How to build your world: Transport

I’m back with my World Builder series.  In my recent World Building articles, I discussed creating Races and their Habitats.  I have decided that today I’m discussing the role of Transport.

Title Image - World builder Series: How to build your world: Transport. Image: image of a world

Why is Transport important?

Image: Railway tracks surrounded by trees.

Transportation is simply moving from one point to another.  When we think of transportation it is usually in the form of people travelling.

However, when you are dealing with a newly-created world, especially fantasy worlds, there are other aspects that need to be considered.

Depending on the location of your race, transportation may be vital to their very survival.  If your race lives up a mountain where the pass is blocked with snow every winter, then the transport of resources such as food and medicine is important.

This could play a big part in your races’ lives.  They would have to make sure that any travelling to and from the mountain for such supplies was well-timed.

Leave too early and the food may not survive the long winter and may perish or rot. Leave too late and they may not make it back in time.

What is transportation for?

Image: Wooden gypsy caravans and horse riders

That will depend on your world.  Transportation is used for many things:

Travel

Does your race move around?  Are they travellers by nature such as nomads?  Or maybe a travelling circus troop.  Do they visit different places for enjoyment?  Do they go on pilgrimages to sacred locations?

Are there groups of them who travel to share their faith or seek peace between cities?  Are they conquerors who travel great distances to lay claim to other lands?

Export

Maybe they are traders.  Do they have goods to sell in other villages and towns?  Do they supplement their local food with others that they can’t grow/raise themselves?

Perhaps they are a fishing village that trades with their hill-neighbours.  Trading their fish and seafood catches for their neighbour’s mutton and wool.

Are luxuries brought in?  Spices from far-off lands?  Expensive silks or gems mined from mountains?  Are there slave traders who cross deserts with newly-captured slaves?

Transportation

Do you have jails or prisons in your world?  Are there criminals that must be transported back to the lands where they are wanted for crimes committed?  Are there special places for dangerous or insane criminals in remote locations?

Punishment

In our own history, transportation was used as an alternative punishment for convicted criminals.  Rather than hanging, they were often transported to the colonies where they would serve their sentences.

Do you have a section in your world where criminals are sent?  A place where they are put to work?  Are they given the option of being sent off to some unknown location with new dangers and away from any family or friends?

Migration

Does your race need to migrate with their food source?  Maybe each year (or at random times) a natural occurrence such as rising water or a volcanic eruption forces them to relocate.

Methods of transportation

Image: 3 camels walking in convoy in desert, led by man

There are numerous modes of transportation, such as the ones we currently use and others that can be incorporated into a fantasy or technological world:

Land

This is via the use of roads and rail.

Does your race use animals as transportation, such as horses, camels, yaks or any other sturdy terrestrial animal you have in your world?

Does your race have technology such as motor-engines, trains, trams or magnetic levitation to transport goods and people long distances?

Do people travel in convoys to reduce the risk of robbery?  Do they hire mercenaries to ride with them to protect their goods in transit?

Air

Does your race have access to air travel?  Is this via aeroplane or short-range terrestrial shuttles?  Helicopters or air balloons?

Do they ride on the backs of dragons or giant moths?  Flying cars maybe?  Or would that only be for the wealthy?  Would others have to share space in large, slow-moving hover ships?

Water

If your race travels by water is it short distances across a lake or huge migrations over the ocean?  Do they have small personal canoes or giant ships?

Do they travel beneath the water in personal scuba-pods or via mag-lev vacuum tubes?  Are they a water-borne race that travels long distances on the back of whales?

Space

If you are creating a sci-fi where you travel through space, then what sort of transport is there?  Simple spaceships and short-range shuttles?

Are their giant luxury spaceliners that transport you in hypersleep?  Do you use wormholes or FTL drives?  Is space travel only permitted by the military as a form of planetary defence?

Teleportation

Whether on land, sea or in space – does your race have the technology for teleportation?  Or perhaps they are just born with this ability to transport themselves (and even others) to another location.

If so, is there a limit to their range?  Do they have to know their final location clearly to stop them from re-appearing within a wall?

Do they need to use special devices or equipment to teleport?  Something that gives coordinations?  Do they have to include teleportation plans and gain permission to travel?

Care and Maintenance

Image: Farrier putting horseshoe on a horse

For each manor of transportation, you may need to consider things like care and maintenance.

If your race uses any sort of animal to travel, then these creatures will have care needs specific to them and will have physical limits that need to be addressed.

For example, there is a common misconception that a horse, any horse, can take its rider a great distance.  However, if a horse has been used only for simple work such as basic farm labour it will not be built for long-distance travel.

Consider this with any animal transport.  How fast are they?  What terrain can they manage?  What are the risks to them and their riders?  Are they trained for the work?  What weight can they carry?  What do they need for care to remain capable of working?

If you have technological travel such as motor vehicles or even spaceships, what are the maintenance needs?  Are they serviced?  Do they have to be checked annually to make sure they are up to code? Is this costly?  What are the consequences for failing to adhere to this rule?  Must all spaceships travel with a qualified mechanic?

Environmental effects

Image: Purple sky lit by lightning strike. Lightning storm

Whether it’s the wagon on the road, the balloon in the air, the giant ship crossing the ocean or the camel in the desert, the environment has an effect.

This can be anything from a road that gets muddy in the rain and can affect the ease at which the wagon can pass to adverse weather that affects air travel.

Are there mountain passes that close up?  Are there areas that flood becoming impassable?  Is the area sometimes hit by brutal storms that can down trees and block the trails?

Are there hurricanes or tornadoes in your world?  Do you get thunder and lightning storms that would make air travel dangerous?

Do the ocean have whirlpools or icebergs or squalls.  Maybe it is teaming with pirates or perhaps there are areas where storms can come together from different directions to create rogue waves (the current theory for what happens within the Bermuda Triangle).

Does the desert get sandstorms that shift the dunes and obscure the sun that may be needed for direction?  Is there quick-sand?  Does your world have sand-sharks that can pull unwary travellers to their death?

Summary

Transport can play a big part in your world and so in your story.  Simple things like those mentioned above can give depth to your world and create small, side characters or new obstacles your main characters have to overcome.

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Hope you found this useful.  There will be another World Builder series next Friday.

Please feel free to leave me your thoughts in the comments below and if you think someone can benefit from this post, share it 😀

Happy writing

Ari

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15 thoughts on “How to build your world: Transport

    • Thanks for reading Jane. I like the idea of your world that divides the ability of transport among the humans and aliens. Creating a specific divide between the two species

      • Thanks! Occasionally I think, why are my characters all walking when they could steal a transport and fly! But then they’d need fuel and mechanics and …. besides one of my characters practices parkour and she loves to run!

      • I love how you identified why your characters don’t steal transport, all these extra points add to a much deeper reality to the world.

        lol that is awesome, I love parkour, what a great skill to give a character

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