Tips for world building

When writing a game or a story we are creating a different world. It may be exactly the same as the one we live in. It can even be a mirror image of our own. Sometimes it’s a brand new world more in-line with the fantasy genre.

Any of these choices can be right for your own game/story. But for each of them creating a believable world is important.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years regarding world building.

  1. start off with a general outline of your world. Just the basics try and describe it in a single sentence. “A fantasy world with magic and various races.” “A parallel Earth where the Dark Ages never ended.”

  2. From this starting point build the immediate world around your protagonist. Focus on the important places of his/her world. The locations they will visit throughout the story. Again for now try to keep descriptions short maybe a paragraph stating what it is and what the protagonist encounters there. “The Cow Bell- a popular bar the protagonist frequents. It is here the protagonist meets his/her first companion” “New London - a sprawling cityscape built over the scorched ruins of Old London. The antagonist makes his/her first appearance.”

  3. Next move onto the places that the protagonist might know or hear about. Here you’re filling out your world. “The North is a tropical paradise cut off from the world by a mountain range unscalable with modern tools” “The market is where many underhanded deals take place hidden within the ruins of Old London.”

  4. Know everything about your world and its inhabitants. Even if you never intend to reveal information to the reader as the author you still need to know about it. It helps the world evolve. It also helps when readers question you about your world you’ve drawn them into. "

Those are a few of the tips I’ve learned. What about you? What other tips do You have? What advice would you give others? Let’s help each other create amazing worlds to lose ourselves in!


Build a culture for this world. Our culture evolved based on the conditions we were put through, from habits down to certain phrases we say, in a different world, put work into the culture that develops around it.
Also, it may help to create locations around the antagonist as well, they are just as important than the antogonist.


I’m terrible at world-building. I jump right into the story and let things get figured out as I go. I don’t recommend that method to anyone because it causes major headaches as the world starts falling down around your characters. Unfortunately, that’s the way I do it, because when I personally start building out the world before I get to the story, I lose interest in the story. Not sure why that is.

I will agree with @TechDragon610 and say that culture is really important. Nothing brings a world to life more than that in my opinion. You could have dragons, and pirates, and space pumpkins with stalks you can climb to the seven moons, but all that falls flat without developing culture.

If the world I’m creating is vastly different from our own, one of the first things I do is start writing a glossary and continue filling it in as I go along. It includes places, cultural terms, slang, etc. I also split up my notes into sections like government, culture, and physical geography, and then note how those different elements interact.

@Nocturnal_Stillness I disagree with #2 simply because in my stories, the protagonist usually ends up doing a lot of travelling or is heavily influenced by global forces. So I start with the large-scale stuff and then narrow my focus to the protagonist’s immediate area. Sometimes I haven’t even figured out who exactly the protagonist is yet, so I build the world first and then find his/her place in it.


This is how I come at it, too. Perhaps that’s a bad thing, I don’t know, but I usually start big and then fill in the world with the nitty-gritty. That way you have some kind of cool idea, or interesting storyline, that drives everything.


You can write a first-draft game without knowing much about your main character’s world, world-view, opportunities or threats. But to go beyond first-draft level you need to know the world.

Knowing the world keeps you honest as a writer: it leads you to write about things the main character would be concerned with, not what is on your authorial agenda, and it helps you keep things believable. If there’s a pirate attack–how come? What forces them to become pirates? If the MC finds treasure, whose was it and who else is trying to find it? If there’s a love interest, do the social rules of the world make it easier or harder for the MC to pursue that person?

If creating a world seems daunting, then go ahead and write the first-draft game against a blank backdrop. If it seems like fun and you want to make it a richer game that’s fun to play, you will then be motivated to explore and define the world.


Question why things have to be a certain way. Not all fantasy worlds have to be Tolkien-esque. Not all sci fi needs to take place on spaceships. Aliens don’t need to be shaped like humans. If you don’t have a reason for why things are the way they are, and why you’ve included what you have, it’s easy to drift back to cliches. There is endless variety in actual human societies, why should yours be yet another Medieval Europe unless your story is actually set there? If the history, biology, or physics of your world are different, how would that have affected the development of societies? Live a little, do something unexpected and see what happens.


I’d subtly describe the scenery through action like ’ Evergreen greens towering thrice the size of the largest giant were suddenly dwarfed by the armada of potatoes.Colourful, small creatures scurried away as their humble homes were burnt down.'
Then they know a bit about the place without being completely bored.

1 Like

@distracteddad I don’t think it’s a bad approach. It helps me stay focused and organized.

@Sashira I hate how ever since Lord of the Rings, almost all fantasy settings have resembled Medieval Europe and include elves and dwarves. I love when people make an effort to come up with some reasoning behind their world and do something original with it.

1 Like

Do stone age style nomadic hunter/gatherers and sentient, magic using cloud giants count as original? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

1 Like

It’s fine to disagree, these tips are just stuff I’ve learned over my years of writing and what tends to work for me :slight_smile: . While starting on the big world can work fine I prefer starting small. Unnatural is a prime example of how I approach stories.

