WorldEmber 2023 Homework in Derkomai | World Anvil

WorldEmber 2023 Homework

Homework Week One
Well, it's almost time for WorldEmber again! Last year, I wrote almost 40K words and got an "Award of Verbosity." It was the first time I had taken part in WorldEmber, and it was great fun and super motivating.   This year, I've made a commitment to write 20K words, and hopefully, I can achieve that. It's a lot of writing for one month, but only about half of what I wrote last year, so I think I can get there and maybe even surpass that goal.   This year, I think I will focus on the country of Senyon, which is based on ancient China. This past week, I've been working on a map of Senyon and the surrounding regions, and I finally uploaded it and began adding markers, etc. I'm looking forward to filling out the country, developing cities, towns, and other locations, adding background to the characters that I've already created, and creating new characters. One of the characters I've created recently that lives in Senyon is Ginginya Liu-Er, known as Six. He has (I think) a really interesting back story, so I think much more can be written about him and with him as a main character. For Spooktober, I wrote a short story with him as the main character, A Needle's First Prick, and I'd like to write more stories like it. The regions around Senyon, like The Impassable Jungle, also give myriad opportunities to create interesting locations, characters, species, and stories about them.   So, it's time for me to start gathering ideas and thinking about what to write! Good luck and may your creativity have no bounds to all who participate!  
Senyon and Surrounding Environs
Homework Week Two

Senyon Mini-Meta
In some respects, the meta for Senyon is pretty well established, in the sense that I've known for a long time that it is based on ancient imperial China, specifically early Qing dynasty China. The family names I use for the characters living in Senyon, especially the imperial family, are mostly loosely derived from Manchu clan names, e.g. Yixing-Jiumin is derived from Aisin-Gioro. Other names are similarly very loosely derived from Mongol clan names and Han family names. The imperial palace, Liliakinyosa, is very obviously based on the Forbidden City in Beijing. The emperor, Emperor Yixing-Jiumin Jinsen, has a harem based on the harems of Chinese emperors. And so on.

I've been an formal and informal student of Chinese language and history for around 20 years, so basing a country on China is super interesting for me. But in fact, the country of Senyon, based on China, existed in Derkomai from its very beginnings over 45 years ago. My interest in China grew around 25 years later. Luckily, my later interest matched up with my earlier worldbuilding, and so expanding on the rudimentary basics of the country that were already there is natural. The question then becomes, what direction, mood, and themes to expand? There's a million possible ways to go.

One of the ways I keep up on and improve (very slowly) my Chinese language skills is to watch a lot of Chinese dramas. Some of them are really good! My wife enjoys watching "palace" dramas with me, even though she doesn't speak Chinese. The subtitles are usually good enough to make watching them enjoyable, even for someone that doesn't speak Mandarin (or Cantonese, as the case may be). Anyway, in the storylines, characters, and locations I develop, I'd like to capture the mood of some of those palace dramas: rivalries in the harem, illicit love affairs, maids trying to capture the attention of the emperor or other high-ranking people, corrupt eunuchs looking for ways to get whatever they want, strife in the imperial family, natural disasters, rebellions, and other problems that the court has to deal with, jealousy among court officials, and much more. There's also a million stories to be told about the lives of people outside of the capital, among the towns and villages in the countryside.

An issue I am facing (on Derkomai as a whole, as well as for Senyon), is that nothing is ever really finished. I'm writing about and developing an entire world, one about as big as the Earth, with a population of several million, multiple sentient races, a pantheon of celestial and infernal beings, and much more. It will never be fully described in my lifetime. But that's okay. As I wrote in the Derkomai world meta, the motivation behind creating Derkomai, from its very beginnings some 45 years ago until now, as I've developed it further on World Anvil, is to give GM's/DM's a place to create their own stories and campaigns. Faerun has become the "default" world for many D&D campaigns (and there's good reasons for that, as it has the official backing of WotC), but there are (of course) many other worlds that have been developed. I hope that Derkomai can serve as one interesting alternative world, with locations, characters, and backstory sufficient for people to base interesting games in. If anyone decides to base a game or campaign on Derkomai, I'd love to know, and be willing to contribute my thoughts about areas you have questions about.

Well, that's more than enough for my Senyon mini-meta. The rest of the homework for this week I think I've already taken care of. The categories for Derkomai are well-organized, and I've spent a fair amount of time reading what other Anvilites have written - most of which is far better than my rather boring and mundane work. It's a good thing my career was engineering rather than creative writing!
Homework Week Three

Welcoming Readers to Derkomai

This week's homework is definitely a challenge for me. I've never really loved the home page for Derkomai. In my view, it's okay. Not fantastic. Not captivating. Not amazing. I tried to lead readers into the backstory of Derkomai, into how Humans arrived on Derkomai, using that as a stepping stone into the rest of the world. But perhaps the way I've done it is too oblique? Also, my page design is kinda mundane and boring, I think. I spent some time on the CSS awhile ago and improved the design quite a bit from the basic template that I started with, but when I see how creative some people are with their page designs, I'm pretty blown away. It isn't the CSS itself that is so impressive - having spent decades designing and implementing enterprise web applications for a Fortune 50 company, I know CSS pretty well - it's the beauty and creativity, the amount of thought and work that went into those pages, that is really impressive.

