Kobold Guide to World Building Review
I’ve been a fan of Kobold Press, and Wolfgang Baur’s work in general for several years now, but this was the first Kobold Press book I purchased that was not part of a kickstarter. The TL;DR of it is this: If you are looking for system-neutral guidance on creating your own world for use in an RPG, or even writing a novel, this is a fantastic resource.
This book features an all-star list of contributors such as Keith Baker (creator of Eberron), Monte Cook (most recently, creator of Numenera), Chris Pramas (Green Ronin Publishing), other old-guard TSR luminaries such as Jeff Grubb, David “Zeb” Cook, and Steve Winter, Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur, and my favorite fantasy cartographer Jonathan Roberts. The full list is on the cover of the book.
The digest-sized book weighs in at 124 pages. The price at $19.99 seemed a bit steep, but I was willing to give it a go due in large part to the list of contributors, and I was not disappointed. The layout is appealing with essays broken up by subtitles and sidebars, with only a few illustrations as necessary (i.e. the cartography article). Each essay deals with a different aspect or approach to world creation, often detailing common pitfalls and approaches to consider.
Some of my favorite articles are Chris Pramas’ “World Building Inside Out and Outside In,” which explores the pros and cons of adding details as your heroes explore the world, or establishing big-picture elements of the world and how that affects the heroes’ current situation. I also really enjoyed “Here be Dragons: On Mapmaking,” by Jonathan Roberts. It spoke to not only how rivers and mountains should work on a map (rivers generally join, rarely branch and flow out to sea), but also more abstract mapmaking between nations or world powers. What is each nation known for? What are their relationships with their neighbors (trade, war, isolationist)? Another one of my favorites was “How to Write a World Bible,” by Scott Hungerford. I was surprised to find this near the end of the book, as to me it seems like such a great jumping-off point for so many of the other articles. It just touches on considering the over-arching concept of the world, the races, technology levels, currency, pantheon, cartography, notable figures (NPCs) and terminology. If I were to organize this book, I would have had this article a lot earlier, with page numbers to other articles that go in to more detail about each subject. All and all a fairly minor gripe, in what overall is an outstanding resource.
It should be noted that included in the $19.99 price is not only the print, but also a PDF copy. Very convenient for those of us who like to keep our books on tablet-computers for reference. That certainly sweetens the deal, and is something I wish Goodman Games would do, when I purchase DCCRPG modules.
In conclusion, if you are of the mind that published adventures and worlds are for newbies and lazy gamemasters, this will help you flesh out the world you want to create and make it so compelling your players will never want to adventure anywhere else!