This month’s interview is with Garrett Lewis, one of our newer Grandmasters. Before that they really pushed the boundaries of what could be done as a Journeyman. They and I joined WA about the same time and we’ve enjoyed encouraging each other to explore possibilities with our designs. So this interview was particularly fun and allowed me get to know them a little better.
What we’ll cover:
Tell us a bit about you and your WA worlds. What made you start your worlds?
My beginning on WA was the end of a three-year-long writer’s block— I’d only made a handful of attempts at writing in that space of time. I just didn’t have it in me, every story I tried to start barely made it past a second page before I became disgusted with them and promptly buried them in the cemetery that is my Google Drive draft folder. My life was being twisted and pulled in various directions at the time, which I assume was largely why I found myself blocked. How I stumbled into WA itself was a weird ride, itself. I had been playing my first D&D campaign for months at the point, and our DM was getting increasingly late with each session— outright not showing up at random.
A friend I met from this campaign and I were getting increasingly frustrated by this, I had the thought of DMing, myself, but I was still somewhat new to the game, and only wrote stories — none for about two years — not DM’d them. On an unrelated, now deleted, Discord server I came across someone asking if anyone wanted to play a free-form game — less rules heavy and reliant on narrative more than numbers and stats. As my D&D sessions were increasingly cancelled or postponed I wanted to find a new outlet for that sort of free-form game, and I promptly messaged them.
I misread this as them being the narrator and me being the player, in truth they had wanted things the other way around. Placed in an awkward situation, and having had some desire to learn to DM, myself, I decided to agree anyway. Now, one of many OCD tics I have is that, given the option, I must customize everything. So, when given the option to use my own world for this game, I couldn’t say no. They had a strong preference for dark fantasy, so I dug up the only one of those unfinished short stories that fit the bill— and began writing out documents in Drive to build the world.
They were quite patient, and insisted that I write as much of this background as I could. It was slow at first, as writing had been— but soon the words started to flow again. These documents stacked up, and got a bit difficult to categorize across folders. One may reference another which was in a different folder, buried beneath other documents. I was doing a fair bit of research on worldbuilding, reading various articles and watching various videos. It was on one of these videos that I saw an ad for World Anvil, and almost immediately signed up— it was exactly what I needed! I translated my documents to the formatted articles, and kept going. I was getting more and more excited about things and more and more in-depth as the various boxes in WA’s templates asked for details I hadn’t ever considered before. I had a few sessions with that hybrid game— which were incredibly fun until the player dropped off the face of the earth. But I wasn’t done, a fire had been lit inside me, and I’ve been going on long since then!
How long have you been world building? How long have you been on WA?
I’ve been worldbuilding since I was little, really! Not at the same scope or scale as now, but definitely in a few respects. I used to make up worlds to play in with my brother and sister, with their own rules and such. Basic worlds, but even a basic world needs some worldbuilding.
I’ve been on WA since Late April/early May 2019, not terribly long, but I intend to stick around for quite a while!
What do you consider to be the most outstanding aspect of your world(s)?
I try and step away from tropes. First and foremost, I think I’m proud of the fantastical races I’ve written. I have some distaste for the “let’s-just-make-an-animal-humanoid” method of race creation, and the Tolkien races have permeated the genre of fantasy so completely that they leak somewhat often into science fiction as well! I’ve seen both a hundred times before, I want to see something new, something different— and I try to make those. You can probably chart me gaining my race-creating-legs through my first few on Qet.
They started out as just human with the Hontualieu and Lliaqeu as I was unsure of myself (both now have a small detail that gives them a bit of flavor), then the Coulqepleux got a bit weirder with blue skin and gold eyes (I intend to rework them a little), then the true trial came with the Beuttep. The Beuttep got me to research biology of subterranean creatures, and piece together something from their traits. By the time I got to the Kyteux I had found my stride! (See Qet’s Ethnicities here.)
You did most of your world design before you were a Grandmaster and really pushed the envelope with what you could do as a Journeyman. What was your biggest challenge design wise on Qet and Umqwam?
I’ve spent the past two years recovering from an injury, and am now living with chronic pain in both of my hands. I can draw, but at the time I was starting out I had yet to find the medication I have now and was unable to do so. I’d been doing plenty of pixel art in illustration’s stead— but I felt that wouldn’t cut it. I don’t even remember how, but I stumbled upon Photoshop’s vector tools. Simple shapes and symbols would fit Qet well, and these tools brought significantly less pain than drawing— so I spent a while with them and learned how to use them.Vectors are so very different from illustration like I was used to, it took some time for my brain to adapt to them. I tried to make some ambitious things with it that took significantly longer than they would if I could draw them as I was learning the ropes— namely Qet’s cover image. Not to mention attempting to mimic the style of ancient Mesoamerican paintings and stellae— my brain wanted to make things more detailed than they needed to be! I had to find a way to create organs, and make them simple, but also recognizable. Also notable— the infuriating difficulty finding images of ancient Mesoamerican art for reference. Just try it, you’ll find that most of it is contemporary— no matter the search engine you choose.
