In the last article, I told you about how to get started making a world. I detailed how to come up with a starting point and how to branch off from there. We also discussed the different paths of linear and campaign storytelling, which I will continue below.
In this article though I will show you how to finalize a linear story and continue detailing how to finalize a full campaign. Below I will talk about detailing your world, finding the center points for conflicts and teach you how to make a compelling story that seems organic in your setting.
In preparation though I would suggest if you haven’t read the last article or need a bit of a refresher go check it out. You can find it here at WORLD BUILDING: HOW TO GET STARTED.
In the last article I stated we would be completing linear stories, and I am a keeper of my word. Now that you have done all your prep work it’s all about mapping the adventure. Once you have all your cities and keep conflicts down it is just a matter of piecing them together into cohesive story arcs. I always try to chapter mine so I can keep everything straight.
This also means that story elements can carry over without being ever-present. To do this I simply map it out as though I was outlining an essay. Every chapter should have a conflict, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a big fight. Just some kind of problem for your players to solve. It should be contained enough that once solved, whether successful or not, it is no longer the center of attention, but not so shallow that it seems like a pointless endeavor in the first place.
This can seem tricky but you’re keeping it detailed enough to be interesting but vague enough you can tie it into other situations down the road. For example, you may have your players fight a group of bandits in their first encounter. This may seem typical, but once defeated they find an intricately covered rune in each bandits breastplate, not down the line this rune may pop again till we find out, in the end, the rune is the symbol for a long-forgotten god who is gaining followers to plunge the land into chaos.
Once you get one done, you’ll find the others tend to slip into place. The great thing is you can start from anywhere when planning as well. Know what you want the end boss to be? Start from the end and work your way backward. Once you’ve got your chapters set up or at least the first couple, you can start playing.
To continue with a campaign, you will do what we discussed in the last article but on a larger scale. The best advice I can give, when branching out your world, keep it vague. Don’t detail every little thing yet, you’ll find it overwhelming and very restrictive if you do. This may seem hard but try to keep this part of the planning light. If you find yourself coming up with great ideas wrote them down separately to add in later.
In this step, you are just getting the base layer of your land down. Find your major plot points and get those down. Create a few very important places for your story, but don’t go too far.
Now that you’ve got a good structure to your world not you can start filling in some blanks. This is usually where I start conceptualizing the shape of my world. I mean like literally rivers and deserts and mountains. You can put this off till later, but I think it helps a little making convincing plot points.
Either way, the goal for this step is to take all those big important places and flesh them out. Tell me how big the city is or if people live in this desert oasis. Imagine the day of describing this to your players and work your way from there. Imagine what they’ll know wand what they’ll need to dig for. Find out what makes your places and people tick. Then just do that a lot, for everything. It’s a lot of work but if you do it now, it makes for easier, smooth gameplay later.
In the next article, I’ll show you how to finalize your campaign world! Until then just keep spiderwebbing your ideas, connecting cities and people. Don’t make this too convoluted yet but knowing where your going is the first step of reaching your destination.