The Role of 'internal realism' or 'verisimilitude' In World Building

So was just randomly browsing youtube and stumbled on a video talking about Skyrim’s magic system in terms of the worlds ‘internal realism’ or ‘verisimilitude’. That video is here:

This video also referenced some lectures on youtube by Brandon Sanderson. Said playlist is here: (91 videos)

Hope this is of use to folks!


Just so I understand – internal realism or verisimilitude is another way of saying consistent world building and well made mechanics?


I’m not sure, here’s what the creator of the first video said as to why he chose "internal realism’ over ‘internal consistency’:

Hey guys, this video took me 16 days of work to produce so I really hope you like it. I thought I’d make this comment to address the most common criticism I’m seeing here I don’t have to repeat myself too much down below.

A lot of people are saying the phrase I was looking for was “Internal consistency” instead of “Internal realism”. I did consider using the term but chose against it when making this video. The reason why: internal consistency is too specific a term to apply to a world as a whole being realistic.

Now consistency is of course important when creating a world, but it isn’t everything.

As an example, let’s say that a writer’s world has it so all women have the ability to start fires with the wave of a hand. And in that world male, and female prisoners are all treated equally in that they are all put in prisons made from dry wood and kindling. Now this is incredibly unrealistic based on the rules of this world as it would make sense different genders would have different cells. It is unbelievable that female criminals would be held in any cell that is not completely inflammable and made from something like stone.

But here’s the thing. Every single prison and cell in the world is consistently unrealistic in this way and not once does the writer contradict themselves.

This world is highly unrealistic, yet could also be labelled as one with internal consistency as there are zero contradictions. That is why I did not use the phrase. It is far too specific a term for a world as a whole being real.

Some people have also said a term exists called ‘verisimilitude’ which is essentially the same thing as ‘internal realism’. I looked up the phrase and… I’ll be honest it is pretty much the same thing.

You win this round comment section…

If you decide consistency would be a better description I have no objections to title editing.


He actually is using these words in place of continuity … or so it seems to me after reading his response.

One of the most important aspects of world building is continuity, which often allows a suspension of disbelief… especially when dealing with realism.

I wish he would have done his research… if he had to look up that verisimilitude was analogous to “internal realism” which is another way of saying continuity in world building, then he should have perhaps done more research overall.

With all that said: thank you for starting a good discussion of this nature.


Yeah, the video itself explains his position quite well and uses Skyrim’s fact that every person is capable of using magic, and therefore able to learn some kind of offensive magic spell, yet never considers this when you get thrown in jail.

He then compares this to the paranormal rain in Death Stranding and how the environment and people react to it (including exploiting it to make more beer, faster and cheaper).

He also includes an excerpt from one of Brandon Sanderson’s lectures where Brandon explains that going deep on a small number of “features” of your world, can impart upon your readers that perhaps, you’re only looking at a small part of a much grander system without creating all the extra work you’d need to do were you to expand the scope.

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@LordOfLA – Would you be ok if I edited the title to be a little more targeted?

Edit – does that meet with your approval?

We need more discussions like this.

Sure, go ahead.

Edit: Yeah it’s fine. Mine was overly long really.

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Totally agree with you. Continuity or Internal consistency is key to immersion. And the video has chosen the worst saga to talk about not internal consistency.
The elder scroll lore is pure consistency in its inconsistency.

All difference in mechanical engineering from games has been covered by the lore. So, I always laugh about people saying how Oblivion or skyrim broke the lore. When stuff like why there is no levitation spell and why mages guild doesn’t use teleport has been totally covered. Same thing why Cyrodil is not a Jungle


That was/is a major complaint/concern of ESO … but luckily the video-blogger is narrowing his focus on the magic systems, which as a mechanic, is very consistent … if I criticize them for bad stuff, I have to acknowledge their good too :wink:


My favourite two lore explanations from Morrowind to Oblivion are this two(That show Bethesda geniality two adapt the engine problems into the lore)

Oblivion version of the creation engine was shit. It couldn’t handle a massive amount of trees and flying around. In Morrowind, they used rendering the world as you go but that was impossible in a far bigger map.

