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What books do you use to build your world?


A long and sordid history my game world has.

I distilled the good ideas/elements out of my first ill-fated go at a world, and stirred them into a new world with a backstory that links the two (and actually, this has proven an interesting story elements.) I used Ultima V as a basis for the map and a few major locale concepts, and cobbled together some ideas from several sources and my own fevered imagination. I used the 2e world builder's guidebook to flesh out some details. Of late, I use Profantasy's Fractal Terrains to make the rest of the continents on my world and expanded out. Game elements and history draw heavily from Norse, Greek, Egyptian, British, and Japanese mythology and history (among others), as well as various fantasy novels and comics.

Products that I draw from for the 3e incarnation are legion, but in general, I use:
  • WotC: all the core and cap system books except for DDG.
  • S&SS: Relics & Rituals, CCI & II
  • Green Ronin: Shaman's Handbook, Legions of Hell, and a few things from Armies of the Abyss. Some thought of using the deities from BotR for my second continent, and using holy warriors.
  • AEG: Selections from Undead and Mercenaries, and a few from other books.
  • FFG: Monster's Handbook will be used to create several variants. Selections from the path books and Mythic Races will be used for some NPCs.
  • Malhavoc: Most of it, except for BoEM II (dislike the classes, but will be using some spells and items from it.)
  • MEG/THG: I was going to drop Bluffside on my second continent, but it may wait until the new world I am planning.
  • Necromancer Games: Tome of Horrors for creatures.

Those are the biggies. There are others.

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Sage of the Scarred Lands
Me, I already got a world. :) But come the day the Sage is tired of the Scarred Lands, Book of the Righteous will top out my order for new gods and religions.

That seems a bit much. What are you going to tell players when they ask what core classes they can choose from? "Here's a list of half a dozen books you need to buy to just have the rules for core classes, here's another three or four for cosmology and here's another dozen for prestige classes?

I'm all for not reinventing the wheel: I do a lot of that myself in my homebrews, but I think most of the borrowing ought to be behind the scenes "DM only" stuff for the most part.


First Post
I use a concept that when I was reading about Jean-Paul Gaultier uses. He keeps a small box with bits of ribbon, cloth, and some lace. Whenever he feels to be completely stumped he would look into this box fondling the fabrics comign out with a solution.

I am very similar. I keep a collection of snipets of information, which I take out whenever I feel stumped.

I use a central them for a game world and continue on that direction. As it becomes larger including several concepts I start adding texture to the world. I have to ask myself where are the internal conflicts in the world and constantly interrogate it.

For reference books, I'll use anything that fits and deepens my understanding of how my imagined society might work. Whether that is books on construction, subcultures, or even ancient and modern military command structure.


In one world I created, where I had to describe a slave race called the greys, for a Sci-Fi LARP campaign. I concluded is that they are a race that have attained telepathy, and every member is like small knot in a fish-net. The grey council is that race's focal point, being able to use the whole racial information as a lens, being able to see into the future. they discovered a race lying along it's civilization outer edge a malignant entity that's only wish was to consume. since the race had given up warfare and violence, but still needed to seem as if they were not a threat they had a the humans invade them by infiltrating key peoples minds. Over night Earth units had landed on the major home worlds, bringing with them a potent drug to inhibit telepathy, except for the bombing of the grey council. The grey's gave in very easily. The greys have been forcibly integrated into earther society as technicians and scientists. However, the second generation is starting to show resistance to the drug, and parts of the greys are startying to throw the yoke of slavery off their shoulder taking over Earth resources to fight the encroaching force...

-Angel Tears


Unattainable Ideal
I follow the "Cool Stuff" theory of homebrew campaign design.

I take a sheet of paper and at the top I write "Stuff I Think Is Cool". I then fill that sheet and however many others it takes with whatever stuff I happen to think is cool. These entries may be proper names ("Elric"), descriptions ("big honking dinosaurs"), references ("desert beasts like them sandworms in Dune") or rulebooks ("Monsternomicon"). Whatever. Lots of cool stuff is the goal.

When I have lots of cool stuff I find some people who have at least some agreement with me as to what constitutes Cool Stuff. Then I say, "Okay, make cool characters."

I put the characters in a really cool place, and I sit down with my players and I say, "Now you see something really cool. What cool stuff are you going to do?"

It works pretty well.

Blatantly ripped off from Steven Brust, but then, he's really cool.

Jack Daniel

Apart from the core stuff, Swashbuckling Adventures and GURPS Steampunk have been indispensible tools for my campaign... but that's me.


AngelTears said:
I use a concept that when I was reading about Jean-Paul Gaultier uses. He keeps a small box with bits of ribbon, cloth, and some lace. Whenever he feels to be completely stumped he would look into this box fondling the fabrics comign out with a solution.

For a moment I thought you meant Theophile Gautier, and I was going to mention something about Rilke; now that I realize who you're referring to I actually have nothing to say about that : \

I'm surprised that so many people draw their ideas from gamebooks. My list for the world I'm working on now doesn't have any:

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and a wealth of other metaphysical literature from Aristotle to Stroud, Davidson, Strawson, etc.
Descriptive books on physics like The Elegant Universe and Hyperspace.
Interpretive (i.e. not straight mythological) religious literatire like Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: the One and the Many, any of Joseph Campbell's (mostly the Masks of God series) or Mircea Eliade's books (they don't have to be right about the nature of religion in the real world to work for building a fantasy world now do they?).
Straight mythology and primary religious texts, from the Sumerians to the Greeks, Romans, Norse, Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Gnostics, and all that stuff. That's what's sitting on my bed right now anyway, saying to me "ha! you can't go to sleep until you clean us up."

Of course if I was writing fantasy books instead of designing fantasy worlds the list would be far different. I think you could do just as well starting with Vergil and Homer and reading your way through the lot of it. After all, its history that shapes worlds, and people that shape history. Seems to me that the way to build a world, once you've settled the physical and metaphysical realities you'll be dealing with, is through its characters.
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First Post
WayneLigon said:

I am amazed at the cool map ideas I get from that game :)

More often than not you get a useless map for a realistic world in an RPG. But sometimes you get a little gem.


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First Post
It totally depends on what I want from my world. Right now I have three basic concepts I am working on:

1) A world where the evil gods won and the whole world is tainted with the battle amongst themselves for dominance.

2) A pseudo Rokugan with each clan a different PHB race and the Emperor is an immortal Solar (threw out most of the history and made my own).

3) A low magic island/tropical/tribal setting set a thousand years after the high-tech civilization fell to ruins.
The first I have drawn from Ravenloft and Dieties & Demigods mostly. The second I drew from OA (obviously). The third I made up on my own. That doesn't mean that I don't read other books and apply them to my worlds, I just don't really take whole sections of other books and add them in. (The PHB, DMG and MM really are quite self-sufficient, IMO.)

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