Worldbuilding games for people in your world to play is a great way to make your worlds feel real! And to give your characters something to do! From Witcher’s Gwent, to Robin Hobb’s Stones and Rothfuss’s Tak, worldbuilding games into your setting can capture a reader’s or player’s imagination too! This Sage Spotlight is dedicated to Smunchy Games and their world Adia! In honor of their first Kickstarter, and their in-world game “Fray“, they’ve released this advice about worldbuilding games for your own worlds!

Worldbuilding your cultures, currencies, and countries are all rather important. One aspect I often see overlooked, however, are ways for people to pass the time. Sure, it’s easy to put people in a tavern or have them read a book, but variety is the spice of life and people get bored of things over time. How else can we have our characters and players enjoy their off-time? I’m going to try to answer that question by explaining how we created a card game for the world of Adia, and how you can start worldbuilding games for your own worlds too! 

worldbuilding games Fray Smunchy Games

When worldbuilding games like Fray from Smunchy Games, a pithy name and good design goes a long way!

Worldbuilding Games for Your Own World

If you’re like us, and enjoy not just talking about the thing you’re making, but also creating it, then a game of cards is a great way to approach it. Your world might have a standard deck of cards, like ours, but surely with such different histories, you’ll wind up with a different set of cards!

Perhaps the card game was created in a time of economic strife as a way to relax and momentarily forget the stress of making ends meet? The deck would have fewer cards, then, because the more cards in it would make it harder to make/purchase. Let’s assume a deck of 18. That’s not many cards to work with, but there are a lot of fun microgames in stores today, so we could surely find a way to use them. Perhaps these cards are numbered and you have to make pairs, and you’ve soon got a bluffing game wherein you’re trying to acquire and keep the pairs in hand—but your opponent can choose to draw from the pile or your hand. Soon a careful balance of trying to trick them into taking a card from your hand (or the deck) arises!

If you’ve got a prosperous world you might have a larger deck of cards. If we’re talking about a science fiction world, you might be able to store and play with the cards as holograms or digitally on a personal device—whatever your world’s equivalent of the smartphone is. There might be seven suits, one for each wonder of your world, and you’re tasked with collecting one of each. Each time you gain one though, you can’t play another until your teammate does. Choosing when to reveal your wonder card becomes a big point of the game’s strategy.

You don’t need complex rules to create a fun game. For example, poker is a game of chance about creating sets of cards. Blackjack is about getting as close to 21 as possible. In darts all you need to do is toss a dart at a board. Creating a game for your setting is just a matter of figuring out what prompted people to create it, and what they had access to at the time. Also, ask how it has changed since the game was first created. People will likely iterate on it. We have this in the world of Adia, in fact! The game of Fray was the original version, but different groups have added their own flair to it and created their own house rules. Some involve new ways to play, others added new ways to win the game!

Worldbuilding games - Three cards from Fray, a game from the World of Adia by Smunchy Games

Worldbuilding games – Three cards from Fray, a game from the World of Adia by Smunchy Games

Designing the card game Fray – worldbuilding games within worlds

In Adia, soldiers invented a card game to pass the time and ease their nerves. A game of this sort would have to be small and compact, but entertaining enough to play multiple times without getting too bored—and be easy to pick up in a moment’s notice. Thus, Fray was born.

If you’re not familiar with Fray (read more about it here), it is a small card game by Smunchy Games which has ties to the larger world of Adia and the RPGs set within it. The game can be played in-character as part of a campaign, or as a standalone card game. One of its most important features, which adds the complexity and strategy for this to be possible: the 3×3 grid players contest over.

When designing Fray, we didn’t want to create something people were used to seeing in fantasy card games. Introducing an element like the 3×3 grid forced players not only to decide which cards to play, but also where to play them. This small addition added levels of depth to the game, and helped set it apart. This also helped build the fantasy of Fray, and made it an easily transportable card game with enough depth to play many rounds of.

If you’re interested in the world of Adia, you can learn about it more here on World Anvil. Also, check out Fray, which is on Kickstarter right now. You can check it out, and even get yourself a deck of cards!

This article was written by Adam Bassett – the game designer of Fray. With just 14 days to go, make sure you check out this amazing game at Kickstarter! Want more Sage Spotlights? Check out Dragons and Things, the premiere Pathfinder live stream! Or go start worldbuilding your own in-setting game on World Anvil! The tradition template is a good place to do that!

Do you have a game in your own world setting? Share it in the comments below!