View Full Version : Campaigns / Adventures World Design

02-20-2011, 04:02 PM
I plan on designing my own world, what is the best place to start? Is it cosmology, or factions and political groups?

I plan on using pathfinder corebook as the nuts and bolts, I feel like it could be inserted into any setting.

I have lots of ideas but need to know where to focus my attention.


02-21-2011, 01:49 PM
I was playing chess and started thinking that it could be the good beginnings of a pantheon.

02-23-2011, 10:33 AM
Best place to start: your organization system. A wiki like ObsidianPortal has potential, or a home-made HTML. Whatever you use, make sure it's foolproof, because designing a world is a big endeavor.

A logical approach is the chronological one. Who came first, gods, dragons, or men? Give them a planet with continents and large features (mountains, hills, plains, rivers and lakes) to play on. Then start telling the story of history. Be as detailed as you want, but you'll finish sooner if you're more general. Most of mankind's unrecorded history goes generally like this: man multiplied, and moved to a new area. If he survived, he multiplied, and moved to a new area...

02-24-2011, 12:10 AM
I plan on designing my own world, what is the best place to start? Is it cosmology, or factions and political groups?

I'd actually start with the general tone and what players will do. Really, though, I'd figure out central idea of your setting -- what makes it cool or interesting -- and build around that. There's no single right way.

One trap you want to avoid is overbuilding. Working out cult rituals of every god, topographical maps of the known world, and the politics of every city is definitely overkill. Sketch a rough map, lay down basic principles of the world, and work out the first adventure ... then build only one session ahead, based on what interests your players.

WotC's setting search, which Eberron won, asked entrants to provide the following:

Core Ethos Sentence
Who are the heroes?
What do they do?
Threats, Conflicts, Villains.
Nature of Magic?
What's new? What's Different? What's Unique?

RuneQuest fans put together a more extensive outline, for more developed ideas. (RQ2 & RQ3 are versions of the rules; read "religions" and "deities" for cults and "arcane magic" for Sorcery.)

Begin meta-outline.txt

I. Overview

Here, we should let the reader know what the document will cover and any revision being planned. Sell the supplement here!

II. Culture

A. Description - rough description of the target culture. Should include politics, means of sustaining itself, breakdown of armed forces, etc.

B. What Commoners Do - description of life for the commoner. Includes professions like in RQ3 rulebook.

C. What Leaders Do - description of life for the leaders of the culture. Professions commoners cannot start with go here.

D. Organizations - unique or powerful organizations and their hierarchy go here.
I'm seeing something akin to RQ2 cult outlines, only less about the religions where appropriate.

III. Geography / Environment

A. Position on the world map / climatic description

B. Major population centres - in RQ3 City format (city size, population, main deities, etc.)

C. Neighbouring powers - trade and political relationships

IV. Metaphysics

A. Religions - write-ups for cults and religions unique to the culture belong in this section.

B. Other Magical Systems - do they use Sorcery or something completely new? How does this integrate with the rest of the society? What organizations teach or police this form of magic?

B. Unique Magic - specific magical items and effects belong in this section.

V. Technology

A. Level of technology - describe who has the most advanced crafts in the culture, what they can create / accomplish. What organizations is this technology tied to?

B. Availability - equipment availability / costs

VI. Game Stats

A. Skills - full descriptions of skills uniquely found in this environment go here.

B. Spells - full descriptions of new magic systems and / or spells. Magic items, too if these things are common...

C. Creatures - full descriptions with stats for unique creatures and species characters would likely meet wandering this place.

updated: Apr 10, 2003 @ 16:30 UTC-5 eof - meta-outline.txt

RuneQuest uses "professions" and "skills" instead of classes, so a Pathfinder game should also list new and variant classes.

---------- Post added Thursday 02-24-2011 at 12:10 AM ---------- Previous post was Wednesday 02-23-2011 at 11:45 PM ----------

FWIW, here's an overdeveloped world I've yet to use. Certainly there's some stuff I can trim out, notably the plethora of magical specialties, but I do like the progression from elevator pitch to specifics, and the list of regions tied to sub-campaigns.


02-24-2011, 10:34 PM
A general outline on the world's broadest categories is a good thing. However, you do not need the world detailed to the last Kobold lair to start playing. If you are doing the usual Heroic fantasy you can keep the character in bucolic ignorance over what is beyond the hills. That is what exploring is all about. And because they are ignorant, you don't haveo to detail it until they go that way. I have a friend that takes this too far. People that have lived on the edge of the wild don't know what a bear is?

I like circle development. Get your broad categories filled in, detail one location, and as the PCs move about detail beyond that.

(Seems i need to pull my various thought on this matter into another article.)

02-26-2011, 01:49 PM
I'm going to scratch the chessboard idea.
To me Gods will come first. I want to have the planes either bleed onto or anchored to the material plane.
I envision the capitol built into the dominant mountain range. Picture an "X" with four gates opposite each other.
The land was tamed by a paladin and was named king by the people and his children have ruled ever since.

This is as far as I've gotten so far.

