Summer Camp has started, and the first prompt wave is here! Let’s unpack the prompts and share some ideas to get that shiny copper badge!

The Copper theme: Expanse

The theme of the first eight prompts is “Expanse”. So, what is an expanse? Well, it could be defined as “a wide and continuous area”, which as you can see is a pretty generic definition that could be applied to many things. In the real world, we have vast deserts, deep oceans, rolling savannahs and huge rainforests—those are all expanses. But of course, if you’re writing fiction, the possibilities are infinite!

In a fantasy world, a pocket dimensions like D&D’s elemental planes could be considered expanses. And expanses that look more normal (like a desert) will probably have special things going on to make it more interesting. For example, maybe it’s a desert because an enormous dragon coughed a millennia ago!

If you’re going for a futuristic world, space is probably the biggest expanse in the universe, or you could have planets with a single biome (like in Star Wars). In Dune, the planet of Arrakis is a huge desert (not exactly boring, though). The Expanse, a book and TV series with a very descriptive name, takes place mostly in outer space. Expanses can be very engaging places and a source of conflict if you take your time to add points of interest. And this is exactly what we’ll do with these eight prompts!

Summer Camp 2022: Copper Prompts

Remember, you can fill in all the Worldbuilding Summer Camp 2022 prompts from our Summer Camp 2022 Page!

Somewhere in your world setting, describe…

1. An ocean, desert, plain, pocket dimension, or other large expanse

The Pacific Ocean, Mordor (Lord of the Rings), an asteroid field

This is where you can describe the expanse itself, so it’s very important to get it right. Think not only about the nature of the expanse (i.e. what is it made of and where it is located), but also about the significance it has for your setting, including plot threads! For example, Mordor being an expanse where the only living things are orcs serves as a symbol for Sauron’s dark power. If you’re building an asteroid field, you have a great opportunity to talk about smugglers or other criminals that could use the asteroids to hide. Or if you go the ocean route… what lies under the waves?

2. A religion or organisation connected to a natural phenomenon

Cult of Poseidon, Stormfather (The Stormlight Archive), wormhole aliens (Deep Space Nine)

When nature phenomena become overwhelming or hard to understand, humans (or humanoids) will start treating that as a deity. In Ancient Greece, the sea was attributed to Poseidon, and so people worshipped him (which, given the amount of islands Greece has, makes a lot of sense!). You can see this in fantasy and sci-fi too. In The Stormlight Archive, a huge hurricane goes through the whole continent every few days, so some cultures worship the Stormfather as a god. In a sci-fi setting, like Deep Space Nine, aliens appearing from a wormhole could have a similar role. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes sense within the setting!

3. A species that survives in an unlikely place

Pompeii worms, tardigrades

Expanses are often harsh places to live in, but life always finds a way! So, think about a species that could survive: how does it manage to do it, and why does it live there? The real world has some incredible examples that you could take inspiration from. Pompeii worms live on the ocean bed, regularly withstanding temperatures of up to 60 ºC, and can even reach 100 ºC (that’s 140 ºF and 220 ºF). If you think this is impressive, let me introduce you to tardigrades: they can survive at temperatures between -200 ºC and 150 ºC (-328 ºF and 302 ºF), extreme pressures (over 1,000 atmospheres) and they can even survive direct exposure to outer space. If a tardigrade can do it, so can your species!

4. A vehicle or type of vehicle used for long journeys

Airplanes, flying ships, spelljammers (D&D’s Spelljammer setting)

The fastest way between two points is a straight line, even if there’s a deadly desert on the way! So think about a vehicle that can be used to travel through the expanse—and make sure it can defend itself from whatever species you created in the previous prompt! You could even tie it into the second prompt: for example, make the religion use the vehicles to get to a holy place in the middle of the expanse.

5. A settlement beside or in a great expanse

Las Vegas, Ceres Station (The Expanse)

If the expanse has important natural resources, there will be settlements beside or in it (like a port city). In The Expanse, Ceres Station is located inside an asteroid and it has about six million residents. In the real world, Las Vegas is located in the middle of a desert! So, when you’re building this settlement, the most important question you have to ask yourself is why would anyone want to build a settlement here? Make sure to link it with the fourth prompt too! After all, if the settlement is in an expanse, it will need special vehicles for people to get there.

6. A material only harvestable from nature

Coral, Atium (Mistborn), Dilithium (Star Trek)

What if the expanse had a unique material that was very valuable or useful? That’s the perfect reason to visit or even settle in an inhospitable area! Since it’s an important material, make sure it’s a core part of the plot, conflict, or theme of your world. In Star Trek, Dilithium is a very important material to build spaceships (which are a core part of the plot). In Mistborn, atium and the way it’s harvested is also a core part of the story and has big implications for the magic system. Remember: if the different parts of your worldbuilding are related to each other, your world will feel more real!

7. A culture who lives by, near or within an ocean, desert or other expanse

Polynesian culture, desert nomads, mermaids

Creating cultures that are very different is a great way to explore different parts of the world, or the same parts with a different point of view. In this case, this prompt is perfect to tie all of the copper prompts together! You could have this culture survive thanks to prompt 6’s material, live in prompt 5’s settlement, use prompt 4’s vehicle to travel… you get the idea. You can look at real-world cultures for examples too. For instance, if the culture you’re building lives on an ocean, look at the Polynesian culture!

8. A food that marks a rite of passage for a culture in your world

Wedding cake, the heart of your first kill

Food is a very important part of many cultures, so adding food that’s tied to a specific tradition is an amazing way to develop your world one step further! But before you come up with the food, think about the rite itself. What’s the change that’s being celebrated? Getting married is very different than becoming an adult after your first kill. To do that, look at the culture you’ve built (that’s prompt 7!) and think about their values. Depending on what they value the most, their traditions will be different. After you have the tradition, think about which kind of food better represents it.

Let me know in the comments if this was useful—and share your own prompt unpacking tips too!

Don’t miss the next reveal LIVE!

Excited to get the next wave of prompts? We are too! Remember that you don’t need to complete all of these 8 prompts to get the copper badge (they can be any eight prompts), so even if you couldn’t finish them, tune in to the reveal stream! We’ll be going live on Saturday 9th of July at 7pm UK/11am Pacific. Be one of the first to know the new prompts, get inspired with a blog post just like this one, and hang out with the community!

Are you part of the Homework Club?

Looking for time to get it all done? Come join the Homework Club! The Homework Club livestreams happen every Sunday in July on our Twitch channel at 7pm UK/11am Pacific. They’re a great chance to get help, ask questions about the event, and get inspired by others…. AS WELL as get those precious words down during live writing springs.

And if you want to show off your participation to Summer Camp, we have some graphics you can use in your World Anvil world or in social media:Summer Camp participation Twitter banner

Download all participation graphics and the community streaming pack! You’ll find logos, stickers, banners—anything your heart desires!

Summer Camp 2022 is sponsored by GacuCon, Norse Foundry, and Kobold Press

Big shout out to our amazing sponsors, GACUCon, Norse Foundry, and Kobold Press! They make it possible to offer so many prizes to celebrate your awesome creativity! Check them out and give them some love!