World Building 101

Ok so last post I  had decided to build a world out for a gaming group. One that I would like to run and one that I would like my friends to enjoy. One of the biggest decisions to make in setting up a gaming world is to decide what rules you are going to use. And to that end I had already decided on using Pathfinder. That also means that I am setting up a fantasy campaign.

Ok so what comes next. Well for myself comes the scale. Do I want to have a full world, a continent, a country or just a city. Designing a full world takes a lot of time for me because I love having a lot of detail and options. Setting up just a city means that I am going to be very limited if anyone in the group wants to go outside that line. While a country can allow for a lot of options I think I will have to go with continent. That means I can have several countries, a lot of cities and not feel too tightly constricted.

Before I get in to any of the specifics about who or what is on this continent I need to figure out a couple of the aspects of the world and the campaign.

First for me is going to be, are we going high fantasy, with all the magic and gods, or low fantasy where we are just looking at recreating a mid evil Europe. For myself a fantasy campaign is not worth playing without the magic. So we are going to go high fantasy. That will mean more checking in on rules and classes and all that sort of stuff later, but for now, knowing we are going high fantasy should keep my mind on the right track.

Next thing I need to know is how old is this world going to be. Not specifically mind you, unless I want to go way deep down the rabbit hole. But I do need to know is the world young, old, ancient or just what. Making a decision like this will mean that I know if there may be ancient ruins that no one can explain. If I am using elves and dragons are they dozens, hundreds or thousands of years old. When I look at making a pantheon are they the first gods this world has seen, or is it possible that there have been several mythos on this world. This for me is a very tough choice. I love having old ruins and a dark and mysterious history. But there is something to be said for a world that is fresh and new and that has a lot of wonder to it. I think in this case I am going to go with a young world. I have not done one of those in a while. I think we will top it out at about four to five thousand years old.

So what are the implications of the choices I have made here.

1 – We will have magic and multiple races that can only be explained with the intervention of magic. Like dragons and nearly immortal elves.

2 – I am going to have several cultures and nations and possible unknown lands outside of the main game area.

3 – Being a young world there may be elves, dragons and a few other long lived creatures that were actually there at the beginning. Creatures that actually saw the gods making the first of everything, and maybe even helped.

4 – Since there will be magic, I have to figure out if it is going to be easily accessible and everyone can learn some (like in Fritz Leibers Nehwon stories) or will most magic be limited to a rare and select few (like in the Tolkien Lord of the Rings setting).

5 – A young world with a full continent to play with for the start of the game means I am going to have to figure out what has and has not been explored.

6 – If you have folks around who may remember or may have helped the gods create the world then religion is going to have a very strong support base in the common folk. So I am going to need to set up a pantheon and figure out just how many people DON’T support the faith. That’s right. Those who don’t worship would be notable unless the gods have done something, or allowed something, got distracted or, well, if the gods have #$%^ed up (like when they got pissed in the Dragonlance setting). So maybe I had better answer that first. Are the gods active, and have the #$%^ed up…

Ok so that is going to be the first installment regarding me and world building. Keep rolling the crit hits.

Gimme the dice I need to see if a world can deal a critical hit to something….

  1. #1 by dantherpgman on November 28, 2016 - 2:29 am

    I like going with the “outside-in” approach like you’ve done here; start with the big-scale questions and work your way down to a scale small enough to play in. The other way (start with a small area and eventually build the world around it) is totally valid too but I prefer this way. Good stuff!


    • #2 by authortao on November 28, 2016 - 2:41 am

      Thank ya sir. It is a fun scale for me to play with. Also, being the control freak that I am I feel a need to know where things could go well before we get there.


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