Motivation - Part 1: Finding Your "Why"

People always ask "Why did you choose a homebrew setting?" The answers given  have ranged far and wide. There is no right or wrong here but it is very important to understand so you can develop the world and prepare your players. Motivation is often overlooked in the world building phase but I have seen a lot of success with the method outlined below to create engaging worlds that players are eager to explore and play.

On the surface, 90% of people are simply looking to tell their own story. That is the easy part but the next level of "why" is where things can get tricky. Try answering these next few questions to discover your motivation and focus your thoughts on building your world. 

  1. Who are you doing this for?
  2. What are you trying to accomplish?
  3. Is there something else out there that is similar to what you want to do?
  4. What is your inspiration for what you are wanting to do?
  5. When did you decide to build this world?
  6. What will this setting offer that isn’t in other settings?
  7. Will this be for a single campaign or are you building a world for multiple adventures?

These core ideas can help you figure out what you are wanting to accomplish, and help navigate future steps in the process. Here are some sample answers that I have used in the past.

  1. Myself, so I can feel like it’s less of a linear path while playing like it often feels in published modules
  2. A sense of freedom and collaborative storytelling for my players and myself
  3. Yes there are some modules that give some player agency but nothing with the depth of sandbox style I am hoping for
  4. I was reading the book, Wizards First Rule and the way the protagonist had to figure things out inspired me
  5. After finishing a homebrew one shot that went hilariously well
  6. A plot that progresses with or without the players involvement and a planar system that has gone haywire
  7. Start off as a single campaign but I want to build it to reuse the landscapes and ideas for future campaigns and one shots

From gathering this info, I can infer that I want to create something with intrigue and mystery but strong action, a lot of exploration into the unknown and the ability to allow the players to decide where to go. As I get to building a map for this world, I will want diverse landscapes dotted with ruins or interesting things to entice the players to want to pursue. In addition, I have all kinds of information to discuss with my players to see what interests them as I begin to shape this world.

I like to involve my players in some of the high level concepts so they are more intrigued by the setting while others prefer to keep it secret so the players know nothing about it. This choice is very dependent on your players and your style as a dungeon master. I do find including players in the immediate setting often brings out roleplaying quicker as they feel like they understand the setting the way their characters would.

I hope this has given you some inspiration to create the setting from your imagination. If you want to go more in depth on this, check out Part 2 with analyses and explanations on how to leverage your motivations into creativity.