World Building Basics

WORLD BUILDING WORKSHEET

PHYSICAL WORLD

GEOGRAPHY

Climate Zone Where on your planet is this land located? This will affect temperature & weather. Learn about climates here.
Geographic Features Mountains, deserts, lakes, rivers, etc.
Agriculture What food is produced in the land? What do people grow? How do they grow it?
Water Supply Where does the fresh water supply come from? Is it in abundance?
Unusual Elements – How do they work? Lets say you have moving islands in your lakes, how do they move? Are they really the shells of giant freshwater snails? Are they giant mollusks following a migratory pattern? Is there a unique kind of magnetism in effect that moves them from one place to another?

WEATHER
Storms Do people fear being caught without shelter when traveling?
Floods
Wind
Heat
Drought
Hurricanes
Tornados
Seismic Activity (Earthquakes)
Volcanic Activity
Unusual Elements Example: A toxic water source that when evaporated causes toxic rain. Example: The eastern wind always blows blue due to powdered mineral deposits in the mountain regions. Volcanos that spew ice instead of lava. Get creative using these natural processes to individualize your worlds.

FLORA
Trees What kind of wood will your people have access to? How dense do your forests grow?
Grasses Grasslands can provide great cover for stealthy passage – don’t just think lawns.
Groundcover What does you ground look like? Dirt? Moss? Creepers? Get creative.
Succulents Succulents thrive in arid areas and can store water
Flowers Ever drive through California mid-summer when the hills are orange with poppies? An abundant flower or foliage can paint your world in color.
Herbs Are herbs used for seasoning? Medicine? Recreation?
Special Properties Examples: Trees that only put out leaves at night. Walking ferns. Flowers that bite. Grass that whistles when the wind blows. The possibilities are endless.

FAUNA
Insects Insects are the primary pollinators in our world. They can be a high protein food source and the blood-drinkers can carry disease.
Birds & Other Flying Creatures Do your characters need to worry about something dropping in from above?
Livestock What animals are raised for food, labor and burden? Do people ride animals? Plow fields with them?
Domestic Animals Got pets?
Wild Game What beasties do your hunters stalk?
Predators What animals will prey on men? Wolves? Lions? Long-legged walruses that run at 60pmh?
Sea Life What lurks beneath the water?

SUPERNATURALS
Mysticals What creatures have supernatural powers or properties? Unicorns? Giant butterflies? Worms that sing and grant wishes?
Monsters What creatures have supernatural powers or properties that are out to getcha? Goblins? Flesh-eating bunnies?
Non-Corporeal These are creatures that have no substance: Spirits, ghosts, Brittany Spears.

ANTHROPOLOGICAL

RACES Lots to think about here, folks. Your original races, are they humanoid? Do they resemble humans? Are they biologically compatible with humans? Do they share common ancestry with other races?
Physical Characteristics Don’t think only in terms of what they look like, get into the minutia – what organs do they have? Is their heart in their chest, or in their knee? Do they have a heart? Hell, do they have blood or is their circulatory system running on dole whip? Do they have a circulatory system? Maybe they have an exoskeleton.What’s their reproductive cycle look like? Can they regenerate limbs like certain amphibians? Have they hollow bones like birds? How many stomachs do they have? Do they give live birth? Lay eggs? Eat their mates after copulation?
Special Abilities Maybe they can talk to rocks, or turn coal into diamonds. Maybe they never have to poop. Super-strength? Extra-sensory perception? Have at it and make it different.

CULTURAL

FOUNDATIONAL
Language Does everyone in the land speak the same language? Do their neighboring nations?
Religion This is HUGE. Religion shapes a culture’s morality, values, intolerance, acceptance, etc. Monotheism? Polytheism? No gods? Real gods? Are there men speaking to the people on behalf of god(s) or claiming to? Is there a religious system at play that holds power?
Governance Who’s in charge? Kings? A senate? The High Priestess? Does anybody oppose the rulership?
Social Castes Are there distinct social castes in your world? Nobility? Aristocracy? Working class? Outcasts and untouchables? What defines privilege in your world? Are there subjugated castes? Slavery? Who is the system set up to benefit?
Social Mores What’s right and wrong? Religion often times influences mores. How does your world view murder? Rape? Sex? Adultery? Theft? What’s considered a virtue? Perhaps your culture holds strength in high regard and to kill a man is something to be admired. Maybe wealth is worshiped and stealing is considered a tradecraft. There’s a million different directions to take this.
Family Structure Mom, dad and kids? Mom, mom, mom, lots of kids? Dad, dad, children? A bunch of people and a bunch of kids and nobody belongs any one person specifically? Dad, harem, a thousand kids? Kids left on an island to fend for themselves? Kids hatch out of eggs and claimed by random adults?
Age of Adulthood At what point are people considered adults? Is there a certain age? A task to be completed? Menarche? Puberty? Trials? Actions?
Gender Roles Are there distinct roles for men and women? If so, why? Who says things have to be that way? Is there a reason? A history behind it? Are there people that buck those roles? Are there people that can move fluidly between those roles? Are there people to supersede those roles to whom the “rules” don’t apply?
Education Is there formal education in your world? Schools? Universities? Apprenticeships? Who has access to education?

