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Flag of the United Federation of Planets

Flag of the United Federation of Planets of Star Trek

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole Wikipedia:fictional universe.[1] The resulting world may be called a constructed world or a conworld.[2] The term "worldbuilding" was popularized at Wikipedia:science fiction writers' workshops in the 1970s. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a Wikipedia:history, Wikipedia:geography, and Wikipedia:ecology is a key task for many science fiction or Wikipedia:fantasy writers.[3] Worldbuilding often involves the creation of Wikipedia:maps, a Wikipedia:backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and Wikipedia:mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as Wikipedia:novels, Wikipedia:video games, or Wikipedia:role-playing games.


Baynes-Map of Middle-earth

Pauline Baynes' map poster of Middle-earth published in 1970. The map in the center is very closely based on JRR Tolkien's own illustration

Worldbuilding can be designed from the top down or the bottom up, or by a combination of these approaches. The official worldbuilding guidelines for Wikipedia:Dungeons and Dragons refer to these terms as "outside-in" and "inside-out," respectively.[4] In the top-down approach, the Wikipedia:designer first creates a general overview of the world, determining broad characteristics such as the world's inhabitants, Wikipedia:technology level, major geographic features, Wikipedia:climate, and history. From there, he or she develops the rest of the world in increasing detail. This approach might involve creation of the world's basics, followed by levels such as Wikipedia:continents, Wikipedia:civilizations, Wikipedia:nations, cities, and Wikipedia:towns. A world constructed from the top down tends to be well-integrated, with individual components fiting together appropriately. It can, however, require considerable work before enough detail is completed for the setting to be useful, such as in the setting of a story.

With the bottom-up approach, the designer focuses on a small part of the world needed for his or her purposes. This location is given considerable detail, such as local geography, Wikipedia:culture, Wikipedia:social structure, Wikipedia:government, Wikipedia:politics, Wikipedia:commerce, and history. Prominent locals individuals may be described, including their relationships to each other. The surrounding areas are then described in a lower level of detail, with description growing more general with increasing distance from the initial location. The designer can subsequently enhance the description of other areas in the world. This approach provides for almost immediate applicability of the setting, with details pertinent to a certain story or situation. The approach can yield a world plagued with inconsistencies, however. By combining the top-down and bottom-up approaches, a designer can enjoy the benefits of both. This is very hard to accomplish, however, because the designer must start from both sides creating twice as much work which may not reach the desired product as quickly.


The goal of worldbuilding is to create the context for a story. Consistency is an important element, since the world provides a foundation for the action of a story.[5]

An uninhabited world can be useful for certain purposes, especially in science fiction, but the majority of constructed worlds have one or more sentient, often sapient, Wikipedia:species. These species can have Wikipedia:constructed cultures and Wikipedia:constructed languages. Designers in Wikipedia:hard science fiction may design Wikipedia:flora and Wikipedia:fauna towards the end of the worldbuilding process, thus creating lifeforms with environmental adaptations to scientifically novel situations.


Perhaps the most basic consideration of worldbuilding is to what degree a fictional world will be based on real-world Wikipedia:physics compared to magic. While magic is a more common element of fantasy settings, science fiction worlds can contain magic or technological equivalents of it.[6] For example, the Biotics in the science fiction video game series Wikipedia:Mass Effect have abilities, described scientifically in-game, which mirror those of mages in fantasy games. In the science fiction novel Wikipedia:Midnight at the Well of Souls, magic exists, but is explained scientifically.

Some fictional worlds modify the real-world laws of physics; Wikipedia:faster-than-light travel is a common factor in most science fiction. Worldbuilding may combine physics and magic, such as in the Dark Tower series and the Wikipedia:Star Wars franchise.


FFXIII Cocoon seen from Pulse

The landscape of Gran Pulse; the character Vanille in the foreground, one of the species of Adamant tortoises (probably Adamantortoise, due to the long tusks and smoother shell) in the river. A crust of a planet with no core hangs in the sky, on the inside surface of which is the world of Cocoon. All but a part of the trappings of the ingame universe of Final Fantasy XIII

Constructed worlds often have cosmologies, both in the scientific and metaphysical senses of the word. Design of science fiction worlds, especially those with Wikipedia:spacefaring societies, usually entails creation of a Wikipedia:star system and Wikipedia:planets. If the designer wishes to apply real-life principles of astronomy, he or she may develop detailed astronomical measures for the Wikipedia:orbit of the world, and to define the physical characteristics of the other bodies in the same system; this establishes chronological parameters, such as the length of a day and the durations of Wikipedia:seasons.[7] Some systems are intentionally bizarre. For Wikipedia:Larry Niven's novels Wikipedia:The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring, Niven designed a "freefall" environment, a gas Wikipedia:torus ring of habitable pressure, temperature, and composition, around a Wikipedia:neutron star.

Fantasy worlds can also unique cosmologies as well. In Dungeons and Dragons, the physical world is referred to as the Prime Material Plane, but other planes of existence devoted to moral or elemental concepts are available for play, such as the Wikipedia:Spelljammer setting, which provides an entirely novel fantasy astrophysical system. Some fantasy worlds feature fictional religions. The Elder Scrolls series, for example, contains a variety of religions practiced by its world's various races. The world of the 2000 video game Summoner has a well developed cosmology, including a Wikipedia:creation myth.


