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    Vyoletta @ The Geek at Heart


    MadCast: Vyoletta
    • Oftentimes, people who play tabletop role-playing games eventually become interested in the nuances of world building and campaign structure. They develop strong emotions and opinions on the type of world they would design and bring into reality. Once these strong feelings come to a head, many players choose to become content creators and dungeon masters. This transition from being a “reader” to becoming an “author” can be quite the task. From deciding the size of the universe to designing the life of a small town NPC, content creators have the responsibility and the freedom to make their own decisions. Many people find that responsibility to be quite daunting, and many more don't know where to start...

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    Hey!  It's Vyoletta from the Geek at Heart!, where we take tabletop gaming seriously. That is why we have dedicated an entire section of articles to “Tabletop Talk.” In this subset of articles, we will be discussing our love for role-playing games and, more specifically, for content creation!

    Oftentimes, people who play tabletop role-playing games eventually become interested in the nuances of world building and campaign structure. They develop strong emotions and opinions on the type of world they would design and bring into reality. Once these strong feelings come to a head, many players choose to become content creators and dungeon masters. This transition from being a “reader” to becoming an “author” can be quite the task. From deciding the size of the universe to designing the life of a small town NPC, content creators have the responsibility and the freedom to make their own decisions. Many people find that responsibility to be quite daunting, and many more don't know where to start...

    In this two-part piece, we will be discussing starting points. Because everyone designs content differently, we have identified 8 different starting points creators can use to begin world building and will go over each one in depth. They are as follows: the Socratic method, social media, mass media, maps, the narrative, history, observation, and your gut.

    1. Socrates and the Socratic Method

    The first and most obvious way to start out is by asking questions. Why ask questions? Well, it helps to draw out your innermost desires. Asking questions is how most people start out. The first question they might ask is: what kind of world do I want to live in? Then they can go on from there by answering the question and asking another. For example, if I ask myself what kind of world I want to live in, my initial answer might be a peaceful world. And what does peaceful look like? Well, maybe all peoples live in harmony. Was it always peaceful? Did the peace come at a cost or does the world live in harmony naturally? As you can see, these questions that ask about peace lead from one question to another, and it works with most topics.

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    In fact, when we discuss the other methods of starting your world building, many of the topics will eventually lead back to asking and answering questions of yourself. It is very much like playing a 20 Questions game where you are both the one who knows and the one who asks the questions. It’s also one of the less intimidating methods of starting out because there are no outright comparisons yet.

    The only drawback is that asking questions can become haphazard and unstructured. We can ask all the questions we want, but without knowing which questions to ask, we might not be able to create the world the way we ultimately would like. Which is why we can always look to outside sources such as our next method….

    1. Social Media

    Social media sites like Facebook groups, Instagram, Reddit, Imgur and many others are a great way to find other people who are doing the same thing you are now - creating a world of your own. These sites let content creators share their work, be supported by others, and also inspire other aspiring content creators.

    For example, the local tabletop game store near us has two groups that allow for their patrons to discuss new game editions, look for new players, and get advice on how to run their games. They also have support for players who might be running for the first time and are trying to do their own thing apart from a specific module. Imgur is another great place for people to share photos and stories about their own experiences. I just google searched d&d advice on Imgur and it came up with an AMA thread from someone offering advice to anyone who was interested.

    In this way, new content creators have the ability to look at their peers work and gain inspiration and perspective. We can use our community to help guide the questions we need to ask ourselves in order to build a full and thriving world. The only warning for this is not to steal from others. If we are going to use it for solely personal gaming, then a short message to the original content creator mentioning a thanks would be appropriate, but if the content is going to be translated to something for profit, then it is absolutely necessary to get the original creators permission first as it is their intellectual property. Speaking of which, our next starting point is also considered intellectual property and is often used in content creation.

    1. Mass media

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    Mass media is defined by dicitionary.com as “any of the means of communication, as television or newspapers, that reach very large numbers of people.” This type of intellectual property is familiar to all of us. The books of Tolkien and Martin, the movies that followed, the stories that have stayed with us since our childhood and the places we have maybe only seen in our dreams- these are the sources of inspiration for many content creators.

