View Full Version : Question about World-Making

2008-05-30, 05:56 PM
I am designing a campaign for my friends and I when we get together again at school this fall. I have tried many times in the past to design a world with poor to acceptable results (my friends generally like my dming, I have usually come away wanting to do better).
Having read Mr. Burlew's section in Gaming on creating a fantasy world, I am still pretty confused. What is the best way to begin? Starting small sounds like a good idea - but then I want to introduce larger plot elements, such as regional, or even national conflict, but I don't have the material ready (and I am fairly slow in the process of creation - I like to read a lot beforehand and create as complex a mix as I can).
I guess what I'm asking for here is suggestions, and maybe your own past experiences in world-making, to help me out. How did you start, what did you consider important, how did you move on, what material did you use in the process, etc. infinity.

2008-05-30, 06:26 PM
I'd follow The World articles by Rich, they're the best ways to do it. They're how I developed my campaign. Maybe not in the exact order; that's really to taste. Best thing to do is start big and vague, and narrow down your focus as you go. That way you have some big, over-arching ideas of political climate and geography so you're not scrambling to come up with something, and smaller, precise details for your actual beginning gameplay. As the game continues, parts of the world will become more sharply defined.

Develop a concept for the game world and define the basics of a country; the geography, political atmosphere, culture type, and major players (i.e. the kings). As your focus gets more and more specific, add more and more details. Eventually you'll have a strongly defined city/surrounding wilderness, set in a fairly well defined country-side, that's part of a kingdom that you have some fairly solid ideas about, that's in the middle of a conceptually-developed continent. That's really all you need to start gaming. Your bigger stuff can be hashed out in more detail if you need it to be (for example, in my campaign I've detailed one of the culture's political history back 150 years, because it's central to the game plot), or it can be left to develop as you go.

Lord Tataraus
2008-05-31, 01:43 AM
I have some experience making worlds, in fact I have created about 5 (complete) worlds thus far and not all of them were constructed in the same manner. My favorite method to start making a world is to draw a map, I have been doodling maps since I could write and the geography and fantastic locations are my favorite part of fictional worlds so it makes sense to start their. Other times I've developed a theme and built a world around that (see my Cataclysm of Green community world-building project in my sig), and in one such world I created a complex set of cultural/national interactions (my most intense world thus far).

So, my advice to you for a starting point is to take a step back and think, what is my favorite part about fictional worlds? Then take that answer as your starting point. From your post it seems you might enjoy the complex national and regional interactions. If you choose to start there make a list - no matter what aspect you decide to start on, always make a list - in this case, make a list of different types of organizations, conflict types, regional quirks, etc. that you think would be cool, if you get excited while making this list, you know you are on the right track. After making the list, start constructing the world around it, give names and motives to the conflicts and organizations, possible stat out the leaders and sample mooks involved in those interactions. Develop a history to explain why things are this way, that doesn't mean you need to give a history lesson to your players, but the background helps interconnect everything. While you expand upon this list you might come up with new interactions or decide to drop some out, do not be afraid to refine the list if needed and eventually the world will shape itself around your list and you only need to polish it up a tad and drop your hapless players into the middle of it all.

I hope this helps and good luck.

2008-05-31, 02:45 AM
Ok the key thing with world building is to not get overwhelmed. Sure you want a big completed world, but that will be formed as you connect all the little pieces. A good way to start is to create something small. It could be a village, or a prominent person, or an artifact. Then expound upon it adding on. My personal favorite way to do this is to create a village then give it personality. First focusing on perhaps the local religion, or the politicians, etc and moving on from there. Don't be afraid to go back and add things in to make stuff fit. If the populace worships the god of stone with extreme zeal, don't be afraid to go back and tinker with the king whom you already finished, perhaps turning him into a theocratic leader. Once that is done and you have an area that you could conceivably run a small adventure in you just continue doing what you did building out from it. Maybe the city you just created is a strong point on the border with a dangerous wilderness. Perhaps then you might move out, creating that wilderness and all it contains. Over time this form of building out can shape an entire world. After you have it somewhere between a county and a continent you can conceivably start running a campaign (even using what happens during sessions to get ideas for new things to add as you go). This is known as building out and I personally have found it to be the easier way to go about doing things.

The other way is known as building in. You essentially create an overarching idea for your world ("I want my world to be a flat wasteland based on the wars between armies that live on either side"). Then you take that idea and start building parts and adding them in in order to reinforce that idea, adding in the fine details as you work in. You can conceivably do this, though you have to be cautious as it is much more likely to cause a person to get overwhelmed if they don't do it properly.

Whatever you do I might suggest you check out the campaign builders guild (http://www.thecbg.org). Pretty much the place to go for these kind of questions. Plenty of wonderful people with years of experience doing this sort of thing who would be more than willing to help you.