That said. I think sometimes it's a little unfortunate that the visual aspects of how a world is presented on World Anvil might overshadow the writing. I suspect that there are some pretty amazing worlds on WA obscured by bland presentation. It's just true that we live in a visual age, I think. Fewer and fewer people have time and/or patience to read long blocks of text, unless it's really, really super well written and captivating. Without attractive presentation, few people these days will even take the time to *start* reading. And so page design, artwork, pictures, video, audio, and so on, have become more and more important, and it's clear that to draw people to take an interest in Derkomai, I need to work on those areas. The question for me is: do I have the visual creativity and design skills to make really compelling pages? I don't know. I was (before I retired) an engineer, not an artist. Being an engineer requires a lot more creativity than many people think; nevertheless, I would never compare my visual creativity with that of a painter, sculptor, etc.

So, what to do? Here's what I'm thinking right now.

1) Think about the design of my home page more. Sketch out some designs to see what looks good.

2) Explore more tools for creating more compelling visuals. I've made use of some AI image generation tools, and they've actually helped me a ton already. I've also used some of the map making tools. I've been less satisfied with my map making, probably because those tools require more artistic skill from me than the AI tools. Perhaps I could combine the two? It's an interesting thought, anyway.

3) Solicit help. I know there are a lot of fantastic artists and cartographers in the WA community. Perhaps some might be willing to contribute to making Derkomai an amazing world?

4) Solicit feedback. What do others think of the Derkomai page designs? And of the world of Derkomai overall? How might the page design be improved? How might the writing and storyline be improved? I love hearing from people about it. Suggestions and comments (giving constructively) are 100% welcome at all times.

That's enough of my typical blathering for this week's homework. I'm looking forward to hearing from you all.
Homework Week Four

Last Minute Prep

I think I'm pretty well prepared for WorldEmber. I've been collecting ideas and outlining some of the articles I am planning to write. My desk in my office is set up and ready to go; though, I think it could use a decent cleaning and dusting. I have plenty of time to write, since I don't have a job that I have to work around (but the holidays will cut into that, for sure). My only question is whether or not I have enough ideas and inspiration for articles to reach my goal. But based on my experience from last year's WorldEmber, once I sit down and start writing, finding enough words isn't a huge problem for me. If anything, I tend to be overly verbose, so I need to spend time editing to tighten up my writing.

I'm looking forward to getting started. Good luck to everyone!
WorldEmber 2023 pledge document
WorldEmber 2023 pledge document by Peter Nelson (Zero Sum Games)
My WorldEmber 2023 Pledge - 20K Words

Cover image: by Peter Nelson (Zero Sum Games)


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Nov 4, 2023 06:55 by Elspeth

Almost 40k words in a month is inspiring! Well done!

Nov 4, 2023 07:10 by Zero Sum Games

Thank you! I was surprised myself that I wrote so much last year. When I started, I was just planning to write enough to get the badge, but then I got a bit of inspiration on some characters and other stuff and got a lot more done than I thought was possible for me. Anyway, good luck on your WorldEmber journey. Your world looks fascinating; I will need to read more!

Nov 18, 2023 09:35 by Elspeth

Thank you, that's really kind! :) I love it when inspiration strikes like that. You've got this. :D

Nov 4, 2023 19:45 by Annie Stein

A couple short stories for WE sounds like an excellent addition to any world! I hope you have a great Worldember this year too!

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Nov 4, 2023 21:09 by Zero Sum Games

Thanks! I'm looking forward to getting started and looking forward to reading some of the incredible things Anvilites write this year!

Nov 10, 2023 14:57 by Nimin N

Wow, great job on 40k last year! Hope you have as much fun this year too and looking forward to see you expand on Senyon. And good work on the map. :)

Nov 10, 2023 17:02 by Zero Sum Games

Thanks! I'm gathering some ideas and putting together some stubs offline to prepare for this year's WorldEmber. I have a lot of work to do still on the Senyon map, and I've started putting together a map of Sendoshi (the capital of Senyon), but I'm getting a little stuck on a couple of points. There are some things about how maps work on WA that I don't like much, like how map pins don't scale, etc. Some of it I could maybe solve with some CSS, but so far I've been too lazy to dig into the map CSS. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading you WorldEmber articles!

Nov 12, 2023 12:50 by Nimin N

Yeah, I also find the map markers are a bit difficult to work with for different reasons, which is why I haven't dived into them much yet. For the time being I settled with just adding a couple of selectable layers on top of the base map. :)