World Building - Part 1: Overview
A world is not simply the terrain, landscapes and buildings; it is the people, the intrigue and the life that exists throughout it all. Most of you are looking at building a world with an idea in mind, something that interests you. Fleshing out that idea with likely bring you towards one of these topics:
Map making is a logical first step when building your world, especially for those who are more visual. While this doesn't need to be the first step (I prefer starting with countries and conflicts), these are a few great methods to try out:
- Dice roll method
- Token method
- Use a map generator
- Random lines on a page
We will be posting more in depth posts about these methods in the future.
From these, you should have a good idea of the landmasses in your world. Next is some of the details; think about mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, etc. Some people like to use dice rolls to identify areas based on dice colour and the value. There are many wise people out there with tips on how to build details on maps that are realistic and natural looking. All I say is look to build something that looks good to you and makes sense in your mind. Is there a water way that seems to diverge and converge arbitrarily? Maybe it is following a leyline that has caused the earth around it to erode in odd ways.
Ultimately, think of an explanation for why things look the way they do. This will go a long way in creating history and depth to the world or having a creation story that the general population believes.
Something I always like to do is use varying quality of mapmakers in my worlds. This has allowed me to subtly change things on my maps without breaking the immersion for my players.
Not all worlds have countries, so if your world is less ruler centric, it might be best to focus on the regions. More often than not, the layout of the land determines these areas as the natural landscape is usually a border. Think of how people would know they are in a new country or region without this, it’s unlikely a country will build a wall around their entire border. A good checklist to go over when thinking about a country is something like this:
- How did this country come to be?
- Who rules this country?
- How do they decide their ruler?
- What types of settlements are in this country?
- What are its imports/exports?
- What is education like?
- What religions are present?
- How is the economy doing?
- What are their relationships like with other countries?
- What is their military like?
- What threats are there to this country or its people?
Using these questions will give you a high level view of the country you are creating and likely will lead you down a spiral of many more questions. This is typical so lean into the rabbit holes that come from this thought exercise as it will flesh out the specifics of your world powers.
Politics can mean many different things when it comes to a world. It can be how somebody can climb the social hierarchy to become a noble, or how a country is ruled. It is often used to describe social rules and regulations for others to function in the area they reside. Think about the last time you were at work trying to get a promotion; how you can navigate the dynamics of the team so you can outshine others. This is another way people think of politics.
All of this is an accurate way to bring politics into your campaign. Political intrigue is a great way to allow players to feel like they are part of something alive and bigger than them. Some of the questions asked in the countries section touched on the global scale, but internally that structure is likely very different.
Understanding why a country works the way it does is vital and can feel daunting. Try answering these questions to see where they bring you:
- What is the motivation of the leader?
- Where is the money coming from?
- Who is really in control of the decisions?
- What is the fear or weakness of the leader?
- How far would they be willing to go to get what they want?
This is a simple set of questions to get things started. Politics is a very complex topic but can be very simple to play out. As long you understand the core values of each side, the natural debate and intensity is sure to come out to your players.
We look forward to diving into these topics in more depth over the coming weeks.