Should You Worldbuild Before Creating Props in Tabletop Gaming?
I have a problem where I like to take on more than I actually do. I have an original world created and full of life. I have the first kernels of some encounters for my players to take part in our DND campaign. The problem is that I find myself adding lore as I create terrain and buildings for them to explore. Is that a problem? Is that something you find yourself doing as well? After some reflection, here’s what I came up with.
It’s Okay to Add Lore as You Build
If you’re someone like me that builds buildings and terrain for their campaigns, then you may find yourself changing the story to match your builds. That’s okay to a point. As long as it doesn’t change the core concepts of your world, or break your history, it’s okay to change certain details about a city or town based on what you come up with as you build.
Here are a few reasons why you may end up changing your lore because of what you’ve built.
1. The Architecture Doesn’t Match the Species That Inhabit the City or Town
A common fantasy trope is that certain buildings are built in certain styles based on the prevalence of the race that resides there. For example, a dwarven city would have mostly dwarven architecture that makes up its buildings. An elvish city would have elven architecture.
You may realize that you’re building architecture that is either more realistic in nature or doesn’t mix well with the common race that lives there. You may have to invent some lore on the spot. Why does the particular building look the way it does? Perhaps there’s a unique story behind who built it and why. The building could end up being an entire encounter on its own.
2. The Materials You Use Don’t Mesh with the Technology Available
If you’re making a poor village, then the majority of your buildings shouldn’t look like stone. Poor villagers usually have homes made of wood or mud. If you realize that you made a bunch of stone huts for your villagers, you may be at a loss of how to use them.
Instead of scrapping the village you made, you can change the lore a bit. Perhaps this particular poor village is only poor on the surface. Maybe they traffic in something that might bring them some scrutiny. Perhaps the stone is special and can only be found and applied in that particular region.
There are a few tweaks you can use that can change your existing lore based on the builds that you make.
3. You Need More Pieces Than You Made
One advantage of worldbuilding before you start your terrain or building process is that you already know what pieces you need for your encounters. For example, if you build without any lore or plans set down, then you may end up without a map or area for your players to use.
If you decide to worldbuild and plan your encounters beforehand, then you know exactly what you need to make each time. This can save you time, materials, and ensure you have everything you need for each session.
The Advantage of Building First
Because I like to play devil’s advocate, there is an advantage you can have if you choose to build all your terrain and buildings before you sit down and start to plan out the world and its encounters. That advantage is that your builds can inspire you. If you already have a vivid and creative imagination, then building a forest or a tavern without any context may allow you to build on that foundation when you do create your lore.
It may even make your buildings and terrain seem more organic. They make sense in your world. It also means you’re free to create some seriously original designs. The lore you make afterward can make it all make sense.
Which Method Do You Prefer?
Are you someone that loves to plan out everything beforehand, then build their terrain and buildings? Or do you like to take a more creative approach and build terrain and buildings first, then create lore about them when you’re finished? I’d love to hear which method you prefer to use. Let me know in the comments and if you have any cool buildings or terrain pieces, feel free to show them as well! I love seeing builds.