Worldbuilding - tell me about your world

I love world-building

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besides an excuse to post the following blog entries on worldbuilding, I'd like you to tell me the three most interesting things about a world you build.

It can be as small as your gaming group, or it could be a published product that sells a ton, but I'm interested in seeing what you consider makes your world that awesome.

:)
 
My current homebrew realm of Zuur:

1 - It is a world of earthmotes. Some are the size of a studio apartment, others run for miles.

2- There is no moon.

3 - There are no horses (or centaurs or cows, for that matter), so beasts of burden are replaced with clockwork automatons.

besides an excuse to post the following blog entries on worldbuilding, I'd like you to tell me the three most interesting things about a world you build.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
On Erkonin

1 - There are no gods, as the result of what can best be called an accident.

2 - In the absence of gods, the fey nobility (which are organized and work much differently from anywhere else that I've seen) have increased in power almost to the point of godhood, but without a key spark.

3 - As a result of the ... accident, the planar boundaries are more porous than before.
 

pogre

Adventurer
My world Building always starts small and expands with the length of the campaign. Some things that have emerged so far:

1. Humanoids do not have a fixed alignment, only tendencies. Orcs for example have proven to be pretty honorable thus far.

2. There are different styles of magic in different areas of the world. The players just learned that most of the magic in a land based on Ancient Egypt is based on alchemy.

3. Falling stars and the meteorites that reach the world are almost always laden with a message from a deity.
 
A thousand years ago the Immortals entered the world. About half of them sought to spread law and order, to conquer and subjugate the world - these became the Lawful aasimar, who founded the vast Grand Sultanate of the western continent. The other half sought to experience the pleasures of this new world, consuming the natural forces - these became the Chaotic tieflings, who founded the magocracy of Vaal Turineth of the eastern continent.

South of Vaal Turineth, there are other nations. Alceyon is the forested land of elves – where the high elves are transcending from the physical world, the cutthroat wood elves are fighting off excursions of the other races, and an undead giant warlord known as the Horned King seeks to conquer all. Just south of that is the Principalities of the Eight, a collection of Halfling city-states that rule eight rivers and a vast trading network throughout the eastern continent. Below that is the Middle Empire, the strongest bastion of mankind, ruled by an Empress who believes herself divinely chosen. The Dwarven Holds form a barrier between the lands of man and the Ogre Kingdoms, while the Goliath Steppes provide an unofficial homeland to the half-giants.
South of the Grand Sultanate are the Djinn States, home to the elemental wizards and the transitory City of Brass, which has been rooted in this land from the Elemental Planes for a generation.

Between the eastern and western continents is a vast sea, where piracy and naval warfare is common. The nations are taking sides – either with the Sultan or the Prince of Vaal Turineth. The defiling magic of the tieflings is also creating a new problem: the growth of Chaos. Chaos is a spreading wasteland that is encroaching into the lands of the Sultan, Goliath Steppes, and Ogre Kingdoms. This is the main impetus of the Sultan’s open hostilities against their fallen brethren.

Currently, I have two campaigns in this world. The first just drove off the Horned King and proceeded south to the Middle Empire, where they are getting embroiled in a battle against a successor state known as the Dominion – which may be falling to undead influence. The second is in the Dwarven Holds, trying to stop a giant incursion while attempting to locate an elemental wizard to restore balance in the City of Brass, which is being overwhelmed by different elemental planar factions.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I had no desire to make my setting publishable or unique. It's too much work to really fill in all the details of the world for the purpose of gaming, much less publish it. It's purpose was to accommodate any published material or home-brew material I wanted to include in a framework that I felt made sense. Thus, it's definitely not a trope world where a small number of key ideas sell the world, but a more traditional kitchen sink environment where I've really only thrown a few things out of the kitchen sink (notably orcs). Rather than being defined by its tropes, I'd like to think the world of Korrel is defined by its coherence.

1) It's an intensely animistic world were small spirits dwell in almost every environment. It is the world of Grimm's Fairy tales, where things can go bump in the night, fairies live in garden and wood, fairy godmothers are real, princes can be turned into frogs, and third sons of millers can inherit kingdoms.

2) It's a world of deep and frightening mystery, where ancient half-forgotten civilizations lie hidden in taboo regions, secrets man was not meant to know are hidden in lost tomes, and experimental magic threatens the health and sanity of anyone that fails to respect it. It's a world of strange radiations, mad scientists, and things beyond comprehension that see people as mere food.

