7 Steps to Create Your World’s Lore & Integrate It
Building and sharing world lore is a bit like a river. The details must flow, sometimes through slow and windy areas, and sometimes through fast and dangerous rapids. But cut your river into disjoined pieces, and nothing flows at all.
In the seven tips below, Jeremy Brown shares how to create a river of lore and connect details so they flow easily into your sessions and adventures.
7 Steps to Create & Integrate Your World’s Lore
From Jeremy Brown
Trying to balance world details is something that some GM’s struggle with, and until Johnn asked me how I did it in a private exchange some months ago I hadn’t thought about it. A few of my strategies are below:
Step 1. Create A Historical Outline
I did this originally for each town, nation, or racial grouping that would be important in my campaign world. Eventually, I got tired of looking in 20 places for info and integrated it into a master historical outline. It’s longer, but faster to search.
Step 2. Create Building Blocks
As you create references to famous persons, events, or items in your historical outline, start creating those persons, events, and items. This gives a good foundation to your campaign world and allows you to bring in powerful items with a real impact and history.
Step 3. Run Your Building Blocks
Integrate these historical personages, places, and items into gameplay at every opportunity. As an example, in my campaign world, Marthor the Necromancer once conquered a large portion of the central part of my main continent. In the current campaign, the kingdom my players are adventuring in has laws against necromancy and dark arts precisely because of the terror created by Marthor.
Step 4. Tie Details Together Wherever You Can
As another example, Marthor the Necromancer conquered a kingdom called Fyrthon. Fyrthon’s women and children fled into the wilderness and became an Amazon warrior people.
One of my current PCs has recently recovered a spear created by the woman shaman who led that tribe of Amazons in their fighting withdrawal from Marthor’s control. As that character is a member of that Amazon culture, it had much more significance to the player than if it were just another +2 spear.
Step 5. Link Ideas Together
Keep extensive notes, preferably integrated by cross referencing or links. This is one place where Johnn’s Campaign Logger shines. Having a note in one place that let’s you see more about this item helps you bring these sorts of ideas together.
If you do not use Campaign Logger, having document templates that allow you to integrate historical details and interesting local color for magic items, NPCs, or other pieces of information is another good way to integrate things.
Step 6. Re-Use Your Past In Every Campaign
As you start following these steps, your players begin to notice recurring items and ask questions.
In my campaign, an elven mage whose name has been obliterated from all records is known as the Black Mage. She has appeared now as background, origin story, and in person, in multiple campaigns. My players now sit up and listen when they hear about the Black Mage. This makes your players more engaged with your campaign world.
Step 7. Co-Create With Players
Don’t be afraid to let players invent campaign details and ideas. In the beginning, I told my players this culture is similar to Celtic culture, this other is similar to Nordic culture, and so forth.
The correspondences were loose, but I had a player who was extremely interested in the Celts create a barbarian berserker, a member of a warrior society called Deathdancers. That detail is now a part of the lore of my campaign world: the Urechi people have Deathdancers who are berserkers who lead contingents into battle ahead of other Urechi forces. There are numerous other examples of this sort of player collaboration in my campaign world.
All of these points need to be integrated together to make a convincing background. Once the background is there, adventure hooks and ideas leap out at you. Need an adventure in the northern central portion of the continent? Marthor the Necromancer had a tower here once, the ruins of which still exist….
One insight I got from your article is that we can’t just create world lore and expect the details to do the heavy lifting for us. We need to integrate them, play them, and re-use them so they can achieve their full, adventure-inspiring potential.
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