    In fact, one of the hacks that we will be reviewing next week, Scum & Villainy, is a great example of a world built on mass media inspirations. The game is rife with allusions to famous space operas like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly, and many space anime shows like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. These shows not only bring a certain flavor to the world but also help define some of the characteristics- such as the major races, political groups, the shape and flow of the planetary system, and the level of technology that is available to players. All of these things are derived and influenced by these fantastic mass media resources.

    A commonality between a lot of mass media resources like these- the Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, even Star Wars, and others- is the way their worlds are charted. All of these worlds have maps! And that is our next starting point possibility….

    1. Maps

    Maps are a great way to start building your world visually. By creating a map first, we gain a visual perspective on what the world might look like and how the world might interact and be interconnected. And there are quite a few ways you can start this way as well.

    For example, I personally started building my world this way by taping together 9 pieces of 8 ½ by 11 blank pieces of paper and just drawing what I thought my map should look like. I named the world “Misneach,” and once all of the lines were drawn, I started filling in each continent. Each land was named, the climate chosen, and then the people and history. While I was drawing the outline, I also decided on the pantheon of the Gods and how they interacted with the world.

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    This method is very tactile as well, and it really makes you feel as if you are making good progress. The product of your concerted thoughts and efforts are clearly visible on the page. And once it is all filled in and colored, you can get it laminated or maybe visit a cartographers guild to get it to look actually professional (unless you already possess the skills to make it look realistic).

    As I said previously, questions can arise from any method and a map automatically generates quite a few questions naturally as it is created. How do I want this content to look like? Do the continents all connect in some way? How do they travel? How much of the world is inhabited and discovered?

    Another method of generating a map was showcased on Imgur by Slipspace55. And it involves the use of dice. You can see the full post at this link but I will summarize it here as well with my own pictures.

    Basically, you start out with a piece of a grid or blank paper and a selection of dice. Now, there was a table generated by Tumblr user “somethingdnd.” That took into account all of the different biome types: plains/fields, forests, mountains, tundras/snow/ farms & towns, larger cities, and capitals. Depending on the dice you used, you could generate a land with all of those or only one or two of those things and edit for your own preference.

    This is how mine worked out:

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    I literally just dumped my pool of dice onto the sheet of paper. Draw some lines, take notes on which dice produced which results, and - Voila! A great starting point for your world.

    Here are the tables I made for my world:

    d20

    Results

    1-5

    Plains/Flat

    6-8

    Forests/Forest

    9-11

    Mountains/Mountainous

    12-14

    Tundras/Snow

    15-17

    Towns/Inhabited

    18-19

    Large Cities/Populated

    20

    Capitals/High Tech

    d10

    Results

    1-3

    Forests/Forest

    4-6

    Plains/Flat

    7-8

    Mountainous

    9

    Towns/Inhabited

    10

    City/Populated

    d8

    Results

    1-3

    Forests/Forest

    4-6

    Plains/Flat

    7-8

    Mountainous

    9

    Towns/Inhabited

    d6

    Results

    1-3

    Plains/Flat

    4-6

    Forests or Mountain

    7-8

    Town or City

    d4

    Results

    1-3

    Plains or Forests

    4-6

    Mountain or Tundra

    7-8

    Town or City

    The same idea can be used to generate a small universe of planets. Instead of Forest continents, they could be forest planets or tundra planets and other things. Just decide what type of planetary system you want, dump the dice, and then draw your planets exactly like you draw in the continents! It’s a great concept, I think. Also, I tweaked the above tables to use with some basic planets. It would probably be best to include more variables if the aim were to create a larger universe.

    Once you have your continents or planets drawn out and colored, then you can move onto using any of the other methods to add to your content. The great thing about these ideas is that they don’t have to be and probably shouldn’t be used solely on their own! Isn’t this a great way to start out a world? I definitely think it’s the most fun.

    I urge you to try one of these first four methods and share with me how they worked for you! How about sharing one of your favorite ways to generate a map? Let me know in the Tabletop forum thread related to this article! 

     

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