RPG Design: How do you build a new world?

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
My suggestion would be to start with the players. (I have a very at-the-table focus, and I know that's not everyone's framing.)

Ask them what kind of game they're interested in, starting with broadly: Gothic horror? Plane-hopping? Gritty politics? Crawling a mega-dungeon?

Then, once there's a rough consensus ("OK, we're doing a Gothic horror campaign with nautical elements and a steampunk vibe"), I'd ask for specifics. What races and classes do they think they want to play? Once you know that, you know what stuff exists in your world. If there's stuff they strongly don't want to see, that's what you strike out.

At this point, you've got a lot to start with ("a Gothic horror campaign with nautical elements and a steampunk vibe where there's an order of fighting monks, a wizard school, a powerful assassin's guild, along with dwarves, the races from Van Richten's and owlkin from Strixhaven"). Just creating spots for all of this on your map -- with a lot of it close enough to the starting area for player characters to have reasonably arrived from there -- will get you off and running, IMO.
 

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