Map construction is often one of the earliest tasks of worldbuilding. Maps can lay out a world's basic Wikipedia:terrain features and significant civilizations present. A clear, concise map that display the locations of key points in the story can be helpful tool for developers and audiences alike. Finished creative products, such as books, may contain published versions of development maps; many editions of Wikipedia:The Lord of the Rings, for example, include maps of Wikipedia:Middle-earth. Wikipedia:Cartography of fictional worlds is sometimes called geofiction.[8]

The Wikipedia:physical geography of a fictional world is important in designing Wikipedia:weather patterns and Wikipedia:biomes such as Wikipedia:deserts, Wikipedia:wetlands, Wikipedia:mountains, and Wikipedia:forests. These physical features also affect the growth and interaction of the various societies, such as the establishment of Wikipedia:trade routes and locations of important cities.[9] Desire for control of Wikipedia:natural resources in a fictional world may lead to Wikipedia:war among its people. Geography can also define Wikipedia:ecosystems for each biome. Often, Earth-like ecology is assumed, but designers can vary drastically from this trend. For example, Wikipedia:Isaac Asimov's Wikipedia:short story "Wikipedia:The Talking Stone" takes place in a world where Wikipedia:silicon, rather than carbon, is the basic building block of life.[10]

Some Wikipedia:software programs can create random terrain using Wikipedia:fractal algorithms. Sophisticated programs can apply geologic effects such as tectonic plate movement and Wikipedia:erosion; the resulting world can be rendered in great detail, providing a degree of realism to the result.


Worldbuilding designers sometimes employ past human civilizations as a model for fictional societies. The 1990 video game Wikipedia:Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, for example, takes place in a world full of Wikipedia:tribes based on civilizations in early Wikipedia:Mesoamerica and Wikipedia:Africa. This method can make a fictional world more accessible for an audience. Creating a cohesive alien culture can be a distinct challenge. Some designers have also looked to human civilizations for inspiration in doing so, such as Wikipedia:Star Trek's Wikipedia:Romulans, whose society resembles that of Wikipedia:Ancient Rome. The fictional world's history can explain past and present relationships between different societies, which can introduce a story's action. A past war, for example, functions as a key plot point in the Wikipedia:Shannara and Wikipedia:Belgariad series.

Types of constructed worldsEdit

File:Sample conworld.jpg

Some examples of constructed worlds include Wikipedia:Terry Pratchett's Wikipedia:Discworld, the pseudo-Earth Wikipedia:Hyborian Age from the Conan series, Arrakis from the Dune series, Wikipedia:Ursula K. Le Guin's Wikipedia:Earthsea and Wikipedia:Gethen, and Wikipedia:Westeros and Essos from Wikipedia:George R. R. Martin's Wikipedia:A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Constructed worlds are not always limited to one type of story. Wikipedia:Lawrence Watt-Evans and Wikipedia:Steven Brust created Wikipedia:Ethshar and Wikipedia:Dragaera, respectively, for role-playing games before using them as settings for novels. Wikipedia:M. A. R. Barker originally designed Wikipedia:Tékumel well before the advent of role-playing games, but many Wikipedia:gamers, including Barker himself, have used it as a setting for such games.

Wikipedia:L. Frank Baum's Wikipedia:Oz series predates these examples, but he did not engage in worldbuilding before writing all of his books. Baum scholars have noted inconsistencies in Oz, products of his ongoing development of the world.[11]

A Wikipedia:shared universe is a fictional universe that can be used by different authors. Examples of shared universes include the Wikipedia:Star Wars Expanded Universe and Wikipedia:campaign setting developed specifically for role-playing games. One of the oldest of these is Wikipedia:Oerth, developed for the Dungeons and Dragons Wikipedia:Greyhawk setting. Wikipedia:Forgotten Realms is another such D&D setting, originally a homebrew campaign world by Wikipedia:Ed Greenwood.

See alsoEdit

Examples Edit


  1. Hamilton, John (2009), You Write It: Science Fiction, ABDO, pp. 8–9, Template:Citation/identifier, 
  3. Stableford, Brian M. (2004). "Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction". Scarecrow Press. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  4. Cook, Monte; Tweet, Jonathan; Williams, Skip (2003). "Wikipedia:Dungeon Master's Guide". revised by David Noonan and Rich Redman. Wikipedia:Wizards of the Coast. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  5. Laramee, Francois Dominic (2002). "Game design perspectives". Charles River Media. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  6. See Wikipedia:Arthur C. Clarke's third law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  7. Anderson, Poul (1991). "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy". Wikipedia:New York: Wikipedia:St. Martin's Press. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  8. Erle, Schuyler; Gibson, Rich; Walsh, Jo (2005), Mapping hacks: tips & tools for electronic cartography, Hacks Series, O'Reilly Media, p. 508, Template:Citation/identifier, 
  9. Long, Steven S. (2002). "Fantasy HERO". Wikipedia:San Francisco: DOJ. pp. 290–294. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  10. Clement, Hal (1991). "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy". Wikipedia:New York: Wikipedia:St. Martin's Press. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  11. Michael O. Riley. "Ozma of Oz: The Beginning of the End?" Wikipedia:The Baum Bugle 51:3 (Winter 2007), 19.

External linksEdit


fi:Maailmanrakennus li:Geofictie nl:Geofictie pt:Geoficção

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