We create worlds in our minds. Worlds in dreams and online. There are worlds of fashion, of dancing, of gaming and worlds encompassing communities.

I'm talking about worlds we actively construct. For games and writing and other creative pursuits.

It partly follows on from 5 Useful Tools for a Fantasy World Builder

Photo by Cederic Vandenberghe on Unsplash

Born Creators

Younger humans build worlds all of the time, with little regard for what others think or if it makes sense. Entirely fictional worlds, ones that adapt parts of the world around them. Ones that exist for years in minds or only for the passing of a few seconds.

And most people stop building those worlds. Something lost in the face of a world of conformity. Where westernised schools strive to make us into good consumers and workers.

Why Do We Build Worlds?

But the spark lingers on, and some continue to create, in games, art and stories.  Worlds of demons and cute talking animals, of alternative modern day where vampires exist or futures dominated by alien civilisations.

We build them because we can, or someone pays us. Because we want to or to support a particular idea. For shared stories or to simply escape our current situations.

We might build them in our dreams or as variants of fantasy worlds we know. Alternate histories or unlikely futures. There might be people we know or different versions of ourselves. Figures from history or fiction. Talking animals or friendly robots.

What is a World?

In its most general sense, the term "world" refers to the totality of entities, to the whole of reality or to everything that was, is and will be

From the introduction of "World" on Wikipedia

For a game or story, it's everything you might need or could exist within the existence. A haunted house might be the world for a horror story, but have a wider world outside of it. It might be a planet in a universe, or an alternate reality of the same planet.

An isolated town in Devon could be the world for a medieval novel, or the entirety of future and past for a time-travel story, or an incoherent mixing of many elements for boundary-pushing games or genre-mixing crossovers.

It will have places, it will have characters, it will have themes, it will have conflicts.

There will be a past and a present and possible futures

The Art of World Building

There are some creations admired more for their world building than for their characters and story. Fantasy examples for me include Steven Erikson and Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Series (I love the more recent Way of Kings series) are examples of this.

There is the art of trying to create something different and more coherent.

There are characters and rules. It should have some elements that are familiar enough to intrigue, but not so alien as to be bizarre or off-putting.

Some worlds are shared things used for games, films and books, others exist for a short story. Some start as a short story then explode or grow into something else.

I suppose the question to ask is What is the World For?

Examples of Worlds

A few worlds I'd like to pick out as examples would include...

Red Dwarf. A future with no aliens and only a few surviving humans (1+). Should be grim but is humorous instead. The world is mostly limited to the Red Dwarf spaceship.

Glorantha. A fantasy world created where the heroes have powers that shape the world. It's been used for multiple version of the RuneQuest world and other roleplaying games. It's been home to multiple board games and computer games. Tellingly it has used different eras in the world. It is familiar as a version of an ancient, mythical world from legend.

Broken Earth Series. Set in a world with a super continent where powerful humans with powerful mental abilities can control the land, wracked by continuous earthquakes. It is actually a version of a future Earth...

Harry Potter Series. A modern day world with a magical version that us muggles don't get to see. Familiar because it's the world we know, but with areas beyond our senses.

Others I thought about including the Multiverse of Magic the Gathering, Rokugan of Legend of the Five Rings and Danger Mouse.

The Mash Up Game

I don't remember where I got this game. But it involves writing up concepts from new world by taking several settings and genres and mixing them up to find new possibilities.

So first 5 might be

  • A College
  • Robot Dogs
  • A Salsa Weekend
  • 1980's England
  • A group of Accountants on Holiday

With another 5 of

  • A Murder-Mystery Horror
  • A Civil War (or internal struggle)
  • A Romance Saga
  • The Moon in 2300 AD
  • Skegness (a town on barren east coast of England)

So mashing them up we'd get 25 ideas, including

  • A romance saga of robot dogs
  • A salsa weekend in Skegness (don't laugh, I've done a jive weekend there)
  • A murder-mystery horror of accountants on holiday
  • A college set on the Moon in 2300 AD
  • A civil war in 1980's England (North vs South?)
  • Robot Dogs in Skegness
  • Romance Saga at a salsa weekend

Some can be thrown away and one or two might spark the imagination.

I'll try and search out another explanation.

Finishing Up

I've created several worlds for Roleplaying games that I've run. I might even publish them one day.

What worlds have you built? (big or small)

What worlds do you admire?

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