Creating Life: The Art of Worldbuilding

As a storyteller, I consider myself a craftsman, and, as a craftsman, it’s important to practice, and also read.

That in mind, in February I picked up a series of books, specifically on worldbuilding. I got the entire three book set, and read them, mostly.

I say mostly because the instructions were very close to what I had already come up with independently. See, at the time I had joined a floundering LARP, and was trying to help them turn their game from nothing more than a disconnected set of sparring matches into an actual role playing game.

The key to that was worldbuilding. Without some sort of established setting, it is very hard for new players to immerse themselves, especial during the crucial time before they have played their first game.

Before the first game all the new player has is whatever information that might be written. After they’ve gotten their feet wet and interacted with other players and NPCs is a bit easier for them to stay engaged, but initially it’s vital for a potential player to have something to put hooks into. I’ll talk about immersion at another time.

So at the time I was painstakingly collecting the scattered bits of lore they already had and stitching it, like a quilt, into a useful whole.

My work was unappreciated, but that’s beside the point.

So I bought these books and in my own roundabout way I’m recommending them to those who are either learning or polishing their craft.

Simply put, if I were to teach a class on being a Dungeon Master (I can dream can’t I?) this is the series of books I would use as the textbook and teach from.

I only have one fundamental disagreement with the authors method. Personally, when I start building a world, I always always start with the gods.

The gods are the ones that literally create the world. Even without a “Genesis style” creation event, the gods will shape the world based on their desires.

Also, as a man of faith and a student of history, I am acutely aware of how unifying and decisive religion can be. I could list a pile of historical references for this. Christians vs Pagans in Brittania. Christians vs Muslims in Spain. Muslims vs Pagans in Arabia. It’s a long list.

I mean, if you are going to create a society with a patron deity like war god Ares, it’s going to have very different laws and customs than one that devotes itself to harvest god Ceres. Religion is fundamental to law and culture, and thus gods must be created first.

All in all, loved the books. Would recommend.

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