Elevator pitches—a concise description of an entire world in about 30 seconds. That’s the time it takes to get from the ground floor to the… say the fifth—ding! But elevator pitches for world settings need special care. After all, a world setting is a BIG thing to convey in such a small time frame! So, from the opening sentence to the aspirational moment, I’ll take you through putting together the most kick-ass elevator pitch for your RPG campaign setting, novel series world, or your World Anvil page!
What is an elevator pitch for a world setting (and why do I need one?)
Your world is awesome! I know it. But whether for your D&D players, your RPG Kickstarter, or potential readers and publishers for your novel series, an elevator pitch for your world setting is absolutely crucial for sharing your world with others. It’s the taster, the thing that helps people understand if this world setting is a good fit for them, and if they want to explore it further. It also sets up expectations for when they get there!
But elevator pitches aren’t just great for sharing your work with others. From a creative perspective, your elevator pitch can also serve as a kind of concentrated world meta—a reminder of the most critical pieces of your world setting. This can stop you from getting lost in the weeds of worldbuilding and keep you on track. Reference it often to sense check what you’re building and see if it’s on message for your world!
Since elevator pitches are so critical for your setting, they appear by default on the top of your world home page on World Anvil! Prime real estate for your amazing world!
What to include in an elevator pitch for your world setting?
To get started, you’re going to need a list of ingredients—key information about your world setting. Don’t worry, I’ll explain it all in more detail below!
- Your genre bundle and your setting’s mood and themes
- One or two of the core conflicts of the setting
- How does the audience fit in? And what kind of fun are we having?
The insightful among you, or those familiar with the Agile Worldbuilding Method, will recognize these are questions from World Anvil’s World Meta section, the DNA of your world setting! Let’s dive into those in more detail.
Your world’s genre bundle…
Sure, some worlds have just one genre, but many of the world settings we know and love the most have more than one genre. For example, Star Trek has aspects of Military Scifi, but also touches on Soft Scifi and even Space Opera. The Expanse is scifi with elements of noir. And Dungeons and Dragons takes an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to genre, including many subgenres under its high-fantasy banner. Try to work out the genre bundle that makes sense for your world. It’s the first step in communicating it to others.
…and your setting’s mood and themes
This is the more thematic side of your genre bundle, the thing that separates Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica (dark, gritty, low character agency) from the Princess Bride and Star Trek (bright, utopian, high character agency). Is your world gritty and dark, or is it brighter, pleasanter, more beautiful—and how is that expressed? Perhaps there’s a feeling of optimism, or of pessimism in your world, which might depend on your character agency—how able your main characters are to change the status quo. Again, if you’re still learning about your world, you can see the full list of questions to unpack these concepts here, in the world meta. If there are literary themes you want to explore with your setting, for example “found family”, “good conquers evil”, or “all flesh is grass”, this is a good moment to start including those. As an example, one of the main themes of the Chronicles of Narnia is Christian values and allegory, as C.S. Lewis was a devoted Christian himself. This is baked into multiple aspects of his world, from bottom to top!
Your core conflict(s)
Conflict and current affairs put your world in motion, and make it feel dynamic and alive. So what are the big things happening in your world? Is there an eternal war going on between two nations? Have denizens of an ancient empire recently started to reappear, unaware of lost time? Is a plague sweeping your world? We always recommend having between three and five key world conflicts (which should be appropriate for your setting genre and feel!) For the elevator pitch you might need one core one, and a few secondary ones to hint at.
How does the audience fit in?
This is really two questions!
- What kind of media is it?
- What kind of “fun” are we having?
For the first question, are your audience playing a game, reading a novel, or something else? If you plan to have lots of different media in your world, start with the first one you’ll be working on for your elevator pitch, and expand it as you create more media.
The second is more geared around what kind of story it is, what kind of “fun” they are having. (This is my new favorite worldbuilding question, since interviewing Lawrence Schick, Lore-master of ESO, Baldur’s Gate and more!) That is, are we playing a noir murder mystery or an expansive adventure exploration? Is it generally political intrigue, or hacking and slashing? And who are the major factions involved in this? That doesn’t mean your characters won’t be doing a variety of different things in your setting—but helping people understand what different kinds of stories you’ll be telling in your setting is helpful to set expectations.
How do I make an elevator pitch for my world?
Once you have the above questions, you need to start thinking about how to combine this in an evocative way. Your elevator pitch will become three components:
- Where are we? (Genre bundle, mood, themes)
- What’s going on? (One or two conflicts either stated or hinted at)
- Who are we? (or who are we following?)
