Resources for World-Builders

Since the WordPress archives are far from the easiest thing to navigate and it can be difficult to find what you are looking for even though it is, I am putting together a couple of ‘index’ posts linking to things I’ve written on this site on a given topic.

This one is resources for World-Builders. I know a lot of my readers are interested in constructing fictional worlds which follow historical rules and patterns, where things like agriculture and armies make sense. So I thought I would gather together some of the material I’ve written that might be of use. This list will be updated as new material comes out (it is in no particular order, but roughly sorted by topic):

Premodern Economics:

Lonely Cities (I and II): A look at the human terrain – that is, the landscape created by human activity – formed by agriculture outside of large pre-modern cities.

Armies and Logistics:

The Siege of Gondor (I, II, III, IV, V, VI): a sustained study of a single campaign from the angle of all of the participants, these posts discuss campaign logistics, siege techniques, battlefield physics and cavalry dynamics.

The Battlefield After a Battle: Exactly what it says on the tin, this post discusses both where our tropes of post-battle scenes come from, but also (more relevantly for this list), what it ought to look like.

The Preposterous Logistics of the Loot Train and its companion post, How Fast Do Armies Move? Both discussions of the difficult logistics of moving large armies over thinly populated terrain before the advent of modern transportation, which feature a lot of grounded, historical number crunching on speed of march, spacing, supplies, animals, etc. Professionals talk logistics.

Religion:

Practical Polytheism (I, ONGOING): A discussion of the nuts-and-bolts of ancient polytheist practice, focused on practical knowledge, rather than moral belief. A good primer for anyone trying to get inside of the headspace of a polytheistic religion. It helps you avoid the problems of:

How It Wasn’t: Game of Thrones and the Middle Ages, Part II: This specific part of the How-It-Wasn’t series delved into the problems in the construction of Westeros’ religion and many of the problems which are common in fantasy construction religions, centered on the core point that it is generally safe to assume people in the past believed their own religion.

Oaths! How Do They Work? An addendum on to the above post, this was a fuller discussion of oaths and vows and how they are often got wrong in fiction. It also fits well into the practical part of Practical Polytheism, stressing that oaths and vows are meant to be practical devices for building trust, not empty rituals.

Society and Politics:

How it Wasn’t: Game of Thrones and the Middle Ages (I, II, III): An extended look at the historicity of the world-building in Game of Thrones specifically and A Song of Ice and Fire more generally. Though focused around the question of how historical the setting is (it isn’t), there is also a fair bit in here for someone looking to craft their own more historically grounded setting.

Elective Monarchy and the Future of Westeros: Although this post really only asks one specific question (what is the likely outcome of elected monarchy at the end of Game of Thrones, S8), it is also a discussion on the role of legitimacy and centralization in monarchies. No one rules alone!

Armor and Weapons

Kit Reviews: These are shorter posts looking at a specific combination of props and costumes for arms and armor in film. Right now, there are two, the Unsullied (also has a discussion of cohesion) and the Lannister infantry, but I have more planned!

Punching Through Some Armor Myths and Archery, Distance and ‘Kiting.’ These two posts discuss the evidence we have for armor penetration by both melee weapons and arrows; the second goes into some depth on what those limitations mean for tactics, specifically for horse archers. The topic of arrow-armor-penetration is a very active and debated one, so I’ll note that these two posts were written in June, 2019; I hope to update them as new experiments shed new light (and I will change the date above to reflect that when I do).

Order in Armor, Part I and II. Discussing some of the basic principles behind which parts of the body are armored first and most extensively, setting some general rules of thumb for crafting sensible fantasy armors (but of course, there are always exceptions).