I've been working on a pet project as of late: updating my Dungeons & Dragons homebrew world to fifth edition (which is the newest of the rulesets that is available to purchase). The word "homebrew" simply means that it is my own world that we all play in (I have a group of six players) as opposed to a prepackaged one that comes from Wizards of the Coast. There's a lot of work to it, but there's a lot of work to running a game in someone else's world too because you have to do a lot of reading and memorizing of details in order to make it real. There is no shortcut to downloading that information into someone's brain. Oh if only that thing from the Matrix were real and you could just connect yourself to a computer and download kung fu.
Anyway, I've discovered something interesting about world-building. It is really beneficial to flesh out in detail the super-powerful characters of my fantasy world. For me, it has made me realize that certain things would click together. There would be consequences for the actions taken by these characters. For example, knowing who was at the head of a fantasy empire allowed me to visualize their allies. And if they had allies, then there might be embassies or trade happening between countries. The exercise became a rabbit hole that I could follow down with all of these branches that go this way and that way, and they intertwined to become a kind of supporting network for my whole fake world.
So, I ended up discovering a way easier method to create stories for new campaigns, rather than starting with the low-powered folk and wondering...what can I do with these guys? Or...what are they doing in this whole made-up universe. If I could visualize a super-powerful character in charge of a kingdom or something similar going to war with another kingdom, then it made sense that these events on a huge scale would impact someone very small in the scope of things. So I could tell a singular story about a peasant or a farmer, who was impacted by the events of this huge war.
Having done some of these exercises for my Dungeons & Dragons world, I now wonder if the same kinds of exercises would bear fruit in creative writing. I also wonder if famous authors like J.K. Rowling started with a concept around their most powerful characters. In other words, I wonder if Dumbledore and Voldemort were the first things that popped into her head, and then she created a whole world around these characters. When all the table dressing was set, well Harry Potter would just naturally pop out and that's where she decided to start telling her story. In other words, I'm suggesting a very top down approach to world building, rather than starting with a character like Harry Potter, and then trying to find all the answers as to what he is and what the world is like that he inhabits.
Anyone else use this kind of approach when building a world for your characters? Please let me know as I'm curious.