This is a long winded way to say— the biggest challenge for me was working around my injury and stylizing things in a new medium.
Do you consider yourself a gamer, a writer, an artist, simply a world builder, a mix, or something else entirely?
I’m me! I love to create things, whether it’s through prose, illustration, animation, pixels, video editing, CSS, vector, or— of course— worldbuilding! I do play both tabletop and video games as well, but I dislike the “gamer” label. I’d say that I discovered a new passion in worldbuilding when I first started using WA last year, it combines several of my extant outlets and presents new, unique challenges as well!
What got you involved in world building and what are your specialties or favorite world building topics?
What got me fully into worldbuilding was D&D, ultimately. Even if things ended abruptly I found a new passion in its wake!
I find that I quite enjoy writing about nations and ethnicities, I don’t particularly know why, but I really do. I get to make interesting people, history, architecture, customs, and come up with unique governments for them! Most of my best articles are under those categories, I think.
My bread and butter topic, ever since I started writing prose, has been horror. Specifically body horror. I just love me some existential dread and being horribly trapped in a body with ears for eyes. That was supposed to be a throwaway joke but I actually want to write something about that now!
I don’t write this as much, but I also really enjoy Machiavellian drama as well— this is something I would love to get better at writing and incorporate into my worlds, I just need to find a way to do so!
Why did you start customizing your world?
The aforementioned OCD tic came into play once I upgraded to Journeyman— which I did initially for the infinite draft limit— but once I saw what I could do with CSS? I had to learn it. Now, as this allowed for custom backgrounds— I had to make those, too. Then covers. Then portraits. And, and, and…
How important is the look of your world(s) to your readers?
Honestly I don’t know, I’ve received compliments about them a few times— and I do hope they create the flavor and atmosphere I want them to, are legible, flow well, and most importantly don’t burn their retinas. I put a lot of thought and work into my themes, from color to spacing, to get to where I want them— it’d be a shame if they weren’t important!
Are you a programmer by trade or education? Did you know CSS before coming to World Anvil?
The only sort of programming I’d done close to when I started on WA was making custom Rainmeter skins, before that was a robotics class I took in middle school. Working on CSS has reminded me just how fun it was! I’m now taking an online web development course and planning to take computer science classes this next semester.
Do you have a tip or snippet of commented CSS or BBcode to share for the readers?
Start with color! Your palette will define everything from the mood to the importance of elements on your page. Block your palette out before you code it in. Go into Photoshop, or even MSPaint if you need to— and make a mockup of the basic WA layout. (I do this as a tiny 35x20px mockup, myself— this keeps things simple.) Change the colors of the background, page, sidebar, cover, and headers until you find
something that works. It’s important that the background and the page are quickly and easily distinguishable from one another— you can do this in a number of ways. The easiest— and what I usually prefer to do— is using different palettes between the background and everything else. Similar colors are absolutely fine— just make them noticeably different so that they don’t melt into one another. Even just changing the levels, saturation, or brightness on the background can be enough! You can also make the colors at the edges of the page darker or lighter to indicate a separation, maybe even use a shadow or border.
Make sure the headers pop out, but not to the point where the reader’s eyes are magnetically attached and unable to pull away. Same goes for the background, sidebar, etc.— it’s a balancing act! I usually go into things with colors already in mind, but if you need a kickstart on your palette I’d suggest using something like Adobe’s free online palette creator.
As for a CSS specific tip— how to change the icons next to your ToC categories and articles, and make them change when categories are opened. (This helps make it much clearer when a category is opened.) As I stumbled into this as a Journeyman, you need only that— this won’t actually be using Font Awesome icons. First, we need to remove the default FA icons, as they’re riiiiiiight where we want to place ours (and you couldn’t change them even if you wanted as a Journeyman). I’d suggest using images around 30x30px max.
Next, we just pop in our own images.
Now— there is a limitation with how the icon is able to change. We cannot remove the first icon! So, the “opened” icon must fit over or alongside the first. Either a simple palette swap, a changed element, or something like a flipped icon creating a new shape (like I used for Umqwam’s ToC) will have to do.
And there you have it! Custom icons that better fit your theme, and make it more clear when a category is open!
How should people reach you with questions?
Discord is the best way to reach me: @Timepool#6961
If you want tips I’m usually open! I also take commissions for various artworks and CSS.
Our upcoming tips and resources for the look of your World Anvil site will be a quick intro to using images as sections.
Make Your World Look Awesome!
Thank you so much for sharing, Garrett!
Readers, please let us know how you use these ideas and tell them that you appreciated the interview and tips.
Until next time, my fellow smiths. Go light up the forge!