WB01 Approaches to World Building

You may ask why use rpg material for storytelling, well any rpg campaign is a cooperative story waiting to be told and any story can be a tale of some campaign.

I’ll be using the 1996, AD&D’s World Builder’s Guidebook by Richard Baker as my primary source for the blog and my project. I’ll be supplementing it along the way with The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding and I’ll include any other additional references used.

In The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding,  Monte Cook talks about how the different approaches taken can vary by need:

World Building for a novelist is normally focused on the story to tell based on what the character sees and maybe hinting at more stories.

World Building for a game, or from a game designers view, is very different, it’s not for just one story but thousands, the world needs to be dynamic and broad.  The game designers world needs a lot broader detail too, where as a novelist can mention something for flavor a game designer needs to describe what’s there.

The GM’s World Building generally falls in between. The GM normally has more then one story to tell but doesn’t have to have as many opportunities since it can be tailored to the group’s interest. Like the novelist, the GM only has to provide the information necessary for the story at hand and has the ability to build as they go.

Players can be included in world building to make it a collaborative event.  Not only can they create their characters but also the location and society their character comes from. This could include the rules, communities and geography etc.

What is the best approach? 

The one that starts with the design feature you consider most important to your world. You can use world hook/s to help guide your approach and decisions.

World Hooks: Below are some large category headings for types of world hooks and the approach best situated.

  • Climate and land-form – The Macroscopic Approach (My Project)
  • Sites of Interest – The Microscopic Approach
  • Cultures – The Sociological Approach
  • Situation -The Situation-Based Approach
  • Historical – The Historical Approach

The Macroscopic Approach: Planet-in or Outside-in, this approach beings with broad generalizations. It’s good when you have no particular plan in mind as continents and climates can be determined with random rolls. It’s also good, as indicated above, for creating worlds with a climatic theme.

The Microscopic Approach: Dungeon-out or Inside-out, opposite of the macroscopic approach, when you have a focused setting. This approach applies when you have a fragment of a world, province, town or dungeon already prepared and work back or “out” to build the bigger picture.

The Sociological Approach: Society or culture based, create a living society first. Start by building up a cultural setting, add in specific kingdom details along with mythology and history.

The Character-Based Approach: Used when you have one or two really strong riveting characters you want to build your world around. What kind of societies, backgrounds or situations made them this way. Usually start with the society or sites of interest.

The Situation-Based Approach: Used to cover a wide range of special hooks or developments that could drive a campaign. Is there an unusual conflict or situation between several kingdoms or societies. Does magic work in a strange or unusual way.
First step is to describe the situation and how it might have been affected by, or been caused by, the world.

The Historical Approach: Related to the situation-based approach but more specific in scope. First step is to think of the great event or events that shaped the world and decide how they relate to the lives and perceptions of the adventurers. Start with history and mythology then go back to  kingdoms and sociology. Once you have the event and the land it took place on you can fill out the rest of the world or move in to work on specific sites within the kingdom.

The Literary Approach: Based off of literary genres of  fantasy and science fiction that are reflected in the GM’s world building effort. If you want to make use of a world that someone else has built , you’ll find many of the design decisions have been taken out of your hands. Mostly you’ll be interpreting  the authors vision into the campaign. Don’t try to sell or publish it. You’ll also have to overcome the role of the author’s stories and events in your world.

Even though we are using an AD&D guide we still need to think about how real our world is going to be. The closer we get to modern day the more that realism is tolerated or demanded.

Follow my progress on my world here Harmonia


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