View Full Version : Help for a first time world-builder?

2013-04-13, 11:12 PM
I've been wanting to make a campaign setting for ages, but I have no idea of how to actually do it. Any suggestions?

2013-04-13, 11:21 PM
Start with a concept. This will inform subsequent decisions regarding which races and classes you mechanically want to allow in play, and also tells you which direction to take when crafting a world.

Speaking of crafting a world, is it a world you want to build, or a continent? You could even craft a campaign around a country, city, or village, assuming there are enough interesting things around the locale.

If you want to look at how concept defines a campaign setting, compare Eberron with Dark Sun and Spelljammer. It is all a matter of taste.

A final first consideration, if you will, goes to mechanics. What game system will you be using? AD&D, 3.x, 4E, Dragon Age, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying... you get the idea.

2013-04-14, 06:44 AM
Leading of from Jenrock's good advice I'd add

Write everything down, in a book at the very least and consider using a wiki once you have something concrete (a wiki is great for organizing lots of fragments of information so you can start with a stub "The Village of Sud practices mud farming" and expand as necessary/your muse takes you. The only thing to remember is take regular backups!)

The other thing to do is consider is when you plan to run the setting...

If the answer is "you don't know" think in broad strokes make a big map, think how many states there are and how do the differ, what are the great/defining events in world history, how does magic fit into society and how does it differ by location (and why).

Once you have a deadline, go small, choose a location and exclusively work on it try and get a few days travel worked out in all directions.If they get to an ill defined bit drop in a 'random' wilderness encounter, tie them up for the rest of the session and buy yourself some time.

The broad strokes you made earlier will really help fill in the details later.

IW Judicator
2013-04-14, 10:25 AM
Building off the advice that's already been posted, I would first and foremost highly recommend the gaming articles about 'The New World' posted by the Giant himself in the Gaming section of the site. Those in and of themselves are incredibly useful.

Second, I would urge you to, in most instance, start small and work your way up. It's much easier to add in new details that flow in a more or less logical progression from what you've already built up as you go along than it is to come up with an idea you love that has major, overarching effects on half a dozen things and then having to justify why that is. Some things you can do in reverse (I would say that bare bones geography, like the shape of the continent and ocean(s), is something that may very well be done better from top to bottom, allowing yourself to account for more and more as you add in smaller details to the big picture).

On the other hand, if you tried to do the same with a custom race (starting with "Oh! They can do this and this and this and this oh and this'd be really cool so this") then you'd most likely end up with a very powerful race that you would A) have to consider the biology of for anything out of the ordinary (ie Wings) B) if they remain powerful, have a reasonable explanation as to why they haven't dominated civilization to the point of being the only (or one of the only) races, or finallly C) backtrack and add on a variety of oddball weaknesses to make them balanced. In essence, it'd be easier and more sensible to start with a blank slate, maybe add on a disadvantage or two, and then start adding on things that'd be useful/cool and (most importantly) background consistent.

And, finally, I would also encourage you to remember that one small detail can change a lot of things. Two nations might be almost exactly the same, save for one small detail that makes them bitter enemies instead of allies (that being said, be sure to have reasons why various groups are...well...various groups instead of one big homogeneous organization, be they trade guilds, countries, or other institutions).

2013-04-14, 10:46 AM
I don't imaging that it has to happen in any specific order: sometime you'll get a cool idea for a continent, sometimes a nation, sometimes a town, sometimes a person. As long as there is eventually at least some semblance of a pattern (in a polytheistic setting where there are lots of vampires in a certain area, people opposed to them would probably pray mostly to Sun gods), there shouldn't be much of a problem.

The most important part: building off what the players want to see, and leave enough room for what they want to come up with. If the setting is big enough, there's no reason why whatever they came up with couldn't be somewhere (http://tpkblog.com/home/yes-and/). As long as it doesn't directly contradict what has already been established, looking for reasons to include something sounds a lot less boring than looking for reasons not to.

And if you're worried that the players won't be "surprised" if they come up with almost everything, remember that "they" is still more than one person, and think how surprised each of them will be with what everybody else came up with. People in a group of X will be more surprised when X-1 other people are coming up with surprising ideas instead of just 1, and they also get to be part of everybody else's sets of X-1.