Having just aired an episode on rivers I figured I’d expand even more on what we discussed. Ya see, when we put an episode together we make a metric ton of notes. Much of that content makes it into our episode then a bunch gets left out.
Here’s a taster of what our discussions about rivers wound up sounding like:
Rivers as Borders
One of my favorite components in this episode was what Jon brought to the table about the personalities of rivers. Honestly, it’s super enriching to think about the very geography of your world as conveying meaning and having a character all its own. This is where another fact about rivers comes in:
They move enough that some pretty serious land disputes could arise from them. This is one way that a river can be said to be chaotic or deliberately fomenting unrest and dissolving relationships. Sometimes major floods can cause rivers to divert to new places, sometimes as a river dries due to lack of rain or too much water withdrawal it can simply not be flowing enough to make the borders clear, other times they just find an easier path and go there. I see this a lot in my line of work as engineer but local problems can quickly become national ones when they get heated. Rivers serving as borders could be an excellent backdrop for a story.
Rivers go where they want Part II
We talked a little about this in the episode. Rivers go down and they take the path of least resistance which means that lots of people impact the watershed (the piece of land in which all drops go to the river you’re looking at) and those people can come from anywhere within that land. There’s actually a place in Potter County in northern Pennsylvania where a if a drop of water veers a little to the West it goes to the Gulf of Mexico, if it goes an inch to the East it winds up the Chesapeake Bay and to the North it’ll go into St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. This means that a slight change in wind drastically changes who cares about how that drop of water is treated, whether it comes in polluted with wicked magical energies from a coven of witches living on that spot, or is infested with infectious spores from the local fauna or is blessed by a local deity who presides over the region.
Who cares where your water goes? Everyone in the watershed. It’d be fascinating if your story moves from a local dispute about the river poisoning people into one that spans realms as it becomes clear that a neighboring kingdom/nation is actually the one doing the harm.
These questions about water are vital and almost everyone can relate. The ubiquity of fresh water and its universal need make it a touchstone. Use it.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
James wrote this! James is a host on the Worldcraft Club Podcast. He loves tabletop rpgs, running and drinking too much coffee. He lives with his wife and young son somewhere in Central Pennsylvania.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.