Before starting to write, I browsed through my personal youtube’s favourite list. Have you ever done that? It’s amazing what kind of things you’ll dig up. Thinking, “aww, I remember that!” and chuckling when looking through the list’s structure. There have been many videos where I knew exactly where I sat and what I did, faving them. Really good memories.
Some of those videos gave me a profound sadness, though. I saw them as a memento of difficult times. Not knowing where I was but exactly knowing how I felt. There were a couple of songs I listened to non-stop during that time. You can imagine that they imprinted themselves onto me. The tunes that are mysterious and yet making you feel a bit uneasy.
Well, why am I talking about some fears within my youtube favourites? It’s all about structure. Unexpected, I know. The feed of my favourite videos I structured with every click. How I interpret them is another form of creating a mental model to put them into perspective. Formed memories that trigger the thinking apparatus to feel a certain way.
A bit of a stretch to link some songs to world building like we do right now. Or is it? The war on content provides so many tools and gadgets for creating the best maps and the best campaigns. Selling many times a feeling but not something that I can reliably build on. Only rarely do I see the right tools that actually help and address your personality. And with that, addressing the structural approach on build anything.
Deciding to create those resources placed me in a difficult setting. I’m not a pro-GM. I haven’t lead groups in a while. My experiences may be present and valid but how to make them accessible? Realising that accessibility is not only the done product. Crognar’s Rock is the first step in learning to structure and to build something that is too complex for just one post with some catchy headers.
It’s slowly becoming a resource for you and for me. For me, in particularly it’s like facing those old fears like the youtube favourites that remind me of darker times. Even more a reason to make it accessible and to dig into that depth, starting to ask questions.
So, as a summary of the last few steps of building the continent, I want to start with confidence and a structure supporting it. This also means to understand that this applies not only to a roleplaying campaign but also to creative writing, which makes it even more interesting for me as a world builder.
Structure and Summary
We built this jungle filled peninsula based on a vision. This vision was the very first idea actively shaped. What was important to me was to enable you to think about possibilities, not facts. If you want to build something, build it. Basically. Doing that is one step. What I learned on the way was also to let changes happen. Let it happen that it makes a 180 turn, going into a completely opposite direction.
The vision is actually that exact step to create the first few questions in which spectrum we want to go. Then we started with the preparation. We defined a lot of things about what the campaign is and what it isn’t. Only now do I realise that I didn’t even talk about what setting we want to put it in. I maybe should have mentioned that we chose a simple undefined D&D based setting for general usage of magic and races. But even without defining that, we spend most of the time looking at the creation of land.
This lead us to the mapping of the continent. Closely related to the key points we established during the preparation. Handrails that guide us, not restricting us. A cohesive setting is in my opinion based on some rules we want to follow. Thus, we created landmasses, mountains, seas and jungles that will define Crognar’s Rock the most. As soon as we put all the things in their respective right places, we looked at the flora and the fauna. I initially forgot the weather as an important part of the equation but added that afterwards.
A defining moment to understand that it does not have to be perfect. Also that we ought not to compare to pros who do this for a living. A learning process, by itself, is defined by doing mistakes to enable to learn about the right way.
Deciding on the wildlife we will encounter we also created a completely new picture. Crognar’s Rock suddenly became a hospitable yet dangerous peninsula. Difficult to traverse but with riches, hidden deep in the jungles. Who wants those riches? Civilisation! So we put in the first natives and adventurers who dared to step foot into the unpaved forests that brought many to their doom. Apart from those who ventured into the danger, there were also those who saw the fast flatlands with fruitful soil. Civilisation migrated and adapted to the world given. What we didn’t do was to touch on governments, societies and groups, clans or other social formations.
Where we’re heading
As I just mentioned, the more we go into detail, the more we expose things that have to be defined. Ok, they don’t have to be defined. But! During the preparation, we decided on creating a cohesive fantasy setting on a peninsula. What we did in the first posts was establishing the very base rules and enabling you to be confident about your own idea.
For me, that means to point out where things are happening and that entails detail. To be honest, creating every little city, village and farm that is significant in one post, is not possible. How about a side by side appendix then? I might be able to come up with names and backstories but not with the possibility to put them into an article easily. The same goes to placing them onto the map and still having them to be overseeable.