But Cyrodil was always described as a big lush Rainforest!!

Then they had to create several theories why Cyrodil is not a rainforest now. From Magic terraforming to a translation error.

The flying one is hilarious. There is a law that imposes that no mage can’t fly over X height after a flying accident in The Imperial college.


I think Pokémon is guilty of issues like this. Each game’s plot revolves around the use of legendary beings with powers from shaping continents, through to warping time/space. But all of them can be defeated by a well trained caterpillar if need be. Completely unrealistic (and quite ridiculous) within their own lore.


Pokemon has tried to explain it as well but without the success of Bethesda. They have created the concept of multidimensional travel and ultra universes but as bad as Zelda or worse. It is the problem with games that were created as isolated cool things but not as a result of a well thought overall universe. However, both Zelda and Pokemon have interesting stories and millions of fans. So they have enough internal consistency for most people.

My favorite is still the resolution to Daggerfall’s multiple endings. The wild incoherence of TES history actually makes it much more interesting, in my opinion, than a lot of other, more standard, fantasy histories.


The heart of Lorkhan and all about the Staff. Yes, Daggerfall ending and the Dragon break accident is the most clever designed consistency through inconsistency plot lore device ever.
For the people who haven’t played Daggerfall, it has several endings and many are opposite. So they found that they need a cannon … But which one? They decide all of them are canon. Tamriel really changed and several realities collapsed all endings happened same time. And that changes affect all games since then. All quest happens regardless of if you did them or not. That creates the oblivion paradoxical situation that is you didn’t exist previously your entrance in the imperial prison it is yourself reading the elder scroll what places you there.
Or how the Skyrim Lord of Madness is your oblivion character

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@LordOfLA, thank you for sharing those videos! The one on Skyrim’s magic was entertaining and thoughtful, and I’m currently watching one of Sanderson’s lectures a day. (They’re extraordinarily useful! It’s fantastic that the concerned university agreed to post them online.)

World building is one of my favourite aspects of writing fantasy. I haven’t been focusing on it as much as other aspects of my writing/planning lately, so this thread is a welcome reminder. It got me thinking about ways you can check for continuity gaps, so I figured I’d share an idea here to help bolster discussion.

Suppose a story is set in our present world. There are already innumerable factors to take into account, but at least we can do research and discover consequences that are real. When Golden Sun: The Lost Age shows animals dying and people losing their livelihoods as the result of an ocean warming, we know this is plausible, because it’s actually happening. When we create our own worlds, however, we don’t always have the luxury of looking up what the effect of X on Y would be. We need to make an educated guess.

To that end, I’ve made a broad — and I mean broad — list of factors to consider with respect to the impact of your decisions. My advice would be to do this for anything you do. If you kill a pack of wolves, it’ll have a consequence. If you escort a diplomat safely to their destination, it’ll have a consequence. If you discover an ancient totem that can control a brass colossus and decide to give it to an interested party, it’ll have a consequence. :joy: By evaluating every choice you make this way, you’ll miss fewer consequences than you would have otherwise.

I recommend considering consequences first in terms of individuals, then communities, and then populations.

• Wildlife
• Plantlife
• Landmarks
• Climate

• Economy
• Technology
• Culture
• Government

I would start at the top and then move down, as I tried to structure the list using a very basic hierarchy. If anyone wants me to elaborate, I’d be happy to! Just be specific in your question, since I could go on forever. :yum:


No problem, I’m surprised there’s been little take up.


I think Sanderson makes a very valid point. Sloppy worldbuilding where characters don’t find a way to exploit or compensate for the changes the author has made to their world can make stories feel less real. Putting a defeated wizard in a prison where the guards have no ability to neutralize or counter the wizard’s magical abilities is silly.


That seems like a good way to get overwhelmed. :thinking:
That being said, seeing real consequences to tha characters actions are always nice.