The GOLD PROMPTS are now available! Let’s unpack wave 2 of our worldbuilding Summer Camp, and share some ideas and head for success! (Here’s our Copper wave and Silver wave unpacking posts if you missed it).
The Gold theme: Discovery
Wave 3 of the Summer Camp prompts is about Discovery—research, investigation, exploration, and more! Worlds thrive on change, it makes the entire setting and its story (whether it is a campaign, a novel, or something else) much more interesting. Research, investigation, and exploration are often catalysts for change, which means that now’s the time to think about what can the people in your world discover! Think about what’s been already discovered too—ancient ruins and wondrous powers are great ways to add to the illusion of depth you want to achieve in your work.
You can very easily link this to the previous two themes if you want to! For example, maybe the expanse in the Copper wave is a place full of new things waiting to be discovered. Or you could do it the other way around—what if the expanse had a civilization that was about to discover what’s outside of that expanse? And of course, all great discoveries are led by someone, which is a great way to link it to the Silver prompts!
Summer Camp 2022: Gold Prompts
Remember, you can fill in all the Worldbuilding Summer Camp 2022 prompts from our Summer Camp 2022 Page!
Somewhere in your world setting describe…
1. a settlement that was lost or discovered
El Dorado, Shangri-La (Lost Horizon), Atlantis
The remnants of old lost civilizations are at the core of many legends, and for good reason! These civilizations are usually idealized or powerful, so it’s fascinating to think about their stories. For example, Atlantis was said to be a great military power that disappeared suddenly under the ocean. Shangri-La is said to be a beautiful and calm valley in the Tibetan mountains, often considered a utopia. For your world, decide if you want the settlement to be real or a myth, and why (or how) it was lost or discovered. Make sure to connect it with other parts of the world too!
2. an astonishing natural wonder
Wawona Tree, Rimfall (Discworld), the wormhole (Deep Space Nine)
Lost cities are great and all, but sometimes we just want to admire the wonders of nature. Using a natural wonder can be a great way to reinforce the themes of your story. For example, a wormhole in Deep Space Nine reinforces the theme of exploring the unknown. In Discworld, the Rimfall is a waterfall at the edge of the world (which is a flat disk) and reinforces an important part of the setting. So when creating a natural wonder for your world, think about which themes it’s related to. And you can also link it to the previous prompt: maybe the natural wonder is located in the middle of that settlement, or it contains a portal to get there.
3. a recently discovered, or rediscovered, species
Dinosaurs, dragons (Eragon), death slugs (The Expanse)
Discovering a new species, especially if they are very different from what you’re used to, can be a world-shaking event… especially if the species is still around! To make them have an even bigger impact, tie them in with the setting’s themes, as well as the central conflict. For example, Ergaon’s story revolves around dragons, which are a species that has been (almost) lost for decades. For a more interconnected world, consider making this species the native inhabitants of the settlement you wrote about in prompt 1!
4. a lost or discovered artifact of significance or power
Templar treasure, the One Ring (The Lord of the Rings), Tesseract (Marvel Universe)
It’s MacGuffin time! That is to say, time to think about an object that is very important for the plot or conflict(s) of your world. Now, the item could be objectively powerful by itself, but its power could also depend on the characters. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring is a very powerful item, but it only is dangerous if there is someone around to use (or hoard) it. This is a very useful device, as it introduces risks and dangers but it doesn’t remove agency from the characters, something that’s especially important in RPGs.
5. a technology lost, forgotten or shrouded in mystery
Numenera (Numenera), star gates (Stargate), Soulcasters (The Stormlight Archive)
Lost technology is a great way to introduce mystery into your setting. We’re used to technology always progressing forward, so finding old technology that’s more advanced than the current technological level makes for a very engaging plot hook. In Numenera, everybody lives in a medieval-style society, but because advanced civilizations have collapsed at least eight times before, there are a ton of technological remnants from ages past (which are called Numenera). In The Stormlight Archive, there are ancient devices like Soulcasters and Shardblades that are many times more advanced than current technology, and discovering where they come from is a very important part of the plot.
6. a lost or discovered monument
The Colossus of Rhodes, the Argonath (The Lord of the Rings), most star gates (Stargate)
Lost monuments are similar to lost cities: they both are remnants of an ancient civilization. But there’s a difference! Monuments are also symbols of something that whoever built them considered important. The Argonath in The Lord of the Rings were built by Gondor a long time ago, and they mark the northern border the kingdom had when they were built. However, at the end of the Third Age, the kingdom had shrunk down, so the statues no longer were part of the actual border. This is an amazing way to mix the decline of a powerful kingdom with a feeling of nostalgia and wonder.
7. an Explorer, Researcher or other character motivated by discovery
Marie Curie, Indiana Jones, Star Trek captains
Big discoveries are often led by a single person, even if they have a loyal team that supports them. From a narrative point of view, focusing the discovery on a character makes it immediately more important in the reader’s (or player’s) mind—we see the discovery through their eyes and understand their struggles! Plus, characters with a strong drive to discover new things are very easy to like, so it’s a very strong motivation if you’re looking to create a likable character. So, to create a character like this, find what’s the root of their motivation, i.e. why are they researching/exploring and why do they want to discover this thing they’re after?
8. a travel log or other document associated with discovery
Darwin’s diary, a wizard’s spell research book, blueprints for a spaceship prototype
Any good explorer or scientist will have a document where they log their progress. This might seem a very small and unimportant detail, but it actually gives a lot of realism and depth to your world—especially if you write it as it is written in the setting! Now, you don’t need to write out the full thing, but even coming up with just a couple of paragraphs written by an explorer will make this discovery more impactful.
What’s your favorite prompt? Share your tips in the comments!
Don’t miss the next reveal LIVE!
Excited to get the next wave of prompts? We are too! Remember that you don’t need to complete all of these 8 prompts to get the gold badge (you can write any 24 prompts), so even if you couldn’t finish them, tune in to the reveal stream! We’ll be going live on Saturday 23rd of July at 7pm UK/11am Pacific to reveal the Diamond prompts. Be one of the first to know the new prompts, get inspired with a blog post just like this one, and hang out with the community!
Are you part of the Homework Club?
Looking for time to get it all done? Come join the Homework Club! The Homework Club livestreams happen every Sunday in July on our Twitch channel at 7pm UK/11am Pacific. They’re a great chance to get help, ask questions about the event, and get inspired by others… AS WELL as get those precious words down during live writing springs.
And if you want to show off your participation to Summer Camp, we have some graphics you can use in your World Anvil world or in social media:
Big shout out to our amazing sponsors, GACUCon, Norse Foundry, and Kobold Press! They make it possible to offer so many prizes to celebrate your awesome creativity! Check them out and give them some love!