A Quick Trick To Generate Details For Your World

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1209

I have a short tip for you today. Quick enough not to earn a newsletter number. And it’s about world building.

One struggle we have when crafting settings is detail. It’s easy enough to generate a map, such as with Azgar’s. But we need more detail to make our stage interesting enough for the stories we wish to tell upon it.

One way to get to this level of detail is to look for singles. One-offs. Solos.

Then we:

Multiply => Categorize => Name

For example, many tabletop RPGs have several character class types for warrior, but only one priest. We keep an eye out for such design bottlenecks, whether done on purpose or not. And then apply our detailing technique.

First, we Multiply.

Let’s make three priest classes.

Then we Categorize.

I’m in an old school mood these days, so I’ll make them:

  • Law
  • Neutral
  • Chaos

Finally, we give Names so we know what to call them in-game and out:

  • Scrives
  • Fatalists
  • Fiends

The Scrives create and uphold their laws to govern society. The Fatalists wait upon luck to see what happens so they can react. And the Fiends undermine everything.

Here’s another example. The equipment list in Old School Essentials has mules costing 30 gold pieces. Just one type of mule? Oh no, that won’t do.

You’ve got the highland donkeys. They are short and burly and can carry a double load but at half pace.

Then you’ve got the Kushian burros. They are taller and lithe, giving you extra speed. But they’re biters.

And don’t forget the gnomish crapponies. They move only when they want. But their night vision’s beaten only by drow warasses.

Next time you’re skimming the rules, fleshing out a location, or plotting your adventure, keep your eyes peeled for anything that’s just one of something. Then Multiply => Categorize => Name for quick detail generation to make your world a wee bit deeper.