So, we’re directly heading into the real deal, organisation. Structuring every step. And yet, looking out for those flexible moments where the real magic happens. With so many pieces of information, we need structure more than creativity. Organising that can be a very creative process, though. Now, If you are an avid world builder the daunting task is not to come up with content but to put them into a perspective. The jungles, mountains and flatlands are easy to see on the map but what happens within them? Suddenly we have a bunch of work to do!
Splitting Theory from Content
Yes. We are at a cusp. Content and how to get to content. How to figure it. What I can do right here is to make what I learn accessible for you. So please bear with my mistakes and correct me. If my ways are impractical, then please point them out. The research I do might be faulty, so please, challenge me actively.
One step on achieving that is to separate the creation of systematics, or structure, from the actual content that I want to provide. The last post is reminiscent of that. Ideally, you can read up on the practice of world building and access the created content as a reference. Cross referencing both aspects of creation. Actually, creating both a tool to build your own campaigns and if you don’t need that, providing you with handcrafted hooks!
Wow, I’m actually surprised that I didn’t come up with that earlier! This means that providing content and explaining the campaign creation process become far easier to access. Scheduling content can become more reliable, once you set the goals for a specific task. For example, If I’d say that you’ll find everything you’d need to know on the map of Crognar’s Rock, it would be a convoluted mess! But how about saying that you’ll receive it on a specific date?
This takes away the pressure of creating reason and content at the same time. The solution is structure and a little bit of situational ingenuity. Everybody is capable of that. If I can do that as a bloody beginner, then so can you. Probably even better! And that’s a fantastic prerequisite to take world building to the next step.
The most important takeaway, in my opinion, is to see this as a journey. Considering structure to make the creation not only faster but more reliable. The focus of your campaign can be expanded anytime. So, with a little preparation we can bundle up the most important things to take away in a couple of points:
- Start with a wild vision
- Anything goes!
- Prepare to change it
- your vision will change eventually and that’s ok
- define what your campaign is about and what it’s not about
- the better we are prepared the more coherent the campaign is
- Start with the raw land
- creating from the bottom up
- be encouraged to do a little research on geography
- consult mapping tools if necessary
- Define Flora and Fauna
- adding them can give more clues about the climate
- allow migration and weird settlements for monsters
- consider weather and its effects
- Why would people live there
- give reasons for people to venture and colonise your world
- what happened in the history since the first arrivals?
- add cities and trading routes
- Reflect and Structure
- With more content comes more complexity
- prepare and structure to avoid getting crushed by the sheer size of the project.
- partitioning is key!
- regularly zoom out and zoom back in!
These are the most important takeaways from the last couple of days. That’s one week of work and slowly, slowly I see how to run things.
Phew, a lot of words spoken and even more learned! It’s truly is a herculean task to build a campaign from scratch. I expected this much but didn’t realise that the structural approach is what enables us to grow. Consistency is one thing, the other is getting the rock rolling!
Creation of content on the basis of guiding rules is still quite a thing to do. There are certainly a lot of aspects that can be optimised. But just like the new conclusions, we come up with it takes the effort to make the mistakes and assumptions first. Because of that, I’m on the lookout as well. I want to stay critical of my own ideas. I see how much I depend on the input that others give. And that accelerates the learning process. It might be quite difficult right now but the format is being established through exactly those toiling moments, where we forget parts or are simply overwhelmed by the amount of content that we confront ourselves with.
Before starting to take world building seriously, I completely underestimated the task. The games I ran back in the days were either made adventures tweaked or very simple and easy to wing scenarios. Only with time did I realise that world building goes so much further. Now, the biggest obstacle is the said structure. We’ve been talking about this for the whole article already. But by realising that it becomes a smaller task to find the right format and to get to producing content and the actual campaign.
Therefore, I’m sorry that it takes a while to learn that. I put real effort and work into it. Passion drives me and with every new article, I see why. The beauty of telling my thoughts and visions, making them accessible. Showing you essentially what I see in my mind. The world building aspect for a tabletop campaign takes a very special place in my heart since it’s like an interactive story. And as a creator and reader, what I like best is to immerse myself with background information.
The next steps are thus the handling of Theory and Content. Creating more resources to make your world building better.
And with that, I hope that you enjoyed this article. If you liked it please share on social media! Actually, what do you think is the right approach to handle content for a massive world? I’d love to now in the comment section below.
Your support is my nat20
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