World Building Tips

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Pirate GM13
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World Building Tips

Post Mon Jun 07, 2021 12:23 pm

So, seeing as Solomoriah (sry if I spelled that wrong) has created the setting of Glain and probably added a bunch of content, and I am sure plenty of others have had good experience with creating a setting, why don't they help the noobs (aka me and anyone else who feels like they are a noob) with some helpful tips? (which is what this topic is for, just in case it wasn't clear)
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Solomoriah
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:48 pm

My best world building tip is, don't.

Seriously. Build only what you need now. Hint at what lies beyond the area you've detailed, and don't worry about it too much if you don't follow those hints when you finally need to detail a new area.

Build too much material and you're unlikely to remember it all, and you'll step all over your best intentions in the process.
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Tue Jun 08, 2021 1:51 am

OK, then what is your advice for designing the areas that we'll need?
Let's start with something simple :
How does one create a town with a mysterious feeling? What should they put in it? Or where should they put it?
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:45 am

Pirate GM13 wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 1:51 am OK, then what is your advice for designing the areas that we'll need?
Let's start with something simple :
How does one create a town with a mysterious feeling? What should they put in it? Or where should they put it?
One thing to consider is that you want to have some adventuring sites in a reasonable area of your homebase. So maybe the city is built on the remains of another ancient city, so there are areas underneath they can explore (or for cultists to hide, capture people, etc....) Also, there may be a newly opened entrance to the world beneath.

Or you can take the classic approach of putting your home base at the edge of a wilderness. Could be lots of caves, abandoned temples, sites that were partially destroyed in a war. In my current campaign, there was a war about 50-100 years ago, and folks are starting to recolonize the area.

Lastly, if you can place your town near a trade route, river, seaport, etc.... that allows you to have a lot of varied people pass through (some of whom could, and should, be TROUBLE).
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Tue Jun 08, 2021 7:07 am

Not every town needs to feel mysterious.
However, haunted grounds, geographical features (including ruins), famous residents, organized crime and political intrigues are things that can be sources of mystery.

Still, a town doesn't need to feel mysterious unless you want to run an adventure in it and then you should already know what the mystery is.
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:16 am

Solomoriah wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:48 pm My best world building tip is, don't.

Seriously. Build only what you need now. Hint at what lies beyond the area you've detailed, and don't worry about it too much if you don't follow those hints when you finally need to detail a new area.

Build too much material and you're unlikely to remember it all, and you'll step all over your best intentions in the process.
I'm going to politely push back on that. In my experience, whether or not one builds a world bottom-up or top-down or even at all is just a matter of personal taste and preference.

Perhaps its my background as an educator, but I've always found it better to overprepare than under. I've been working on this world setting for a little under a year now, and I've had no problems with remembering key details nor have I felt the amount of material prepared detracted from my intentions in any manner. While your experience may be true for you, I would observe that it is not universal.

I'd also like to note that I'm not claiming your are necessarily suggesting that it is, though I'll admit that it saddens me when beginner worldbuilders encounter potentially creativity-stifling advice like 'don't worldbuild'. For me, I view worldbuilding as a separate but adjacent hobby to TTRPG DMing. While one doesn't need to worldbuild to run a successful game or campaign, if one enjoys doing it, I feel they shouldn't be discouraged. Maybe what I'm reacting more too is the argument from some that I see crop up from time to time in OSRlandia is that a defining characteristic of the aesthetic is random table generation of dungeon/hexcrawling and any sort of consideration of why an artic hex is next to a desert hex is where everything went wrong. Such an opinion is not only misguided, in my opinion, but ahistorical. Say that about Arenson's "Blackmoor" or Shick, Moldvay, and eventually Heard's "Mystara". While it can be great fun to build a random dungeon full of gonzo stuff and throw your party of murderhobos into it with no more worldbuilding than "Kill goblins. Take their stuff.", I find that such games burn out rather quickly.

What's worse is that this dovetails with the larger trend that has developed recently of "lazy" DM-ing. While the source material by Shea does contain some excellent advice for game prep, what too many people get out of it is that it is somehow "bad" to prepare anything that your players might not directly encounter in their gamer hierarchy of needs (Where do we go? What is there for me to take? Who do I need to kill? Who can heal me?). Again, a matter of taste, but I don't feel the need to kaizen and Six Sigma the hell out of my game prep. Yes, I created a conlang for my game. In fact, I created several that none of my players will never use during an adventure. So what? If one would imply that some how that was a "waste of time" or "bad DM-ing", I have two middle fingers straight up for that notion. Unlike a player, I argue that the fun for a DM of extends beyond the actual game session into the creative process of game and setting prep, and I had fun constructing the dialect of Vulgar Rexan.

And that's the final moral of the story. I'm an applied linguist by trade, I enjoy conlanging. If the thought of creating a fictional language sounds like drudgery to you, don't do it. If you enjoy drawing up continent-level maps and determining climate zones, do it. If you don't, don't. If one wants to draw up a fort on a 'borderlands' with 10 miles of wilderness to explore as the first step in their worldbuilding, great! As I mentioned earlier, off the shelf settings and barebones 'this is a dungeon, on the last level is a red dragon' are equally valid and fun ways to run a game. However, if one chooses to develop their own setting, let's keep in mind that the process of worldbuilding is quite personal and different individuals are going to approach it differently. There is no 'One Right Way' (TM) and there never will be.

