DriveThruRPG is running their annual New Year, New Game sale. They’ve selected some of my Dancing Lights Press titles, which are anywhere from 15% to 25% off. What they didn’t include were any of my actual game systems. So I’m having my own sale, so you can try a new game in the new year. Digital core rulebooks are 25% off, through the duration of DriveThru’s sitewide sale.
A minimalist 96-page guide with prompts to help you develop settings for any tabletop roleplaying system.
Worldbuilding can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re planning a campaign, designing your own tabletop roleplaying game, or just exercising your creativity with no set purpose in mind, developing a setting of your very own is deeply satisfying. You can spend hours, days, or years adding details and creating a world with no limits but your imagination.
Building Worlds 2 contains a series of prompts to help you increase the breadth and depth of your roleplaying setting. Develop every area of your setting, or just focus on the element you’ll need for player character backgrounds and the campaigns you plan to run. This book shows you how to draw worldbuilding ideas from the system of your choice, and how to use character options, implied setting features, and the events of adventures to expand the setting into the world of your dreams.
The main sections Building Worlds 2 include:
Setting Matters: How you intend to use the world that you build has significance to the process. The system you’re working with and the scope of the campaign you intend to run will affect the level of detail you need.
Fundamentals: This section covers a broad overview of worldbuilding processes. It discussed fundamental setting elements like genre, place and time, tone, and even the theme of the adventures you plan to run.
Nature: The basic elements of the physical world, including the geography, climate, and life forms, as covered in this section. The choices you make here can affect everything in your setting going forward.
History: Key events that have happened in your world’s past will help to shape what the setting is like in the player characters’ present day. It can also create context for those characters and their adventures.
Culture: Ethnicity, species, and even national identities will develop within your world. There are religions, traditions, and politics to consider. You need to work out what makes one culture in your world distinct from another.
Community: People band together in various ways for common and predictable reasons. The communities that exist within your world matter to the back stories of the player characters, and to the cultures and locations of your adventures.
Infrastructure and Economy: Money makes the world go ‘round, no matter what genre, time, and place you’re using. This section helps you to flesh out the resources that exist in various parts of your setting, and the way people use, manage, and abuse them.
Daily Life: As you develop your world, you’ll have to establish what an average day looks like for the regular people that live in it. This includes homes, jobs, food, fashion, and other facets of ordinary living.
Individuals: No matter what you plan to use the setting you’re creating for, worldbuilding should have a significant effect on player characters. This section covers the influences on characters and how the setting can inform their backgrounds.
Wonders: Whether your world has magic, superpowers, or advanced technology, you’ll need to know how those wonders work. This section covers the potential the impacts that unusual items and abilities can have on the rest of your world.
I’m not going to cut-and-paste sales copy in here. That’s not why you read this page. You can click the link at the bottom of the post and read that, and then hopefully buy a copy.
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Steve Jobs, who stole it from painter Pablo Picasso, who swiped it from composer Igor Stravinsky, who outright ripped it off from poet T.S. Eliot
I Wrote a Thing: Hippogryph Codex
The Hippogryph Codex is a tabletop roleplaying system. I am pretentious enough that I refuse to call them games. These things aren’t about winners and losers and competition. Other people have different opinions on this, and I cheerfully encourage them to go write their own blogs and publish their own books. I am not so pretentious as to throw around phrases like “collaborative storytelling experience” with a straight face, even if that is a far more accurate assessment of what tabletop roleplaying is: making up stories with your friends, with a little bit of structure to help you along.
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.”
T.S. Elliot, “Philip Massinger”, biographical essay in The Sacred Wood (1920)
Anyway, this one takes all of the familiar tropes of Dungeons & Dragons and throws them into a blender with a popular story-focused, character-centric roleplaying system called Fate. Instead of several giant, expensive hardcover books, it’s one slim 96-page volume. It was designed to be played, and cannot be used as a doorstop or murder weapon.
The strength of my thing is that while it has lists of character abilities to choose from, you can make up your own stuff too. Creating new things, from classes to spells to magic items to monsters, is quick and easy. Here endeth the selling points. I wrote a thing. The Hippogryph Codex. Buy a copy. Tell your friends.
There are approximately 92,955,807 monster books in the tabletop roleplaying ecosystem. That’s one for every mile between the Earth and the sun. Spacing them apart like that is the only way to make it feel like there’s not a glut. A lot of other books offer up advice on how to crunch numbers for the system of your choice to create new monsters. The last thing I wanted to do was write another monster book. So I didn’t.
“The best monsters are our anxieties given form. They make sense on the level of a dream – or a nightmare.”
Building Monsters is actually about creating villains. I didn’t title it “Building Villains” because there’s a reason why so many monster books exist: they tend to sell well. You’ve got to lean into that recognition factory. It’s not a book about crunching numbers. The aim is to help you develop monsters as characters, with backgrounds, motivations, and objectives. There’s nothing scarier than a villain with a plan. We don’t need more advice on how to create mindless killing machines; that’s sort of the default position.
As with all of the books in the Building series, it’s system-agnostic. That means it wasn’t written specifically for Dungeons & Dragons, or any other tabletop roleplaying system. You can use it with anything. Take what already exists in your favorite thing, and make the monsters more interesting by giving them personalities and goals. Pretty simple concept, but I explain how to do it in a fair amount of detail.
A book so nice I wrote it twice. No, not really. There are just so many archetypal stories that I could only fit so many into the first book. The second volume offers up ten more possibilities for people to play around with.
People that aren’t familiar with tabletop roleplaying often think there’s no story involved. There are people within the hobby that think that, too. They’re entitled to play any way they please, as long as they’re having fun. For myself, and many other people, the characters and the story are the best part.
It actually startled me to learn that people thought there was really only one type of tabletop roleplaying story. Not so much a story, perhaps, as a flimsy excuse to explain why these disparate characters are working together. A premise that sets up why they’ve headed off to the place in order to kill monsters and take their stuff.
Adventure Generator 2 isn’t for people who’ve used up all of the stories in the first volume. I don’t think that’s possible. It’s for people who have ideas, but didn’t find a story archetype in the first book that fit. This is about giving you more options. You can truly tell any sort of story in tabletop roleplaying, regardless of the system or genre. It’s not all the Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell. Romance, mystery, coming or age, all of that is possible. And you can still kill orcs and steal the magic sword, if you want to.