Get notified about new articles and get PhD20's Adventure Design Document, a one-page guide to help you design better adventures.
I love worldbuilding. Most game masters do. But I find it hard to strike a balance between delivering value and having fun. Enter atomic worldbuilding.
Atomic worldbuilding is the creation of world elements in small units so they can later be added to the larger system. Another way to think of it is creating without placing. Rather than defining an entire world, you focus on filling your game master toolbox.
Create engaging NPCs. Combine interesting archetypes, steal NPCs from other creators, or develop detailed personalities. But resist placing the NPC in your world until you need them. Keep them organized in a place where you can easily grab one when the time is right.
Develop fantastic locations. Build interesting settlements. Devise devious dungeons. Get downright weird. But don’t place them on the map yet. Wait until you need them. You’ll have one ready to drop in when a secret or clue reveals a nearby dungeon.
Craft legendary magic items. Bury your world’s history in amazing artifacts. Bring them to life. Fill your game master’s toolbox with a variety of lore-filled magic items. Drop them into a nearby locale when you’re ready.
The idea is simple. Worldbuild to your heart’s content. But do so with the atomic pieces of your world. Only connect them when play requires it. You’ll get to use the cool things you’ve created and you won’t have to pull the players all around your world to do so. Try it and watch an amazing world come together in and around your game.