3) It's a world of deep historical grounding, where social and government structures don't mimic those of the modern world, where race, ethnicity and class matter intensely to most people, where there are old wounds and grudges between peoples, and cultures rather alien to mainstream Western thinking thrive. Indeed, if anything, it's a world where things are rather more diverse than they ever were in reality, because instead of one race of people (humanity), or a bunch of Star Trek aliens as humans with bumps on their forehead, you have seven different races each with their own distinctive biology and emotional framework. It's a world where superstitions are mostly true, ritual has physical power, and Plato's ideas can become reified in his metaphorical cave and come off his shadowed wall in a very real way.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I'd like you to tell me the three most interesting things about a world you build.
In a post Apocalyptic setting:
1: Elves who are part plant
2: Psionic Dwarves in mechanical bodies (tweaked Warforged reskin)
3: Council of Trees (awakened trees, all with Spellcaster- mostly Druidic- levels)
 
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I'm not sure if this line sounds more like Douglas Adams or more like Sir Terry Pratchett.

On Erkonin
1 - There are no gods, as the result of what can best be called an accident.
I definitely might have read the original Empire of the Petal Throne book while the world was gestating. For a while, the world was going to have a tropical climate, until I decided that I wanted to have a proper winter in my world.

Kinda reminds me of Tékumel, where the main beasts of burden are slow, lumbering beasts that lack the advantages of horses for transport, trade, warfare, and communication.
 

Aldarc

Hero
2 - In the absence of gods, the fey nobility (which are organized and work much differently from anywhere else that I've seen) have increased in power almost to the point of godhood, but without a key spark.
Several worlds that I have toyed with have something similar, with the archfey as the chthonic "pagan gods" whose strife propels the cycles of nature and the seasons.

On the whole when world-building, I typically shy away from the D&D-style pantheons and religions, since I find that D&D (and its like-minded TTRPGs) tends to handle religion, particularly its own, quite poorly. So I enjoy things more like @prabe's use of fey gods, @Celebrim's animistic-realism (and an accompanying spirit worlds), along with ethical pseudo-religious philosophies oriented around how one should live in a society in which spirits exist (e.g., a number of Eastern Asian traditions) or archfey have sway over the world.

One idea that I often find myself reusing is the existence of a spirit world in which the spirits often embody concepts, ideas, and the like. Some people view the spirits as simply spirits. Others view them as demons and angels. Others view them as gods worthy of devotion. In one culture, one spirit may be regarded as the God of Justice, but in another culture the same may be regarded a Demon of Vengeance or Wrath. Are the spirits localized or are there spirits that embody larger, more generalized concepts? Is there a god that exists beyond the spirit world, perhaps as the Creator of All? Is the Spirit World itself a Spirit that contains all Spirits? Does the Spirit World represent the Spirit of the World? Or does the spirit world represent the totality of The Divinity? Or is the Spirit World the dreaming of a slumbering god that humans must strive to awaken? Spirits and a spirit world exists, but is there reincarnation? Can one break the cycle of reincarnation? Are ghosts the actual spirits of the deceased or are they false echoes of lives that have imprinted on the spirit world? Is the spirit world the actual afterlife or is there more? Does the divinity of the spirit exist in the human person? If the spirit world exists, what is the responsibility of humankind towards the spirits, gods, angels, demons, etc. of the Other World?

I enjoy the idea of spirits and a spirit world having a concrete existence but humans still forming different religions, theologies, and philosophies around grappling with this spiritual reality. The existence of a Spirit World does not quell theological and metaphysical mystery; it propels further ones.

I was asked to run a fantastical pseudo-Renaissance Venice setting for a Fate game, which I discussed a bit elsewhere. IMHO, the most important organization and cultural influence for the Late Middle Ages or Renaissance was the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy. So imagining a Late Middle Ages or Renaissance Venice without that is nigh impossible. So with this Spirit World cosmology, I created a Church that regarded the spirits of the Seven Cardinal Virtues (based on Aristotle's four cardinal virtues and Christianity's three theological virtues of faith) as the spirits that best revealed the true nature of the Divine Creator. So there is still a Church, but the ethics and teachings of the Seven Virtues Church will naturally differ from that of the RCC. This gives room to say that homosexuality or sodomy is not a "sin" for characters - a breath of fresh air for modern sensibilities and inclusive tables - but that the Church's issue for all sexuality is Temperance.

It was a short campaign, so I did not get to explore the intricacies of piety, though one character's sister was a priestess of the Church of Virtues who was attempting a magical ritual to seal a tear into the spirit world. However, one could easily take this Pseudo-Renaissance Church of Virtues and imagine other faiths and heresies. There might be a heretical sect of the Church that believes that there are only Three Virtues worth following. Or these heretical splinter sects may reject all spirits as relics of a "paganistic polytheism" that interferes with venerating the Creator. What about a competing religion that teaches that there is only one spirit worth following: e.g., the Spirit of Truth? Or a religion that believes that all spirits are a manifestation of an ever-changing Divine Will?

