.
After you created a worldbuilding bible, you can easily bind together different tastes and desires in terms of stories, fiction and the progression of a book between writers who tend to have much different views for each!
We already have a pretty encompassing idea of what the world of Historica Arcanum looked like. But with a full Worldbuilding Bible in hand, we now have the confines and expanses of the world written down - which truly helps us with any sort of story, narrative, and gameplay ideation process. Highly Recommended!
A World of History and Magic
Our first blessing and also curse was that our main storyline was history itself. An alternate version of it. It is important to be faithful to history to a certain extent. Although we have atoned for our sins against the science of historiography in the first book under “The Lies We Told,” it is not so easy to write an alternative history RPG book with a lot of high magic concepts embedded within.
Our first questions, I think, started with the inquiry on what existed at the beginning, followed by the source of magic, and for our case - how the heck did these not affect the progression of history! Although there are more than a hundred different answers to how the universe was created from real personalities who lived in history, we as creators of the universe need clear and definite answers. Although clerics may draw their powers from the gods and some magicians may sell their souls to the devil for a cantrip that deals d10 force damage, we, as writers of the story, had to know the real explanation of magic as well.
How did we solve it?
We did the most logical thing we could: we took the human story at the center. Wars, inventions, diseases, disasters, and what all happened in history, inevitably, are all based on the notion of the “human”. Even if myths, fairy tales, and the strange and marvelous monsters that come with them are included, all history and stories in history are actually concerned with telling something about humans. We also tried to be faithful to this basic narrative of history.
We are facing the same problems as Greek, Chinese, and Roman historians in the years before the Common Era. We don't know the ancient periods in history. Our knowledge about the first civilizations of humanity is frighteningly low. We know what Cato said about Carthage in the Senate, we have good information about Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, we can tell what Suleiman the Magnificent ate for lunch before the conquest of Belgrade, but we have no answer when it comes to what the Sea Peoples wore during the Bronze Age Collapse. Apparently, neither did Herodotus or Tacitus. This created a playground for us where we could put magic and all weird things people claimed to happen such as Shahmaran, Albasti or similar magical monsters.
We tried to incorporate real personalities into our story, based on both their legends and realities, by taking the historical background into account. It is exciting in itself to be able to write stat blocks for many characters such as Abdulmecit, Osman Hamdi Bey, Alemdar Pasha, Ibn Sina, and others that I cannot mention.
It is also very enjoyable to create original characters and factions while maintaining the texture of past events. The pleasure of making my own contribution to history can be found in very few places.
Our advantage here is sharing a well-known story with you. The idea of mixing magic and mystery with a known event structure and becoming part of the common consciousness of humanity may be what motivates us.
It is necessary to allow the convergence of different ideas and creative people. Tunnel vision for a story that only one person can have is very dangerous and a collective brainstorming is a great way to prevent it.
However, we recommend keeping a chocolate, cake, or bagel in your meeting rooms to prevent creative directors, managers, and game designers from colliding.
Best regards from Metis Team and Happy New Year,
Mehmet Onur Kart