LAW, ORDER & DEFENSE
Military Who runs the military? Who is allowed in the military? How is the military regarded by the public? What is used for uniforms, weapons and armor? What is used for transportation?
Law Enforcement Do you have police? Crime investigators? Salty gumshoes that will relentlessly track down leads? Is law enforcement corrupted? Honorable?
Courts Is there a court system? Is there due process? Is there corruption? How is justice determine and served?
Internment Where do prisoners go? Jail? Banishment? Penal colony?
Punishment & Capital Punishment If someone breaks the law, what happens? If your world implements capital punishment, what are the qualifiers and how is it carried out?

DOMESTIC THREATS
Sickness & Disease
Crime
Terrorism
Marauding
Pirating
Trafficking
Drugs

INDUSTRY
Economy Free Market? Socialism?
Currency What do your characters use for money in their world? Do they have money? Barter only? Cashless society?
Taxes Are your citizens taxed? Who pays for the infrastructure?
Resources What natural resources does your land offer? Gems? Minerals? Medicine? Magic?
Exports What do other lands buy from this one?
Imports What does this land buy from others?
Production Are there factories? Artisans? What do the people make in this land? On how large a scale?
Artisans & Trades Have you metal workers? Sculptures? Artists?

INFRASTRUCTURE
Roads Who makes the roads? Where are they at ? What are they made with? How are they maintained?
Dams
Bridges
Sewers Everybody poops, so where does the doo doo go?
Street lighting Is there any? If so, what is used?
Water Supply How do people in cities get fresh drinking water?
Emergency Services Is there anyone your citizens can call for help?
Health Care Are there hospitals? A healers union?
Libraries Where is knowledge stored (or is it?) and who has access to it?
Communications How do your characters send messages? How do they communicate long distances?

ARCHITECTURE
Style
Materials Use logic. If your people live in a desert, their houses probably won’t be made of wood.
Adornment

 

TRANSPORTATION
Individual Horses? Other animals? Foot? Machines?
Groups How parties travel? Carriage? Wagons? Bus?
Rural Do transportation options change outside of urban areas?
Urban
Water
Air

TRADITIONAL PRACTICES
Holidays
Festivals
Celebrations
Traditions
Births
Deaths
Menarche
Marriages
Divorce
Courtship
Taboos

PASTIMES & LEISURE
Sports
Games
Community Activities
Socials

CLOTHING
Fabric & Materials
Footwear
Men’s Fashion
Men’s Hairstyles
Women’s Fashion
Women’s Hairstyles
Jewelry & Accessories
Outerwear
Modesty
Class Distinction

WEAPONS
Metals
Materials
Hunting
Fighting
Training
Armor

MAGIC
Source Where does the power come from? The sun? The user? The earth? The force?
Accessibility Who has access to the magic? Can anybody use it and learn it? Are people born with the ability? Do people develop the ability later on in life? Does this power set people apart?
Attributes What can the power do? How does it manifest?
Limitations What can stop this power? Can the fuel source run out? Are there other powers that can counteract it?
Duration How long do the effects last? Do they wear off? Do they last forever?
Cost Is there a price to pay for using this power? Does it drain people like using strength? Are there adverse side effects?
Influence Are there external factors that augment, enhance or detract from the scope of the power?
Societal Perceptions How does society view the people that have/use this power?

GEO-POLITICAL

ALLIES
Who
Where
Why

ENEMIES
Who
Where
Why
Threat Level

You can download a blank copy of the World-Building worksheet here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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