WB101 Part 1: When Ideas Attack!

Category: World Building 101
Created on Sunday, 09 August 2009 Written by Steve

A while ago, I started building a fantasy world. I didn’t mean to do it, it just kind of happened. I ran across an interesting fact and thought, “that would be neat to use in a game.” If this has ever happened to you, you know that usually these kinds of ideas evaporate into the ether. At most, these random thoughts find their way into a pre-existing campaign or convention game.

Unfortunately, sometimes the random thoughts attach themselves to other random thoughts, and start becoming coherent. Eventually, a more complex concept forms. When that happens, you’ve got to do something with it.

Most people would just use such an unintentionally created world as the basis for a campaign. Sadly, outside of the occasional Herrick Agency game with the Hex staff (who are spread out all over Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, and therefore can only get together every so often), I haven’t had a regular gaming group since sometime in mid-2005. I’m sure there are some gamers here in the wastelands of western Kentucky, but I’m picky about who I’ll play with. I have to deal with bad players at conventions on a regular basis, so when it comes to recreational role-playing, I like to stick to people who mesh well with my style of play, especially when I’m running the game.  Since schedules and distance make that difficult, the obvious option is out.

“But Steve,” you say, “you’re a writer for Hex Games, quite possibly the finest game company in existence. You could just publish your world!” This is true, but publishing a fantasy world is the business equivalent of burning buckets of money. No matter how good it is, people will hear “it’s just like D&D, only BETTER!” Besides, Hex has dozens of games in various stages of development right now, including Qerth, our fantasy parody game (“it’s just like D&D, only INCREDIBLY DUMB!”). In short, Hex needs to publish a fantasy world about as much as Goldman-Sachs needs more corporate welfare.

Eventually I decide on a series of Death Cookie articles, for two reasons. For starters, the Death Cookie has been neglected for quite some time. Most of the things that used to turn into DC articles now end up posted to blogs or the Hex Forums, since both of those formats require less editing and offer more immediate feedback. Since I’m already to the point of no return on world design, I know that using it as the basis for a series of articles will ensure that I have plenty of material to last a while.

The second reason for using the world in a series of DC articles is that I’ve never actually built a world from the ground up. Most of the worlds I’ve played a role in building have evolved over time, usually during actual play. So in creating a new game world, I’m going to have to figure out how to do a lot of things for the first time, and it seems to me that the process might be interesting and informative to Death Cookie readers.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the magic of spiral notebooks and start doing some actual world building.

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WB101 Part 1: When Ideas Attack!.
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