Building a World #4: Concepts in World Building

Approaches to World Building

There are two main approaches to world building. Inside out, and outside in. Both have their merits and flaws, and both allow a potential world builder to create a living, breathing world. I will go over the basics of each here briefly and then discuss my approach and how I’m building my setting, Veyrn.

Inside Out

With this approach, the storyteller or game master starts small, and works outward. Usually this means detailing a starting location, and the surrounding area. Then expanding upon this as you craft a campaign, and the players outgrow the starting area.

This approach is great because it requires less work than crafting a whole world upfront and allows the GM to spend less time on the setting and more time on telling a fantastic story. The only time problem will arise from this approach is when the players ask about the world at large. If the GM does not yet have an idea of what lies outside the area they’ve crafted it could leave them unprepared when the players ask unexpected questions (and they always will).

When using the inside out method, it’s best to at least make some note on the other areas of the world, even if they aren’t completely fleshed out. This will help avoid the aforementioned issues that may arise.

Outside In

Naturally this is the exact opposite of the method I previously described. With this method you start with the whole world then proceed to add smaller and smaller details are you continue to flesh out your setting.

This method is great because it starts you with a whole world, fleshed out and ready to go, you will have all the details ready to go should the players ask questions, or go in unexpected directions. The downfall is that it requires significantly more work for the GM and may delay the start of a campaign, particularly in the GM is under pressure from other responsibilities and cannot devote much time to a particular project.

What about Veyrn?

For the Veyrn campaign setting, I’m actually using a bit of both. This project is an expansion and revision of my home setting, and as such I had quite a bit of material to draw from. Giving me a good starting point, if not a complete world. (I’ve added a LOT to my original setting, and in many ways almost feels like a completely new world.) I used the material I already had as a basis laying down a framework, before sketching out  the rest of the setting. For the most part I used an “outside in” approach, as I created concepts and major locations first. I will soon begin going back and adding in details of the many peoples and places I have added to the world and the maps I have put many hours into the last few weeks.

What’s Next?

I’m currently working on finishing my over world maps. I’ve spent literally hours painstakingly constructing a map using CC3+ and have received a lot of positive and constructive feedback on the results, allowing me to improve it even further.


Current Map of Veyrn (Still a work in progress)

Once this is completed I will begin detailing the locations, for each nation. I will also be working on lore, mythology, and other bits of fluff to add depth and detail to it. I can’t wait to show you all what I have come up with, as I’m currently sitting on pages and pages of notes, with many of them regarding the history of Veyrn and its people.