WW: 3 Common Mistakes When Worldbuilding

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Worldbuilding isn’t easy. You may have a great macro idea when it comes to your world, but once it’s time to start narrowing down on the micro ideas, your plans may start to fall apart. To avoid using clich├ęs, stereotypes, or other pitfalls, here are three common mistakes worldbuilders make when designing their worlds.

1. Lack of Diversity

The problem with a lot of macro-planning is that it glosses over tiny details for large regions. While it’s a good idea to begin with macro-planning, you want to make sure that you also go back in to enrich each part of your world with diverse cultures, regions, and history.

When I’m designing a world, I typically start with a wide idea. This idea typically encompasses the kind of environments within the world and the main religions that those who exist in the world follow. This is then followed by a region-by-region building session where I try to think about how the people there would live in the environment that I made them.

This formula ensures that each region is diverse to the other while still sharing some similarities that ensures their existence makes sense in that world.

2. Not Considering the Environment

Speaking of environments, if you’re designing a whole world–be it a country, region, or an actual entire world–then you need to consider different climates. This break up of climates can give your players or readers a fresh experience. One problem that I see in a lot of campaigns is that emphasis is placed on combat or just going from town to town. The encounters that the players have rarely involve the environment, itself. At most, you may have a pit of lava that you need to hop over or a blizzard that is impeding your aim.

By creating a rich and varied climate, you can give your players something new to contend with. Why not have them enter a region where it constantly snows? The story could end up becoming a gripping tale of their survival in such a harsh environment.

3. Build The Entire World at Once

One mistake that I am often guilty of making is attempting to build the entire world at once. This is problematic for a few reasons. The first is that it will inevitably lead to burnout. As excited as you might be about your world, if you give it your all in just a few short sessions, then you’re going to be tired of it. You may not be as excited about leading your players through the various regions or spending as much time developing the story for your readers.

The second problem is that your world won’t grow organically. If you put down every single detail about a region from the start, then it’s stuck in a finite state. It also means that every region is the same. By planning your world one region at a time, and staying loose with some of the details, you can grow the region organically around the choices that your characters make in the story or in the campaign.

Finally, it takes a long time. If you want to build everything from the history to the present-day politics and leaders, then that’s a lot of time you need to invest. You may not have that time. By the time you’re finished, your players may be more interested in something else. Starting with a few macro ideas for the world as a whole, then narrowing down a few macro ideas for a region, while still leaving plenty of micro ideas to be determined by the players, you can create an area that’s ready to host your players.

Make Worldbuilding Easier

It’s easy to fall into these mistakes when worldbuilding. To ensure you avoid burnout, make the most of your time, and create a diverse world, you should avoid these three common mistakes. What are some common mistakes you’ve run into? Let us know in the comments!

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