The Essential Elements for Building a World
Roleplaying games and fantasy fiction are filled with rich and fascinating worlds: the Forgotten Realms, Glorantha, Narnia, R'lyeh, Middle-Earth, Barsoom, and so many more. It took startling leaps of imagination as well as careful thought and planning to create places like these: places that readers and players want to come back to again and again.
Now, eleven of adventure gaming's top designers come together to share their insights into building worlds that gamers will never forget. Learn the secrets of designing a pantheon, creating a setting that provokes conflict, determining which historical details are necessary, and so much more.
Take that creative leap, and create dazzling worlds of your own!
Essays by Wolfgang Baur, Keith Baker, Monte Cook, Jeff Grubb, Scott Hungerford, David "Zeb" Cook, Chris Pramas, Jonathan Roberts, Michael A. Stackpole, Steve Winter, with an introduction by Ken Scholes.
NOMINATED FOR TWO ENNIE AWARDS: Best Writing and Best RPG-Related Book
"A great guide - from a multitude of authors - to building worlds in paper RPGs that extends just as wonderfully to building lore for anything - video games, novels and more." – Simon Carless
"While the book is aimed at the RPG crowd, a huge percentage of the material would be just as valuable to an author writing a novel set in an original world. . . . For anyone who's ever had the drive to create a fictional place . . . The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding will spark some new ideas and help you add the proper doses of verisimilitude and outlandishness."– Ed Grabianowski, io9
"Class is in session . . . The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding SHOULD be considered a textbook on intelligent setting creation."– Dave Hinojosa, The Gaming Gang
"Should be a must read for anyone who has played the game for a few years and is ready to delve into the craft of world building in a serious way. I wish I had this book 15 years ago.
"While there are larger, more complete, surveys of demography and climatic issues, I have never seen such an effective survey of the topics that really matter, and make the difference, in delivering a quality game world to your players."– Paizo Review by Ayronis
Introduction: Foster Worlds to Hide and Seek In
Like many of you, I've been visiting new worlds with an eye toward buying real estate for a long time now. My passport has more stamps in it than I can count.
I've been to Barsoom with John and Dejah, then tracked down Carson on Amptor. I took a nice, long walk through Middle-earth with Bilbo, Frodo, and Company before dropping by Arrakis to see how Paul's spice mining was going. I visited Almuric on my way to Hyborea to spend time with Esau and Conan (respectively). And then eventually, I found myself in hot water in Greyhawk's village of Hommlet (I lost two fingers to a giant frog there!) and spent many hours wandering the quarters of Baldur's Gate in the Forgotten Realms.
I am a traveler of many worlds.
I needed to be because this one just wasn't good enough for me. So these others became foster worlds, if you will, where I could play hide and seek with myself through books and with my friends through gaming. And I know I'm not alone. I remember Tim Powers telling my Writers of the Future Workshop that we wouldn't write what we write if we were at home in this world. It resonated with me and I suspect some others.
And somewhere along the way, it wasn't good enough for me to play hide and seek in the worlds of others—I was compelled to join the pantheon of gods who make worlds of their own. I started, like many of us, with my Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, a pad of graph paper, and a brain filled with all of the worlds I'd already visited by that time. It didn't hurt at all that somewhere along the way, TSR provided a list of all the other worlds out there that one could turn to for inspiration in creating their adventures. That opened up a door for me to the work of even more world-builders—all of which fueled my fire to create.
And after a bit, it just wasn't enough anymore. I turned to writing where, eventually, I created the world of the Named Lands in my series, The Psalms of Isaak, my first foray into the wacky world of epic fantasy.
And I'm wishing I had the book you're now holding right now—The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding—when I started that great and wild ride. Of course, the good news is, thanks to Janna's kind invitation to write this introduction, I'll have my contributor copy handy for the next world I design.
It's going to come in handy.
This volume brings together a fine set of tools, whether you're a game master or an author. In Jonathan Roberts' brilliantly succinct essay, "Here Be Dragons," you'll learn how to very simply, very practically build the map of your world and outline much of its details. Wolfgang Baur will equally amaze in "Designing a Pantheon" and "What is Setting?" with his thoughts on creating gods and religions and settings that create potential for conflict and drive players (or readers) deeper into the story without hampering the game master (or author) with so much detail that there's no room for collaboration.
I'm already taking notes for the world I'll build after I finish with the one I'm visiting now. That makes this a pretty easy book to introduce to you. Whatever worlds you're building, you'll want this one along for the trip.
The essays here, from masters of their craft, form a toolbox with all you need "to create a place that feels real enough to develop an emotional connection to it," to quote Monte Cook's essay, "Different Kinds of Worldbuilding." "After all," he continues, "who wants to save a world that no one cares about?"
So take these tools. Go build more foster worlds we can play hide and seek in. Build them well and take us there. Stamp our passports and make us want to stay forever.