Example from the Waystar RPG
Here’s an example written specifically with this formula, from the Waystar RPG:
We are not the first to venture amongst these stars, this galaxy of species. The ancient Golems—builders of the Waystar Gates—are long gone, driven off by some destructive force. But much of their tech remains; hidden, forgotten, and potentially world-ending in the wrong hands. Now, corporations hold sway, vast Empires rise and fall, and gangs of pirates pick at the remains, all in search of opportunity. Will you fall in with dangerous criminals, or galactic giants? Recover the megalithic tech of the ancient ones, or forge new paths through the stars?
Phew! OK! Let’s break that down more:
- We are not the first to venture amongst these stars, this galaxy of species:
OK, cool. We’re in space, and there are many alien species. I can picture that. Combine this with a spaceship visual or two, and we have a clear image of what kind of setting to expect here.
- The ancient Golems—builders of the Waystar Gates—are long gone, driven off by some destructive force. But much of their tech remains; hidden, forgotten, and potentially world-ending in the wrong hands. Now, corporations hold sway, vast Empires rise and fall, and gangs of pirates pick at the remains, all in search of opportunity.
This is the Conflict/Drama section – basically, the “what’s going on?” section, which I’ve split into two main conflicts. The first hints at ancient tech, powerful and potentially world-ending. The second sets the scene for the jostling powers, all looking for opportunity and advantage over one another. Oh, and I dropped in the term Waystar Gates because it’s the titular concept!
- Will you fall in with dangerous criminals, or galactic giants? Recover the megalithic tech of the ancient ones, or forge new paths through the stars?
This offers some kinds of games that the players can engage with—gang warfare, missions for major powers, exploration and space archaeology, or research and discovery.
Example from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Of course, you can mix things up a bit. The template is just to help get you started. Here’s a great elevator pitch for a setting you might be familiar with…
“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.”
This is the opening sequence from Avatar the Last Airbender… but it’s also an elevator pitch! To break this down more (and remember, this has visuals too, because it’s an animated series):
- Water. Earth. Fire. Air.
This, combined with the visuals and mysterious music, introduces the world mood/feel and the magic system in one swoop! It’s one of the most core concepts of the setting (and another great example of how a picture is worth a thousand words, dammit!)
- Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang,
These are the two big conflicts of the series—the fire nation attacked, and the Avatar disappeared. This is the drama of the world, which gives more flavor.
- Although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.”
This tells us that this is a coming-of-age story, and we’re going to be having some “power-up” style fun too. Can Aang save the world (and by inference, can we – or in this case, the main characters who are the audience surrogate – help him)? They’ve included stakes here too, which can be a nice thing to add additional drama to the Who Are We? section!
How do I write my elevator pitch?
Just a quick word about language, and how to write elevator pitches for worlds!
- Keep it snappy! Try to avoid long or run-on sentences that are hard to read.
- Match your language to your tone! If your setting is whimsical or poetic, use poetic turns of phrase! High octane action settings should use dynamic and engaging vocabulary. Check out the Dungeons and Dragons elevator pitch compared to the Warhammer Fantasy one!
- Embrace useful tropes. If there are buzzwords or major tropes associated with your setting (for example, space/star/galaxy/megacorporation) make sure you include these—it’s a shortcut to comprehension, and a quick way to inject flavor.
- Use powerful verbs! Those little words have a whole lot of lifting power, so search for strong alternatives to convey more meaning
What about testing my elevator pitch?
This one is easy—write it, and then share it around! Read it to your friends. Share it in forums! Then ask people to summarise what they think your setting is based on your pitch. The closer they are, the more specific and evocative the pitch is.
And most importantly, are they excited by it? While not every reader of your elevator pitch will be the ideal candidate for your world, if people are generally excited by your pitch, and it’s largely clear what your world is about, then you’ve got a great pitch!
What NOT to include in an elevator pitch for your world setting?
I’m not here to tell you what not to do… but try to avoid these common errors in elevator pitches!
- Don’t over-stuff it! Remember it shouldn’t be too long, or too dense! You’re introducing your world to someone new, after all!
- Skip the jargon! Leave out confusing technical terms from your world unless you can explain them in 2-3 words, and just keep the flavor.
- Over-explaining: You don’t need to include the whole plot line! You only need to hint at the major conflicts
- No spoilers! Don’t reveal critical secrets that will make engaging with your world less fun in the long run. Err on the side of hints and rhetorical questions to tantalize your reader.
Great examples of elevator pitches for fantasy worlds & scifi settings
Still looking for examples to inspire you? Check out these great ones!
- Araea by Qurilion
- Malkora by Strixxline
- Kohtalo by drunkenpanda951
- Divine Tyranny by Amélie I. S. Debruyne
- Sleyterra by RandoScorpio
- Ravare by Oneriwien
Ready to come up with an elevator pitch for your world? Join World Anvil to get started!
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