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[Discussion] Worldbuilding

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Swith Witherward
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[Discussion] Worldbuilding

Postby Swith Witherward » Wed May 14, 2014 6:24 am

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The topic has come up often enough that I thought it would be nice if we had a mini-guide that offered pointers to those wanting to fashion their own RP world. Each of us has their own approach to it. Some are inspired by current news or major events; some are inspired by pocket lint. Some outline their entire world whilst others make it up on the fly.

One of the most difficult things we can do is fashion a setting with no basis in the real world. Our minds conjure up fantastic lands and people but then we find that we can't seem to get things just right on paper. We then seem to go into overdrive, intent on fashioning details down to the last pebble or else, frustrated, we leave the thing completely vague and hope players catch our drift.

You need a basis for the story regardless of how much or little effort you want to put into it. Take Dances with Xenos Avatar for example. The writers needed a concept. They needed a world and its environment. They needed various species to populate that world. They needed to establish technology levels for that species. Culture and religion played into it. All that had to come together in order for the story to flow.
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Avatar worked because they never went too far on every detail (unless it was overreaching for that obnoxious political message). We never really saw the warrior's ranks defined. We didn't learn much about childbirth, children, weather, or which fungus tasted the best. It was a rich world that was passable for a story setting. Sometimes I believe budding worldbuilders want to put too much detail in and they get caught up on a myriad of nuances.

In truth, I'm not a worldbuilder. I'm a species builder. Evolution of that species, religion, social practices, culture, languages. The environment plays into it and, once I have a good concept going, the setting evolves to fit my concept for that species. Other people build the world and then work on the species to make them fit.

I'm curious to know how people approach worldbuilding. What techniques work for them. What details do they feel are the most important. More so, how much is too much? How deep should a person delve into the culture. Where do you start? What or who inspires you? If you were going to advise a newbie on how to begin worldbuilding, what would you tell him?
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The United Beallian Republican States
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Postby The United Beallian Republican States » Wed May 14, 2014 6:34 am

When Building a RP world I suggest get a basic idea of the animals, history, countries, and religion because it's not going to be the same as earth...
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The Armed Republic of Dutch Coolness
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Postby The Armed Republic of Dutch Coolness » Wed May 14, 2014 6:41 am

I'm not very good at worldbuilding. I'm alright at creating nations and regions and all that. Nevertheless, I've been meaning to properly world-build with some people for a while, though I'm not sure yet on the setting.

Let's hope this'll be an interesting discussion!
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Postby Lithuanian Empire » Wed May 14, 2014 7:28 am

When I build a world, I always start from the map/political situation, then history, and then everything else.
It's not a bad way, in my opinion.
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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 10:52 am

Swith Witherward wrote:some are inspired by pocket lint.


Swith Witherward wrote:others make it up on the fly.


That's me right there.

Most of the time, I just randomly get inspired by a certain concept I come up with, and the idea simply evolves from there. For an example, there was a futuristic RP I once hosted, which evolved entirely off of the idea that it would be cool to have a setting with no ranged weapons (Silly, I know, but what can I say? Guns are cheap). It went from there to being a world populated by countless space-faring orders of lightsaber-wielding magic knights and from there I just took stuff from our own medieval era and tweaked them to fit in this setting.

Some other times, I get a vague idea of a world and simply work on that. I just sometimes get an image in my head, or see something that prompts me to think about it.

Whichever the case, I'm hardly ever systematic about it :P. I pretty much just try to think of cool stuff to complete the setting and see if I can make it fit, but I don't go around with a list, or anything like that. Most of the time I just wing it, and am constantly thinking of stuff even when the game has begun. Which, might I add, is not a bad thing in my opinion. Constantly thinking of new things to add makes for a richer world, after all, unless you're literally saturating your players with information.

