Roleplaying Resources

World-Design Tips

This is a dry outline of things to think about when creating a world, written by The DM, with help from Last updated 11/17/00.


  • Shape of the land dictates where people live, what they do, how they do it.
  • Borders develop along geological boundaries.


  • World and regional.
  • This leads to making dominant plant forms, seasonal precipitation, trade winds, glacial formation, etc.


  • Earth's works. AD&D doesn't. What do a whole bunch of rare predators in dark caves and artificial dungeons eat? Each other? Make a realistic ecology.


  • Decide on an origin of Man, and plot migrations over time. That leads to realistic culture and language-family gradients.

Technology and Civilization

  • Bronze age? Iron age? Steel? Steam? Electronics? How advanced are the world's cultures?
  • Where did civilization come from? How did it spread? These questions must be answered to realistically decide where technology came from.
  • What features to civilizations have?
  • Which cultures have grown, spread and died to lead up to this point?


  • All factors of life from birth to death.
  • Magic
  • Medicine
  • Government
  • War.
  • Names: What do they sound like? Where did they come from? Any famous names?
  • Languages
  • Major institutions
  • If there are two ethnicities around, where did they come from?
  • Culture can be influenced by geography – mountain ranges produce climbers and sparse populations. Rivers imply fast travel. Swamps imply slow travel, and houses on stilts.


  • Invent ideals and conflicts.
  • Make cities and towns, with roads along major trade routes.
  • Military forces. Naval powers. Mercenaries.
  • If there are pirates, where do they come from?
  • Most AD&D worlds are dominated by feudalism. Where did feudalism start? What is its current state? How complicated is it? Where does the real power lie?
  • Major rulers. Strife between them. Spies and counter-spies. Keeping this stuff in mind will make your world seem very large, as will any details that the PCs encounter only peripherally.
  • Secret societies.


  • What do people use for money?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • Who produces what? Who buys it?
  • What natural resources are available in each region?


  • Religion is a key element in all societies and cultures.
  • What are the religions, and where are they based?
  • With religion comes predjudice, so throw some of that around.
  • If there is more than one religion in an area, why do they allow each other to stick around?
  • If a religion doesn't look indigenous, where did it come from?

Additional Ideas

  • Topographic maps are good sources to steal from. That way, you get geography, good distribution of places, flora, fauna, population density, languages, cultures, climate, etc.
  • Random rolls help. Make something up randomly, and then work on explaining it.
  • Make a map of the present. Go back in time, and make up a world. Then, create a history from the past foreward.

World Creation Questionairre

From (usenet)

From: “Tim Martin”
Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2000 23:59:17 -0500
Subject: Re: Creating a gameworld

Cerberus AOD wrote in message

…lurking was getting boring. can't wait until Aug 11…

-Encyclopdia Britannica (get some real maps and info. Not to mention some of the best real-world history stuff anywhere)
-the Bible (any version really)
-time, time, and more time.
-a friend or two to catch mistakes and give misc. input.

There are several very good campaign worlds on the web, but unfortunately I cannot help there, as I lost the bookmarks when I formatted a few weeks ago.

Basically, just research history and geography on the web. If you know history even just a little, you might want to decide if some or all of your campaign setting is similar to what existed on earth, and then research that. Is your setting Viking? Roman? Egyptian? Anglo-Saxon? Renaissance? Phoenician? Paleolithic? Japanese? Aztec? Lots of resources on these eras and many more on the web. Your local library, particularly a college or university library, or your bookstore, are excellent as well.

You would probably do well to ask yourself a few basic questions, and answering them will develop your campaign world:

  • How do people make a living on my world?
  • What are the principal crops and industries of this world?
  • How well do people live on this world in terms of wealth, peace, disease, food?
  • Who do the people worship?
  • What role do the gods play on this world, how active are they?
  • Who are the main nations on this world, and what are their goals?
  • Which nations oppose each other, and why?
  • What are the largest cities on this world, and why are they are large?
  • Are there nomadic peoples, and if so, how to they interact with settled people?
  • What sentient races exist, including demihuman and humanoid, and how do they interact with humanity?
  • What sort of terrain and climatic features do I have, and how did they get to be that way?
  • How do humans and intelligent races dwell with the climate and terrain features of my world?
  • What sorts of monsters live on this world, and what do they eat (and what eats them?)
  • What sorts of mundane animals live on this world? What of vegetation?
  • What kind of governments exist on my world? Monarchies, democracies, feudal systems, dicatorships?
  • Do ruins exist on my world?
  • If ruins do exist, who built them, when were they built, and why are they ruins?
  • How powerful is magic on my world, and who can use it?
  • How are adventurers viewed?
  • What role do undead play on this world? Or faeire? Genie races? Elementals? Demons and devils? lycanthropes? dragons? giants? treants? lizard men? undersea races?
  • Does the world have an Underdark, how extensive is it, what lives there, and what do the surface races know and do of it?
  • Are their undiscovered lands on this world, and why are they unknown?
  • Has this world had contact with other worlds and planes? If so, how much or how little, and what efffects has this had?

You get the idea. Just try to have things make sense. You might want to look up the CIA factbook on a paticular real world country, and do a fantasy equivalent for it for the nation you will be using the most.