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The Exoplanet: PAX East Steampunk Worldbuilding Workshop

This is how 80 PAXers brainstorming awesome look.

A mad scientist opens a gate to another planet in Trafalgar Square. Colonists from Earth pour through to exploit the rich mineral resources on the other side. Years later, they’ve got their own culture, complete with shortwave radio arm clocks, a ruling class of albino weather control engineers, and a faction of rebels who disguise themselves as birdwatchers.

This was just some of the output from the steampunk worldbuilding workshop I ran with colleagues Carrie Willis and Andrew Linstrom at PAX East this year. We took a room of about 80 PAX participants, divided them into groups, gave them the seeds of a world, and had each group develop one aspect of it.

Carrie Willis has posted the full output of the exercise here, at the Steampunk Exoplanet blog. The material is Creative Commons licensed, meaning anyone can take it and make stuff with it — including commercial products — as long as they attribute it.

A lot of people complimented me on the format of the workshop, but I can’t take credit for it. That should go to Peter Rice and the late, great Wm. John Wheeler. Rice & Wheeler collaborated on some cool projects for FASA back in the day, but they’re probably best known for the Dungeon Master’s Workshop they ran at Gen Con back in the ’80s. A very similar worldbuilding exercise was part  of that workshop. I’m pleased that it was able to thrive at PAX.

Let’s do it again next year!

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