Thank you for taking the time to read something I hope will be interpreted more as dialog and less as screed. :D
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:25 am

One of my absolute favorite resources when it comes to world building is the 2 books by Sly Flourish. The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and Lazy Dungeons Masters Workbook. Both are around 10$ I believe but they more or less detail exactly what solomoriah is speaking about. Build what benefits your game and nothing else. This way your world builds and develops before your eyes and you save hundreds of hours of prep that will most likely be thrown out the window. It details every step from characters, npc, building towns, fantastic locations etc etc. It is obviously aimed at 5E but I use it for BFRPG all the time and have done full campaigns without "building" a setting at all, even a narrative really. Hope this helps :)
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:25 am

LleijS wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:16 am
Solomoriah wrote: Mon Jun 07, 2021 9:48 pm My best world building tip is, don't.

Seriously. Build only what you need now. Hint at what lies beyond the area you've detailed, and don't worry about it too much if you don't follow those hints when you finally need to detail a new area.

Build too much material and you're unlikely to remember it all, and you'll step all over your best intentions in the process.
I'm going to politely push back on that. In my experience, whether or not one builds a world bottom-up or top-down or even at all is just a matter of personal taste and preference.

Perhaps its my background as an educator, but I've always found it better to overprepare than under. I've been working on this world setting for a little under a year now, and I've had no problems with remembering key details nor have I felt the amount of material prepared detracted from my intentions in any manner. While your experience may be true for you, I would observe that it is not universal.

I'd also like to note that I'm not claiming your are necessarily suggesting that it is, though I'll admit that it saddens me when beginner worldbuilders encounter potentially creativity-stifling advice like 'don't worldbuild'. For me, I view worldbuilding as a separate but adjacent hobby to TTRPG DMing. While one doesn't need to worldbuild to run a successful game or campaign, if one enjoys doing it, I feel they shouldn't be discouraged. Maybe what I'm reacting more too is the argument from some that I see crop up from time to time in OSRlandia is that a defining characteristic of the aesthetic is random table generation of dungeon/hexcrawling and any sort of consideration of why an artic hex is next to a desert hex is where everything went wrong. Such an opinion is not only misguided, in my opinion, but ahistorical. Say that about Arenson's "Blackmoor" or Shick, Moldvay, and eventually Heard's "Mystara". While it can be great fun to build a random dungeon full of gonzo stuff and throw your party of murderhobos into it with no more worldbuilding than "Kill goblins. Take their stuff.", I find that such games burn out rather quickly.

What's worse is that this dovetails with the larger trend that has developed recently of "lazy" DM-ing. While the source material by Shea does contain some excellent advice for game prep, what too many people get out of it is that it is somehow "bad" to prepare anything that your players might not directly encounter in their gamer hierarchy of needs (Where do we go? What is there for me to take? Who do I need to kill? Who can heal me?). Again, a matter of taste, but I don't feel the need to kaizen and Six Sigma the hell out of my game prep. Yes, I created a conlang for my game. In fact, I created several that none of my players will never use during an adventure. So what? If one would imply that some how that was a "waste of time" or "bad DM-ing", I have two middle fingers straight up for that notion. Unlike a player, I argue that the fun for a DM of extends beyond the actual game session into the creative process of game and setting prep, and I had fun constructing the dialect of Vulgar Rexan.

And that's the final moral of the story. I'm an applied linguist by trade, I enjoy conlanging. If the thought of creating a fictional language sounds like drudgery to you, don't do it. If you enjoy drawing up continent-level maps and determining climate zones, do it. If you don't, don't. If one wants to draw up a fort on a 'borderlands' with 10 miles of wilderness to explore as the first step in their worldbuilding, great! As I mentioned earlier, off the shelf settings and barebones 'this is a dungeon, on the last level is a red dragon' are equally valid and fun ways to run a game. However, if one chooses to develop their own setting, let's keep in mind that the process of worldbuilding is quite personal and different individuals are going to approach it differently. There is no 'One Right Way' (TM) and there never will be.

Thank you for taking the time to read something I hope will be interpreted more as dialog and less as screed. :D
Perhaps it is all dependant on time? Because you never know what may come up, and most of the time you are busy with work or school or family stuff etc.
I am merely trying to find a "compromise" between your view of it and Solomoriah's (sorry if I spelled it wrong again).
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:26 am

Weegeeman256 wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:25 am One of my absolute favorite resources when it comes to world building is the 2 books by Sly Flourish. The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and Lazy Dungeons Masters Workbook. Both are around 10$ I believe but they more or less detail exactly what solomoriah is speaking about. Build what benefits your game and nothing else. This way your world builds and develops before your eyes and you save hundreds of hours of prep that will most likely be thrown out the window. It details every step from characters, npc, building towns, fantastic locations etc etc. It is obviously aimed at 5E but I use it for BFRPG all the time and have done full campaigns without "building" a setting at all, even a narrative really. Hope this helps :)
I'll definitely check those out then lol
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Re: World Building Tips

Post Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:47 am

My point, which I seem to have failed to make, is this: You don't have to do much worldbuilding at all to satisfy your players. Indeed, I've run immersive, engaging campaigns while doing the bare minimum worldbuilding on the fly several times.

When I was a young GM, still fresh and green, I read every article that appeared in Dragon about how to build worlds. The problem is, every writer wrote as if his (and it was always "his" in those days) way was the only way. But the method described by LleijS does not work for me, because I have a hard time remembering what I wrote if I write too much. Writing fantasy world history and culture is engaging and enjoyable to do, at least for me, but when I realized I kept contradicting what I wrote with what I said in game, I began to seriously despair of ever becoming a "good" GM.

The point is: Sure, read the articles. Read our responses here. But don't do what any of us say, just because we said it. Choose the method that speaks to you, that works with your imagination and your collection of cognitive abilities. If your method is different from any of ours, that does not make it "bad" or even "inferior." The only judgement of your method that matters is yours and your players'.
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