Tuesday, 22 February 2011

How To: Create a Fantasy World

One of the hardest things for any GM or group to do is create the world in which your game will occur. It is for this reason so many people simply use the generic worlds given to them in campaign books. There is nothing wrong with that, but after a while they all tend to become very similar and style and theme, creating your own world will prevent this.

Now, I believe the creating your own world is the best way to truly engross yourself in the fantasy adventure and will massively improve the game as a whole. I also understand that, for those who haven’t designed a world before, it can be a daunting task.
Not to fear, this post will give you all the basic tools you need to start building a world of your own. I will also add in some links to really useful sites that will help you flesh out your world quickly and easily.
Step One: Name Your World
This is probably one of the easier steps but none the less should have some time spent on it. The name of the world is the first thing your players will hear and it will keep popping up all the time, calling it Bob’s World Version One is probably going to ruin the feel of the game! One of my favourite ways of name a world is to think of a few words to describe the world and type them into an online translator such as Inter Tran. Then try translating the words into several different languages, you’re looking for a really cool looking and sounding word the meaning and context really don’t matter. Alternatively you can always just pluck some cool sounding word out of your mind, this works just as well!
Step Two: Create the Landscape
This is probably one of the most vital steps of the whole process. Decide on what kind of landscapes cover your world, deserts, forests, cities etc. At this point I tend to start scribbling ideas on paper as a round sketch. Once the geography is sorted, mark out the boundaries of countries and start thinking about what they are like as places to live, governments etc.

Step Three: Create Your World's Wildlife
With the geography done, start thinking and listing what lives where. I advise using a written bestiary for this to start with and then add in your own creations later on. Start with the noral animals, horses, rodents wild dogs etc then move on to the stranger things. This will not only allow you to pit characters in your world against them, but it will also give your characters a feel for the area, and even something to eat! On that note, think about the food chain of each area, seems an odd thing to spend time on, but can really help add a degree of realism to the area.

Step Four: Create The Populace
Now its time to go back and populate each country with its inhabitants. These can be whoever you want, be that human or newt. Yes i really have had a country inhabited with bipedal newts, quite a cool place actually. Think about each social class of people, who likes and dislikes who (in terms of groups not individuals). Work out what people do for a living, what services they provide in the town or city in which they live. The red dragon inn has a great town generator that gives you a complete break down of who lives their and what they do. Check it out: http://www.rdinn.com/town_generator.php.

Step Five: Creating The Faith
People generaly have a faith. It's not always the same as everyone else, and people rarely show their faith in a set uniform way. However, it is a good idea to know what faiths are dominant in each town, city, region and country. It's best to have several faiths as it alows for some variation in the character of the country. You can use either a pre made pantheon of Gods or make your own. A good resources for this is wikipedia, its has a lot of religious info that can be used to pick and choose from different cultures to create a varied and interesting world.

Step Six: Deciding Upon The Spoken and Writen Word
Work through each country and decide upon or create a language for each. This can be pre-determined by the majority race of the country but you shouldn't feel confined by this. A great resource can be found here. Creating your own language can be extremely difficult and to get it right, can take years! But if you can do it, then do, its great fun and also gives you a real sense of the world being yours.

Step Seven: Maping Bigger Picture
Now is the time to smarten up that map. Finalise country borders, mark in geographical features. I advise you use squared paper to create your map and use the squares to create a size scale. Create a political map using colours to mark countries and a geographical map using colours to denote the topography of the land. Mark on each countries capitol city, then cities and town working down in size. Finaly, add anything else you thikn should be on a map, historic ruins, important notes etc. I strongly advise you scan this map into your pc and use software such as photoshop to add some interesting character, making it look like an old scroll for example. You can also add text this way without having to wrote it free hand.

Step Eight: Creating The Past
A worlds history makes it what it is today. Write out the history of your world in as much detail as you can. Include wars, political landmark moments, births and eaths etc. The more you fill in the deeper your workd shall become. Once you have the worlds history, write a smaller piece on each country. After this, not only will the world be a more interesting and diverse place to live in, but you will also know more about the world you have create.

Step Nine: Create The Goverment
Now its time to heat things up. Create a governing body for each of your countries. This could be a royal family that rules in a feudal state or an elected house of the people who rule in a democratic state. The goverment can be anything you want, it can have whatever views you want and can be lead by who ever you want. A goverment decides upon the law and policy of the country so thikn about this very carefully.

Step Ten: Create Your Worlds Folklore
This is really an option phase, but I stand by it. Create the old wives tales and tall stories that are told in each country. These can be anything from frogs that cure illness to a monster that each children if their toe nails get too long. They add character to those who tell them and believe them and can lead to the formations of groups and religions. This can also include world spanning prophecy, a cool plot for characters!

Step Eleven: Tie It All Together
The best way to present your world to your players is in the form of a campaign pack. I will be making a posts on those later, but for now, a brief idea. Everything above should be either tped or scanned onto a pc as a word document. Then make sure you want your players to have all the info that is there, if not, rmove it and keep it in a GM only version. Once you have got it as you want it, export it as a PDF and print a copy for each of your players. You can also email it out to them so they have a digital copy.

So there we are, the basics of creating your very own fantasy world. This is by no means a cover all, you could add a lot more to a world or a lot less, but if you follow these steps you will create a fairly deep world with enough background to run several campaigns. Plus, as your players containue doing what they do best, the world will activly change so if there are things your players don't like, they can always change them through their actions.

Anyway, until next time, TTFN