Have you ever read a story and things just seemed to work . . . wrong?
- The hero defeats one guy and then the world is safe, the Evil Army is destroyed, he gets the girl, and his chin is still awesome?
- The superpowered alien who somehow manages to release massive, colorful, well-animated attacks that just well . . . have no side effects, no source, and no real explanation? I mean how do you release a “gravity buster” without messing up everything but the guy you aimed it at?
- The villain who’s massive, connected, complex plot works perfectly while in the real world you aren’t even sure the game you’re working on will ship without a day one patch and an apology?
You know that feeling. Things happen easily in stories and games – too easily. Cause and effect apparently are having a trial separation and you worry they’re going to get a divorce before the book ends.. Simple actions have massive and unwarranted repercussions. We snicker, we laugh, we roll our eyes – and we’re out of the world because things just work wrong.
A lot of world building is about Power, in the non-Machiavellian sense. It is about how something gets a result, and when you don’t make it work right in your world, then your world is no longer “real.”
Power, from super attacks to a clever cutting comment, done wrong makes a world unbelievable. If you’re building a setting, writing in a setting, you want to make sure that you don’t trip people up so they stumble out of your world. In building your world, you have to get the power of things, of people and weapons and comments and plans, right or the world is back to being words on paper or pixels in a game.
Fortunately I have a rule for getting it right. I call it the Pyramid Of Power. Which is a useful rule, and not the place Kephr-Ra, The Never-Dying, hid the Staff of Omens to keep it from Man-Cat and the Silvermasters.