Content of the article: "Any good tips on how to worldbuild from someone who hates worldbuilding?"
A long time ago, I used to be really into the idea of creating my own world, but after about 5 years of attempts, I realized that I just don't like worldbuilding as a concept.
I don't like the hours spent wracking my brain coming up with ideas that boil down to just paraphrasing and reconfiguring my inspirations, be it real history and folklore, or something from another franchise. I don't like the fractal nature of always having more to do, yet never reaching a point where I feel like I can just leave it and add to it as a campaign goes onwards. I don't like when players ask me a question about the world and I genuinely have no answer because I spent all my creative energy that week detailing something else that never comes up.
When I looked back on those 5 years, I noticed that the dislike was always there, just in a way I didn't realize applied to my own writing until recently. I'd always found myself disinterested in official settings, largely because they always had this artificial haze looming over them.
Unlike the worlds of Pokemon, Fullmetal Alchemist or Metal Gear Solid, from which I can recite lore at the drop of a hat, D&D settings felt like a massive chore. Like I was reading a textbook, I didn't get a sense of narrative satisfaction for having learned these details, and I kept forgetting details like NPC names constantly.
Perhaps I didn't retain these details because there was no narrative to put them into practice, but even the various book series couldn't hold my interest, though it wasn't for a lack of interest. It's more that my Asperger's makes it difficult for me to fixate on the text of a book for long. Ironic for someone so long-winded on Reddit, and who runs solely play-by-post, but I suppose there is a level of brevity to both that novels just don't have.
Back to the point. After a while of trying my hardest to come up with even a beginner setting I could build off of, I dropped DM'ing 5e entirely to run other systems. I found a home with PTU, a Pokemon tabletop system that adapted elements from the games, anime and manga into a very solid, 4e-like experience. I had an incredibly easy time worldbuilding for it, likely because of the fact that I had such an encyclopedic knowledge of the series from growing up with it. Even when I had to create wholly new content like regions and characters, the series had tons of design conventions that could inspire my writing.
But after a while, I found that I really wanted to play D&D again. I like the core mechanics of 5e, the spell list, the magic items. I just want that medieval fantasy experience again… but I still have the big problem: I hate worldbuilding, and if I try to use an official setting I will pull my hair out trying to learn it. I don't just want the players to inhabit a detail-less world. I don't want to invalidate the various knowledge skills, either. On top of that, I can't just use a setting from a franchise I like, due to compatibility issues like accommodating for races or D&D's more esoteric magic. Turns out that D&D's tolkein-esque flavor, while seeming very generic, is incredibly uncommon outside of tabletop and novels.
Sorry if this is a long one as usual. I just want to make sure it's clear what I'm dealing with so I'm not just responding to a bunch of suggestions with "tried that, didn't work". All of that said… the hell can I do when I feel so stuck like this?
- Do not reinvent the wheel while worldbuilding.
- Is there a way to incorporate the “love and friendship” message of Pokemon into the game itself? Because right now it is an extremely hollow theme.
- My setting is almost entirely focused on the politics of humanoids and their realms. How do I add more interesting Monsters to the setting?
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