“In RPGs, the world provides the raw material and constraints that shape the possible roles, and provides a playground in which to experience and enact these roles” (Schrier, Torner, & Hammer 2018, p.349)
A couple weeks ago I began running a game of Dungeons & Dragons (Fifth Edition) for a group of friends. None of us are particularly familiar with the game, but we’ve been having fun trying to bumble through the pre-made narrative module included in the D&D Starter Set. Part of my job as the Dungeon Master (or DM) is to prepare the scenarios my players’ will encounter, while also building up the narrative and adapting it to any actions that the players’ will take (within the fairly loose restrictions allowed by the game’s mechanics).
While the Starter Set is an adequate and entertaining introduction to the mechanics of D&D and how it work, I don’t feel any particular connection or to The Forgotten Realms, where this module (and various other D&D modules) is set and so I don’t have any in-depth knowledge of the . There’s a problem in that the weaker my connection to the world, the less inclined I am to improvise events (an important part of DMing a game) since I feel like I should constantly be double checking that I am not contradicting the world’s canon.
The solution to this, is a project that I will likely take me a long time to complete to a degree I’m happy with: To create my own D&D setting and accompanying narratives.
The World Base
“Worldbuilding is the process of creating an entire world. This covers a wide array of subjects: geography, history, mythology, politics, biology, language, even physics, if the builder so wishes. The goal of worldbuilding is to create a believable, functional world with its own unique infrastructures and biomes” (Sarvo, 2017)
Naturally, worldbuilding is a huge and extensive process. Rather than build an entire world from scratch I will be using a variety of elements from Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s fantasy series The Edge Chronicles as an inspirational basis for my world.
Map of the The Edge during the First Age of Flight, illustrated by Chris Riddell
I say basis because while I am looking to borrow a lot of worlbuilding elements from The Edge, there’s quite a few elements I’d like to tweak to provide an Edge themed experiences while not removing too many elements of the typical D&D fantasy setting, as well as to alter the world to better suit my fledgling stage narrative ideas.
As I am making a setting for D&D – rather than creating a world for a novel – I will also be required to translate elements of The Edge into the language and mechanics of D&D so that I can actually run a working game in it.
I am intending to document my process via a series of blog posts, and I will be going into more detail in the future on what I’d like to keep, change, or discard from the world of The Edge.
To assist my progress I will be drawing on a range of sources:
- For content from The Edge Chronicles themselves, I will be drawing on my own copies of the novels, the official website, the fan wiki, and the fans on the (admittedly quite inactive) subreddit for the series, on which I have found several discussions around utilizing the setting in D&D
- For a guide on creating a world for a tabletop game, I will draw from the official Dungeon Master’s Guide and Sarvo’s 2017 thesis, Worldbuilding in Games (and any other sources I come across)
- For various aspects requiring more specific guidance and inspiration, I will turn to subreddits, websites, forums, or any location offering whatever I’m looking for at the time
- I’m currently undecided, but I may be using WorldAnvil or similar worldbuilding sites to help organise and share my work
I will also be looking to my players to help provide input, so that they also feel more connected to the world and are more comfortable with their options when they begin crafting their characters.
As a final note, this worldbuilding will be an extensive process with no set finish parameter, as it’s very likely that I will continue to update it while playing games within its setting. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to this project, and how it will challenge my creative abilities tying those to the mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons.
Schrier, K Torner, E & Hammer, J 2018, ‘Worldbuilding in role-playing games’, in Deterding S, & Zagal JP, (ed.) Role-Playing Game Studies, A Transmedia Approach, Routledge, New York, pp. 349-363.
Sorvo R, 2017, ‘Worldbuilding in games: Creating a functioning world for a role-playing game’, Bachelor’s thesis,