Worldbuilding the Kingdom of the Eater of Ghosts

Way back in 2014, I posted about building a planet generator for auto-generating planets in the Kemtewet Empire (the big baddies in Rights of Use). I’ve referenced that sheet many times: a little while polishing Rights of Use, a lot more while revising Laws Among Friends, and especially whenever I’m referencing travel times between planets or building a new setting I haven’t previously shown. This weekend, I even used it for details for a cover I’d like to commission for a pre-Laws Among Friends short story called “Faithfully Enforced.”

Yesterday, I cracked open the planet index again to turn the previously generated planets into plot-relevant details.

You see, I’m playing with book 4 again, which is the first one in the series that I’ve never drafted before. Everything is new: the settings, all the characters except one, the way everything interrelates. In yesterday’s dabbles, I had a very specific need: I needed a Kemtewet king to talk about the business of managing his kingdom, and for that, I needed to understand his kingdom.

Well, what I knew was that I had data about the planets under his control:

Exhibit A: Spreadsheet of Stellar and Planetary Data

That’s pretty sterile, and it’s hard to relate back to a setting in that form, so my first step was to put it into words for each planet.

Here’s an example for the First Lord’s second planet:

  • Secundus:
    • 38% more gravity rocky world with no magnetic field around a bright main sequence white star
    • Half as much water as Earth
    • 3659-day year (10 Earth years/ almost 408 Sais years)
    • Slightly cooler than Earth
    • 75 deg tilt
    • Enclosed habitats
    • Exports:
      • Raw metals
      • Raw minerals
      • Some hosts

I’ve started making some inferences about this planet. It has no magnetic field, so I’m assuming the atmosphere is hard to keep. Its population lives in enclosed habitats, which makes it expensive to maintain and difficult to grow. Remember: I write about a relatively small galactic empire run by body-possessing aliens where one planet full of symbionts is fueled by a hundred+ planets providing a host supply. The colony’s main export is hosts, so if a location is going to make host cultivation difficult, it better have something else going for it. In this case, I’ve chosen raw materials accessed by mining.

Other things I know about this planet: it has extreme seasons on a ten-year cycle. It’s year is really long, so the locals will use the Sais standard calendar. I’m thinking of revamping the gravity metrics, so I’m ignoring those for now.

And that’s more than enough for what I need today. Let’s look at another example, cherry-picked to be of particular interest, to look at as a system:

Fourth Lord

  • Prime:
    • 49% more gravity rocky world around a very dim red dwarf
    • As much water as Earth
    • A bit cooler than Earth except tidally locked
    • 18-day year
    • No tilt
    • Black plants
    • Exports:
      • Hosts, many voluntary
      • Algae starter kits
      • Geothermal systems
  • Secundus:
    • 31% more gravity rocky world around a Sol-like star
    • Half as much water as Earth
    • Much warmer than Earth
    • 129-day year
    • 1 deg tilt
    • Green plants
    • Exports:
      • Hosts, many voluntary
      • Craft goods
      • In-system ice mining
  • Tertius:
    • 39% more gravity rocky world around a main sequence white star
    • Half- as much water as Earth
    • Warmer than Earth
    • 3070-day year (8.4 Earth years/ 31 Sais years)
    • 45 deg tilt
    • White/light colored plants
    • Exports:
      • Hosts, many voluntary
      • Refined materials/prefab buildings for lords’ planets
      • Simple weaponry

These are the Fourth Lord’s worlds. His governing seat is on a tidally locked world. I did some intensive world building for a tidally locked world in Laws Among Friends, and I don’t need that level of detail right now. I am going to say his ruling seat is far on the night side, where most of the water has migrated and turned to ice. Most of the population lives in pockets near the terminator, at nodes where the winds of the convective cells tend to be most quiet. They may have algae farms and (because of the red light) black plants on the sun side of the terminator, but they may also make good use of geothermal energy and commercialize both of these specialties.

The Fourth Lord’s second planet is pretty Earth-like but a bit dry. It orbits a Sol-like star, so it’s one of the younger systems in his domain. There ought to be other comets, asteroids, and planets in the system harboring ice. Much of this kingdom has water scarcity problems, so the other planets in this system can be mined for ice.

However, that makes it a target. Remember that other tidally locked planet I looked at for Laws Among Friends? They are outside the Kemtewet Empire, have severe water shortages, but are decent at pirating ships. They are poised to raid water from any system that mines ice.

And that takes us to the Fourth Lord’s third planet. This is a warm, water-light planet with several seasonal shifts on an 8-year cycle. With a glaring white star, I envisioned it as being a good place to not be outdoors all the time and threw in some prefab manufacturing for variety, but while they’re manufacturing, they could also be making weapons to send to their sister system Secundus to defend against ice pirates.

Now, that’s extremely simplistic for space opera. Where are the financial institutions? Why is each planet centered around a single climate?

A) I can get to a lot of the details later, as I need them.

B) History. The Kemtewet Empire established these colonies relatively quickly, trying to lay the groundwork for farming humans without building up massive, complex societies along the way. Their populations average just over 100 million each, or under a third the US population. They’re very small and very centralized, which means they can be a little simpler and less geographically distributed on each planet.

So, that’s how I’m working world building this year. Thanks for tuning in!