Advanced Search

World Builder's Guidebook (2e)Click to magnify
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

World Builder's Guidebook (2e)


Admit it. . . you've always wanted to design your own fantasy world. But the job was just too big and complicated, so you either quit in frustration or didn't start at all.

Get out your pencils and markers, because it's time to make that dream come true! From the first steps of picking a campaign book to the final details of crafting a kingdom or city, World Builder's Guidebook leads you stage by stage through the process of creating your own, unique campaign world. Build a world modeled after your favorite movies or books, detail a portion of an existing world, or create your own fantasy world from scratch!

Some of the features you'll find in the World Builder's Guidebook include:

  • An introduction to the art of world building
  • Guidelines and random tables for creating continents, kingdoms, societies, local areas, towns and cities, ecologies, pantheons, histories, and sites of interest
  • A pad of 32 copyable forms, mapping paper, and hex sheets?an indispensable set of tools for your world-building efforts!

You're the master architect of an entire world. What are you going to build?

Product History

"World Builder's Guidebook" (1996), by Richard Baker, is a GM's book on creating fantasy worlds. It was published in October 1996.

Origins (I): The Generic Books. The AD&D 2e (1989-2000) era was all about TSR's many settings. However, TSR also published the occasional setting-generic book; by the mid '90s they were marking this line with a black-bordered cover.

In 1994, a new line of generic books appeared intended to help GMs fill out their worlds. "City Sites" (1994) and its successors featured fully detailed location for use in any world. "World Builder's Guidebook" took the next step by allowing GMs to actually create whole worlds.

Origins (II): Building Worlds. TSR encouraged building worlds from its earliest days. In fact, they didn't produce their own setting until the release of The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980) because they figured people would want to create their own. Meanwhile, TSR was publishing books like the "Dungeon Geomorphs" (1976-1977, 1981) and the "Monster and Treasure Assortments" (1977-1978, 1980) to encourage the creativity of their players.

Prior to the release of the "World Builder's Guidebook" (1996), TSR's most notable creative release was the "Dungeon Master's Design Kit" (1988), but that focused on encounters and adventures. World building had to wait for the "World Builder's Guidebook" eight years later. The result was unlike most other GM's advice books for fantasy games. With its focus on the creation of a physically-correct, holistic world, the "World Builder's Guidebook" had more in common with science-fiction world building releases like GDW's World Builder's Handbook (1989) and World Tamer's Handbook (1993) for their Traveller RPG (1977+). This offered an interesting new twist on fantasy world design.

Exploring a New Setting. "World Builder's Guidebook" doesn't explore any existing D&D world; it instead gives GMs the opportunity to create something new. And that might be something very new: the options it offers allow for the creation of worlds quite unlike the official D&D worlds of the '90s.

To start with, much like those Traveller supplements, "World Builder's Guidebook" begins with a polyhedral world map, giving GMs the ability to lay out an entire globe. This was almost unknown for D&D's fantasy worlds, with the exception of Basic D&D's Known World. The "World Builder's Guidebook" also includes some very nuts & bolts game systems for determining populations, geographies, and even climates. This was more simulationistic than most of the D&D worlds — though The World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983) offered a rare weather system that was comparable.

However, one final element of the "World Builder's Guidebook" was more in tune with D&D's worlds of the '90s. The "Guidebook" suggests starting creation with unusual setting ideas and also encourages twisting standard elements like the traditional D&D races. Here, one can see the influence of settings like Dark Sun (1991), one of the most twisted and unique settings during the generally innovative setting design of the '90s.

Future History. The "Dungeon Builder's Guidebook" (1998) was an explicit sequel to this book.

About the Creators. Baker had been writing for TSR since 1992, focusing on the Dark Sun and Birthright lines. This was one of his last books for D&D until the '00s, because he was about to dive into the Alternity (1997, 1998) line.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (9)
Discussions (9)
Customer avatar
Adam J July 16, 2020 2:54 am UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Jeremy G January 29, 2020 1:33 am UTC
I would love this book in a POD
Customer avatar
James J October 14, 2018 2:06 pm UTC
Still my favorite go to book for designing worlds and a classic, this is written for 2e D&D but you can work with it for your 5e D&D world, or other worlds, with a little imagination.
Customer avatar
Frederic M March 22, 2021 12:29 pm UTC
Tom, from Solo Dungeon Crawler (Youtube and blog), is using this guidebook with the Rules Cyclopedia (Basic/BECMI), and wirth his own solo rulesets, to provide a cpmplete and friendly user guide for solo D&D. You musta check is videos!!

And yes, a POD is really needed!!
Customer avatar
Daniel P September 03, 2018 5:09 pm UTC
Hello people! Let's see if you can help me figure something out. On p. 16 of the book, it reads:
"(the Map Blanks are already labelled with numbers)".

However, I'm afraid the polyhedral world maps are not! Does anyone know what the original labelling was?

Thank you in advance =)
Customer avatar
Sebastian D July 05, 2018 4:52 pm UTC
My only complaint is that map grids are in solid black rather than the grey that originals were in. Makes them a bit unusable.
Customer avatar
Mark J February 12, 2018 2:59 am UTC
This is a great book that is really system neutral. A must have for brainstorming a campaign.
Customer avatar
PAUL C February 11, 2018 1:51 am UTC
LOVE this.
Customer avatar
Randy H March 24, 2017 5:35 pm UTC
Actually, this PDF does NOT include all of the maps that were originally included with the game. It has the Polyhedral World Map, Polar Display World Map, Polyhedral Region Map, and the Polar Display Region Map. It's MISSING the square grid map with the Key box in the corner, the hexagonal grid map with the Key box in the corner, the Kingdom Map, the hexagonal map with Map Symbology at the bottom (rivers, mountains, swamps, etc), the Area Map, the City/Town map, the the 2 page Site Map. I thought I was buying the full 32 page booklet with the PDF. Honestly this was the only reason I bought it as I already have a physical copy of the book. I would not waste your $5.
Customer avatar
Randy H March 24, 2017 5:52 pm UTC
Ok, never mind. The PDF does in fact have all the material, its just that it only has the first few bookmarked and the rest you have to scroll down to. Would delete my comment if I could. Sorry everybody. Great job. $5 well spent.
Customer avatar
Craig Liley L June 27, 2016 6:15 am UTC
Does this PDF include the blank maps? I still own and love my old physical copy of this book, but the map blanks have long since disappeared. If they are included, it would absolutely be worth the five bucks to buy the pdf simply to have the option of printing them off as needed.
Customer avatar
Joe G June 29, 2016 6:54 pm UTC
If you're referring to the various polar display and polyhedral maps, yes it does. The purchase comes with two PDFs--one for the book and one with 16 maps.
Customer avatar
Joe G June 29, 2016 7:10 pm UTC
Sorry--I was looking at the bookmarks. It's 63 pages of content.
Browse Categories
$ to $
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!

Product Information
Platinum seller
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9532
File Size:
67.63 MB
Scanned image Click for more information
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF Click for more information
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
June 20, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on June 21, 2016.