Worldbuilding Questions: Post #13 – Commerce, Trade, and Public Life (Part One)
Hello readers. Welcome back to Fluff About Fantasy’s worldbuilding series. Today, we’ll be talking about commerce, trade, and public life; focusing on the first half of the SFWA questionnaire section. Without further introduction, let’s get right to it!
Pretty much all of the questions in this category have been referenced in various earlier sections. I won’t be going back over them!
Business and Industry
I’m not the best authority on this subject, but I’ll try to walk everyone through this as best I can. To start off, how is business organized in your universe? Are there organized trade unions in place, or would you prefer to create a guild structure? Is there a merchant class of people? What kind of regulations has the government placed on business, if any?
An interesting question is whether people are able to learn multiple trades, otherwise known as cross-crafting. Is it an automatic right, or can people be locked in to only one trade for the rest of their lives? This could create an interesting social dynamic where each person is tied to one trade for the course of their life. Another point to consider would be whether various industrial processes can be considered common knowledge or trade secrets. Maybe certain industries can be so locked down that it’s almost impossible to break into the trade without their explicit approval and invitation into their circle.
What would be the process of entering into a trade? Should a person get an educational degree first or enter into an apprenticeship? What kind of requirements need to be met before a person goes from a novice to a practitioner of a trade?
What types of trades would you typically see in a small town vs. a big city? Are specific areas in your world known for certain trades? What about different tribes or species? How is the balance between new industries and old industries? Is innovation high or stalled? Don’t forget to clarify which goods are available as well!
And of course, we can’t talk about trade without discussing the presence of a black market! Does your universe have one? How prevalent is it? In my novel, the black market has a prominent role in both Upper Realm and Middle Realm politics. Several of the events could not have been set into motion without it!
Transportation and Communication
What kind of transportations are available? This can include anything from:
Domesticated animals (oxen, horses, camels, etc.)
Motor vehicles (cars, taxis, buses, etc.)
Magical means of transportation (flying carpets, witches’ brooms, dragons, teleportation spells, etc.)
Water transportation (yachts, boats, cruise ships, canoes, etc.)
How common is it for people to travel? Do people only travel when it’s necessary to shop and trade, or do people take trips regularly? How dangerous is travel? Are there good roads in place, or is it all through rough terrain? Where do people stay if traveling over night? Do they have to rely on friends, or are there inns and hotels available?
On the subject of communication, how are messages sent? Is there a public system in place, or has the practice been privatized? How fast does news travel from one place to another? How accurate and efficient are communication and newscasting in your world? Is there freedom of the press or heavy restrictions?
How are books produced? Are they considered to be common or a rare item reserved for the rich? Who produces them? Where are the libraries and large collections kept? How accessible are they?
Science and Technology
Describe the level of technology present in your world. What time period of our history can you best relate it to? What advancements have been made that benefit the common man? What advancements are considered luxuries? Are there any advancements that have not been made despite the level of technology available?
How much is known in the scientific field? Are they even related to science, or are explanations primarily made in the areas of magic and religion? Where is this type of research conducted?
How do magic and science play together? Do they interact at all? Where does magic replace technology and potentially inhibit its development? In what places has magic actually sped up the process of scientific and technological development?
Thanks for reading, everybody. Happy worldbuilding!