Welcome to Part 16-3 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂
War in fantasy worlds is often a huge catalyst to get the plot going or to explain why things are happening. War creates chaos and opportunity for things to shift and if you need to shake up your fantasy world then plunging it into a war, is a good way to do that. War is good for this because in addition to creating society-wide conflicts, you are also creating conflicts between all of the lower divisions of societies – families, noble houses, etc. where does the loyalty lie?
War has the potential to disrupt every part of life. You can run into food shortages, issues with communication and travel, prices may increase, drafts can happen, etc. If you have a war in your world, how is it affecting their characters? How do they feel about it?
What kind of war is happening? Do your research here because there is a lot of variety and each one works differently. Some examples are wars of independence, civil wars, ethnic conflicts, crusades, wars of succession, and invasions.
Who is the conflict between and why? Is the public reasoning for the conflict the same as the actual reason for the conflict? Sometimes those in power don’t want the populace to know the real reason they’re entering a conflict. If that’s a focus of your story, how does the lack of transparency influence your characters decisions in regards to the conflict?
At what point do your characters get involved in the conflict? If they’re not directly involved in the military or a ruling group, when are they getting dragged into it and how does their role change? Consider what is going to change if your main setting is suddenly hostile towards neighboring nations. Maybe your MCs favourite food isn’t available anymore, maybe they have family elsewhere and can no longer contact them, if that’s the case, maybe their loyalty is suspect.
What are the weapons of war? Here you’ll have to consider technology levels, terrain and transport, whether magic is involved, etc. Cannons are great for knocking down walls, but they’re also a bitch to transport. A good way to figure out applicable weaponry is to do some historical research. Look into places that have a similar terrain and climate (if possible) and see what kind of weapons were in use. Learn how the weaponry works so you have at least a basic understanding when you’re including them in your story. If you’re making up an entirely new weapon, then you should still know how it works if your characters are handling them.
What is the aftermath of war? How does your world recover? How do your characters recover? What are the relations like between the conflicting groups when the war is over? How are wounded soldiers managed and cared for? Are families compensated if their loved ones die in battle? If people lose their homes and livelihoods, do they have assistance? What does the world look like now? Landscapes might be changed, economies will be affected, infrastructure will be damaged and the labor force will be changed. People are going to be displaced, poverty and lack of education will rise, populations will be reduced. New nations might emerge, old ones might disappear. War is a game changer and if you’re going to have one in your story you need to be prepared for a before, during and after look at how that affects the world you’ve created.