Insider 6/18/2010 - Doug Seacat

Writing isn’t always about words. Sometimes it’s about numbers.

And charts. Ok, not really. Still, you might be surprised how useful it can be to know your way around a spreadsheet program. This is handy for world building, since otherwise, it can be difficult to organize high volumes of information. Over the years I’ve accumulated an odd collection of spreadsheets filled to the brim with Iron Kingdoms numbers. One of the main things with numbers is to find a way to present them in such a way that they convey meaning, and charts are a good way to do this.

Given the release of Forces of WARMACHINE: Cryx, I figured I’d open with a couple of Cryx related examples.

This particular chart shows a hypothetical breakdown on Toruk’s athanc—the one he divided to make a bunch of dragons to celebrate Bad Idea Day. As an added challenge, I went with the pie-in-a-pie chart to show Everblight’s further subdivision of his own portion into his warlocks. Note that relative sizes are exaggerated for impact and not necessarily representative of the actual proportions of athanc pieces possessed by any dragon or warlock. Privateer Press means no disrespect and makes no aspersions on the characters of entities shown with smaller relative portions of the athanc compared to others. The real quality of an athanc is what you do with its blighted energies not raw mass.

Whenever I make a chart like this I always get a chuckle out of imagining King Leto or Empress Vanar in a conference room being subjected to Power Point presentations by their military subordinates. Toruk and Everblight are much less daunting after viewing them as pastel-shaded pie charts.

This one is more of a quick little list rather than a chart, one that I put together to help clarify a few things with the lich lords to my editor. Sometimes you need to keep track of when a particular lich lord received the title so you don’t make an embarrassing gaff by asking them about a historical event they weren’t around to witness. Eventually, I may expand this to show the name of every lich lord that ever existed and their terms of office over the centuries. Then again, maybe not.

Those first two examples were more whimsical than truly useful, but this next one is a piece of concentrated data that has been invaluable to me while working on various projects. It is still woefully incomplete but gets better the more data I feed it.

Notice: These lists were made for my own reference and were not edited or proofed. I take responsibility for errors therein; blame my fat and clumsy fingers. We reserve the right to change previously unprinted dates as required. Nothing is canon until it shows up in print.

Open this sprawling chart if you dare! Feel the soothing weight of the numbers. Eventually I’ll get all our major characters on there and add more significant events. This started when I was writing the “Bond of Brothers” story for NQM#5 relating the background between Madrak Ironhide and King Leto. The more people I added to it, the more useful it became, particularly for the Gavyn Kyle files. I really need to add more HORDES warlocks on there in particular. Always more to do!

Still, even incomplete there are endless mental games you can play with this information. You can determine at a glance that Lord Commander Coleman Stryker was a precocious 9 years old when the Scharde Invasions began, and was only 12 by the time it ended. Meanwhile Nemo (at a spry 48) and Magnus (at 26) were waging war for Cygnar alongside Prince Leto (24) and King Vinter IV (30). Have I mentioned I want to write a novel set in the Scharde Invasions?

You might think Severius is really old as he’s pushing into his mid-80’s, until you consider Karchev was 54 years old when Severius was born! That crazy Khadoran had been living inside a warjack for twelve years before Severius was wearing diapers. Every time I look at this chart it prompts endless possible stories to run through my head.

Those are just a sample of the dozens of charts and spreadsheets I have lying around. There were dozens of complex linked sheets required for work on Superiority to determine the composition of the faction armies. I think the largest and most involved charts I ever made for the IK were from the early days working on the IKCG/IKWG related to the demographics of western Immoren. I did a comprehensive breakdown of the cultural and religious groups by kingdom and city that became a sprawling project in short order. It was from this work that we were able to gain a proper appreciation for the scope and power of the Church of Morrow and determined vital setting factors like the sizable Menite minority in Khador. In retrospect we should have pushed the population numbers higher, what with these wars killing people off all the time.

I’m not sure if anyone else finds this sort of thing interesting, but I find a certain beauty in seeing the reality of a setting become more concrete and defined by translating things into numbers.