I'm not the best worldbuilder but meh, these are my thoughts, anyway.
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Ayreonia
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Postby Ayreonia » Wed May 14, 2014 10:57 am

Two words: collaborative worldbuilding. I'm on the opinion that almost everything is better if there's someone else to help you out. It's harder, because they'll be there to point out flaws that you, in your fervor to build the best setting ever, might overlook, but that's exactly why the end result will be better.

Another thing that works for me is to define the setting before the RP starts, and then start making up the details as you go.
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Constaniana
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Postby Constaniana » Wed May 14, 2014 6:00 pm

Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
Swith Witherward wrote:some are inspired by pocket lint.


Swith Witherward wrote:others make it up on the fly.


That's me right there.

Most of the time, I just randomly get inspired by a certain concept I come up with, and the idea simply evolves from there. For an example, there was a futuristic RP I once hosted, which evolved entirely off of the idea that it would be cool to have a setting with no ranged weapons (Silly, I know, but what can I say? Guns are cheap). It went from there to being a world populated by countless space-faring orders of lightsaber-wielding magic knights and from there I just took stuff from our own medieval era and tweaked them to fit in this setting.

Some other times, I get a vague idea of a world and simply work on that. I just sometimes get an image in my head, or see something that prompts me to think about it.

Whichever the case, I'm hardly ever systematic about it :P. I pretty much just try to think of cool stuff to complete the setting and see if I can make it fit, but I don't go around with a list, or anything like that. Most of the time I just wing it, and am constantly thinking of stuff even when the game has begun. Which, might I add, is not a bad thing in my opinion. Constantly thinking of new things to add makes for a richer world, after all, unless you're literally saturating your players with information.

I'm not the best worldbuilder but meh, these are my thoughts, anyway.

I often go with this style, focusing more on a few random traits I make up, though I've been trying to fill out a proper list with each country I'm describing in my RP.
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The United Beallian Republican States
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Postby The United Beallian Republican States » Wed May 14, 2014 6:01 pm

This is a little bit of a example of World building: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=296075
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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 6:04 pm

Constaniana wrote:
Zarkenis Ultima wrote:


That's me right there.

Most of the time, I just randomly get inspired by a certain concept I come up with, and the idea simply evolves from there. For an example, there was a futuristic RP I once hosted, which evolved entirely off of the idea that it would be cool to have a setting with no ranged weapons (Silly, I know, but what can I say? Guns are cheap). It went from there to being a world populated by countless space-faring orders of lightsaber-wielding magic knights and from there I just took stuff from our own medieval era and tweaked them to fit in this setting.

Some other times, I get a vague idea of a world and simply work on that. I just sometimes get an image in my head, or see something that prompts me to think about it.

Whichever the case, I'm hardly ever systematic about it :P. I pretty much just try to think of cool stuff to complete the setting and see if I can make it fit, but I don't go around with a list, or anything like that. Most of the time I just wing it, and am constantly thinking of stuff even when the game has begun. Which, might I add, is not a bad thing in my opinion. Constantly thinking of new things to add makes for a richer world, after all, unless you're literally saturating your players with information.

I'm not the best worldbuilder but meh, these are my thoughts, anyway.

I often go with this style, focusing more on a few random traits I make up, though I've been trying to fill out a proper list with each country I'm describing in my RP.


On that note, I think listings are easier, if only because you can just take the first as a basis for the rest.

I find it more entertaining to describe things as they come along, anyhow.
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Postby Cerillium » Wed May 14, 2014 6:27 pm

It depends on the game for me. I worldbuild "beer and pizza" games using a hazy sketch. I provide enough details to flesh out the setting but I also encourage players to contribute to it. It becomes a richer tapestry. Some of those ideas are pocket lint or shapes in clouds.

My effort is intensified if launching a serious RP. I consult with others to compensate for my weaker areas. Fellow RPers become a sounding board (with their permission). I won't launch my RP half-assed.

