This Diagram Offers A Simple World-Building Trick

Here’s a cool biome diagram sourced by @Jear77 on the Roleplaying Tips Discord:

I hear you saying: Johnn, this isn’t a simple diagram, dude. How’s this a simple world-building trick?

Roger that. But bear with me for a sec.

I researched a bit to figure out what’s happening in this triangle graph. It uses something called The Holdridge Life Zones classification scheme. And it categorizes climate zones by three categories, which I’ll get into shortly.

But first, yesterday I asked, why should we game masters care about biomes and climates? While not essential, we can use information like this to:

  • Build interesting locations. Change the biome or climate and you change gameplay in a realistic way. For example, food sources and beasts in a jungle versus the arctic.
  • Offer more variety in skill challenges, encounter conflicts, and puzzles. For example, navigating a dense rainforest, surviving the dry conditions of a desert, or enduring the bitter cold of a polar region.
  • Keep plots feeling new and fresh to make players stay on their toes. For example, a murder mystery would be experienced differently in a woodland versus desert scrub versus rainy tundra.
  • Add more roleplay via original cultures. Different biomes lead to different types of communities with novel customs and lifestyles from adapting to their environment. For example, the snowy mountains need buildings with steep peaks to prevent collapse, while the rainy lowlands need buildings with tall stilts to prevent getting swept away.
  • More plot ideas. Climates and biomes give us fantastic new details we can use to create ecological conflicts. For example, we can make make treasure and monster hunts challenging in new ways, spawn wars over water or wood, and test our heroes with rising waters or spreading wildfires.

Ok, back to the diagram.

Looking at the left side of latitudinal regions, bottom represents closer the Earth’s equator. Top takes us far north.

And the right side tells us the average temperature from plants’ point of view. Bottom is warm and plants thrive. Top is cold, and plants struggle a lot.

Along the triangle base, we have how dry or wet it is.

On triangle right, we’ve got how much rain or snow an area gets.

And triangle left tells us how often water goes from land to atmosphere by evaporation from the soil, plant leaves, and other surfaces. That’s another way of saying how dry a place is most times.

So, how do we use this diagram to our advantage as a simple world-building trick?

Well, next time we build a village, kingdom, dungeon, or encounter, we can ask:

  • How dry is the area most times?
  • How much does it rain or snow?
  • How warm or cold is it?

We could start with a desired biome or climate zone, and then look at the triangle edges to find those answers out.

Or we could decide what we want first for dryness, wetness, and temp, then see what climate we need.

A third way to look at it, on-theme for this week’s bundle sale, is what GM Cheat Sheet can we pull out to generate an instant adventure with?

On that note, the 5 Room Dungeon GM Cheat Sheets in the bundle that are on sale until Friday are:

  • Swamps
  • Forests
  • Mountain Valleys
  • Mountaintops
  • Polar Adventures
  • Castle Intrigue
  • Westerns
  • Escape Rooms
  • Christmas

The last four aren’t biome-related. But you can stack them with the biome ones to add original and realistic environmental challenges, roleplay environments, and CombatScape features to entertain your players with.

Click here to get all 9 GM Cheat Sheets for 25% off.

Have more fun at every game!

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