How to Organize Worldbuilding: What’s the goal?

World Anvil is the ultimate tool to organize worldbuilding and speed up the process! But to make the most of it, we’re going through ways you can tidy up your world, and get ready to enjoy stress-free creativity! We’ll be talking about organizing your world, prepping images and CSS, and even creating article designs to help guide your readers through your work!

How to organize worldbuilding from the beginning?

If your world is a soup of uncategorized articles and mixed naming systems, start by organizing your table of contents, your categories and your tags! There are two reasons why this will help you be more creatively productive.

  1. You can keep new worldbuilding organized better if the system is already set up!
  2. It’s going to be easier to browse your own stuff

So, number one is pretty obvious. It’s easier to put your things in the right place when everything’s tidy. Some people like to create a staging area, with categories for their articles. We made a whole post about how you can organize worldbuilding, depending on whether you’re an author or a DM! And make sure you check out our Codex Guides to categories, and tags.

Number two, though, is a crucial one. If you’re wondering how to answer a prompt, browsing through your previous work can trigger myriad ideas! And this is a lot easier to do if it’s organized, and you can find things quickly! Tags are a great tool for that, by the way. And make sure you’re using the Artemis quick search to browse more quickly!

Prepare images you KNOW you’ll need

This interactive map block is a great way to embed maps into your worldbuilding articles on World Anvil!

If you’ve already done your planning, you’ll know which project you’re working on. You’ll already have your active worldbuilding area planned. This means you can already start prepping things!

As always, check the copyright of an image before you use it. Artists can sue you for damages if you publish their work publicly without their permission. I’ve linked in a tonne of resources for images you can use below! Oh, and here’s the codex guide for images on World Anvil, in case you need it!

Make a Map (or two, or three!)

Maps are a WONDERFUL way to get inspiration! Whatever the size of your active worldbuilding area, having a map can help you visual it. And it can be a great source of ideas! It’s amazing how tiny details can spark great articles, and interesting ideas. If you already have a region map, why not try a city map?

Again, they can spawn incredible ideas, and are a great source of worldbuilding you can pull directly into a novel or DnD campaign to create flavour. They also spruce up an article no end, like the embeddable interactive map block to the right.

As far as making maps is concerned, you have a lot of options! You can hand draw one, and photograph it to upload it to World Anvil. If you’d rather place assets, check out our best map making software post. And if you want something quick, check out our post on random map generators or premade maps you can use for your world. If you want to swat up on interactive maps, check the codex guide here.

Landscape images

In the same vein as maps, having an image or three of the landscape of your active worldbuilding area can be really inspiring! These can be dropped into various articles where you want a bit of visual oomph. Here are some great free landscape images you can use.

Character images

Worldbuilding is about PEOPLE as much as it’s about places and things. So make sure you have a few quick-release character portraits knocking about. Even if you’re not creating an RPG character article, people are important. They invent items, found settlements, start military conflicts, tame species and cure conditions! Here’s a collection of largely free character images you can use.

Placeholder examples

For the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of our worldbuilders using generic placeholder images in their World Anvil articles. This is a REALLY good idea for when you want a picture, but don’t have time to find one that moment! I suggest you go to your meta, and reread your themes, genres and inspirations. Then go find images which match these well! This will make sure your placeholders are as evocative and relevant as possible, wherever you put them. The image below shows a really good example of one which is thematic and witty!

Dream Reality by Heffe, a great example of a witty, thematic placeholder image

Dream Reality by Heffe, showing a great example of a witty, thematic placeholder image which can be inserted anywhere in the world!

Set up your article design to guide your readers

Do you have a standard layout for your articles? Now is a great time to think about setting one up! Having a standard layout, with recognisable, repeating elements, it great for returning readers. It helps them quickly navigate your articles, and can lead to readers sticking around for longer.

Pssst! If you need a layout refresher, check out our Codex Guide to BB Code. It’s got everything you’ll need to arrange and design your articles to perfection!

Breaking up the page to organize worldbuilding ideas clearly

Nothing scares a reader more than a wall of text (unless it’s a prose article – then it’s ok)! Do you break up your pages with summaries, quotes, images or headers? These elements are great ways to help your reader contextualise what you’ve written, and absorb your writing.

Colour-coding information (and other design elements)!

Using color-coded textboxes is great for giving visual context to information. Textbooks have been using these for donkey’s years to help students absorb things quicker. On World Anvil, we have containers to make this easy, and you can also use fonts, the sidebar and other design elements for the same purpose. Some types of info you might want as repeating, colour-coded blocks are:

  • Species-specific opinions of events, item, technology, conflict or even other species
  • Extra player information, available to certain classes or backgrounds
  • DM asides, alouds and extra information
  • Rumours or adventure hooks
  • Which of your books this item/settlement/thing appears in
  • Meta information, or how this thing compares to something on our earth
  • Calls to action, such as asking people to comment about a certain thing in the article
  • Related articles which readers might also enjoy

You can find more about how to use fonts and containers BBCode here.

This screen shot of an Ethnis technology article shows beautifully organized worldbuilding and use of containers

This Ethnis Technology article shows beautifully organized worldbuilding and great use of containers (on the right) to share additional information

Customised worldbuilding templates to further organize worldbuilding

If you want to make your life even easier, and you have templates you use a lot, you can even customize a template! For example, if each species in your world has a DM’s aloud, add the “aloud” container to a customised species template. This is convenient, but also reminds you to add it to each article. Custom article templates are available to Grandmasters as part of the Creative Studio.

Want a fancy CSS theme? Prep it now!

This Elven Forest theme is one of my favourites on World Anvil!

Most of you know by now that we have a tonne of visual themes available for our Guild-level worldbuilders. My current favourites are elven forest, eldritch horror and steampunk! But if you want to create a custom theme for your world, you have a lot of freedom to do that with CSS.

Creating a custom theme takes time, though. So if you have your heart set on one for Summer Camp, get it done now! It’ll take time, and you don’t want to be mid-development when Summer Camp starts! Also, this is something to consider before you start planning out your final article designs. The choices you make for fonts and colours will impact how you design your articles. Here’s our guide on CSS themes for those who want to give it a go!

Organize Worldbuilding: Homework

For this assignment you’re going to – you guessed it – organize worldbuilding

  1. Create a new item in your to-do list called “Organizing my Worldbuilding“.
  2. Pics or it didn’t happen! Organize your world into clear categories and add screenshots to your pledge document.
  3. Image inspiration pool: embed your images into your pledge document. You can use an image gallery carousel to save space, if you like.
  4. Laying it out: Create a generic article with your own standard layout elements, containers and placeholder images as a reference for yourself. This can be as simple as just a quote at the top and something in the sidebar, or as complex as you like! Use lorem ipsum style filler text. Link the article into your pledge document as an article block.
    4a. If you’re a grandmaster, create a few custom templates for aspects you use a lot in your world and want to unify!
  5. Turn in your homework by sharing in the comments of this blog!

Want more posts like this? Subscribe to the World Anvil blog!