03-06-2011, 04:55 PM
even when i start of with some idea for a unique landscape, or culture, or village, or individual, or whatever... i usually quickly wind up out in the cosmology of why the universe supports that particular circumstance that i came up with in the first place. as you can imagine, i almost always start with cosmology when i am creating a new world or setting.

if you are having the planes closely aligned, or actually anchored to the prime, then that will have immediate ramifications as to how societies and civilizations develop. you might want to borrow the idea of manifest zones from eberron where a plane has a direct influence in an area. are you going to avoid the great wheel shape for your cosmology? or will the planes be actual destinations on your prime? what kinds of planes / gods are you going to have? how will you define good and evil? is neutrality an illusion or a viable choice... and why?

just some questions to draw out your ideas so that i can give you more feedback. ^^

03-07-2011, 12:56 PM
Broad outline however one sees the outline. Foundations first then start the building.

Was my world built this way? Hell no. That is why I recommend doing it this way. My world was nothing but the dungeon in the beginning., the whole thing was slowly reconed into existence from the bits of in play lore we created as we went.

We had no world, no back story, no reason, nutten. You slapped a character together from six rolls of the dice and off you went. I prefer backstories and development frankly. I like playing in a rich and diverse world.

06-24-2011, 11:28 AM
I'm one of those luck b'tards that can bang out the broad strokes of a world in a weekend and enjoy doing it. I generally start with a outline map, (continents oceans, major islands) then work out where the major types of land are(mountains plains forest swamp etc) just in broad generalization, because to me natural features will suggest where certain races are likely to be, then after figuring out where the races are grouped i start working out broad governments and religions and any twists to the world from the normal fantasy (i once had it that all dwarves actually came from deserts and worshiped a scorpion god) this gives me a good general idea for the world and i can figure out where i want the players to start and start the detailing from there.

08-15-2011, 05:58 PM
I like circle development. Get your broad categories filled in, detail one location, and as the PCs move about detail beyond that.

This is exactly how I build a campaign and map around the PCs, they dont need to know what is over the horizon, makes it easier on me, and when they do explore, it makes it more interesting for the players.

In the current campaign that I am building I used a detailed topographical map of the Glacier National Park in Montana, used supplies to alter it, add in locations and insert mountian villages and cities (one thing I did so was increase the scale, from half mile squares to two miles so i could build a decent network of towns, not just 4 or 5)

so far it has worked out very well, and gives a great detailed and semi realistic area to work with. If the players are to explore beyond that point, then more of the world can be uncovered. The time setting is more primitive than most fantasy games, being set in a magic filled bronze age

04-18-2012, 05:49 AM
get on Ebay and buy the Rich Baker World Builder's guide, period.


07-08-2013, 04:38 AM
I started with a campaign I started for 2nd Ed a d&d. Changed the major bad guy to something else. From there I started with the major background story of how the world is how it is. I made a rough map... Lost that one, started another which I like much more now. From there it's kinda snowballing. Right now I have the good gods, the bad god and parts of the map labeled and one of the major cities basic outlined and story. It's on hold right now while I finish my campaign and get it ready to publish under a different system.

07-09-2013, 09:43 AM
nice. keep up the good work!

world building is my hobby. i've been "hobbling" along with world setting after world setting since middle school. i don't really see an end in sight.

08-26-2013, 08:34 PM
There are many different approaches to doing this, this is what I did. I started years ago and I have a entire shelf full of journals detailing worlds etc.. We started way back in 1986 in a small kingdom and with a few generic gods. god of the sun etc.. well then I did a entire pantheon, then the story of creation as the players knew it. Then a generic map, like orcs here, elves here etc.. Then as time went on I detailed more areas, writing the players guide to Milandria, and ones for the other kingdoms. As for the map, put down a large piece of paper, sketch out the coasts, now take it to staples and get copies made. do more work like geographical features, take it to staples (its like 1 dollar for a 2 x3' piece) keep making copies as you progress so if you want to change something you can without having to do it all over. Some people prefer computer mapping, I'm not one of them I prefer the old handrawn maps but that's me. Just start small and expand one piece at a time and be prepared to make lots of changes. I recommend a great book for pantheons, it's the book of the righteous by Green Ronin, Great book for ideas.

08-27-2013, 08:26 AM
The URL I listed above three years ago is invalid. The new one is http://www.frank-mitchell.com/games/telluria/tellurian-primer.html . I also updated the document, FWIW. Next time I'll put in a forwarding page.

Since then I've discovered private Wikis (like Instiki at http://instiki.org ) to record ideas and connections. One product of this process is here: http://www.frank-mitchell.com/games/erebus .

08-27-2013, 04:55 PM
i actually started writing an article on worldbuilding: GameMasterY-World Building : Part One (http://nijineko.hubpages.com/hub/GameMasterY-World-Building) and i welcome feedback on it. I am still working on part two, which i believe i will concatenate with part one, and make a new part two out of part three. ^^

10-07-2013, 10:32 PM
The way I did mine was to use a world atlas. Originally I just photocopied the pages and and traced them, then photocopied them again. Scale was all there, the outlines were all there, topography was there, even cities were there. Then I plopped down the races and monsters. As time went on I filled in history, religions, magics. Because the scale was so huge and the maps the players would sneak looks at were so small (local, or extended local), no one ever realized what I was doing. When Mapquest came out, wow, I got detailed and very precise maps. Set the majority of the game in the midwest as that was the part of the country I was most familiar with. Played from the Gulf coast to almost the Canadian border, and from the Mississippi river to the foothills of the Rockies. The most played in area was the area around the Black Hills and St. Louis. Played that area for almost twenty years and about ten groups, no one ever had a clue.