Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Layers of History in Your Backstory

Something that can be fun to do is to really explore the past of your universe. There are some times when you just want to throw in some basic history to your world that adds some depth to it without really adding details that you need to worry about. Taking something from the real world, you may want to debate adding some former civilizations to your world.

The great thing about adding dead civilizations to your universe is that it adds some background to your universe without adding any additional story ideas. This does not mean that you may not feature quests for the ancient artifacts or that the civilization won't feature as part of a character's personal arc, but more that the civilization is there to add window dressing to the world. In essence it is something to just show that the world has been around for a while, that there is more than merely current events.

A dead civilization helps you with a lot of minor details. Obviously the characters that benefit the most are archaeologists, historians, and paleontology, but it can add some great details that other characters can have some fun with. It can add some mysterious sites, such as Stonehenge and Easter Island, some great tourist sites such as the Egyptian pyramids, or just some obligatory background puzzle, such as if Troy actually existed. Better yet, you can have a couple of them running around, just to have different races running around.

Even science fiction can benefit, as it can show that some of the worlds really do have a past. It can even show the inspiration for some ship designs or give characters a non-combat reason to explore a planet, as some ruins are bound to just be places for tourists to spend money. They can even provide time travellers some great vacation ideas. Not every civilization has to be one that contributes to current stories; sometimes you want pyramids that are just there for viewing and not for hiding some sort of doomsday device.

In short, occasionally you just want some dead civilizations that add flavor to your world. Have some fun creating them, basing them on real world civilizations or entirely fresh creations, and you should do okay. Just remember that they are supposed to add some local color and not another long-lost race, and you should do fine. 

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