I "map". Ideas are jotted down on paper. More are added as time goes on. I put it aside for a few days and return to it to see if things still flow and to make sure the various elements compliment each other.
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Postby Talonis » Wed May 14, 2014 6:29 pm

My method is fairly simple:
1. Distancing- Determine relative climate (I used to determine distance from a star first, but then it sort of evolved) This is pretty easy, as every heat distribution follows a preset pattern, so climate ranges are pretty easy to establish on the fly when needed.
2. Hydration- Determine water content- water content dictates landforms, organism complexity, skin thicknesses, plant leaf composition, &tc. Again, a good factor for on the fly things.
3. Gravity- Further refines waterflow, mountain height, size, and lifeform heights. Also the atmosphere, though this last one only really applies to planets smaller than Mars or at or above the size of a super Earth.
4. Existing evolutionary morphology- determines, given other factors, possible ecosystem arrangements (i.e. parasitism is a logical recurrence, as it arose on earth in every environment, same with bacterial spores, virulent proteins, and herding prey).
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Constaniana
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Postby Constaniana » Wed May 14, 2014 6:50 pm

Talonis wrote:My method is fairly simple:
1. Distancing- Determine relative climate (I used to determine distance from a star first, but then it sort of evolved) This is pretty easy, as every heat distribution follows a preset pattern, so climate ranges are pretty easy to establish on the fly when needed.
2. Hydration- Determine water content- water content dictates landforms, organism complexity, skin thicknesses, plant leaf composition, &tc. Again, a good factor for on the fly things.
3. Gravity- Further refines waterflow, mountain height, size, and lifeform heights. Also the atmosphere, though this last one only really applies to planets smaller than Mars or at or above the size of a super Earth.
4. Existing evolutionary morphology- determines, given other factors, possible ecosystem arrangements (i.e. parasitism is a logical recurrence, as it arose on earth in every environment, same with bacterial spores, virulent proteins, and herding prey).
Critique?

Nothing wrong with that, but I think we're referring to worldbuilding more in the sense of creating a setting for a RP, with things like culture and history.
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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 6:52 pm

Constaniana wrote:
Talonis wrote:My method is fairly simple:
1. Distancing- Determine relative climate (I used to determine distance from a star first, but then it sort of evolved) This is pretty easy, as every heat distribution follows a preset pattern, so climate ranges are pretty easy to establish on the fly when needed.
2. Hydration- Determine water content- water content dictates landforms, organism complexity, skin thicknesses, plant leaf composition, &tc. Again, a good factor for on the fly things.
3. Gravity- Further refines waterflow, mountain height, size, and lifeform heights. Also the atmosphere, though this last one only really applies to planets smaller than Mars or at or above the size of a super Earth.
4. Existing evolutionary morphology- determines, given other factors, possible ecosystem arrangements (i.e. parasitism is a logical recurrence, as it arose on earth in every environment, same with bacterial spores, virulent proteins, and herding prey).
Critique?

Nothing wrong with that, but I think we're referring to worldbuilding more in the sense of creating a setting for a RP, with things like culture and history.


Eh, I'd say worldbuilding encompasses all of these things. Talonis simply takes a different approach to it. A more literal one, I suppose.
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Postby Riiser-Larsen » Wed May 14, 2014 7:05 pm

I've never had issues coming up with interesting world designs, but what's stopped me from starting any RPs of my own is trying to integrate them into the OP. Like, should I have a section at the beginning which describes the entire world, should I make it a footnote, should I include a lot of details? If anyone had any ideas on this, it would be great. Might even start a new RP soon if it helps enough.
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Alleniana
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Postby Alleniana » Wed May 14, 2014 8:13 pm

I think when building a world, you have to have an idea. You can't just change this and that and whatever, because if you just keep tweaking and poking with no aim, goal or theme, it eventually clashes with other things, and whatever you were trying to achieve is unclear. As long as you do that, and you don't go overboard nor shirk, it works, IMO.

