It’s no secret that one of the things I loved most about jumping into D&D 5e after playing Pathfinder for years was a return to world building. Not that Pathfinder didn’t have any room for that. But with Golarion being so well developed, and with the Adventure Paths so well constructed, most of the world building I did for the game leaned toward tweaking and adjusting, rather than actual creation. But I took advantage of 5e’s early dearth of campaign material to do something I hadn’t done in over a decade: create a fantasy campaign world from the ground up. And while it has been extremely rewarding to return to world building, my efforts have felt a bit scattered, and I’ve had challenges keeping my material organized. I’ve also wanted to find a way to make sure I capture the campaign ideas that don’t have a home yet in either of my games, but might come up later or in a further campaign.
Recently I had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at World Anvil, which could basically be described as a world and campaign building wiki. But that basic description simplifies what is a wonderfully robust and inspiring site, not just for TTRPG creators but for fiction writers as well. In fact, the functionality of the site reinforces the idea that world building, regardless of the end use, is a rewarding task in itself.
Let’s start with the Dashboard page. At the very top there are three buttons: My Worlds, My Campaigns, and My Characters, each focusing you on a different major aspect of your creation. Splitting things this way allows you to decide how those three aspects will mingle. For instance, I have one World that I have created for my games, but I have two campaigns currently running it that world, and I have yet to decide how or even if my two sets of characters will interact. And My Characters also covers DM characters, so I can track any interactions they might have across both campaigns, a more likely possibility at this point.
But under those three buttons are a host of others, covering things like Buildings, Documents, Traditions, and so on. When you click on any of these buttons you are taken to a page where you can record that aspect, complete with writing prompts to help you. I clicked on Physical/Metaphysical Law, for example, and one of the writing prompts was “Describe the way the natural or supernatural law manifests itself. For example the colour that fire takes when a specific element burns, or the effect of magnetism and gravity to the auroras of your skies etc.” It’s very likely I would have written what the law was or did, but I might not have thought about how that looked to the players in my game. All the pages provide you with these prompts, keeping you on track to making your world vibrant for your players.
There are places for you to save images, maps, and handouts as well, and link those to the articles you write for your campaign. And speaking of articles, there is the option to blog through your World Anvil account, which is a great opportunity for anyone who has things they want to share but doesn’t want the hassle of their own site. You can also write RPG Reports, which can go privately to your players as game night recaps and overviews, or post publicly to help show off your cool campaign world.
And then there are little details, like being able to write a copyright notice that will appear on everything you post so you can be clear about how your creations can be used by others. Or the new Notebook feature, which helps you keep track of random thoughts before deciding where they fit in the wiki. Or the Community tab, opening up a way to connect with fellow creators as well as creating a community interested in your worlds and campaigns.
In short, I have loved using World Anvil. It has helped me think about my homebrew world and campaigns in ways I might not have. And it allows me to keep adding to my work in bite-sized chunks, while still keeping those chunks organized and cohesive. If you are in a similar boat, or are thinking about starting a campaign build for the first time, I recommend giving World Anvil a look. You can do that for free and have access to some pretty robust tools. If you decide later to spend some money, you’ll unlock even more tools and accessibility. And while it might seem pricey at first glance ($45 a year at the Journeyman level, up to GrandMaster level for $150) you have the option to pay monthly, allowing you to check out a level’s functionality before committing for a longer period.
It’s also worth mentioning that World Anvil is currently running their Summer Camp 2019 all through July. There are thirty prompts which you can complete in any order, and you must write at least 300 words per prompt, completing all of them by the end of July. Everyone taking part will be entered in a draw at the end of the month for over $5000 in prizes. This seems like a great way to check out the site and maybe get started on a new campaign world, or bring focus to a current one. And if you happen to win some prizes at the end, well that’s an excellent little bonus.
So please go and take a look at World Anvil, and tell me what you think on our Facebook Page. I have found it incredibly useful, but wikis are not for everyone so I’m interested to hear from you.