World Building Guide. Part 3.


We have previously discussed how to begin putting a world together, and how to build the structure of your first town or village. We also looked at building your Non Player Characters in that settlement as well as their relationships with each other. It is important to not only build the relationships between people, but also between places. Once you have a single village (like Newton) developed, it will need some other places in the surrounding area for it and its inhabitants to interact with. Now it is time to make Newton, the forest it is close to and the portion of the river it sits upon part of a wider area or region. Much like we have counties or Parishes in our world, your world will benefit from similar borders or boundaries to define areas. I do not want my first region to be too big, so I am going to make it about one hundred and twenty miles from east to west, and about one hundred miles north to south. This way it can be crossed within a week by most people. It gives me a large enough area to have several other settlements, as well as a few places of interest for my players to explore.

Let us go back to Newton and make a few more decisions. We already decided that an average days travel for the folk in this area (being as horse and cart would be the standard medium of travel) is Fifteen to twenty miles. This is also the base distance we used when figuring out how large to make the region. We decided that a town is just within a days travel of Newton, so I would begin by creating and building that town. I decide to place it West (along the road). I develop this town in the same way I did Newton. We will call this town Heraford. Once I have completed it and created all the internal structures and relationships, it is time to look outwards.

I now need to look at the relationship between Heraford and Newton. I begin by deciding their social view of each other, and any dependencies they may have. How would Heraford describe Newton and vice versa. Lets start by examining the two settlements. Hereford is a town of three thousand people. It is close to some hills where a prominent ore mine is established, so it is primarily a mining town. It has more advanced building structures than Newton and has a larger population by far. It has a Mayor much the same as Newton, but it has an elected council of twelve people to keep up with the politics and running of the town. It is situated on the western trade road but is closer to a large city than Newton. Newton on the other hand is a village with one hundred and twenty people. It is situated close to a forest and sits upon the bank of a river. Well Newton will rely on Heraford for ore and most of its metals. It also may benefit from some of the overflow trade that heraford may receive from the closer proximity to the city. Hereford, on the other hand, needs lumber for building and in particular for mining. It may also enjoy some of the fresh fish from the river, and game and fur from the forest. We can see that both are somewhat dependent on each other, so the odds are they would have an amiable relationship. Also as we decided the town Heraford, would have a church and that Newton would only have a shrine, It is probable that many of the villagers from Newton travel to Heraford on Sundays or at least for religious special occasions. Also the local priest in Newton probably answers to the clergy in Heraford. Several of the people that grew up in either town, will probably have met and some ultimately married, so it is also a good idea to have some of the Non Player Character bloodlines living in both locations. So as I create the Non Player Characters for Heraford, I will be referencing Newtons populous, and extending some of the families.

This process will go on until I have several settlements in the region I am working on. Each settlement will be cross referenced with the others in its region, and in particular those that are closest to it. In this way we not only build an economy, but a civilized structure for life in the region. we should also then look at how each settlement is run, and decide who is over the region. Is it a local lord or a king? or does every settlement come under the jurisdiction of the city in that region?

Of course some regions you may develop may be less than civilized. maybe it is a vast tundra full of nomadic tribes that war between each other, or maybe it is a vast mountain range and only has a few remote outposts. Regardless the methods described so far will allow you to develop any region.

So lets assume that by now we had about ten settlements in our region. As we built them we noted features we wanted them to be near, some forests, rivers hills mountains etc. Now is the time we are going to look at those chosen features and begin to develop those.

We will begin with the forest outside of Newton. Firstly how big will it be? well I want it large enough to hide a few interesting things but it can not be too large or it will engulf much of my region. about fifteen miles in either direction will suffice. Maybe also at its northern most end it butts up against the foothills to some mountains so I will be considering that too. Also the river runs through one corner of it so that too will have an impact.

Well firstly we can begin by deciding what kind of trees grow in the forest. Is it a pine forest or are the trees more oak and elm etc. Next what natural creatures live in the forest. Well most certainly we will have small rodents, birds, snakes and insects. We will add bears, deer and bore to the mix and maybe even a few bobcats or mountain lions may be wandering (as the mountains are close by to the North). I do not need to add every single critter to the list, but it is important for me to examine the base natural life that inhabits my forest. The river makes it particularly viable for deer etc so that part of the forest would be great for hunting. Bear would come for the deer as would the villagers from Newton. Also bears love to fish. The temptation of the deer may be enough to draw some of the mountain lions further south than normal as well so it may not be uncommon to find those not to far away from the river. We also want to add a few additional features in the forest, such as where a few clearings may be or particularity large or old trees.

With the basic forest outlined we then want to add a few special features. old ruins, caves, caverns, demi human settlements etc. Reminding myself of the size of my forest, I am going to begin by adding a cave or two in the Northern part. The forest undoubtedly rises up to the north to meet the mountains, so this would be a logical place. How deep are the caves? well one is fairly shallow and only goes in a few hundred feet. The other I decide delves way down into the mountains and even meets an underground river at some point. The first cave may be home to bears, or maybe something more exotic. The other cave however gives us some exciting options. I am going to decide to make this somewhere my players are going to want to explore, and I can develop a good dungeon or something equally as exciting here. I may also decide that towards the center of the forest there is a small grove, and maybe woodland Nymphs or Dryads may dwell there. Each of these features is subject to similar consideration as the settlements where. Why is it there? Who or what lives there? What relationship does it have to the settlements? It is important to remember these things as you develop the special features. If I decide to put a goblin settlement inside the forest or perhaps in one of the caves, it is realistic to expect conflict to have arisen with the villagers of Newton. This would change the relationship between Newton and Heraford also, as Heraford would not want Newton to be over run by goblins. The social dynamic is an important aspect to consider when world building, and one that all to few Dungeon Masters consider in enough depth to allow their world to be believable.

We would continue to follow this process through out our region. Addressing the mountains, hills, forests, rivers, plains, marshes etc one by one until we have them fleshed out. Now you notice I did not go into detail about what I was going to put in my second cavern, only that I was going to make it a place that my players would want to visit. It is not important just yet to fill out all the details of each special feature, only to mark the existence of them. We need to be able to have some areas ready to adapt and grow as needed, while others we will want to have fully developed. Before we do to much with these special locations however we are going to want to develop some history for our region. We will look at developing the history of your world, and a chronological time line in part four of this series.

Happy World Building……….


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