Worldbuilder’s Workout – Transport

Worldbuilder's Workout

In our last Worldbuilder’s Workout, we talked about Distance. Well, today we’re going to look at Transport.

By Land

By their very nature, fantasy worlds are usually medieval, in technological terms. What did people use back then to get around? Horses and their own two feet? It’s sort of correct, but not very imaginative. Horses/mules were important because they were the tools that drove society. They drew wagons and carriages, helped farmers work their fields and transported goods from one place to another. However, they were also expensive; in much the same way that some people can’t afford to buy a car nowadays. Bicycles weren’t invented until the 19th century, so walking was the other option. But that shouldn’t be the end of the matter. Think how someone who buys a horse and cart could profit from it. The medieval world had taxis, just not as you know them today.


By Sea

Sailboats and rowboats are usually the transport of choice for the high seas. When you start bringing in steam-powered ships, you edge out of fantasy territory and start to add in steampunk elements. There’s no reason why you can’t do this, but I’m talking about standard fantasy here. Writing about ships and adventures at sea can be really good fun, but you need to know your stuff. Look up some basic information on sailboats so that you have a good idea of where everything is on one and how they worked. You can adapt things for your story’s needs, but I find its always best to stick relatively closely to established real-world rules.

By Air

Now, this is an interesting one. Airships or dragons/giant birds are usually what we’re presented with in fantasy. I find airships don’t sit well with me. Warcraft uses them, but I feel they detract from the fantasy setting a little. Giant winged creatures, on the other hand, can sometimes work if done well. However, I would advise steering clear of dragon riders or anything similar, as this has now become a huge fantasy cliche, in my humble opinion. Magic systems providing flight is another option, of course, which I cover in the final section.


By Any Means

Depending on how cleverly you can do it, you could try to invent new ways for your world’s inhabitants to get around. It could be magic-based or not. What about a new species of animal that’s different to a horse in some way? How about a crude and unexplained form of electricity that is used to give speed to ships? Or what if instead of roads there were tracks and horse-drawn wagons ran on them? The possibilities really are endless, it’s just up to your own imagination!

What’s your view on transport in fantasy settings? Got any ideas/questions for the community?

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Remember – if you missed the chance to take part in the second episode of our community-written fantasy story, you can still leave your entries by following the below link!

Friday Fiction: The Story – Episode 2

More Worldbuilder’s Workouts…

Worldbuilder’s Workout – Distance


5 thoughts on “Worldbuilder’s Workout – Transport

  1. Sophie E Tallis 20-Aug-2012 / 12:35

    I must say as a worldbuilder myself, I do love the inventive ideas people come up with for areas of ‘normal’ life such as transport. For my novels, it’s pretty basic fare – dragon flying, teleportation, walking, alittle cart riding and horse riding, though I don’t use horses in the modern sense. My horses are tarpans (tarpas), ancient wild horses that became extinct many years ago but used to be prevalent in europe and asia. They’re similar to the rare Mongolian Przewalski horse with a stiff mane and no forelock.

  2. Angela 20-Aug-2012 / 13:16

    Nice post, thanks.
    In my current work-in-progress my protagonist is about to do some long-distance travelling, on a camel 🙂

  3. jakeescholl 20-Aug-2012 / 16:42

    I think the decision of what to use as transportation depends on the kind of Fantasy world you create. For example: the Final Fantasy video games have giant flightless birds called Chocobos that people ride. It matches well with the funky looking creatures and NPCs. Whereas with the Conan stories people ride horses, and that matches well with the Dark Age setting.

  4. mqallen 20-Aug-2012 / 16:47

    Teleportation portals are sometimes used. In my current setting, the world is fragmented and that is the main way to get around, although it is heavily controlled by the authorities.

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