I have gotten far more mileage out of this basic conceit for a world than nearly any other because the various cultures for any and every new world that I create may have supplied their own prevailing set of answers or questions about this Spirit World. Gods, demons, devils, spirits, angels, and fey can be interchangeable without me sweating the details. I can say that religious tradition/cultus A believes X about the Spirit World and the spirits, but that religious tradition/cultus B believes Y about the Spirit World and these spirits, without needing to supply a definitive answer.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
Three details from my most recent campaign setting:

1. The entire world has a layer of sentient, sapient fungal growth beneath its soil. This superfungus spans continents and oceans, and is the cast-off remnant of an elder god. Vegepygmies, Myconids, and Kelpies grow out of cysts in the fungus, great, huge fungal tumors that incubate alien terrors.

2. The intricacies of religion, as have been demonstrated in the real world, have been implemented in the sense that religion is more realistic, despite the existence of divine magic. There are multiple monotheistic deities, some dualistic pantheons, large pantheons that are independent from others, philosophies with no defined gods, such as Allochrism (emulation of metallic spirits, which represent different base metals) and Noskril (a philosophy of actually becoming heroes of old, and living out their lives).

3. Fey and Elementals fall under the same metaphysical distinction.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
Inspired by @Shades of Eternity's post about his/her post-apocalyptic world, I'll share three things about my post-apocalyptic setting, one of the many settings which I have created.

1. Demons and Devils, as well as other Fiends, have all been rolled into the 'Demons' category, and, the world has long collapsed into a Demon-ridden, wasteland nightmare. Ancient nuclear war threw society into a disarray after a new 'utopia' had arisen. Society reached a peak of efficiency, utilizing renewable power such as solar and geothermal energy, as well as hydroelectric energy, and advanced nuclear reactors. Nuclear power became so pervasive and advanced that it was commonplace, even homes may have nuclear reactors within them. But then, nuclear war, chemical weapons, and rampant corruption sundered society, and, of course, Demons tore away at the edges of Hell, seizing this moment of weakness, and crushing the broken societies underfoot.

2. Androids, Invoked, and Homurrizod are three non-standard races incorporated in the setting. Androids use the Warforged statistics, with modified lore, and Invoked use the Kalashtar rules, with, again, modified lore, where their Quori are bodiless, demonic spirits. Homurrizod were inspired by the Grineer from Warframe, a race of Human clones, devoid of reproductive capabilities, who serve an overbeing. Homurrizod are, however, much more Human and more intelligent that the Grineer who they were inspired by.

3. The world's weapons technology lingers somewhere between World War Two and Fallout.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Best campaign I ever ran was a Supers game (using HERO) set in the year 1900, basically as envisioned by H.G.Wells and Jules Verne (plus other era-appropriate fiction).

Interesting things about it:

1) A villain using a modified Babbage engine to control his Archimedes Death Ray
2) An undead wizard from the Far East hoping to topple the imperialist nations and rule the world as emperor
3) Martians who react to opium like it was PCP

The worst campaign was set in the same world, a decade+ later, using M&M as the system. (Different group of gamers.)

Interesting things included:

1) Professor Cavor’s gentleman companion running a school named in his honor for young super humans in Torquay
2) A scientist who had discovered a way to grant animals human levels of intelligence. Onr of those animals, an Orangutan named Zeus, becoming so intelligent that he escaped and started making weapons based on the theories of Nicola Tesla. “Doctor” Zeus, as he called himself, was trying to overthrow humanity as rulers of the world.
3) “The Self-Breaking Machine”- a broken time machine kept in a vault that somehow broke itself after it was repaired (the time traveler who made it was raiding it for spare parts for his OTHER time machine.)
 

Celebrim

Legend
1. The entire world has a layer of sentient, sapient fungal growth beneath its soil. This superfungus spans continents and oceans, and is the cast-off remnant of an elder god. Vegepygmies, Myconids, and Kelpies grow out of cysts in the fungus, great, huge fungal tumors that incubate alien terrors.
I've had a vast semi-sentient psionic Yellow Mold inhabiting my Underdark since the days of 1e AD&D, but I had never contemplated going as far as you have here. That's a pretty cool concept, and one you could incorporate into pretty much any setting without disrupting your game.
 

Len

Prodigal Member
I'd like you to tell me the three most interesting things about a world you build.
Campaign in gestation:


What is interesting:
  • Save the world. If the entire planet is about to be destroyed by a great evil, what can a group of 1st-level PCs possibly do about it? Here, the world is much smaller and it is plausible that the PCs are in a position to avert catastrophe.
  • Problem solving: I don't intend this to be a hack-n-slash murderhobo campaign. I expect the players will use a variety of approaches to the challenges that I present. Of course, this depends on the players and the characters they bring.
  • '70s moustaches. This seems to be what that my friends grabbed onto when I proposed the campaign. :p
 

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