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Building your RPG World (part 1)

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first installment of what I expect will turn into several articles over the coming month. I'm not yet sure how many it'll be, so we'll just have to see.



A planet being created.
Planet Effect by Passakorn Vejchayachai, royalty free image from Colourbox


During October, I'll be hosting the RPGCarnival, and October's subject is worldbuilding, in its broadest sense. It can either be literally where you're making the maps or figuratively, where you're thinking about what events shaped your world and how it came about.


So, without further ado, I give you my process for how this works, and together we'll build a world - probably a bit more randomly than I normally would since it'll be coming off the top of my head. But we will see.


Theme

The first thing I decide on for my world is "theme", and by that, I mean what is the underlying emotion or thoughts that drive the ideas behind this particular world. Not every world or campaign setting has it, but I find that they present a more cohesive whole if they do. So to take a few well-known examples, you could look at Ravenloft (theme: fear and terror), Krynn (the Dragonlance world; theme: human and dragon conflict), Golarion (the Pathfinder world; theme: prophecy was real, what happens when it fails) or Faerun (on the planet Toril, the Forgotten Realms world: magic and wonder). All have a theme that ties them together, whether it's outspoken (like Ravenloft) or hidden behind many layers (like Faerun). They help tell a more cohesive story for the world.

So the theme for our little world here will be one that many are familiar with: Conflict between Magic and Technology.


Scope

This is essentially the size of your world. Big or small. Some, like Toril (at least in its pre-5e incarnations) are enormous and leave lots of room for players and game masters to explore while others are small and only leave room for a single campaign. Now, there aren't actually many small campaign worlds. In fact, I can't think of any (perhaps Hollow World?), but the closest we might get are the campaigns that take place within a single country - such as the Curse of Strahd campaign. Now, what many do is that they create only part of their world (a single town, or area) and then expand upon it as the players explore, and that is an excellent way to do it to avoid overloading yourself with work. But it does come with a downside - inconsistency and the need to improvise, and to keep track of your notes so that your mountains and oceans don't suddenly move around.

Here though, we are going to keep the scope small. This world will only be a single country at least for now so that the heroes can take a direct part in the conflict between magic and technology (at this point I'm leaning towards a war between them, due to how it keeps popping in my head).


With that though, we'll continue next week, so that we don't overload ourselves with too much information. :)


See you back soon. :)

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James Eck
James Eck
Oct 26, 2022

Some thoughts on the role of player-facing maps in world building. https://mindweaverpg.wordpress.com/2022/10/26/world-building-player-facing-maps/

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johnnfour
Oct 17, 2022

Great topic. Here's an article on how to use the Spiral Method for world-building:

https://www.roleplayingtips.com/rptn/rpt397-the-spiral-method-of-world-building/

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Rodney Sloan
Rodney Sloan
Oct 03, 2022

Serendipitous! We were just doing some world building, looking at the Japanese world of the dead, Yomi, from real-world myth. Exploring worlds already explored in stories—like Avalon, Sherwood Forest, Camelot, Atlantis—is a great way to get inspired. https://www.risingphoenixgames.com/blog/yomi-the-japanese-land-of-the-dead/

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Kim Frandsen
Kim Frandsen
Oct 10, 2022
Replying to

You might want to put that on the post that went live earlier today. :P

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