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Old 07-27-2015, 10:29 AM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2015
Default World building.

Hey, here to ask about building a world.

Me and my group (me being the GM) are playing regular games and are currently doing campaigns in two settings. 1:Fantasy and 2: Fallout
In no. 2 I am using the full fallout lore, this being set in virginia, Washington D.C. so lore and world writing isn't such an issue. (I'm tempted to say I enjoyed this a lot more than the fantasy setting but my players like the fantasy more so I don't really mind). I'm just here to ask how in-depth are your worlds when you write them ? I have made several maps using photoshop but what I am really asking here is about writing history and lore for your worlds. I am obsessed with the idea of having a really meaty and consistant lore for my world but I find that documenting and writing it is difficult and the word documents I save it all on quickly become chaos as my world has like a 2000+ year history and I find that its too difficult to compress it all to one timeline. Have any of you got any advice for how I can document it ? Or am I doing too much and would the experience be better if there was little known lore to the players ?

P.s. I have a few fleshed out religions so thats not a problem. Its mainly just political lore.

Thanks for reading.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:44 AM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Southeast NC
Default Re: World building.

When it comes to history, I'll do broad strokes for most of it, but focus down on important events that might directly influence the lives of the PCs. If doing the modern world as a fictional world, WWII would warrant a mention, but the War on Terror would be more likely to be relevant, since a currently active adventurer might be a veteran of that.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: World building.

I have built a fairly complex world history of my fantasy world during the more than 25 years of running games in it both in traditional roleplaying games and as Neverwinter Nights (+nwn2) persistent worlds.

I have about 100 000 words total in world descriptions and there are a further more than 200 000 words in stories. There are a total of few hundred maps.

A lot of the world description and stories belong to certain time periods, places and similar and thus have a low relevance in others. As example the current campaign is set in second era, where the previous one have been in third and fourth eras so those events do not matter in the current campaign at all.

As for tools: I have found a wiki a good tool to have the material in as cross referencing it there is much easier, just put all bits in separate pages, use namespaces for gross organization and add links to general level pages that have then links to the specific detail pages..

So as an example your time line could have an overview timeline and links to sections with the more detailed parts. That would keep the main timeline simple while still having the detail available.

A wiki has the further benefit that the contents is easy to share with the players.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:52 AM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Renton, WA
Default Re: World building.

1. Your world should be focused on the characters (players). So, you should pick a starting location and detail out what is needed to make that area work for adventures. When I'm designing a world for play, I'm generally thinking "what will the characters do?". Then you fill it in as the game progresses.

2. Outline! Not only build an outline but note what areas you can detail now and what areas you can work on as the game progresses. You can keep a separate document for each chapter or organize folders to contain documents pertinent to a chapter.

3. Some of the great RPG settings grew holistically from years of play. Don't be in a hurry to create your Magnum Opus. IMHO play should be the strong focus. Things that excite your players, that involve character backgrounds, or involve upcoming adventures. Let it grow from there. When you get inspiration for a new area, you can outline it, make some notes and then fill in the details as you free up time from regular session prep.

4. Histories are wonderful to have if past events play a strong role in the current climate. Otherwise, you can build the history as you go along. Start with the major events with the most impact to the characters, and work "out" from there.

Just a few ideas off the top of my head. :-)
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Old 07-27-2015, 11:09 AM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: World building.

It really depends. I ran a very ad-hoc worldhopper that started with around 64 words of notes and the current game I'm making is at nearly 25 000 words and not yet started. My feeling is that this is a game/hobby - it's meant to be fun. If you aren't enjoying the worldbuilding part of it, don't do too much of it. That said, I quite often do enjoy it.

As for notes becoming too complicated and disorganized, there are several programs to help with that sort of thing - Realm Works is quite good though it has a subscription payment model. I have, however, switched back to plain old txt files. I just find them easier to work with.

In general, for history and politics in my more detail-heavy games, I know the factions and the cultures quite well, and maybe their leaders. I know all the major events that helped shape the world - one game had 10-15 pages of timelines, each dedicated to another civilization or faction. I do not, in general, know the people involved, unless they're really important - I havr no geneologies of kings, for example.

I am one of those people who likes planning games nearly as much as running them. My group keeps getting mad at me for trying to start new games as we don't have enough time to play all the ones I'm already running, but I keep getting new ideas.

