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Creating A World - Part One ("Where do I begin?")

The Great Balls O'Fyre

The upcoming game NWN promises to offer experienced as well as novice DMs a never before available opportunity to share their creations with a broad audience across the world. It is important that we go about world creation in as structured and well thought out way as possible. Here are a few of my thoughts on the things to keep foremost in mind.

Creating a world for D&D involves the same skills a writer uses to create a best selling fantasy novel. There are two basic approaches when telling your story and creating your world. One can sit down and create a basic, complete plot, which encompasses the stories major plot elements and fleshes out what is going to happen. Or, one can set the initial elements into place and, to a certain extent, wing it.

It can be hard to believe, but many successful books have used the latter method of writing, with the author not knowing until quite far along in his story, exactly where the tale would go. Perhaps the best example of this is everyones favorite fantasy extravaganza, the source for orcs, hobbits and Gandalf The Wizard, the classic "The Lord Of The Rings".

J. R. R. Tolkien went into this half million words of epic novel quite without knowing where he was going. True, Bilbo had a magic ring, but at the outset of LOTR, Tolkien was not aware that this was "THE RING". The book did not evolve into the vast epic that it was to be until very nearly the end of the "Fellowship Of The Ring". Tolkien "found" his story in the telling.

Most of we who successfully create D&D worlds use this method of creation. It leaves room for our heroes to go about their business, perhaps altering the way we think things will go. My own world if full of "hints" of things that exist, things that are not fully then, if ever, explained...odd arcane books, partly drawn maps, lots of unrelated subplots that have little or nothing to do with "big affairs" but add immeasurably to the experiance of being "in another place", that has it's own rules, laws, language and history.

The thing that will make your world memorable, is not the major Demi-Lich King...rather it is in the details and little touches that make your world different than anyone elses.

When sitting down, try at first to think small. Decide the local geographical setting your characters will initially adventure in, and create a little base village or setting they can adventure out of. Take into account the basic economic basis for this place. Is it a fishing village on the coast? If so, they probably sell goods from the ocean, and have to import other goods from elsewhere. It is these sorts of considerations that lead you to decide just what sorts of folks and land this is. What sort of government runs this town? A mayor under a more or less free people, or a tyrant of a pirate King? It's up to you, and you can slowly decide these facts, and they will lead you to more and more firm elelments in your world.

That first Dungeon/Sewer/Haunted Church is so important, because it sets the tone for the adventuring aspects of your world. Make it fairly simple and based on day to day stuff. Raiders attacking peasants traveling on the road, orcs angry at a stolen idol, a haunted churchyard with an aggrieved spirit, keep it down to a "less than epic" scope. The world needs to build to larger events, and there's nothing worse than starting a campaign with earth shattering stuff. Your world needs to establish a day to day, routine pace, and grow from there.

Remember that pacing means everything. Suspence needs to build in an adventure. Simply fighting through wave after wave of similar monsters makes for a boring story. Add a sense of the unknown, make things unsettling and wierd, and build towards a climatic moment in each little adventure. Your players will feel it, it will make for a good story to tell, and they will keep coming back for more.

These are my opening thoughts, more on specific ways of "making it real" next time!

Keep creating!


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