In my (relatively) recent post on my inspiration in creative writing, I mentioned that I “didn’t worldbuild.” And, to some degree, this is true. I never worldbuild for my stories (not anymore, anyway), or try to set them in any engineered or planned worlds. They just sort of unravel on their own, revealing facts about their worlds as they get written.
However, to clarify, I do actually worldbuild, and have been worldbuilding since I was very young. I’ve built loads of worlds over my lifetime, or at least loads of languages and cultures and races that were tacked together, and had a great deal of fun creating planets and peoples with my brother. However, I never seemed to manage to set any stories in the worlds I made, mostly because that simply doesn’t seem to be how I work. If I just make a bunch of languages and cultures and creatures, they don’t really provide me with any leads for a story.
And the trouble is, it’s the stories I really care about. Sure, creating a world with all its creatures and things can be good fun, but the novelty soon wears off, and if there’s no stories or characters involved I quickly loose interest. And, when you mostly just build languages and peoples, you don’t really get characters, let alone proper stories.
It’s because of this that I’ve steered away from personal worldbuilding more in recent years, focusing instead solely on my stories. But, as a life-long worldbuilder, I’ve missed it, and while I’ve worked on some communal projects with my brother, I’ve been having this slow desire build up in me to make a world that is my own, like I used to when I was young. And then, just awhile ago, I remembered a worldbuilding project of mine that had lasted for well over five years, and only stopped because of difficulties in a transition between computers.
This project was called Legends, and, honestly, if you’d asked me about my past worldbuilding projects, I probably wouldn’t’ve thought to count it until recently. See, it wasn’t an amalgamation of languages or cultures—it was a game. If I’d know what tabletop RPGS were when I created it, it would’ve been a tabletop RPG, but since I didn’t, I guess it doesn’t quite count. Essentially, it was a sort of sandbox roleplaying game where people could wander around this world I created and more or less do as they pleased. The combat was shallow (players basically just won every time) and the few rules the game had secondary to fun of the players, but people did enjoy it, and I absolutely loved running it. The thing that really made it interesting was that I constantly added onto it, adding new locations and elements and characters, so that the world actively developed and grew and was fleshed out. And because people were playing in it and buying dragons and exploring mazes and usurping kingdoms, it was constantly creating stories. And not only that, but because it had NPC characters that populated its towns and wizard towers and so forth, I had hooks to hang my own narratives on, and I ended up creating everything from history books to literal wars that players could watch transpire.
Admittedly, Legends was a horrible mess, as it wasn’t thought through in the slightest and wasn’t governed by any real systems or rules to keep it consistent and interesting. But it was good fun, and what it became in its final days was truly something I’m proud of. And it occurred to me—why not do it all again? Why not make something like Legends now, when I’m a high school graduate and not a nine-year-old? Sure, I’ve made attempts to create Legends-like games in the past, but instead of just focusing on developing a cool world, I always ended up getting bogged down in the format I’d used for Legends (which was literally just a chain of folders and files on my computer representing locations and entities). Why not just develop a cool world that, rather than being linguistic or literary, is just a really cool playground and backdrop for people to roleplay in? Considering Legends lasted over five years without me ever even being tempted to abandon it (something I can’t even dream of saying about a story), the format of a world for a tabletop RPG obviously works very well for me.
So that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m developing the backstory, mythology, religion, politics, and structure of an entire city, all the while with the intention that people will be experiencing it from the level of actual characters on its streets. And somehow this angle is working beautifully for me, just like it did with Legends years ago. In fact, it’s working so wonderfully I want to share its development with you all. I’ve created a Collection over on Google Plus (yes, I’m one of those people), and I’m going to be sharing all the material for this world of mine in posts on there, including any changes or overhauls I may make to it. So far it’s already been great fun, and I highly encourage you to go check it out. I’m not going for top quality with my writings about this world, but it’s still not half bad.
So, if you like, go hop over to the collection—it might interest you, or at least give you a laugh.