Building a campaign setting feels like a daunting task and has stopped a lot of new game/dungeon masters in their tracks from writing their own adventures. With already big, popular settings like Faerun, Middle Earth, Ebberon, etc. some people feel like it’s not worth the time and effort. Trust me when I say worldbuilding is one hundred percent worth the time and effort and really adds to the rpg you are running. All the popular settings out there most players have heard of or played in, but what you’re making is fresh and exciting and will make the groups roleplaying experience more personal and more engaging. The basics of world-building can be broken down into a few easy steps.
The first step is deciding what you want to do with your campaign, do you want to run a grandiose adventure similar to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, do you want daring swashbucklers like Pirates of the Caribbean, or maybe political intrigue with multiple factions vying for power over the regions like Game of Thrones. While it may feel like “stealing” to take what you like from existing movies, shows, and books to add into your setting it’s not. It’s okay to be inspired by other works, I’ve done this myself when world-building and as long as you change it slightly to be more suited for your world or even add more onto it to make it your own. Most well known writers and game/dungeon masters have even done this themselves when making their worlds.
The next step is doing some research, admittedly this is most of what world building(at least for me) is. When you ask yourself “What do I want my gods to look and act like? What type of weaponry do I want? What big battles shaped my world? What time period should I base my world in?” that is where research comes in. Our world’s ancient history is fascinating! Full of cool mythologies, creation myths, wars, and heroes enough to just make a campaign setting of just earth. While you might be thinking, “Man he is really suggesting a lot of reading,” I promise I am not. There are many amazing content creators out there that have already done the research and make fun and interesting videos of these events and gods so all you have to do is listen and enjoy. There are a lot of them out there and I wish I could list them all but we would be here all day so I’m going to recommend three of my favorites. The first one is Overly Sarcastic Productions, they do a fantastic job at doing quick history summaries to Myths from many different pantheons of gods in short 5-20 minute videos that keep you informed and laughing. The other is Mythology & Fiction Explained, while these videos can be a little longer 5-30 minutes they do a really good job breaking down in interesting ways and going really in depth on fictional characters from the Witcher to exploring the origins of The Kraken. Another great youtube channel that I highly recommend when it comes to world building is Hello Future Me. While he is more talking about novel writing and not something that other people can actively change when playing in your game, he does a fantastic job at breaking down settings from other books, movies, and shows.
So now that we have decided on what we want our adventure to be like, and have done the research and picked what time period we want. All that is left is to begin writing. Write down everything that pops into your head when researching! Write what you find interesting, what you would change, cool names you’ve come up with, stories you like and heard, just anything. Once you start writing it becomes easier and easier to start thinking of your own ideas, events, myths, heroes, cities, and after awhile you will have your own campaign setting in front of you fleshed out and ready for your adventurers to fuck it all up… just kidding. I really hope this helps you kick into gear and come up with a cool setting to run for your rpg game.