Both extremes of detail can work well, though. I've PCed in a game where the GM had been running that campaign for 40 years and knew absolutely everything about it (When one PC asked for rumours about an important NPC, he searched through his stufd and drew out a box of rumours about him written on slips of paper and told him to draw his margin of success. When we went to a random small town in the middle od the desert, he told us no PC had been there for over 30 years real time and then we t and found his map of it). That was really cool. On the other hand, I've played in (and ran) games whic the GM made up completely on the spot and were 100% improvised and those can be a lot of fun too - don't feel you have to do bookkeeping if you don't like it.

EDIT: Adding that conversations with players can be a big help in fleshing out what matters. I encourage my players to ask lots of questions and usually I can give an answer immediately even though I often didn't already know the answer. Thaat answer in turn informs answers to other questions and fairly soon you have a rich world. Plus, don't be afraid to make up lore on the spot rather than not using lore because you didn't come up with it ahead of time.

Last edited by dfinlay; 07-27-2015 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 07-27-2015, 07:19 PM   #6
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: World building.

(a) My worldbuilding varies between different fantasy campaigns.

In Manse, I created a single large fortress with six towers linked by thick walls, and with an adjacent farm village. This was all the defined world; it was a premise of the game that more than a thousand years ago, a mighty empire had disintegrated, and the world had lost its coherences as freed spirits and wild magic swept across it—but five skilled sorcerers had worked magic to preserve a domain suited to human life, and had founded noble houses that preserved their magical arts. Each of the players got to make up a magical house and create a character from it.

On the other hand, in Tapestry, my current campaign, I started out by sketching the tectonic plates, the ocean and atmospheric circulation, and the climate zones, and then distributing seven human races into climate regions that suited them, with the result that each race had several distinct culture areas. I figured out a key deed of enchantment several hundred years back that had been transfoirming the world ever since, and I wrote up the magical arts typical of each race.

The curious thing is that three of the four players in Manse went on to be three of the six players in Tapestry.

(b) In general, though, I don't work out history in much detail; I look for broad trends and not charts of royal succession or lists of wars. The detail I work on is often largely full character sheets for any NPC who is likely to be substantial.
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Old 07-27-2015, 07:46 PM   #7
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Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Default Re: World building.

In an area about the size of Bohemia, I have plenty of detail: almost 90,000 words so far. Settlements, monster lairs, NPCs—I tend to go wild on quirky NPCs—religions, languages, castles, a thieves' guild, local legends, holidays. You get the idea. I try to make sure everything is player-oriented, so for example I don't have much detail on politics, but I know where all the churches are in the area and enough detail on the priests that I can wing what spells they know. I like adding depth to this; it spurs creativity, even if my players will never see most of it. The stuff they've seen is obviously more detailed. I have a calendar with the whole year's weather (yeah, I was bored) and other events: "YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN ..."

Beyond this area, I have a vague idea of where things are. I mostly care about the general gist of where everything else is, and have some sketchy notes on politics and stuff in the rest of the world. There's a couple of spots off the map that are all in my head. Basically, I know enough that I can use something if I need it and can tweak it as needed. I actually started from the bigger map and zoomed in so there's some realism to the environment, but stuff is pretty malleable outside of the campaign area.

As for history, I do have a timeline, and have a chronology of kings of the big kingdom just because I found a table and was rolling on it and figured why not, and added some bits from the rolls and real history (the Abdication Crisis and the Mayerling Incident). But otherwise, I don't want too many specifics, especially of events not in living memory. Society was built up and collapsed due to a plague brought by undead and has been starting and stopping ever since. There are some numbers attached to that—I had an old TSR book that I used—but most of those numbers are nice and round. Stuff was built up so that there could be dungeons, and the world collapsed to make sure those dungeons were forgotten.
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Old 07-27-2015, 10:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: World building.

Most of my world building starts with a few basics: A place, a genre, and a few things I want to see in the world.

Then I start fleshing things out. If it's "the real world except...", such as a supers or monster hunters world, I don't have to do much, except specifying what the exceptions are. A fantasy world... well, look in my .sig for the setting I've been hammering at for 15 years now. ;)

I should note that I was gaming in that fantasy world back when it was just a hand-drawn map with a handful of cities (which later became the capitals of the nations), the idea that "hey, they have guns!", and a list of deity names mostly coinciding with the Greco-Roman pantheon using D&D3.0. You can see how it evolved.
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documenting, fantasy, history, lore, political

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