A new edition of the bestselling classic, Setting Design!
The term worldbuilding gets thrown around frequently by tabletop roleplayers in reference to the construction of a fantasy realm or even an entire fictional universe. There are maps and ecologies and complex histories involved, with all sorts of engaging little details sprinkled in. While these worlds are presumably being created to provide a grand stage for an ongoing campaign, the act of worldbuilding is often an end unto itself. It’s a creative outlet even if it never gets used in a game, and one that’s a whole lot of fun.
If you’ve got time for that, great. There’s no wrong way to engage in that sort of worldbuilding. One of the greatest challenges that many gamemasters face, though, is preparation time. There’s never enough of it. One of the risks of traditional worldbuilding is the tendency to gather more information than you actually need. You want to be sure you know absolutely everything about your setting, no matter how trivial, just in case it comes up. You don’t want to have to stop in the middle of the action to look something up. It’s normal to want all of the pieces have to fit together neatly, so that your official canon has no embarrassing continuity holes.
The other option is to just wing it. Start playing and make it all up as you go. If you’re well-versed in a particular genre, or know an established setting like the back of your hand, you can make this method work. You can craft something from whole cloth as your setting unfolds. Not everyone is great at that sort of improvisation, though. It’s stressful, and doesn’t always lead to a good experience for anyone.
This book isn’t about worldbuilding for its own sake. You’re not going to learn how to create a massive, detailed encyclopedia for a fully-formed cosmos, although you absolutely can use it for such an undertaking. I’m not going to show you how to write the ultimate travel guide for an imaginary place. It’s not a book full of checklists and random tables. This is about focusing your efforts, and assembling the key, critical elements needed in order to run compelling and richly-textured adventures. It can lean more toward top-down or bottom up design, but what matters most is your intention. Know the problem that you’re solving for before you begin. Mindful worldbuilding as we’ll be discussing it in this book means doing things on purpose. It means that every element of your setting is there for a reason. You made a conscious decision to include some things and leave out others because they somehow contribute to the characters, the adventure, and the overall campaign. You only have to do as much work as is necessary to accomplish that, and maybe set up a couple of future adventures.
For easy reference this book is broken into three sections:
- Introduction: A brief overview of what this book is about, the concepts that will be discussed, and ways that you can put it to use for your tabletop roleplaying game.
- Worldbuilding Format: The standard “stat block” for all of the books in the Building series, this descriptive block will help you help track roleplaying, worldbuilding, and adventure bits regardless of rules. This chapter covers the five components of the of the stat block: Name, Description, Purpose, Modifiers, and Story Points.
- Worldbuilding Elements: What other games call attributes, statistics, or aspects, elements are the building blocks of anything and everything that can be created for a tabletop roleplaying game. This chapter covers eleven areas for developing worldbuilding elements: Premise, Genre, Place and Time, Theme, Stakes, Locations, Environment, People, Technology, Events, and Vocabulary.