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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 9:10 pm

Riiser-Larsen wrote:I've never had issues coming up with interesting world designs, but what's stopped me from starting any RPs of my own is trying to integrate them into the OP. Like, should I have a section at the beginning which describes the entire world, should I make it a footnote, should I include a lot of details? If anyone had any ideas on this, it would be great. Might even start a new RP soon if it helps enough.


It depends on how you want it to flow, really. You can be as detailed as you want as long as you don't boggle down any potential readers in details, or scare them away with big walls of text. Split things into neat paragraphs so that you won't end up with one of those annoying walls of text no one wants to read. Use spoilers if you think there is too much text regarding one topic, and organize your information by topics. You can give a summary of the world, or the premise of the RP or whatever at the start if you want. You can even add some neat images if you so wish. You can do whatever you want with your OP, really. And if you have any questions just go ahead and ask.

Though this isn't a discussion regarding OPs and so I would suggest you TGing any of said questions if you need any more help or posting in the Café.

Also, this guide by Swith might be helpful for you, if you have the time to check it out.
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Nightkill the Emperor
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Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Wed May 14, 2014 9:24 pm

I set up the basics in my head, not writing a word down until two weeks to a month has passed.

Then I vomit it all on a page and let my players help me figure it out for a bit.

Now, let's elaborate. I always want to figure out religion and languages first. Those are big ones. Get those chosen first, out of the way.

Then I work on countries and governments.

After that, individuals.
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Postby Alleniana » Wed May 14, 2014 10:01 pm

A nice analogy I like to use for worldbuilding is picturing the RPers are people standing around on a big plain, and what you are doing is building a wall around them. You build a wall and you paint it, and they can't see behind to where you haven't built yet. And then, they try to push the walls down, and if you can build walls fast enough (along with others' help) to make it seem like a world of infinite walls, you've succeeded.

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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 10:13 pm

Alleniana wrote:A nice analogy I like to use for worldbuilding is picturing the RPers are people standing around on a big plain, and what you are doing is building a wall around them. You build a wall and you paint it, and they can't see behind to where you haven't built yet. And then, they try to push the walls down, and if you can build walls fast enough (along with others' help) to make it seem like a world of infinite walls, you've succeeded.


And then they peek outside the last wall and what they see makes them go back inside immediately. -Nods-

Anyway, nice analogy. Personally, I just see it as a game, as in a child's game, or a drawing maybe. You start drawing figures (shitty crayon stick figures :P) and the world around them and add little details and then you show it to the other kids?

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:I set up the basics in my head, not writing a word down until two weeks to a month has passed.

Then I vomit it all on a page and let my players help me figure it out for a bit.

Now, let's elaborate. I always want to figure out religion and languages first. Those are big ones. Get those chosen first, out of the way.

Then I work on countries and governments.

After that, individuals.


Why religion and languages first? And what do you usually do for those?
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Nightkill the Emperor
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Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Wed May 14, 2014 10:21 pm

Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
Alleniana wrote:A nice analogy I like to use for worldbuilding is picturing the RPers are people standing around on a big plain, and what you are doing is building a wall around them. You build a wall and you paint it, and they can't see behind to where you haven't built yet. And then, they try to push the walls down, and if you can build walls fast enough (along with others' help) to make it seem like a world of infinite walls, you've succeeded.


And then they peek outside the last wall and what they see makes them go back inside immediately. -Nods-

Anyway, nice analogy. Personally, I just see it as a game, as in a child's game, or a drawing maybe. You start drawing figures (shitty crayon stick figures :P) and the world around them and add little details and then you show it to the other kids?

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:I set up the basics in my head, not writing a word down until two weeks to a month has passed.

Then I vomit it all on a page and let my players help me figure it out for a bit.

Now, let's elaborate. I always want to figure out religion and languages first. Those are big ones. Get those chosen first, out of the way.

Then I work on countries and governments.

After that, individuals.


