Entropy impacts your fantasy world

Entropy infects all systems. Things wear down, and either collapse or shake apart into new configurations.

Fantasy worlds are divided into a series of ages, where myths are split apart from legends and history. They might look like this Middle-Earth inspired history (at least my high school D&D campaign world did):

  • First Age – Gods walk the earth, or make the world. Evil gods are dealt with or bound.
  • Second Age – The great civilizations flourish, items of remarkable power of crafted and legendary battles occur. Famous institutions like kingdoms, and bloodlines are established.
  • Third Age – Not as epic, as the first or second age. The hero grows up on a farm or distant location and learns about the age of magic. Perhaps they’ll inherit a sword or learn lost secrets. There are ruins everywhere. Some dark threat left over from the second age will return and be dealt with. Perhaps the hero will reconnect with one of the elite institutions established in the second age.
  • Fourth Age – The age of magic ends, and everything changes. Elves sail away, gods leave the world, and hand it over to people, who, live in wisdom and peace and tell stories about the good old days to the kids.

This is also a metaphor for human life. The first age is childhood when you believe impossible things and dragons, the second age is when you’re young, fighting for your passions, the third age is when you get your job and learn how the systems of the world work. And the fourth age is when you’re paying off the mortgage, and you don’t have time to play D&D anymore or read books, but you’ve got fond memories of those days and will tell your bored family members about the good old days.

Let’s cut to 2020, COVID era. I’m in the fourth age of my life. During lockdown, I work through a bunch of intense personal stuff. One of them is that my epic fantasy novel series is doomed not to be finished in its current state—it’s lost in a muddle of endless rewrites. The book had lots of POVs, good character work and world building, but not much of a plot apart from an expedition across a continent. Time to recognize that it would never be done. I’ll never be Brandon Sanderson. (At least with that book.)

I get out my shotgun, place the barrel against the malformed, beating dreams of finishing that series, and pull the trigger.

Time to reboot. Start something else. I need to create I can finish. Shorter, less epic. Except, being one of those eternal gamemaster types, I can’t tell stories without a world.

Yeah, I could build any world I want and—my subconscious wants to design a setting in a fantasy world’s fourth age. When I was younger, the concept of the fourth age horrified me. Who’d want to tell stories in a world where the magic went away, and everything was about modern life, office workers and cars? 

Now, I find that interesting. Because the past is a magical one, right? How would that influence the modern day? And how did the magic leave the world? What if something went wrong with the final epic battle between light and darkness? What if losing magic was a last ditch strike? A nuclear option. Not a gentle fading of magic like in Middle-Earth—a planned obsolescence—but a catastrophe mess that broke the world.

And what if magic survived, but became hidden, messy and complicated?

So that’s the key idea I had when designing my world. Modern, yet with a hidden layer of magic.

Now to figure out what that looked like. And what sort of stories would it drive?

How about you—did you build your world by thinking about this sort of thing to start with (themes) or did you start with some other idea? Or even a sense of a character or a vision of a scene? (I love the story by CS Lewis how his initial idea for Narnia was simply a mental picture of Lucy and Mr. Tumnus walking arm-in-arm through a snowy wood…)

I’m Kell. I write urban fantasy in an interconnected universe. I’ve published one novel so far, and I’m working on the sequel. The premise of the universe is: Did you ever wonder what happened after the Dark Lord was defeated, and when the magic left the world? It’s been two thousand years since the forces of Darkness were defeated. Now, there’s a modern world of cars, skyscrapers and officers. Elves run fashion magazines. Orcs go to office jobs, and everyone thinks that the age of wizards and dragons is folklore. It’s a perfectly ordinary world…on the surface. But magic hasn’t gone away—it’s merely hiding in the cracks of the world. My current series, the Revenant Records, is an urban fantasy series focusing on ghost stories, mysteries and dark adventure. It’s the story of an undead teenager, trying to balance her responsibilities to help lost ghosts, while maintaining a semblance of a normal life. I love roleplaying games and I’m writing a system for my story world/universe. My mega-fandoms are Doctor Who, Final Fantasy VII, and Transformers.

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