How to Improve your Worldbuilding

Definition of Verisimilitude

Check out the word verisimilitude! In fact, to improve your storytelling, you should study literary terms regularly and you’ll be surprised how often you already use them in your Dungeons and Dragons games. Verisimilitude means “it appears real.” When playing games and telling stories, if you keep your fantasy world consistent, then 99% of the time your table will enjoy a realistic roleplaying experience.

If you would like more examples of how to improve your world building, then browse through the 11 signs of life. You may have had to study these for a biology exam, and I believe by using these signs as principles in your games, your table will enjoy a more realistic and rich roleplaying experience. You can also read here of how to improve your descriptions.

The ingredients necessary to express these principles are utilizing the 5 senses, and incorporating player choices.

11 signs of life

  • Life seeks order. Cellular order means the world must be organized for it to feel alive. We see this as cells gather together in organized manner to “be alive.” Notice this great infographic!

When gathering the data points of the story, one must organize them in a way that appeals to our humanity. In Dungeons and Dragons, any dungeon master can tell a story, but if the world is build upon organized and consistent principles, the story will for sure, be a lasting one in our memories.

  • Life reacts. Stimulus response means the world must react to stimulus. An easy way to implement this principle in your stories is to provide consequences that affect the characters. After all, the story is about them and therefore, should effect them. In other words, the wilds should be dangerous! Click here For great tips on Wilderness Guides in Dungeons and Dragons
  • Life reproduces like kind. Reproduction means duplication occurs through division and living things pass life along the timeline. The best way to include reproduction in your world is to demonstrate the family system, children and offspring. Another way is to include the mentor/student relationships, bring in teachers and guides to pass along information and wisdom to the characters. In the end, bring about the story full circle of life and have the characters start families of their own or take on a student!
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com
  • Life adapts. Adaptation means everything wants to survive and will do it’s best to live in its environment. There’s a great book out there titled The Monsters Know what they’re Doing by Keith Amman. When a dungeon master gives the survival instinct to a monster encounter, the combat goes from hitting a bag of hit points to dealing with a sentient creature that has a desire to live another day. By studying real life biological tactics of defense in the wilds of nature, dungeon masters can design enthralling encounters for their players.
  • Life matures. Growth means life matures in order to pass down information to it’s younger forms. I think this can be utilized by keeping a note of the meaningful encounters the characters had in a village only to jot down the ways those encounters would mature over time when the characters arrive back after plane walking. Real NPCs wouldn’t stay exactly where or how the players found them and demonstrate maturity by growing, leaving, getting old, or developing grudges.
  • Life regulates. Regulations means life ensures the transport of nutrients and expulsion of waste. This might seem like a good place to add a potty joke, and…well, I guess it’s a good place as any. While rolling for constipation might seem arduous, keeping in mind that cities require plumbing, or they fall into plague, helps the dungeon master create a real world feel for the players. Regarding nutrition, many D&D games bring in food and drink (quite literally begin in a tavern) in order to establish that real world feel. Nothing is relatable to all as a home cooked meal!
Bring in the players senses by describing food and drink!
  • Life moves. Metabolism means the transfer of energy is life. This is where I feel maps and minis fail. In combat, many times the movement speed is simply expressed by dragging your character across a grid. To enchant your players, describe movement in relationship to the world around. “You move 30 feet” has no real world marker. But “you bolt ahead through the jungle, branches slapping at your arms and face.” <— much better! Like with the smells of barbecued meats, the player can now experience movement through the world through their senses.
  • Life balances. Homeostasis means life seeks balance. No matter how much mess your players make, or how inconsistent quests seem to begin, remind yourself that real life seeks balance. But that balance takes time. Nature is never in a hurry, yet everything is accomplished. This means, you too, DM, can be patient for everything to settle out in your campaign.

Countless stories have grown alongside us throughout generations. We bond through the stories we share. How much more effective those stories are when they carry the weight of our skeptical minds through believable details. Incorporate the player’s choices, draw them in through the senses, and with these principles, bring your stories to life!

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