chapter  20
15 Pages

Worldbuilding in Role-Playing Games

WithKaren Schrier, Evan Torner, Jessica Hammer

This chapter explores the complexity of worldbuilding in role-playing games (RPGs). It discusses its origins in literary practices and how it forms an integral part of RPGs, both in their creation and their play. Worldbuilding is often an integral component of RPGs, whether conducted by designers, players, or both in tandem. Game designers and game masters are worldbuilders by definition, fleshing out a fictional world in code, words, or physical props. In some RPGs, players are inextricably involved in the worldbuilding such that the game only exists once the world is created by its players. In other RPGs, worldbuilding is a top-down process. A designer or group of designers creates the world from high concept to detailed settings and non-player characters. Storylines, plots, and possible sequences of events may be more or less rigidly pre-scripted. While every game is a co-creation between player and designer, some games are specifically designed to balance their worldbuilding aspects between players and designers.