Tag Archives: World Building

11.05: Writing and World Building for Role Playing Games

Michelle Lyons-McFarland, Monica Valentinelli, and Shanna Germain joined Howard and Dan at GenCon Indy for an episode which is a thinly-veiled indulgence for Howard to glean advice from three people who know far more about the craft of RPG design than he does.

Our discussion centers around how world building for role playing games, and especially the manner in which the world is presented, differs from world building for novels. We don’t talk about rule sets or physics simulations. We’re after the things that players want and need to read in order to immerse themselves in the setting, and get “in fiction.”

Pro-Tip: There are two major things, listeners, that you can get from this podcast: first, soak up the incredibly valuable writing-for-RPGs information provided by our guests. Second, listen to how Howard abases himself when he has the opportunity to sit down with experts who have information he desperately needs.

Liner Notes: Howard habitually mispronounces the word “ablative.” The accent should be on the first syllable: [ab-luh-tiv]

Addendum: As of this posting The Planet Mercenary Role Playing Game is not yet available for purchase. Details about the project can be found here.

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Writing Prompt: Write about a non-player, non-heroic character (say, the NPC who cleans the alley behind the tavern) in your setting. What do they want? What do they fear? What do they love? How might their story play out independently from the story told by the players?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Perdido Street Station, By China Mieville, narrated by John Lee

Writing Excuses 10.28: Polytheism in Fiction, with Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan took a break from her book tour and joined us for this discussion of Polytheism in fiction. (Note: Marie recorded several episodes with us, and we’re posting them out of order.)

We begin by looking at the pitfalls and common mistakes that people make, and then dive into how we can make a polytheistic setting work well in support of our stories.

Liner Notes: The Belief System Generator, by Kate Hamilton

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Writing Prompt: Use the Belief System Generator, and then write a prayer that works in the belief system that it generates.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Winner's Curse, by Marie Rutkowski, narrated by Justine Eyre

Writing Excuses 10.21: Q&A on World Building

We went to you for questions about world building, and you had some really good ones. The questions are listed below, and our answers are secreted within MP3 file.

  • Has there ever been a piece of world building that you didn’t include, and regretted not including?
  • How do you remain consistent?
  • How do you decide between writing a secondary world fantasy, and creating an historical fantasy?
  • Can you avoid cultural appropriation while still using elements inspired by other cultures?
    • (This one is getting a can of worms: there’s an entire episode on cultural appropriation coming up)
  • What’s the minimum amount of world building required?
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Writing Prompt: Our next master class episodes are on description. Take a scene that includes some things that you've world-built, and rewrite that scene using completely different words.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 10.18: Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy?

This is for you folks who started writing the story before you finished building your world. Which is what we wanted you to do all along! Sneaky! We’re talking about letting your story drive your world building efforts, so that you can be more efficient.

We cover some of the tools that we use, as well as when world building fits into, then out of, and then back into our respective processes.

Out of Context Quote: “Sometimes you just need to take the underpants off the puppet.”

Other Worldbuilding Episodes to Reference: Brandon promised a list of links. Here’s a pretty comprehensive one!

We recommend not listening to all of them in one go. You’re supposed to be out of excuses and writing, not podcast diving for another two hours…

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Writing Prompt: Pick your gee-whiz, whatever it may be, and describe it in 150 words from ten different perspectives. Yes, that's 1500 words.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Stormdancer: The Lotus War, Book One, by Jay Kristoff, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Writing Excuses 10.15: Worldbuilding Wilderness with Wes Chu

Wes Chu, author and adventurer, recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and has some things to say about all the wilderness trekking that our characters do in the books we write, and how we often forget to say anything about sleeping on inclines, altitude sickness, or packing toilet paper.

The salient point: we need to remember that our characters are experiencing these wilderness treks, and they have interesting opinions about them.

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Writing Prompt: Wes has a tough writing exercise for us: take something that you've already written, swap the personalities of your protagonist and antagonist, and re-write a scene from the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Rebirths of Tao, by Wesley Chu, isn't available yet on Audible, but the first book in the trilogy, The Lives of Tao is.

Writing Excuses 10.6: The Worldbuilding Revolves Around Me (“The Magical 1%”)

Max Gladstone joins us to talk about worldbuilding, and how many genre settings seem to revolve around whatever gifted, magical, or otherwise special sort of people our heroes and villains happen to be. Jedi, for instance. Consider, then, the plight of the “regular” people, like Han Solo.

We talk about how to tell whether or not this is problematic for the story you are telling, and how one might work with the trope in ways that make stories better.

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Writing Prompt: Think about the last time you lost at a game. What was the process of thought that led to your loss? Now, replicate that moment in the dramatic structure of the story, except the story isn't about games.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, narrated by Claudia Alick