I’m TJ (creator of Melior) and today I’ll be sharing my tried and tested techniques on how to start a new world so that you can dive in and have fun!
If you’ve never built your own world before, or you’ve just got the itch to start a new worldbuilding project – this post is for you! It can be a bit mind-boggling when it comes to knowing how to start a new world, so I’ll go through lots of different areas that you can explore (in whichever order you like).
There’s a lot to unpack,
so grab a brew (and a biscuit or two) and lets get the ideas flowing!
1. Explore ideas for themes/genres (fantasy, scifi etc);
2. Consider the time period of your setting (stone age, victorian etc)
3. Think of the technology! (space travel, printing press etc)
4. How is the alignment portrayed? (grim dark, noble bright etc)
5. What about the locations & climate? (tropical, temperate etc),
A Quick Note on Names
Naming your world can be a great place to start and will give you a simple point for you to expand from, but if you get stuck you can actually come back to this at a later stage. It’s ok to use a placeholder name!
1. Themes & Genres
If you’ve already watched our YouTube video on Worldbuilding Tips for starting a new world, you will already be familiar with considering what underlying themes your world might have. Once you get an idea for this you will naturally start to get ideas for the content of your world! Fantasy worlds might include magic, fantastical beasts and mystical creatures, or perhaps your setting is more sci-fi and futuristic?
If you’re stuck for ideas on themes, you can look to your favourite TV shows, films and games for inspiration, for example Bethesda’s Fallout series has a fantastic apocalyptic atompunk theme that really ties its worldbuilding together in a consitent and memorable style.
Key questions to think about when choosing a theme/genre:
- Does this genre rule out a concept that I want to use?
- How much do I know about this genre?
- Do I enjoy this genre? (If you don’t enjoy reading about it, chances are you won’t enjoy writing about it!)
- How can I make this theme unique to me?
2. Time Period
Human history is divided into a number of different periods, which help historians to classify and better study the past. A key area to consider when starting a new world is what time period it might be set in.
This is really important to establish as it will denote what level of technology people in your world may have access to as well as any real world cultural influences, architecture and history that you could draw inspiration from.
Key questions to think about when choosing a time peroid:
- What level of technology is available
- What methods of warfare exist?
- What methods of transport are there?
- How do people get their food?
- What conditions to people live in?
- How are societies generally governed?
3. Technology (& Magic!)
Perhaps you’ve already got an inkling of an idea for your world! That’s fantastic! Using this as a starting point (even if it’s a small one) you could consider the levels of technology- magic included- that will be available in your world. Do you want your world to have guns? No guns? Faster than light travel? Magic? Or maybe it could even be a prehistoric setting!
Knowing the level of technology will allow you to slot into place how the people of your setting will function within the world in which they live.
Key questions to think about when choosing a technology level:
- How will people travel long distances in your world?
- What level of medicine and healthcare is available?
- What methods of fuel or power are available?
- Is your world on the brink of discovering a new technology?
- How is the discovery of a new technology impacting society in your world?
How will you convey the general mood of your world? Is it a joyous and wonderful setting full of epic adventures in which heroes save the day? Or is it a bitter world full of strife and daily struggles, but a glimmer of hope keeps people going? How you present your world will have a big impact on what world building content you create for it and it will even influence how your characters interact with the world.
Here are some setting alignments to consider, but remember that your world doesn’t have to fit into a single category forever! It could change from the perspective of a main character, or a cataclysmic event may change how the world is perceived.
Noble Bright – the world has a positive outlook and stories focus on good news, progress and development. Heroes and protagonists have fun and there are always people around to help save the day.
True Neutral – similar to real life (depending on your perspective and where you are) – there is a good balance of lawful and chaotic events.
Grim Dark – the world is a dreadful and dangerous place. There is seemingly little hope amongst all of the fear, oppression and poor quality of life.
These are just the three most common. Together, though, they create a basic scale of alignment that’s useful in helping you form the foundation of your world and its narrative.
This scale encompasses a number of additional areas, too- including Noble Dark (the world is dangerous, but there is a great cause that people believe in and communities are close knit to overcome the threats of the world). Grim Bright (the world is a truly dreadful place, but there is a glimmer of hope as a scarce number of individauls seek to make the world a better place), and others… And, of course, there’s Hopepunk.
Key questions to think about when choosing a setting alignment:
- How do you want people to perceive your world?
- Is there a reason or something that caused your setting to feel this way?
- Will the tone of the storytelling change at some point in time?
5. Location & Climate
An excellent place to start building a new world is to consider the lay of the land. This could be in a large scale world map – or a more localised setting like a city, town or even just a street! Knowing the geographical features of your world can help you understand what the climates are like and what resources would be available. Big mountains in the way? How will people travel to nearby places?
Creating a simple map can be a fantastic visualisation tool and will help you organise different locations within your world. Need some free compasses to use on World Anvil? Check out these free ones designed by Caeora!
Key questions to think about when choosing a location or climate:
- How would different climates affect the people who live in your world?
- How do people survive against natural disasters?
- Based on their local climate, how do people dress? Are their homes different?
And that’s it!
Made it to the end? Whew! Well in summary, there are SO MANY rabbit holes to disappear down into when starting a new world. Don’t feel the need to cover absolutely everything in order to begin! Just start with one part and see where it takes you!