CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

World Building - Prep and Research

a map with a compass on it the words World Building over it
A friend of mine, a guy who plays in some of my games and runs the Rise of the Runelords game I'm in, has convinced me to talk a bit more about actual world building. The thing is it's a massive topic and just talking about it doesn't always help. So he's also talked me into doing a series of articles where I do some basic world building.

Now some of the old time GMs will already have world building down, but even the best GMs know that there's always more to learn. A lot of this will be good for first time GMs and people interested in expanding the worlds they're in. I'm also sure people will have a lot to add to the topic. But these will just be my views and my process, it may not work for everyone but it works for me.

So when I was an early GM I wanted to build my own worlds something fierce. I always had a million and one ideas and I wanted to shove them all into one place. A culture like this, a city like that, a monster race that had its own civilization. The thing is building a world from scratch is not that easy. So we're gonna focus this particular exercise on expanding an existing world, in this case Golarion, to fit our needs.

A lot of people dislike kitchen sink worlds, a game setting that has a little bit of everything so that you can mix your roman based civilization and an asian based civilization with slightly off technology levels. For a writer and a GM kitchen sink worlds can be a boon. It gives you the option to tell the story you want to tell and you can change stories and themes without having to change worlds.

The idea I'm going to run with is one that I started when I wrote my character background for Lung Bingci. On the continent of Tian Xia there is an area that is ruled by Tengu and in this area there is a city that is controlled by Ratfolk. Now eventually I'd like to flesh out the entire area of the Tengu lands, but to begin I'm going to just start with the Ratfolk city. One of the toughest things for a writer to do is focus on one thing when so much is going through their head. But aiming so big from the start is also one of the reasons a lot of writers fail.

So the first thing you need in prep is an idea. We've covered the idea, a Ratfolk city in the midst of a Tengu controlled area of Tian Xia. The next thing we need to do is research. Now whether you're building your own homebrew world or working with an existing one it is best to know what you're talking about. If your idea for a homebrew is a roman based civilization with a senate, then you'd better know how the roman senate worked.

I've already done a lot of the research for the character I wrote so I'm just going to post a few links. All of these are from the Pathfinder wiki which is invaluable when trying to find information that is spread out over a number of game books and possibly novels and web tales.

Here is where we learn about the Ratfolk invasion of Tian. That's right the Ratfolk swarmed up from the Darklands and claimed a dozen or so provinces before faltering and being driven back. Not what a lot of people think of when they think Ratfolk but it also tells us about a Ratfolk controlled city.
The page also mentions a city of Ratfolk called, the City of Whistling Swords. Now there is zero information on the city itself which is perfect for our use because we want to create something uniquely ours.

The Tengu nation on the western coast of Tian Xia. Again not a lot in there but good for our purposes. When we expand out from the City of Whispering Swords at some point it gives us a lot of freedom to run with. Although it does list a ruler

A half celestial Tengu and cleric of Hei Feng. She’s spiritual leader to the people of Kwanlai so I would imagine Hei Feng would be important to the Ratfolk as well.

Something I had to look up because the character I wrote was the son of a noble. You’re going to one some kind of immersion and being an Asian (mostly Chinese) analog it’s good to work with some things that will keep you in the world.

And there we go, we’ve prepped and researched. We took our idea and decided where to begin. We’ve researched the area we’re working with and the kind of people that we’ll be dealing with most. And we’ve looked at some possibilities for the future of our project. 

Next time picking a starting point and working our way out. 

Do you have any ideas for our Ratfolk city? Make sure to check out the character background and see what I’ve already decided is true.


  1. The question for me is why has Kwanlai and the Tengu who live there allowed a ruined city to be taken over by a race that were once an enemy.

    Is the city that worthless or is there something nearby that means someone, anyone else defending that area is a massive advantage.

  2. Interesting thought process. In my mind the Ratfolk aren't the enemy. The Ratfolk attack the humans and their empire. The Tengu themselves seem to have been reluctantly given some space of their own. And the Ratfolk are much more like them then the humans are so having them as allies in their kingdom is better for them.