The Worldbuilding Summer Camp is here! This first prompt wave is themed around Power, so let’s look at how you can approach this theme and the various prompts!
The Copper theme: Power
The first theme is Power! Power can be understood in many different ways—from the political power or influence some organizations or people can have, to the energy that fuels tech or magic. But whatever it is, power creates agency through a cycle of weaknesses, needs, and actions, which can deeply affect how your world looks! After all, when something or someone powerful takes action, the consequences can usually be felt far and wide.
Janet wrote a deep dive into power dynamics in worldbuilding—use it to guide your worldbuilding for this theme!
These are the Copper prompts that follow the theme of Power. To answer them, visit the Summer Camp challenge page!
Somewhere in your world, describe…
1. A powerful organization [organization]
The Illuminati, the government of a superpower, a mages’ guild
Organizations can have many different kinds of power! It could be based on political influence (like a government), magic (the mages’ guild), certain ideas or morals (like the Illuminati, or a cult), or something else entirely. So the first step for this prompt will be to decide what kind of power they wield, how powerful it actually is, and why they have it. Think about what the organization does not have but needs or wants—this will help you decide what kind of actions they take! Some other questions you can ask yourself regarding this organization, such as who leads it, where the headquarters are located, and even some of its history, can be covered by other prompts in this wave—so let’s get into them.
2. A seat of power (of any kind!) [settlement]
The Hague, Coruscant (Star Wars), Minas Tirith (The Lord of the Rings)
Powerful organizations need to have a place for their headquarters, which serves a practical function (like meetings or offices), but also acts as a symbol of its power. The first step here will be to decide which organization will use this seat of power, and what sort of city and equipment they will need. A religious seat of power will look very different from a military one—and if it doesn’t, that says a lot about the culture, which could be very interesting to explore! Now, powerful organizations usually have their resources spread out among different buildings within the city or even in different cities, so think about how the organization structures its resources as well.
3. A resource that provides fuel or power [material]
Oil, Unobtanium (Avatar), metals (Mistborn)
Here we’re getting into the other type of power! Rather than being something intrinsically linked to an organization, this is an actual substance that anyone can use (with the right equipment and conditions). To come up with a resource that feels relevant to your world, think about what’s the fuel for: magic, space travel… dino-feeding machines? Of course, it needs to be relevant to your world’s reality, so look at the magic or technological systems available. Then, if you want to create conflict or drama around it, consider making it scarce too! Put it in extremely remote locations (like Unobtanium), or make sure that few people have the ability to use it (like in Mistborn). Monopolies are also an interesting way to create scarcity because they also create conflict!
4. An animal associated with, or symbolizing, power [species]
Bears, dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire), mockingjays (The Hunger Games)
We talked about symbolism in a previous prompt—now’s the time to go all in! First, think about what sort of powerful entity the animal is associated with—a government, a corporation, a powerful individual… Then, decide what would be the best animal to represent it within your world. For example, dragons are the symbol of Targaryen power in A Song of Ice and Fire because they were the only Westerosi family to have them, which is a great example of a history-based symbol. Another example is the Mockingjay in The Hunger Games: they’re the result of a failed experiment by the government with the goal to spy on the population, so it’s a great symbol for rebellion! Give a history to the symbol so it feels more grounded.
5. A culture that has suffered under the rule of a stronger nation [ethnicity]
Native Americans, Jewish people, Edena Ruh (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
Great political power often comes at the cost of the rights (or even lives) of other people. Most of us have experiences with this at different scales, and it’s something that has happened again and again throughout history. Which is why it’s so often used in fiction too! It creates a conflict that is powerful, relatable, and has a high emotional impact. To answer the prompt, start thinking about who are the people in this culture, and why are they suffering (or used to suffer) under a stronger nation—is it because of a territorial dispute, for ideological reasons, because they are seen as lesser beings, or something else? And what are the consequences on the lives of people on both sides?
6. A conflict between two unequal powers in your world [military conflict]
Battle of Agincourt, David & Goliath, Battle of the Black Gate (The Lord of the Rings)
Conflict makes the world more dynamic, it keeps things moving—and a war or a battle is a common expression of this! Making the conflict unfair for one of the sides is a great way to add drama to it too, and even to make it more relatable. Similar to the previous prompt, we’ve all been in unfair conflicts at work, school, or just day-to-day life—so it’s very easy for us to root for the less powerful side, which often is the good guys! So the first step here will be thinking about what the conflict is for and who are the different sides. In previous prompts, you’ve already built a strong power (prompt 1) and an oppressed group (prompt 5), which you can use as the sides for this conflict. Otherwise, look through your meta to see what are the ongoing drama or conflict points in your setting and go from there.
7. The title & responsibilities of an important person in your world [title]
Roman Emperor, Jedi Master (Star Wars), Headmaster of Hogwarts (Harry Potter)
If you want to keep fleshing out the organization from prompt 1, this is a great opportunity to decide what are the responsibilities of its leader. However, this doesn’t have to be about the leader of an organization! For example, the title of Jedi Master is held by many different people at once, and not all of them sit on the Jedi Council. To create a title, you could also look at history—although the Roman Empire fell a long time ago, the title of “Emperor of the Romans” was used by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire until the early 19th century. Rome was never within this empire’s borders, but the title held great symbolism thanks to its history. Check out our deep dive into history and relics for more about this!
8. A destructive natural or supernatural element [natural law]
Tsunami, Iron Wind (Numenera), highstorms (The Stormlight Archive)
We’ve talked about the power of people, but what about the power of nature itself? As powerful as humanity can be, it’s nothing compared to what extreme weather or natural disasters can cause, so this is your chance to write about a feared natural or supernatural element in your world! To make it more interesting, think about how it could tie into the rest of the setting. For example, highstorms in The Stormlight Archive are part of the magic system and play a huge role in several parts of the story. So start thinking about the why, but in a meta sense—why do you need or want this to happen? What’s its purpose within the story or the world? You can tie this into the previous prompts as well: how do the powerful organizations or settlements protect themselves, and how are they affected when it happens?
Wild Card prompts
Every week, we also release two prompts that are not related to the theme, so you can answer them instead if you want to take a break from the main theme! Here they are:
9. A species known for its mischievous personality [species]
Cats, fae creatures (in many folk stories), nifflers (Harry Potter)
Time for a more light-hearted prompt! Designing how a species looks and its biology can be fun, but giving them a personality can really make them come alive—and this one is about the best kind of personality (in my totally objective opinion). Now, you could stop at mischievous and call it a day, but you can go one step further than that! For example, nifflers are mischievous because they looove shiny things and will do anything to get them. So start by thinking about what that creature wants specifically that makes them be so mischievous.
10. A popular summer tradition that involves art and creativity [tradition]
Worldbuilding Summer Camp, music summer camps
Summer is a time to relax and go on holidays in many cultures, taking advantage of the warmer weather, so of course there are a lot of leisure celebrations and traditions—you’re taking part in one right now! Look at your world and think about what sort of creative tradition could appear based on other parts of the culture you might have built already. Also, consider if you want it to be part of a traditional festival (in which case, where does it come from?) or if it’s a relatively new event (why is it popular?).
Don’t miss the next prompt reveal!
Excited to get the second prompt wave? Because we’re excited to show them to you! Make sure to tune into next Saturday’s stream at 6pm UK/10am Pacific to be the first to know the 8 Frontier prompts and two new Wild Card prompts. Remember that to get Copper, you need to complete any 8 prompts, not necessarily the ones in this wave!
What are your tips for this theme? Share in the comments—and go to the challenge page to answer the prompts!