I knew from the start I wanted a world where monsters exist and their proven existence was still a reletive new thing. I also knew my protagonist would be someone who lost their family to a monster and would grow up to join the group who fought monsters. I focused on the little details and the larger ones formed by themselves as I wrote.

Rookfall another of my projects however was formed from a thought much like your own where the world came before the protagonist was formed but that had its origins in an old story I’d wrote.


I have a tip that’s a little unconventional: understand the tone of your world before writing! Is it going to be dark and dismal a la Game of Thrones, or is it more philosophical like Star Trek? Is it mundane, stark, colorful, cute, fun, is it trying to say something just by existing?

All of these questions can really help with the “feel” of your world. For example, Star Trek and Star Wars are pretty similar in a lot of major aspects. Lots of planets, lots of near-human aliens, lots of hyperdrives and “captain to the bridge” moments. But Star Trek feels more scientific and plausible while Star Wars feels magical and mysterious, such that given five minutes of the setting, a reader could EASILY tell them apart, even without big context clues (The Force, Klingons, Spock, etc.). Having that unique tone/feeling can go a long way to immersing people in a world, even long after they’ve put down your story.

Another One: Think of world building more like world mapping than building. The world is already there inside of you, you just have to uncover it. I can’t list the number of times when I’ve been writing that I’ve stumbled upon something I never would have thought of outright about my worlds, ranging from staple foods to calender systems to cultural touchstones. But the characters all knew about those things and told me just by interacting in a world where they exist. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS WEIRD BUT TRUST ME it’s incredible when you can get into that groove.


One thing to keep in mind when you’re building a culture: implications.

If you want your setting to seem coherent and “organic”, you need to take into account how each element of your world building affects the others. No single element exists in a vacuum, which means whenever you introduce a new element, a new ritual, new mores or taboos, you have to ask yourself; “how does this element reinforce, or conflict with other elements of my setting”, and “how will this element affect the mechanics of my plot?” Even something as innocuous or “insignificant” as the availability of seed drills , or gendered nouns in a foreign language can prove to be worked into a major plot point, or an important tone-setting instrument. Alternatively, a culture which is geared towards making its people act or think a certain way can prove your biggest obstacle, if you need them to act or think at cross-purposes, or if you end up creating a culture which contradicts itself on an existential level.

This is where it helps to “borrow” chunks of culture for historical examples, or even base your fictional culture on them wholesale. In that case, the most important thing is to do the research: don’t assume popular grade-school history understandings of a culture (especially a non-anglo-saxon culture) will give you pieces that fit.

Of course, if you’re fitting bits of one historical culture with another, or with cultural aspects entirely of your own devising, you need to do a bit of research to fit those together as well.


Great I don’t have to make a new topic lol. So I wanted to make a religion for my world but I’m stuck between having one main god or a Parthenon of God’s any suggestions for cool real world religions I should look in to?

Don’t copy.
Look into how religion works, good and bad aspects, but mainly how a religion comes to be.
What symbols, animals etc, for example, are associated with a deity.
Take ravens, for example: many cultures made them symbols of the death gods, as they are commonly found around corpses, especially on battlefields.
Building a religion is like worldbuilding itself.
The main question is always ‘where did this come from and why and how’.

1 Like

With gods and religions it helps to think of the world of your story.

Maybe there is a race who live in the forests they might worship nature as a god(dess) as it is the land that enriches their lives.

Likewise a race that puts a lot into death would probably worship a god(dess) of death and/or life.

Just remember that even in our world their are multiple religions with different deities done similar some not.

1 Like

:sob::heart_eyes: Thanks for the feedback especially from one of my favorite authors. Do you use anything specific to cheap track of the monster and races in games/books?

How do you mean keep track in-game or in general?

In-game I use variables for the relevant monster lore and I have a bit of monster info in the stat screen.

In general it helps to keep notes either on paper or in your computer.

1 Like

I thought it’d be useful to post examples of world building as well as talking about it. So here is an idea that popped in my head late last night and how I built upon it for later use.

So let’s start with the base idea.

A world where everyone has the potential to do magic but not all can use it.

This is simple enough with a interesting concept. Now the next obvious question is why can’t all use it if they have the potential too? So to answer this I come up with the following.

A human can only ignite magic they cannot access the source/fuel of it.

So now we have a simple reason why as not everyone would have access to the source/fuel but again this isn’t enough as people could find other sources so I take this answer and expand on it.

A human can only ignite magic they cannot access the source/fuel of it. The source is actually the magic users familiar. Without one they cannot do anything.

Even better we have a reason why access to the source is limited. But still we need it to more limiting somehow so we extend the concept more.

A familiar is a unique animal that is born the same time as their owner. Although not together. They are meant to find each other. A magic user only has one familiar and is unable to use another familiar so if they never find them or their familiar is killed then they will never be able to use magic

Now this can explain why magic users aren’t numerous as there could be many who never find their familiar.

It also offers a weakness to exploit against magic users. Separation from the familiar by distance which would temporarily remove their ability to cast or even killing the familiar _completely denying the ability to cast.

Well there is a example of my own process of world building. :blush: