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Worldbuilding Theory

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Create a setting with character development and storytelling in mind!

Any System! Any Setting! Worldbuilding is essential to a good fantasy adventure. It creates the context for the characters and the stories that they’re involved in. The information necessary to understand the motivations of the villains, the goals of the story, and what’s at stake if the protagonists fail, are all tied up on the setting elements that have been established and explained. Without the worldbuilding, your setting might as well be any other setting. In a roleplaying game, it means you end up with very generic kill monster-get treasure dynamics. A valid style of play, if you’re into that, but it’s also a ton of wasted creative potential.

Too often, though, we lose sight of why we’re creating an imaginary world. We look at Tolkien, who started off by creating complete languages. Only a fraction of that made it into his books and stories. M.A.R. Barker started working on the world of Tékumel during childhood, before anyone had even conceived or roleplaying games. He didn’t publish any of his Empire of the Petal Throne material until he was in his 40s, and didn’t write his novels in the setting until he was in his 50s. Roleplaying games publish gazetteers filled with complex histories of their fantasy worlds, with amazing levels of detail. It’s almost standard operating procedure for fantasy novels to have a map of the world contained within the book, whether the map is relevant to the story or not. It’s a daunting amount of work. It’s also not necessary.

There are already a ton of books on fantasy worldbuilding available. I wrote Worldbuilding Theory in order to take a different approach. Rather than dig into all of the fiddle bits, this volume takes a practical approach. We’ll delve into what I consider the Three Essential Elements of Worldbuilding — genre, time and place, and tone. The interdependence of setting with characters and stories, the other two pillars of fantasy adventure, will be discussed at length. By the end, you should have a clearer understanding not only of what you’re creating, but why you’re creating it. Then you can target your efforts and save yourself prep time by concentrating on the elements you’ll need.

About the Foragers Guild Series

Most tabletop roleplaying manuals will tell you everything that you need to know about running a game. At the same time, they offer precious little information on how to tell a story. There will be a wealth of advice on how to build a world and develop a setting, but not much on what you should do with those details once you have them. You’ll find volumes on how to maximize your character’s abilities and put them to the best tactical use, but not much on how to use that character to help bring that world to life and tell the story. The Foragers Guild series is for everyone harboring a desire to create better fantasy adventures, no matter what system or setting you’re using.  

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Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
Heikki M March 01, 2018 1:02 pm UTC
how is this volume different from "Setting Design" ?
Customer avatar
Berin K March 01, 2018 1:11 pm UTC
All of the Foragers Guild Guides are specifically designed for the fantasy genre, and specifically for tabletop roleplaying games. Setting Design, along with Building Characters and Story Structure, are broader, not genre-specific, and designed to be used for any sort of fiction including tabletop roleplaying games.
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File Last Updated:
April 01, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on December 15, 2017.