Why religion and languages first? And what do you usually do for those?

Because, as an Indian, I see them as being essential to the way any society works.

Mainly how different religious and linguistic groups get along in society, and the impact that conflict or lack of it has.
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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 10:25 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:
Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
And then they peek outside the last wall and what they see makes them go back inside immediately. -Nods-

Anyway, nice analogy. Personally, I just see it as a game, as in a child's game, or a drawing maybe. You start drawing figures (shitty crayon stick figures :P) and the world around them and add little details and then you show it to the other kids?



Why religion and languages first? And what do you usually do for those?

Because, as an Indian, I see them as being essential to the way any society works.

Mainly how different religious and linguistic groups get along in society, and the impact that conflict or lack of it has.


Ah, that's what you meant.

I thought you meant literally building the world's religions and languages. :P.
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Postby Vancon » Wed May 14, 2014 10:28 pm

I would say that if you are building a world, one should describe the terrain firstly, since your species or events will be shaped around it.
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Zarkenis Ultima
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Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Wed May 14, 2014 10:33 pm

Vancon wrote:I would say that if you are building a world, one should describe the terrain firstly, since your species or events will be shaped around it.


But what if you think of the species first, due to simple coincidence?

Or, in any case, what if, in the world in question, the terrain does not necessarily affect the species?
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Alleniana
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Founded: Dec 23, 2012
Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Postby Alleniana » Thu May 15, 2014 12:03 am

Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
Alleniana wrote:A nice analogy I like to use for worldbuilding is picturing the RPers are people standing around on a big plain, and what you are doing is building a wall around them. You build a wall and you paint it, and they can't see behind to where you haven't built yet. And then, they try to push the walls down, and if you can build walls fast enough (along with others' help) to make it seem like a world of infinite walls, you've succeeded.


And then they peek outside the last wall and what they see makes them go back inside immediately. -Nods-

Anyway, nice analogy. Personally, I just see it as a game, as in a child's game, or a drawing maybe. You start drawing figures (shitty crayon stick figures :P) and the world around them and add little details and then you show it to the other kids?

:p
RL? One-way express ticket to Nopeville, please.

That's a nice way to put it too. I guess what I like to convey with the wall analogy is the ability to have suspension of belief; yes, there's the sky, but you are always immersed, always surrounded by a world, but a world of walls that works and exists, not paintings for show or glass which only masks.

Anyway, I think perhaps worldbuilding should be a bit more defined in the OP here; if you are RPing as people on a cruise ship, well, you don't really need to build much of the world apart from the ship, a few details of the outside world, and the sea. Or, if you have people in a school, and it's magic/fantasy, you might only describe the school. Or, they might be part of a galactic empire, and you'd describe that, and its neighbours.

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Zarkenis Ultima
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Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 15, 2014 12:48 am

Alleniana wrote:
Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
And then they peek outside the last wall and what they see makes them go back inside immediately. -Nods-

Anyway, nice analogy. Personally, I just see it as a game, as in a child's game, or a drawing maybe. You start drawing figures (shitty crayon stick figures :P) and the world around them and add little details and then you show it to the other kids?

:p
RL? One-way express ticket to Nopeville, please.

That's a nice way to put it too. I guess what I like to convey with the wall analogy is the ability to have suspension of belief; yes, there's the sky, but you are always immersed, always surrounded by a world, but a world of walls that works and exists, not paintings for show or glass which only masks.

Anyway, I think perhaps worldbuilding should be a bit more defined in the OP here; if you are RPing as people on a cruise ship, well, you don't really need to build much of the world apart from the ship, a few details of the outside world, and the sea. Or, if you have people in a school, and it's magic/fantasy, you might only describe the school. Or, they might be part of a galactic empire, and you'd describe that, and its neighbours.


Eh, I don't think it needs to be better defined, really. I think it's good as is. All of this fits worldbuilding, after all.

It's a broad topic.
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